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CU / German / GRMN 2301 / storm of steel cliff notes

storm of steel cliff notes

storm of steel cliff notes

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School: University of Colorado
Department: German
Course: Inside Nazi Germany
Professor: Patrick greaney
Term: Spring 2017
Tags: Germany, German, Nazi, War, and WWI
Cost: 25
Name: Recitation 1/27/17 over Storm of Steel readings
Description: These notes cover Storm of Steel excerpts by Ernst Jungar.
Uploaded: 01/27/2017
38 Pages 155 Views 0 Unlocks
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What type of person does the war produce?




• What kind of mindset do you have to have to see war this way?




What did WWI bring about?



Recitation 1/27/17 This recitation went over several excerpts from Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger (the readings will be attached)  WWI 1914 – 1918  What did WWI bring about?  • Germany lost a lot of Eastern territory  o Hitler wanted this land back  o Lebensraum (living space)  • Treaty of Versailles  o Germany was declared guilty oDon't forget about the age old question of econ 2300
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f WWI  o Brought WWI to an end  o “Stab in the back” myth – the belief that the German army did  not lose WWI on the battlefield but was instead betrayed by the  civilians at the home front  • Strong sense of nationalism  o Patriotic feeling; a feeling of superiority to other countries  • Large scale mechanized war  o Guns, planes, tanks, etc. were now being used  o Trench warfare  • New visions of humanity  ______________________________________________________________ It is important to know that Junger was NOT a Nazi  • Considered the Nazis very primitive, not very smart, and violent• When Hitler came to power, Junger dropped out of the political scene  • Fought during WWI  ______________________________________________________________ Storm of Steel Writing Style… • Makes war sound beautiful  • Tries to have glory even though war sucks  • Pro war book rather than anti-war (compared to Western front  writings) • Excited in the beginning, and then it slowly dies  o Disillusionment  o Idea vs. reality  • Discrepancy with war  o War is a horrifying event but the language he uses is beautiful  ______________________________________________________________ Anesthetization of war – the beautification of war  • What kind of mindset do you have to have to see war this way? o Pride, a sense of conquering for your country  ______________________________________________________________ Page 5: • Romanticized vision of war  • They are looking for danger  o They are looking for some sort of experience that is greater than  the experience they are having at school, work, etc.  • Yearning to return to the state of survival – this is how we naturally should be  • War overcomes alienation from struggle 2 ______________________________________________________________ Page 7: • Beginning to realize that war isn’t really what they thought it was  • Transforms them into a different state of being  ______________________________________________________________ Page 92: What type of person does the war produce? • Immune to the feelings that war gives people  • Apathy  • “Impassive features”, “ghostly” , “monotonous” • Equanimity  • No longer a human, he is just a soldier  • Void of emotion, but they are very strong – like a hardened self  • Fight machine  o Ernst is slowly transforming into this type of person o He has a detachment of feelings but he still has his humanity  o Ernst thinks the steel helmet guy is fascinating  o War is an elemental force that you cannot escape and when you  do face it, you become a better person 3 Ernst Jünger 1895-1998 SOURCE: Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2002. Year of Birth: 1895 Place of Birth: Heidelberg, Germany Year of Death: 1998 Place of Death: Wilflingen, Germany Genre(s): Essays, Novels, Travel/Exploration, Autobiography/Memoir, Politics/Government One of modern Germany's foremost men of letters, Ernst Jünger is best known for his In Stahlgewittern: Aus dem Tagebuch eines Strosstruppfuehrers, translated as The Storm of Steel: From the Diary of a German Storm-Troop Officer on the Western Front. He has also published highly acclaimed travel books, diaries, and essays. Speaking of the diversity of Jünger's accomplishment, Carl Steiner described Jünger in the Dictionary of Literary Biography as a "soldier-philosopher, a combination with which ancient civilizations such as those of Greece and Rome were quite comfortable. . . . If one adds the categories of naturalist, writer, and essayist, one moves into even more rarified circles. Ernst Jünger, blending the courage of the soldier with the curiosity of the student of life forms, the skill and imagination of the literary stylist with the probing intellect of the researcher, is such an exceptional individual." Jünger, who continued to write well into his eighties and nineties, has created a body of work that reflects the longest life span of any major German literary figure. Indeed, many critics have considered Jünger to be the doyen of twentieth-century German letters. As a young man, Jünger was fascinated by warfare and the military life. His longing to experience battle first-hand asserted itself at the age of sixteen when he ran away from home to join the French Foreign Legion. Jünger's father did not share his son's enthusiasm, however, and with the help of the authorities, located and returned the underage boy to his home. But when World War I erupted, Jünger immediately enlisted in the German Army. He distinguished himself on the Western Front, received Germany's highest military honor, and was wounded seven times. From his World War I experiences came his first book, The Storm of Steel, which was based on the diaries he kept at the time. The book was praised across the United States as a significant and revealing insight into the mind of a German officer. […] Jünger did not apologize in The Storm of Steel for the bloodshed and violence of warfare, but rather  reveled in the glories of battle. As he wrote in the book: "War means the destruction of the enemy without  scruple and by any means. War is the harshest of all trades, and the masters of it can only entertain humane  feelings as long as they do no harm."  […]After World War I, Jünger attended the University of Leipzig where he studied both philosophy and zoology, becoming interested particularly in entomology, the study of insects. Hilary Barr, who translated Jünger's Eine geführliche Begegnung as A Dangerous Encounter, told CA that "the [German] term 'Subtiler Jagd,' which Jünger uses throughout his works, refers to his entomological excursions (primarily  beetlechasing) as well as to his practice (more a second vocation) of observing close-up the wonders of the animal and plant kingdoms. He is also a passionate collector and renowned entomologist (coleopterist)." Numerous reviewers, in fact, attributed Jünger's probing and analytical approach in writing to his university training in the sciences. It was while a student that he first became politically active and participated in radical right-wing organizations that supported his view that a democracy of all the people could never retain order in the world. Jünger looked forward to the rise of the new "Federation" and the coming of the new man, an industrial individual who would restore order in a chaotic world. He defined and explained these ideas in his 1932 work, Der Arbeiter: Herrschaft und Gestalt. When Hitler came to power, Jünger dropped out of the political scene due to his disillusionment with the Nazi Party. Although the Nazis were striving for totalitarianism, he felt that their interpretation was a mockery of the "true system" he advocated. With this in mind, in 1939 he wrote Auf den Marmorklippen, an allegorical novel based on Nazi practices and later translated as On the Marble Cliffs. A major turning point in his literary career, this work offers a more humanistic and, some insist, almost Christian point of view. On the Marble Cliffs depicts the annihilation of a peaceful and gentle country by "barbarian hordes." Quickly recognized as anti-Nazi when released to English-speaking audiences, the book miraculously escaped the censor's eye when published in Germany in 1939. By the time the German government realized the novel's true meaning and halted further publication, tens of thousands of copies were already in circulation. Jünger's honor was not seriously questioned, however, for he was loyally serving with the German Army at the time. […] As an appeal for humanist values, Jünger wrote Der Friede: Ein Wort an die Jugend Europas, und an die Jugend der Welt, translated as The Peace, in late 1941. Jünger began to draft the essay in the fall of 1941, when German arms were most successful. Working on in through the following winter, he kept it hidden in a reinforced safe so that the Gestapo, who had him under continual surveillance, would not find it. Dedicated to the memory of his son Ernstel, who was killed in action in 1944, the 1945 work is an acknowledgement of Germany's guilt and a plea for world peace to end the senseless sacrifice of human life. Although he still repudiated liberalism, Jünger called for a renunciation of nationalism and the affirmation of the individual, and lobbied actively for a politically united Europe.  […]To request Penguin Readers Guides by mail  (while supplies last), please call (800) 778-6425  or e-mail reading@us.penguingroup.com.  To access Penguin Readers Guides online,  visit our Web site at www.penguin.com.  ...... ,RN .. . E .i. S  Storm of Steel  Translated with an Introduction by  MICHAEL HOFMANN  PENGUIN BOOKS PENGUIN BOOKS  Published by the Penguin Group  Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario,  Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)  Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England  Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland  (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)  Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Carnberwell, Victoria 3124,  Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)  Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park,  New Delhi- 110 017, India  Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand  (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue,  Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Mrica  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England  In Stahlgewittern first published in German 1920  This final revised edition first published 1961  This translation made from the edition prepared from  Contents  Introduction  Bibliography  Storm of Steel  Vll  XXlll  the Saemtliche Werke, vol. I: Der Erste Weltkrieg. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart, 1978  This translation first published in Great Britain by Allen Lane, an imprint of Penguin Books 2003  Published in Penguin Books 2004  19 20  Copyright© 1920, 1961]. G. Cotta'sche Buchhandlung Nachfolger GmbH, Stuttgart  Introduction and translation copyright © Michael Hofmann, 2003  All rights reserved  LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA  Junger, Ernst, 1895-1998  [In Stahlgewittern. English]  Storm of Steel I Ernst Junger ; translated by Michael Hoffman  P· em. ISBN 978+14-243790-2  1. Jiinger, Ernst,1895-1998. 2. World War, 1914-1918-Personal narratives, German.  3. Soldiers-Germany-Diaries. I. Hofmann, Michael, 1957 Aug. 25- II. Title.  D640.J69313 2004  940.4'144'092--dc22  [B] 2004044331  Printed in the United States of America  Set in Saban  Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not,  by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's  prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without  a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.  The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means  without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only  authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy  of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciared.  In the Chalk Trenches of Champagne  From Bazancourt to Hattonch~tel  Les Eparges  Douchy and Monchy  Daily Life in the Trenches  The Beginning of the Battle of the Somme  Guillemont  The Woods of St-Pierre-Vaast  Retreat from the Somme  In the Village of Fresnoy  Against Indian Opposition  Langemarck  Regnieville  Flanders Again  The Double Battle of Cambrai  At the Cojeul River  The Great Battle  British Gains  My Last Assault  We Fight Our Way Through  5  r6  23  34  51  67  91  III  I2.I  131  141  rs6  180  192  204  219  22.4  257  274  283 In the Chalk Trenches of Champagne  The train stopped at Bazancourt, a small town in Champagne,  and we got out. Full of awe and incredulity, we listened to the  slow grinding pulse of the front, a rhythm we were to become  mightily familiar with over the years. The white ball of a shrapnel  shell melted far off, suffusing the grey December sky. The breath  of battle blew across to us, and we shuddered. Did we sense that  almost all of us-some sooner, some later- were to be consumed  by it, on days when the dark grumbling yonder would crash over  our heads like an incessant thunder?  We had come from lecture halls, school desks and factory  workbenches, and over the brief weeks of training, we had  bonded together into one large and enthusiastic group. Grown  up in an age of security, we shared a yearning for danger, for the  experience of the extraordinary. We were enraptured by war. We  had set out in a rain of flowers, in a drunken atmosphere of blood  and roses. Surely the war had to supply us with what we wanted;  the great, the overwhelming, the hallowed experience. We thought  of it as manly, as action, a merry duelling party on flowered,  blood-bedewed meadows. 'No finer death in all the world  than .. .' Anything to participate, not to have to stay at home!  'Form up by plat-oon!' Our heated fantasies cooled down on  the mar_ch through the claggy soil of Champagne. Knapsacks,  munition belts and rifles hung round our necks like lead weights.  'Ease up! Keep up at the back!'  5 STORM OF STEEL  Finally we reached Orainville, one of the typical hamlets of  the region, and the designated base for the 73rd Rifles, a group  of fifty brick and limestone houses, grouped round a chateau in  parkland.  Used as we were to the order of cities, the higgledy-piggledy  life on the village streets struck us as exotic. We saw only a  few, ragged, shy civilians; every-Where else soldiers in worn and  tattered tunics, with faces weatherbeaten and often with a heavy  growth of beard, strolling along at a slow pace, or standing  in little clusters in doorways, watching our arrival with ribald  remarks. In a gateway there was a glowing field kitchen, smelling  of pea soup, surrounded by men jingling their mess-tins as they  waited to eat. It seemed that, if anything, life was a little slower  and duller here, an impression strengthened by the evidence of  dilapidation in the village.  We spent our first night in a vast barn, and in the morning  were paraded before the regimental adjutant, First Lieutenant  von Brixen, in the courtyard of the chateau. I was assigned to the  9th Company.  Our first day of war was not to pass without making a decisive  impression upon us. We were sitting over breakfast in the school  where we were quartered. Suddenly there was a series of dull  concussions, and all the soldiers rushed out of the houses towards  the entrance of the village. We followed suit, not really knowing  why. Again, there was a curious fluttering and whooshing sound  over our heads, followed by a sudden, violent explosion. I was  amazed at the way the men around me seemed to cower while  running at full pelt, as though under some frightful threat. The  whole thing struck me as faintly ridiculous, in the. way of seeing  people doing things one doesn't properly understand.  Immediately afterwards, groups of dark .figures emerged on  to the empty village street, carrying black bundles on canvas  stretchers or fireman's lifts of their folded hands. I stared, with a  queasy feeling of unreality, at a blood-spattered form with a  6  IN THE CHALK TRENCHES OF CHAMPAGNE  strangely contorted leg hanging loosely down, wailing 'Help!  Help!' as if sudden death still had him by the throat. He was  carried into a building with a Red Cross flag draped over the  doorway.  What was that about? War had shown its claws, and stripped  off its mask of cosiness. It was all so strange, so impersonal. We  had barely begun to think about the enemy, that mysterious,  treacherous being somewhere. This event, so far beyond anything  we had experienced, made such a powerful impression on us that  it was difficult to understand what had happened. It was like a  ghostly manifestation in broad daylight.  A shell had burst high up over the chateau entrance, and had  hurled a cloud of stone and debris into the gateway, just as the  occupants, alerted by the first shots, were rushing out. There  were thirteen fatalities, including Gebhard the music master,  whom I remembered well from the promenade concerts in Han over. A tethered horse had had a keener sense of the approaching  danger than the men, and had broken free a few seconds before,  and galloped into the courtyard, where it remained unhurt.  Even though the shelling could recommence at any mpment, I  felt irresistibly drawn to the site of the calamity. Next to the spot  where the shell had hit dangled a little sign where some wag had  written 'Ordnance this way'. The castle was dearly felt to be a  dangerous place. The road was reddened with pools of gore;  riddled helmets and sword belts lay around. The heavy iron  chateau gate was shredded and pierced by the impact of the  explosive, the kerbs tone was spattered with blood. My eyes were  drawn to the place as if by a magnet; and a profound change  went through me.  Talking to my comrades, I saw that the incident had rather  blunted their enthusiasm for war. That it had also had an effect  on me was instanced by numerous auditory hallucinations, so  that I would mistake the trundling of a passing cart, say, for the  ominous whirring of the deadly shell.  7 STORM OF STEEL  This was something that was to accompany us all through the  war, that habit of jumping at any sudden and unexpected noise.  Whether it was a train clattering past, a book falling to the floor,  or a shout in the night - on each occasion, the heart would stop  with a sense of mortal dread. It bore out· the fact that for four  years we lived in the shadow of death. The experience hit so hard  in that dark country beyond consciousness, that every time there  was a break with the usual, the porter Death would leap to the  gates with hand upraised, like the figure above the dial on certain  clock towers, who appears at the striking of the hour, with scythe  and hourglass.  The evening of that same day brought the long-awaited  moment of our moving, with full pack, up to battle stations.  The road took us through the ruins of the village of Betricourt,  looming spectrally out of the half-dark, to the so-called 'Pheasan try', an isolated forester's house, buried. in some pine woods,  where the regimental reserve was housed, of which, to this point,  the 9th Company had formed a part. Their commander was  Lieutenant Brahms.  We were welcomed, divided up into platoons, and before long  found ourselves in the society of bearded, mud-daubed fellows,  who greeted us with a kind of ironic benevolence. They asked us  how things were back in Hanover, and whether the war might  not be over soon. Then the conversation turned, with us all  listening avidly, to short statements about earthworks, field kitch ens, stretches of trench, shell bombardment, and other aspects of  stationary warfare.  After a little while, a shout rang out in front of our cottage-like  billet to 'Turn out!' We formed up into our platoons, and on the  order 'Load and safety!' we felt a little twinge of arousal as we  rammed clips of live ammunition into our magazines.  Then silent progress, in Indian file, through the landscape  dobbed with dark patches of forest to the front. Isolated shots  rang out from time to time, or a rocket flared up with a hiss to  8  IN THE CHALK TRENCHES OF CHAMPAGNE  leave us in deeper darkness following its short spectral flash.  Monotonous clink of rifles and field shovels, punctuated by the  warning cry: 'Watch it, barbed wire!'  Then a sudden jingling crash and a man swearing: 'Dammit,  why couldn't you tell me there's a crater!' A corporal shuts him  up: 'Pipe down, for Christ's sake, do you think the French are  wearing earplugs?' More rapid progress. The uncertain night, the  flickering of flares and the slow crackling of rifle fire produce  a kind of subdued excitement that keeps us strangely on our  toes. From time to time, a stray bullet whines past chilly into  the distance. How often since that first time· I've gone up the  line through dead scenery in that strange mood of melancholy  exaltation!  At last we dropped into one of the communication trenches  that wound their way through the night like white snakes to  the front. There I found myself standing between a couple of  traverses, lonely and shivering, staring hard into a line of pines  in front of the trench, where my imagination conjured up all sorts  of shadowy figures, while the occasional stray bullet slapped into  the boughs and somersaulted down with a whistle. The only  diversion in this seemingly endless time was being collected by  an older comrade, and trotting off together down a long, narrow  passage to an advance sentry post, where, once again, it was our  job to gaze out into the terrain in front. I was given a couple of  hours to try to find an exhausted sleep in a bare chalk dugout.  When the sky lightened, I was pale and day-daubed, and so was  everyone else; I felt I had lived this sort of mole's life for many  months already.  The regiment had taken up a position winding through the  chalky Champagne soil, facing the village of Le Godar. On the  right, it abutted a tattered area of woodland, the so-called 'Shell  Wood', and from there it zigzagged across vast sugar-beet fields,  where we could see the luminous red trousers of dead French  attackers dotted about, to the course of a stream, across which  9  L .................................................. .STORM OF STEEL  communications with the 74th Regiment were kept open by  patrols at night. The stream poured over the weir of a destroyed  mill ringed by brooding trees. For months, its water had been  laving the black parchment faces of the dead of a French colonial  regiment. An eerie place, especially at night, when the moon cast  moving shadows through breaks in the douds, and the sounds  of the rushes and the murmuring water were joined by others less  easily accounted for.  The regimen was taxing, beginning at dusk, for whjch the  entire complement was made to stand to in the trench. Between  ten at night and six in the morning, only two men out of each  platoon were allowed to sleep at a time, which meant that we got  two hours a night each, though they were eaten into by being  woken early, having to fetch straw, and other occupations, so  that there were only a few minutes leh as a rule.  Guard duty was either in the trench or else in one of the  numerous forward posts that were connected to the line by long,  buried saps; a type of insurance that was later given up, because  of their exposed position.  The endless, exhausting spells of sentry duty were bearable so  long as the weather happened to be fine, or even frosty; but it  became torture once the rain set in in january. Once the wet  had saturated the canvas sheeting overhead, and your coat and  uniform, and trickled down your body for hours on end, you got  into a mood that nothing could lighten, not even the sound of  the splashing feet of the man coming towards you to relieve you.  Dawn lit exhausted, clay-smeared figures who, pale and teeth  chattering, flung themselves down on the mouldy straw of their  dripping dugouts.  Those dugouts! They were holes hacked into the chalk, facing  the trench, roofed over with boards and a few shovelfuls of earth.  If it had been raining, they would drip for days afterwards; a  desperate waggishness kitted them out with names like 'Stalactite  Cavern', 'Men's Public Baths', and other such. If several men  IN THE CHALK TRENCHES OF CHAMPAGNE  wanted to rest at the same time, they had no option but to stick  their legs out into the trench, where anyone passing was bound  to trip over them. In the circumstances, there was not much  chance of sleep in the daytime either. Besides, we had two hours  of sentry duty in the day too, as well as having to make running  repairs to the trench, go for food, coffee, water, and whatever  else.  Clearly, this unaccustomed type of existence hit us hard, especi ally since most of us had had only a nodding acquaintance with  real work. Furthermore, we were not received out here with open  arms, as we'd expected. The old-stagers took every opportunity  to pull our legs, and every tedious or unexpected assignment  was put the way of us 'war-wantons'. That instinct, which had  survived the switch from barracks yard to war, and which did  nothing to improve our mood, ceased after the first battle we  fought in side by side, after which we saw ourselves as 'old stagers'.  The period in which the company lay in reserve was not much  cosier. We dwelt in fir-branch camouflaged earth huts round the  'Pheasantry' or in the Hiller Copse, whose dungy floors at least  gave off a pleasant, fermenting warmth. Sometimes, though,  you would wake up lying in several inches of water. Although  'roomy-dizzy' was just a name to me, after only a few nights of  this involuntary immersion I felt pain in every one of my joints.  I dreamed of iron balls trundling up and down my limbs. Nights  here were not for sleeping either, but were used to deepen the  many communication trenches. In total darkness, if the French  flares happened not to be lighting us up, we had to stick to the  heels of the man in front with somnambulistic confidence if we  weren't to lose ourselves altogether, and spent hours traipsing  around the labyrinthine network of trenches. At least the digging  was easy; only a thin layer of clay or loam covered the mighty  thicknesses of chalk, which was easily cut by the pickaxe. Some times green sparks would fly up if the steel had encountered one  II STORM OF STEEL  of the fist-sized iron pyrite crystals that were sprinkled through out the soft stone. These consisted of many little cubes clustered  together, and, cut open, had a streakily goldy gleam.  A little ray of sunshine in all this monotony was the nightly  arrival of the field kitchen in the corner of the Hiller Copse. When  the cauldron was opened, it would release a delicious aroma of  peas with bam, or some other wonder. Even here, though, there  was a dark side: the dried vegetables, dubbed 'wire entangle ments' or 'damaged crops' by disappointed gourmets.  In my diary entry for 6january, I even find the irate note: 'In  the evening, the field kitchen comes teetering up, with some  god-awful pigswill, probably frozen beets boiled up.' On the  qth, by contrast: 'Delicious pea soup, four heavenly portions,  till we groaned with satisfaction. We staged eating contests, and  argued about the most favourable position. I contended that it  was standing up.'  There were liberal helpings of a pale-red brandy, which had a  strong taste of methylated spirits, but wasn't to be sneezed at in  the cold wet weather. We drank it out of our mess-tin lids. The  tobacco was similarly strong, and also plentiful. The image of  the soldier that remains with me from those days is that of the  sentry with his spiked, grey helmet, fists buried in the pockets of  his greatcoat, standing behind the shooting-slit, blowing pipe  smoke over his rifle butt.  Most pleasant were days off in Orainville, which were spent  catching up on sleep, cleaning our clothes and gear, and drilling.  The company was put in a vast barn that had only a couple of  hen-roost ladders to facilitate entrances and exits. Although it  was still full of straw, there were braziers lit in it. One night I  rolled up against one, and was woken only by the efforts of  several comrades pouring water over me. I was horrified to see  that the back of my uniform was badly charred, and for some time  to come I had to go around in what bore a passing resemblance to  a pair of tails.  12.  IN THE CHALK TRENCHES OF CHAMPAGNE  After only a short time with the regiment, we had become  thoroughly disillusioned. Instead of the danger we'd hoped for,  we had been given dirt, work and sleepless nights, getting through  which required heroism of a sort, but hardly what we had in  mind. Worse still was the boredom, which is still more enervating  for the soldier than the proximity of death.  We pinned our hopes on an attack; but we had picked a most  unfavourable moment to join the front, because all movement  had stopped. Even small-scale tactical initiatives were laid to rest  as the trenches became more elaborate and the defensive fire  more destructive. Only a few weeks before our arrival, a single  company had risked one of these localized attacks over a few  hundred yards, following a perfunctory artillery barrage. The  French had simply picked them off, as on a shooting-range, and  only a handful had got as far as the enemy wire; the few survivors  spent the rest of the day lying low, till darkness felJ and they were  able to crawl back to their starting-point.  A contributory factor in the chronic overtiring of the troops  was the way that trench warfare, which demanded a different  way of keeping one's strength up, was still a novel and unexpected  phenomenon as far as the officer corps was concerned. The great  number of sentries and the incessant trench-digging were largely  unnecessary, and even deleterious. It's not a question ofthe scale  of the earthworks, but of the courage and condition of the men  behind them. The ever-deeper trenches might protect against the  odd head wound, but it also made for a defensive and security conscious type of thinking, which we were loath to abandon  later. Moreover, the demands made by the maintenance of the  trenches were becoming ever-more exorbitant. The most dis agreeable contingency was the onset of thaw, which caused the  frost-cracked chalk facings of the trenches to disintegrate into a  sludgy mess.  Of course we heard bullets whistling past our trench, and  sometimes we got a few shells from the forts at Rheims, but  13 STORM OF STEEL  these little trifling reminders of war came a long way below our  expectations. Even so, we were occasionally reminded of the  deadly earnest that lurked behind this seemingly aimless business.  On 8 July, for instance, a shell struck the 'Pheasantry', and  killed our battalion adjutant, Lieutenant Schmidt. The officer in  command of the French artillery was, apparently, also the owner  of that hunting lodge.  The artillery was still in an advanced position, just behind the  front; there was even a field gun incorporated in the front line,  rather inadequately concealed under tarpaulins. During a conver sation I was having with the 'powder heads', I was surprised to  notice that the whistling of rifle bullets bothered them much more  than the crumps. That's just the way it is; the hazards of one's  own line of service always seem more rational and less terrifying.  On the stroke of midnight, on 2.7 January,"' we gave the Kaiser  three cheers, and all along the front sang 'Heil dir im Siegerkranz'  ['Hail thee mid the conquerors' round']. The French responded  with rifle fire.  Some time round about then, I had a disagreeable experience  which might have brought my military career to a premature and  somewhat inglorious end. The company was on the left of the  line, and towards dawn, following a night on duty, a comrade  and I were detailed to go on double sentry duty by the stream  bed. On account of the cold, I had, in breach of regulations,  wrapped a blanket round my head, and was leaning against a  tree, having set my rifle down in a bush next to me. On hearing  a sudden noise behind me, I reached for my weapon - only to  find it had disappeared! The duty officer had snuck up on me and  taken it without my noticing. By way of punishment, he sent me,  armed only with a pickaxe, towards the French posts about a  hundred yards away- a cowboys-and-Indians notion that almost  did for me. For, during my bizarre punishment watch, a troop of  • The birthday of Kaiser Wilhelm II (r8s9-1941).  IN THE CHALK TRENCHES OF CHAMPAGNE  three volunteers ventured forward through the wide reed bed . '  creatmg so much rustling that they were spotted right away by  the Fr~nch, and came under fire. One of them, a man called Lang,  was h1t and never seen again. Since I was standing hard by, I got  my share of the then-fashionable platoon salvoes, so that the  twigs of the willow tree I was standing next to were whipping  round my ears. I gritted my teeth and, out of sheer cussedness,  remained standing. As dusk fell, I was brought back to my unit.  We were all mightily pleased when we learned that we would  finally leave this position, and we celebrated our departure from  Orainville with a beery evening in the big barn. On 4 February,  we marched back to Bazancourt, and a regiment of Saxons took  our place.  ~----------....................................... ..14  - STORM OF STEEL  pouring water or coffee from a canteen into a snoring sleeper's  mouth.  On the evening of 2.2. April, we marched out of Preny and  covered over twenty miles to the village of Hattonchatel, without  registering any footsoreness, in spite of our heavy packs. We  pitched camp in the woods on the right of the famous Grande  Tranchee. All the indications were that we would be fighting in  the morning. Bandage packs were issued, extra tins of beef, and  signalling flags for the gunners.  I sat up for a long time that night, in the foreboding eve of  battle mood of which soldiers at all times have left report, on a  tree stump clustered round with blue anemones, before I crept  over the ranks of my comrades to my tent. I had tangled dreams,  in which a principal role was played by a skull.  In the morning, when I told Priepke about it, he said he hoped  it was a French skull.  2.2  Les Eparges  The tender green of young leaves shimmered in the flat light. We  followed hidden, twisting paths towards a narrow gorge behind  the front line. We had been told that the 76th was to attack after  a bombardment of only twenty minutes, and that we were to be  held in reserve. On the dot of noon, our artillery launched into a  furious bombardment that echoed and re~echoed through the  wooded hollows. For the first time, we heard what was meant by  the expression 'drumfire'. We sat perched on our haversacks,  idle and excited. A runner plunged through to the company  commander. Brisk exchange. 'The three nearest trenches have  fallen to us, and six field guns have been captured!' Loud cheers  rang out. A feeling of up-and~at-'em.  At last, the longed-for order. In a long line, we moved forward,  towards the pattering of heavy rifle fire. It was getting serious.  To the side of the forest path, dull thumps came down in a clump  of firs, bringing down a rain of branches and soil. One nervous  soldier threw himself to the ground, while his corilrades laughed  uneasily. Then Death's call slipped through the ranks: 'Ambu lancemen to the Front!'  A little later, we passed the spot that had been hit. The casual ties had already been removed. Bloody scraps of cloth and flesh  had been left on bushes around the crater-a strange and dreadful  sight that put me in mind of the butcher-bird that spikes its prey  on thorn bushes. STORM OF STEEL  Troops were advancing at the double along the Grande  Tranchee. Casualties huddled by the roadside, whimpering for  water, prisoners carrying stretchers came panting back, limbers  clattered through fire at a gallop. On either side, shells spattered  the soft ground, heavy boughs came crashing down. A dead horse  lay across the middle of the path, with giant wounds, its steaming  entrails beside it. In among the great, bloody scenes there was a  wild, unsuspected hilarity. A bearded reservist leaned against a  tree: 'On you go now, boys, Frenchie's on the run!'  We entered the battle-tramped realm of the infantryman. The  area round the jumping-off position had been deforested by  shells. In the ripped-up no man's land lay the victims of the  attack, still facing the enemy; their grey tunics barely stood out  from the ground. A giant form with red, blood-spattered beard  stared fixedly at the sky, his fingers clutching the spongy ground.  A young man tossed in a shell-crater, his features already yellow  with his impending death. He seemed not to want to be looked  at; he gave us a cross shrug and pulled his coat over his head, and  lay still.  Our marching column broke up. Shells came continually hiss ing towards us in long, flat arcs, lightnings whirled up the forest  floor. The shrill toot of field artillery shells I had heard quite often  even before Orainville; it didn't strike me as being particularly  dangerous. The loose order in which our company now advanced  over the broken field had something oddly calming about it; I  thought privately that this baptism of fire business was actually  far less dangerous than I'd expected. In a curious failure of  comprehension, I looked alertly about me for possible targets for  all this artillery fire, not, apparently, realizing that it was actually  ourselves that the enemy gunners were trying for all they were  worth to hit.  'Arnbulancemen!' We had our first fatality. A shrapnel ball had  ripped thr~ugh rifleman Stolter's carotid artery. Three packets of  lint were sodden with blood in no time. In a matter of seconds  LES EPARGES  he had bled to death. Next to us, a couple of ordnance pieces  loosed off shells, drawing more fire down on us from the enemy.  An artillery lieutenant, who was in the vanguard, looking for  wounded, was thrown to the ground by a column of steam that  spurted in front of him. He got to his feet and made his way back  with notable calm. We took him in with gleaming eyes.  It was getting dark when we received orders to advance further.  The way now led through dense undergrowth shot through by  shells, into an endless communication trench along which the  French had dropped their packs as they ran. Approaching the  village of Les Eparges, without having any troops in front of us,  we were forced to hew defensive positions in solid rock. Finally,  I slumped into a bush and fell asleep. At moments, half asleep, I  was aware of artillery shells, ours or theirs, describing their  ellipses in a trail of sparks.  'Come on, man, get up! We're moving out!' I woke up in  dew-sodden grass. Through a stuttering swathe of machine-gun  fire, we plunged back into our communication trench, and moved  to a position on the edge of the wood previously held by the  French. A sweetish smell and a bundle hanging in the wire caught  my attention. In the rising mist, I leaped out of the trench and  found a shrunken French corpse. Flesh like mouldering fish  gleamed greenishly through splits in the shredded uniform. Turn ing round, I took a step back in horror: next to me a figure was  crouched against a tree. It still had gleaming French leather  harness, and on its back was a fully packed haversack, topped  by a round mess-tin. Empty eye-sockets and a few strands of hair  on the bluish-black skull indicated that the man was not among  the living. There was another sitting down, slumped forward  towards his feet, as though he had just collapsed. All around  were dozens more,. rotted, dried, stiffened to mummies, frozen in  an eerie dance of death. The French must have spent months in  the proximity of their fallen comrades, without burying them.  During the morning, the sun gradually pierced the fog, and  __________________ ........................... .2.4  STORM OF STEEL  spread a pleasant warmth. After I'd slept on the bottom of the  trench for a while, curiosity impelled me to inspect the unoccu pied trench we'd captured the day before. It was littered with  great piles of provisions, ammunition, equipment, weapons, let ters and newspapers. The dugouts were like looted junk-shops.  In amongst it all were the bodies of the brave defenders, their  guns still poking out through the shooting-slits. A headless torso  was jammed in some shot-up beams. Head and neck were gone,  white cartilage gleamed out of reddish-black flesh. I found it  difficult to fathom. Next to it a very young man lay on his back  with glassy e,yes and fists still aiming. A peculiar feeling, looking  into dead, questioning eyes- a shudder that I never quite lost in  the course of the war. His pockets had been turned inside out,  and his emptied wallet lay beside him.  Unmolested by any fire, I strolled along the ravaged trench. It  was the short mid-morning lull that was often to be my only  moment of respite on the battlefield. I used it to take a good  look at everything. The unfamiliar weapons, the darkness of the  dugouts, the colourful contents of the haversacks, it was all new  and strange to me. I pocketed some French ammunition, undid a  silky-soft tarpaulin and picked up a canteen wrapped in blue  cloth, only to chuck it all away again a few steps further along.·  The sight of a beautiful striped shirt, lying next to a ripped-open  officer's valise, seduced me to strip off my uniform and get into  some fresh linen. I relished the pleasant tickle of clean cloth  against my skin.  Thus kitted out, I looked for a sunny spot in the trench, sat  down on a beam-end, and with my bayonet opened a round can  of meat for my breakfast. Then I lit my pipe, and browsed through  some of the many French magazines that lay scattered about,  some of them, as I saw from the dates, only sent to the trenches  on the eve of Verdun.  Not without a certain shudder, I remember that during my  breakfast I tried to unscrew a curious little contraption that I  LES EPARGES  found lying at my feet in the trench, which for some reason I took  to be a 'storm lantern'. It wasn't until a lot later that it dawned  on me that the thing I'd been fiddling around with was a live  hand-grenade.  As conditions grew brighter, a German battery opened up from  a stretch of woods just behind the trench. It didn't take long for  the enemy to reply. Suddenly I was struck by a mighty crash  behind me, and saw a steep pillar of smoke rising. Still unfamiliar  with the sounds of war, I was not able to distinguish the hisses  and whistles and bangs of our own gunnery from the ripping  crash of enemy shells, and hence, to get a sense of the lines of  engagement. Above all, I could not account for the way I seemed  to be under fire from all sides, so that the trajectories of the  various shells were criss-crossing apparently aimlessly over the  little warren of trenches where a few of us were holed up. This  effect, for which I could see no cause, disquieted me and made  me think. I still viewed the machinery of conflict with the eyes of  an inexperienced recruit - the expressions of bellicosity seemed  as distant and peculiar to me as events on another planet. This  meant I was unafraid; feeling myself to be invisible, I couldn't  believe I was a target to anyone, much less that I might be hit.  So, returned to my unit, I surveyed the terrain in front of me with  great indifference. In my pocket-diary I wrote down - a habit  of mine later on as well - the times and the intensity of the  bombardment.  Towards noon, the artillery fire had increased to a kind of  savage pounding dance. The flames lit around us incessantly.  Black, white and yellow douds mingled. The shells with black  smoke, which the old-timers called 'Americans' or 'coal boxes',  ripped with incredible violence. And all the time the curious,  canary-like twittering of dozens of fuses. With their cut-out  shapes, in which the trapped air produced a flute-like trill, they  drifted over the long surf of explosions like ticking copper toy  clocks or mechanical insects. The odd thing was that the little  ____________ _. ..................................... ..2.6  STORM OF STEEL  birds in the forest seemed quite untroubled by the myriad noise;  they sat peaceably over the smoke in their battered boughs. In  the short intervals of firing, we could hear them singing happily  or ardently to one another, if anything even inspired or encour aged by the dreadful noise on all sides.  In the moments when the shelling was particularly heavy, the  men called to each other to remain vigilant. In the stretch of  trench that I could see, and out of whose walls great clumps of  mud had already been knocked here and there, we were in com plete readiness. Our rifles were unlocked in the shooting-slits,  and the riflemen were alertly eyeing the foreground. From time  to time they checked to left and right to see whether we were still  in contact, and they smiled when their eyes encountered those of  comrades.  I sat with a comrade on a bench cut into the day wall of the  trench. Once, the board of the shooting-slit through which we  were looking splintered, and a rifle bullet flew between our heads  and buried itself in the day.  By and by, there were casualties. I had no way of knowing  how things stood in other sectors of the labyrinthine trench, but  the increasing frequency of the calls for 'Ambulancemenl' showed  that the shelling was starting to take effect. From time to time, a  figure hurried by with its head or neck or hand wrapped in fresh,  clean and very visible bandages, on its way to·rhe rear. It was a  matter of urgency to get the victim out of the way, because of the  military superstition by which a trifling wound or hit, if not  immediately dealt with, is certain to be followed by something  rather worse.  My comrade, volunteer Kohl, kept up that North German  sang-froid that might have been made for such a situation. He  was chewing and squeezing on a cigar that refused to draw, and  apart from that looked rather sleepy. Nor did he allow himself  to be upset when, suddenly, to the rear of us, there was a clattering  as of a thousand rifles. It turned out that the intensity of the  2.8  LES EPARGES  shelling had caused the wood to catch fire. Great tongues of flame  climbed noisily up the tree trunks.  While all this was going on, I suffered from a rather curious  anxiety. I was envious of the old 'Lions of Perthes' for their  experience in the 'witches' cauldron', which I had missed out on  through being away in Recouvrence. Therefore, each time the  coal-boxes came down especially thick and fast in our neck of  things, I would tum to Kohl, who had been there, and ask:  'Hey, would you say this was like Perthes now?'  To my chagrin, he would reply each time with a casually  dismissive gesture:  'Not by a long chalk!'  When the shelling had intensified to the extent that now our  clay bench had started to sway with the impact of the black  monsters, I yelled into his ear:  'Hey, is it like Perthes now?'  Kohl was a conscientious soldier. He began by standing up,  looked about himself carefully, and then roared back, to my  satisfaction:  'I think it's getting there!'  The reply filled me with foolish delight, as it confirmed to me  that this was my first proper battle.  At that instant, a man popped up in the corner of our sector:  'Follow me left!' We passed on the command, and started along  the smoke-filled position. The ration party had just arrived with  the chow, and hundreds of unwanted mess-tins sat and steamed  on the breastwork. Who could think to eat now? A crowd of  wounded men pushed past us with blood-soaked bandages, the  excitement of the battle still etched on their pale faces. Up on the  edge of the trench, stretcher after stretcher was swiftly lugged to  the rear. The sense of being up against it began to take hold of  us. 'Careful of my arm, mate!' 'Come along, man, keep up!'  I spotted Lieutenant Sandvoss, rushing past the trench with  distracted staring eyes. A long white bandage trailing round his  2.9 STORM OF STEEL  neck gave him a strangely ungainly appearance, which probably  explains why just at that moment he reminded me of a duck.  There was something dreamlike about the vision - terror in the  guise of the absurd. Straight afterwards, we hurried past Colonel  von Oppen, who had his hand in his tunic pocket and was issuing  orders to his adjutant. 'Aha, so there is some organization and  purpose behind all this,' it flashed through my brain.  The trench debouched into a stretch of wood. We stood irresol utely under huge beech trees. A lieutenant emerged from dense  undergrowth and called to our longest-serving N C 0: 'Have them  fall out towards the sunset, and then take up position. Report to  me in the dugout by the dearing.' Swearing, the NCO took over.  We fell out in extended order, and lay down expectantly in a  series of flattish depressions that some predecessors of ours had  scooped out of the ground. Our ribald conversations were sud denly cut off by a marrow-freezing cry. Twenty yards behind us,  clumps of earth whirled up out of a white cloud and smacked  into the boughs. The crash echoed through the woods. Stricken  eyes looked at each other, bodies pressed themselves into the  ground with a humbling sensation of powerlessness to do any thing else. Explosion followed explosion. Choking gases drifted  through the undergrowth, smoke obscured the treetops, trees  and branches came c;rashing to the ground, screams. We leaped  up and ran blindly, chased by lightnings and crushing air pressure,  from tree to tree, looking for cover, skirting around giant tree  trunks like frightened game. A dugout where many men had  taken shelter, and which I too was running towards, took a direct  hit that ripped up the planking and sent heavy timbers spinning  through the air.  Like a couple of squirrels having stones thrown at them, the  NCO and I dodged panting round a huge beec;h. Quite mechan ically, and spurred on by further explosions, I ran after my  superior, who sometimes turned round and stared at me, wild eyed, yelling: 'What in God's name are those things? What are  LES E.PARGES  they?' Suddenly there was a flash among the rootwork, and a  blow on the left thigh flung me to the ground. I thought I had  been struck by a dump of earth, but the warm trickle of blood  indicated that I'd been wounded. Later, I saw that a needle-sharp  piece of shrapnel had given me a flesh wound, though my wallet  had taken the brunt of it. The fine cut, which before slicing into  the muscle had split no fewer than nine thicknesses of stout  leather, looked as though it might have been administered by  a scalpel.  I threw down my haversack and ran towards the trench we  had come from. From all sides, wounded men were making tracks  towards it from the shelled woods. The trench was appalling,  choked with seriously wounded and dying men. A figure stripped  to the waist, with ripped-open back, leaned against the parapet.  Another, with a triangular flap hanging off the back of his skull  emitted short, high-pitched screams. This was the home of th;  great god Pain, and for the first time I looked through a devilish  chink into the depths of his realm. And fresh shells came down  all the time.  I lost my head completely. Ruthlessly, I barged past everyone  on my path, before finally, having faJlen back a few times in my  haste, climbing out of the hellish crush of the trench, to move  more freely above. Like a bolting horse, I rushed through dense  undergrowth, across paths and clearings, till I collapsed in a  copse by the Grande Tranchee.  It was already growing dark by the time a couple of stretcher bearers who were looking for casualties came upon me. They  picked me up on their stretcher and carried me back to their  dressing-station in a dugout covered over with tree branches ' where I spent the night, pressed together with many other  wounded men. An exhausted medic stood in the throng of groan ing men, bandaging, injecting and giving calm instructions. I  pulled a dead man's coat over me, and fell into a sleep that  incipient fever lit with lurid dreams. Once, in the middle of the STORM OF STEEL  night, I awoke, and saw the doctor still working by the light of a  lamp. A Frenchman was screaming incessantly, and next to me a  man growled: 'Bloody Frenchies, never happy if they've not got  something to moan about!' And then I was asleep again.  As I was being carried away the following morning, a splinter  bored a hole through the stretcher canvas between my knees.  Along with other wounded men, I was loaded on to one of the  ambulance wagons that shuttled between the battlefield and the  main dressing-station. We galloped across the Grande Tranchee,  which was still under heavy fire. Behind the grey canvas walls we  careered through the danger that accompanied us with giant  stamping strides.  On one of the stretchers on which -like loaves of bread into  an oven- we had been pushed into the back of the cart lay a  comrade with a shot in the belly that occasioned him intense  pain. He appealed to every one of us to finish him off with  the ambulanceman's pistol that hung in the wagon. No one  answered. I was yet to experience the feeling where every jolt  seems like a hammer blow on a bad injury.  The chief dressing-station was in a forest clearing. Long rows  of straw had been laid out and covered with foliage. The stream  of wounded was proof, if proof were needed, that a significant  engagement was in progress. At the sight of the surgeon, who  stood checking the roster in the bloody chaos, I once again had  the impression, hard to describe, of seeing a man surrounded by  elemental terror and anguish, studying the functioning of his  organization with ant-like cold-bloodedness.  Supplied with food and drink, and smoking a cigarette, I lay  in the middle of a long line of wounded men on my spill of straw,  in that mood which sets in when a test has been got throu~ if  not exactly with flying colours, then still one way or another. A  short snatch of conversation next to me gave me pause.  'What happened to you, comrade?'  'I've been shot in the bladder.'  LES EPARGES  'Is it very bad?'  'Oh, that's not the problem. I can't stand it that I can't fight . . . '  Later that same morning, we were taken to the main collection  point in the village church at St Maurice. A hospital train was  there, already getting up steam. We would be back in Germany  in two days. From my bed on the train, I could see the fields just  corning into spring. We were well looked after by a quiet fellow,  a philosophy scholar in private life. The first thing he did for me  was to take out his penknife and cut the boot off my foot. There  are people who have a gift for tending others, and so it was with  this man; even seeing him reading a book by a night-light made  me feel better.  The train took us to Heidelberg.  At the sight of the Neckar slopes wreathed with flowering  cherry trees, I had a strong sense of having come home. What a  beautiful country it was, and eminently worth our blood and our  lives. Never before had I felt its charm so dearly. I had good and  serious thoughts, and for the first time I sensed that this war was  more than just a great adventure.  The battle at Les Eparges was my first. It was quite unlike what  I had expected. I had taken part in a major engagement, without  having clapped eyes on a single live opponent. It wasn't until  much later that I experienced the direct coming together, the  climax of battle in the form of waves of attackers on an open  field, which, for decisive, murderous moments, would break into  the chaos and vacuity of the battlefield.  33

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