As the Soviet Union advances to recapture Estonia from its German occupiers in 1944, young Estonians are forced to join the army on both sides, with their lives on the line and neither side offering them freedom even at the end of the war.
In July 1944 on the Tannenberg Line in Estonia, a unit of Estonian soldiers in the Waffen SS are fighting the advancing Red Army. A visit by a Nazi official, who hands out signed photographs of Hitler, attracts ridicule, but the Soviet forces are superior in numbers of tanks and infantry and the German forces have to retreat through streams of civilian refugees.
After a ferocious battle, the victors are a unit of Estonian soldiers in the Red Army. As they bury the dead of both sides in a mass grave, an Estonian in the Red Army called Jüri searches the body of an Estonian in the German forces called Karl and finds an unposted letter to his sister Aino in Tallinn. When the Russians capture the city, he delivers the letter in person and he and Aino become friendly, which incurs the enmity of his unit's political officer,
Back fighting on the Sõrve Peninsula in November, his unit captures a group of sixteen-year-old Estonian boys in German uniform. The political officer orders Jüri to kill them all and, when he questions the decision, shoots Jüri dead. On his body, a comrade finds an unposted letter to Aino which, when he has a spell of leave, he delivers in person.