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.

Author Biography

Markus Pöhlmann

Markus Pöhlmann is a historian and a staff member of the German Armed Forces’ Center for Military History and Social Sciences (Zentrum für Militärgeschichte und Sozialwissenschaften der Bundeswehr). He teaches history at Potsdam University. Pöhlmann’s fields of research are German military history in the era of the World Wars, intelligence history, and the history of the military and the media. His latest publication is Der Panzer und die Mechanisierung des Krieges: Eine deutsche Geschichte 1890 bis 1945 (Paderborn: Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, 2016).

Vimy 2017: From Both Sides of the Ridge