The Great Escape - Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler & Changed the World
by Kati Marton
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. 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.
From The New Yorker
Among the Hungarian Jews who made their way to England and America as Hitler rose to power were four scientists, two filmmakers, two photographers, and a writer. These men, products of the same few Gymnasien and cafes, delivered the Manhattan Project, game theory, and "Casablanca." Marton, who fled Hungary as a child in 1957, illuminates Budapest's vertiginous Golden Age and the darkness that followed (a darkness that some of her subjects, notably Arthur Koestler, never shook). Seeing how abruptly the world could change, the Hungarians didn't doubt that they could change it. They also stuck together; even Leo Szilard, who crusaded against the bombs that he made possible, and Edward Teller, who sold Reagan on missile defense, stayed friends. By looking at these nine lives - salvaged, and crucial - Marton provides a moving measure of how much was lost.