In the first chapter, right away it is revealed that the book is told in first person point of view. The narrator, along with other men fighting in the war, is resting and is five miles away from the line of fighting. They had been fighting for the last fourteen days; one hundred fifty men went, but only eighty survived. He mentions how when they are fighting, they barely get any sleep and that the war wouldn’t be as bad if they had more time to rest. Certain charaters are then introduced: Albert Kropp, Müller, Leer, (and the narrator) Paul Baümer. They are all nineteen-year-old volunteers for the war and were from the same class. Additionally, there are Tjaden, Haie Westhus, Detering, and Stanislaus Katczinsky. During meal time, the cook had prepared food for 150 men, but when the cook realizes that only 80 remained after the rest died in battle, the second company is delighted to have more to eat.
On the way to the latrines, the narrator mentions how during war, they must make the most of what they have, and remember how they were unable to understand that at first when they were just recruits. He mentions how the latrines are in open air and they could spend hours there, reading newspapers and letters, playing cards, and chatting. It is then revealed that Kemmerich, a fellow soldier is in the hospital with a wound in his thigh.
One of the influences that contributed to the young men’s decisions to enlist was Kantorek, their schoolmaster who had given them long lectures encouraging them to join until they actually agreed to. Joseph Behm, who was a classmate that at first was hesitant to go but was later convinced, was one of the first ones to die. The narrator mentions that this is why the many that had persuaded them to enlist had disappointed them so much.
When they visit Kemmerich, he has not yet known that his leg had been amputated. His skin is a horrifying yellow and already they know that he is going to die. It is then decided...