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Erich Maria Remarque

Erich Paul Remark was born on the 22


nd
June 1898 to a working class family in the west of Germany, and at
the formative age of 18, he was conscripted into the army and in 1917, he was transferred to the Western
Front, where his later novel would be set. After only a month and a half, he was wounded by shrapnel and
sent to an army hospital in Germany where he stayed to the end of the war. After the war, he continued a
writing career he had dabbled in before conscription, and he wrote his most famous work, All Quiet on the
Western Front, in a few months of 1927. It was not, however, until 1929 that he was able to find a publisher
for this work.
Remarques groundbreaking novel sold half a million copies in its first three months, such was its impact on
the German public and it was further made into an American film, which was popularly successful. It was
innovative in its controversial views on the war, which depicted it as tough, not noble, and challenged the
stab in the back theory, which would later be one of the reasons why it was banned by the Nazi party. The
novel is a gruelling depiction of the war, and furthermore a representation of the devastating effect war has
on the soldiers who do return home. The protagonist, Paul Bumer, is emblematic of the typical German
youth who, having just finished school, decides to volunteer for the army, filled with patriotism. But already
by the novels beginning, the reader sees only a weary young man aged beyond his years by the brutality of
war and the deaths of his former classmates and comrades. He is also seen at a particularly vulnerable part
of his life the return home where he feels that he no longer integrates with people that have not suffered
the same horrors as he has. For its depiction of a terrible, violent war, and the result of this war on the
frequently young and inexperienced men who fought for their country, Erich Maria Remarques All Quiet on
the Western Front remains poignant today, though its influence on the German audience of the time would
have been even more momentous.
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 its shells, were destroyed by the war.
Erich Maria Remarque, Foreword to All Quiet on the Western Front
In 1933, during the Nazi persecution of the liberal thinkers, writers, and painters who had begun to flourish
under the tolerant attitude of the Weimar republic, the Nazis organised the Burning of the Books, where in
Berlin and other cities rallies were held to destroy fiction and non-fiction, including the works of Remarque.
They also claimed that he was a descendant of French Jews and that he had never seen active service during
World War I, despite a complete lack of evidence for the first assumption and contrary evidence to the latter
claim. In 1943, his sister, Elfriede Scholz, who had remained in Germany with her husband and two children,
was arrested by the Nazi authorities and charged in Hitlers extra-constitutional Peoples Court. She was
found guilty of undermining morale and the judge was reported to have said "Your brother has
unfortunately escaped us - you, however, will not escape us". She was killed by guillotine later that year.
Remarque had gone into exile in 1931 to avoid persecution, and had been living in the United States as a full
citizen since 1947.
Erich Maria Remarques work during the Weimar Republic and even after, in exile, had an immense effect on
the conscience of the German people and how they viewed the war that had been so avidly supported
during its early stages.