Alfred is criticized by a superior for hiding in a supply closet instead of following his work assignment. He is ordered to travel to the port to help load ships for evacuation, as the Soviet forces as well as American and English troops have closed in on the city of Gotenhafen, and villagers from the whole region are traveling north to the sea to escape the fighting.
Although Alfred’s job requires him to complete various tasks, and although he presents himself as a hero in his letters to Hannelore, in reality, Alfred is an ineffective, unproductive soldier, less interested in serving Germany than he is in making his own life more comfortable.
The officer ordering Alfred around calls him a “pathetic slug” when he doesn’t move quickly enough. Alfred immediately begins to compose another letter to Hannelore in his mind, telling her how good he looks in his uniform, and how he will soon be promoted.
This passage juxtaposes Alfred’s real life, where he is not valued or respected, with the fantasy world he presents to Hannelore, where he is highly regarded by his peers and superiors.