Berlinger is the sorty of two men who grow up together in pre-war Germany; when Roeder's parents die, Berlinger's father takes the orphanedboy under his care. As the two boys approach adulthood, their contraddictory temperaments lead them along different paths: the idealistic young Berlinger, a brilliant chemist, refuses to give his father's factoy over to the Nazi war effort, much to the dismay of his friend Roeder, who has been managing the plant for him and has joined the Nazi party. Depsite the pressure Roeder puts on Berlinger to accede, such as threatening the lives of Berlinger's wife and child, nothing can coerce the staunch individualist to douse his spirit, and he takes his only recourseby escaping to Latin America and leaving his wife and child behind. Thirty years later Berlinger returns, still the stubborn ninconformist, mad about fying and filled with dreams of building a fleet of zeppelins in the now ramshackle factory. Roeder too is unchanged with an austerity similar to the skyscraper offcie from which he manages his company. Once more the ambitions of the two men clash: Roeder depends on Berlinger to sell his land in order to successfully conclude his property development schemes.