Part 2, Chapters 1-3 Summary
For a while after Hanna leaves town, Michael looks for her everywhere he goes. He continues to yearn for her, and his brother says that at night he calls Hanna’s name. Michael is tortured by his feelings of guilt, and he changes his route to avoid passing by her former building. But slowly, he stops thinking of her every day, and she and their relationship become a solid memory.
Michael recalls that his last years of secondary school and his first years at university were happy and easy. He did not struggle with exams, made friends easily, and ended relationships without effort. He did not allow himself to get really involved in anything, and therefore, nothing shook or confused him. Even when he reconnected with Sophie who had been sick with tuberculosis for a few years, Michael slept with her without even being interested in pursuing a relationship with her and cared little when she burst into tears.
The next time that Michael sees Hanna is in a courtroom. Michael is in university for law and legal studies, and he is taking a course with a professor who is studying the Nazi past and the relating trials. During the seminar, the professor and students argue retroactive justice, and the professor says that the defendants in the upcoming trial will all deny that they had the dispensation to murder. The students in the seminar all considered themselves radical explorers of the injustices of the past, and they condemned their parents’ generation for taking part in such injustices or in the very least for tolerating wrongdoers among them.
Michael first attends the trial three days after it has begun, and he and a group of other students drive an hour to reach the courthouse. The defendants and their lawyers sit with their backs to the attendees, but as soon as Hanna’s name is called, Michael recognizes her. She answers the judge’s questions with simple responses, and then the judge questions her motivation for joining the SS. Hanna had been working at Siemens and was offered a job as a foreman, but instead she applied for a position with the SS. Hanna’s lawyer objects to the judge’s implication that Hanna had not been forced to join the SS. Later, the question of whether or not Hanna is a flight risk arises, and although her lawyer claims that she always registered her addresses with the police, the judge claims that she never responded to any of the summonses that were sent to her. Michael is jolted by this turn of events because he knows that if Hanna were to be set free then he would have to confront her, and he is happy to remain with Hanna as far removed from his life as possible.