In the closing months of World War II, the Allies are bombing German cities. As Dresden prepares for the inevitable, Lizzie’s family gains an unlikely extra member. Lizzie’s mother works at the Dresden zoo. When the zoo director orders that in the event of a bombing raid, the animals must be shot to prevent them escaping and causing havoc in the city, Lizzie’s mother convinces him to let her take the young orphaned elephant, Marlene, home. And so Marlene moves into the shed in the garden behind Lizzie’s house.
When the bombing of Dresden finally happens, the destruction is worse than anyone imagined. With the Soviet Army approaching from the East, Lizzie’s family flees to the West through bitter winter weather with Marlene in tow. An Elephant in the Garden is not only a story of the horrors of World War II from the perspective of German civilians, it is a tale of an unlikely group of people drawn together by circumstances and an elephant, struggling to survive war, hunger, and winter hardship and to escape to safety behind Allied lines.