Chapter no 90 – Orders‌

All the Light We Cannot See

Werner is summoned by an eleven-year-old in full regalia to the commandant’s office. He waits on a wooden bench in a slowly building panic. They must suspect something. Maybe they have discovered some fact about his parentage that even he doesn’t know, something ruinous. He remembers when the lance corporal came through the door of Children’s House to escort him to Herr Siedler’s: the certainty that the instruments of the Reich could see through walls, through skin, into the very soul of each subject.

After several hours the commandant’s assistant calls him in and sets down his ballpoint and looks across his desk as though Werner is one among a vast series of trivial problems he must put right. “It has come to our attention, cadet, that your age has been recorded incorrectly.”


“You are eighteen years old. Not sixteen, as you have claimed.”

Werner puzzles. The absurdity is plain: he remains smaller than most of the fourteen-year-olds.

“Our former technical sciences professor, Dr. Hauptmann, has called our attention to the discrepancy. He has arranged that you will be sent to a special technology division of the Wehrmacht.”

“A division, sir?”

“You have been here under false pretenses.” His voice is oily and pleased; his chin is nonexistent. Out a window the school band practices a triumphal march. Werner watches a Nordic-looking boy stagger beneath the weight of a tuba.

“The commandant urged disciplinary action, but Dr. Hauptmann suggested that you would be eager to offer your skills to the Reich.” From behind his desk, the assistant produces a folded uniform—slate-gray, eagle on the breast, Litzen on the collar. Then a green-black coal-scuttle helmet, obviously too large.

The band blares, then stops. The band instructor screams names.

The commandant’s assistant says, “You are very lucky, cadet. To serve is an honor.”

“When, sir?”

“You’ll receive instructions within a fortnight. That is all.”

You'll Also Like