It is April 1945, and the historic town of Lohenfelde is about to be overrun by the Allied Third Army. Huddled in the vaults of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Museum are Heinrich Hoffer and his three colleagues. Their petty rivalries and resentments surface quickly in this claustrophobic confinement as the four prepare themselves for their fate.
Above the ground, picking through the rubble, is Corporal Neal Parry, who wishes he was back in West Virginia studying art. When he finds an exquisite painting in what remains of the museum vaults, he is immediately reconnected with a lost world of beauty and order. It is this small 18th-century oil that is the poignant link between the young American soldier and the four charred corpses he finds at the same time. As the narratives interweave, the story of the painting reveals the hidden story of Herr Hoffer and his three associates - and in doing so uncovers other, darker mysteries.