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n Acta Germanica : German Studies in Africa - "Einer wie Leutnant Wurche" - Anmerkungen zur literarischen Vermittlung von Opferkult und Krieg in Walter Flex' Der Wanderer zwischen beiden Welten (1916)
"Somebody like Lieutnant Wurche." Towards a cult of sacrifice and war in Walter Flex' Der Wanderer zwischen beiden Welten (1916)
As Arndt Weinrich states in his exhaustive study The Great War as Educationist (2012), it was not the First World War itself that led to a widespread brutalization of political confrontation during the Weimar Republic, to the victory of National Socialism and ultimatively to a new war. More than that, it was the "political instrumentalization" of the War by interested parties, mainly through the medium of popular books. One of these books - and the most best-selling of them all - was Der Wanderer zwischen beiden Welter by Walter Flex (1916). The book is, in the first place, an autobiographic account of the love and admiration that the narrator (the alter ego of the author) feels towards the young Lieutnant and war volunteer Ernst Wurche, painting him as an ideal "leader" of the "Wandervogel," the German Youth Movement of the early 20th century. When Lieutnant Wurche dies during an attack, the text also becomes a monument of mourning, and a kind of apotheosis of the dead soldier. However, what may be read, against the background of a "völkisch-deutschnationale" ideology, as a glorification of the sacrifice of the dead soldier for his "Volk," may also, without that context, be read as an account of traumatization by the surviving narrator. The book, with its neo-romantic descriptions of nature and its allusions to moral and aesthetic values of the Youth Movement, also appealed to young men (and women) outside the conservative 'Lager'. Its reception by extreme nationalistic and national-socialist forces turned Wanderer zwischen beiden Welten into a piece of propaganda for the preparation of another war. The text itself, however, is ambivalent and cannot hide its author's horrors towards death - the ultimate truth of war.
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