Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, October 7, 2019

A Dozen Memorable Quotes from All Quiet on the Western Front

Paul Bäumer Chats with a Dead French Soldier

1.  Preface:  This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.

2.  Opening Line: We are at rest five miles behind the front.

3.  For us lads of eighteen they ought to have been mediators and guides to the world of maturity, the world of work, of duty, of culture, of progress - to the future. We often made fun of them and played jokes on them, but in our hearts we trusted them. The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a more humane wisdom. But the first death we saw shattered this belief. We had to recognize that our generation was more to be trusted than theirs. They surpassed us only in phrases and in cleverness. 

4.  The wisest were just the poor and simple people. They knew the war to be a misfortune, whereas those who were better off, and should have been able to see more clearly what the consequences would be, were beside themselves with joy. Katczinsky said that was a result of their upbringing. It made them stupid. And what Kat said, he had thought about.

5.  The soldier is on friendlier terms than other men with his stomach and intestines. Three-quarters of his vocabulary is derived from these regions, and they give an intimate flavor to expressions of his greatest joy as well as of his deepest indignation.

6.  We have lost all sense of other considerations, because they are artificial. Only the facts are real and important to us. And good boots are hard to come by.

7.  That is Kat. If for one hour in a year something eatable were to be had in some one place only, within that hour, as if moved by a vision, he would put on his cap, go out and walk directly there, as though following a compass, and find it.

8.  I imagined leave would be different from this. Indeed, it was different a year ago. It is I of course that have changed in the interval. There lies a gulf between that time and today. At that time I still knew nothing about the war, we had been only in quiet sectors. But now I see that I have been crushed without knowing it. I find I do not belong here any more, it is a foreign world.

9.  But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony — Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?

10.  Killing each separate louse is a tedious business when a man has hundreds.  The little beasts are hard and the everlasting cracking with one's fingernails very soon becomes wearisome.

11.  We lie under the network of arching shells and live in a suspense of uncertainty. If a shot comes, we can duck, that is all; we neither know nor can determine where it will fall.

12.  Final Entry: He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front. He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.


  1. Good choices.
    "There lies a gulf between that time and today...."

  2. "I have exchanged my chewing tobacco with Katczinsky for his cigarettes, which means I have forty altogether. That's enough for a day."

    FOR A DAY!!! When you're facing death literally every minute, a little thing like cancer doesn't seem so bad.

    1. An optimist is a combatant who gives up smoking for fear of dying of lung cancer.

      Steve Miller

    2. I remember seeing anti-smoking ads in Bosnia during the war. What a sign of optimism!

  3. Quote No. 12.

    I had wondered whether the German Army Headquarters had actually made an "Im Westen Nichts Neues" report in October 1918. Then I found the "Berichte aus dem deutschen Großen Hauptquartier 1914 -1918" at

    I found no such report. There was always something to report. Even on a day when very little actually happened, 12 October, the High Command reported various actions. [My great-uncle at the Rampont railhead reported in a letter that the front was quiet.]

    I'm guessing even if nothing much was going on, the High Command would make something up, if only to show the Army was not passively awaiting yet another Allied attack.

    Anyone else found a documented "Im Westen Nichts Neues" report?

  4. I am somewhat surprised that you didn't include this: "And men will not understand us-for the generation that grew up before us...will return to its old occupations, and the war will be forgotten-and the generation that has grown up after us will be strange to us and push us aside. We will be superfluous even to ourselves, we will grow older, a few will adapt, others merely submit, and most will be bewildered;-the years will pass by and in the end we shall fall into ruin."