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In 1944, during the German occupation of France, a young Parisian Jewish couple represent themselves as Alsatians in the hope of avoiding deportation to a concentration camp. As a further precaution, they send their mischievous 8-year-old son, Claude, to live in the country with the elderly parents of one of their Catholic friends. Because the old man follows the Vichy line of propaganda and hates the Jews, English, Bolsheviks, and Freemasons, Claude's parents give him a Christian surname, teach him the Lord's Prayer, and instruct him always to bathe in private. After a few days on the farm the youngster succeeds in penetrating the crusty exterior of old Gramps and becomes his constant companion, usually accompanied by the old man's beloved dog, Kinou. Claude even baits Gramps about his prejudices, claiming that the old man looks Jewish. Gramps encourages Claude to write a love note to one of his classmates at the local school. When the letter is discovered and Claude's head is shaved as punishment, the old man gives the humiliated child a hat to wear and promises that he will not have to return to school until the incident is forgotten. As the war nears its end, Gramps suffers two heartbreaks in succession. First Marshal Pétain is openly vilified as a collaborationist; then the old, bronchitis-stricken Kinou dies. The happiness of the old man and the boy at the liberation of France is mixed with sadness because it means their friendship must now end. Claude leaves with his parents, and the old couple silently watch the departing bus.