ON a winter's day in 1943, 21-year-old Latvian Mischka Danos chanced on a terrible sight - a pit filled with the bodies of Jews killed by the occupying Germans. In order to escape conscription to the Waffen-SS - the authors of such atrocities - Mischka volunteered to go on a student exchange to Germany. He did not then know that he was part Jewish. Whilst in Germany, he narrowly escaped death in the Allied fire-bombing of Dresden. Surviving Hitler's Reich, he became a displaced person in occupied Germany, where in 1951 he earned a PhD at the exceptional Heidelberg Physics Institute. In the 1950s Mischka was sponsored as an immigrant to the US by a Jewish survivor whom his mother, Olga, had saved during Riga's worst period of Jewish arrests. As refugee experiences go, Mischka was among the lucky ones - but even luck leaves scars. The author Sheila Fitzpatrick, who met and married Mischka forty years after these events, turns her skills as a historian and wry eye as a memoirist to telling the remarkable story of Mischka's odyssey and survival.