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Karel Vavra, a Czechoslovakian-born soldier with the English army, parachutes near his home village of Lidice and sneaks to the farm of Jan and Anna Hanka. From Anna, Karel, who has been in England since the start of the war, learns that his parents were sent to a German concentration camp because of his connections to the British. Unable to return home, Karel waits for Jan and Anna's daughter Jarmila, his sweetheart, in the same woods in which they played as children. Jarmila, a schoolteacher, is overjoyed to see Karel, who explains that he is on a mission to spread resistance among the Czech people. Although Jarmila worries about Karel's safety, Karel encourages her to have hope and courage. After Jarmila takes Karel to a cave to hide, Nepomuk, a reclusive hunter, finds them. Nepomuk at first threatens to turn Karel in, but then rounds up the village men for a secret meeting with Karel. Karel entreats the men, who include Jarmila's influential father and Janek, a miner, to fight the Nazis through sabotage, but Jan insists that only caution and patience are needed. Although Karel fails to persuade the men, Jarmila pledges her support to his cause. In town, meanwhile, the outspoken Anton Bartonek is arrested by the Gestapo, and his wife Maria pleads with Lidice's Nazi mayor, Herman Bauer, for help. Despite Bauer's hollow assurances, Anton's execution is ordered by the brutal Reich Protector Reinhard Heydrich, who oversees the Gestapo from Prague. Heydrich, who is known as "the hangman," then concludes that, in order to stem the tide of sabotage, he must stop Czechoslovakia's intellectuals. To that end, Heydrich orders all universities closed and rounds up a group of attractive women students, including Janek's daughter Clara, to serve as prostitutes for German soldiers. When Heydrich selects Clara as his personal mistress, she jumps to her death rather than serve him. Heydrich's actions spur some of Lidice's men to join with Karel, and the heartbroken Janek commits the first act of sabotage when he sets off an explosion in a mine, sacrificing himself in the process. Now doubting his neutral stance, Jan seeks counsel from Father Semlanik, who advises him to "suffer in silence." The next day, however, Father Semlanik is shot down by Heydrich when, during a prohibited religious festival, he protests the Nazi's sacrilegious behavior. Later, while Jan prays for guidance in Father Semlanik's church, Bauer's wife Marta, who has just learned that both of her sons have been killed in Russia, approaches him. Fed up with the senseless slaughter, Marta informs Jan that Heydrich will be driving through Lidice early the next morning, when her husband has ordered a curfew. Jan then finds Karel and Jarmila at the cave and plans Heydrich's assassination with them. The next morning, on the road between Lidice and another village, Jarmila, Karel and Jan ambush Heydrich's car, firing guns and hurling a grenade. Nepomuk, who had eavesdropped at the cave, then kills Heydrich's motorcycle escorts, giving his countrymen time to escape. Karel and Jarmila leave together, but Jan insists on returning to Lidice. The mortally wounded Heydrich is taken to Prague, where Gestapo officers order that hostages from Lidice be taken in order to rout out the assassins. Jan is among those seized, and afterward, the fleeing Karel and Jarmila are spotted by German soldiers and pursued. Although the patriots finally elude capture, Jarmila is shot and later dies in Karel's arms. In Prague, meanwhile, Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler arrives in time to hear the dying Heydrich bitterly predict that Germany will be defeated. As revenge for the assassination, Himmler then orders that Lidice be exterminated. On the following Sunday, the women and children of Lidice are forced into concentration camp-bound trucks, while the men are lined up and shot. The village is then set on fire, but the spirits of the dead rise up and vow to fight on.