Act 1

The early 1960s. An ocean liner.
Liese and her husband Walter, a German diplomat, are aboard a cruise liner headed to Brazil. On deck she suddenly sees a woman resembling Marta whom she believed to have died. Liese is so much disturbed by surging memories that she confesses to her husband that she was an SS overseer at Auschwitz. Walter fears a diplomatic scandal. Liese asks the ship’s steward to find out who the woman is and where she comes from.

1944. Auschwitz
Marta is among the prisoners. Liese enlists her to help manage the other prisoners. A Kapo finds a note in Polish and Marta is ordered to translate it. Marta recognizes it as a message between members of the resistance but misreads it as a love note to her fiancé Tadeusz.

Act 2

Tadeusz is a violin player and an Auschwitz prisoner. He is ordered to choose a violin to play the Kommandant’s favorite waltz at a concert. Tadeusz meets Marta and they recognize each other. Liese notices that but allows them to talk privately in violation of the regulations. Tadeusz makes jewelry for SS officers. In one of the medallions Liese sees Madonna with the face of Marta. She tries to entice Tadeusz to let her set up a meeting between him and Marta, but Tadeusz refuses, not wishing to be indebted to Liese.
Marta is having her 20th birthday. Liese summons her and informs that Tadeusz refused to meet her. Marta is certain Tadeusz had a good reason.

The wardens read out a list of female prisoners sentenced to death. Although Marta´s number hasn’t been called she wants to join the doomed. But Liese stops her: Marta must hear Tadeusz’s concert.

The transatlantic liner.
Liese and Walter decide to forget about the past. They go out to dance. The passenger asks to perform the Kommandant’s favorite waltz. Liese is scared.

Auschwitz
Officers and prisoners gather for the concert. Tadeusz is supposed to play Kommandant’s favorite waltz but instead he plays Bach’s Chaconne. The music breaks off abruptly when officers smash Tadeusz’s violin, drag him off the stage and out to his death.

Epilogue

The transatlantic liner.
Marta is alone. She thinks about Tadeusz. Remembering the past she hopes that none of the victims will ever be forgotten.