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When the Nazis come to power, KLARA HOFFMAN is just past 30, daughter of a well-to-do Jewish cloth manufacturer. Heinrich, her fiance, becomes a Nazi, and she breaks off their engagement. Jacob, her young brother, dies from a beating by a Nazi official, and on November 12, 1938 her father, Ernst, dies following the violence of the "Night of Broken Glass". Klara's brother Erik and her sisters have already left for the Americas. But Klara is sponsored by an English family, the Furlongs. She has to leave her mother, who eventually dies in the Auschwitz death camp.
In England, Klara watches as war draws nearer. She strikes up a lasting friendship with Eleanor, the Furlongs' 10-year-old daughter, in time becomes a cafe waitress, and hopes to marry a British soldier,who is killed in North Africa. As the years pass, she allows herself to become a 'character'. Eleanor comes back into her life as a young mother of two. Klara (now known as Clare) briefly returns to the Furlongs' when she becomes homeless. Eventually she enters a retirement home where she makes cautious friends with an elderly artist inspired to return to portraiture by the strength and suffering he sees in her face.
Klara's story poses the question: was Klara as much a victim of the nazis as if she had died in the gas chamber? Perhaps her survival argues that everyone who survives mankind's inhumanity is one more proof that the human spirit cannot ultimately be crushed. There is tragedy in Klara. But it is nt gloomy. It is a fictional biography based on a true story: Klara was sponsored out of Germany by the author's parents in 1939. What is known of her life is used, and the known episodes are linked with fiction based on fact.