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In a French prison in 1943, habitual criminal Jean Picard is to be executed. On the way to the guillotine, however, the prison is bombed and Picard escapes. He demands a passport and money from a fellow criminal, Henri Duval. Louise, Duval's girl friend, follows Picard when he leaves, and a jealous Duval then betrays Picard to his nemesis, police detective Marcel Bonet, who recaptures Picard near the Spanish border. On the train returning to Paris, their journey is interrupted because a bridge has been blown up by the French underground. In response, the Germans arrest 100 hostages, whom they intend to kill if the saboteur does not surrender to them. Seeing a possible avenue of escape, Picard suggests that as he must die anyway, he could claim to be the saboteur and thus die for a good cause. At first Bonet is skeptical of Picard's motives and rejects the idea, but later changes his mind and tells his superiors that Picard was killed trying to escape. Picard and Bonet then survey the ruined bridge, and that night, Bonet coaches Picard so that he can convince the Germans of the truth of his claim. Meanwhile, shopkeeper Mme. Maret, whose son is a hostage, suggests that one of the villagers pretend to be the saboteur and sacrifice himself for the release of the prisoners. The villagers reject her plan, but later, when Picard and Bonet come into her shop, she decides to accuse them of sabotage. She encourages her shopgirl, Marianne, to go out with the flirtatious Picard, hoping the girl will keep him in the village until she can put her plan into action. Later that afternoon, when Picard and Bonet return to their room, the police are waiting for them. They have arrested a man they believe to be the saboteur, but they are also suspicious of these strangers. Bonet shows them his police identification and pretends that both Picard and the other man, who is the real saboteur, also belong to the Sureté, or secret police. Before they help the real saboteur to escape, Bonet questions him closely, without explaining that Picard will then use the information to bolster his own confession. As the time nears to take Picard to Paris, Bonet becomes ill and is confined to his bed. Picard takes advantage of his illness to escape, accompanied by Marianne, who warns him of the villagers' plot. The couple hides out with a farm family whose son is one of the hostages. Picard, who has genuinely fallen in love with Marianne, leaves her at the farm while he returns to Paris in order to acquire enough money to leave the country. In Paris, however, Picard goes to Bonet and asks the policeman to accompany him to Gestapo headquarters. His love for Marianne has convinced Picard to redeem his life of crime by sacrificing himself for the hostages. At Picard's request, Bonet delivers the news to Marianne. Sadly she asks Bonet what Picard was really like in his heart and Bonet responds, "He was a Frenchman."