THE ONE MAN
By Andrew Gross
Andrew Gross has written a fascinating and exciting story set in hell: the Auschwitz concentration camp.
In 1944, both Germany and the Allies are racing to create enough fissionable material to build an atomic bomb. There are different methods used to make Uranium-235. The Germans used the heavy water method while the Allies focused on gas diffusion. But the foremost expert in gas diffusion is renowned physicist Alfred Mendl, a Polish Jew who’s currently in Nazi-occupied Europe. The OSS has tried to get Mendl and his family out with forged Paraguayan passports, but German Abwehr officer Colonel Franke has seen through the deception and shipped the family to Auschwitz.
In a last-ditch attempt to get Mendl, the OSS creates a bold plan. They recruit Nathan Blum, another Polish Jew who managed to make it out of the country on a mission to save a priceless Torah from destruction by the Nazis. After his escape, word reached him that his remaining family was slaughtered in a reprisal for a resistance attack. Blum’s working in Washington as a translator until he’s called to meet “Wild Bill” Donovan and the OSS director’s deputy, Captain Strauss. The new mission they have for him, approved by FDR, is to return to Poland, sneak into Auschwitz, locate Mendl, and get him out.
Meanwhile, Mendl fears he won’t last much longer in the camp and with his death his work will be lost. He reaches out to Leo, a chess prodigy with a brilliant memory. Leo has some protection provided by the Deputy Commandant’s wife, Greta, who enjoys chess. But while their friendship helps Leo survive, her husband’s jealousy may be the chess player’s downfall. And even as Blum undertakes his assignment, Franke has gotten wind of the plan.
Gross blends research and detail with a fast-paced story and well-drawn characters, each with their own agenda. He evokes Auschwitz in all its horror, yet also captures the humanity within an inhuman world. The story will stay with you long after you read the final lines.