The sadistic Major Bergmann is assisted by Ingrid, who tempts an ex-girlfriend of Manfredi, Marina, with drugs and furs for information on the whereabouts of Manfredi. Up to this point Ingrid's efforts are futile because Manfredi hasn’t been in contact with Marina.
The adult world of the partisan resistance is juxtaposed with that of the children who form their own group of resistance. They are lead by Romoletto, who incites the children with Marxist phrases which he preaches like his adult counterparts without knowing the meaning. The children build up their supply of contraband and even blow up a small bomb in order to harm German soldiers.
The bomb that the children sets off causes Nazi and Italian soldiers to storm Francesco’s and Pina’s apartment building to look for hidden weapons and partisans, whom they think set the bomb. As the inhabitants are ordered outside, Pina’s son, a follower of Romoletto, alerts Don Pietro that there is contraband on the roof of the building where the young partisans meet. Realizing the danger of the situation, Don Pietro dresses up in his vestments and marches to the apartment where he insists that he must administer Last Rites to Pina’s elderly father, who is not able to evacuate the building. Accompanied by Pina’s son, the two collect the weapons from the roof and try to find a suitable hiding place. With the soldiers searching every apartment, Don Pietro has no choice but to hide the weapons under Pina’s father’s bed who screams in protest. When the soldiers enter the room they see Don Pietro administering Last Rights to a silent father. We later learn that Don Pietro had to hit him on the head with a heavy frying pan to keep him quiet and cooperative.
Meanwhile, Francesco and Manfredi try to escape. The pair attempts to sneak away in plain view of the Italian soldiers who were sidetracked by looking up the skirts of women in the apartment building. However, Francesco is caught and loaded in a truck. Pina, seeing her fiancé dragged away, breaks free from the crowd and runs after him, screaming his name. The German soldiers in the truck mercilessly machine gun her down as she runs after her fiancé, this on the day they were to be married. A few minutes later in another ironic twist, the truck transporting Francesco is attacked by partisan resistance fighters and he manages to escape.
That night, Manfredi and Francesco seek refuge in Marina’s house. Little do they know when they leave the next day that Marina will warn Ingrid and Major Bergmann on Manfredi’s whereabouts. Scheming to leave Rome, Manfredi and Don Pietro meet early in the morning on a Roman street. Informed about their plans, Nazi troops arrest them on the street and bring them to Nazi headquarters where Major Bergmann plans to question them individually.
Manfredi is brought into the questioning room where he is questioned and eventually tortured when he won’t respond to their questioning. Don Pietro, whose glasses had been broken in the scuffle, sits in the next room. Even thought he can’t clearly see, an expression of sheer terror registers on his face as he 'watches' Manfredi suffer.
Meanwhile, Major Bergmann relaxes in the lounge next to the questioning room and drinks a cocktail with other German officers. He starts up a conversation about how he thinks Manfredi will betray his fellow partisans due to the fact that how he’s not part of the master race and will, therefore, buckle under the pressure of torture. If he does not, then the battle for the survival of the master race is futile because it would mean that Italians would not be inferior to the Germans. A drunken officer, Major Hartmann, disagrees and reminds Major Bergmann that in WWI French partisans did not break under torture.
Major Bergmann returns to the torture room and offers Manfredi , who had been knocked unconscious by the pain, a chance to confess the names of those partisans organized under Don Pietro. Manfredi spits in Major Bergmann’s face at the thought of this idea. With this last gesture, Manfredi’s death is certain. When the Major asks Don Pietro to betray the partisans organized under Manfredi, how he likewise denies the information. With this response, Don Pietro is ordered to die by firing squad the next day.
An intoxicated Marina saunters into the torture room with Ingrid and, upon seeing Manfredi’s dead body, burned and bloody from the torture, first laughs and then screams at the horror of what she has done. She collapses to the floor while wearing her new furs. Ingrid removes the furs and says, 'For the next time' and leaves Marina unconscious on the floor while the other officers disrespectfully step over her.
With his hands tied behind his back and his back facing a firing squad, Don Pietro still refuses to betray his cause. When ordered to fire, the supertitious Italians soldiers refuse to kill a priest. In the end, it is Major Hartmann from the night before who draws his gun and releases one fatal shot to Don Pietro’s head. The whistles and cries of a group of children, friends of Don Pietro who witness the execution, go unnoticed. With their friend dead, the children walk hand in hand, with their heads hanging low, toward Rome with a view of the Vatican in the distance.