Harold Krebs and Paul Bäumer – two soldiers who fought in World War I. Harold from Solider’s home, who fought on the Allies’ side, USA. Paul from All quiet on the western front, who fought on the German side. Both had different experiences and still had the same results.
Bäumer did not like the war. Deep inside he was scared of dying:
All my efforts subside like froth into the one desire to be able just to stay lying there. My limbs are glued to the earth. I make a vain at-tempt;-they refuse to come away. I press myself down on the earth, I cannot go forward, I make up my mind to stay lying there. – p. 211, chapter 9 from AQOWF
He also went through a lot of loss. He saw dying every friend he had made in the army or before from school. Paul survived a lot of bombardments and attacks. He was young and did not know anything but war, he did not have anything else but war. When he came from war for a few days, he did not want to talk about it in any way. People, and mostly his dad, were asking Paul about details from the First front and Paul always answered in the most indirect way. His dad was eager to introduce Paul to his friends and asked him to wear his uniform. He found himself that he doesn’t belong to this community of people anymore and preferred to be alone. Paul did not want to make a big deal from it all. People would not understand and so he tried to talk in different ways.
Paul was not living just in his war life and was trying to talk to other people than from the army. For example to his old friend from school. They talked about everything new that happened to their old teachers and more. He went to Kemmerich’s mother to announce her son died and lied about how he died to make her feel better. His mother also wanted to know the detail about the front but Paul said that it’s not that bad and she should not worry. His mother had cancer, so it would not be good for her.
After all, he lived through, he was relieved when he died:
Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long; his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come. – last page of All quiet on the wstern front.
Krebs lived the war. He joined the war in 1917. The author did not talk about his experiences from all of the battles he survived but Krebs still enjoyed reading about war and wanted to talk about it. The problem was that no one was interested to listen to his stories. His dad was not interested at all and his mother asked just to feel like a good mother. He came six months after the war ended and lost his time to be a hero. There were a lot of lies and exaggerated stories and he didn’t like to lie and made up stories. There was no one that could understand him.
Harold lost the ability to love in the army. He liked the girls in his town but he didn’t love them. It was too complicated. He did not love his mother but still cared about her, or felt like he should care about her. He also liked his little sister. This “useful skill” of not loving made this war not so traumatizing for him but it changed his social life for a long time, maybe forever.
“Yes. Don’t you love your mother dear boy?”
“No,” Krebs said.
His mother looked at him across the table. Her eyes were shiny. She started crying.
“I don’t love anybody,” Krebs said. – p. 6 from SH
So in the end, they both suffered the same. They were not capable of making it back to normal life because society did not understand them.