Read All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front (German: Im Westen nichts Neues, lit. ’In the West, nothing new’) is a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of World War I. The book describes the German soldiers’ extreme physical and mental trauma during the war as well as the detachment from civilian life felt by many upon returning home from the war.

The novel was first published in November and December 1928 in the German newspaper Vossische Zeitung and in book form in late January 1929. The book and its sequel, The Road Back (1930), were among the books banned and burned in Nazi Germany. All Quiet on the Western Front sold 2.5 million copies in 22 languages in its first 18 months in print

All Quiet on the Western Front by Wikipedia

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque centers on Paul Bäumer and his experience of the Western Front during World War 1. Through the journey of the novel, Remarque manages to captures so many facets of war, whether it be training, food, lice, gas, hunger and recovery for a generation “destroyed by the war”.

Bombardment, barrage, curtain-fire, mines, gas, tanks, machine-guns, hand-grenades–words, words, but they hold the horror of the world.

Our faces are encrusted, our thoughts are devastated, we are weary to death; when the attack comes we shall have to strike many of the men with our fists to waken them and make them come with us–our eyes are burnt, our hands are torn, our knees bleed, our elbows are raw.

I think that this all well represented in the 2022 film version, even if there are some adaptive changes.

In some respects the attempt to capture so many different facets feels similar to Peter Jackson’s documentary They Shall Not Grow Old. However, where they differ is that by focusing on a single individual, I feel Remarque is able to take us further inside some of the thoughts and feelings of the soldier.

Terror can be endured so long as a man simply ducks;–but it kills, if a man thinks about it.

It is interesting to compare Paul’s return home on leave with the account of soldiers returning home after the war in The Road Back.

Continue reading “📚 All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque)”

Listened Hardcore History 50 – Blueprint for Armageddon I from

Publish Date:Tue, 29 Oct 2013
Duration: 03:07:20 minutes – 180.68mb
Buy from Apple Music

Blueprint for Armageddon is a 23 hour six-part podcast series by Dan Carlin exploring World War I.

Blueprint for Armageddon I

The planet hadn’t seen a major war between all the Great Powers since the downfall of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. But 99 years later the dam breaks and a Pandora’s Box of violence engulfs the planet.

In the first episode, Carlin begins with a reflection on Gavrilo Princip, the Serb national who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Carlin suggests that Princip is the most important no one in the last 100 years. The focus is then turned towards the place of Germany, Bismarck and European alliance system. Military power is about who is the “firstest with the mostest”. Associated with this, Carlin discusses the argument that war was inevitable, instead he suggests that there was poor leadership and statesmanship more than anything else. The worst much mistake was the “Rape of Belgium”

Blueprint for Armageddon II

The Great Powers all come out swinging in the first round of the worst war the planet has ever seen. Millions of men in dozens of armies vie in the most deadly and complex opening moves of any conflict in world history.

Carlin begins the second episode with the question, “When do we have the power to destroy the world?” This leads to a discussion of the Russians attempts to stop technological development through arms agreement. The Germans answer to the war was the Schlieffen Plan, where they would hit France like a sledgehammer, before then addressing Russia.

The Schlieffen Plan (German: Schlieffen-Plan, pronounced [ʃliːfən plaːn]) is a name given after the First World War to German war plans, due to the influence of Field Marshal Alfred von Schlieffen and his thinking on an invasion of France and Belgium, which began on 4 August 1914. Schlieffen was Chief of the General Staff of the German Army from 1891 to 1906. In 1905 and 1906, Schlieffen devised an army deployment plan for a decisive (war-winning) offensive against the French Third Republic. German forces were to invade France through the Netherlands and Belgium rather than across the common border.

Source: Wikipedia

The rest of the episode explores the Battle of the Frontier. Carlin contrasts the initial British army led by French vs the French infantry in Napoleonic colours led by Joffra. The world has gone from Napoleon’s quip of “30000 deaths a month” to 30000 deaths a day at Battle of Mons and the Battle of the Marne.

Blueprint for Armageddon III

The war of maneuver that was supposed to be over quickly instead turns into a lingering bloody stalemate. Trench warfare begins, and with it, all the murderous efforts on both sides to overcome the static defenses.

Episode III begins with a story about Ernest Shackleton and his shock that the war was still going when he returned from Antarctica. Carlin uses this to highlight the length and complexity of the war. With the same amount of people killed in first month than were killed in the whole American Civil War.

Moving into 1915, Carlin discusses the blending of two eras, as captured through the Battle of Ainse and the Battle of Ypres. A particular change was with the development in technology, whether it be barbed wire, flamethrowers, zeppelins, submarines, gas and multilayer trench network. With these changes, Carlin argues that shellshock impacts everyone at some point.

Although it is easy to get bogged down on the Western Front, Carlin explains that there were also battlefronts in the East, Turkey and Pacific. Turkey and the Dardanelles was seen as a weak point in Central Powers, which turned out to be a mistake. Carlin then touches on the atrocities in war with the Turkish massacre of the Armenians.

Throughout, Carlin always tries to capture the human side, such as tropes stopping at 1914 Christmas.

Blueprint for Armageddon IV

Machine guns, barbed wire and millions upon millions of artillery shells create industrialized meat grinders at Verdun and the Somme. There’s never been a human experience like it…and it changes a generation.

As the war grinds on and more and more soldiers are killed, Carlin asks how you market hell as a travel destination, as that is what the war has become. Rather than touching on each and every battle, Carlin dives into a few examples, including the Battle of Verdun, where a battle is intentially designed to be a meatgrinder, the Battle of Jutland, where the English and Germans faced off at sea, the Brusilov Offensive, where Russians defeated Austrians but lost one million soldiers in the process, and the Battle of Somme.

On a side note, Carlin explained the way in which ‘gas’ was actually more of a solid that lay on top of everything and left everything dead.

The focus of the war progressively moved to home front and the civilian economy. The intent was the collapse and disintegration of a nation.

Blueprint for Armageddon V

Politics, diplomacy, revolution and mutiny take center stage at the start of this episode, but mud, blood, shells and tragedy drown all by the end.

Episode Five focuses on the changes to politics and the impact this had on the war. It begins with an exploration of US and Woodrow Wilson’s decision to go to war. This position of power is contrasted with Germany and the turnip winter of 1916/1917, as well as the struggles faced by Italy, Austria and Russia. Outside of this, there were changes in the governments of Britain and France.

With the Russian Revolution and Germany decision, under the leadership of Erich Ludendorff, to enter into total war, Carlin explains how things could have been different and that chance had so much to play. Total war for the Germans meant the development of the Hindenburg Line and dead zone behind the old front line to imped the spring offensive.

The Hindenburg Line, built behind the Noyon Salient “Salient (territory)”), was to replace the old front line as a precaution against a resumption of the Battle of the Somme in 1917. By devastating the intervening ground, the Germans could delay a spring offensive in 1917. A shortened front could be held with fewer troops and with tactical dispersal, reverse-slope positions, defence in depth and camouflage, German infantry could be conserved. Unrestricted submarine warfare and strategic bombing would weaken the Anglo-French as the German armies in the west (Westheer) recuperated. On 25 January 1917, the Germans had 133 divisions on the Western Front but this was insufficient to contemplate an offensive.

Source: Hindenburg%20Line%20-%20Wikipedia by

What ‘total war’ meant was captured in Carlin’s discussion of the creeping barrage associated with the Battle of Arras and the 3rd Battle of Ypres, where rain inundated Flanders’ fields.

Blueprint for Armageddon VI

The Americans are coming, but will the war be over by the time they get there? Germany throws everything into a last series of stupendous attacks in the West while hoping to avoid getting burned by a fire in the East they helped fan.

Episode Six is largely about the ramifications of World War One. It begins with the discussion of a ‘dangerous idea’ being worse than say a dangerous gas. Carlin explains how Vladmir Lenin, with the help of Germany, released the idea of Communism on the world.

With the collapse of Russia, the various treaties were made public. A particular part of this was the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East, this included the Balfour Declaration and the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people.

With all this happening, Carlin explains how Germany had window of opportunity, as there was an increase in troops from Eastern front and such developments as the Paris Gun. The problem was that there was also a lower morale on the home front and eventually low morale on the war front, especially as troops went days without eating.

Allied Commander-in-Chief, Ferdinand Foch, held back troops to survive the battle of morale. This with aided by the addition of fast moving tanks and American support.

Overall, Carlin never promises to tell the story of World War I, instead he carves out a particular story that encapsulates many of the highs and lows. As he often states, he is not a ‘historian’, but a storyteller, what some describe as “the Michael Bay of history.” He captures the past from the high road, from the perspective of a reader, rather than a thorough researcher. This often sacrifices nuance to instead carve a clear path. With this in mind, he often builds situations up with suspense. It is interesting challenge given that we often know the end, but we do not always know how it unfolds. Therefore, he often addresses our desire to know.

Associated with this, he often goes off on tangents, jumps around making comparisons with previous historical events, whether it be Genghis Khan, The Civil War, The Battle of Hastings, Napoleonic War and World War II.

Watched 2018 documentary film directed by Peter Jackson by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

They Shall Not Grow Old is a 2018 documentary film directed and produced by Peter Jackson. The film was created using original footage of the First World War from the Imperial War Museum‘s archives, most previously unseen, all over 100 years old by the time of release. Audio is from BBC and Imperial War Museum (IWM) interviews of British servicemen who fought in the conflict. Most of the footage has been colourised and transformed with modern production techniques, with the addition of sound effects and voice acting to be more evocative and feel closer to the soldiers’ actual experiences.

Source: They Shall Not Grow Old by Wikipedia

They Shall Not Grow Old is documentary that ties together voices from the war with archival film and images from World War One. It was co-commissioned by 14–18 NOW and Imperial War Museums in association with the BBC, with a copy sent to every school in the United Kingdom.

The film was directed by Peter Jackson. He used technology to bring new life to original footage from World War One, fixing up the inconsistencies with the rates per minute and adding colour. There are also moments when actors have been brought in to add voice to the silent film with the scripts produced by professional lip readers who watched the archival material.

As a narrative, it begins with the build-up to war and the excitement about enlisting, even if you were not officially old enough. It then recounts the training for soldiers and the journey to Europe and the trenches. We are given an insight into life in the trenches, including the maze like structure, how you rested where you were, the food eaten, such as bread, bacon, biscuits and bully beef, where people went to the toilet, and how soldiers dealt with infestations of lice and rats. This is contrasted with constant shelling, gas attacks, and the chaos of going over the top to take an enemy line. It then ends with armistice and the neglected and misunderstood life of the returned serviceman.

Overall, the film ties together different facets of war into an odd narrative about the western front that seemingly existed for so many, but for no-one in particular. I think that it is telling how much material was reviewed for the project.

The crew reviewed 600 hours of interviews from 200 veterans and 100 hours of original film footage to make the film.

Source: They Shall Not Grow Old by Wikipedia

Although there has been a lot of praise for the film.

Jackson has done something quite remarkable: using 21st-century technology to put the humanity back into old movie stock.

Source: They Shall Not Grow Old review – an utterly breathtaking journey into the trenches by Mark Kermode

There are also some who think that we need to be mindful of the choices made and the act of history making.

But the colourisation combined with the selective source base, the implicit narrative making and the critical response that suggests that this is somehow more “authentic” history, is problematic. Some reviewers seem unable to distinguish fiction from reality: “No Lord of the Rings battle could match the sheer hellishness of what the filmmaker recreates here,” writes one.

What does this process of modernisation and the addition of colour and sound, which Jackson advocates for wider usage across historical archives, do for our understanding of the past? On Armistice Day, we should encourage people to watch this film – not just for its World War I history, but as a good opportunity to think about history making.

Source: They Shall Not Grow Old: World War I film a masterpiece of skill and artistry – just don’t call it a documentary by Alice Kelly

Read The Road Back

The Road Back, also translated as The Way Back,[1] (German: Der Weg zurück) is a novel by German author Erich Maria Remarque, commonly regarded as a sequel to his 1929 novel All Quiet on the Western Front.[1][2] It was first serialized in the German newspaper Vossische Zeitung between December 1930 and January 1931, and published in book form in April 1931.

Erich Maria Remarque’s The Road Back details the experience of a group of young German men, including Ernst Birkholz, returning from the trenches at the end of World War I. It unpacks the many challenges they face in integrating back into everyday life and the way in which so many are left both physically and mentally broken.

Beginning with the hope of peace, the novel begins with death even as things seem to be coming to an end. It then details the journey of the soldiers back to their towns. This includes a meeting with some Americans who are willing to barter for any relic that they can barter for.

Eventually, once home, Remarque unpacks various facets of life, including seeing families again, reconnecting with past relationships, trying to concentrate enough to read a book, continuing the habit of foraging for food, going back to school, attending dances, and getting a job.

There are always challenges with fitting in with other people’s reality of the experience of the front:

“Green grasses!—green grasses!” he stutters, “long sleep? In the mud of shell-holes they are lying, knocked rotten, ripped in pieces, gone down into the bog Green grasses! This is not a singing lesson!” His arms are whirling like a windmill in a gale. “Hero’s death! And what sort of a thing do you suppose that was, I wonder?——Would you like to know how young Hoyer died? All day long he lay out in the wire screaming, and his guts hanging out of his belly like macaroni. Then a bit of shell took off his fingers and a couple of hours later another chunk off his leg; and still he lived; and with his other hand he would keep trying to pack back his intestines, and when night fell at last he was done. And when it was dark we went out to get him and he was full of holes as a nutmeg grater—Now, yoti go and tell his mother how he died—if you have so much courage.”

Or everyday life:

Here I stand and must now be your teacher and guide. What should I teach you? Should I tell you that in twenty years you will be dried-up and crippled, maimed in your freest impulses, all pressed mercilessly into the selfsame mould? Should I tell you that all learning, all culture, all science is nothing but hideous mockery, so long as mankind makes war in the name of God and humanity with gas, iron, explosive and fire? What should I teach you then, you little creatures who alone have remained unspotted by the terrible years?

What am I able to teach you then? Should I tell you how to pull the string of a hand-grenade, how best to throw it at a human being? Should I show you how to stab a man with a bayonet, how to fell him with a club, how to slaughter him with a spade? Should I demonstrate how best to aim a rifle at such an incomprehensible miracle as a breathing breast, a living heart? Should I explain to you what tetanus is, what a broken spine is, and what a shattered skull? Should I describe to you how brains look when they spatter about, what crushed bones are like, and intestines when they pour out? Should I mimic how a man with a stomach-wound will groan, how one with a lung-wound gurgles and one with a head-wound whistles? More I do not know. More I have not learned.

Should I take you to the green-and-grey map there, move my finger across it and tell you that here love was murdered? Should I explain to you that the books you hold in your hands are but nets with which men design to snare your simple souls, to entangle you in the undergrowth of fine phrases, and in the barbed wire of falsified ideas?

I stand here before you, a polluted, a guilty man and can only implore you ever to remain as you are, never to suffer the bright light of your childhood to be misused as a blow-flame of hate. About your brows still blows the breath of innocence. How then should I presume to teach you? Behind me, still pursuing, are the bloody years. How then can I venture among you? Must I not first become a man again myself?

I feel a cramp begin to spread through me, as if I were turning to stone, as if I were crumbling away. I lower myself slowly into the chair, and realise that I cannot stay here any longer. I try to take hold of something but cannot. Then after a time that has seemed to me endless, the catalepsy relaxes. I stand up. “Children,” I say with difficulty, “you may go now. There will be no school today.”

Thoughts of war are always rising to the surface.

We are like those abandoned fields full of shell-holes in France, no less peaceful than the other ploughed lands about them, but in them are lying still the buried explosives—and until these shall have been dug out and cleared away, to plough will be a danger both to plougher and ploughed.

It is interesting to consider Remarque’s approach alongside other novels, such as Mrs Dalloway and Wise Blood, which touch on the difficulties of life after fighting in war.

Watched 1917 from

April 6th, 1917. As an infantry battalion assembles to wage war deep in enemy territory, two soldiers are assigned to race against time and deliver a message that will stop 1,600 men from walking straight into a deadly trap.

I recently watched two recent films associated with the portrayal of war. The first was the 2019 film Midway. In the fourth segment of Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History series on Japanese involvement in World War Two, he dives into the intricacies of the battle at Midway. I am not sure Midway captures the same sense of nuance. To me it strips everything back too far. It has all the parts, but none are really drawn out.

In contrast, 1917 captures a particular moment where two soldiers cross enemy land to deliver a message to stop a 1600 men being slaughtered. The two soldiers cross no-man’s land, survey the way in which the German army retreated and life in towns near the fronts. I felt that this account provided a more captivating recount of life in war.