All Quiet on the Western FrontAll Quieton the Western FrontNationalism can be defined as having asense of belonging and loyalty to ones country or nation state. Of allthe European nations, France was the first to sport the idea of nationalism.
Many countries became influenced by the French’s ideas of nationalism. As a result nationalism had spread throughout out Europe by the nineteenthand twentieth century. One result that nationalism had on Europe was, thewanting of unification. The people of nation states wanted their countryto belong to. This wanting lea d to the unifying of Italy and Germany.
Soon nationalism had increased the people’s confidence, and a feeling ofimperialism ran through the unified countries. Unified countries such asFrance, Germany, Russia wanted to extend their empires. But this Imperialismin Europe led to many conflicts between countries. All this Conflict eventuallyresulted in the beginning of World War I The causes of World War I werethe intense nationalism that dominated Europe throughout the 19th and intothe 20th century, and the establishment of large armies in Europe after1871. Imperialism created a rivalry between nations and empires.
The buildup of armies and navies created fear between nations. France feared Germany,Germany feared Russia, Austria-Hungary and Russia rivalled around Balkans,Britain feared German’s expanding navy, Slovakia wanted to free Slavianland from Astria-Hungary’s oppression. Italy was jealous of French andEnglish colonies in Africa. Ottoman Empire struggled to survive in a hostileclimate. Germany signed a secret alliance with Austria-Hungary and Italy,thus creating a Triple Alliance.
France and Russia signed an Entente agreementwhich was later signed by Britain, thus creating Triple Entante. Then Europewas divided into hostile camps. During this time nationalism had causeda glorified view of the war. These views showed how inexperienced the peopleof Europe were in warfare.
In Erich Maria Remarque’s novel All Quiet onthe Western Front, we can see that even though this glorious view contradictedthe Germans soldiers’ expectations, they still stayed loyal. In the Beginning of the novel we read thatPaul Baumer and his classmates had volunteered to enlist in the war. Butthey were forced in to volunteering. Their school master Kantorek had filledtheir heads up with views of nationalism which glorified the war. Somestudents were even under the pressure of their parents to enlist.
Not enlistingwould be like turning your back on your country. To the teachers and schoolmasters, going to war was the best thing a man could do for his country. When Baumer and his friends get to boot camp, they find out all is notwhat they expected it to be. In boot camp Baumer and his classmates aretaught to be soldiers. They Find out that everything that was learned inschool, has no meaning in the war.
It was also in the front line, wereBaumer and his friends see the contradictions made by the people at home. Paul and his comrades all experienced the true horror of the war in thefront. Each one of the classmates and German soldiers experienced deathof other soldiers, the agony of the wounded. Baumer’s group also facedhunger, fear, the destructiveness of the new war technology.
These technologiesincluded the use of machine guns, gas, flamethrowers, bombing planes, andthe tanks used by the British. Despite al l these contradictions Baumer’sgroup and the German soldiers seen, they stilled continued to stay loyalto the war. One reason why the German soldiers continued to fight in thewar was the training they received. In All Quiet on the Western Front,Baumer and his group had one of the strictness drill instructors, CorporalHimmelstoss. Despite what seemed like abuse, Himmelstoss’ training actuallybenefited the soldiers.
Himmelstoss training, made the soldiers bitter,and their senses were sharpened. They soldiers needed to be bitter, andmore sharp, it they were to survive the war. The will to survive is anotherreason why the German soldiers kept fighting. During a counter attack,Baumer explains that the soldiers undergo transformation.
Baumer says thatthey become wild beasts in the field. Baumers says that their objectiveis to fight, but to defend themselves against annihilation. The soldersalso feel an anger from within, which allows them to kill, and to thensave them selves. Paul also goes on to say that when they are in this rage,they kill. If the soldiers don’t k ill, their enemies will kill them.
TheGerman soldiers have no choice; you either kill or be killed by you foe. Comradeship is another reason the Germans soldiers keep fighting. In thestory, Baumer’s group is made up of a variety of people. There is a peasant,farmer, locksmith, peatdigger, and students. In the war these diverse people,who would not normally meet in civilian life, are struggling to keep theircountry together. Also near the end of the story, two flamethrowers aregetting closer to Baumer and his companions.
One of the junior officersthen gets up and shoots the flamethrowers. In the process, the junior officergets killed. This act shows how close the comradeship was in the Germanarmy. Another reason why the German soldierskept fighting was that was all they knew what to do. In the story, PaulBaumer tells us that all the older soldiers are stilled linked to theirpresent lives. These older soldiers have wives, children, jobs and intereststo come back to.
According to Baumer, all the younger soldiers have tocome back to is their parents and maybe a girlfriend. The young soldiershave no jobs and no idea on what life beyond the war will be like for them. All the young soldiers know how to do is fight in the war. And that iswhat they do till they are injured, or killed.
This war has totally ruinedthe lives of Baumer, his friends, and all the young German soldiers whofought in this war. The fact that the German soldiers are forcedto fight this war is anther reason they continue to stay loyal to the warcause. In All Quiet on the Western Front, Baumer and his group had a discussionon why is there war, who started the war, and why must they be there. Duringthis discussion we find out that none of them actually wants to be at war. If they had the chance would leave the war to go home. Baumer’s group concludedthat the cause of the war is because of some general or ruler wanting togain fame.
They are stuck fighting for this cause none of them wants tofight for. The most important reason why the Germansoldiers stayed loyal to the war was the bit of nationalism still leftinside of them. The fact alone that they were continuing war that theycouldn’t win, was a sign of the loyalty to their country. Throughout the entire novel, there was not one indication of mutiny. The German soldierskept fighting and never turned their back on the war or their country.
Even in the end of the novel, Baumer shows his nationalism. Near the endBaumer tells us that the German soldiers are not beaten, because they arebetter and more experience than the other soldiers. It was just they weredriven back by overwhelming superior forces. This statement by Paul showedthat the German soldiers sill nationalism, despite the contradict ionsmade by their people at home.
In conclusion, because of the strong feelingsof nationalism in Europe, many conflicts broke out between the countriesand empires of Europe. The results of these conflicts eventually lead toWorld War I. During the war, the people’s view of nationalism of ten contradictedwhat the soldiers had to face in the war. These views showed how inexperiencedthe people were in modern warfare. In Erich Maria Remarque’s novel AllQuiet on the Western Front, we can see despite all these contradictingviews, that the German soldiers continued to fight a war they could notwin.