Review: The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World by Jonathan Freedland

Title: The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World

Author: Jonathan Freedland

Narrator: Jonathan Freedland

Length: 11 hrs and 47 mins

5 out of 5 stars

Trigger Warnings: graphic death; genocide; torture; physical abuse; starvation; PTSD; survivor’s guilt; infanticide; cheating; alcohol use; paranoia; abusive relationship; suicide of a child; cancer; 

“Information is necessary, to be sure, but it is never sufficient. Information must also be believed…Only when information is combined with belief does it become knowledge, and only knowledge leads to action.”

This book tells the story of Rudolf Vrba, born Walter Rosenberg, who with Frank Wetzler were the first Jews to escape Auschwitz and warned the world. The Vrba-Wetzler report ended up being a widespread report that told the world that Jews were not being resettled but were being led straight to the gas chambers. 

This was a well researched account of Rudolf’s journey with deportation and multiple concentration camps, but we also get to learn about Rudolf’s life before and after the Holocaust. What surprised me about this book was that I had never heard Rudolf’s name before. You would think that these two names would be widespread but sadly that isn’t the case. Vrba’s journey to escape Auschwitz was harrowing and heartbreaking. I had to break up this audiobook because all the horrors he faced were just too much at times, and that shows in the fact that Vrba struggled with paranoia and PTSD afterwards. 

We also learn that Vrba was very vocal after the Holocaust about his views on the failure of the governments and Jewish Council. This caused him to be erased from Holocaust history. It also didn’t help that the Vrba-Wetzler report didn’t have their names on it to protect their identities at the time. Basically, there were a lot of things keeping Vrba and Wetzler’s names out of the general public, which is sadly a common occurrence. 

One of the things about this book that I really appreciated was that the author didn’t refrain from talking negatively about Vrba’s life. He discussed his paranoia, the toxic marriage he had, his cheating, and the various fights he had when voicing his opinion about leaders actions during the Holocaust. He also talked about how Vrba wasn’t invited to talks, such as at a High School, because of his views and frequent anger during his recounting. It is sad that this man who did so much frequently was overlooked because he spoke his truths. 

This story also discussed how powerful denial can be. Vrba believed that once he got the truth out then the Jews in Hungary would revolt, but many argued against that. People testified that many who were told, especially older people, refused to believe it was happening. This is a heartbreaking thing to live with, especially when his whole purpose in escaping Auschwitz was to save his fellow Jews. Basically this story showed how horrible humanity can be and how easy it is for people to deny the truth. 

Overall, this was a very important piece of history and I highly recommend reading it. Vrba and Wetzler’s actions were a very important part of history and their names should be known.

Goodreads | StoryGraph | Amazon

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