In 1944 again, Sergeant Major von Rumpel surveys the city of Saint-Malo with binoculars. Most of the city has been destroyed by bombing, though a few buildings, including “old Etienne’s house,” are still standing. Von Rumpel thinks about the strict orders he’s been given from his military superiors: any German soldier who runs away now will be executed as a deserter. Von Rumpel contemplates going to Etienne’s house as soon as he can manage.
We can sense from von Rumpel’s furtive manner that he’s not supposed to be looking for the diamond in Etienne’s house—he should be helping his fellow soldiers to fight the Allies or escape from the bombing. But von Rumpel is clearly following his own agenda now—German authority is breaking down, and he doesn’t care about his orders anymore.