Haie Westhus in All Quiet on the Western Front

Instructor: Liz Breazeale
Erich Maria Remarque's novel ''All Quiet on the Western Front'' introduces the reader to a large number of characters, some of whom don't live for very long. In this lesson, learn about one of these ill-fated characters, Haie Westhus.

Who Is Haie Westhus?

Haie Westhus is an ill-fated young soldier in Erich Maria Remarque's famed anti-war novel All Quiet on the Western Front. The story follows a young German soldier as he tries to survive in the trenches of World War I. This controversial book was burned by the Nazis in the 1930s because of its truthful, grim portrayal of the war effort and trench warfare.

Haie comes from a lower class family and joins the army to avoid the manual labor he knows awaits him. He's described as being a burly guy with huge hands. He actually wants to stay on with the army after the war, something Paul, the narrator, and his friends, find insane. Unfortunately, Haie is never granted this wish, as he dies after being struck during an attack.

The novel depicts the brutality of trench warfare along the Western Front in WWI
Western Front

Haie as a Working Class German

As mentioned previously, Haie Westhus is a lower class young man, from a lower class family of laborers. You never find out a whole lot about Haie, but one thing you learn quickly is that he hates his life back home and doesn't want to return to it. Haie is a former peat digger who joins the army because he prefers the life of a soldier to the life he faces, one full of backbreaking manual labor. Peat is a type of compacted, decomposed vegetable matter that's usually found in boggy areas, and peat diggers dig up the peat so it can be used as fuel. It is terrible, hard work, so it's no wonder Haie wants to avoid it at all costs.

Haie as a Soldier

Haie isn't above a bit of mischief - he and the narrator even throw a bag over the head of their hated training camp leader and beat him up - although he dreams of staying in the army long enough to retire with a pension and become a village police officer. Haie is described as still being in love with civilian life, and he's one of the members of the unit who can't seem to put his old life behind him. That is, except for the peat digging parts of his old life.

Midway through the novel, the trench is attacked, bombarded with shells and mortar fire. Haie is hit by what appears to be shrapnel or bits of a shell in his back. The wound is horrible and is horrifyingly described as '...a great wound in his back through which the lung pulses at every breath.' Haie is carried off in immense pain and later perishes from the injury.

Artistic rendering of a peat digger
Peat digging

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