All Quiet on the Western Front is a powerful account of World War I. Written by Erich Maria Remarque, a veteran of the first World War, the book was banned in Nazi Germany because it was believed to portray the Wehrmacht (German military forces) in a bad light.
The novel tells the story of Paul Baumer, a 19 year old soldier who is persuaded by his schoolmaster to join the army. He goes to the western front where he witnesses the horror and brutality of the war first hand and narrates the novel.
World War I was the first modern war. War previous to it had looked pretty by comparison- soldiers stabbed or shot, blood here and there. It was ugly, but not as ugly as a death by gassing, bombing, being crushed by a tank. The soldiers lived in the muck- the political leaders were corrupt and self-absorbed. There were food and clothing shortages to add to the horror of it all.
All Quiet on the Western Front is an anti-war novel, written by someone who had seen war first hand. It is one of the most engrossing social protest novels I have ever read: it shows you how bad things were and takes you with it, so you feel the indignation, the disgust and the sense of hopelessness that a soldier in those trenches might have felt.
Even though it was published in 1928 prior to the Nazi's regime, it posed a threat and was banned. In that highly nationalistic climate, they translated all anti-war sentiment into an attack on the soldiers themselves (sound familiar?).
The most important testimony to the power of this novel is it's universal popularity. In Britain and America, All Quiet on the Western Front became an award winning film in 1930. During World War I, the German soldiers were the enemies of the British and American soldiers- and yet, they relate to the book.
Which makes it a powerful success. No wonder the Nazis were afraid of it.