All Quiet on the Western Front

Joe Gerrein

C Block

AP U.S. History

All Quiet on the Western Front, Reviewed

Erich Maria Remarque had his novel, Im Westen nichts Neues(In the West
Nothing New) serialized in the magazine Vossiche Zeitung in 1928. The pacifist
work alienated Remarque from Germany. Ultra-nationalists and Hitler’s
propagandists incited the hate of the German people against him. He was burned
in effigy in 1933 in the Obernplatz, and his work was reduced to ashes in front
of the Berlin Opera House. Remarque was stripped of his citizenship in 1939, and
his sister was beheaded in a Nazi prison. Even with all the trouble it caused
him, Remarque could not possibly wish he had not written it. A year after it
appeared in Vossiche Zeitung, Im Westen nights Neues appeared in English as All
Quiet on the Western Front. It sold a million and a half copies its first year
in print, and was translated into 29 languages. All Quiet on the Western Front
is known as one of the literary masterpieces of the twentieth century. Remarque
showed such mastery in writing this pacifist work that Josef Goebbles, Hitler’s
main propagandist, spread lies about him and forced him out of the country.
Goebbles in effect believed that Remarque’s compelling anti-war writing could
have stinted German approval of World War II.

Goebbles did not fear for no reason, All Quiet on the Western Front is one of
the most powerful books I have ever read. It is obvious that Remarque had been
in the front lines himself from his vivid, gut-wrenching description of trench
warfare. The story is told in the first person by Paul Baumer, a young man who,
encouraged by his teacher, enlisted in the German army as one of a group of
seven boyhood friends. Between the beginning of the war and rumors of the
armistice, every young man in the group is killed, except for Paul. The boys are
ravaged by mustard gas, bombs, grenades, rifle shots, and shrapnel in the
horrible attacks suffered by the front line. When the characters are in combat
they are animals, but when they are behind the lines, they develop into
titillating three dimensional entities. Paul and his friends discuss the real
cause of the seemingly pointless massacre, and show the extent of their damaged
psyches in their ponderings of what the world will be like and what they will do
when the war is over. Rarely, Remarque slightly overemphasizes his pacifist
agenda through Paul, but it hardly takes away from the rest of this great war
book.

Besides an incredible description of World War I battle, All Quiet on the
Western Front has a page-turning story line and colorful exchanges. The reader
never knows when the Second Company(Paul Baumer’s company) is going to be
called to or back from the front line, or how long Paul will be taking shelter
in a shell-crater before he can run back to safety, or which character will die
next from some stray artillery fire. To top it off, away from the fighting,
Remarque gives the boys sharp wits and makes the story interesting by mixing the
boys with Himelstoss, their former drill instructor who is now in the second
company and ranks lower than the boys, and Kantorek, the boys’ former
schoolmaster who encouraged them to fight. Kantorek becomes a soldier himself,
and is a pathetic specimen.

I can hardly catch my breath to continue praising this book, so I will let
someone else do it for me. “It is a great document A powerful work of art. All
other books about the war become small and insignificant by comparison.”-Albert
Engstrom

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