French soldiers are imprisoned by the Nazis, are treated cruelly, and eventually escape.
When the French army surrenders, some soldiers are taken on a train to a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany. André Duval (Hume Cronyn) says he knows German and serves as a translator. Victor La Biche (Gene Kelly) mocks Hitler and is knocked out. About a dozen men are given one loaf of bread; but instead of fighting over it, Father Sebastian (Cedrick Hardwicke) thanks God. Nazi Sgt. Berger (Peter Lorre) says that no religious rituals are allowed. Duval is shunned for being an informer, and he gives Paul Dupré (Jean-Pierrre Aumont) cigarettes; but Dupré refuses to collaborate. Victor spits on Sgt. Berger and is kicked in the face. Pierre (Wallace Ford) draws the high card among three volunteers and tries to climb the fence, but he is shot. When he dies, hungry Dupré drinks his soup. Sebastian prays over Pierre and is shot dead. The men hate Duval; they decide to be democratic and vote to kill him. Victor tells Dupré that he is afraid to join the escape; but when the prisoners do escape and lead the town in a revolt, Victor joins the fight.
This war propaganda film portrays the Nazis stereotypically
as ruthless killers, but it shows some complexity in the responses
of the various French prisoners as it makes its point that the
French should resist the German occupation.