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Baumer and his friends swagger like veterans as new recruits arrive. Katczinsky tells one of them that he is lucky to receive bread with turnips to eat rather than sawdust. Kat then produces a stew of beef and haricot beans for himself. He is a resourceful young man and a good organizer. No matter where he is, he always manages to find food and supplies, feats that always amaze his friends. As he watches a fight between a German and an Allied plane, Kat muses aloud that if all the men were given the same salaries and food, the war between Germany and the Allies would be over, for the leaders would want to go home. Kropp remarks that the ministers and generals of the two countries should be armed with clubs and sent into an arena to fight it out. The survivor would be declared the winner of the war.
Kropp comments that the more insignificant the person is in civilian life, the more bull headed he becomes as an officer in the army. Himmelstoss is used as an example; before the war, he was a lowly mailman. His small bit of military power has gone to his head. Tjaden announces that Himmelstoss has arrived at the front. The friends remember one dark night when they caught Himmelstoss, wrapped a blanket over his head, and beat him mercilessly; they were never caught or discovered. All the other soldiers in camp thought that they were heroes and praised their action.
Two key ideas are developed in this chapter: the importance of comradeship and the stupidity of war. The chapter begins as new recruits arrive in camp. Baumer and his friends act like veterans and tease the newcomers. Kat even taunts one of them with beef and bean stew. Somehow this resourceful soldier is always able to find extra food and supplies to share with his friends. The comradeship is also seen as the friends reminisce about the time they paid back their drillmaster, Himmelstoss, for all the cruelty he had inflicted. They caught him on a dark road, threw a blanket over him so they would not be seen, and then beat him up. Back in the barracks, they were welcomed as heroes.
The friends then discuss the stupid futility of war. They feel that the fighting is caused by greed for more land; dirt, then, becomes more important than human life. Kropp contends that fighting turns all men into beasts and claims that the less important a man was in civilian life, the more power-hungry and self-impressed he becomes in war. He also suggests that generals from both sides should be put in an arena with clubs to fight it out, instead of playing mind games with each other. The winner of this physical contest would be the winner of the war.
It is important to notice that, like Chapter 1, this is a relatively light chapter that actually includes a bit of humor. It serves as a bridge between the pain of Kimmerich's death in the last chapter and the deaths that are to come. In fact the first three chapters really serve as a mild introduction to the death and destruction of war. The next chapter will plunge right into the battle.