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Germany, late 1930s. Walking into town on a hot summer evening, the elderly professor Herr Veilchenfeld encounters a group of local drunks. He is humiliated and assaulted, his hair is shorn. Veilchenfeld's scapegoating by his fellow citizens is rendered through the consciousness of the young son of the doctor who attends the professor. The boy observes and listens in to his parents' conversations; he cannot know the true importance of the events he witnesses.