Alfred composes another letter to Hannelore in his head. He suspects she is thinking of him, just as he is thinking of her. He tells her that evacuation orders have finally been issued, and that “millions of people in this region of East Prussia will now flee to me for help.”
For once, Alfred’s fantasy and his reality will collide. He will truly be in charge of the lives of thousands of people as he helps them board ships that will transport them to safety.
He ominously remembers how he used to watch Hannelore through her window. It was as he watched her that “duty called and I made my decision.” He adds, defensively, “But really, my sweet, what choice did I have?”
Alfred will not reveal what his decision was until later in the novel, but here he hints that he was driven by, and committed to, some force greater than his love for Hannelore.