Erwin doesn't remember much about his journey across Europe after the war ended - with good reason. He spent most of it asleep, carried by other survivors as they emerged from their hiding places or were liberated from the camps and traveled by train, by truck, by wagon, or on foot to Naples, where they filled the refugee camps and wondered what was to become of them. As he struggles to stay awake, Erwin becomes part of a group of young boys being trained in both body and mind for their new lives in Palestine.
Ernst is a gruff seventy-year-old Red Army veteran. Retired, he lives alone and spends his time laboring over his unpublished novels. Irena, in her mid-thirties, has been taking care of Ernst since his surgery two years earlier. Quiet and shy, Irena is in awe of Ernst's intellect. And as the months pass, Ernst comes to depend on the gentle young woman who runs his house. But Ernst's writing gives him no satisfaction, and he is haunted by his Communist past.