This book is in German. I hope an English translation will be available soon so that many more people can have the profoundly moving experience of reading it. This story came into my life purely by coincidence, and I’m grateful that it did. As I read the first pages, I enjoyed the delicate, restrained poetry of the author’s style, that allows her to communicate so much emotion without superfluous words, but I wasn’t sure the story would really draw me in, as we were following the lives of different characters. I continued reading, my attention held by the fascinating details of the lives of people so close to me in time, space and my own history, yet so remote in my perception. As I did, the tale’s web began to form; I hovered above the city of Hamburg in the years between the World Wars and saw how one life touched another until they were all linked together like those ants that form a living raft when their world is sinking underwater, and they have no choice but to carry on. And that is how communities are, except I hadn’t thought about it. We live and walk together, we help each other and sometimes fail each other—a city as a collective organism. Clearly, this author loves Hamburg and has done very careful research. The reader is told the exact geographic location where each event takes place, and for those familiar with the city it would must be a thrill to see that overlay of the city’s past and present. And the stories ring true, like the ones my grandmother would tell again and again because the experiences had marked her so deeply. I love the friendship between Henny and Käthe; I love the boy who wants to become a nurse to relieve the suffering, the almost embarrassing true reasons for some of our most important life decisions, the brutal sacrifices of parents in times of war and disaster, the indifference, narrow mindedness and sheer ignorance, the self-righteousness, the humor, courage and fear—the abysmal powerlessness. And even the capitulation— the betrayal. A lot of it is quite uncomfortable. It’s the light and dark mosaic of who we are, all over the world. But I appreciate this perspective or rather this fragmented, atomized collection of partial, often skewed perspectives on the gaping crater of the Holocaust, the many shapes reality takes on in people’s minds. Again we see the absurd and banal true reasons for some of our most fateful acts. Needless to say, by the second third of the book I was hopelessly caught in the story’s magnetic field. My surroundings and my own troubles became trivial in comparison to the real world now unfolding in my head. I felt changed and a bit wiser after reading it. This only happens to me with the special books in my life, the ones I will never forget.