Alfred composes another mental letter to Hannelore in his head. He tells her how crowded it is getting at the port. He thinks German deserters may be hiding among the refugees. He writes, “I pity the man who cannot overcome his cowardice, who cannot step on the neck of his own weakness.” Alfred reveals he himself was not part of the Hitler Youth, who bullied him when he could not qualify. Now, however, he claims he is a man who has succeeded “where boys have failed.”
Alfred reveals that much of his insecurity comes from his earlier rejection from the Hitler Youth, a kind of Nazi Boy Scout troop that fed directly into the military. Although he eventually did join the military, it seems to be more out of a desire to prove that he is important than an actual desire to serve his country.
Alfred admits he might sound “hostile, but this is war,” a numbers game. Alfred shares his military number, 42089. He wonders if Hannelore has a number.
Alfred’s reference to a numbers game suggests that Hannelore might be in a Nazi camp, where inmates were famously tattooed with identification numbers.