The soldiers have supper nine kilometers from the front line. They are given double portions of food and tobacco, since after the last attack, eighty people returned from the battlefield instead of one hundred and fifty. For the first time the queue before “pishcheetom” lined up at lunch, after a night rest. It was the protagonist – nineteen-year-old Paul Boyer and his classmates: corporal Albert Kropp, who dreamed of passing exams in physics – Mueller Fifth and a lover of girls from brothels for officers – Leer. Following them were friends – the puny locksmith Tiaden, peatbog worker Heye Westhus, married peasant Detering, forty-year-old cunning Stanislav Katchinsky. The cook, who was nicknamed Tomato for a bard bald head, initially refused to give them
After dinner soldiers receive letters and newspapers. They read them in the restroom set on a picturesque meadow. There they play cards and chat. Friends receive a written greetings from their former class teacher, Kantorek. Paul remembers how, under his influence, they signed up for volunteers. The only one of the students who did not want to go to war, Josef Böhm, was killed first. The young man was wounded in the face, he lost consciousness and was deemed dead. When Joseph came to himself on the battlefield, no one could help him.
The soldiers are visiting Kemmerich’s field hospital. The doctors amputated his leg. The patient experiences because of the stolen hours and does not suspect that he will soon die. Muller decides to wait for his death to take high English boots of Kemmerich.
Paul reflects on how hard it is for them, young people, in the war. Unlike people of age, they do not have life attachments – they have no profession, no wives, no children. The protagonist remembers how he spent ten weeks studying military art: the commander of the ninth branch, the non-commissioned officer Himmelstos, forced the soldiers to perform unthinkable commands until they had no patience and they did not pour full buckets
Kemmerich understands that he is passing away. Paul tries to cheer up his friend. Kemmerich asks to give his shoes to Mueller. An hour later he dies.
In the company arrives replenishment of old-timers and very young. Katchinsky shares with one of the newly arrived beans and hints that in the future he will give her only for cigars or tobacco. Friends recall the barracks time of study, watch the air battle, reflect on why the war made of a simple postman Himmelstos – a buckler. Tiaden brings news that the non-commissioned officer in question is arriving at the front. Friends are waiting for Himmelstos coming from the tavern, throwing a bedding on him and beating him. The next morning the heroes leave for the front.
At the front, soldiers are sent to demining work. On the front line they go in the fog. The battlefield turns out to be colored by French missiles. After the end of the work the soldiers doze and wake up when the British begin to shell their positions. The young rookie hides under Paul’s armpit and puts it in his pants for fear. To the soldiers, terrible screams of wounded horses come. Animals are killed after the collection of people affected by the shelling.
At three o’clock in the morning soldiers leave from the front and fall under heavy fire. They hide in the cemetery. Paul crawls into the funnel from the shell and looks for shelter behind the coffin. The British are starting a gas attack. The shell lifts the coffin into the air, which falls on the hand of one of the recruits. Paul and Katchinsky want to kill a young soldier who was wounded in the hip to save his agonizing death, but they do not have time to do it and go after the stretcher.
In the barracks soldiers dream of what they will do after the war. Haye wants to spend a week in bed with a woman. He does not intend to return to peat bogs – he would like to be a non-commissioned officer and stay for a long-term service. Tiaden insults Khimmelshtos, who approached his friends. When the rivals diverge, the soldiers continue to dream of a peaceful life. Kropp believes that in the beginning you need to stay alive. Paul says that he would like to do something unthinkable. In the meantime Himmelstos picks up the office and clings to a verbal skirmish with Kropp. The platoon commander, Lieutenant Bertink, writes to Tiaden and Kropp the day of his arrest.
Katchinsky and Paul steal geese in the poultry house of one of the regiments. In the shed they fry one of the birds for a long time. Part of the hot soldiers refer to arrested comrades.
The offensive begins. The authorities are preparing for the fighters. coffins. Rats come to the front. They encroach on soldier’s bread. The soldiers arrange a hunt for evil creatures. A few days the soldiers are waiting for the attack. After the night shelling, the faces of the recruits turn green and they begin to vomit. The line of fire on the front is so dense that soldiers can not deliver food. Rats flee. Sitting in the dugout recruits begin to go crazy with fear. When the bombardment is over, the French are attacking. The Germans throw them grenades and retreat short dashes. Then he starts a counterattack. German soldiers reach the French positions. The authorities decide to bring them back. Retreating take with them French stew and butter.
Standing on the post, Paul remembers the summer evening in the cathedral, the old poplars rising above the creek. The soldier thinks that, having returned to his native places, he will never be able to feel in them the love he experienced before – the war made him indifferent to everything.
The day changes from day to day, attack – a counterattack. Before the trenches, the bodies of the dead are gathered. One of the wounded crashes into the ground for several days, but no one can find him. At the front in front of the soldiers fly butterflies. Rats do not bother them anymore – they eat corpses. The main losses are for those who do not know how to fight recruits.
At the next attack, Paul notices Himmelstos, who is trying to sit in the trench. The soldier strikes his former boss to the battlefield.
Old soldiers teach young art of survival. Haye Westhus tears his back. Thirty-two people return from the front line.
In the rear, Himmelstos offers friends the world. He supplies them with food from the officers’ mess hall, arranges outfits in the kitchen. Paul and Kropp look at the poster of the front theater, where a beautiful girl in a light dress and white shoes is depicted. At night, Paul, Kropp and Katchinsky crossed to the other side of the river to the French women. They bring bread and liver sausage to hungry women, and in return receive love.
Paul is given a vacation for seventeen days, then he must attend courses in one of the rear camps. The elder sister of Erna meets the hero’s house. Paul’s excitement can not hold back tears. He finds his mother in bed. She has cancer. The father constantly asks the hero about the war. A German teacher invites Paul to a cafe where one of the visitors tells the guy how to fight.
Paul sits in his room, looks at the books and waits for the joyful feeling of youth to return to him. Tired of futile expectations, the hero goes to the barracks to visit Mittelstedt. The latter commands the militiaman Kantorek, who once left him for the second year.
Paul shares his ration with his family – in the rear, almost no food left. Mother Kemmerich’s hero says that her son died quickly, from a shot in the heart. The night before his departure, Paul spends with his mother, who can not get away from her son’s bed. The hero regrets that he got a vacation.
Near the military camp is a camp of Russian prisoners of war. Paul sympathizes with good-natured, suffering bloody diarrhea farmers. He understands that the Germans with the Russians have become enemies on someone’s orders, which, with the same success, could turn them into friends. Before sending to the front Paul visits the father and sister. Mother of the hero is put in the hospital for surgery.
At the front, Paul finds his friends alive. Kaiser arranges a review of troops. Soldiers discuss the causes of the war and come to the conclusion that they are outside the sphere of life of ordinary people. Feeling uncomfortable because of the holiday, Paul is called to go to the reconnaissance. During the attack, he pretends to be dead, injures an enemy soldier who has fallen into his funnel and after a while helps him get drunk and bandage his wounds. At three o’clock the Frenchman dies. Paul realizes that he has deprived his brother’s life and promises to send money to the family of the printer he killed, Gerard Duval. In the evening, the hero breaks through to his own.
Soldiers guard the village. In it, they find a piglet and officer’s stores of food. All day they cook and eat, they sit all night with their trousers down in front of the dugout. So three weeks pass. When retreating, Kropp and Paul are wounded. The last one gets a splinter from his leg. The friends are sent home by an ambulance train. On the way at Kropp the temperature rises. Paul leaves the train with him. Friends are in the hospital of the Catholic monastery. A local physician sets up experiments to heal flat feet on wounded soldiers. Kroppu amputated his leg. Paul begins to walk. To the sick Lewandowski comes his wife. They make love right in the ward. In the summer, Paul is discharged. After a short vacation, he again goes to the front.
Detering runs home, seeing a cherry blossom. Müller dies from a lightning rocket that hit him in the stomach; Leer – from a wound in the thigh. In the summer of 1918 Kachinsky was killed, in October – Paul.