Werner is captured by French resistance fighters, about a mile south of Saint-Malo. He’s sent to a prison for Germans. Werner asks anyone who will listen about Marie-Laure, but no one has seen a blind teenage girl. In prison, Werner is sickly—he knows he needs to eat if he’s to live, but eating makes him feel like dying.
Werner’s one unambiguously good deed—saving Marie-Laure from von Rumpel—is now behind him, and in the eyes of the Allies at least, he is just another guilty German soldier. He returns to the feverish, guilty state he experienced in Russia.
One night in prison, Werner is rushed to the hospital. In his delirium, Werner thinks he can hear Volkheimer’s voice, and he imagines his father standing in front of him. Werner remembers building a tiny sailboat with Jutta, years ago. The sailboat sank, but he assured Jutta that they would make another one.
Werner seems to be reuniting with his family—just as Marie-Laure reunited with Etienne in the previous chapter—but only through a hallucination. Doerr makes no attempt to make his two stories “fair”—Werner is unlucky, and Marie-Laure is (relatively) lucky. Yet Doerr also implies that Werner’s hallucinated reunions might be just as “real” and valuable to him as if they had really, physically happened.
The chapter cuts to the perspective of an American guard at the prison. The guard sees a young German prisoner (Werner) walking out of the hospital toward the trees. The guard points a gun at the German and tells him to stop, but the German keeps walking. Before the prisoner can get far, he triggers a land mine that his own army had set there, three months before, and “disappears in a fountain of earth.”
Throughout the novel, Werner has been pained and even tortured by the Fascist German state—his fear of it, his duty to it, and his hatred of it. Here, at the end of his life, he’s destroyed by the thing that has controlled him: the German army. There’s a curiously scientific tone to the way Doerr describes Werner’s death—as if the particles in his body are returning to the same place they came from—the earth—to eventually be formed into coal, or perhaps a diamond. (Of course, this also alludes to the Christian “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”) It seems especially tragic that we see the death of one of the protagonists through the eyes of a nameless soldier—Doerr doesn’t even give us Werner’s last thoughts before the end.