Konrad Reichmann and Neff Kessel form a well-trained sniper team assigned to a Nazi Waffen Schutzstaffel (SS) battalion on the Russian front during World War II. Their assignment is to eliminate selected Russian military officers as the German army is being forced to retreat from the eastern front. Konrad and Neff perform their assigned tasks flawlessly, but they are horrified by the brutality with which their SS commander, Gunther Kral, terrorizes the Russian civilian population during the retreat. Neff, who has fallen in love with a Russian peasant girl, is overcome by the carnage that is heaped upon a peasant village. He challenges his commander’s tactics, and he is murdered by the very hand of his own commander, Kral. Witnessing the murder of his best friend and partner, Konrad is pushed over the edge of moral nausea, deserts from the army, and hatches a plan to use his training as a sniper to change the course of German political power single-handedly.
Konrad decides to return to the outskirts of Berlin, where he was reared, and looks up his spiritual mentor, Pastor Josef Schumacher, who has gone underground as a rescuer of disabled children—castoffs from the “master” race. Konrad encounters several of his old friends from the Hitler Youth movement; among them is Lisette, a young woman for whom Konrad has always had strong romantic feelings. She is working with Pastor Schumacher and his wife, Mady, caring for the children. Lisette also works...
(The entire section is 483 words.)