Werner proceeds with his field exercises. His commander is a cruel man named Bastian, who urges his students to think of themselves as one united body, fighting for the state. He asks one of the students to point to the weakest person in the group—the student points to a boy named Ernst. Bastian orders Ernst to run toward a faraway tree. He gives Ernst a head start, then orders the other boys to chase him down. Werner and his peers chase after Ernst. Ernst realizes that he desperately wants to catch Ernst—proving that he is strong and Ernst is weak. But just as he and his friends are about to catch Ernst, Ernst makes it to the tree.
In this important section, Werner begins to be seduced by the Fascist myths of violence and conflict. He gives in to his natural competitive instinct, and relishes the sensation of defeating a weaker opponent—Ernst. Fascism billed itself as a new kind of morality, in which the powerful made no apologies for their strength, and joyfully defeated all their opponents. It’s easy for Werner to get sucked into this mentality, especially when it’s what the crowd is doing, and opposing it would mean alienating himself as “weak.”