Prior to the war, Ernst worked for a construction company as a civil engineer and was involved in the building of the German Autobahn. After joining the Army at the age of 36 in 1940, he was able to impress his superiors with his managerial experience and quickly moved up in the ranks. As the war spread to the Eastern Front in Russia, Ernst viewed the conflict from a logistical standpoint, immediately realizing that the German Army could not compete once Russian industrial capability was mobilized.
Although Ernst was never a firm believer in his country’s ultimate victory, he still maintained that he could make a difference as a squad leader by bringing as many of his men home alive as possible. As those under his command were repeatedly put in situations where the odds were impossible to overcome, he became disillusioned by the ability of the Army command to lead. When Erich is assigned as his superior, he sees the captain as a reasonable and calculated leader. A chance encounter with Anna eventually puts the war into perspective for Ernst, making him question his own role in the conflict. Eventually, he his forced to come to terms with the implications of his new found morality and questions his larger role in the conflict.
Executive Producer Rich Russo speaks about his character, Ernst Humes.