Paul and the other members of the Second Company are resting after being relieved from the front lines. When they went to the front, their company contained one hundred and fifty men. Only eighty returned. The quartermaster requested rations for a full company, but on the last day, they suffered a heavy attack. The surviving men receive a double ration of food and tobacco. Paul, Leer, Muller, and Kropp are all nineteen years old. They are all from the same class in school, and they all enlisted voluntarily. Tjaden is the same age, but he is a locksmith. He eats voraciously, but remains thin as a rail. Haie Westhus, also the same age, is an enormously built peat-digger. Detering is a peasant with a wife at home. Katczinksy is the unofficial leader of Paul's small group of comrades. He is a cunning man of forty years of age.
Paul remembers that they were embarrassed to use the general latrines when they were recruits.
Now, they are a pleasure. Every soldier is intimately acquainted with his stomach and intestines. "Latrine humor" offers the most succinct expression for joy, indignation, and anger. The men settle down to rest, smoke, and play cards. They do not talk about their narrow survival during their last trip to the front. Kemmerich, one of Paul's classmates and a member of the Second Company, is in the hospital with a thigh wound.
Paul and his classmates' schoolmaster, Kantorek, urged them to enlist as volunteers to prove their patriotism. Joseph Behm did not want to go, but eventually he gave in to Kantorek's unrelenting pressure. He was one of the first to die, and his death was particularly horrible. With Behm's death, Paul and his classmates lost their innocent trust in figures of authority. Kantorek often...