Greta has been sent by her lover Dorn to entertain the troops on the eastern front and in furthest Russia meets Wilhelm Friedhelm and Charlotte two years after their last encounter. But the war has changed the friends. It is on the eve of the largest German tank offensive close to the Russian city of Kursk Operation Citadel is supposed to shift the balance of power in the east in favour of the Wehrmacht again. Out of arrogance Greta misses her flight back to Germany and in Charlotte's field hospital for the first time experiences the horrors of war close up. At the same time Viktor is on a train transport to a concentration camp in Poland along with many fellow sufferers. He manages to escape. Together with Polish girl Alina he flees into the forests. A Polish farmer discovers them and wants to betray them to the Germans but his son warns them and leads them to a group of Polish partisans. Wilhelm's unit is annihilated in the battle for Kursk and the two brothers are separated. Friedhelm believing his brother to have died is the only one to escape the senseless fight. Badly wounded he is taken to Charlotte's field hospital and her application alone saves him. The news of Wilhelm's death hits Charlotte hard for she was secretly in love with him since their Berlin days. What neither Friedhelm nor Charlotte could imagine is Wilhelm has managed to survive too. He had left the battlefield confused and wounded and found shelter in an abandoned lodge where finally the field gendarmerie runs him down and arrests him. Friedhelm who has been granted home leave for convalescence together with his parents learns about his brother's being arrested and sentenced to death by firing squad for desertion. His father disowns his formerly favourite son and seeks to get closer to Friedhelm. The latter is realising that he cannot cope with home life any more and applies for his transfer back to the front. Meanwhile Greta tells Dorn of her pregnancy. Fearing his wife could find out about his affair with Greta Dorn has her arrested.