Netflix’s ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ is a war movie that shows the brutal nature of war. It refrains from glorifying any aspect of death and war and focuses on the everyday struggles of the soldiers. The highlight of the story is the close bond between the protagonist, Paul, and his friends as they try to survive one battle after another. During this, they meet Stanislaus Katczinsky aka Kat, an older soldier who shows them how to survive in the trenches. Paul, especially, becomes his close friend as they steal stuff from French villages together and also make plans for the future. Most soldiers in the movie meet a tragic fate. What happens to Kat? Does he die? Let’s find out.
Does Kat Die in All Quiet on the Western Front?
Much like Paul’s every other friend, Kat does not survive the events of the film. While his other friends die in the heat of the battle, Kat’s death is set apart by the fact that he is nowhere near a battlefield when he is struck by the enemy’s bullet. His death is made all the more tragic by the fact that he dies mere days before the Armistice of November 11, 1918.
Away from the frontlines, we find Paul and Kat back in the village where they had spent their days in relative comfort. Because food was hard to come by, they would resort to stealing from a farmer in the nearby village. From time to time, they would sneak in and steal eggs or a goose. The angry farmer would shoot at them, only to miss and for them to go back to their station and share a good meal with their friends. Once again, Paul and Kat go back to the farmer’s place, but this time, instead of Kat, it’s Paul who is put in charge of the act. While stealing a few eggs, Paul is caught by a boy, who is most probably the farmer’s son. The boy locks Paul in and tells the farmer about it, who comes after the German soldier with a gun. After a little chase, Paul and Kat succeed in running away with the eggs.
They stop on the way when Kat goes into the forest to relieve himself. On turning around, he finds the boy from the village pointing a gun at him. He sustains a bullet wound when the boy shoots him, but it doesn’t seem like an injury he can’t recover from. He and Paul make their way back to the base on foot. When Kat collapses midway, Paul carries him, believing that he has fallen unconscious. Once they reach their destination, Paul finds a medic to help Kat, only to discover that his friend is dead. It looks like the bullet hit his liver, which further poisoned his organs, as indicated by the black blood flowing out of his wound. Had the bullet missed his organ, Kat could have been saved. But luck was not on his side, and tragically, he dies.
Why Does the French Boy Shoot Kat?
There are a lot of scenes in ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ that leave the audience with a bloody image of the war, but the image of the young French boy standing face to face with Kat and pointing a gun at him leaves a mark of its own. A soldier dying in the middle of a battle is understandable. But to have one die at the hands of a boy is a jarring thought, especially when their surroundings are devoid of any bloodshed.
To understand this scene, one has to consider a few things that happened since the beginning of the war. While most stories about war focus on legendary battles and the glorious deaths of soldiers, or the stories of surviving against all odds, barely any of them turn the narrative toward the civilians. Their suffering in times of war is rarely touched upon, which is why the crimes perpetrated against them usually stay in the backseat. Because Paul and Kat’s story takes place in France, here is a little something to know about the German invasion of French territories and how it affected the civilians.
Per investigations, conducted during and after the war, it was revealed that as soon as the German forces started their invasion, the crimes against the locals began. It is believed that civilians were executed en masse, and the villages were often pillaged by the soldiers. There have also been accounts of murder and rape, among other forms of violence. The killings were often justified by accusing the victim of attacking the soldier or being a sniper. The acts of violence were also a way for the soldiers to gloat about their invasion and show the locals that they were in charge now. There is also the instance where the soldiers used civilians as a human shield. Add all of this to the resentment that the locals already harbored for the Germans, especially if someone from their family was also serving in the war.
Considering this background, one can assume that the French boy felt a lot of hatred for German soldiers. They had already irked his family by stealing from them, and every time, the farmer would shoot at them and talk about killing them. This must have had an impact on the young boy, who, like Paul and other young German boys who wanted to do something for their country, would have wanted to do the same for France. Because he wasn’t old enough to enlist, he would have held on to the dream of fighting for the country and killing Germans. Because he couldn’t do that on the front, he jumped at the opportunity to do so close to home.