Young Marcel is the son of the Jewish butcher Charles Mangel. He resists his father’s wishes to take over the family business, spends his free time painting and practicing imitating Charlie Chaplin. When his cousin Georges persuades him to take care of a group of Jewish orphans rescued from Germany, his pantomime game is well received by the traumatized children. Then France is occupied by the Germans. Marcel’s older brother Alain is active in the French resistance during World War II. Marcel later also joins the Résistance.
When the political situation becomes tense, Marcel, his brother Alain and his cousin Georges, together with a small group of friends, help Jewish orphans to escape. Under a pretext, they use the possibilities of the Save the Children Foundation, to hide the children from the Nazis. They first take the children south and turn them over to the care of the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts and welcoming families. Eventually, some of the children, accompanied by members of the Resistance group, flee France for Switzerland because they are threatened with the exposure of their hiding place by the Nazis.