All Quiet on the Western Front

I remember the impact this book had on me after I read it some 20 years ago. Opening my eyes to the acknowledgement that every conflict has multiple sides.
The plot follows a young man, Paul, a German so eager to fight for his country that he forges his enlistment papers. But he and his trio of young friends are unprepared for what they walk into. War is not the romanticized idea they thought it was. The young soldiers are thrown into a bloody battle between the Germans and the French.
While the battle between the sides is unmerciful, the reality is that the soldiers on each side are the same. Though they speak different languages, they both have homes, wives, and families. This is emphasized after Paul kills a Frenchman up close and has to watch him die. Neither side truly hates one another. One of Paul’s friends runs off with a trio of young French women for a quick tryst. This idea also the entire premise of the true story film from 2005 Joyeax Noel, when the Germans, French, and Scottish all cease fire on Christmas morning. The soldiers indescriminately play soccer, drink together, and sing songs.
This film was not breath taking, and it has been made before. But it dove deep into the comradery and the emotional toll this war had on it’s soldiers. And for me, served as a reminder that even though you may not speak the language, ascribe to the same religion, or have the same color skin, each side of a conflict still involves human beings.

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