Driven by the excitement of a great war and by the promise of glory, many German youth including Paul hurriedly sign up for service.
Paul and his squad which consists of Muller, Kat, Tjaden, Leer, and many more childhood friends are assigned to the reserve force stationed in France behind enemy lines. They spend most of the time relaxing and having a good time.
The quality and quantity of wartime rations are poor, which forced many soldiers to go on scavenger hunts to collect enough to eat.
Having completed their preparation, they are assigned to occupy the trenches for a day because of fears over a french attack. The shock of the artillery barrages and the use of chlorine gas shakes up the new recruits, and their hearts begin to harden.
Paul and his squad are bombarded by French artillery before the French army charges the trenches. They have to fight tooth and nail for survival, shooting wildly and without remorse. This is the first time Paul, Kat, and Muller killed someone.
Paul's NCO ( non-commissioned officer) orders him to get some rest back in Germany, to which Paul reluctantly agrees. Paul wanders through the town he grew up in and reminisces about his old life. He visits his parent's house and discovers that his mother is dying of cancer. His mother spends her ration stamps on new socks for Paul, which upsets him as she is very sick and needs to eat.
Paul feels alienated and out of place in his old town, and constantly daydreams about being in France with his squad mates. He feels as if no one understands him, and that his life is without worth. He no longer feels the desire to see his family, as his comrades have become his family.
Paul is allowed to return to the front and hurriedly boards a train bound for France. Upon arrival, he spares no time making his way to the trenches in search of hs squad mates. He is glad to learn that all of his buddies have survived his absence, which made them incredibly lucky compared to other squads.
Paul volunteers himself to the recon unit so the German army can map out enemy artillery positions. He sneaks out into no man's land in the dead of night and finds himself trapped there by British artillery fire. He quickly jumps into a shell hole and plays dead as the British and French soldiers charge past him at his comrades. While playing dead, a French soldier leaps into his shell hole seeking cover, and Paul strikes at him with his dagger. This is the first time Paul has fought hand to hand and is incredibly disturbed. He attempts to save his life, but it is too late.
Due to constant enemy barrages and attacks, Paul lays in the shell hole for two days, playing dead so that he isn't shot dead. Once the barrages cease, he makes his way across no man's land towards his trench, where he is rescued by Kat and Albert.
Paul and Albert were separated from their squad during a counter-attack and had to run through machine gun fire. Albert was hit in the leg while running away, and Paul suffered a shrapnel injury. They barely made it back to the trenches.
Paul and Albert are transferred to a Catholic hospital in Germany to be treated for their injuries. While in the hospital they meet many injured soldiers who fought in both France and Russia. Albert's leg is amputated, and he tells Paul that when he leaves the hospital he intends to kill himself. Upon being discharged, Albert is never heard from again.
The British launch a massive offensive which forces Paul and his squad to retreat from their trenches and take up positions in the rear trenches. They manage to successfully retake the trench but suffer enormous casualties, including Himmelstoss their NCO, and a number of paul's former classmates. Only 7 out of 120 remains.
Paul's company is selected to lead the attack against the French trenches, and this day marks the beginning of the end for Paul. While charging through no man's land, Paul's squad is decimated. Muller is shot dead, Leer is stabbed with a bayonet, Tjaden steps on a land mine, and Kat, Paul's best friend, was killed by a piece of shrapnel to the head. He dies in Paul's arms.
Paul is the only surviving member of his whole school. He lives every day bearing the images burned into his mind, of his dead childhood friends. He no longer feels emotion, he keeps to himself and seeps into a very dark place. He waits impatiently for the day he is killed, so he can finally rest.
Paul died on the 10th of October 1918. A day so quiet and still that the military report consisted of one sentence: All quiet on the western front.He had fallen forward and lay as if sleeping.Turning him over one would find that he did not suffer long; his eyes were calm as if glad the end had come.