The One Man

Written by Andrew Gross
Review by Ilysa Magnus

Alfred Mendl is a renowned Polish physicist who has dedicated his life to electromagnetic research. When he and his family are captured and sent to Auschwitz, the U.S. government sets a plan in motion to free him.

Why? It appears that Mendl has knowledge shared only by one other person – a physicist working for the Nazis. As the Nazis inch closer to an atomic weapon, Mendl’s expertise is desperately needed by his mentor, Niels Bohr, and the other scientists involved in what came to be known as the Manhattan Project. Indeed, without Mendl’s formulas, the Allied effort to separate U-235 and U-238 – the secret to creating the powerful reaction required in an atomic bomb – will likely come too late, and the Nazis, who realize they are losing the War, will be victorious.

The highest powers in the U.S. have set the plan in motion, locating and training young Intelligence Lieutenant Nathan Blum (who has lost his entire family to the Nazis in Poland) to infiltrate Auschwitz and retrieve Mendl.

In an epilogue to this suspenseful, wonderful, sometimes difficult read, Gross explains the origins of the idea here – his father-in-law had lived through the Holocaust and dares never speak of it, even though he doesn’t know what became of his family in Poland. As Gross started his research, he learned about Niels Bohr, whose harrowing escape from Denmark, after having been awarded the Nobel Prize in 1922, came as a jumping-off place for Gross’s creation of Alfred Mendl, who is not an historical figure. Although Gross is best known for his non-historical thrillers, he hits this one out of the park. The reader becomes engrossed and stays engrossed; the characters are beautifully drawn, and the history speaks for itself. A highly recommended read.