Werner is lonely as a child—while the other children play outside, Werner learns how to build radios, using as his model the radio he found. He finds the supplies he needs, such as wire and screws, and uses them to improve his radio, substituting one piece at a time. Werner shares his radio with the other orphans, and entertains the head of the orphanage, Frau Elena, with music and news reports. One day, the radio issues a broadcast about “the courage, confidence, and optimism” of the “German people.”
Here we’re introduced to a new aspect of the novel: the rise of Fascism in Germany (which ultimately led to WWII). Werner is living in Germany at the same time that Hitler was coming into power. Here Hitler is still relatively powerless, and so his message is more moderate, hidden beneath the veil of an almost corny patriotism. But because we know what is to come, even Hitler’s seemingly inane platitudes sound ominous.
One evening, Werner turns on his radio and shares it with the other orphans. It is 1936, and the radio broadcasts a state-sponsored play from Berlin, about a group of “hook-nosed” bankers and jewelers who cheat honest villagers out of their money and murder German children. The chapter ends, “Everyone is happy again.”
The anti-Semitism of German society is plain in this section. The disturbing part about this scene is that the radio play is just another “story”—like the stories that Werner tells Jutta, or the legend of the Sea of Flames—designed to help people make sense of the world. As a result of this racist story, German children grow up believing that the Jews are evil. These scenes also show how “science” is not always a positive force—Werner learns to fix radios as part of his innate curiosity and to educate himself, but radios can also be the vehicle for hateful ideas like these.