We open with heavy combat action around Stalingrad and speeches by Hitler. A German doctor is in an operating room, saving the life of a badly wounded German soldier when the Soviet troops break in and take him away, leaving the soldier to his sad fate. The doctor and so many others are marched through the bitter cold to a Soviet prisoner camp.
The year changes to 1949 and a beautiful Soviet doctor makes her rounds of the infirmary, pronouncing that too many sick men are fit for work. The German doctor tells her that some of the men are not well enough and that they will die in the cold. She tells him that they will go to work anyhow.
In the evening, this Soviet doctor is in her quarters in a filmy negligee and a visitor comes calling. It is another German doctor, a prisoner but young and handsome – they are more than friends. The older doctor breaks in saying that one of the men is dying and must have immediate surgery. She puts on a robe and tells him that they must wait for the Soviet regional doctor to arrive in a week or so. The man will be dead by then – he asks at least for some ether so he can operate. No, it is against the rules for a German prisoner to operate. He performs the operation anyhow.
There is a court of inquiry and the chief Soviet doctor demands punishment for the German doctor – but the situation changes when the young son of the Camp Commandant suddenly needs a specialist to save his life – and the Doctor of Stalingrad just happens to be an expert in that particular field.
Prisoners talk about a work stoppage, but within hours after the meeting, guards enter the barracks and take away the leaders of the movement. There is a snitch in the camp! He is caught and quickly killed. All the prisoners are mustered in the snow and the Officer of the Guard is going to shoot them all unless the ones who killed the snitch confess.
There is much more, all leading up to a bittersweet ending.