Nationalism can be defined as having a sense of belonging and loyalty to ones country or nation state. Of all the European nations, France was the first to sport the idea of nationalism. Many countries became influenced by the French’s ideas of nationalism. As a result nationalism had spread throughout out Europe by the nineteenth and twentieth century.
One result that nationalism had on Europe was, the wanting of unification. The people of nation states wanted their country to belong to. This wanting lea d to the unifying of Italy and Germany. Soon nationalism had increased the people’s confidence, and a feeling of imperialism ran through the unified countries. Unified countries such as France, Germany, Russia wanted to extend their empires.
But this Imperialism in Europe led to many conflicts between countries. All this Conflict eventually resulted in the beginning of World War I The causes of World War I were the intense nationalism that dominated Europe throughout the 19th and into the 20th century, and the establishment of large armies in Europe after 1871. Imperialism created a rivalry between nations and empires. The build up of armies and navies created fear between nations. France feared Germany, Germany feared Russia, Austria-Hungary and Russia rivalled around Balkans, Britain feared German’s expanding navy, Slovakia wanted to free Slavian land from Astria-Hungary’s oppression. Italy was jealous of French and English colonies in Africa.
Ottoman Empire struggled to survive in a hostile climate. Germany signed a secret alliance with Austria-Hungary and Italy, thus creating a Triple Alliance. France and Russia signed an Entente agreement which was later signed by Britain, thus creating Triple Entante. Then Europe was divided into hostile camps. During this time nationalism had caused a glorified view of the war. These views showed how inexperienced the people of Europe were in warfare.
In Erich Maria Remarque’s novel All Quiet on the Western Front, we can see that even though this glorious view contradicted the Germans soldiers’ expectations, they still stayed loyal. In the Beginning of the novel we read that Paul Baumer and his classmates had volunteered to enlist in the war. But they were forced in to volunteering. Their school master Kantorek had filled their heads up with views of nationalism which glorified the war. Some students were even under the pressure of their parents to enlist.
Not enlisting would be like turning your back on your country. To the teachers and school masters, going to war was the best thing a man could do for his country. When Baumer and his friends get to boot camp, they find out all is not what they expected it to be. In boot camp Baumer and his classmates are taught to be soldiers. They Find out that everything that was learned in school, has no meaning in the war. It was also in the front line, were Baumer and his friends see the contradictions made by the people at home.
Paul and his comrades all experienced the true horror of the war in the front. Each one of the classmates and German soldiers experienced death of other soldiers, the agony of the wounded. Baumer’s group also faced hunger, fear, the destructiveness of the new war technology. These technologies included the use of machine guns, gas, flamethrowers, bombing planes, and the tanks used by the British. Despite al l these contradictions Baumer’s group and the German soldiers seen, they stilled continued to stay loyal to the war. One reason why the German soldiers continued to fight in the war was the training they received.
In All Quiet on the Western Front, Baumer and his group had one of the strictness drill instructors, Corporal Himmelstoss. Despite what seemed like abuse, Himmelstoss’ training actually benefited the soldiers. Himmelstoss training, made the soldiers bitter, and their senses were sharpened. They soldiers needed to be bitter, and more sharp, it they were to survive the war.
The will to survive is another reason why the German soldiers kept fighting. During a counter attack, Baumer explains that the soldiers undergo transformation. Baumer says that they become wild beasts in the field. Baumers says that their objective is to fight, but to defend themselves against annihilation. The solders also feel an anger from within, which allows them to kill, and to then save them selves.
Paul also goes on to say that when they are in this rage, they kill. If the soldiers don’t k ill, their enemies will kill them. The German soldiers have no choice; you either kill or be killed by you foe. Comradeship is another reason the Germans soldiers keep fighting. In the story, Baumer’s group is made up of a variety of people. There is a peasant, farmer, locksmith, peatdigger, and students.
In the war these diverse people, who would not normally meet in civilian life, are struggling to keep their country together. Also near the end of the story, two flamethrowers are getting closer to Baumer and his companions. One of the junior officers then gets up and shoots the flamethrowers. In the process, the junior officer gets killed. This act shows how close the comradeship was in the German army.
Another reason why the German soldiers kept fighting was that was all they knew what to do. In the story, Paul Baumer tells us that all the older soldiers are stilled linked to their present lives. These older soldiers have wives, children, jobs and interests to come back to. According to Baumer, all the younger soldiers have to come back to is their parents and maybe a girlfriend. The young soldiers have no jobs and no idea on what life beyond the war will be like for them.
All the young soldiers know how to do is fight in the war. And that is what they do till they are injured, or killed. This war has totally ruined the lives of Baumer, his friends, and all the young German soldiers who fought in this war. The fact that the German soldiers are forced to fight this war is anther reason they continue to stay loyal to the war cause. In All Quiet on the Western Front, Baumer and his group had a discussion on why is there war, who started the war, and why must they be there.
During this discussion we find out that none of them actually wants to be at war. If they had the chance would leave the war to go home. Baumer’s group concluded that the cause of the war is because of some general or ruler wanting to gain fame. They are stuck fighting for this cause none of them wants to fight for.
The most important reason why the German soldiers stayed loyal to the war was the bit of nationalism still left inside of them. The fact alone that they were continuing war that they couldn’t win, was a sign of the loyalty to their country. Throughout t he entire novel, there was not one indication of mutiny. The German soldiers kept fighting and never turned their back on the war or their country.
Even in the end of the novel, Baumer shows his nationalism. Near the end Baumer tells us that the German soldiers are not beaten, because they are better and more experience than the other soldiers. It was just they were driven back by overwhelming superior forces. This statement by Paul showed that the German soldiers sill nationalism, despite the contradict ions made by their people at home.
In conclusion, because of the strong feelings of nationalism in Europe, many conflicts broke out between the countries and empires of Europe. The results of these conflicts eventually lead to World War I. During the war, the people’s view of nationalism of ten contradicted what the soldiers had to face in the war. These views showed how inexperienced the people were in modern warfare.
In Erich Maria Remarque’s novel All Quiet on the Western Front, we can see despite all these contradicting views, that the German soldiers continued to fight a war they could not win.