Berlin in 1945 after Germany's defeat in the war. The former military surgeon Dr. Hans Mertens (Ernst Wilhelm Borchert) returns home from the battlefield to find his home destroyed. He suffers from the terrible memories of the war and becomes an alcoholic. An artist and Nazi concentration camp survivor, Susanne Wallner (Hildegard Knef), finds him living in her apartment as she returns home and they become roommates and even friends. Eventually, Mertens meets his former captain Ferdinand Brückner (Arno Paulsen), who had been responsible for the shooting of a hundred civilians on Christmas Eve of 1942 in a Polish village on the Eastern Front. He is now a successful businessman, producing pots out of old Stahlhelme, the German military steel helmet. On Christmas Eve, Mertens plans to kill him, but Wallner stops him at the last minute. They decide to have Brückner put on trial then, and the two start a new life together.