This passage from Chapter 8 of All Quiet on the Western Front points to Paul Baumer's attempts to bring some meaning to the senselessness of war. Having returned from a furlough during which he returned to his home only to find that he no longer has the fervor of his innocence and the interest in his books and other things of his youth, Paul is anxious that he will lose all feeling as he engages in war with an enemy whom he has not chosen. As he gazes at the Russian prisoners of war, Paul perceives these innocent men as individuals who should be farming, and as less of an enemy than a commissioned officer of his own army.
I am frightened. I dare think this way no more. This way lies the abyss. It is not now the time but I will not lose these thoughts. I will keep them, shut them away until the war is ended. My heart beats fast: this is the aim....a task that will make life afterward worthy of these hideous years.
Paul vows to return home and to humanize all his thoughts and feelings, to help others--to become a pacifist and find meaning in existence, not in death.