«Glaubt Ihr, die Jugend da vorne stürbe umsonst?». Fritz von Unruhs Verdun-Erzählung ‘Opfergang’

Gesa von Essen


Fritz von Unruh’s novella Opfergang (The Sacrifice), depicting the great battle of Verdun, ranks amongst the foremost documents of German expressionist war-prose. Written in 1916 on order of the German Army’s supreme command, it met with serious reservations by the military and could only be published in a revised version after the end of the war. Departing from this complex genesis, the article takes a closer look at the inherent ambiguity and ambivalence of Unruh’s tale, ranging in scope from affirmative and heroic tendencies to outright pacifistic, anti-war leanings. The analysis first focuses on Unruh’s narrative representation of modern warfare, moving on to reflections on the author’s interpretive imposition of ‘meaning’ onto the cruel realities of war.


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