The Author: Like the main character in All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque

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Social Studies 8H All Quiet on the Western Front
The Author: Like the main character in All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque served as a German soldier in World War I. Drafted in November 1916 at the age of eighteen, he was sent to the Western Front in Flanders (now Belgium). There he worked in a support unit behind the lines, laying barbed wire and building bunkers and dugouts to help fortify gun sites. His work often took him within range of enemy gun- fire. In July 1917 he was wounded while retrieving an injured soldier during an attack. He was sent to a hospital, where he spent most of the rest of the war recuperating. Later he would incorporate some of his own war experiences into his popular war novel, Im Westen nichts Neues, or All Quiet on the Western Front.

After the war, Remarque finished his education but remained unsettled by his wartime experiences. In 1925 he became an editor for a sports magazine. While an editor, Remarque wrote his masterpiece All Quiet on the Western Front in 1929. It soon became an international best-seller and allowed Remarque to quit his job and write full time.

The publication of All Quiet on the Western Front brought controversy to Remarque, as well as fame and wealth. Many readers viewed the novel, which stresses the wasteful destruction of the war, as a humanitarian antiwar statement. To the Nazis, the rising political faction in Germany at the time, the book was unpatriotic and subversive. In 1933 All Quiet on the Western Front was one of the first books that the Nazis burned in public, declaring it a “betrayal of the soldiers of the First World War.” The successful American film of the novel, made in 1930, was also banned by the Nazis. Had Remarque remained in Germany, he would have faced certain persecution. The Nazi government later revoked his German citizenship in 1938.

In 1939 Remarque moved from Switzerland to the United States, living first in Hollywood and then in New York City. There he continued to write novels, several of which were made into films, though none were as greatly admired as his first. Remarque lived in New York City, Hollywood, CA and Switzerland. After years of heart problems, Remarque suffered a fatal heart attack in Switzerland in 1970.

The Novel: The subject of All Quiet on the Western Front is the worldwide conflict of 1914–1918, called then the Great War. World War I, as we refer to it today, was a shockingly intense conflict that not only transformed the political landscape of Europe but also changed forever the values and perceptions of civilized Western society.

The war also had a profound psychological effect on those who survived it, like Remarque, and those who came of age in its wake. Sometimes called the “lost generation,” many of these young people developed a pessimistic and uncertain outlook on life and society after the war. The traditional social values that had led to the war—honor, duty, glory, and discipline—seemed hollow, and many survivors blamed the older generation for permitting the war’s ghastly and wasteful destruction. They felt the older generation was morally corrupt, and the new had risen to provide a sense of hope and stability. Remarque’s novel, published in 1929, some ten years after the war’s end, spoke to and of this generation. The novel also speaks to readers who wonder what the war was like for the average soldier. Narrated by a young German infantryman, All Quiet provides a picture of the war that,in one critic’s words, is “unsurpassed for vivid- ness, for reality, for convincingness, which lives and spreads and grows until every atom of us is at the Front, seeing, mingling, suffering.” Written in a clear and lively style, Remarque’s fictional account has an eyewitness authenticity that still engages and moves readers today.

The Time and Place: All Quiet on the Western Front takes place during the last two years of World War I, between1916 and November 1918. The action occurs in the trenches, behind the lines, and away from the front, in Paul Bäumer’s hometown. Remarque, however, does not give exact place names, suggesting that what Paul experienced was typical of many soldiers on the Western Front, regardless of their location. Indeed, many foreign readers who fought in the war have confirmed that Paul’s experiences were essentially the same as those of soldiers from other nations.

All Quiet on the Western Front (Chapters 1-5)

Time and Place: The scenes in All Quiet on the Western Front take place in three basic locations: the front itself, settings near the front but away from the fighting (such as a camp or hospital), and settings away from the front (such as Paul’s hometown or the army training camp). By shifting between calm and violent scenes, Remarque emphasizes the contrast between life at the front and life everywhere else.

Setting a Purpose: Read to discover nineteen-year-old Paul Bäumer’s ideas about his own generation and that of his elders.

barrage [bə räzh´] n. curtain of heavy artillery fire just in front of friendly troops to screen and protect them.

billets [bil´ its] n. lodgings assigned to soldiers.

helter-skelter [hel´ tər skel´tər] adj. in disorder or confusion.

insubordination [in´sə bôrd ´ən ā ́shən] n. disobedience to authority.

laconically [la kon´ik le ̄] adv. with few words.

queue [ku ̄] n. line of people

rail [ra ̄l] v. to scold or denounce harshly.

restive [res´tiv] adj. restless.

satchel [sach´əl] n. small bag with a shoulder strap.

windfall [wind´fôl] n. unexpected sudden gain.
1. In the opening scene, why does Paul’s company have extra food to eat? Why is Franz Kemmerich dying? How are Müller’s feelings about Kemmerich’s dying different from Paul’s feelings?
2. How does the schoolmaster Kantorek refer to his former students? Why do Paul and Kropp scoff at the term Kantorek uses? How do the young men feel about Corporal Himmelstoss? Why?
3. What is Katczinskey’s sixth sense?
4. What mission at the front is Paul’s group sent to perform? What do the men rely on to survive?

5. What scene provides a contrast to the tension and horror that the men experience at the front?

6. What keeps Tjaden from fearing the consequences of disobeying Himmelstoss’s orders?

7. How is eating the goose in the guard house an example of irony?

8. What does Kropp mean when he says of himself and his classmates, “The war has ruined us for everything”?

READING ACTIVITY: Chapters 1–5 introduce most of the major characters in the novel. As you read, make notes about each character’s traits, actions, and attitudes in the chart below.


Traits, Actions & Attitudes

Paul Baumer

narrator, a former student who enlisted because of his sense of patriotism, now disillusioned, bitter toward elders, cool in battle and values comradeship.

Albert Kropp




(Ch aw -d ih n)

Haie Westhus


Stanislaus Katczinsky



READING ACTIVITY: Chapter 6 gives a vivid account of life in the trenches from the common soldier’s point of view. As you read this chapter, complete the bubble map (thinking map) about the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings described.

All Quiet on the Western Front (Chapters 6-8)

Time and Place: World War I was a “total war,” meaning the populations of entire nations were caught up in the conflict. Factories produced weapons, ammunition, and military supplies. Women replaced many male workers in industry, and civilians sacrificed food and supplies to help support the war effort. Near the battle lines, civilians were also exposed to the dangers of shelling; in some cases, entire villages were obliterated.

As the fighting wore on, all of the participating nations experienced food shortages. In response, wartime governments in Europe instituted food rationing, which led to long lines at stores for what little food was available. In Germany, shortages were especially severe because the Allies had blockaded German ports. With little grain available, turnips and potatoes were used to make krieg (war) bread, and acorns were gathered and ground up to make coffee. By the winter of 1916–1917, German citizens were becoming weak and thin, and some were dying from starvation.

Setting a Purpose: Read to find out whether Paul Bäumer can communicate with his family and former friends.

chasten [chā´sən] v. to punish; to make humble

devastated [dev´əs tāt əd] adj. overwhelmed; ruined

listless [list´lis] adj. lacking energy

ludicrous [lōō ´də kres] adj. ridiculous; laughable

melancholy [mel´ən kol´ē] adj. depressed in spirit; sad

obliquely [ō blēk´lē ̄] adv. indirectly; in a slanting or sloping direction

parapet [par´ə pit] n. low wall of stone or earth to protect soldiers

rave [rā̄v] v. to speak wildly or angrily

remnant [rem´nənt] n. small surviving part

solace [sol´is] n. relief; comfort
1. Why are Paul and his company moving back to the front? How does the battle progress over the two weeks the company spends at the front?

2. Why does the shelling from their own guns depress the soldiers?

3. When Paul tells Kemmerich’s mother about her son’s death, why is he surprised at her grief?

4. At the training camp, what sights seem to soothe Paul’s mind? What thoughts does Paul have as he observes the Russian prisoners of war?

5. How does Paul’s classmate Mittelstaedt taunt and humiliate Kantorek? Do you think this treatment of Kantorek is justified? Explain.

6. Why does Paul regret coming home on leave?
7. Why are the German peasants the cruelest to the Russian prisoners, eating their food in-front of the starving men?

8. How does Paul stereotype doctors in this chapter?

All Quiet on the Western Front (Chapters 9-12)

Time and Place: During most of the period of the novel (1916–1918), Germany was fighting on two fronts. By late 1917, Russia had withdrawn from the war after accepting harsh terms for peace with Germany. German troops in the east were then sent to the Western Front to try to break the stalemate there. Earlier that year, how- ever, the United States had entered the war on the side of the Allies. Strengthened by American troops, Allied forces stopped a massive German offensive launched in the spring of 1918. By October the Allies had driven the German Army back to Germany’s pre-1914 borders and crushed morale. German troops were exhausted and replacements, many younger than fourteen years of age, were too inexperienced to fight a major war. The armistice ending World War I was signed on November 11, 1918.

Setting a Purpose: Read to find out whether Paul Bäumer survives the war.

banal [bə nal´] adj. ordinary; lacking originality

convalescent [kon´və les´ənt] adj. recovering health and strength gradually after a sickness.

forlorn [fôr lôrn´] adj. sad and lonely

idyll [id´əl] n. carefree episode

invulnerable [in vul´nər ə bəl] adj. unable to be harmed or wounded

repulse [ri puls´] v. to fight off an attacker

shrewdly [shrōōd´lē] adv. wisely; cleverly

surreptitiously [sur´əp tish´əs lē] adv. sneakily; secretly

1.Why doesn’t Paul flee from his foxhole after he stabs the French soldier? How does the incident affect Paul? How do you interpret his comment afterward: “After all, war is war”?

2. What happens at the hospital after Paul and Kropp are each wounded in the leg? What does Paul see and think as he walks through the rooms of the hospital?

3. After Paul returns to the front, what happens to his comrades? What does Paul learn about the progress of the war?

4. What incidents in Chapter 11 show that the men’s nerves are frayed? What metaphor does Remarque use to make this same point?

5. What is ironic, or dramatically unexpected, about the book’s ending?

READING ACTIVITY: In Chapters 9–12, Paul frequently reflects on the strong feeling of brotherhood among soldiers. Using the chart, list statements in which Paul reflects on the importance of comradeship. Also note the situation he is in when he has these thoughts. More than one statement may be attributed to one situation. In the statements, use direct quotes from the text. Be sure to provide page number using MLA format.



CULMINATING ACTIVITY: For this project you will write a war journal from the perspective of a soldier from a nation that fought in World War I. You will write a series of 6 journal entries that will be at least 1⁄2 page each. Be sure to include details about what World War I was like for soldiers based on what you have learned from reading All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque . Each of the entries must be dated in the margin, and they should also include a location of where the soldier is fighting. You will also include a map that will show where you traveled throughout the war. Lastly, you will include a propaganda poster that encourages people in your country to help the war effort.
This project will be due on ___________________________.
You will write from the perspective of a soldier from either the US, Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany or Austria-Hungary,
You will write journal entries about the following events:

1. An entry from just before the war began. Include background information about your character. Who is he? Does he have a family? How old is he? How does your character feel about the tension in Europe? (You may discuss the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in your entry if you wish.)

2. An entry on why you entered the war. Was your nation taken over by another power? Are you allied with another nation? Also describe one form of propaganda that influenced you to become a soldier.

3. An entry on trench warfare. Using a specific battle, describe what life was like in the trenches. What kind of weapons were being used? How did you sleep? How did you eat? Did you see others getting killed? How did that affect you? How do you feel about the war now? (This will be closer to a page.)

4. An entry from when the U.S. entered the war. How do you feel about the U.S. entering the war? Will it help or hurt your side? (This will be more of a paragraph than 1⁄2 page.)

5. An entry on the end of the war. Where were you when you heard about the armistice? How did it make you feel? What do you plan to do when you get home?

6. An entry on the Treaty of Versailles. How do you feel about this treaty? Do you feel it was fair? Do you want to punish Germany, or do you want to forgive them?
For the Propaganda Poster:

Design a poster on a piece of 8 1/2” x 11” computer paper that encourages people to support the war effort. This poster can either encourage men to enlist as soldiers or can tell women and children what they can do to support the war. This must have a slogan, a graphic, and specific things people can do to help. This may be done on the computer or drawn by hand. On the back of your poster, please address the following questions:

  1. Describe the symbols used in this poster.

  1. What basic value(s) is this poster trying to portray?

  1. Define your feelings and impressions when you view this poster.

4. How effective is this poster?
For the Map:

Label all of the countries on your map. Next, shade in all of the countries that were in the Triple Entente, and, in a different color, shade in the countries in the Triple Alliance. (For the country that switches sides, color it with both colors.) As you write your journal entries, put a number on the map showing where your character is during each entry (for instance, for entry 1, write a 1 on the map where your person lives). After you have all 6 numbers, connect them starting at 1 and going through number 6.

Study Guide adapted from “All Quiet on the Western Front” © The McGraw Hill Companies, Inc.

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