Spring 1940. In a Paris hotel laundry-room, which has been converted into an air-raid shelter, two men meet whose characters and attitudes to life can only be described as diametrically opposed. Jacobowsky, a Polish Jew, on the run for an "eternity", who lives by the maxim that even in the most hopeless situation there are always two possibilities, and a Polish Colonel, Stjerbinsky, for whose capture the Germans are offering a reward. For him, as an officer and a "real man", only duty counts and this excludes all alternatives. Jacobowsky manages to procure a getaway car from somewhere and puts it at the Colonel's disposal for the transportation of secret documents. The Colonel, who is just as principled a gentleman as he is an officer, despite the imminent German invasion insists on collecting his French mistress, Marianne, first. Thanks to Jacobowsky's presence of mind and shrewdness, they manage to escape from the Germans. Gradually, Marianne becomes more and more fascinated by Jacobowsky – as a result of this, Stjerbinsky's self image starts to crumble. At the Spanish border, in St. Jean-de-Luz, their journey ends. All ways are blocked. For the first time, even Jacobowsky is at a loss. Suddenly, an English submarine surfaces which is supposed to take Stjerbinsky to England. Marianne – Mme. La France – who is not endangered, gives up her place to Jacobowsky. She will wait for her Colonel, who sails to freedom with Jacobowsky.