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Erich Maria Remarque: on the horror of endless war

Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-R05951 _Frankreich _Arras _Soldaten_im_Schützengraben

"Germany ought to be empty soon," says Kat.

We have given up hope that some day an end may come. We never think so far...

In one attack our Company Commander, Bertinck, falls. He was one of those superb front-line officers who are foremost in every hot place. He was with us for two years without being wounded, so that something had to happen in the end....

Bertinck has a chest wound. After a while a fragment smashes away his chin, and the same fragment has sufficient force to tear open Leer's hip. Leer groans as he supports himself on his arm, he bleeds quickly, no one can help him. Like an emptying tube, after a couple of minutes he collapses.

What use is it to him now that he was such a good mathematician at school.

Erich Maria Remarque (1898–1970), All Quiet on the Western Front, ch. 11, translated here by A.W. Wheen. Both men were soldiers in World War I. 

"Deutschland muß bald leer sein" sagt Kat.

Wir sind ohne Hoffnung, daß einmal ein Ende sein könnte. Wir denken überhaupt nicht so weit....

Bei einem Angriff fällt unser Kompanieführer Bertinck. Er war einer dieser prachtvollen Frontoffiziere, die in jeder brenzligen Situation vorne sind. Seit zwei Jahren war er bei uns, ohne daß er verwundet wurde, da mußte ja endlich etwas passieren....

Bertinck hat einen Brustschuß. Nach einer Weile schmettert ihm ein Splitter das Kinn weg. Der gleiche Splitter hat noch die Kraft, Leer die Hüfte aufzureißen. Leer stöhnt und stemmt sich auf die Arme, er verblutet rasch, niemand kann ihm helfen. Wie ein leerlaufender Schlauch sackt er nach ein paar Minuten zusammen. Was nützt es ihm nun, daß er in der Schule ein so guter Mathematiker war.

 

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