Annotated and Curated Edition of the Correspondence Between Ernst and Gretha Jünger (1922–1960)

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