For a remarkably well-done, thoroughly realistic WWI battle scene, I hope that readers of this column will watch the 6 minute video:


The video portrays a scene from World War I, in which German infantrymen defend against a French attack across No Man’s Land, The attack is “successfully” repelled (with French “surrender monkeys” eventually running away to their trenches), only to see the German “Master Race” soldiers foolishly counter-attack - going “over the top” - only to see the attack fail miserably, The final scene shows the Germans “running away” back to their trenches. Powerful imagery revealing the futility of war.


At the end of the video, the following quote appears, from Erich Maria Remarque, the author of “All Quiet on the Western Front”:


“This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.”― Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front


Here is a brief summary of Remarque’s life from
“A student at the University of Munster, Remarque was drafted into the German army at the age of 18. He fought on the Western Front during World War I and was wounded no fewer than five times, the last time seriously.


“After the war, he wrote the novel he had had in mind since the war. Published in Germany in 1929 as Im Westen Nichts Neues, it sold 1.2 million copies within a year. The English translation, All Quiet on the Western Front, published the same year, went on to similar success. It was subsequently translated into 12 languages and was made into a celebrated Hollywood film in 1930.


“The smashing success of All Quiet on the Western Front was due in large part to its reflection of a widespread disillusionment with the war that took hold of many during the 1920s. Praised as a novel of unyielding realism, All Quiet on the Western Front described in stark detail the physical trauma of war. Remarque also articulated the numbing frustration and anger of the conscript soldier, sent into battle by government and military leaders for reasons of politics and power that he struggled to understand.


“In the words of his protagonist, Paul Baumer: ‘I see how peoples are set against one another and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another. I see that the keenest brains of the world invent weapons and words to make it yet more refined and enduring.’”


The powerful lyrics of Sabaton’s “The Price of a Mile” that accompanies the video expresses the disillusionment (of most thinking combat soldiers) that exists during and after every war. (More quotes from Remarque are further below.)


The Price of a Mile

by Sabaton (Swedish Heavy Metal Band)

From their 2009 album “The Art of War”

Throw your soldiers into positions
Once there is no escape
And they will prefer death to flight

Hear the sound of the machine gun
Hear it echo in the night

Mortars firing, rains the scene
Scars the fields that once were green

It's a stalemate at the front line
Where the soldiers rest in mud

Roads and houses, all is gone
There's no glory to be won

Know that many men will suffer
Know that many men will die

Half a million lives at stake
Ask the fields of Passchendaele
And as night falls the general calls
And the battle carries on and on

What is the purpose of it all?
What's the price of a mile?

Thousands of feet march to the beat
It's an army on the march
Long way from home
Paying the price in young men’s lives
Thousands of feet march to the beat
It's an army in despair
Knee-deep in mud
Stuck in the trench with no way out

Thousands of machine guns
Kept on firing through the night

Mortars placed and wreck the scene
Guns the fields that once were green
Still a deadlock at the front line
Where the soldiers die in mud

Roads and houses since long gone
Still no glory has been won

Know that many men have suffered
Know that many men have died
Six miles of ground has been won
Half a million men are gone
And as the men crawled the general called
And the killing carried on and on
What was the purpose of it all?
What's the price of a mile?

Thousands of feet march to the beat
It's an army on the march
Long way from home
Paying the price in young mens lives
Thousands of feet march to the beat
It's an army in despair
Knee-deep in mud
Stuck in the trench with no way out

Young men are dying
They pay the price
Oh how they suffer
So tell me, what's the price of a mile?

That's the price of a mile!


Thousands of feet march to the beat
It's an army on the march
Long way from home
Paying the price in young mens lives



Here are more pertinent antiwar quotes from Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, which makes understandable why the right-wing militarists in the Nazi Party, banned the book and movie and forced him to leave Germany.


“We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer; we believe in the war."

“I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another.”

“But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony--Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?”

“We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces.”

“It is very queer that the unhappiness of the world is so often brought on by small men.”


“I want that quiet rapture again. I want to feel the same powerful, nameless urge that I used to feel when I turned to my books. The breath of desire that then arose from the coloured backs of the books, shall fill me again, melt the heavy, dead lump of lead that lies somewhere in me and waken again the impatience of the future, the quick joy in the world of thought, it shall bring back again the lost eagerness of my youth. I sit and wait.”

“Bombardment, barrage, curtain-fire, mines, gas, tanks, machine-guns, hand-grenades - words, words, but they hold the horror of the world.”

“Nothing lasts. Nothing.”

“We are forlorn like children, and experienced like old men, we are crude and sorrowful and superficial—I believe we are lost.”

“Keep things at arm's length... If you let anything come too near you want to hold on to it. And there is nothing a man can hold on to.”

“Strange how complicated we can make things just to avoid showing what we feel!”

“Life is a disease, brother, and death begins already at birth. Every breath, every heartbeat, is a moment of dying - a little shove toward the end.”

“You may turn into an archangel, a fool, or a criminal—no one will see it. But when a button is missing—everyone sees that.”

“How senseless is everything that can ever be written, done, or thought, when such things are possible. It must be all lies and of no account when the culture of a thousand years could not prevent this stream of blood being poured out, these torture-chambers in their hundreds of thousands. A hospital alone shows what war is.”

“I wandered through the streets thinking of all the things I might have said and might have done had I been other than I was.”

“That is the remarkable thing about drinking: it brings people together so quickly, but between night and morning it sets an interval again of years.”

“We have so much to say, and we shall never say it.”

“We are little flames poorly sheltered by frail walls against the storm of dissolution and madness, in which we flicker and sometimes almost go out…we creep in upon ourselves and with big eyes stare into the night…and thus we wait for morning.”

“We came to realise - first with astonishment, then bitterness, and finally with indifference - that intellect apparently wasn't the most important thing...not ideas, but the system; not freedom, but drill. We had joined up with enthusiasm and with good will; but they did everything to knock that out of us.”

“To forget is the secret of eternal youth. One grows old only through memory. There's much too little forgetting.”


“Sometimes I used to think that one day I should wake up, and all that had been would be over. forgotten, sunk, drowned. Nothing was sure - not even memory.”

“Modesty and conscientiousness receive their reward only in novels. In life they are exploited and then shoved aside.”


“He fell in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front. He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come.”