Directed by Roberto Rossellini, a poor family struggles to survive in Berlin after the destruction of the war.
In the summer of 1947 three million people in bombed-out Berlin are suffering a tragedy. The boy Edmund Kohler (Edmund Moeschke) is forbidden to work digging graves because he is only twelve years old. An official tells the five families in the building that they are using too much electricity, and the Kohlers argue about how they can cut back. Edmund tells Karl-Heinz Kohler (Franz-Otto Kruger) to register so they can get another ration card, but Karl was a soldier and is afraid of being put in a concentration camp. Mr. Rademaker sends Edmund to sell his scale for 300 marks, but a man takes it and gives him only a can of meat. Edmund sees his teacher Mr. Enning (Erich Guhne), who says he is unemployed because he disagrees with the government. Enning takes Edmund home with him and gives him a record of Hitler to sell to Americans by the courthouse. Ed plays the record for two American soldiers, and he gives the 200 marks to Enning, who gives him ten marks. An older boy, Jo, shows Edmund how to sell soap. They go into the subway, and Jo tells a woman it is forty marks; but he takes her money and runs. She shouts, "Thief!" but he gets away. Jo gives some potatoes to Edmund. Edmund comes home late, and Papa (Ernst Pittschau) hits him; but Eva Kohler (Ingetraud Hinze) gives Edmund some dinner.
Papa is ill, and the doctor says he needs nutritious food that he can get in the hospital. In his hospital bed Papa tells Edmund that he is getting good meals. Eva asks Karl to help, and they quarrel. Enning tells Edmund that they must not have mercy on the weak so that they can survive. Edmund visits Papa in the hospital, and Papa says it would be better if he died.
Papa is home again, and Eva does not have enough food. Papa asks Karl to register. Papa says he fought in World War I, lost his money to inflation, and his children to Hitler. Police search the building, and Karl goes with them. Eva finds Papa dead. Karl comes back and says he is free, but he is sad about Papa. They discuss how to bury the body. Edmund leaves and walks in the ruins. He finds a girl he likes, but she says she does not go with kids.
Edmund goes to Enning and tells him that he killed his father, like he said. Enning gets upset, and Edmund runs away. Edmund hears an organ in a church. He goes into a ruined building and looks down on the street. His family in mourning call his name, but he disregards them. Edmund jumps to his death, and a young woman finds his body.
This realistic drama explores the consequences of a
devastating war on a family. The father and the son fought like
"good Germans," but the results are bitter defeat and