War Motivation of German Soldiers in the First World War. References and a Comparative Characterization of Paul Bäumer and Ernst Jünger

Term Paper, 2016

13 Pages, Grade: 1,0



1. Introduction

2. Summary and Classification of the Works
2.1 All Quiet on the Western Front
2.2 Storm of Steel

3. Characterization of the Characters

4.1 Paul Bäumer
4.1.1 External Characteristics
4.1.2 Attitude, Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
4.2 Ernst Jünger
4.2.1 External Characteristics
4.2.2 Attitude, Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

5 Comparison of the Characters
5.1 Similarities
5.2 Differences
5.3 Assessment

6. Reader Reception and Assessment Then and Now

7. Conclusion

8. Bibliography

1. Introduction

"What if they gave a war and nobody came?" 1 Carl Sandburg, American poet and writer of these words, had however not considered that there were people who had no choice and were forcibly recruited into unwilling combatants. Others, however, were quite attracted and freely made the choice to join the war.

In the following source paper, the war motivation of two fictional characters will be clarified and compared. The comparison criteria are external features, their attitude and the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation of both persons. This will deal with the fictional, though strongly based on the author, character of Paul Bäumer from the work All Quiet on the Western Front from Erich Maria Remarque and the autobiographical character Ernst Jünger, taken from the personal diary novel Storm of Steel. Both characters are in written compositions of the first World War on the Western Front. There they carry out their service for the German fatherland.

After a brief summary of the two works and discussion of the characters there will be direct comparisons between the two. Therein the similarities and differences will be identified and assessed.

A brief review of the characters from today's perspective and their importance to society, then and now, round out this scientific-based investigation.

2. Summary and Classification of the Works

Before moving on to the contents of the books, I will provide a basis for the choice of these books.

These books have been deliberately selected from a variety of German war literature. All Quiet on the Western Front is in the same place as Ludwig Renn's Krieg (War) and Heeresbericht (Official Communiqué) from Edlef Koppen as a socially recognized anti-war novel. However Remarque's work takes place entirely on the Western Front, while Koppen's publication includes the experience of war on the Eastern Front as well. Because the two areas and the way in which the war was conducted were of a very different nature, I think this comparison is non-productive. The reason I decided against Krieg from Renn and for Remarque's literature is the fact that All Quiet on the Western Front had the highest circulation of a pacifist book at its time in Germany. Searching for a stark contrast to the aforementioned book was difficult, until I encountered Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger. The author and the book, both of which were often accused of the glorification of war and Nazi ideas, seemed, at first glance, to fit as a warmongering counterpart. This view should change after a true overview of both of the texts.

2.1 All Quiet on the Western Front

The novel All Quiet on the Western Front from 1929 by Erich Maria Remarque, the struggles and experiences of the First World War on the Western Front in Germany are addressed in the beginning from the perspective of an 18-year-old soldier, Paul Bäumer. He, like so many boys of that age, voluntarily went to war, because his teacher asked and encouraged him and his classmates to do so.

In the book, Remarque describes his own experiences gained on the Western Front in Flanders from 1917-1918. His experience allowed him to give the reader insight into the actual events without distorting them by glossing over the depiction of war's horrible effects.

This, and the fact that he questioned the actual meaning of war, made Remarque so popular and his book a bestseller in the 1920s. However, it was for these same reasons that the Nazis outlawed the book and set it on one of the "black lists" during the Third Reich. In the book burnings of 1933, his works were thrown into the fire with the cry of "Against the literary betrayal of the soldiers of World War I, for the education of the people in the spirit of valor! I hand the writings of Erich Maria Remarque over to the flame."2

Remarque tells us of the schoolboys' dreams to return from the battlefield as heroes because their authority, Headteacher Kantorek, greeted war euphorically and thus influenced their actions and thoughts. They trusted this respected person and were trained in military craft before they headed out, full of anticipation, to the Western Front. Only then did they realize the full extent of war and saw through the naive thinking of their former teacher and the social class formed by the German Reich. The young men died, one after the other, on the front. Paul was the last of them, to fall victim to the war "on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front."3

Readers are told the story from the perspective of the narrator, Paul Bäumer. He makes this clear in his book through direct character discourse about participating characters and involvement in important events.

2.2 Storm of Steel

The personal diary novel Storm of Steel was released in its first version in 1920 and was subsequently revised several times by Ernst Jünger. In it, the author describes his experiences on the Western Front from 1915 to 1918. He was drafted as a 19-year-old for voluntary military service, although his teacher "Schmittchen" had discouraged the naive boy. He matured at the front into an adult, but battle hardened man. Jünger got his first direct war experience as a fusilier in Bazancourt, Champagne, before he returned to Germany for the first of what would be fourteen times being wounded. There he decided, during his home leave, that he would return to the front as an officer of cadets and take on the responsibility as the leader on site for a small group of subordinates. During the war, he climbed higher and higher up the career ladder, commanded whole companies, took part in many battles and barely escaped death several times. He did not question the war and its usefulness, but equated it with an irrevocable force of nature. His description of battlefields and the soldiers and civilians being killed were always sober and detailed. While one is still shocked by the cruel extent of the war and the directness of Jünger's words at the beginning of the narrative, its decline was seen by the middle of the novel. This led to normality and indifference toward the nameless people who lost their lives on the battlefields of the Western Front. What follows is an alternating account of the beautiful, unspoiled French country side combined with the mutilated, decomposing bodies Jünger numbers in many places. He also gave the names of comrades, but without much connection between one another. From beginning to end of the book, one was almost exclusively in the middle of the war zone.

Jünger's story ends with the recounting of his last battle in World War I. He was severely wounded and taken into a field hospital by brave helpers. From there he set out on his journey home to Hanover, where he was awarded the most important honors of the German Reich, "Pour le Mérite".

The diary novel was told in the We-form before Ernst Jünger merged on the last page into the first-person perspective.

3. Characterization of the Characters

To gain an accurate impression of the war motivation of Paul Bäumer and Ernst Jünger, these fictional characters will be studied in the following paragraphs. External characteristics, such as social origin, social status, habits, locations and posts in the war will play a role in this.

Furthermore, the attitude of these two persons will be examined. This will be about the young men's interests, relationships with colleagues and family, their views on the war, their ideological evaluations, thoughts about life and death, and also about their impact on others.

The sum of these will give us their motivation for entering military service. Their motivation can be distinguished by the intrinsic, that which comes from the inside out, and the extrinsic, that which is created by external incentives.

4.1 Paul Bäumer

4.1.1 External Characteristics

Paul Bäumer was 18 years old when he voluntarily reported for military service. He was a healthy young man, popular in his class and with his teachers. His classmates looked up to him, which is why they shared his decision to head the call to arms by the district command. The entire higher class went to the Front together after the "A-Levels" exams.4

Paul was appointed to the Western front in Flanders. There he quickly befriended the older and experienced war comrades. The friendships of "Cat" and "Tjaden" were of particular importance to him. The former was like a father to him.

You do not learn much from Paul's real family. He had a sister and his mother became seriously ill during the chaos of war. His father was proud of him, because he was a soldier who fought for his country. He didn’t understand what was going on with Paul when Paul visited home.

During his school years, Paul had a habit of wanting to help everyone. He continued this helpfulness in the war zone. Several times he put himself in danger to rush to the support of his injured comrades. He even helped the enemy in their hour of death. This is not to say that he was especially brave, but rather that he felt his own fear of death, but Paul wanted to live.5 His account of the war was very cruel.6 He recognized nothing good in it and often spoke openly against it.


1 Sandburg, Carl, “Quote,“ [Online]. Available: http://www.quotecounterquote.com/2011/12/suppose-they-gave-war-and-nobody-came.html

2 NDR, “Feuersprüche bei Bücherverbrennungen,” [Online]. Available: http://www.ndr.de/kultur/geschichte/chronologie/Feuersprueche-bei-Buecherverbrennungen,buecherverbrennung6.html

3 Remarque, Erich Maria (Editor.) (1959): All Quiet on the Western Front. Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 213/214.

4 Remarque, Erich Maria (Editor.) (1959): All Quiet on the Western Front. Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 10 – 12.

5 Remarque, Erich Maria (Editor.) (1959): All Quiet on the Western Front. Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 84.

6 Remarque, Erich Maria (Editor.) (1959): All Quiet on the Western Front. Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 86/87.

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War Motivation of German Soldiers in the First World War. References and a Comparative Characterization of Paul Bäumer and Ernst Jünger
University of Missouri - Columbia  (History)
"American History since 1877"
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ISBN (Book)
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World War I, War Motivation, Paul Bäumer, All Quiet on the Western Front, Ernst Jünger, Storm of Steel, Characterization Comparison
Quote paper
Vanessa Schweinshaupt (Author), 2016, War Motivation of German Soldiers in the First World War. References and a Comparative Characterization of Paul Bäumer and Ernst Jünger, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/356664


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