Erich Maria Remarque “Spark of Life”: a summary

Spark of life remark summary The novel “Spark of Life” is dedicated to the writer’s sister, Elfriede Scholz. Back in 1931, Remarque was forced to leave Germany. The writer was persecuted by the National Socialist Party that came to power. The new government deprived Remarque of German citizenship, which the writer was never able to restore. In 1933, Remarque’s books were banned in Germany.

Not being able to deal with the writer himself, the Nazis decided to “recoup” his sister. Elfrida had nothing to do with either politics or literature. She was a simple dressmaker. One of the clients slandered Elfrida before the Nazi authorities. In 1943, the woman was arrested. She was accused of trying to undermine the German defenses. Elfrida was sentenced to beheading. Remarque’s sister was executed in the fall of 1943. And in the late 1970s, one of the streets of Osnabrück, Elfrida’s hometown, was named after her.

History of creation

Remarque had never been in a concentration camp, so he could not rely on personal experience. The writer had to do a great job of collecting material. Archival documents and eyewitness accounts became the main source of information. Work on the novel dragged on significantly: Remarque fell into a deep depression by studying the evidence.

The concept of the novel was ready by 1944. However, the author began to work on the book only in 1946, after he became aware of the tragic death of his sister at the hands of the Nazis. The writer was well aware that it was unacceptable to touch on such topics, but this could not stop him. The Swiss publishing house Scherz refused Remarque. The contract with the writer was terminated. In early 1952, the novel was still published.

Reviews from critics

Reviews of Remarque’s new novel were mixed. The book was a success in the United States. German critics took the novel too coldly. In Germany, the book was appreciated only by former victims of concentration camps. In Remarque’s homeland, the novel was bought very poorly. In the Soviet Union, Spark of Life failed to pass the censorship. Soviet critics accused Remarque of drawing a parallel between fascism and communism. The novel was published in Russian only in 1992.


SummaryNeither the city nor the concentration camp referred to in the novel actually never existed. In the fictional city of Mellern, it is not difficult to recognize the features of Osnabrück, the city where the author was born. In order to describe the concentration camp as plausibly as possible, Remarque studied a huge amount of documentary evidence about Buchenwald.

On the pages of the novel appear terrible scenes from the life of the inhabitants of the concentration camp. The author strives to show a huge number of destinies of various people. The reader sees a Jewish girl raped by the Nazis and an eleven-year-old boy who spent most of his life within the walls of a concentration camp. The boy survived only because he did not disdain eating corpses. Some prisoners were tortured and tormented like Nazis. Others have not lost their moral character, no matter what. In addition, the author tells about the personal life of commandant Bruno Neubauer.

Character characteristics

Room 509

The author prefers to call the former editor of a liberal newspaper not by his first name, but simply 509. The former editor spent more than one year in the concentration camp. He suffered hunger, bullying, and humiliation from the Nazis. At the very beginning of the story, Remarque calls his hero a skeleton. Not only the 509th looked like this, but all the other prisoners.

In a miserable, skin-covered skeleton, it is difficult to recognize a person. This creature doesn’t even have a name. However, the former editor still managed to save the Man inside himself. The thirst for life and unshakable will saved him from death and loss of moral character. Unfortunately, the 509th did not have time to enjoy freedom: he died shortly before being released from the concentration camp.

Bruno Neubauer

Neubauer, unlike the 509th, represents a world opposite to the world of concentration camp prisoners. The author shows 2 faces of one person. On the one hand, Bruno Neubauer is a respectable father of a family. Like any good family man, Neubauer is interested in the well-being of his family. On the other hand, Bruno is a ruthless concentration camp commandant. Every day he watches the torture of people, among whom there are also someone’s children, husbands, wives, parents, brothers, and sisters.

Arc de Triomphe Remarque summaryAnother masterpiece of Erich Maria Remarque Another masterpiece of Erich Maria Remarque “Arc de Triomphe”, in which the author described the life of a German surgeon hiding from Nazi persecution in France on the eve of World War II.

The first work of the famous writer Erich Maria Remarque “Shelter of Dreams”, was written after the end of the First World War, although not recognized by German critics and readers.

The two faces of Neubauer are not opposed to each other. They smoothly transition from one to another. The boundary where one face ends and another begins is almost impossible to determine. The commandant feels the end of the Fuhrer’s empire is approaching. Neubauer does not sympathize with his victims and does not regret what he did. His only concern is to preserve his well-being and avoid responsibility for his crimes.

spark of life

Despite some figurativeness of the name, its meaning is more than understandable even to non-philosophical readers. The spark of life is what is still left in the concentration camp prisoners, who are more like corpses than living people. Everything was taken away from those who were here. The main thing that the prisoners were deprived of was their right to be human. The author invites readers to think about why some human beings can commit arbitrariness over others with impunity. The “wrong” nationality of one person does not give representatives of the “superior race” the right to exterminate him. However, this goes against common sense.

Fascist ideology does not recognize the equality of people. What can prisoners do to prove to the fascists that they are people too? They are exhausted, sick, and powerless. However, even being on the verge of life and death, the prisoners found a way. Only deeds show the Man in man. Some inhabitants of the concentration camp had time to harden. For the sake of a piece of bread and the opportunity to avoid punishment, they agree to betray the same unfortunate people as themselves. But those remained among the prisoners, for whom becoming cruel means becoming like their tormentors, sinking to their level. For these prisoners, it is much more terrible to stand on a par with fanatics than to die during torture. To allow the Human to be killed in oneself means to perish completely. That is why such prisoners try their best to help their neighbors, to share the last piece with them. This is the spark of life.

Dark tones in the novel

Perhaps some readers will accuse the author of excessive naturalism and pessimism. But Remarque should not be condemned for this. He lost his innocent sister, who died, in a sense, through his fault. The death of a loved one cannot inspire more cheerful creativity.

Remarque did not set himself the task of depicting the torture of prisoners as colorfully as possible. The author wanted to show how easy it is to turn from an ordinary citizen of his country into a cold-blooded professional killer, and how ridiculously one person can combine a craving for cruelty and a love of music. However, the spark still remains. Nothing could extinguish her. The spark seems small and insignificant, but it is she who is able to give rise to a real flame.

Facts from the biography of the writer 2 option

Remarque had to leave Germany in 1931. The main reason was the persecution by the ruling National Socialist Party, which came to power in those years. By this government, Remarque lost his German citizenship, which Remarque later managed to restore. In addition, in 1933 the writer’s books were not banned on the territory.

The Nazis decided to deal with sister Elfrida, who was a dressmaker and had nothing to do with literature or politics. According to a denunciation, the client woman was arrested for anti-Hitler and anti-war statements. The court charged the girl with attempting to undermine Germany’s defense capability. The guilt of the woman became recognized, and in the autumn of 1943, her sister was executed. The writer learned about the deceased sister only after the war ended. In 1978, one street in her hometown, Osnabrück, was named after Elfrida.

Camp leader

“Spark of Life” Remarque, readers became interested in this work. In parallel with the horrors of the concentration camp, the writer tells the reader about the personal life of commandant Bruno Neubauer. This SS Obersturmbannführer is occupied with thoughts of family problems. But at the same time, every day carefully performs its own ruthless work. Bruno Neubauer gets real pleasure when he watches how soldiers mock poor people. And this does not prevent such a person from being a loving father and husband. Bruno’s aspirations are aimed at the development and well-being of his own family. At the same time, he does not pay attention to the price at which these benefits are given to a man. Bruno is far from a stupid person. A man normally understands that the Nazi empire is on the verge of collapse. However, in this case, Bruno’s concerns concern only his own well-being. Neubauer regrets nothing. The main thing for Bruno is the desire to avoid punishment for his own cruel deeds.


This is a highly poignant piece that was described as intense pain and accompanied the inhuman existence of millions of prisoners in Nazi Germany’s concentration camps. Despite the monstrous conditions, people retained their love and passion for life and did not lose a sense of mutual assistance, support, and a strong desire to escape from this.

Summary Remarque Spark of Life for the reader’s diary

Remarque in the work “Spark of Life” talks about the terrible conditions of prisoners in a concentration camp. In this concentration camp lived people of different nationalities with their own hard fates, those people behaved each in their own way in such terrible living conditions.

The prisoners endured the ruthless torture and mockery of them hard, but there are also those people who, despite the terrible cruel attitude towards themselves, were able to preserve their own human qualities, while not losing their dignity, such people held there courageously to the end and fought each for themselves, betraying their comrades.

The author names one healed by a number without a name, this man who stayed behind the fascist walls for many years. Number five hundred and nine managed to survive the famine and cruelty of the Nazis, this man was saved by faith in freedom.

The prisoner strove to survive at any cost, and a strong will did not allow him to break his spirit. Number 509 is trying to support his cellmates by giving them hope for a speedy release. The writer also describes another hero of this novel named Bruno Neubauer. This man is a concentration camp commandant who diligently does his own hard work. Bruno daily liked to watch the prisoners who were mocked and humiliated by the Nazis, the commandant liked that these people were defenseless. Even such rigidity in the commandant did not interfere with being a loving family man. Bruno set himself goals for family well-being, while not focusing on exactly how he achieved such well-being. Bruno is a smart man, he only cares about his own well-being, the main character does not regret the crimes committed, for the commandant the main thing is not to be punished for his own cruel deeds.

When the war began in the city near the concentration camp, the prisoners with faith hoped for a speedy release, but for the release they need a commander who becomes a man at number five hundred nine, the man managed to refuse voluntary consent to medical experiments. The comrades saw in this prisoner a bold act and heroism and began to act faster. After the prisoners created a group, the guys began to look for money for weapons and food, they even found the opportunity to hide people useful to them in their own barracks. The prisoners wanted to leave the camp as soon as possible and, most importantly, to stay alive. The administration began to tighten the conditions for prisoners even more, as they foresaw the approach of the collapse, they began to arrange executions more often and stopped feeding people. The commanders sought to quickly kill more people and set fire to the barracks. Number 509 wanted to prevent the burning of living people, and began to go straight against these cruel Nazis. The 509th managed to inflict a mortal wound on the SS man while paying with his own life. The prisoners in the concentration camp were liberated by the Americans. People managed to maintain human qualities and soon returned to ordinary peaceful life.

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3 months ago

Extremely fascinated and at the same time shocked by the things described in this work, things that seem common there in the concentration camp, here and now are simply unacceptable. I am grateful to the author for such a detailed and cool analysis of the work. It so happened that he read the preface to the work and until that moment did not know that the author dedicated this work to his sister, who was killed by the Germans. It touched me, I’m just really upset about it right now….