Elizabeth's father is fighting with the German army on the eastern front. Her mother works at the Dresden zoo, where her favorite animal is a young elephant named Marlene. When the zoo director tells her the dangerous animals must be shot to prevent them running amok if the town is bombed, Elizabeth's mother moves Marlene into the back garden to save her and then the bombs start to fall. Their home destroyed, Elizabeth and her family must flee the bombed-out city and through the wintery landscape, all the while avoiding the Russian troops who are drawing ever closer. It would be hard enough, without an elephant in tow!