Werner and his peers travel across the Russian front. None of the soldiers seem to take their loyalties to the Führer very seriously—they joke that the “true Aryan” is “as blonde as Hitler, as slim as Goering, and as tall as Goebbels.” Only Volkheimer insists that the soldiers stay disciplined.
The German soldiers have clearly become disillusioned with Nazi ideology and even patriotism in general—any glamour disappears in the face of the real horror and drudgery of war. Even looking at the Nazi leaders themselves, it becomes quickly obvious that the idea of Aryan superiority a myth.
One day, the soldiers monitor a transceiver, and Werner detects a signal. He realizes that there is a large, unusual “object” nearby. Volkheimer orders his soldiers to proceed on foot. They reach a house in the middle of the forest. Volkheimer leads the soldiers to attack the house—he tells Werner, the radio technician, to hang back. Werner hears loud shots, and then sees his fellow troops marching back. Volkheimer orders Werner to salvage any equipment in the house, and then orders the troops to burn the house. Werner steps into the house and sees dead Russian soldiers. He thinks of his life as a lover of science—starting when he listened to radio broadcasts. He thinks about his time with Jutta, and his education with Dr. Hauptmann. All this has led him to being a soldier for the German army.
Werner is no braver than he was a year ago, but he’s gained a new perspective on things, albeit a depressing perspective. Werner can now see the “arc” of his life, beginning with his love of science and ending with his being sentenced to fight in the army. Werner is feeling hopeless—he thinks he’s lost all control over his own life, and instead must carry out the orders of others. Werner now witnesses all sorts of atrocities—here, Russians (some of them civilians) are killed without warning—but doesn’t have the courage to run away from the army. Ironically, his hopelessness and despair keeps him fighting for Germany.