It is January 1945, and Frau Elena, along with her orphans, is sent to work in a factory. They work hard and are given meager food. Jutta, who still lives with Elena, teaches the younger orphans how to read and write. She has horrible nightmares in which she sees the bodies of dead children. Throughout these months, Jutta remembers playing with Werner as a child.
The bond between Jutta and Werner at times seems almost supernatural. And yet here, we’re reminded that there is no automatic connection between family members. Jutta has no idea that Werner has just been killed—from her perspective, he still exists in her memories of childhood.
In the fall of 1944, Jutta had received a letter in which she was told that Werner was killed. As April 1945 begins, Jutta tries to move on with her life, protecting her orphans from the impending Russian invasion that threatens Berlin. The Russians invade in May. Three soldiers come to the factory. The narrator explains that each woman—Frau Elena, Jutta, and even some of the children—are forced to go into a room with each of the soldiers, and “offer moans.” After raping the German women, the Russian soldiers leave the factory.
This section is horrifying but also rather perfunctory, as if Doerr felt obligated to briefly include this part of history, and remind us that the Russians who invaded Berlin in 1945 were notoriously cruel to Germans. They thought of themselves as taking revenge for the battles at Leningrad—despite the fact that the women they were supposedly “punishing” had nothing to do with those battles. In reality, many Russian soldiers simply took advantage of the state of anarchy. This section also shows that Jutta has experienced her own trials and horrors even at home—she isn’t just an idealistic “conscience” for Werner, but a real person who feels and suffers.