Ghandi once said “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary, the evil is permanent. ” This is true for all wars, but especially for World Warl as it was one of the bloodiest wars in human history, with over 35 million military and civilian casualties (Casualties). Britain, Russia, and Germany were among the few European powers in the war. Russian and Britain joined the war based on the alliances they made, whereas countries such as Germany joined the war because they were eager to be recognised among the European superpowers.
Although some countries and individuals believed the war was beneficial, in actuality the war caused Germany to fall into debt due to the Treaty of Versailles, ultimately leading to the uprising of the Nazi party, in the novel All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque the reader is given an in-depth experience of how the war caused soldiers to lose their compassion, and forced them to adopt more primal instincts. In the novel, Remarque shows how the soldiers fighting in WWI are forced to give up their emotions in order to continue fighting. Paul Baumer, a soldier serving in the Second Company, holds the front line.
He states “our heads are debauched with stuporthus we stagger forward, and into our pierced and shattered souls bores the torturing image of the brown earth with the greasy sun and the convulsed and dead soldiers, who lie thereit can’t be helped- who cry and clutch at our legs as we spring away over them” (Remarque 115-116). Remarque uses vivid imagery to convey a lack of empathy that the soldiers express towards the countless dead bodies. He specifically uses words such as “pierced” to show how “the torturing image” of dead comrades were affecting the soldiers, causing them to lose their humanity.
Although these images were truly horrific, the soldiers must continue to trudge forwards only to cause more death. Remarque uses the phrase “cry and clutch” to characterize the dead soldiers but uses “spring away” to describe Paul and his comrades. These descriptions create a visual contrast for the reader, in one instance, it gives the reader an image of pain, and suffering; at the same time the scene also brings a sense of emotional detachment as the soldiers casually “spring” over the dead. The horrific images that the soldiers are constantly exposed to numb them to a point where they are unfazed by the sight of dead bodies.
Thus the soldiers lose all feelings concerning the dead, and are left void of emotions, even towards their own comrades. As the war raged on, it took from the soldiers what made them human, and in return, gave them an animalistic urge to fight for a spot among the living. For three days Paul and his comrades are pinned down as the enemy shells their bunker, but on the third day the enemy advanced, allowing Paul and his comrades a chance to fight back. Paul describes how he felt during the assault, stating that“This wave that multiplies our strength with fear and madness and greed of life, seeking and fighting for nothing but our deliverance.
If your own father came over with them you would not hesitate to fling a bomb at him” (Remarque 114). Remarque describes the soldiers specifically using “greed”, “fear”, and “madness” to show how their actions symbolize the surrender to man’s basic animal instincts. By revealing that the soldiers are driven to kill one another not because they are the enemy, but because they are simply fighting for their own lives. Remarque uses the analogy of murdering a father figure for greed of life to express how the soldiers were only focused on self preservation.
The environment that the war created stripped Paul and his comrades of all rationality besides survival. This sort of mental conditioning the soldiers went through caused them to surrender the civility they once had, changing them from men to beasts. In addition to the great deal of suffering caused by the war, Germany was left in economic ruins. After the Allies won the war an armistice was established between the Allies and Germany, and a series of treaties followed, with the most impactful being the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty was a list of demands that the French and British imposed on Germany.
The most devastating demand was the amount of war reparations that Germany was forced to pay due to the damages that were caused during the war, and for the expenses that other countries incurred to fight the war (Treaty). At that time, Germany had their own financial problems because of the war, but with the additional debt that the war reparations presented, Germany was plunged deeper into debt. In response the German government printed more money in hopes to pay off their debt, but only caused massive hyperinflation, and the country fell into major economic crisis (Trueman).
Because of this people were unable to pay for simple cost of living items such as bread, due to the outrageous hyperinflation. The sudden halt in currency also caused unemployment rates to skyrocket. The lack of jobs paired with the hunger sweeping the nation enraged many of the German citizens (Trueman). The Treaty of Versailles effectively crippled Germany with hunger and starvation while the government struggled to pay off the monumental debt left by the war, leaving many Germans angered and afflicted with civil unrest. After the war Germany was left in ruins, and the Germans looked to Fascism and the Nazi party to solve their problems.
The Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to surrender their entire naval fleet, and their military was reduced to a meager 100,000 troops (Trueman). On top of that, Germany lost its colonies, and parts of their land was surrendered to France and Poland. The Germans were also charged with the “Guilt Clause” which held Germany solely responsible for the cause of WWI (Trueman). The humiliation that the Germans experienced only upset them, this anger was the catalyst for Hitler to spread his fascist ideology. Hitler directed the people’s anger towards Jews, and blamed them for all of Germany’s problems.
The Nazi party, led by Hitler, romised that they would secure the country’s economy and make Germany a prospering country again (Smith). The Nazi party quickly became a considerable voice in politics, and Hitler was appointed Chancellor (Smith). The hatred for Jews gradually grew as the Nazis labeled them an inferior race. This later led to concentration camps and Jewish genocide. During this time Hitler also mobilized troops and prepared for war. The unintended consequences led lead to World War II and the deaths of millions of Jews during the Holocaust (Smith), with most of the violence and hatred stemming from the treaty that ended World War I.
World War I ruined the lives of men and changed the futures of countries forever. Soldiers on all sides of the war sacrificed their futures, only for history to repeat itself in the form of the second world war. The men that served in WWI gave up their humanity in return for a primal urge that consumed all rationality. Even after the war Germany was met with more struggles that only led to more death in World War 2. To this day “The war to end all wars” still impacts our lives. The current turmoil within Iraq is largely due to the European mandates that were put in place after the war.
Israelis and Palestinian conflict is due to a long line a conflicts that trace back to the British Mandate for Palestine (Whitney). These are are just some examples of how the implications brought by WWI are still influencing the world around us. As Ghandi once said “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary, the evil is permanent. ” And it is clear to see that even 100 years after the war ended, the world still suffers its consequences.