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218: All Quiet on the Western Front with Dr. Christopher Warren

All Quiet on the Western Front┬áhas been adapted to the screen multiple times since World War I veteran Erich Maria Remarque published his novel of the same name in 1929. Today we’ll learn about the newest adaptation that was released on Netflix on October 28, 2022. Helping us separate fact from fiction in the movie is Dr. Christopher Warren, who is the Vice President of Collections and Senior Curator at the National World War I Museum and Memorial.

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Transcript

Note: This transcript is automatically generated. There will be mistakes, so please don’t use them for quotes. It is provided for reference use to find things better in the audio.

00:02:42:23 – 00:03:10:11
Dan LeFebvre
Before we dive into some more details of the movie, I wanted to clarify something about the story. The movie that we’re talking about is new. But the story is not. It’s based on a novel from 1929, also called All Quiet on the Western Front. And in that book, we also see characters that we see in the movie. Paul, Albert, Kat, Tjaden, and so on. So we know the characters weren’t specifically made up for the movie, but do we know if the main characters were actually based on real people?

00:03:10:11 – 00:03:39:05
Dr. Christopher Warren
Erich Maria Remarque was a veteran of the First World War. He was conscripted into the German military when he was 18 years old in 1917, served on the Western Front, was wounded in places pretty badly by artillery fire, and was convalesced for the remainder of the war after he was injured in 1913 at a hospital in Germany. So the individuals that he’s talking about are not directly related to anyone he knew, but they’re kind of an amalgamation of the types of individuals he served.

00:03:39:29 – 00:03:56:21
Dr. Christopher Warren
And what I really think he’s trying to go for is to give you kind of an overview of the relationships. Soldiers really on all sides during the war experience, this horrific nature of trench warfare and what it was like on the western front.

00:03:57:02 – 00:04:14:03
Dan LeFebvre
Okay. So to feed that back, make sure I’m understanding is basically trying to kind of get a sense for what it was like, but not the sort of story that we see in the movie isn’t necessarily going to be this is exactly what happened to this one person throughout the war. It’s more just the overall experience for somebody who lived through it.

00:04:14:25 – 00:04:38:08
Dr. Christopher Warren
Right. Yeah. How you know, you as I’m sure we’ll talk about in Germany, especially how you signed up with your friends to go there. You see you served in the same regiment battalion unit how you had the old hand sergeant was trying to teach the new recruits how to serve on the Western Front and how many of many soldiers experienced not only, you know, danger to themselves, seeing friends injured until well.

00:04:38:13 – 00:05:00:13
Dan LeFebvre
At the beginning of the movie, there is a very moving sequence. We see a German soldier named Heinrich. He follows orders to climb to the top of the trenches and attack the enemy. We don’t see exactly what happens to him, but there’s the title of the movie. And then afterwards we can see just stacks of coffins being buried at three high dozens at a time in these huge graves before they’re buried, though, the soldiers are stripped of their clothes.

00:05:00:24 – 00:05:21:08
Dan LeFebvre
And then the clothes. The movie follows the clothes. They’re bundled up, sent back to where we see the uniforms being washed, mended and then reissued to new recruits. And that’s how we’re introduced to the main character, Paul. And he gets his new uniform, the one that Heinrich used to wear. Did they really reuse military uniforms in World War One like we see in the movie?

00:05:22:02 – 00:05:42:15
Dr. Christopher Warren
So going to give it a historian dance or something like it was certainly certainly did use reused uniforms that they took off wounded soldiers when they would go back, receive treatment, field, hospital and further back move their clothing and it wasn’t too damaged and reusable. They would clean them and mend them and reissue those from the wounded soldiers.

00:05:43:05 – 00:06:08:21
Dr. Christopher Warren
It’s less likely. Certainly I wouldn’t say it never happened. Less likely. They used uniforms for soldiers who were killed simply because of practical. Those soldiers actually in West Front, 60% from artillery fire, which would create, of course, destructive, was so destructive that it not only mangled these men, obliterated them, in some cases it had some serious damage on the uniforms as well.

00:06:08:21 – 00:06:30:16
Dr. Christopher Warren
In addition, especially on the western front against some of these uniforms from the dead could have had a residue of gas. Mustard gas still kind of buried. It have been much more difficult to reuse those. So I’m not going to say it never happened, but it was it’s less likely the uniforms that were used, but certainly uniforms that could be reused.

00:06:31:07 – 00:06:31:16
Dr. Christopher Warren
They did.

00:06:32:14 – 00:06:42:12
Dan LeFebvre
That makes sense specially with the artillery because I think when we see it in the in the movie, they’re they’re mending things, but they’re mending little poles like, you know, you’re assuming bullet holes and little things like that. And I mean, think about that.

00:06:42:29 – 00:07:12:10
Dr. Christopher Warren
But it is true, especially by 1917, 1918. And Germany, you know, they’re there because of the the British blockade. They’re running out of raw materials and food throughout Germany. So they were doing everything they possibly could to use different types of materials or save and recycle these things. For instance, for a machine to actually help the them set in machine guns, they went from using cutting it to using paper, which was because they were running out of time, which was pretty ingenious.

00:07:12:10 – 00:07:17:10
Dr. Christopher Warren
But of course, when the paper got wet, times didn’t work. Hmm.

00:07:18:15 – 00:07:39:11
Dan LeFebvre
You mentioned this earlier. I wanted to ask you about it because in the movie, we do see Paul and his friends excited to sign up for service in the spring of 1917. Paul is so excited he takes his father’s signature to get in because he’s too young to get in on his own. And then we see there’s a principal at the school congratulating all the recruits on becoming, as the movie puts it, the iron youth of Germany.

00:07:39:24 – 00:08:01:06
Dan LeFebvre
And he says that they’re going to go to the front lines where will pierce the enemy. And you will, in a few short weeks, finally march on Paris and everybody just cheers wildly at this. The impression that I got from this was they’re just a lot of pride and patriotism in the German youth wanting to fight for their country even years into the war in 1917.

00:08:01:06 – 00:08:15:13
Dan LeFebvre
They’re years into the war at this point. And of course, we’ll get to what happens when they find out what war is really like. But that sense of excitement that we see for Paul and his friends, is that a good depiction of what it was like for new recruits joining the German military in 1917?

00:08:16:12 – 00:08:44:12
Dr. Christopher Warren
Yes, you would think after three years of war, hundreds of thousands being killed, there wouldn’t be as much in Germany, but there was as opposed to France and England and Britain, because Germany, of course, their government controlled the messaging that was coming. There was no independent press at the time, especially in the three years War. They were telling reporters in the press exactly what to say about the war, and they were doing this in the best light they could, including getting schoolmasters and public speakers and cinema and everything.

00:08:44:12 – 00:09:07:20
Dr. Christopher Warren
Hugh They are still portraying that Germany was on the brink of victory. They would be in Paris in just a few months, which of course they had to that fortune. They’d be in Paris to be home by Christmas. So, yes, it’s absolutely a a correct depiction. You know, the German people, course, were hearing rumors and they had some of the grapevine that maybe everything wasn’t as rosy as the government was portraying.

00:09:08:03 – 00:09:25:29
Dr. Christopher Warren
But when you have no independent press, when you have no way of getting contrary message into your country, what is actually going on and how many men are being killed in the rhythmic nature of combat and what things are how things are going. Just this type of propaganda, this type the jazz and was definitely still there in 1972.

00:09:25:29 – 00:09:29:22
Dr. Christopher Warren
It would start changing, of course, in 1918. But I think it’s very true.

00:09:30:15 – 00:09:45:27
Dan LeFebvre
That’s interesting. You mentioned that that they were saying that even in 1914 that, oh, we’re going to be in Paris soon and, you know, a few years later, it still hasn’t happened. But they it’s still using the same lines that, you know, we’re almost there. We’re almost there.

00:09:46:26 – 00:10:05:13
Dr. Christopher Warren
But I just also add that a lot of depictions of the war, when we look back on it, we think by you know, some historians have argued by 1917, even late 1916, the German high command knew they were going to lose the war. And that’s not really true. Germany had some successes on the battlefield, and they still were, of course, older.

00:10:05:13 – 00:10:29:07
Dr. Christopher Warren
They’re the Western Front, still controlling major portion France and weren’t even writing about soil. And as you’ll see in 1918, the German military, the Germans have again truly believed that they still could have won this war. And I think it’s possible that some things have what differently? So it wasn’t complete propaganda. They weren’t just lying to the German people making stories when they knew was happened and competent.

00:10:29:07 – 00:10:49:28
Dr. Christopher Warren
They truly believed and it was true that Germany was still in a good shape to win the war in 1917, at least in early 1918, the spring of 1918, they had a very successful offensive campaign that eventually gets bogged down for lots of different reasons. But it was not a fait accompli this point in 1970 especially, that Germany was definitely going to lose this war.

00:10:49:28 – 00:11:05:10
Dan LeFebvre
You mentioned this earlier, so maybe you’ve already kind of answered my next question. But when we do see Paul and his friends arrive at the Western fronts, their movie mentions they’re part of the 78th Reserve Infantry Regiment in northern France. But there’s not a lot of context around what’s going on here. And earlier, you’re talking about the control of information.

00:11:05:17 – 00:11:25:18
Dan LeFebvre
And I wasn’t sure since the movie is kind of focusing on Paul and the smog of US soldiers around him, maybe that’s why we don’t get a bigger context of what’s going on in the war. But it seems like when Paul and these new recruits are joining the Western Front, they’re basically being thrown into this the middle of this conflict without really knowing the overall context.

00:11:25:18 – 00:11:27:12
Dan LeFebvre
Is that really what it was like for the new recruits then?

00:11:28:09 – 00:11:46:18
Dr. Christopher Warren
Absolutely. And, you know, this was not unique to the German military either. Training troops, specially conscripted troops. You’re training them to do a specific job in a specific place and not worry about the overall tactics or strategy or political environment that they’re moving into. You want them to be focused. You have to be trained to do what they’ve been trained to do.

00:11:46:27 – 00:12:15:10
Dr. Christopher Warren
So but but again, it goes back to Germany controlling the communication that the message is coming, what these troops being exposed to, even in, you know, French and the British Army and the Americans finally get involved. Soldiers are producing their own trench newspapers talking about things scuttle scuttlebutt and rumors, things like that. The German newspapers that the soldiers producing are much more tightly controlled.

00:12:15:16 – 00:12:36:28
Dr. Christopher Warren
You know, the American newspapers, the British newspapers, the British newspapers, they were controlled by censors as well. They couldn’t see too many things the way intelligence or positioning works, but the German ones were much more controlled, so they were even in their own internal trenches, papers and communication. They weren’t hearing what’s going on anywhere else. The only thing they’re hearing is Germany is progressing.

00:12:36:28 – 00:12:55:15
Dr. Christopher Warren
They’re doing well. Everything is going like it should be going. That’s what they’re hearing officially. But, you know, the as you see in the movie and reading the book, definitely pull many serpents. You know, it doesn’t matter what they’re hearing from German propaganda, they have a better understanding their sector for what’s truly other.

00:12:56:00 – 00:13:05:00
Dan LeFebvre
So can you share a little bit of kind of overall context since we can know more now, what were they walking into on the Western Front in 1970? Well.

00:13:05:12 – 00:13:28:24
Dr. Christopher Warren
In order to understand what they’re watching, you have to understand, like 1916, you have Verdun. So these were big German offensives and British offensive and was devastating to the Brits, the French and the Germans. So they lost hundreds of thousands. That’s after these two massive battle. The main battles, the Germans, they fall back to what they were in the Hindenburg line.

00:13:28:24 – 00:13:55:02
Dr. Christopher Warren
So it’s kind of a defensive fortification where they reduce their footprint on the British countryside on the battlefield. So they have sugar lines of communication. It’s kind of sold out. Your troops go in a real defensive posture. So for 1917, the Germans really are on the front foot attacking. They’re in the trenches being very defensive. The French were so devastated in 1917, they weren’t capable very much of an operation either.

00:13:55:03 – 00:14:18:15
Dr. Christopher Warren
They got other issues like that occurred as well. So they were having issues. So the British really took over in 1917, the main offensive force and they faced about a series of three battle. The French originally they fight with the bell so so they attack into the German lines tried to and then the British attack in Flanders up in Belgium as well.

00:14:18:25 – 00:14:53:12
Dr. Christopher Warren
And then there was a couple of other battles. So the allies are there attacking the Germans have retreated to this interior light. So the story, the movie in the book is very realistic in terms of what the German soldiers are experiencing on the problem. They’re being attacked constantly and in different sectors. Of course, in 1970 they’re having to deal with being defensive, not feel like they’re progressing anywhere, and they’re just trying to, as you see in the movie, they’re just trying, you know, wave after wave of attack and then counterattacking by the Germans to try to push the French, British back.

00:14:53:28 – 00:15:14:23
Dan LeFebvre
Okay. There was something I was going to ask you about because I noticed throughout the movie it just seemed it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of offensive from the German side. It most of what we see just seems like Paul’s in the trenches and the Germans are just trying to survive. You know, that night there’s artillery barrages that soldiers hide in the bunkers and then during the day, they’re collecting their dead comrades on the bodies and the dog tags.

00:15:14:23 – 00:15:27:10
Dan LeFebvre
And there’s even a line of dialog when Paul first meets Kandinsky that he just says, you know, no rest for the wicked. It’s the same every day. So that that would sounds like it’s a pretty accurate depiction of what trench warfare was like.

00:15:27:26 – 00:15:50:12
Dr. Christopher Warren
At that, right? Yeah, it’s very accurate in terms of you wouldn’t have seen much fighting during the day for the trenches because obviously you’re easier to pick out if you’re attacking during. So a lot of those attacks and either early in the morning at Esther or late at night excuse me, early morning dog dust or nighttime assaults. So that’s very accurate in terms of what they were doing during the day.

00:15:50:21 – 00:16:11:18
Dr. Christopher Warren
Yeah, like I said, the Germans were not Elise on the Western Front. We’re not in attack mode too much. In 1914, sporadic, small scale skirmishes and they were just trying to survive the the onslaught of the British and French. They also knew, of course, the German command in April 1817. The Americans, of course, were coming into the war.

00:16:11:18 – 00:16:39:09
Dr. Christopher Warren
Of course, the United States wouldn’t much of a rule in terms of manpower that stretched for many months and they didn’t do too much in 1970. They knew this onslaught of hundreds of millions of Americans were on their way. So they they were pretty smart in terms of pulling back, setting up a war realistic battle, consolidating their troops, shortening their lines and all those things you have to do if you’re going to be able to do it.

00:16:39:29 – 00:16:51:11
Dan LeFebvre
So at that point, did they start to change some of the information that’s going out like the the impression that they were going to be in Paris? Did they sounds like they at least high command. They started to realize that that’s not realistic.

00:16:52:08 – 00:17:14:06
Dr. Christopher Warren
Right? Well, you know, their defensive was in anticipation of launching a new and massive assistance. Okay. So the Germans are there kind of consulting other troops. They’re getting new recruits. I mean, in time, of course. But of course, as the troops are having, you know, maybe we’ll talk about this a little bit, just a minimal amount of training.

00:17:14:06 – 00:17:35:10
Dr. Christopher Warren
So they’re getting these raw recruits that don’t don’t have much idea of what they’re supposed to be doing or how to do it. But, you know, they’re not the German man is not driving. That’s the Hindenburg. I’m thinking, you know, the war’s over were training centers. So for an armistice, they’re still anticipating a 1918 going back and attacking.

00:17:35:26 – 00:17:57:09
Dr. Christopher Warren
And finally, now they have a plan to not to knock the British, separate the French and the British from each other, the two armies, not the British, out of the war so quickly to then concentrate French misses all before the American can really get organized. And they think it’ll take a year, 18 months for the Americans actually make any contribution.

00:17:57:18 – 00:18:05:05
Dr. Christopher Warren
Of course, the Americans get up much quicker than the general and just that’s their idea. They want to consolidate so they can then report spring of 1918.

00:18:05:15 – 00:18:23:05
Dan LeFebvre
Okay. Okay. You mentioned the training there. And that brings up a great point. Something else that we don’t see mentioned, we don’t really see many offensive, but we don’t see training like Paul and his friends are so excited to be recruits and they, you know, put on the uniform, mentioned that and there’s really no basic training or training that we see.

00:18:23:05 – 00:18:26:25
Dan LeFebvre
Does that mean that they pretty much were just shipped to the front without any training at all?

00:18:27:03 – 00:18:52:07
Dr. Christopher Warren
Yeah. So, you know, and starting in 1914, the training for drafted or conscripted troops is really as the years go on, it’s less and less less. They just don’t have the manpower, they don’t have the experience sergeants as the years go on as well, because they’re all being sent to the front what needed out there. So by 1917, 1918, the conscripted German troops are getting maybe a couple of weeks of basic rudimentary training.

00:18:52:12 – 00:19:13:01
Dr. Christopher Warren
Wow. But there’s a great portrayal. Towards the end of the movie, a young German soldier who Paul kind of becomes they don’t show too much of a little bit of a mentor towards this young German soldier. He’s the one that actually takes the identification desk, a whole body. And you can see that they do a good job of training this kit, having been completely clueless, having no idea what he’s supposed to do.

00:19:13:15 – 00:19:34:22
Dr. Christopher Warren
So that’s a pretty realistic portrayal of what the average German recruit by late 1917, early 1918, they’re now the Germans still have, you know, formidable men left in their army. They still have experienced troops. So it’s not all, but certainly when you’re grabbing from the, you know, the youngest portion of your society and giving them medical training, it’s not good fear for your chances.

00:19:34:22 – 00:19:52:05
Dan LeFebvre
I want to change gears for me, because in the movie we see the trenches themselves and I wanted to ask about those guys. That’s a big part of the warfare as well. In the German trenches, we see visuals of, you know, the look at they’re made of wood. They look deep enough for everyone to stand up and still have some space above them.

00:19:52:05 – 00:20:12:18
Dan LeFebvre
So the movie doesn’t I don’t remember it mentioning specifics of how tall it was. I’m guessing maybe, you know, eight feet or two and a half meters roughly. And then it rains and we see it. The bottom just fills up. There’s even some points where it’s almost looks like it up to their knees at some point. And right after Paul arrives one on one part, you know, they’re just picking up water with their helmet and just kind of bailing it out.

00:20:13:01 – 00:20:16:19
Dan LeFebvre
How well did the movie do depicting what the trenches themselves were like?

00:20:16:29 – 00:20:30:02
Dr. Christopher Warren
It did a great job. You know, trenches were, you know, on average like feet tall so that you could walk, you know, the average man or even a tall man to walk in their hand, covered over the top. You would step up firing and you could see that in the movie, the fire open, the top of the trench.

00:20:30:02 – 00:20:53:04
Dr. Christopher Warren
You know, these trenches were not uniform, certainly. In fact, the Germans, they built the best trench. They were, you know, in some places they were reinforced concrete. They had bunkers. They can it’s to you didn’t really see that in the movie itself. But the reason that was because the Germans, of course, when they attacked in France in 1914 and it turns kind of like trench warfare, they have no no intention of moving back to Germany.

00:20:53:09 – 00:21:20:23
Dr. Christopher Warren
They’re going to stay on British soil. So they built a very robust, reinforced and very in some places when they can very kind of advanced trench line. Whereas the French and the British, their trenches are much more ordinary, usually mud, maybe with somewhat better. That’s they do have some dugouts, but not reinforced concrete generally because the French and the British force, they have to get out of the church, push the Germans back to Germany, where the Germans don’t have to.

00:21:21:02 – 00:21:44:08
Dr. Christopher Warren
They can stay exactly where they are because they’re in French territory. So they take the time to really make these much more defensible because it’s much more habitable in many ways, too. They have in some of them, they have adversity on telegraph wire struck barracks, those types of things. So but it does, you know, no matter how well they made them, flooding was always a problem, especially in Flanders, because you are not very far.

00:21:44:09 – 00:22:13:06
Dr. Christopher Warren
Those trenches were never were a water table. So as soon as you ducked out, it was wet, voiced and fill up with rain and you all sides, you read stories about soldiers suffering in these trenches that are always slick with filth filled with lice, rats everywhere. And of course, the issue that comes with when you’re just, well, one of the main diseases that that occurred because of this was what they call trench fever that was contracted through or passed through lice.

00:22:13:06 – 00:22:33:08
Dr. Christopher Warren
And it would give you this trench fever would be debilitating fevers. You report up the line and you could also have a trench. That was also a big problem to your feet were constantly wet. They’re always submerged in water. At times you couldn’t get them dry. And that basically is where the skin brought up each after a while.

00:22:33:08 – 00:22:55:10
Dr. Christopher Warren
So they took great they they tried to do as best they could in terms of making men change their socks, using flip powder, trying to keep their feet dry. But with the rain and the flooding and everything in the trenches is very difficult. So they did a great job. There was there’s one quote from a think. It’s a British soldier who said, at least up in Flanders, there was the mud was anywhere from pure water to kind of dough.

00:22:55:10 – 00:23:02:14
Dr. Christopher Warren
Where you ready to bake? So just it was pretty horrific conditions no matter how well they made the trenches.

00:23:02:14 – 00:23:25:04
Dan LeFebvre
Wow. Wow. Yeah. I mean, that’s you’re then obviously fighting the enemy on the other side, but you’re also fighting against the elements. Do they normally take the soldiers out of the trenches and kind of let them to recover? Or was it only when they started to show signs of sickness that, okay, now you’re going to a medical facility, or was there kind of a common changing out?

00:23:25:12 – 00:23:45:13
Dr. Christopher Warren
So yeah, they absolutely took them out of the trenches. There is this kind of misunderstood concept and the movie kind of portrays that in a way where these soldiers or maybe the Germans or the allied countries were put in the trenches and never pulled out. They look there, that’s not really the case. You know, soldiers there was different levels of frontline trench.

00:23:45:26 – 00:24:02:27
Dr. Christopher Warren
There are reserved trenches. There are communication trenches on average and things were always depending on the situation. Soldiers would be kind of on the front line trench, maybe a couple of weeks at most. Then they’d be called back to reserve a trench so they could be pulled farther back. And they were always rotating these units in and out.

00:24:03:02 – 00:24:31:29
Dr. Christopher Warren
So it’s not like these soldiers were with, you know, a couple of specific exceptions. Most of the soldiers rotated through pretty frequently. It doesn’t make the conditions any any better, but they least knew that if they could survive the maximum two weeks, like I said, it’s always situation. And and there are instances there was some Portuguese troops that were put out on the line in the trenches for months because they didn’t have any have any soldiers to back them up or to pull them out, replace them with.

00:24:32:12 – 00:24:37:15
Dr. Christopher Warren
So that certainly happened. They were there for a long time. But on average, you know, they’re rotating these soldiers through as best they can.

00:24:37:18 – 00:24:50:06
Dan LeFebvre
Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, knowing that that’s something that they’re going to have to deal with, it sounds like, especially on the German side, you know, they they planned on the trenches a lot more, so. So it would make sense that they would have some sort of a system there.

00:24:50:11 – 00:24:50:27
Dr. Christopher Warren
Absolutely.

00:24:51:04 – 00:25:09:09
Dan LeFebvre
According to the movie, there’s a date, November 7th, 1918, and we’re at the Supreme Army Command. And there’s a mention of over 40,000 soldiers being killed in the last few weeks. Would the movie be right to suggest that the losses on the German side were that significant near the end of the war as Absolutely.

00:25:09:13 – 00:25:27:06
Dr. Christopher Warren
In fact, on the final day of the war on November 11th, between the time that they signed the armistice, which is, you know, early, I think it’s between five and 6 a.m. when it goes into effect in 11 eight, almost 3000 men are killed in that short six, five, six hour period. So they’re all side. It’s not just the Germans.

00:25:27:10 – 00:25:55:17
Dr. Christopher Warren
They’re fighting right up until November 11. And there’s a lot of reasons they get this. They weren’t sure the Germans were going to sign the this the armistice agreement. They wanted to position themselves to these military units. And also they want to position itself as best they could if they had to go back fighting. But also, there was a lot of, you know, officers who were in charge who took it upon themselves to kind of grab that last piece of glory to tell people back home that they were in the final battle of the war, that kind of thing.

00:25:55:17 – 00:26:15:09
Dr. Christopher Warren
So there was kind of an uproar, at least in the United States, to the war people, when they realized how many men were killed by final war, there was even congressional investigations. They looked into general urgings by the American expeditionary forces, his client, in terms of pushing his troops until November 11. Nothing ever came out of the investigation.

00:26:15:10 – 00:26:34:10
Dr. Christopher Warren
No one was culpable, but it was certainly very tragic. You know, and I should say the armistice was not a surprise. It had been kind of in the works. People knew about this, commanders about this. In general, towards the end of the war, there were places where opposing forces would kind of pull back and try to have a live in.

00:26:34:10 – 00:26:51:14
Dr. Christopher Warren
But I knew the war was coming to an end. No more frontal attacks. Just stay where you are. Don’t cause any problems of wait this thing out. But there was unfortunately too many instances where commanders on all sides were still trying to, you know, advance and come right up to the.

00:26:51:14 – 00:27:09:17
Dan LeFebvre
It was that the impression I got from the movie when they mentioned that amount of people, the impression I got was that was kind of the final straw as to why they were wanting peace. In the end, was it just because they were exhausted, just didn’t have the enough soldiers? Would that be the real reason?

00:27:10:01 – 00:27:28:16
Dr. Christopher Warren
Well, you know, the Germans, it’s kind of complicated in terms of first you have the first first thing you have to start with is their people are starving. The blockade had been done so well, the British Navy that families are writing to the troops in the front and we have food we to send you can you send us or these images?

00:27:28:16 – 00:27:34:00
Dan LeFebvre
You mentioned that in the movie they send some food and then it’s like, hey, do you have any money? I cats wife I think it was yeah yeah yeah.

00:27:34:07 – 00:27:58:23
Dr. Christopher Warren
We should got it out of control. They start like there and the Germans are running out of they’re not running out of man but the men they’re having to conscript are getting younger and younger with less threatened. So they’re much less effective. And also the Germans know that I think it says in the movie, I think the the politician at the end there, he says, quite right, there’s 250,000 Americans that are landing in France every day.

00:27:58:23 – 00:28:19:24
Dr. Christopher Warren
So they know there’s this huge onslaught that they could not possibly overcome. And the Americans in 1819 showed their mettle to be an effective fighting units, defeating a very experienced German. Yes. So it’s kind of like old warfare. It’s a combination of the political will was gone. The people were demanding an end to the war. The German people were starving.

00:28:20:20 – 00:28:35:12
Dr. Christopher Warren
The Kaiser abdicated the whites. Most of the military commanders knew the writing was on the wall, you know, had been for months, that there was no way for them to achieve anything. So it was that combination that really ended the war. Germans say.

00:28:35:20 – 00:28:55:27
Dan LeFebvre
Okay, okay. Well, that leads right into my next question. Something we see in the movie, it’s actually a plot point early on in the movie, but then it kind of comes back in at the end. That’s when you see Paul and Kat going to steal a goose to eat from a local farm. And you just get the impression, you know, they’re starving, they want food, so they’re okay with putting their lives at risk.

00:28:56:10 – 00:29:17:13
Dan LeFebvre
There’s a French farmers trying to shoot them as they’re just stealing the bird. And there’s even there is another part where we see the character France going off with some women as they walk by. First I thought he deserted them, but then he comes back later that night. The impression I got there was that German soldiers are starving.

00:29:17:13 – 00:29:29:26
Dan LeFebvre
The officers don’t really seem to be keeping a close eye on the men that they can almost leave and then come back. Was it common for the German soldiers at that point to loot local farms or just leave like we see in the movie?

00:29:29:29 – 00:29:45:17
Dr. Christopher Warren
Sure. Well, looting, definitely. I mean, that took part from the beginning of the war to the end of the war when they could supplement their food. And, of course, you know, fresh food like a goose is always going to be better than military ship. But you can see it was absolutely, absolutely accurate that the 1917, 1918, the German army is running out of food as well.

00:29:45:17 – 00:30:13:06
Dr. Christopher Warren
So you can imagine what people back in Germany are going through. If the German government can’t be the troops that are fighting, they certainly don’t have, you know, enough food possibly going up and trying to find anything from food to entertainment, I guess we could say war or anything of that sort was common. You know, it was common in all militaries during World War, while the commanders, the soldiers many times were, you know, they kind of push what they can get away with for a soldier to leave.

00:30:13:06 – 00:30:34:12
Dr. Christopher Warren
They left to go off for however long he was gone for the entire day or take it day and night with some French women. You know, that’s an indication I think he’s trying to portray that, which is true. By late 1917, 1918, the German officers, of course, just like the guys, the quality of officers, the training, those officers getting a very are very is very lax people are the troops as well.

00:30:34:12 – 00:30:57:00
Dr. Christopher Warren
They’re they’re exhausted by the war hearing as much. They’re just trying to survive and do whatever they can so that just discipline and morale is tell is going down in the German military, 1918 especially. So soldiers are able to get away with a lot of things. It would be much more difficult to do it and the punishments potentially were much harsher if you had deserted your post Britney or left to get food in some form.

00:30:57:15 – 00:31:13:11
Dan LeFebvre
Yeah, yeah. Definitely depression. I got I didn’t even think about, you know, we’re talking about the recruits not having as much training, but it’s only going to be a matter of time before that filters to the officers as well. And they’re just not going to be as experienced and able to hold the soldiers accountable for things.

00:31:13:15 – 00:31:30:27
Dr. Christopher Warren
Well, and another reason is because the officers, of course, in the first year of the war or, you know, trained German officers who had been in the military for years. And by the time you get to 1980, a lot of these officers, zero military training, they’re just put in because their maybe position in their town or village know someone.

00:31:30:27 – 00:31:35:25
Dr. Christopher Warren
So their experiences with military life and discipline are legitimate officers.

00:31:36:05 – 00:31:56:29
Dan LeFebvre
Previous you mentioned the gas earlier a little bit when you’re talking about the uniforms and there is a scene in the movie where we see Paul and a team of other soldiers are sent to look out for 60 new recruits that were a day late to show up. When they do find them, they’re all dead. Cat mentioned something about how they took off their gas masks too early.

00:31:57:15 – 00:32:11:14
Dan LeFebvre
It tells me they probably died, not because they didn’t have the means to withstand the chemical weapons, but they were just not trained properly on how to use their masks. Can you give a little more historical context around the effectiveness of gas and chemical weapons in the war?

00:32:11:24 – 00:32:33:13
Dr. Christopher Warren
Sure. You know what people think about when they usually think about what would you think? Trenches and gas warfare. And it is true that this was the first this was not the first use of chemical weapons in warfare. This was the first mass use of chemical weapons. So gas warfare, when it was first used, was very effective. They used everything from tear gas, chlorine gas to phosgene.

00:32:33:13 – 00:33:10:06
Dr. Christopher Warren
And then, of course, mustard gas, which most people probably, you know, heard something about incredibly effective initially. But chemical weapons are a type of weapon that you can develop countermeasures for, protect you from them. Unlike artillery shells or bullets, there is ways to survive a gas attack if that’s your use of gas. So as soon as this is one of those technological advancements, like those kind of hand in hand during war, soon as chemical weapons are used by the Germans and then by everybody on all side, including the American public in the race to develop better and better gas is on the original gas mask, of course, where soldiers were being told to urinate on

00:33:10:06 – 00:33:20:14
Dr. Christopher Warren
their handkerchiefs because the area would would help protect them in the Europe, protect them from glory. But eventually, of course, they get much, much more sophisticated.

00:33:20:21 – 00:33:21:08
Dan LeFebvre
I’d hope so.

00:33:22:03 – 00:33:51:09
Dr. Christopher Warren
Yes. Okay. Well, there are two alternatives. I’m sure it was better to have the handkerchief than the chlorine gas. So as more and more deadly gases are used as the the ways in which they’re used become more balanced and more tackler useful, the defenses are are keeping up at the same time. So a little over a million, maybe like 1.2 million casualties occur during a war because of gas, but only 90,000 or so are deaths.

00:33:51:10 – 00:34:16:05
Dr. Christopher Warren
So it’s a very small percentage are killed from gas, from chemical weapons. What gas become, it’s really a hindrance. They use it to reduce combat slip. It kills some soldiers. That’s great for the belligerent side, but it’s to suppress enemy defensive. So if you’re shelled with gas, mustard gas or chlorine acid or whatever, you’re having to put these SS on.

00:34:16:15 – 00:34:40:15
Dr. Christopher Warren
Difficult to see out of. It’s hard debris. It reduces your combat effectiveness substantially. So that’s what they kind of what that’s what they’re really used for larger barrages usually gas is to suppress those defenses in the trenches and everywhere else so they can’t immediately pop up. The artillery is completed and they’re showing their positions. And it’s also, of course, a psychological weapon.

00:34:40:19 – 00:35:06:13
Dr. Christopher Warren
There’s numerous accounts of soldiers on all sides. A lot of them eventually didn’t really think they were going to be killed by chemical weapons. But harassment, dread of hearing gas, gas, gas or seeing green mist. CORRIE Across the trenches really was affected psychologically. Probably the worst of all the chemical weapons was mustard gas. It was probably the most effective because the other ones you had to inhale actually you war.

00:35:06:13 – 00:35:28:24
Dr. Christopher Warren
If you guys lost any reason properly, you’re pretty much safe being injured. The mustard gas literally. Could you inhale it? It was very like an oily substance that when it got on your skin, it burns, it may chew blisters on your skin. So not only did you have to get a stone, you had to be covered and unlike other gases, it would stick around.

00:35:28:27 – 00:35:43:03
Dr. Christopher Warren
It was heavier than air, so it would float on its bottom. Show whole trenches. Stay there. It could last. It could be still be potent few days, weeks after it was launched. So it was a real harasser, dangerous themselves.

00:35:43:09 – 00:36:10:00
Dan LeFebvre
Wow. I can only imagine that in the trenches too, because we were talking about, you know, just the challenges with just water. But having that added on top of that, is it just another level? Well talked about a little bit here and there earlier with the armistice. But in the movie we see there’s a character we hadn’t really talked about much, Dan Grill’s character or his burger, and he’s part of a German coalition that we see arriving in France on November eight, 1918.

00:36:10:24 – 00:36:32:10
Dan LeFebvre
They’re meeting with the French to try to find peace. But the French in the movie, they’re just not up for any negotiation. They give their demands, basically give the Germans 72 hours to take it or leave it. And the fighting is going to continue during those 72 hours, according to the movie, things seem to be pretty desperate. He does mention like like you talked about earlier, you know, the 250,000 Americans landing in Europe.

00:36:32:12 – 00:36:50:14
Dan LeFebvre
But then again, as you mentioned, the Kaiser abdicates. We hear that in the movie and Hindenburg urges the coalition to sign. So they do. And then the French say the war is going to end. 6 hours later, the 11th hour, the 11th day of the 11th month. Is that an accurate way of depicting how the armistice was actually signed?

00:36:51:16 – 00:37:11:11
Dr. Christopher Warren
Yeah, actually it is. I think it was a rendezvous, an end in a forest and train cars accurately predicted different versions there in the history. He was only there twice, which I think was kind of portrayed in the movie at the very beginning as the German one and the very end of the negotiation to tell them to sign.

00:37:11:16 – 00:37:32:23
Dr. Christopher Warren
And so there was. Yeah, and there was this is where. So the German politician, the Social Democratic Party at that point had taken over de facto control of the German government. So you see that in politicians are there, but then you also see the individual who’s the military commander as well. Military. He’s less willing to sign these very draconian.

00:37:33:00 – 00:37:54:18
Dr. Christopher Warren
Really, it’s surrender terms. They’re not called that, but it’s what it is. And the politicians, they know what’s going on. They know that this war is over. Many of the military commanders want to keep fighting because, again, the Germans are still in France. It’s not like the allied armies that push them back to Berlin, like in World War Two and, you know, completely devastated the German country.

00:37:54:18 – 00:38:14:15
Dr. Christopher Warren
And the German military there wanted to keep fighting, but the politicians wisely recognized that this war is over and there’s no way we can win it. So the armistice signed in Sochi is a train car. This is the same train car that Hitler demands. Or has the French leadership signed the terms of surrender in World War Two, part of the war?

00:38:14:15 – 00:38:16:15
Dan LeFebvre
And I’m sure that was not a coincidence.

00:38:16:27 – 00:38:40:16
Dr. Christopher Warren
Not a coincidence. Yeah. So it was it was actually accurately portrayed and they even portray you can see in the movie between the politicians, the German politicians, their German military representative, you can see the beginnings of kind of the stabbing that occurs. Germany. Sure. The war, the military who are allowed to march back. These are the commanders of the military.

00:38:40:27 – 00:39:04:24
Dr. Christopher Warren
They start betraying that they were not on the battlefield, that it was the Social Democratic Party of the politic politicians who turned their back on Germany, on the German military. They were the one that stabbed him in the back. This, of course, would be used as propaganda for the National Socialist Party. Sure, he turns it even more nefarious is blaming Jewish people, things of that sort.

00:39:05:20 – 00:39:17:10
Dr. Christopher Warren
Yeah, it was I think I think that portion of it was very nicely done by the filmmaker, too. Even if you don’t know the total history, you know a little bit more. There’s a lot of nuance in those on the rail car.

00:39:17:17 – 00:39:35:01
Dan LeFebvre
Hmm. You mentioned you mentioned we don’t see this, of course, at all in the movie with Hitler there and, you know, World War Two. And having those terms signed for the surrender of France in World War Two, would it be correct then to assume that this armistice played a part in World War Two even happening?

00:39:35:15 – 00:40:09:17
Dr. Christopher Warren
Oh, of course. Yes. World War Two is really just a continuation of World War One. After a few years. You know, I was watching this with some friends and they were asking this movie and they’re asking me why? Because we know the history. You know, that it really did draconian. Punishment put on Germany what one creates the cultural, social and political conditions for eventually the rise of the Nazi war to right we know that history and my friends ask me why did the French insist and the British such and such no negotiations so draconian terms then?

00:40:09:17 – 00:40:38:06
Dr. Christopher Warren
Well, look, you know, they they had been invaded the French, they had lost millions of men. A generation had been wiped out. They didn’t know what was going to happen. They just they wanted to mete out punishment on an historic enemy who had again defeated the French military in the Franco-Prussian War in the 1870s. This was a long running threat from Germany to the French people, so they were just trying to ensure that Germany would never be a military power again, so that France and perhaps to make this sacrifice future.

00:40:38:06 – 00:40:58:24
Dr. Christopher Warren
So yeah, it you know, there’s been a lot of there’s there’s literature galore people can read about how the links how the signing the armistice treaty was signed, how that created the conditions in Germany war on, you know, the destruction of their economy looking for a strong man to come and lead them out of poverty, rebuild the military.

00:40:58:24 – 00:41:13:29
Dr. Christopher Warren
German national, etc., etc.. So absolutely, it’s not so much I always argue that all one created the conditions, it’s that it was just the armistice. And looking back on it, it’s almost predictable. Something like that would have happened or that another conflict would have broken out.

00:41:14:14 – 00:41:45:22
Dan LeFebvre
It’s fascinating that you mentioned that they were trying to make sure that Germany wouldn’t be a military power again. And the exact opposite. I mean, again, we know from history, you know, they couldn’t have predicted exactly what happened, I’m sure. But something else that you of touched on earlier that we see at the very end of the movie is when we see the German general, Friedrich, he refuses to lay down arms in those 6 hours between the armistice being signed and the cease fire going into effect, he orders this attack on the French, which they do.

00:41:45:22 – 00:42:08:15
Dan LeFebvre
And this is when we see Paul being a part of that attack. He asks what time it is and it’s 1045. So, you know, 15 minutes before the fighting just comes so close to 11 a.m. that we see Paul being dealt a fatal bayonet blow. Just what seems like seconds before the cease fire is sounded, everyone stops fighting.

00:42:08:15 – 00:42:24:01
Dan LeFebvre
He’s still alive when he stumbles upstairs from the bunker. He was in fighting where he got stabbed. And then he’s in the sunlight before he dies. Was the movie B correct to show this literal, literal, last minute, last second fighting that we see happening in the movie, being ordered by General Friedrichs?

00:42:25:04 – 00:42:29:23
Dr. Christopher Warren
So. Well, first of all, he’s not a real character and he’s not actually even in the original, though.

00:42:30:10 – 00:42:30:19
Dan LeFebvre
Okay.

00:42:31:08 – 00:42:52:00
Dr. Christopher Warren
So it’s true that that units on all sides were fighting right up to the last minute. Lots of units that kind of, like I said, pulled back, decided they weren’t going to take each other. But there were some that kept fighting commanders trying to position their units, grab some worry, yet that type of thing. So that absolutely happened to my knowledge.

00:42:52:06 – 00:43:30:26
Dr. Christopher Warren
There wasn’t any German or any other offensives that occurred that were supposed to start within that close to the end of the war. 15 minutes, I think that’s a little dramatic. Interjection. So that’s a little bit probably not quite, but certainly they were fighting a threat to the last minute there. And, you know, I didn’t as a historian, that was a little bit, you know, a historical but I didn’t have a problem with that because I understood what the filmmaker was trying to do in terms of you notice that when the commander says, we’re going to keep fighting, there’s some German soldiers who protest and they dragged him off and they shoot him against a

00:43:30:26 – 00:43:56:09
Dr. Christopher Warren
building. Paul doesn’t even react. He you know, he’s being portrayed as he’s so worn out, he doesn’t care. It doesn’t even influence whether he lives or dies in that white. So he’s not mad, sad, anything. The despair, desperation and just his soul has been crushed. So I understand why they were trying to do that, because that was absolutely what soldiers and also it’s how they felt by the end.

00:43:56:27 – 00:44:10:14
Dan LeFebvre
Wow. Wow. Well, if you were to take a look at the movie kind of overall, how well do you think it did just transporting us back to the the sights and the sounds? We talked a little bit about the trenches, but just kind of overall, did it do a good job taking us back in time to World War One?

00:44:11:05 – 00:44:39:03
Dr. Christopher Warren
I think so. You know, as a historian, you can quibble with little pieces here and there, but it’s not a documentary. And I think it portrays very honestly the condition of the had been had to live through. Like I said before, you know, they weren’t necessarily in those trenches for months and months and months at a time. But that doesn’t mean when they were in there, the conditions, the constant fear of artillery fire and gas and disease and rats and oppressive mud.

00:44:39:22 – 00:44:57:07
Dr. Christopher Warren
What these men went through, I think, was portrayed by the filmmaker. I think I think Eric or Maria or Mark. What would be pleased with the portrayal of his books in this movie, even though it didn’t everything in match up exactly like the book. So I think it gave a really good overview of it. You know what’s great?

00:44:57:09 – 00:45:22:09
Dr. Christopher Warren
What great? What is so meaningful in this movie as well as the book, why it’s been so universal is because this was not just a German story. You could put a uniform on pull of any of the budgets and many of them are going through the same. So it’s not a story about right wrongs making judgments. It’s just showing the experiences of these men, what it did to them at the young age of 81 zero.

00:45:22:10 – 00:45:24:23
Dr. Christopher Warren
How how these men dealt with that or what didn’t.

00:45:25:11 – 00:45:34:21
Dan LeFebvre
Wow. Yeah. Was there anything in the movie as you were watching it, that stood out to you as just not being a good depiction, not being accurate?

00:45:34:21 – 00:45:51:20
Dr. Christopher Warren
You know, I guess I could quibble over a few little things here and there, but I’m not going to. The only thing that kind of struck me as a little bit odd, as you see when Paul and his German comrades are in the French trench area, after he gets trapped and the war ends, everybody is kind of the war’s over.

00:45:52:02 – 00:46:10:28
Dr. Christopher Warren
Then you see Germans and and Frenchmen who 3 seconds ago had been trying to kill each other, just walking right past each other with no looks on their faces, anything like that. That’s kind of inaccurate because you wouldn’t have really had, in most cases, Germans in a French trench right at the end of the war or vice versa.

00:46:11:11 – 00:46:24:18
Dr. Christopher Warren
And you certainly about it happened. I doubt if they would have just said, all right, we’re done. We’re just what what by each other and not even, you know, have any interaction whatsoever so that, you know. But then I quibbling.

00:46:24:28 – 00:46:34:21
Dan LeFebvre
Yeah. Yeah. Well, like you’re saying, I mean the offensive not necessarily happening. I mean, you kind of back yourself into a corner how you know when when you have that sort of thing. Sure.

00:46:35:18 – 00:46:51:04
Dr. Christopher Warren
Yeah. You know, other than that, I thought it was it was an excellent movie. It certainly did not sugarcoat war warfare. It didn’t make it work. He didn’t it wasn’t glorified or make it look anything other than warfare. It is brutality.

00:46:51:09 – 00:47:04:04
Dan LeFebvre
I horrific but thank you so much for coming on to chat about All Quiet on the Western Front. Can you share a bit of information about the National World War One museum and Memorial and where someone listening can learn more or implant their own visit?

00:47:05:05 – 00:47:26:03
Dr. Christopher Warren
Sure. Well, so we’re we are the National World War Museum and Memorial. We were designated by Congress in 2000 for as the nation’s special over one museum in the United States. Please go to our website at the World War Two org and you can get all kinds of information on where in Kansas, in Missouri, we’ve been collecting artifacts since 1920.

00:47:26:21 – 00:47:50:24
Dr. Christopher Warren
So what’s unique about our museum may be one of the most unique in the world is that we collect from all the major nations, not just the United States Force, not just the allies. We have an extensive collection, over 300,000 items. We have all kinds of exhibits going on. We just opened one called Captured that talks about the experiences of prisoners of war, and one we have digital exhibits online, so please go to our website again.

00:47:51:06 – 00:48:16:09
Dr. Christopher Warren
The World War II work and yeah and you can you can read all about our history and how we came to be just really quickly. We, like I said, we’ve been collecting since 1920 and actually our museum or its predecessor has been around since 1918, 1919 oh. People here at city came together, raised two and a half million dollars, just $35 million in ten days to create a monument to those who served and died.

00:48:17:19 – 00:48:41:12
Dr. Christopher Warren
It was groundbreaking was the 1921 and all of the allied commanders were there could including Pershing and Boesch. And in 1926 the memorial site was completed that was dedicated by a prisoner, Calvin Coolidge. So we have a wonderful museum where it did our activities as we speak. We did a whole gallery refresh. So please go online and check us out.

00:48:41:12 – 00:48:50:02
Dr. Christopher Warren
And if you’re in Kansas City, please stop by and explore the history and how its enduring impact on our world today.

00:48:50:18 – 00:48:55:17
Dan LeFebvre
I’ll make sure to add those links to the challenge for this episode as well. Thank you again so much for your time, Christopher.

00:48:56:12 – 00:49:06:25
Dr. Christopher Warren
My pleasure. Thank you.

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