Does Werner Die In Netflix’s ‘All The Light We Cannot See’? Why Did He Join The Nazi?


Werner Pfennig probably had the most fascinating graph in All The Light We Cannot See, and we saw him going into uncharted territory, facing a hostile environment, and yet somehow managing to come out of it even stronger. Werner’s character has been slightly changed from how it was represented in Anthony Doerr’s novel, though we won’t deny that a lot of times we didn’t understand Shawn Levy’s intention behind changing a particular aspect of his life. But still, let’s try to understand how Werner kept his conscience untainted, how he did not become a part of the crowd, how he didn’t align with the majoritarian sensibilities, and why he chose to risk his life to save Marie in Saint Malo.

Spoiler Alert

Did Werner Join Nazi School?

Werner was a genius, as the sister of his orphanage had realized at a very early age. The boy could fix any radio or transmitter, and he could make a new one using spare parts. News of his work traveled fast, and very soon the German army came to know about his exceptional talent. Werner was like an unexplored gold mine, and the sister knew that very soon people would come for him, as in a country that is standing on the brink of war, finding and recruiting such exceptional minds to help their cause was the only way through which they could get leverage. A Gestapo came and took him to his house and made him repair his radio at gunpoint. The German officer was astonished to see how quickly Werner had repaired the device, and so after that, he took him to the National Political School of Education, as he wanted this gem he had found to be polished, if we have to put it mildly, and work for the cause of his nation. It is revealed in the series that Werner didn’t enroll himself in the Nazi school, but in the book, he made the decision all by himself. He grew up in a mining town, Zollverein, where the boys turning 15 had to work in the coal mines as per the laws of the Labor Ministry. But Werner had lost his father in one of those mines, whose body was never recovered from the site. The idea of working in the mines gave him claustrophobic nightmares, and therefore he was eagerly looking for an escape. Apparently, the National Political School of Education was the only way out, and therefore Werner enrolled in it, even against his sister Jutta’s wishes.

What Happens At The Nazi School?

Werner went through hell in that school. It was a weird place where, more than imparting skills and gaining knowledge, the focus lay in making these young students into barbarians who didn’t flinch an eye before killing anybody. The main agenda of this school was to somehow soak up all the kindness that was there inside any individual. They were taught to be ruthless and dedicated to the cause. They were asked to be selfless in their approach and loyal to the Fuhrer till their last breath. But Werner had also taken a vow that he was not going to let these savages change him, and so he held onto his beliefs. When days got tough and nights were devoid of any sleep and peace was nowhere to be found, he remembered Jutta’s sweet voice and also went back to the teachings of The Professor, whom he had admired so much his entire life.

The German forces wanted the students to leave their scientific temper and believe in the absurd ideologies that they were propagating. The craziest and scariest thing that happened with Werner was that a doctor at the school conducted tests on him to check if he belonged to the Aryan race or not. Werner that day would have been grateful for his genetics, as if he hadn’t had golden hair and blue eyes, he would have been sentenced to death. But Werner survived, and he didn’t let go of his ideologies till the very end. The torture, the brainwashing, and all the radicalization done by Hitler’s army weren’t able to make that boy into a demon. Nobody knew it, but that was the first time Werner registered a win against the German forces.

What happened when Werner met Etienne?

Werner’s superior had come to know that he was tuning into shortwave 13:10 every night and that he knew that a girl used to broadcast on it. It was a surreal feeling when Werner met The Professor, and the best thing was that he had expected him to be the exact same way. Werner was forced to locate the girl and then kill her, but at the very last moment, he turned against his superior, and he killed him on the spot. Etienne saw Werner doing that, and he realized he was on their side. Etienne took Werner to his hideout, and that’s where they both got to know about each other’s identities. Werner realized the moment he heard Etienne speak that he was The Professor, whom he had listened to his entire childhood on the radio. Etienne was having an argument with his peers, who wanted to kill Werner, and he was telling them he was not like everybody else. But just then, a bomb fell on their house, and Etienne lost his life due to it. In his last moments, Etienne told Werner to go and save Marie, as he knew that Sergeant Reinhold and other German soldiers would come for her.

Is Werner Pfennig dead or alive?

At the end of All the Light We Cannot See, Werner reached Marie’s house, and he entered into an altercation with Sergeant Reinhold Von Rumple. Marie came and shot the sergeant, ending the nightmare once and for all. Werner was infatuated with Marie, and he found her to be the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. It was decided that Werner would surrender to the American forces, and he eventually became a prisoner of war. Now the series leaves us on a hopeful note, where we do believe that one day Werner will reunite with Marie, and they will live happily ever after. But this is not what happened in Anthony Doerr’s novel, and Werner met his fateful end in a rather tragic and disheartening manner, something that we didn’t wish for him, at least after watching the series.

In the novel, Werner had been captured by the French Resistance, and he became a prisoner of war. His health deteriorated in the prisoner’s camp, and he became very weak over time. A time arrived when he was in such a bad state that IV fluids were given to him, but still there wasn’t any improvement in his condition. One day, he wandered off in the nearby field while getting hallucinations of his sister standing in front of him. Werner stepped on a German land mine that might have been planted there months before, and that’s how he met his fateful end. Probably Shawn Levy and his team wanted to end things on a more optimistic note, which is why they refrained from adapting the novel as it is and left it to the imagination of the viewers to think about where life would have led Werner Pfennig.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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