As the Nazis gain power, all young boys are required to sign up for membership in the Hitler Youth program. Werner is taught how to march in Nazi parades, and he learns to run fast. Everyone tells him that it’s important to fight for his country. In secret, however, Werner continues to study and listen to the radio. He teaches himself complex mathematics. One day, Frau Elena asks Werner to help her repair a neighbor’s radio. Werner is able to repair the radio easily, using his training. Before long, Werner has become the local expert on radio repairs.
For the time being, it seems that Werner’s intelligence and quick thinking will help him out of his life in the mines—he’ll be able to use his ingenuity to improve his lot in life. But based on the Prologue, we know that Werner will eventually be sent to fight in the German army. The Nazi rhetoric of national pride and aggression continues to grow more pervasive.
One day, Jutta tells Werner that a local woman has been kicked out of the pool for being half-Jewish. Jutta asks Werner if she and Werner are “half breeds,” too. Werner assures her that they’re fully German—they have no Jewish blood.
Werner has done well in the “genetic lottery”—he’s blonde and blue-eyed, meaning that he won’t be persecuted for his appearance or race as so many others will be. Werner will have to decide whether he himself subscribes to the Nazis’ belief that Jews are inferior or evil.
There is a boy named Hans Schilzer in the orphanage. He’s the oldest and strongest boy in the building, and he often quarrels with Frau Elena. He starts fistfights, and there are rumors that he burned a car. At times, Werner can hear Hans shouting at Frau Elena.
Again, the orphanage functions as a microcosm for Germany (just as Marie-Laure’s father makes literal microcosms—model cities—for Marie-Laure), and even the small world of the orphanage is rapidly becoming full of dangerous bullies like Hans.