The main gate called the “Gate of Death” (Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum)
In April 1944, Rudolf Vrba became the first Jew to break out of Auschwitz and successfully make his way to freedom, one of just four who ever pulled off that near-impossible feat. He did it to reveal the truth of the death camp to the world and to warn the last Jews of Europe what fate awaited them at the end of the railway line.
He and his fellow escapee Fred Wetzler climbed mountains, crossed rivers, and narrowly missed German bullets until they had smuggled out the first full account of Auschwitz the world had seen: a forensically detailed report that would eventually reach Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Pope Pius XII.
But too few heeded the warning. Some could not believe it, others thought it easier to keep quiet. In the end, Vrba helped save 200,000 Jewish lives—but he never stopped believing it could have been many more.
Drawing on his new book, The Escape Artist, Jonathan Freedland recounts the extraordinary story of Rudolf Vrba, a man he feels deserves to take his place alongside Anne Frank, Oskar Schindler, and Primo Levi as one of a handful of individuals whose experiences define our understanding of the Holocaust.
Freedland is a British journalist who writes a weekly column for The Guardian and is the author of 11 books.
Copies of The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World (Harper), are available for purchase.
Book Sale Information
- Purchase your copy of The Escape Artist by Jonathan Freedland here.
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