For most of the novel Himmelstoss is the stereotypical military man who becomes a tyrant in his own small sphere on the basis of a little rank. He sports a waxed mustache and is, like Kantorek, physically undersized. A mail carrier in civilian life, he lets power go to his head. As the corporal in charge of basic training for recruits, he becomes a sadistic drillmaster known as the Terror of Klosterberg. He takes a special dislike to Paul and his friends, being sensitive enough to detect their quiet defiance, and earns the beating they give him one night after trapping him in a bedsheet. Later Himmelstoss is himself assigned to the front, to Paul\'s company.
Before his first battle, he is the same pompous strutter as always, but during the siege he falls into momentary shell shock. Paul snaps him out of it and Himmelstoss fights bravely, together with his former recruits, even rescuing a friend of Paul. He emerges from battle so changed that he uses his influence to slip Paul\'s group extra rations.