The true story of Folke Bernadotte’s heroic rescue of 30,000 prisoners during WWII
In one of the most amazing rescues of WWII, the Swedish head of the Red Cross rescued more than 30,000 people from concentration camps in the last three months of the war. Folke Bernadotte did so by negotiating with the enemy — shaking hands with Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Gestapo. Time was of the essence, as Hitler had ordered the destruction of all camps and everyone in them.
A Forgotten Hero chronicles Folke’s life and extraordinary journey, from his family history and early years to saving thousands of lives during WWII and his untimely assassination in 1948. A straightforward and compelling narrative, A Forgotten Hero sheds light on this important and heroic historical figure.
Former foreign correspondent Emling (Setting the World on Fire: The Brief, Astonishing Life of St. Catherine of Siena) delivers a worthy tribute to "the dashing Swedish diplomat who dared to breach Hitler's inner circle during the waning days of WWII, for the sole purpose of saving thousands of strangers the rest of the world had appeared willing to write off." A prologue beginning in 1939 depicts a Polish Jew's experiences of Nazi oppression, including imprisonment in the concentration camp Ravensbruck, from which she was freed in 1945 in an escape arranged by Folke Bernadotte. Relying on Bernadotte's writings and conversations with his children and with secondary sources, Emling flashes back to the beginning of her subject's life: the son of Sweden's Prince Oscar, Bernadotte began a career in the military and, in 1940, assumed responsibility for providing safe haven for military personnel from hostile countries who had ended up in Sweden. That led to a senior role with the Swedish Red Cross and, ultimately, negotiations with high-level Nazis, including Heinrich Himmler, which brought about improved conditions for Scandinavian prisoners and the release of 7,500 women, 1,000 of them Jewish. After the war, Bernadotte was appointed a United Nations mediator in Palestine, where his peace proposals were regarded as "calamitous" by the leaders of Israel's right-wing Lehi movement, who had him assassinated in 1948. Emling's accessible account of Bernadotte's humanitarian achievements will inspire readers.