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Free Study Guide-All Quiet On the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
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Chapter 8

Summary

After his leave is over, Baumer is sent to a training camp near his hometown. His days are occupied by a routine company drill. He spends his evenings in the soldiers' retreat, where he can play the piano. The ambience of this relaxed setting is another stark contrast to the war front, and for the moment the fighting seems far away. Baumer, however, misses his comrades and makes no attempt to find new friends. Because of his proximity, his father and sister visit him occasionally, helping to break his routine. They tell him that his mother is in the hospital and will soon undergo an operation for her canter.

Next door to the training camp, there is a Russian prisoner-of- war camp; Baumer observes its inhabitants daily and again realizes that the enemy is made up of ordinary people. Most of the prisoners, however, appear to be dying from starvation. They search for scraps of food in the garbage and sell their trinkets to the German peasants to buy food. Baumer laments that they are his enemies by decree; when his family brings him food, he always shares it with the prisoners. Baumer also complains that war has legalized mass murder and hatred amongst men. He feels an urge to crusade against war and to spread the truth about its brutality and futility.


Notes

Once again this chapter emphasizes a contrast between living and dying. Baumer has been sent to a training camp, where he is taught new drills and given some freedoms. Located next door is a prisoner of war camp for captured Russians. The prisoners, who are mistreated and starved, appear to be close to death. Baumer's heart goes out to them, and he even shares his food with these ravaged strangers. He realizes that they are just ordinary people like himself. The more that Baumer realizes the enemy is not a faceless being, but a real human, the more he wants to crusade against war; he believes he will do so after the fighting is over. This planning for the future reveals that Baumer still has hope that he will survive the war.

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Free Study Guide-All Quiet On the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
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