With the onset of World War I, a group of students are egged on by their teacher and enlist in the German army. As seems to be the case with all wars, the young men march off in the belief that the war will be a short one and they will all soon be home, basking in the glory of victory and treated as heroes. Reality begins to set in at the training depot where their one-time amiable local postman is now their demanding training instructor. Soon shipped to the front, they face the daily challenge of surviving trench warfare and killing on a scale that they could never have imagined. All become disillusioned with their once great cause and many suffer from shell shock, severe wounds or simply are killed. One of them, Paul, manages to survive for several years at the front. After some leave at home after being wounded, he is dismayed to find that little has changed and his old professor is still encouraging his students to bask in the glories of war. Paul returns to the front for the last time.