23 Jul 2008

Otto Dix - Ernst Jünger

Self portrait with machine-gun (So sah ich als Soldat aus), Otto Dix 1924.

Otto Dix (1891-1969) and Ernst Jünger (1898-1998) are often compared in regard of being honest but unconventional and also provocative describers of their experiences of war.

Like Jünger, Otto Dix volunteered for the German Army in the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Dix served as machine-gunner and platoon leader of a machine-gun unit and saw - like Jünger - action at Somme, Artois and in Flanders (and in Russia, unlike Jünger), and Dix took, like Jünger, part in the German March offensive 1918. Like Jünger, Dix was wounded seriously several times during the war, and like Jünger, Dix had by the end of the war won the Iron Cross (although second class, and Dix had not been awarded with the Pour le Mérit).

In 1959 Otto Dix and Ernst Jünger were awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz (Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany). Almost 30 years later (1985) Jünger was awarded the Großes Verdienstkreuz mit Stern und Schulterband (Great Cross of Merit with Star and Shoulder Ribbon).

Like Ernst Jünger's war-account In Stahlgewittern (The Storm of Steel) from 1920, Otto Dix' expressionist war-art of the 1920s is hard and horrible description of war. Nevertheless, Dix has several times, like Jünger, expressed unconventional views of the personal war-experiences, for example:
"Der Krieg - ist eben was so Viehmäßiges: Hunger, Läuse, Schlamm, diese wahnsinnigen Geräusche [ …] Der Krieg war eine scheußliche Sache, aber trotzdem etwas Gewaltiges. Das durfte ich auf keinen Fall versäumen. Man muß den Menschen in diesem entfesselten Zustand erlebt haben, um etwas über den Menschen zu wissen …"
(Stuttgarter Zeitung, 3oth November 1961)


"Das musste ich alles ganz genau erleben. Ich bin so ein Realist, wissen Sie, dass ich alles mit eigenen Augen sehen muss."

Among other famous quotations by Otto Dix these are (translated and without references) examples:

"I had to experience how someone beside me suddenly falls over and is dead and the bullet has hit him squarely. I had to experience that quite directly. I wanted it. I'm therefore not a pacifist at all - or am I?' "

"I have to experience all the ghastly, bottomless depths for life for myself; it's for that reason that I went to war, and for that reason I volunteered."

"I was afraid as a young man. The heavy barrage was like hell. But the farther up you moved, the less afraid you were. At the real front ... you weren't afraid at all. There are all the phenomena that I absolutely had to experience."

Otto Dix' well-known series of 50 prints (etchings) in 5 parts from 1924 "Der Krieg" ("The War") is on permanent display at the French official museum of the First World War, L'Historial, in Péronne.

Machine Gunners Advancing
, Otto Dix, 1924. (Somme, November 1916)

Otto Dix Haus