1918. The younglieutenant Theodor Lohse witnesesses the end of World War 1 and the downfall of the German monarchy. It is a time of politicial change and turmoil.
After the war Theodor Lohse's military carreer comes to an end. Since mass unemployement and the different political movements of the time make it difficult for him to find a place in society, he joins a right extremist organization and betrays political dissidents to the police.
Shortly afterwards, Lohse meets the Eastern European Jew Benjamin Lenz who works as an informer for both the political right and left. Benjamin Lenz becomes Theodor Lohse's greatest opponent.