“The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World” — Kati Marton
Noted journalist and bestselling author Marton (Hidden Power) offers a haunting tale of the wartime Hungarian diaspora. The nine illustrious Hungarians she profiles were all “double outsiders,” for, as well as being natives of a “small, linguistically impenetrable, landlocked country,” they were all Jews. Fleeing fascism and anti-Semitism for the New World, each experienced insecurity, isolation and a sense of perpetual exile. Yet all achieved world fame.
The scientists Leo Szilard, Edward Teller and Eugene Wigner, along with game theorist and computer pioneer, John von Neuman, spurred Albert Einstein to persuade Franklin Roosevelt to develop the atomic bomb. Robert Capa and Andre Kertesz became legendary photojournalists. Alexander Korda was the savior of the British film industry, and Michael Curtiz directed “Casablanca.” Arthur Koestler penned the monumental anti-Communist novel “Darkness at Noon.”
Marton intricately charts each man's career in the context of WWII and Cold War history. Herself Hungarian-born, the daughter of journalists who escaped Soviet-occupied Hungary in 1957, Marton captures her fellow Hungarians' nostalgia for prewar Budapest, evoking its flamboyant cafes, its trams, boulevards and cosmopolitan Jewish community. Marton writes beautifully, balancing sharply defined character studies of each man with insights into their shared cultural traits and uprootedness. 16 pages of photos, map.