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In 1933, a German ocean liner bound for Bremerhaven leaves Vera Cruz with a variety of well-off passengers and a group of Spanish laborers who are being repatriated. The Germans, including the anti-Semite Rieber, are privileged to sit at the captain's table, except for Lowenthal, a Jew, and Glocken, a dwarf. Later, the two outcasts are joined by Freytag, when he is found to be married to a Jewess. Dr. Schumann, the ship's doctor, who is suffering from a fatal heart condition, is tending La Condesa, a drug-addicted Spanish noblewoman being shipped to prison on charges of agitating for social reform, and they fall in love. Bill Tenny, an ex-baseball player, feels that his life is a failure because he could not hit an outside curve. David and Jenny, a young unmarried American couple, quarrel because David, a painter, is unhappy living on his wife's income. Mrs. Treadwell, an aging divorcée, flirts and drinks in a desperate attempt to forget her loneliness. Graf, an evangelist, causes a riot among the laborers when he preaches. Graf's nephew, Johann, has an abbreviated affair with a young prostitute who is traveling with a Spanish dance group led by her pimp, Pepe. Jenny consoles Elsa, a Swiss girl who despairs of ever being found attractive, and Lowenthal assures her of her desirability. All disembark at Bremerhaven, except for La Condesa, who had landed earlier at an island prison, and Dr. Schumann, who died of a heart attack after La Condesa's departure.