Based on Ethel Vance's best-selling novel, an American tries to save his mother from execution in a German concentration camp.
In 1936 ill actress Emmy Ritter (Alla Nazimova) disagrees with Nazi Dr. Berhold Ditten (Philip Dorn) who believes in force; but he lets her write a letter afterward. Mark Preysing (Robert Taylor) enters Germany to look for his mother Emmy, who sold her house. Lawyer Henning (Albert Bassermann) tells Mark his mother could be executed for sending money out of Germany, and he can't help. Mark asks the police commissioner about his mother.
In the Bavarian Alps Mark meets Countess Ruby von Treck (Norma Shearer) and finds Fritz Keller (Felix Bressart), who denies knowing him. General Kurt von Kelb (Conrad Veidt) tells the countess that Emmy will be executed Saturday. Mark sees the countess and says he trusts her but learns the general is her friend. The general tells the countess that Mark is in danger for making trouble. At a Wagner concert the countess warns Mark to go home and invites Dr. Ditten to tea. Mark has a beer with Ditten, who asks him to send him medical journals. Ditten gives Mark Emmy's letter and says she has two days. In his room Mark finds Fritz, who says he warned Emmy and lost much. Fritz tells Mark he'll give her a good burial.
Dr. Ditten treats ill Emmy and tells Mark that he drugged her and pronounced her dead. Mark calls Fritz to pick up her body. Ditten advises Mark and says good-bye. Mark waits at an inn and is questioned by two political police. Mark says he is meeting Ditten, and the police take him to the camp. Ditten denies knowing Mark, but Fritz gets the coffin. A guard checks it and makes Fritz nail it down. As Fritz drives the truck, Mark opens the coffin and wraps Emmy in coats. Mark tells Fritz she just died, but they see her tears. The road is blocked, and they go to the countess's house after the general leaves. The countess says they must go; but after seeing Emmy and Mark, she says Emmy can rest there. The general comes in, and pro-German student Ursula (Bonita Granville) mentions Mark. The general tells Ursula to call Mark to go skiing, and she sees him at the door. Mark calls the general a pet. Then Mark asks the countess to come with them. The general tells Mark to leave the country and goes. The countess gets Mary's passport for Emmy but decides to stay so as not to arouse the general, who comes back as Mark, Emmy, and Fritz leave. The general is jealous and tries to call but collapses as the countess tells him the truth. In the final scene a plane flies away.
This timely film greatly increased people's awareness
of the nightmare going on in Germany as Nazism is contrasted to
Mark's American experience of freedom.