RIP: Ernst Juenger
Bonn - Ernst Juenger, whose writings and life captured for many Germans the complexities of this century as they experienced it, died yesterday at age 102. His first book, “In Storms of Steel,” published in 1920, glorified the horrors of World War I and promoted Mr. Juenger to the ranks of militant nationalists whose strident writings helped pave the way for the Third Reich. Although Mr. Juenger later showed disgust with Adolph Hitler’s regime and its consequences, he never completely distanced himself from his early nationalist writings. Mr. Juenger gained gradual acceptance at home and abroad throughout his long career, and his stylistic mastery was held in particularly high regard in France, where his admirers included the late President Francois Mitterrand. Mr. Juenger was born in Heidelberg. As a youth, he ran off to join the French Foreign Legion and then signed up with the Kaiser’s army. His 14 wounds earned him the army’s highest decoration, and he was the last man alive to hold the old Prussian medal “Pour le Merite.” Mr. Juenger fought again in World War II but spent the later part of the conflict in occupied Paris, where he frequented literary salons, smoked opium and circulated an anti-war tract of which even Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, the “Desert Fox” of North African fame, was said to approve. After the war, however, the Allies branded him a militarist and barred him from publishing for four years. He withdrew in 1950 to a sort of self-imposed exile in the south German town of Wilflingen, where he wrote more than 50 books. Mr. Juenger’s renaissance in Germany began in the 1980's, when the city of Frankfurt awarded him its Goethe Prize despite much protest. He also joined Mitterand and Chancellor Helmut Kohl at a 1984 Franco-German reconciliation ceremony, and both Kohl and President Roman Herzog visited him to mark his 100th birthday.