Berlin, Germany · January 29, 1929

On this date in 1929 Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front (German, Im Westen Nichts Neues) debuted in book form after being seri­al­ized in a German news­paper in late 1928. In the story Re­marque, who was a con­script during the First World War, described the Ger­man sol­diers’ ex­treme physi­cal and men­tal stress in com­bat, graph­ically de­picted Ger­man and French boys and men butch­ering one an­other during battle, and exposed the detach­ment from civil­ian life felt by many of these sol­diers upon returning home. The novel was a searing in­dict­ment of the Great War. It sold 2.5 million copies within 18 months and was trans­lated into 25 lan­guages, making it the best-selling novel of the 20th cen­tury up to that time.

In 1930 the novel was turned into a mo­tion pic­ture starring Lew Ayres, who played Paul Baeu­mer, the novel’s cen­tral char­acter and nar­rator. The sensitive 19‑year‑old was urged on by his school teacher to join the Kai­ser’s army shortly after the start of World War I. The movie ends with Baeu­mer’s death and the Ger­man Army’s situ­ation report for that day: “All is quiet on the Western Front.” The movie cap­tured Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director in 1930.

On May 10, 1933, Adolf Hitler’s 3-1/2-month-old Nazi govern­ment, in­sti­gated by Minister of Public En­light­en­ment and Pro­pa­ganda Joseph Goebbels, banned and pub­licly burned Re­marque’s novel, banned the film after staging riots out­side movie houses that showed the picture (it remained banned in Ger­many until 1945), and pro­duced pro­pa­ganda claiming that Re­marque was a de­scen­dant of French Jews and that his real last name was Kramer, a Jewish-sounding name. Not sur­prisingly, Remarque left Ger­many, moving to Switzer­land. In 1938 his Ger­man citizen­ship was revoked. A year later he and his wife moved to the U.S. and became nat­u­ralized citizens.

Re­marque’s sis­ter, Elfriede Scholz, who had stayed behind in Ger­many with her hus­band and two children, was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943. After a short trial in the Volks­gerichts­hof, Adolf Hitler’s extra-con­sti­tu­tional “People’s Court,” pre­sided over by the no­to­rious Nazi jurist Roland Freis­ler, Scholz was found guilty of “un­der­mining morale” for stating that she con­sidered the war was lost. Freis­ler told the de­fen­dant, “Your brother has un­for­tunately escaped us—you, how­ever, will not escape us.” She was guillotined on December 16, 1943.

Erich Maria Remarque and His Anti-War Novel

Erich Maria Remarque (1898–1970) Movie poster for "All Quiet on the Western Front," 1930

Left: Thirty-year-old Erich Maria Remarque (1898–1970). Upon release of his book All Quiet on the Western Front and the movie of the same name, Remarque emerged as an elo­quent story­teller for “a gene­ration of men who, even though they may have escaped [its] shells, were destroyed by the war,” “living soldiers [i.e., the war’s sur­vivors] as old and dead, emo­tionally drained and shaken,” unable to fit into the postwar world.

Right: Cover of first English language edition. Design was based on a German World War I war bonds poster. The title of the book and the movie under­scored the cosmic insignif­i­cance of one person’s death (Paul Baeu­mer’s) in a war that took the lives of 16 mil­lion people (military and civilians) and wounded 20 million more.

Movie Clip from 1930 All Quiet on the Western Front

WWII Chronicles book coverHistory buffs, there is good news! The Daily Chronicles of World War II is now avail­able as an ebook for $4.99 on Con­taining a year’s worth of dated entries from this web­site, the ebook brings the story of this tumul­tu­ous era to life in a com­pelling, author­i­ta­tive, and suc­cinct man­ner. Fea­turing inven­tive naviga­tion aids, the ebook enables readers to instantly move for­ward or back­ward by month and date to dif­fer­ent dated entries. Simple and elegant! Click here to purchase the ebook.