A young bank bookkeeper, Karl Breide, and his wife, Klara, receive a dinner invitation from the bank president, Mr Granth. The invitation triggers the misfortune that from this point on, day by day, encroaches on the Breides’ home, dragging everything along like an avalanche and ultimately crushing the lives of two people. Breide is blindsided by a shocking piece of news. His father has died and a critical review of his accounts reveals that he went to his grave a swindler. A friend of his father agrees to temporarily conceal the fraud by covering the missing amount out of his own pocket, on the condition that young Breide pay him back in annual instalments of 4000 crowns.
To save his father’s name, and his own, from dishonour, Breide agrees, though his annual income in recent years has amounted to just 8000 crowns, making it exceedingly difficult for him to make ends meet. He decides to apply for the position of vice-president at the bank and gets the job thanks to his wife’s crafty manipulation of the bank president’s son, Herbert Granth. Smitten by her charms, he vows to get Breide out of the way and marry Klara himself.
When he was promoted to vice-president, Breide also made a dangerous enemy in the bank president’s private secretary, Selbach, who was passed over. Spying on the former bookkeeper, Selbach discovers that funds amounting to 28,000 crowns have been embezzled. Breide is cornered, but Herbert Granth, the bank president’s son, is willing to pay off Breide’s debt and find him a position abroad on one condition: Klara must be his. When Klara vows to stick by her man, Herbert kills himself from sorrow. His father, the bank president, who in one terrible swoop has lost his son, follows him into death – both crushed by an avalanche of their own making.