All Quiet on the Western Front

How did the assignment at the POW camp affect Paul's views on the war?

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Chapter please? 

its chapter 7 or 8


Paul comes to the realization that politics alone make the Russians his enemy: "A word of command has made these silent figures our enemies; a word of command might transform them into our friends." Paul's anti-nationalist thoughts are as explicit as they have been: he is not angry, necessarily, but logical and rational in his conclusion that powerful men have made these simple peasants enemies. Perhaps it is his calmness of thought that frightens him, since it is hard, nearly irrefutable proof that his country has betrayed him. He knows that he cannot afford to dwell on these thoughts now, but will think about them after the war; it is all that "will make life afterward worthy of these hideous years."

It is a great irony of the novel that such nationalism has transformed Paul into a humanist who can overlook boundaries of state and culture. Whereas the other soldiers exploit the Russians with trade, Paul's transactions are not material or greedy. He gives them the potato-cakes generously and, more importantly, he shares in their culture, watching their burial service and listening to the violinist. These scenes demonstrate a shared humanity that the war cannot divide, and are among the few times that Paul allows himself to feel.