What is the role of truth in today’s society? What part does denial play in our comprehension of the world around us? How is our fragile memory to be understood and preserved?
Jonathan Freedland’s superb writing simultaneously explores these questions and fills the reader with rage, despair, and admiration for the stubborn resistance of the human spirit. It is heart-wrenching to read the story of Rudolf Vrba, who is a mere nineteen years of age, and his fellow concentration camp inmate Fred Wetzler, who is twenty-six. It is the spring of 1944, and the two young men are enduring a harrowing incarceration in Auschwitz when the extraordinary happens. Melding their minds and spirits, they hatch an outrageous plan: They will be the first Jews ever to escape from this most highly guarded prison. Once the world knows, they are certain that steps will be taken to save the Jews in Europe.
Rich in detail, Freedland generates suspense as early as the first paragraph. He begins with the two young men crouched in escape mode, preparing to leap, then flashes back to the preparation that made it possible. Driven by their mission to reveal the truth of the Final Solution, they maintain an iron will that far surpasses even their own expectations.
Our cheers at their success cannot be overstated. We will watch as they trek across marshlands, climb mountains, ford rivers, and face Nazi bullets — with the ultimate result that they will reach Churchill and Roosevelt and save close to 200,000 Jewish lives.
In addition to hosting a contemporary history series for BBC Radio, Jonathan Freedland contributes a beloved weekly column to the Guardian and presents a popular weekly podcast on Israeli television news. He is both an award-winning journalist and a bestselling novelist, which allows him to blend style and substance into accessible, breathtaking prose.
Holocaust history has long honored its heroes. Now, with this new story of a complex, formerly hidden hero, Rudolf Vrba can take his well-deserved place in public memory.
Linda F. Burghardt is a New York-based journalist and author who has contributed commentary, breaking news, and features to major newspapers across the U.S., in addition to having three non-fiction books published. She writes frequently on Jewish topics and is now serving as Scholar-in-Residence at the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County.