Here is a list of the things that I stole from history, true facts that I warped and twisted for my own purposes. Follow the various links below to find out more on all of these historical events.
1. The Hungarian Gold Train existed. It was indeed staffed by Hungarian bureaucrats employed by the “Jewish Property Office,” and it was indeed turned over to American control at the end of the war.
• Hungarian Gold Train, Wikipedia
• The Mystery of the Hungarian “Gold Train,"
Jewish Virtual Library • The Hungarian Gold Train Settlement • Holocaust Restitution: Recovering Stolen Art
Jewish Virtual Library • Looted Art, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum • Nazi Plunder, Wikipedia • The Gold Train: The Destruction of the Jews and the Looting of Hungary, Ronald Zweig • Self-Financing Genocide: The Gold Train - The Becher Case - The Wealth of Jews, Hungary, Gabor Kadar and Zoltan Vagi
2. High-ranking members of the American armed forces did indeed requisition items from the train, and did indeed take those things home with them. Essentially, looting them.
3. All the facts about life in post-war Salzburg are true, including all the details of life in the DP camps. That Purim scene? Taken from first person accounts.
4. The post-war massacres of survivors happened, as did the terrible treatment of survivors by certain US Army personnel, including General Patton, who said some true horrifying things about the Jewish survivors, and who seemed a little too admiring of the SS.
5. Jews from British Mandate Palestine did come into the camps to train, educate and help the survivors escape over the Alps into Italy, where they were then loaded onto ships which attempted to run the British blockade. The terrible things I have the young Jewish members of Mossad L’Aliyah Bet saying about the survivors are exact quotes taken from the writings of Ben Gurion. Uncomfortable to contemplate, I know, but true.
6. The fate of the Jews of Hungary is all true.
1. I thought I made up the concept of a shady art dealer who deals in stolen Holocaust art, with profit as his motive rather than justice, but then I actually found someone who does that very thing. That discovery didn’t do a whole lot for my faith in the fundamental decency of humanity.
2. The artist Vidor Komlós is a figment of my imagination, though I liberally stole from the biographies of various artists of the period in creating him. None of the actual people in the book exist, though I filched biographical details from many different real people in creating my fictional characters.
3. The story of Amitai’s courage in battle is based on the stories of various Israeli war heroes, including my own brother, who was wounded during the Israeli Yom Kippur War. This is the official description of my brother’s experience, in Hebrew and then in English.
במלחמת יום הכפורים השתתף סגן יוסף יערי בקרבות על "החווה הסינית". ב-16 באוקטובר 1973, בלחימה על "החווה הסינית", נפגעו לוחמים רבים. סגן יוסף יערי היה בין מארגני פינוי הנפגעים ועסק בפינוי תחת אש אויב כבדה. ב-17 באוקטובר 1973 נפצע סגן יוסף יערי ברגלו ופונה ב-נגמ"ש, יחד עם פצועים נוספים. בעת התנועה נפגע ה-נגמ"ש מטיל. בהיותו פצוע ולמרות שלא הכיר את ה-נגמ"ש ארגן סגן יוסף יערי את העמסת הנפגעים מחדש, נהג בו בעצמו, והצליח לחלץ את ה-נגמ"ש על נוסעיו מהשטח שהיה נתון לאש אויב. במעשיו אלה גילה סגן יוסף יערי תושיה, אומץ לב, קור רוח, אחוות לוחמים ודבקות במשימה למופת. על מעשה זה הוענק לו : עיטור המופת ניסן תשל"ו אפריל 1976, מרדכי גור, רב אלוף, ראש המטה הכללי
During the Yom Kippur War, Lt. Yosef Ya’ari took part in the Battles of the Chinese Farm. Many casualties were sustained in fighting for the “Chinese Farm” on October 16, 1973. Lt. Yosef Ya’ari was among those who organized the evacuation of the wounded, working under heavy enemy fire. On October 17, 1973, Lt. Yosef Ya’ari sustained an injury to his leg and was evacuated along with other battled-injured casualties in an Armored Personnel Carrier. While in transit, the APC was hit by a missile, and though he was wounded and was unfamiliar with the APC, Lt. Yosef Ya’ari organized the reloading of the injured into the vehicle and drove it himself, successfully extricating the APC and all those in it from the field, under enemy fire. With his actions, Lt. Yosef Ya’ari demonstrated resourcefulness, courage, presence of mind, brotherhood of arms, and exemplary dedication to his mission. For this act, he was awarded: The Medal of Distinguished Service, April 1976, Mordechai Gur, Lieutenant General, Chief of Staff.
4. There was in fact a family of dwarves who were both protected and tortured by Mengele at Auschwitz. The Weisz family in the novel are very loosely based on the Ovitz family, also from Transylvania. You can read more about the Ovitz family in the links below.
• The Dwarves of Auschwitz, The Guardian • The Ovitz Family, Wikipedia • In Our Hearts We Were Giants: The Remarkable Story of the Lilliput Troupe: A Dwarf Family's Survival of the Holocaust, Yehuda Koren
1. All of the characters are entirely fictional, and none of the specific elements of the plot actually happened. There was no anarchist incident.
2. There was a International Woman’s Suffrage Conference in Budapest in 1913, and Rózsa Schwimmer was indeed a major figure in the international feminist movement, though she did not have a secretary with dwarfism. Click the link to see great photographs of the conference from the New York Public Library.