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The Master Race

The Master Race(1944)

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As the fall of the Third Reich appears imminent, German officers are dispersed throughout Europe to sew the seeds of disunity, thus creating a state of instability that will foster the resurgence of the "Master Race." Nazi colonel Frederic Von Beck is assigned to the agricultural town of Kolar, Belgium, where, after shooting himself in the leg, he poses as Ferdinand Varin, a wounded Belgium patriot. When the Allied troops, led by Major Phil Carson and Captain William Forsythe, arrive to restore order to the devastated countryside, Von Beck goes to work. Introducing himself as Varin, the brother of Ernst Varin, a hated Nazi collaborator and the owner of the town mill, Von Beck enlists Josef Katry, the volatile mill manager, in a plan to exact revenge for his brother's treachery. Taking up residence at the Varin house, Von Beck coerces Ernst's wife Martha to continue his deception. As the village men return after five long years of war, Martha's daughter Nina eagerly welcomes her sweetheart, Frank Bartoc. At the Bartoc house, Frank's sister Helena is ashamed of her little daughter, who is a product of a Nazi rape, and prepares to flee, but is prevented by the return of Frank and their father, Old Man Bartoc. In the town square, Major Carson offers the ravaged villagers words of inspiration and encouragement and appoints Katry, a former assistant to the mayor, as his aide. Soon after, Von Beck begins his campaign to instill distrust of Allied intentions by suggesting to Katry that they want to rebuild the mill only for their own profit. Provoked by Von Beck's accusations, Katry reclaims his horse from the farmers who are using the animal to till their fields and recruits several of them to join him in rebuilding the mill, thus creating disunity among the populace. Divisiveness continues to infect the town when Frank reviles Nina for her father's allegiance to the Nazis. Sensing Nina's vulnerability, Von Beck begins his seduction of the girl. When the major learns of Katry's actions, he revokes his appointment and threatens to place the mill off limits. As the townspeople begin to rebuild their church, Nina and the American soldiers offer their help. Helena's daughter, heartened by words of encouragement from the major, wanders into the church and offers her doll as a contribution. Ludwig Altmeier, a German prisoner of war, experiences remorse over the destruction that the Germans have wrought and fashions a crucifix for the church. To foster further unrest, Von Beck visits the major to warn him of an alliance between Mrs. Varin and Katry. While Von Beck is at the major's office, Andrei, a Russian soldier and medic awaiting repatriation, examines the German's wound and later cautions the major that the injury is too fresh to be a war wound. Soon after, Helena's husband John returns home, and when he learns that his wife has been impregnated by a Nazi, he joins forces with Katry, who promises revenge on the captured German soldiers. Captain Forsythe preaches the first sermon in the new church, and when Nina breaks into tears at his words, Frank comforts and forgives her. Later that night, Mrs. Varin warns Von Beck that Altmeier can recognize him. To protect his identity, Von Beck instructs Katry to blow up the prison and thus kill Altmeier. When Katry informs John of the plans and suggests that Helena's daughter should also be eliminated, John rebels and returns home. At the Varin house, Von Beck learns of Nina's reconciliation with Frank and forbids her to see him. In defiance of his command, she runs out of the house. After she leaves, Mrs. Varin threatens Von Beck with exposure, and he flies into a rage and strangles her. Nina runs to Frank for help, and when he returns to the Varin house, he finds Mrs. Varin's lifeless body. Meanwhile, the captain is holding a service at the church when the major interrupts to announce the surrender of the Germans. As the captain begins to sermonize about peace, the prison explodes and the townspeople run to rescue the prisoners. Finding Altmeier burned and beaten, Andrei diagnoses that he has only one hour to live. Von Beck is brought to the major for questioning, and after the major suggests that Mrs. Varin's murder was linked to the explosion, Von Beck asserts that his sister-in-law engineered the blast and accuses Katry of executing it. As Katry charges Von Beck with the deed, Altmeier calls from his bed and then dies. One of the other German soldiers recognizes Von Beck, however, and denounces him. Realizing that he has been duped, Katry recants, but Von Beck remains defiant, boasting that Germany will rise again. For his infamy, Von Beck is sentenced to die before a firing squad, and his execution is witnessed by the people of Kolar. Having accomplished the regeneration of the town, the major and his troops bid the people farewell, and as they all wave goodbye, John embraces Helena's daughter.