All Quiet on the Western Front Chapter 9
At the end of Paul's trip back to the front, he discovers that no one knows where his regiment is, and he must find it himself. As he searches, he asks about Kat and Albert, but no one has heard anything. He is forced to camp by himself for a few nights as he looks for his comrades. He finally finds some good information on them, but is told to wait until they return from the front in two more days to rejoin them.
When the men return, he finds Kat, Albert, Tjaden, and Muller. He feels uneasy around them, but doesn't know why. He gives them shares of his mother's potato-cakes and jam. Kat compliments him on his mother's cakes, and Paul feels close to crying. He is sad, but he feels that for the first time since before his leave, he is where he belongs. Rumors go around that they are being transferred to the Russian front. Inspections increase, and then they find out that the Kaiser is coming to review his troops. Much fuss goes on for the next week, until the important day that their leader visits them. On the big day, Paul is disappointed. The Kaiser seems less impressive than his pictures. They talk afterwards and Kat makes fun of Tjaden for being so impressed by the Kaiser. Albert and Paul argue about the war and who is right, since both sides believe that they are right and deserve to win. The comrades discuss war, and why war happens, but in the end, they find no good answer for the fighting.
On the way back to the front, they see a naked man hanging in a tree. Kat tells Paul it's because the man has been blown out of his clothes. Paul hasn't seen anything like it. They report the body to the stretcher-bearers and move on.
The men are sent out on patrol to scout out the enemy position. In front of them are "black troops," or men dressed in black uniforms that are hard to see. They move out beyond the trenches. A bomb goes off, and Paul is very frightened. He realizes that his leave has softened him, and that he is about to fall apart. He hears the voice of his mother and sees the Russians from the prison camp in his head. He stays on the ground and cannot convince himself to move. Finally, when he hears Kat's voice, his strength returns to him, and he can try to rejoin his comrades. On his way back to their trench, however, he gets lost in a field of shell-holes. A bombardment begins, and Paul is forced to take cover.
Paul stays in the shell-hole through the entire bombardment and German counter-attack. Suddenly, a man comes flying into the hole on top of him. Before he can think, Paul stabs the French solider with his knife. He has not killed the man, but wounded him severely. Paul cannot bring himself to finish the job, however, and is stuck in the hole waiting for the man to die. Paul tries to help him be comfortable, but there is not a lot he can do. He dresses the man's wounds and calls him Comrade.
After many more hours, the man dies. Paul, still stuck in the hole, closes the man's eyes and thinks of the man's wife. After a while he starts talking to the man, trying to explain why he killed him.
"'But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony--Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?'" Chapter 9, pg. 223
Paul goes through the man's wallet and finds pictures of his wife and daughter. He tries to read the letters he finds, but he can't read the French. Finally, he looks at the man's name--although he is scared that it will haunt him--and writes his address down.
Later, Paul calms down a bit. He is exhausted and hungry. The man's name isn't bothering him. He babbles promises to the body, but he knows he will not do anything for the dead man. As it gets dark, Paul prepares to leave the shell-hole. As he leaves, the dead man is forgotten. He sees someone moving on his wire, and he runs to it. He finds Kat and Albert with a stretcher, looking for him.
They return to the trench, where Paul tells them what happened. He doesn't mention the man he killed, but the next morning tells Albert and Kat. They comfort him, and eventually he begins to feel better, saying "War is war."