Anne Frank. Primo Levi. Oskar Schindler . . . Rudolf Vrba.
In April 1944 nineteen-year-old Rudolf Vrba and fellow inmate Fred Wetzler became the first Jews ever to break out of Auschwitz. Under electrified fences and past armed watchtowers, evading thousands of SS men and slavering dogs, they trekked across marshlands, mountains and rivers to freedom. Vrba’s mission: to reveal to the world the truth of the Holocaust.
In the death factory of Auschwitz, Vrba had become an eyewitness to almost every chilling stage of the Nazis’ process of industrialised murder. The more he saw, the more determined he became to warn the Jews of Europe what fate awaited them. A brilliant student of science and mathematics, he committed each detail to memory, risking everything to collect the first data of the Final Solution. After his escape, that information would form a priceless thirty-two-page report that would reach Roosevelt, Churchill and the pope and eventually save over 200,000 lives.
But the escape from Auschwitz was not his last. After the war, he kept running – from his past, from his home country, from his adopted country, even from his own name. Few knew of the truly extraordinary deed he had done.
Now, at last, Rudolf Vrba’s heroism can be known – and he can take his place alongside those whose stories define history’s darkest chapter.
I very much doubt there were many prisoners in not just Auschwitz, but many of the camps that were around during the war that managed to escape as well as live to tell the tale. Whilst Rudolf hasn’t told his story himself, the author spoke to his wives as well as went through documentation and letters from Rudolf’s personal possessions to be able to give a detailed account of this incredible man’s life.
A good part of the novel is the time leading up to the escape from the camp where we get to know more about Rudolf in the time leading up to being a prisoner as well as his time in the camp where he met his first love as well as his friend that escaped the camp with him. If you have read numerous books on the holocaust and WW2, you would think that there is nothing else that could shock you anymore as you have already read of all the horrors that went on in the camps but sadly there were things within these pages that still shocked and horrified me as well as new things to learn.
It’s sad to see the effect that it all has on Rudolf. He has a great lack of trust in anyone which is understandable to a certain degree after what he has been through but this lack of trust ruins his relationships as well as friendships. He was an integral part of bringing quite a few perpetrators to justice and was called as a witness during many trials.
The Escape Artist is a harrowing yet informative read that is a must for anyone interested in non fiction, especially to do with WW2 and the holocaust. I was surprised at how much more I learned about that time in history from reading this book. Some parts are certainly not easy to digest but overall it is a compelling story of one man’s journey that needs to be seen and heard.