Summary and Analysis
Part 8: The Word Shaker: The Collector
Alex Steiner goes to Vienna, Austria, where he mends clothing. Hans goes first to Stuttgart and then to Essen and is a member of the LSE — Luftwaffe Sondereinheit, the Air Raid Special Unit. This means that Hans must stay aboveground during the air raids, work to put out fires, aid those who are trapped and injured, and prop buildings up to keep them from collapsing. The worst part of his job is the people, those who emerge from the wreckage, calling out names and wailing over lifeless bodies. There are lots of corpses, and one man dies in Hans's arms. Another corpse is an 11- or 12-year-old boy. Hans and his fellow air raid officers run into a woman who is searching for a boy of that age. She yells out for Rudy, which makes Hans think of the Rudy on Himmel Street; then he thinks of everyone else on Himmel Street. He writes short letters home to say that he's fine.
Not only does this chapter illustrate the violence that epitomized the war, but it also shows Hans seeing many of the things that Death has been seeing. The image of Hans carrying a dead man is similar to how Death must carry the souls of so many. Also for Hans, words to send home are hard to find. There are no words to describe or explain what he is doing and the horrors he's seeing.