The novel’s events date back to 1946 and unfold in Wurzburg-on-Main, destroyed by American aviation after the SS command, ignoring the will of the impotent population, rejected the Americans’ demand to surrender the city without a fight and signed an order for defense. Few have any housing left. People mostly huddle in the basement of the ruins.
Johanna, an orphan girl of twenty-one years, lives in an abandoned shed for goats, an area of three square meters, standing by the river’s banks. Her mother died a long time ago, and her father – an inveterate Hitler, whose beliefs Johann never shared, hanged himself before the arrival of the American army, leaving his daughter a letter in which he once again betrayed her with a curse for the absence of any patriotism in it. One evening at the river, she meets an American soldier Steve. Young people fall in love at first sight. A little later, seeing that Johann has nothing to heat his shed, Steve builds a stove for her, which touches the girl ineffably. On the same days, she, not herself with joy and amazement, meets Ruff Fardingheim’s childhood friend for the first time in five years. After the death of the parents of the girl, clogged with truncheons on the square, her. drove to Auschwitz, and then along with two other Jewish women – to Warsaw, to a brothel for German soldiers. On the night before the liberation of Warsaw, the house was destroyed by a bomb, and most of its inhabitants
David actually survived. He is already twelve years old, and he is in a society called “The Disciples of Jesus.” Its members take care that the surplus, taken from speculators and simply well-off people, falls into the hands of the most deprived townspeople. There are eleven people in society. Each of them took the name of one of the apostles of Jesus Christ. The twelfth boy, the son of a forensic investigator, left the society in anger, because he did not want to be called Judas Iscariot.
Johann calls David, informing him that Ruth has returned, a friend of his, nicknamed Uzh, who was present, runs to warn of the return of the girl of her former fiancé Martin, now a young doctor. Martin offers Ruth, who has nowhere to live, to settle with him. Now he lives in a wooden lodge where masons used to store their tools. The man who killed Ruth’s parents is Zvishentsal. During the war, as a member of the Nazi party, he was the head of the quarter, and now he is quite a large speculator, his house is outside the zone of destruction. One evening, the “Disciples of Jesus” in the absence of a speculator are taken to his house, transport all of his supplies to his church cellar, while serving as their headquarters, and make up a complete list of all the goods seized from Zvishentsal, which is pinned to the gates of the building of the US administration. At night, the speculator is arrested.
Everyone in the city knows about the fate of Ruth, and many do not understand why she returned. Martin’s presence in his house threatens with trouble at work, up to and including dismissal. Particularly insolent attacks against Ruth allow themselves members of a detachment of Nazi youth led by former SS non-commissioned officer Christian Scharf.
In two months of his life in his native city, Ruth begins to show interest in life. She renews her painting classes. Among her works are landscapes, drawings on the themes of a concentration camp and a brothel. Martin wants to leave a place in the hospital, marry her and move to the suburbs, in Spessart, where no one before them with Ruth will not care. The girl, however, is categorically against the wedding. She loves Martin and that’s why she can not imagine being close to him after all that she had to suffer from men.
Her friend Johanne is not easy to build her relationship with Steve: too much is shared by their peoples. However, love wins. During their next meeting, when the girl finds out about Steve’s forthcoming departure to America the next day and understands that she can never see her again, she gives herself up to her feeling. Later, she happily learns that she is expecting a baby. Correspondence of young people is full of love and tenderness. Steve in America is waiting for the ban, which does not allow Americans to marry the Germans, to return to Germany for their fiancée and take her to her.
The henchmen of Christian Sharf are developing plans for several diversionary outings into the city and setting fire to Martin’s lodge. They are, however, unable to carry them out because of the intervention of some person who is aware of their intentions and each time prevents them from being enforced. Not knowing that this person is Peter, the head of the “Disciples”, and mistaken for the traitor of his comrade Oscar, who speaks openly about the insanity and destructiveness of their goals – the restoration of Nazi Germany – they drown him in the river, masking the crime under an accident. Peter, who did not see the crime itself, but who knows what his Scarf and Zek committed, declares the Americans to them. The Nazis are arrested, but a few months later, without proving guilt, the German investigative authorities release them. They, having understood by then, that the traitor in their ranks is Peter, they are building a deadly trap on his roof. Peter, however, manages not to please her. He tells Scarf and Zeka that he wrote several copies of a letter about how an attempt was made to deal with him, and gave them to reliable hands. If anything happens to him, this letter will go to the investigative authorities and the guilty will be tried. The Nazis leave Peter alone. Now they have more important goals: their detachment is expanding, and, seeing how the relations between America and Russia are deteriorating, how the Germans are poor, they are preparing for a decisive blow. If anything happens to him, this letter will go to the investigative authorities and the guilty will be tried. The Nazis leave Peter alone. Now they have more important goals: their detachment is expanding, and, seeing how the relations between America and Russia are deteriorating, how the Germans are poor, they are preparing for a decisive blow. If anything happens to him, this letter will go to the investigative authorities and the guilty will be tried. The Nazis leave Peter alone. Now they have more important goals: their detachment is expanding, and, seeing how the relations between America and Russia are deteriorating, how the Germans are poor, they are preparing for a decisive blow.
A little later, a court session is held about the activities of the company “Pupils of Jesus.” Nobody knows who is in it, but the guys have already too many already annoyed and many testify against them. The captain of the US administration sympathizes with these champions of justice and wants to use the court to establish a fund for the poor. Subsequently, however, his venture crashes.
Zvishentsal, who is being held in this case, is released, even without considering that he killed Ruth’s parents, to which there are two witnesses who since the very end of the war have wished to give their testimony. They are dismissed. Then Ruth coldly kills her enemy and gets to the dock. The court touches upon the question of the moral side and impartiality of the legal system of post-war Germany. The jury refuses to pass sentence on Ruth, thereby recognizing the girl as innocent.
“The disciples of Jesus” make the last raid on the new warehouse of Zwischenzal and go all together to the American captain who attacked their trail. The captain takes the word from them that they will never again engage in their “noble” business, and releases them to their homes. Boys dissolve their society. By the time it was replenished with two more members, including one girl.
Johanna dies at childbirth. Ruth marries Martin, takes to her new-born daughter of his girlfriend and leaves with her husband in Spessart. Soon Steve arrives for the child, who has already obtained the documents that allow him to adopt his daughter, and takes her to America. Ruth, who had become attached to her child, is crying desperately on her husband’s shoulder. Martin reassures her, kisses, which she never allowed before, after her return. Now his dream is not so unattainable: Ruth, who meets him before their house with his own child in his arms.