The improbable situation recently fictionalized by Walter Laqueur (The Missing Years)--a German Jew coming through the entire Third Reich unscathed--is testified to as fact by Senger, who was that Jew. Living in Frankfurt through the days of the Brown Shirts and Kristellnacht, Senger, protected primarily by his mother's unerring instincts for camouflaging the family, waltzed repeatedly out of real danger. The kindness of non-Jews also helped; though the entire block of Kaiserhofstrasse knew the Sengers were Jews (Papa had escaped Russia in 1907 on a forged passport, the family's life-raft of a document), a local policeman kept mum, as did Valentin's employer, and a doctor, and even a prostitute. Valentin, very glandular despite the peril, owed most of his close calls to his fondness for females: ""As if it weren't enough to be a Jew, a Russian-Jewish stateless Communist, to have a false name and a father with a Yiddish accent and a forged passport, and to belong to an illegal political group, I had--just to give me and Mimi a little fun--to register at a hotel in the border zone and throw myself into the arms of the Gestapo."" But those arms never bear-hugged. So there's drama aplenty here; still,Senger is so plodding a narrator, so clumsy an organizer, so erratic a writer (cutesy now and toneless later), that the chapters only pile into each other, they don't really flow. Prepare, then, to be interested, but never really involved.