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At the end of World War I, an Army private who in civilian life is a little Jewish barber, saves the life of the German officer Schultz as the two flee the conquering army. After their plane crashes during their escape, the Jewish barber suffers amnesia and is confined to a hospital during the rise of dictator Adenoid Hynkel. Years later, the barber returns to his shop in the ghetto of a city, unaware that the state is now under the sign of the double cross, that Jews are cruelly persecuted, and that the all powerful ruler of the land is megalomaniac Adenoid Hynkel, to whom the barber bears a striking resemblance. The barber tries to resist the treachery that he sees going on all around him, but is beaten and arrested with his friend Schultz, who has also spoken out against the persecution of the Jews. Schultz and the barber are sent to a prison camp, and Hynkel, his opposition quelled, plans the invasion of the neighboring country of Osterlich. As Benzini Napaloni, the Dictator of Bacteria, and Hynkel argue over control of Osterlich, Schultz and the barber escape from their prison. On the eve of the invasion of Osterlich, Hynkel is mistaken for the escaped barber and arrested. The barber then takes the place of the dictator on the parade platform and delivers an impassioned plea for human kindness and brotherly love.