Hitler's Germany Paper #1 (1)

There was no one event that can be pointed to no

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eroded a little more of the spirit. There was no one event that can be pointed to, no single battle is to blame, no splinter of metal or fragment of bullet, but rather a vice grip around the heart, one that the war slowly tightened upon every man. The suffocating nature of the war quickly impresses itself upon Junger. He notes early in his memoir that, “I too am yearning for warmth, for something human in this eerie desolation. At night , the landscape emanates a curious cold; a sort of emotional cold.” Crouched in piles of filth and earth the men became aware of the industrialized indifference that war had bred. They are freezing, far from home, and they could be horribly maimed or killed at any moment. In this setting the men seek some fraternal bonds, anything to distract from the unending dread. The hollowing turns men into husks. The simultaneously monotonous and menacing nature of trench life simply sucked the will from them. The war did not only offer a constant threat of immediate death, but also the possibility of bringing violence against ones enemies. Soldiers are expected to kill in the name of their country as well as die, and what exciting new toys they had, grenades, rifles, machine guns, mortars, gas, bayonets and more. In many ways the hollowing was necessary so that Junger could assume the mantel of the huntsman, or warrior. The war shaped men into engines of violence, unleashed at barked commands, trained to perform acts of calculated destruction, these men were altered forever. The bravest and most bloodthirsty joined the ranks of the storm troops, the men that charged ahead into the enemy trench, they were fury made flesh, and Junger proudly counted himself among them. When describing his fellow troopers Junger says, “There was in these men a quality that
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both emphasized the savagery of war and transfigured it as the same time: an objective relish for danger, the chevalieresque urge to prevail in battle. Over four years, the fire smelted an ever- purer, ever-bolder warriorhood.” 6 Junger is a warrior, and he knows it, he has been sent to wage war and he is finding that he is damn good at it. As the fighting continues he becomes more enamored with it, he venerates the struggle more, and he endeavors to be the best at killing that he can be. So as Junger approaches the Great Battle he is torn in two seemingly contradictory directions. On one hand the numbing proximity to so much gruesome carnage weighed on his soul, as is made evident by sections like, “My sleep was heavy and troubled;the high explosive shells falling all around the house in the impenetrable dark evoked extraordinary feelings of solitude and abandon in me. I pressed myself unconsciously against a man lying beside me on the pallet.” 7 Here we see a Junger that is fearful and vulnerable. Spiritually he is broken and alone, he craves the touch of anything human because he fears that death has become his only faithful companion.
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