When Etienne and Marie-Laure discover that their intelligence has caused the deaths of German soldiers, they wrestle with the ethical implications of their actions. Etienne tells Marie-Laure about the lives that were lost during WWI, implying that every death is a tragedy regardless of nationality. He concludes, “These numbers, they’re more than numbers.” The contrast is clear between Etienne’s attitude and Hauptmann’s advice to Werner that his calculations are “pure math.” Whereas Hauptmann knows that Werner’s ignorance of the human cost of his numbers will help Werner do his job more efficiently, Etienne is unwilling to make this same sacrifice. Although he continues to broadcast, he is fully aware that what he does is, on one level, a tragedy.
Werner is also wrestling with ethics, but his time in the Wehrmacht has begun to make him numb to death. He finds himself feeling a deep scorn for the people he drives past in the course of duty. Yet he is not totally hardened to killing: The deaths of the innocent woman and child as a result of his mistake trouble him deeply. Unlike Volkheimer, who has killed more than a hundred people yet still savors the beauty of music, Werner finds his own perspective toward all of life tainted by the ways he has hurt others.