Ernst Jünger’s politics of memory and Ukraine: from the Second World War to the Intermarium (announcement)


Despite the success of Vladimir Putin’s discourse of victory over Nazism in the international arena (“Russia as the biggest hero”), it is hard to overestimate a huge political capital of Ukraine as the Intermarium in miniature. After all, it was here that an unprecedented two-front war (against the Third Reich and Soviet Union alike) took place: the UPA insurgents implemented in practice the position which only after the emergence of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s translations in the West would become the beginnings of the anti-totalitarian politics of memory paying no less attention to the crimes of Bolshevism than those of Hitlerism.

Showing the world that Ukraine, especially after the Holodomor, the annexation of Crimea and the occupation of the Donbas by Russia, is a much more adequate symbol of the Never Again guideline, it is worth referring to the iconic figure of the 20th century, German Ernst Jünger who went through both world wars. Highly decorated commander of an assault group and then a regiment in World War I, he convincingly linked its industrial nature to the modernity’s end, and his 1934 essay “On Pain” anticipated Max Horkheimer’s and Theodor Adorno’s “Dialectics of the Enlightenment” (1944/47), which blamed the Holocaust primarily on instrumental rationality of the modernity.

An officer in the occupation administration in Paris during World War II, who enlisted in the army as an “aristocratic form of emigration,” already in 1943 Ernst Jünger completed a secret treatise named “Peace. Appeal to the Youth of Europe and the Youth of the World,” which was handed over to field marshal Erwin Rommel and influenced the anti-Hitler conspiracy in 1944. Adolf Hitler’s order to execute, step by step, 200 French hostages, until the assassins of several German officers show up, gave impetus not only to the French Resistance movement but also to the model of Paneuropeanism of this thinker and writer who won the hearts and minds of the French already under occupation by the Third Reich (these events are reflected in “Calm At Sea,” the 2011 movie directed by Volker Schlöndorff).

Long before Ernst Nolte’s conceptions of “World War II as a European civil war” and “Auschwitz as a reaction to the GULag,” which gave rise to the “historians’ dispute” of the 1980s, Ernst Jünger concluded that ideological confrontation on the fronts of the world civil war was only gaining momentum, for the rise of Josef Stalin’s “Asian” regime coincided in time with the “high tide” of another settling a score between East and West resulting in the latter’s ongoing bolshevization. Back in the early 60-s, he predicted that Oswald Spengler’s sentence to the late cultures would not apply to China as an emerging superpower.

From highly estimated by Hannah Arendt diaries of the World War II era, “The Peace,” “Over the Line,” “The Forest Passage,” “The Gordian Knot,” “The World State,” “Maxima-Minima. Notes to ‘The Worker'” and other texts by Ernst Jünger we learn why he sought the keys to the war between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union in the legacies of Friedrich Nietzsche and Fyodor Dostoevsky, why his novel “On the Marble Cliffs” was published by samizdat in Lithuania and Ukraine (who was the Chief Forester, Hitler or Stalin?), what place in his international strategy occupied Trotskyism, what were his impressions from the stay in Kyiv, how he assessed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and whether he considered the alliance of Hitler and Stalin possible, how he imagined the future of the Israeli state, how he correlated the crimes of Nazism and Bolshevism and, finally, why Intermarium is the successor of his vision of Paneuropeanism from the standpoint of his politics of memory as the basis of the future of the West.

The lecture will be given by Olena Semenyaka, Ernst Jünger’s legacy researcher and coordinator of the Intermarium Support Group.

Join ( ▶ ️ on May 12, starting at 19:00.