Excerpt from Ernst Jünger's The Storm of Steel. Below are the three last pages.
Now I looked back: four years of development in the midst of a generation predestined to death, spent in caves, smoke-filled trenches, and shell-illuminated wastes; years enlived only by the pleasures of a mercenary, and nights of guard after guard in and endless perspective; in short, av monotonous calendar full of harschips and privation, divided by the red-letter days of battle. And alsmost without any thought of mine, the idea of the Fatherland had been destiled from all these afflictions in a clearer and brighter essance. That was the final winnings in a game on which so often all had been staked: the nation was no longer for me an empty though veiled in symbols; and how could it have been otherwise when I had seen so many die for its sake, and been schooled myself to stake my life for its credit every minute, day and night, without a thought? And so, strange as it may sound, I learned from this very four years’ schooling in force and in all the fantastic extravagance of material warfare that life has no depth of meaning exept when pledged for an ideal, and that thereare ideals in comparison with which the life of an individual and even of a people has no weight. And though the aim for which I fought as an individual, as an atom in the whole body of the army, was not to be achieved, though material force cast us, apparently to the earth, yet we learned once and for all to stand for a cause and if necessary ro fall as befitted men.
Hardened as scarcely another generation ever was in fire and flame, we could go into life as though from the anvil; into friendship, love, politics, professions, into all that destiny had in store. It is not every generation that is so favoured.
And if it be objected that we belong to a time of crude force our answer is: We stood our feet in mud and blood, yet our faces were turned to things of exalted worth. And not one of that countless number who fell in our attacks fell for nothing. Each one fulfilled his own reslove. For to every one may be applied the saying from St. John that Dostovievski put in front of his greatest novel:
‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.’ [John 12:24, Spöknippet]
To-day we cannot understand the martyrs who threw themselves into the arena in a transport that lifted them even before their deaths betond humanity, beyond every phase of pain and fear. Their faith no longer exercises a compelling force. When once it is no longer possible to understand how a man gives his life for his country – and the time will come – then all is over with that faith also, and the idea of the Fatherland is dead; and then, perhaps, we shell be envied, as we envy the saints their inward abd irresistible strength. For all these great and solemn ideas bloom from a feeling that dwells in the blood and canot be forced. In the cold light of reason everything alike is a matter if expedience and sinks to the paltry and mean. It was our luck to live in the invvisible rays of a feeling that filled the heart, and of this inestimable treasure we can never be deprived.
I had the good fortune to be taken out at Hanover and sent to the Clementine infirmary. One of my companions there was a young flying-man of Richthofen’s squadron, named Wenzel, who had shot down twelve of the enemy. The last of them had first shot him through the shoulder.
On the 22nd of september 1918 I had the following telegram:
‘His majesty the Kaiser has bestoved on you the order Pour le Mérite. I congratulate you in the name of the whole division.
‘General von Busse.’
As soon as I was fit enough I celebrated this event with Wenzel, my brother, and a few friends. As a doubt had been expressed whether we should soon be passed out fit for active service, Wenzel and I felt ourselves compelled to jump again and again over a lagre armchair. We came out of it, however, very badly. Wenzel broke his arm again, and I was kept in bed next morning with a temperature of 104.
In spite of this it was not long before we were in exellent form for another winter campaign. This was deferred for a while; and soon we had to take part in other battles than we ever dreamed.
Now these too are over, and already we see once mmore in the dim light of the future the tumult of fresh ones. We – by this I mean the youth of this land who are capable of entusiasm for an ideal – will not shrink from them. We stand in the memory of the dead who are holy to us, and we belive ourselves entrusted with the true and spirutual welfare of our people. We stand for what will be and what has been. Though force without and barbarity within conglomerate in sombre clouds, yet so long as the blad of a sword will strike a spark in the night may it be said: Germany lives and Germany shall never go under!
p . 316-319
p . 316-319