I decided to read All Quiet on the Western Front. This war novel was written by Erich Maria Remarque and translated from German to English by A. W. Wheen. The book appears to be staged in France on the Western Front during World War I in 1918. WWI was caused by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was the heir to the Austrian throne. The assassination took place in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. The assassination, among many other reasons, caused the World to fight in an all out bloody war. Moreover, this war caused millions of people to meet their destiny with death.
The book jumped around from scene to scene; however, I can only imagine that the narrator, Paul Baumer is speaking as things happen and as things happen it causes him to reminisce. This book was about a group of friends that joined the German Army during World War I and what they witnessed on the battlefield. They somehow allowed their high school teacher to talk them into joining the Army. Therefore, they all eagerly did and not one of them had the vaguest idea of why they joined. It seems ironic to me that a group of friends would enlist in the army simultaneously, during the time of a terrible war, and yet none of them knew why. Why would a group of friends enlist in an army during wartime? I can only imagine it was for the love of “the fatherland”.
The one thing I especially enjoyed about the book was when they all went to boot camp. The reason this was so enjoyable to me was because it reminded me of the time when I went to boot camp. I can identify with all the things that were going on, especially the drills and punishments. There was an instant when Paul Baumer was being reprimanded for something he did or did not do. The punishment was he had to clear the outside of the barracks of snow with a hand-broom and dustpan. It was so cold that he would have frozen if it were not for a lieutenant who told him to stop. I got into trouble like this when I went to boot camp. It may not have been to this great extent; however, punishment is punishment no matter how it is given. Punishment is not something that started when I went to boot camp, yet it is something that probably dates back to when armies began to train solders as a profession. The book certainly states that recruits were being reprimanded during WWI in Germany. It seemed as if Paul was always in trouble with his drill instructor Corporal Himmelstoss.
After boot camp, the young group of friends was shipped out to fight in the war. Yet, nothing could prepare these young men for what they were about to witness. Not the days and nights they spent marching, not the lectures they received, not the many hours at the gun range, not even their drill instructor Corporal Himmelstoss. They were not prepared for the horrifying sounds of gun firer, bombs exploding, seeing comrades die, seeing people get their heads blown off, killing other humans, and the stench of dead bodies. The mere fact of seeing the people that was close to him dying, I think took a toll on Paul. He describes all the action that took place on the battle filed. He even told of how he stabbed a man to death after the man fell into a shell hole that he was in. Paul stated that he did it without thinking. This incident tells me that he was so accustom to killing, at this point, until he did it unconsciously.
The results of a bloody war on the Western front that Germany only gained a few miles after they initially attacked caused the solders spirit to break. The spirit of the solders was not the only loss Germany suffered, at the end of the war Germany was forced to give up some of its land and its citizens. WWI was one of the most devastating wars in the twentieth century. This book was from the eyewitness accounts of Paul Baumer. He had seen many horrifying things; in addition, he had heard sounds that could make a grown man cry. The mere fact of seeing the people that was close to him dying, I believe took a devastating toll on Paul. He knew that he could no longer function in society. He knew he had to fight, because he alone was the only fellow that remained alive. Six of his closes friends were dead. He followed them in October 1918, two years after graduating from school. Paul was only twenty years young.