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The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  432 ratings  ·  83 reviews
'The Great Escape' is the story of the breathtaking journey of nine extraordinary men from war-torn Budapest to freedom, what they experienced along their dangerous route, and how they changed the world.
Hardcover, 271 pages
Published October 17th 2006 by Simon & Schuster
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3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  432 ratings  ·  83 reviews

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Jul 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: WWII buffs and Hungarians
What fascinated me most about this book was how many famous Americans are really Hungarians! I didn't know anything about Hungary before reading this, but I am driven to learn more about the recent past because of this book.

The movie Casablanca was directed by a Hungarian, and the story of its creation is entrancing. The idea of a US atom bomb was launched and created by three Hungarians. Who knew that Hungarians have been so influential in 20th century Western life?

"Hungarians are the only peo
Marcia Fine
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved the history in this book. It brought together the movie industry, the Manhattan Project and photography. There were so many famous names that influenced America. A most impressive work! Read this book as well as The Invisible Bridge
Jan 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Just finished "Enemies of the People" not dreaming that this could be as good, if not better. But it is. Marton is a terrific writer.
Mar 18, 2018 added it
I give this book zero stars.

Since my father was one of the nine who escaped, I was interested in this book. As I read I found the material superficial, with cute stories cherry picked, but nothing especially new or insightful. There are so many better books written about these people and these times. Among them are: Budapest 1900 by John Lukacs, Weimar Culture by Peter Gray, His Version of the Facts by Leo Szilard, Genius in the Shadows by William Lanouette, The Recollections of Eugene P. Wigner
Carl R.
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Kati Marton’s The Great Escape is an eye-opener. How many of us know that turn-of-the century Budapest was a world-unique hotbed of intellectual and artistic activity where Jews participated on an equal basis with gentiles?
Not me. Nor did I know that when it all fell apart during and after WWI, when Hungary lost its seaport in the Versailles/Trianon carveup, when poverty and despotism took over so much of Eastern Europe, these same prosperous Jews became worse and worse off as the century progr
Jun 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After I finished Marton's 'Paris: A Love Story'I wasn't sure I'd want to read anything else by her. I'd liked her book on Wallenberg well enough, but found some parts a bit ponderous. It felt like she had a mission, which she completed more than adequately, but her prose didn't fully resonate.

After those 2 books I wondered, quite frankly, how she'd earned her stellar reputation as a writer, and suspected that perhaps she'd benefited from the company she kept rather than her actual abilities. Si
Dec 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
At end of summer in my last trip to Alaska, one of the parishioners in Petersburg lent me “The Great Escape.” This was not the World War ii escape from a German prison camp but the escape from Hitler. The subtitle was: The Great Escape, Nine Jews who Fled Hitler and Changed the World.

It was written by an expatriate Hungarian. The 9 Hungarians mentioned are an incredible group:Robert Capa, Andre Kertesz, John von Neumann, Leo Szilard, Edward Teller, Eugene Wigner (Wigner, Szilard to Einstein to
Interesting to be reading about Hungary as the Syrian refugee crisis seemed to highlight its current xenophobia.A mindset so far from the Golden Age of 1870-1910, experienced so soon after Hungary's war for independence was
cruelly extinguishes in 1848. In 1867 Hungary's capital Budapest would become co-capital of the Austro-Hungarian [Habsburg] empire.

A generation later, Hungary would experience a period of great advances in the arts & sciences. Its Golden Age, 1870-1910, presented the worl
Dec 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
Marton's book, The Great Escape, follows the lives of nine exceptional Hungarians who lived during Hitler's reign of terror. All nine escaped their homeland, and throughout the book, Marton follows the various paths their lives took. She writes about Michael Curtiz, the man who brought the world the film Casablanca, and another director, Alexander Korda, known for his lavish sets and stunning films. She also follows two photographers, Andre Kertesz who pioneered photojournalism, and Robert Capa, ...more
Nov 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sandy by: The Steven Colbert Show
Shelves: 2010
Fabulous read. Inspiring and telling. The story reveals the personal side of some great, historic accomplishments from the dismal and horrific time of Hitler. These 9 Jews changed the world as we know it; they pioneered advancements in science, photography, and literature.

Sometimes it was hard to keep track of the facts as most of the men changed their given names to escape Hitler and assimilate into Europe or America. The scientists associated with Einstein; pioneered the nuclear age and then,
May 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fascinating read. The only complaint I have is that while listening to it (in the car -- which means I sometimes had to pull my attention away from the book to concentrate solely on something happening on the road), I began to get confused about who was doing what. Especially since so many of the nine have names that begin with the same sound. Took until the middle of the book to get that part down. Other complaint has to do with the audiobook format. I wish the reader would have paused for a mo ...more
Aug 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read book for anyone with any interest in 20thC European history. The author (widow of Peter Jennings) came to the US from Hungary with her family in the mid 50's at the time of the Hungarian Revolution against the USSR. She writes of the linguistic and cultural uniqueness of Hungarians in Europe--making the point that the transition of Hungarians to the US was huge, given that they never really fit in well in their home continent. The impact of WWI and the rapid and extreme polit ...more
Jul 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jewish, ww2
(Alexander Korda, Michael Curtiz, Arthur Koestler, Robert Capa, Andre Kertesz, Leo Szilard, Edward Teller, Eugene Wigner and John von Neumann) To be honest I know next to nothing about Hungarian history, but I found this group of men fascinating. Each one was driven and brilliant, but important for this story, and for the events of World War II, they were politically sophisticated and very pessimistic about the fate of Jews in Europe. As a group they were not so much forced out of Europe as they ...more
Jan 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This was an interesting account of nine Hungarians who left Hungary just as Hitler came into power. The book primarily focuses on their contributions to the world after leaving their homeland. While the book was interesting, the description of the men's lives seemed inadequate since the author was trying to give a full biography for nine different men. For example, on several occasions she describes in detail pictures taken by one man who revolutionized the photojournalist industry, but none of ...more
Shauna Tharp
Mar 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Marton's recounting of the experiences and influential lives of these nine men was excellent. She painted a picture of each man's contributions individually and as a remarkable group. This can't help but lead to thoughts of the unbelievable atrocities of Nazi Europe and the other unbelievable thinkers and artists that were lost.
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've just completed the audiobook, for the second time & wonder how I missed so much the first go a few years past. This brings up so many other interesting accounts that I've now made a list of all the other aspects I want to delve into. I like books that make me curious about the many references, it's like as a child I'd start looking up something the the great world book encyclopedias, I'd come across something equally interesting & simply forget where or why I opened the book in the ...more
Jan Bufkin
Jun 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A Hungarian brain-drain. Stories of nine artists, photographers, directors, and scientists from Budapest. It includes the heroic Leo Szilard, who after creating the bomb, tried in vain to have a demonstration rather than dropping it. I read all of his letters to the War Department in college to create my senior project: The Bomb Dance. Director Capa's love affair with Ingrid Bergman is included, and many more from this extraordinary era.
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'd give it 2.5 if I could. It chronicled 8 prominent pre war Hingarians but was superficial in their place in Hungary and history. To be honest I expected more. It was an easy read but more fluff than substance.
Katie Browning
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was ok
I feel like I am cheating by saying I read this since I gave up on page 50. I am so interested in the stories of these men, but it was written like a history book, and I was too bored to keep going.
Florian Bieber
Mar 24, 2018 rated it liked it
A fine book, a bit too much emphasis on the Hungarian exceptionalism and not enough comparison to other cases, in particular Vienna or Berlin during the same period.
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
These biographies are wonderfully woven together. I found it entertaining and instructive.
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Kertesz part is amazing , and the " some men confess guilt to claim credit for their actions"
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initial reaction and informal commentary

This is the true story of nine Jewish Hungarian men who escape from the Nazi's and immigrate to the United States and England. Marton sets the stage of Budapest early in the 20th century. It was said to be the Paris of Eastern Europe. It was a Mecca for creative thought and the cafe society was thriving. It served to be an inspiration for these nine men: Author Arthur Koestler, phographers, Robert Capa and Andre Kertesz, filmakers Alexander Korda and Micha
Oct 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Fascinating book about Budapest and it's cultural history between WWI and WWII and some of the great minds who were nurtured there during this time but were forced to flee in order to fulfill their promise. From the brilliant scientists and mathematicians - Teller, von Neumann, Szilard and Wigner to the extraordinarily talented artistic ones - Capa, Curtiz, Korda, Koestler and Kertesz, Budapest was the starting place for these secular Jews who, because of religious and political persecution chos ...more
Sue Pit
Apr 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is quite a remarkable read. The author is Kati Marton, who is herself originally an Hungarian Jew whose family fled after the uprising of 1956 against the Soviets. She writes of certain earlier people who similarly fled Hungary but due to the Nazi regime. She specifically focuses upon a select group of 9 which consists of photographers, film makers, a writer and scientists and this is an amazing group indeed who left an incredible mark upon the land to which they ultimately fled (and global ...more
Gypsy Lady
Jul 23, 2010 marked it as to-read
"In this ground-breaking book, acclaimed author Kati Marton brings to life an unknown chapter of World War II: the tale of nine men who grew up in Budapest's brief Golden Age, then, driven from Hungary by anti-Semitism, fled to the West, especially to the United States, and changed the world. These nine men, each celebrated for individual achievements, were actually part of a unique group who grew up in a time and place that will never come again. It is Marton's extraordinary achievement to trac ...more
Kim Heimbuch
Mar 20, 2012 rated it did not like it
This was a real difficult read to get into. I was expecting to read about the life altering journeys of these nine men as they escaped the hands of the Hitler regime, but it just never really happened. It spent most of the time talking about the Hungarian lifestyle, the entertainment business such as film and production as well as photography and also a lot about famous people such as Einstein and movie actors long since dead. Although this in itself might have been an interesting read to many, ...more
Bob Dukelow
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a very nice book. It surveys the lives of nine Hungarians who fled their homeland and influenced the course of the 20th Century. For those of us who have lived in Budapest it has special meaning but for others it is still valuable to recognize that oppression does not equal defeat. I found it curious that among the many comments and quotes about the Hungarians who were key to the success of the Manhattan Project the most interesting attributed to Enrico Fermi was omitted: When a student ...more
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, ww-ii
I wanted to read this book because I appreciated Enemies of the People and Paris: A Love Story both by Kati Marton.

The Nine Jews of the title included photographers, movie directors, physicists and a writer. They all grew up in the early years of the 20th century in Budapest and eventually fled to America and Paris and London.

It was a bit disconcerting to go from one great man's story to another as Marton followed a chronology. I needed to write down the names and the occupations at one point
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Kati Marton is an award-winning former correspondent for NPR and ABC News. She is the author of eight books, the most recent of which is the New York Times-bestselling memoir Paris: A Love StoryEnemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. Her other works include The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World, Hidden P ...more
“Nincsen rá recept, hogyan kell emberi sorsok viszontagságaiból és a megnyíló lehetőségekből létrehozni azt a varázslatos elegyet, mely alig több mint egy évszázaddal ezelőtt Budapestet az alkotóerő kohójává tette.” 0 likes
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