Biography of Erich Maria Remarque / Биография Эриха Мария Ремарка

Much of the literature written about World War I in the years following the war focused on heroism and patriotism. But author Erich Maria Remarque told a different story. World War I was a new kind of war, a war fought with modern military technology. Machine guns increased the firepower available to troops and sometimes thousands of soldiers died in a single day. Remarque exposed this harsh reality in a novel that changed many people’s attitudes about war. Remarque was born Erich Paul Remark in Osnabruck, Germany, in 1898. He was raised in a working-class Catholic family.

As a youth, Remarque didn’t show great interest in academics, but he did study briefly at the University of Munster. In 1916, when he turned 18, Remark was drafted into the German army and served on the western front in World War I, though not in the trenches. Remark’s mother, to whom he had been very close, died while he was in the army. He later took his mother’s middle name, Maria, as his own, and changed the spelling of his last name to Remarque in honor of his French ancestors. After the war ended Remarque worked a number of jobs, including teacher, sportswriter, and racecar driver. He also began writing a novel based on the war as he had seen it.

His novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, was published in 1929. The story was written from the perspective of a 19-year-old soldier. It showed the cruelty of the war and recounted the collapse of the German army. Because Remarque’s work was not patriotic, the book caused great controversy in Germany. Even so, it sold more than 1.2 million copies in its first year. It became an international success and was made into a movie. Suddenly, Remarque was famous. He was also very unpopular with Nazis, who considered All Quiet on the Western Front an insult to Germany.

When the movie premiered in Berlin in 1930, gangs of Nazis  disrupted the showing. When the Nazis came to power in 1932, Remarque moved to Switzerland. Within a year’s time, the Nazis had banned and publicly burned the book. In 1938 they took away Remarque’s German citizenship. The next year, the author moved to the United States. He wrote 10 more novels that focus on human relationships in the midst of social or political upheaval. However, All Quiet on the Western Front remains his best-known work. In 1947 Remarque became an American citizen. He married an actress and split his time between the United States and Switzerland. After World War II he was no longer an enemy to Germany and in 1967 he received West Germany’s Great Order of Merit. Remarque died in 1970 in Switzerland.

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