A Portrait of the Soldier as a Young Man: Ernst Jünger at Fresnoy, April 1917

Markus Pöhlmann


Storm of Steel, the 1920 memoirs of the German writer Ernst Jünger, counts among the earliest and most momentous pieces of Great War literature. Jünger served as a highly decorated junior officer on the Western Front. His accounts on the Battle of the Somme and the German Spring Offensive of 1918 established an enduring and politically viral narrative of the battle-hardened stormtrooper. It is less known that the author also took part in the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

The aim of the paper is, first, to trace the writer’s involvement in the Battle of Arras and, second, to contextualize these events within the framework of his military biography. Building on new sources – Jünger’s recently edited original diaries - , this article argues that the events of April 1917 might serve in a particular way to understand individual strategies of survival in Western Front warfare not only with regard to Jünger’s biography but also in a much more general sense.

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