At the end of WWII, in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig), a Jewish Hungarian, is a member of the Sonderkommando unit. It's his responsibility to shepherd prisoners into the gas chambers and then dispose of their bodies.
As Saul is cleaning out the chambers, one young boy exhibits a brief flicker of life before dying. Saul becomes determined to give the boy a proper burial. His search for a rabbi who can perform the Jewish prayer for the dead is made even more urgent by an impending breakout attempt in the camp.