During the first World War, Erik Vandenburg saved Hans Hubermann's life by volunteering him for a writing task.
Death relates the story in the novel. During the war, Erik and Hans became fast friends. Both shared a love for gambling, cigarettes, and music. They preferred all three to shooting bullets.
On the morning Hans Hubermann's entire platoon was killed, Sergeant Stephan Schneider entered the soldiers' sleeping quarters to make an inquiry. He wanted to know who had good handwriting. At the time, none of the soldiers volunteered. This is because the last soldier who volunteered ended up cleaning the latrines with a toothbrush.
There was also another reason no one wanted to volunteer. During his inquiry, Sergeant Schneider mentioned that the platoon would be required to fight that day. So, the man who volunteered would be considered a coward for wanting to avoid the dangers of battle.
Erik Vandenburg finally volunteered Hans Hubermann. So, Erik saved Hans's life by volunteering him for a writing task. Tragically, none of the platoon returned after the battle; all of the men died on the field that day.