You can find a copy of All Quiet on the Western Front here. Erich Maria Remarque’s monumental work is credited as changing the public perception of the war. For years after the end of the First World War, the memoirs and descriptions of the war came from generals and statesmen such as Winston Churchill’s The World Crisis, published in 1923.
But a decade later suddenly books came out that described what the war was like not from the perspective of the political leaders, but from the men actually fighting the battles on the ground.
The book really was the first book to describe the true horrors of war and the brutal aftermath. The book has many quotes that describe the horrors of war.
All Quiet on the Western Front
1. “I am no longer a shuddering speck of existence, alone in the darkness; –I belong to them and they to me; we all share the same fear and the same life…I could bury my face in them, in these voices, these words that have saved me and will stand by me.” ― Erich Maria Remarque
2. “To no man does the earth mean so much as to the soldier. When he presses himself down upon her long and powerfully, when he buries his face and his limbs deep in her from the fear of death by shell-fire, then she is his only friend, his brother, his mother; he stifles his terror and his cries in her silence and her security; she shelters him and releases him for ten seconds to live, to run, ten seconds of life; receives him again and again and often forever.” ― Erich Maria Remarque
3. “We used to think you knew. The first bombardment taught us better. It’s dirty and painful to die for your country. When it comes to dying for your country it’s better not to die at all! There are millions out there dying for their countries, and what good is it?”- Paul Baumer
4. “The war will be forgotten—and the generation that has grown up after us will … push us aside.”-Paul Baumer
5. “Kropp on the other hand is a thinker. He proposes that a declaration of war should be a kind of popular festival with entrance-tickets and bands, like a bull fight. Then in the arena the ministers and generals of the two countries, dressed in bathing-drawers and armed with clubs, can have it out on themselves. Whoever survives the country wins. That would be much simpler and more than just this arrangement, where the wrong people do the fighting” ― Enrich Maria Remarque
6. “Sweet dreams though the guns are booming.” ― Erich Maria Remarque
7. “We’re no longer young men. We’ve lost any desire to conquer the world. We are refugees. We are fleeing from ourselves. From our lives. We were eighteen years old, and we had just begun to love the world and to love being in it; but we had to shoot at it. The first shell to land went straight for our hearts. We’ve been cut off from real action, from getting on, from progress. We don’t believe in those things anymore; we believe in the war.” ― Erich Maria Remarque
8. “I want that quiet rapture again. I want to feel the same powerful, nameless urge that I used to feel when I turned to my books. The breath of desire that then arose from the colored backs of the books, shall fill me again, melt the heavy, dead lump of lead that lies somewhere in me and waken again the impatience of the future, the quick joy in the world of thought, it shall bring back again the lost eagerness of my youth. I sit and wait.” ― Remarque, Erich Maria Remarque
9. “I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.” ― Erich Maria Remarque
10. “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 cleverness. The first bombardment showed us our mistake, and under it the world as they had taught it to us broke in pieces.”- Erich Maria Remarque
11. “It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.” – Erich Maria Remarque
12. “The war has ruined us for everything.”-Albert Kropp
13. “We are forlorn like children, and experienced like old men, we are crude and sorrowful and superficial—I believe we are lost.”- Paul Baumer
14. “While they continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded and dying. While they taught that duty to one’s country is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger.”-Paul Baumer
15. “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.”-Paul Baumer
16. “It is very queer that the unhappiness of the world is so often brought on by small men.”― Erich Maria Remarque
17. “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.” ― Erich Maria Remarque
18. “A man cannot realize that above such shattered bodies there are still human faces in which life goes its daily round. And this is only one hospital, a single station; there are hundreds of thousands in Germany, hundreds of thousands in France, hundreds of thousands in Russia. How senseless is everything that can ever be written, done, or thought, when such things are possible. It must be all lies and of no account when the culture of a thousand years could not prevent this stream of blood being poured out, these torture chambers in their hundreds of thousands. A hospital alone shows what war is.” ― Erich Maria Remarque
19. “It is too dangerous for me to put these things into words. I am afraid they might then become gigantic and I be no longer able to master them.” ― Erich Maria Remarque
20. “Comrade, I did not want to kill you. . .. But you were only an idea to me before, an abstraction that lived in my mind and called forth its appropriate response. . .. 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?” ― Erich Maria Remarque
21. “They are more to me than life, these voices, they are more than motherliness and more than fear; they are the strongest, most comforting thing there is anywhere: they are the voices of my comrades.” ― Erich Maria Remarque
22. “We came to realize – first with astonishment, then bitterness, and finally with indifference – that intellect apparently wasn’t the most important thing…not ideas, but the system; not freedom, but drill. We had joined up with enthusiasm and with good will; but they did everything to knock that out of us.” ― Erich Maria Remarque
Related: Indifference Quotes
23. “How senseless is everything that can ever be written, done, or thought, when such things are possible. It must be all lies and of no account when the culture of a thousand years could not prevent this stream of blood being poured out, these torture-chambers in their hundreds of thousands. A hospital alone shows what war is.” ― Erich Maria Remarque
24. “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?” ― Erich Maria Remarque
25. “Our knowledge of life is limited to death” ― Enrich Maria Remarque
See also: Gertrude Stein’s Most Interesting Quotes
All Quiet on the Western Front Video – Chapter 1
Professor Bradley Greenburg of Northeastern Illinois University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 1 of the novel. This is a great short overview of the book.
This book was an international bestseller and it remains the most hated and also loved novel about World War I. In fact it was banned and burned in Nazi Germany. We hope these quotes remind you of the book and perhaps inspire you to read it this year. You can find a copy of All Quiet on the Western Front here.
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