Wolfgang Staudte was renowned as a critic of post-war German complacency. This gripping wartime story is full of acid commentary on his countrymen: a picture of collective failure in Nazi Germany and collective denial in the Federal Republic, as it has been called.
It starts when a funfair is being built, and a corpse is discovered. Everyone in the small town in the Eifel knows who the young man was and why he died. 15 years earlier, at the end of World War II, a Wehrmacht soldier (Gotz George) deserts after being forced to massacre civilians and tries to find a hiding place in his native village. His family are afraid to help him, since the Nazis have decreed death for those harbouring deserters – but he is sheltered by a priest and a young French woman (Juliette Mayniel) who works in a cafe. When the town is evacuated, it seems the war is almost over.