Kurt von Flick grew up on his family's rural estate in Prussia, where he was expected to follow the family tradition of a military career. However from childhood, young Kurt demonstrated an ability and interest in art. With the encouragement of family friend Hermann Goering, von Flick is eventually allowed to study art at the University of Cologne where he is befriended by Marco Federico, a fellow student from Palermo, Sicily. Following a postgraduate idyll in Paris, both young men answer the call-to-arms of their respective Fatherlands, and von Flick finds himself accompanying the Wehrmacht, as a translator, during the Blitzkrieg into Poland. Goering, by now Hitler's Reichsmarschall, intervenes again and orders von Flick's transfer to Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, where he is to work on the conservation of art stolen from Jews. The Castle turns out to be a hotbed of treachery, paranoia and cruelty, which becomes even more obvious to von Flick when he is assigned two Jewish slaves as assistants " a brother and a sister " whom he must protect from the evil slave-master, Sgt. Major Teufel.