Yet this timely and powerful book is more than an enticing travelogue or a paean to amber, for even on the Curonian Spit there is evidence of the cruel ironies of history. In 1929 the novelist Thomas Mann won the Nobel Prize and built a house there, loving the primitive, elemental nature of the place: when Mann was forced to flee from the Nazis, Hermann Göring took it over as his hunting lodge. Not far away lies pretty Yantarny beach, which became home to the Amber Beach music festival. Here, in January 1945, 4,000 inmates of Stutthof concentration camp were marched under machine-gun fire into the icy sea. Fifteen of them survived.