Erich Paul Remark was born in Northern Germany on June 22nd 1898 in the town of Osnabr'ck. He used the name Erich Maria Remarque when ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ was published. The middle name of Maria was used in memory of his mother, and he changed the spelling of his surname in order to disassociate himself from his early writings.
Of course his first book was published in German, and it was called ‘Im
Westen Nichts Neues’ which literally translated means ‘Nothing New on the Western Front’.
Remarque was in his mid teens when the First World War broke out. He
had obtained his education from Catholic schools. He was called up for military service in November 1916 where he trained at the barracks situated in Osnabr'ck.
It is widely believed that the Caprivi Barracks in Osnabr'ck are the very same as the Klosterberg Barracks, described in the novel.
He was sent to the Western Front during the offensive on the Flanders fields
in July 1917, known by the allied forces as Passchendaele.
Remarque was wounded in this engagement and was taken to Duisburg Hospital. During this time his mother died and when Remarque recovered, he obtained a position as clerk in the hospital. He managed to see out the rest of the war without seeing further action, and he was part of the post war teacher training program, but he soon realized that this vocation did not suit him.
He had various jobs after the teaching position, one being as a stonecutter
in the cemetery of his home town.
This time inspired him to later write the novel entitled ‘The Black Obelisk’. For a time he wandered in a gypsy caravan around Germany until he obtained a position as a test driver for a Berlin tire company. This led to him writing articles for a Swiss automobile magazine. Remarque became more and more interested in automobiles, particularly racing and mechanical engineering, and this was to provide the basis of his novel ‘Heaven Knows No Favorites’.
In 1924, he secured a permanent position with a sporting magazine called
‘Sport Im Bild’ (Sport in Pictures), based in Berlin.
In 1925 he married a dancer, Jutta Zambona, but the marriage only lasted six
In 1928, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ was eventually published and
enjoyed immediate success.
Over 1 million copies were sold in the first year of publication, and it was soon translated into French and English, where it enjoyed equal popularity. Eventually, during the 1930’s, the book would be translated and published in twenty-five languages.
When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Remarque’s book about the First World
War was regarded as a betrayal of the German front line soldier. Remarque fled to Switzerland whilst at home in Germany, his books were burnt.
In 1938 the Nazi government withdrew his German citizenship.
During this time he remarried Jutta so that she too could flee from Germany, but it is widely believed they lived apart. They were eventually divorced in 1951 for the second time.
Remarque was great friends with Marlene Dietrich and she helped him get an
He left Europe on the last trans-Atlantic sailing of the Queen Mary before World War II. He was one of the important members of the New York and Hollywood socialites, rubbing shoulders with other famous European immigrants who had fled the fascist movements in Europe. Apart from Marlene, he was also seen in the company of Greta Garbo. Unfortunately, his sister remained behind in Germany and she was executed by the Nazis in 1943, supposedly for voicing defeatist comments, but also because she was the sister of the famous Erich Maria Remarque. She would have a street named after her in her home town of Osnabr'ck.
Remarque was granted American citizenship in 1947, but despite encouragement
from his friends, refused to reapply for his German citizenship, saying that it had been taken away from him illegally.
He returned to Switzerland in the late 1940’s where he was to spend the rest
of his life. He married the British actress Paulette Goddard in 1958.
Remarque never forgot his experiences in the trenches on the Western
Front. He had the constant physical reminders in that he always had respiratory problems. Much of his work is clearly influenced by his First World War experiences.
His major works include – ‘The Road Back’ 1931; ‘Three Comrades’ 1937;
‘Flotsam’ 1941; ‘Arch of Triumph’ 1946; ‘Spark of Life’ 1952; ‘A Time to Love and a Time to Die’ 1954; ‘The Black Obelisk’ 1957; ‘Heaven Has No Favorites’ 1961; and ‘Night in Lisbon’ 1964. ‘The Road Back’ is
considered as a sequel to ‘All Quiet’ in which the narrator is clearly Paul B'umer brought back
to life. ‘The Three Comrades’ deals with life in Germany between the two wars and ‘The Spark of Life’ are set in a concentration camp, and are also vividly portrayed.
The book ‘A Time to Love and a Time to Die’ deals with life on the Eastern Front in the early 1940’s.
Remarque died on September 25th 1970 of heart failure and was buried in Switzerland.