The twelve-year-old Emil and his father are haunted by bad luck. To take a break from a series of family disasters, Emil is allowed to spend a few days with a friend of the family, the female priest Hummel in Berlin. In the train he runs across the slick Max Grundeis who anaesthetizes Emil and steals his savings of 1500 DM. When he finally arrives in Berlin, Emil and a gang of street kids, led by the cheeky girl Pony Hütchen, try to find the gangster, who haunts the posh Hotel Adlon as a hotel thief. Meanwhile, to prevent anyone from finding out about Emil's mishap, Gypsi, a member of the gang of kids, passes himself off as Emil, thus wreaking havoc on the home of the priest.