Close-up of a letter signature showing the scrolled words “Dein Schneckchen” and a sweeping squiggle below.

Selected Correspondence Between Ernst and Gretha Jünger (1922–1960): Annotated Edition

The aim of this project is a scholarly curated edition of the correspondence between Ernst Jünger and his first wife Gretha (née von Jeinsen). The correspondence began in 1922, right after they first met, and ended in 1960 with Gretha’s death. Initial research reveals a total of about 1,970 letters that have been preserved: about two thirds from Ernst Jünger and one third from Gretha Jünger.

Gretha Jünger was not only Ernst Jünger’s spouse and mother of their two children, but also witnessed and took an active part in the creation and reception of her husband’s works. She also corresponded with others (including with Carl Schmitt, published in 2007) and, under her birth name, published two own books with diary entries, letters and autobiographical portraits: Die Palette (1949) and Silhouetten (1955). The books show her intellectual independence and her literary skill—talents also clearly evident in her correspondence. Gretha Jünger was, thus, not only her husband’s confidant, but a true intellectual correspondent.

The correspondence contains numerous unknown details about their biographies, the writings of Ernst Jünger and contemporary history. Except premarital correspondence, all letters were written while one of them was traveling or abroad. They are mostly handwritten letters, in many cases several pages long. Compiling all of these letters would have resulted in a 4,000-page volume—without any scholarly appendix. While this is not feasible in the foreseeable future, it is also not essential for Jünger research since many letters concern the organization of everyday life. The editors have therefore decided, in consultation with the publishing house Klett-Cotta (Stuttgart), to produce a curated edition.

The edition is to represent the entire collection of extant letters, while also focusing on particular historical and biographical aspects. Thus, the letters written between 1939 and 1944 will be very densely covered and edited. In these years, Jünger was a Wehrmacht officer in the Battle of France and from 1941 he served the military command in Paris. As historical sources the letters from this period are particularly valuable, as they in many ways differ markedly from Jünger’s published diaries (Gärten und Straßen as well as Strahlungen). In the letters, furthermore, Gretha Jünger provides an additional voice and corresponding view of the war from within Germany, especially from the family’s home in Kirchhorst near Hanover.

The edition will be about 700 pages. Editors are Anja Keith and Detlev Schöttker. About 350 letters will be included. In addition, there will be comments and explanations about the people mentioned (especially about the circle of friends), a list of all letters that have been found so far, a chronicle of their lives, work and time, and an epilogue on the historical, biographical and literary significance of the correspondence.

funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation 2020–2021
Head researcher(s): Detlev Schöttker
Associate Researcher(s): Anja Keith

Publications

Anja Keith, Detlev Schöttker (ed./eds.)

Einer der Spiegel des Anderen
Briefwechsel 1922–1960

Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2021, 720 pages
ISBN 978-3-608-93953-8

Detlev Schöttker

Events

Lesung
29 Mar 2022 · 8.00 pm

Anja Keith, Detlev Schöttker: Brecht, Paris und Bombenkrieg. Briefwechsel zwischen Gretha und Ernst Jünger

Literaturforum im Brecht-Haus

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Media Response

30 Oct 2022
Schöner schreiben. Der womöglich kälteste Liebesbrief der Literaturgeschichte

Column by Hauke Goos, in: Spiegel, 30 Oct 2022

17 Jul 2022
So eisern doch nicht

Review by Caroline Fetscher, in: Tagesspiegel, 17 Jul 2022, 21

01 Apr 2022
Großes Kino, das auf Antwort wartet

Review by Christophe Fricker, in: literaturkritik.de, 1 Apr 2022

31 Mar 2022
Schreiben an der Klippe

Review by Erik Zielke, in: Neues Deutschland, 31 Mar 2022

23 Dec 2021
Wir schätzen beide das Alltägliche nicht

Review by Katharina Teutsch, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 299 (23 Dec 2021), 10

11 Nov 2021
Liebe im Kältebad

Review by Jens Jessen, in: Die Zeit 46 (11 Nov 2021), Feuilleton, 61

08 Nov 2021
Gretha und Ernst Jünger: “Einer der Spiegel des Anderen. Briefwechsel 1922–1960”

Review by Wolfgang Schneider, in: Deutschlandfunk, Büchermarkt, 8 Nov 2021

29 Oct 2021
Ein weicher, verletzlicher Mann

Review by Jörg Magenau, in: Süddeutsche Zeitung 251, 29 Oct 2021, Feuilleton, 9

26 Oct 2021
In Stilgewittern

Review by Hendrikje Schauer, in: Tagesspiegel, 26 Oct 2021

21 Oct 2021
Gretha und Ernst Jünger: “Einer der Spiegel des Anderen”

Review by Jörg Magenau, in: rbb, program: Der Morgen, 21 Oct 2021

17 Oct 2021
“Bleibe in Babel”

Preprint in: Welt am Sonntag 42 (17 Oct 2021), 47, department: Kultur

Contributions

8 Nov 2021 Audio
“Stahlgewitter und Mucketier”
Anja Keith and Detlev Schöttker in conversation with Joachim Scholl about the correspondence between Gretha and Ernst Jünger on Deutschlandfunk, Sendung: Lesart.
© Deutschlandfunk