Illustration of Paul Baumer in a German army uniform with a red background

All Quiet on the Western Front

by Erich Maria Remarque

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All Quiet on the Western Front Characters

The main characters in All Quiet on the Western Front are Paul Bäumer, Kantorek, Stanislaus Katczinsky, Detering, Kemmerich, Müller, and Corporal Himmelstoss.

  • Paul Bäumer is the narrator and protagonist of the novel.
  • Kantorek is the patriotic teacher who urges Paul to enlist.
  • Stanislaus Katczinsky (Kat) is a forty-year-old reservist in the army.
  • Detering is a farmer who serves with Paul in the army.
  • Kemmerich is a German soldier with a fine pair of boots.
  • Müller is the first to inherit Kemmerich's boots.
  • Corporal Himmelstoss is a petty tyrant who treats his soldiers poorly.

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Paul Baumer

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The sensitive twenty-year-old narrator (he has written poems and a play called "Saul") reaches manhood through three years of service as a soldier in the second company of the German army during World War I. His loss of innocence during the cataclysm is the focus of the author's anti-war sentiment. If one views this book as a roman a clef (a thinly veiled autobiographical novel), he is telling the basic story of Erich Maria Remarque. Although he feels cut off and alienated from past values two years after the war begins, Paul is compassionate to his dying friends. In camaraderie, the author suggests, is salvation. One by one, Paul sees his comrades die; he also stabs a French soldier, a death that torments him profoundly. He is killed by a stray bullet just before the declaration of the armistice. Critics differ on the degree to which Baumer is Remarque, but the general consensus is that Paul Baumer is foremost a fictional creation who recounts a story that evokes the absurdity of war.

Other Characters

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Lt. Bertinck
He is the company commander and is regarded as a magnificent front-line officer. His heroism is shown through his knocking out an advancing flame thrower.

He is a peasant from Oldenburg, who worries about his wife alone in their farm. He grows particularly nostalgic when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, and he hates to hear the horses bellowing in agony. After he deserts, he is captured and never heard from again. As in the case of most of the characters in the novel, he is another example of someone without a future who simply exists in a meaningless world.

Gerard Duval
Lying in a shell hole during a bombardment, Paul suddenly finds the French soldier Gerard Duval on top of him. Instinctively Paul kills Duval, a typesetter in civilian life, by knifing him to death. The soldier's demise is slow and painful, and, overcome by guilt, Paul tries to ease his suffering. After the Frenchman dies, he searches his wallet for an address and finds letters and pictures of his wife and child.

The patriotic schoolteacher, who instructs Paul and his twenty classmates to sign up for military duty, typifies the many such teachers in Germany during World War I. While their idealism was sincere, it was also misguided. Paul expresses his rage at Kantorek's unrealistic view of war that proved dangerous and fatal to most of his class, the "Iron Youth," as Kantorek calls them. Instead, Paul wishes that Kantorek had guided them to a life of maturity and constructive actions. As a member of the local reserves, he is a poor soldier.

See Stanislaus Katczinsky.

Stanislaus Katczinsky
Nicknamed "Kat," Katczinsky is one of the main characters of the novel. A forty-year-old reservist, he is an experienced man who is unselfish to his fellow soldiers and also seems to have a sixth sense for food, danger, and soft jobs. Kat serves as a tutor and father figure to Paul and the others, who depend on him for humor. He eases their minds during the bombardment.

Franz Kemmerich
A childhood friend of Paul Baumer, Kemmerich longs to be a forester. Unfortunately, his dreams are dashed by the war, where he undergoes a leg amputation and then dies. He is Paul's first eyewitness experience with personal loss.

Albert Kropp
Kropp is the best student in Paul's class and joins him in rebelling against Himmelstoss. When he has to have part of his leg amputated, he threatens to kill himself. Eventually, with the help of his comrades, he resigns himself to his new condition and accepts an artificial limb.

Muller is a young soldier who continues to study physics and think of exams during the war. He inherits Kemmerich's soft airman's boots; as he lies dying with an agonizing stomach wound, he wills the boots to Paul.

Paul's mother
She is a self-sacrificing and long-suffering woman who tries to give Paul what he needs, including potato cakes, whortleberry jam, and warm woolen underpants. His last night at home on leave, she sits by his bedside to express her concerns for his welfare. She later receives treatment for cancer at a charity ward in Luisa Hospital.

Tiedjen is a soldier with whom Paul serves. When he is hit, he cries out for his mother and holds off a doctor with a dagger before collapsing. Paul describes this experience as his "most disturbing and hardest parting" until the one he experiences with Franz Kemmerich.

He is a thin, nineteen-year-old soldier with an immense appetite. A former locksmith, he is unable to prevent himself from bed-wetting and is criticized by Himmelstoss. When Himmelstoss is ambushed by some of the soldiers and given a whipping as a comeuppance, Tjaden is the first to whip him.

Haie Westhus
Haie prefers military service to his civilian job as a peat digger. Hoping to become a village policeman, he dies at nineteen from a back wound.


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As narrator of All Quiet on the Western Front, Paul Baumer records the grim realities of war in the daily routines and terrible deaths that involve his classmates and comrades. Filled with patriotic zest and romantic notions about war, they hasten to enlist, but once in basic training they lose some of their illusions as they are tyrannized by Corporal Himmelstoss, a former postman, who constantly insults them and badgers them with a "thousand pettifogging details." Still, they are eager for battle until inevitably, inexorably they are either maimed or killed — Behm is the first to fall, shot in No Man's Land; Kemmerich is wounded, his leg amputated, and he dies three days later; Haie Westhus dies from a great wound in his back through which his lung pulses; Hans Kramer's body is blown to pieces by a direct hit; Martens loses his legs; Meyer, Hammerling, Byer, and Detering are all killed.

Another major character is the forty-year-old Sergeant Stansislaus Katczinsky (Kat), superb scrounger of food and battle weary and wary. Kat becomes Baumer's surrogate father, and, by extension, a surrogate father for Baumer's friends whom he guides, advises, and initiates into the hell of war. For Baumer, Kat is a positive force because of his age and because he has survived so long at the front and appears invincible. Ironically, however, just as Baumer loses his classmates, so too does he lose Kat, who is wounded in the leg but dies from a shell splinter to his brain as Baumer carries him to a field hospital.

After Kat's death and because of armistice rumors, Baumer believes that he will survive the war and return home even though he and the other survivors will be "weary, broken, burnt out, rootless, and without hope." "We will not" he says, "be able to find our way any more ... We will be superfluous even to ourselves." Ironically, Baumer is killed on a day that was so quiet and still that the "army report confined itself to the simple sentence: All quiet on the western front," and on his face was a calm expression "as though almost glad the end had come."

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