Werner turns fourteen in May of 1940. By this time, the Hitler Youth are a powerful group across Germany. Werner fears the mines, where he’ll be sent to work in only a year. Only a few months ago, he’d dreamed of going to Berlin to study with Germany’s great scientists. Now he’s afraid that the Nazis will put him to hard labor for the rest of his life.
Werner’s ambitions are thwarted by the rise of Fascism, and it’s not hard to see why. The Third Reich (Nazi Germany) doesn’t want objective young men who idolize French scientists—it wants loyal, patriotic Germans who work hard and do as they’re told. Werner starts to realize that no matter what he does, he is still subject to forces larger and stronger than his own free will.