(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

It is 1933, and fear prevails when a husband and wife discuss the brutal treatment by police of their communist neighbor, whom the couple betrayed for listening to broadcasts from Russia. A storm trooper visits his girlfriend, a maid in the household of an affluent Berlin family. An unemployed worker arrives to repair the radio, and the storm trooper engages him in a discussion to ferret out his true opinion about the Nazi regime. To gain the worker’s confidence, the storm trooper demonstrates how he exposes critics of the Nazis. Pretending to be sympathetic to complaints, the storm trooper surreptitiously marks critics with a chalk cross on their backs so that they can be easily identified and interrogated. After both the worker and the storm trooper leave, the maid expresses her grave concerns to the cook about her boyfriend’s changed behavior; she no longer trusts him.

In a concentration camp, imprisoned Social Democrats and communists still quarrel about who is responsible for the Nazis’ rise to power. However, they, as well as a pastor, show solidarity when faced with the demands of a guard. A radio reporter interviews workers at a factory but rudely interrupts them when they refer to insufficient sanitary facilities. Storm troopers deliver a coffin with the corpse of a worker to his wife with a stern warning not to open the casket to prevent her from seeing his battered body. Scientists are forbidden to have contacts with Jewish colleagues; physicists at the University of Göttingen who have corresponded with the eminent Albert Einstein, a Jewish emigré, are terribly afraid that they may be found out.

It is 1935 in Frankfurt, and a prominent physician is experiencing problems at his clinic because his wife is Jewish; friends and neighbors are shunning the couple. To escape this intolerable situation, the wife has decided to leave for Amsterdam. After calling friends and relatives to ask them to look after things during her absence, she rehearses her speech...

(The entire section is 816 words.)