The action takes place in 1960-1961. in the GDR. The main character, Rita Seidel, a student who worked during the vacations at the car building plant, lies in the hospital after she almost fell under the carriages that were maneuvering on the tracks. Later it turns out that this was an attempt at suicide. In the hospital ward, and then in the sanatorium, she remembers her life and what led her to such a decision.
Rita’s childhood was spent in a small village that turned out to be after the war in the territory of the GDR. To help her mother, she soon went to work in a local insurance office and, having got used to the gray life of a small village, was already desperate to see in life something new, unusual. But here in their village comes the scientist-chemist Manfred Gerfurt
Manfred does not like that Rita has some kind of independent life planned for him – he is jealous of her for the institute, but even more so for the car-building plant, on which she decides to work before admission to gain life experience.
In the meantime, Rita is mastered at the plant; it is enthralled by the process of socialist competition, which is offered by one of the workers, Rolf Meteragel. Soon she learns that he once worked as a master at the same plant, but the brigadier gave him to sign “fake” outfits, and as a result of a check revealing serious financial irregularities, Meteragedg was dismissed. But he firmly believes in socialist ideals and the fact that it is only through hard and unselfish labor that the FRG can be overtaken and overtaken. Rita is very sympathetic to this man.
All this takes place against the backdrop of economic difficulties and growing confrontation with the FRG. It becomes known that the director of the plant, where Rita works, did not return from a business trip to West Berlin. He said that “long ago I knew that they had a hopeless cause.” The director is a young, energetic engineer Ernst Wendland. The Gerfur family is concerned that Manfred’s father serves on the car building director and is afraid that some sort of flaws will be revealed as a result of the inspection. Mother of Manfred, with a purely feminine intuition, feels that the changes at the plant mean strengthening the position of socialism, and, always hating the new order, she is writing off with her sister living in West Berlin. Wendland arranges a meeting at which he calls on the workers to work conscientiously. Rita is thrilled: she believes, that the call of the director and the socialist idea can lead to the fulfillment of the plan, but Manfred is skeptical about her story: “Do you really think that after the meeting things will go better?” Suddenly there will be raw materials? The incompetent leaders will be able? The workers will think about the great transformations, and not about your own pocket? ” He is afraid that the bride’s enthusiasm for social life can separate them.
Lying on the bed of the sanatorium, Rita again and again is experiencing happy moments with Manfred: here they are running a new car, that’s participating in the carnival in the town with a “view of West Germany” …
During the carnival, they meet Wendland and Rudy Schwabe, an activist of the Union of German Youth. It turns out that Manfred has long-standing scores with them. On ideological differences between Manfred and Wendland, jealousy is imposed: the latter unequivocally takes care of Rita. In addition, Wendland and Rita have common interests.
At the plant, Metageregde undertakes to increase the rate of production – it is not eight to insert into the cars, but ten windows per shift. The members of the brigade are skeptical of his ideas. Many people think that he just wants to become a master again or “to lend himself to the son-in-law”. Rita learns that Wendland was married to Metregaugel’s eldest daughter, but she betrayed him, they divorced, and now Wendland alone brings up her son.
At the evening in honor of the fifteenth anniversary of the plant, Wendland openly takes care of Rita. Jealousy flares up in Manfred with renewed vigor. He enters into an argument with Wendland. From their seemingly meaningless phrases, it becomes clear that Manfred does not believe in selfless, socialist work. Raised in the family of the opportunist, he “is sure that we must take a protective coloration so that you will not be found or destroyed.” In addition, Manfred is tormented by the question of why in the West science is being implemented faster than in the GDR. But Wendland, whom he openly asks about this, gets off with general phrases…
Rita goes to college. And although study is given to her easily, it is difficult to experience a new situation, acquaintance with new people. Particularly it is angered by demagogues like Mangold, who now and then strives to blame everyone for political short-sightedness and betrayal of socialist ideals, thereby achieving self-serving goals. To somehow dispel her grim state, Manfred introduces her to her friend Martin Young, who helps make a car under the ridiculous name “Jenny Spinner” for a plant of synthetic fiber. But for Christmas, when visiting a professor, his supervisor, Manfred learns that their “Jenny spinner with an improved device for suction of gases” was rejected in favor of a less mature project prepared at the plant itself. Later it turns out that in all the fault is someone Braun, who ran to the West, but things are no longer correct: Manfred is confident that “it does not need.” At this point, he makes the final decision, and Rita understands this. But in her glance he reads the answer: “Never in my life (Gatim disagrees”.
And the defectors are getting bigger. The parents of one of Rita’s classmates, Sigrid, leave for the West. She hides it for a long time, but in the end she has to tell everything. It turns out that Rita knew about everything, but was silent. Personal business is planned. Mangold leads to expulsion from the institute, but Rita is oppressed not by this, but by the fear that demagogy can destroy socialist ideals, and then “Gerfurt will overwhelm the world.” Rita wants to communicate with Wenddand, Meteragel, Schwarzenbach – with people whose life principles are close to her. Fortunately for her, at the meeting of the group Schwarzenbach puts everything in its place. “We’d better take care,” he says, “that a person like Sigrid feel that the party exists for her, no matter what misfortune may happen to her.” Subsequently, Rita learns from Manfred that at one time he also believed in ideals,
But socialist ideals triumph in spite of skeptics. Somehow in April, Wendland invites Rita and Manfred to take part in testing a new, lightweight car, and on a train drawn from such cars they learn that the Soviet Union has launched a man into space. Rita sincerely rejoices at the message, but Manfred does not share her joy. On the same day, Manfred learns that his father is demoted and now works as an accountant. The news hurts him painfully. Manfred goes into his grievances, and in their house with a light hand Frau Gerfurt all sounds and sounds “free voice of the free world.” The last straw that filled Manfred’s cup of patience is Rita’s trip with Wendland for the city, which he becomes an accidental witness. And one evening Frau Gerfurt, terribly pleased with something, holds out to Rita a letter from Manfred: “
In an attempt to persuade her husband to follow his son’s example, Frau Gerfurt dies of a heart attack, but Manfred does not even come to say goodbye to her.
Finally Manfred invited her to her: he found a job and now can ensure the life of the family. They meet in West Berlin, but nothing attracts Rita in this foreign city. “In the end, everything comes down to food, drink, clothes and sleep,” she will say to Schwarzenbach, “I asked myself: why do they eat? What do they do in their fabulously luxurious apartments? Where do they go in such large cars? than in this city they think before going to bed? ” A girl can not betray her ideals and work only for the sake of money. And in the act of Manfred, she sees not strength, but weakness, not a protest, but a desire to flee from temporary, it seems to her, difficulties. It painfully hurts the phrase: “Heaven, thank God, can not split!” Horrified by his commercialism, she returns to the GDR, where the Metagelgel brigade sharply increased labor productivity, inserting now fourteen windows per shift instead of the previous eight. Mestagel himself finally undermined Health at work. When Rita comes to visit him, the wife, exhausted by the half-subsistence existence, tells that he is saving money, wanting to return three thousand marks, which made up the shortage due to him.