The protagonist is a teenage Polish boy named Jan. His entire world is turned upside down when his home village is destroyed in a battle. He is then adopted by a German artillery unit and the book follows his exploits on both the eastern and western fronts.
No Hero For the Kaiser contains examples of :
- Anyone Can Die: A recurring theme.
- Badass Normal: Jan is eventually viewed by practically everyone else as this.
- Banned in China: The book was banned in Nazi Germany.
- But Now I Must Go: The ending.
- Narm: Unfortunately yes. Comparing bullets killing people with "sneaky gnats"?
- Never Trust a Title: Not this one, or the current German one ("Der Junge, der seinen Geburtstag vergaß" - "The boy who forgot his birthday"). Talking about the original title here, which was actually "Der Schädel des Negerhäuptlings Makaua" - "The skull of the negro chief Makaua". (Yes, this book was written before political correctness had been invented.)
- War Is Hell: The entire point of the book.