EXCLUSIVE: Producer Ben Shields Catlin has teamed with Black List screenwriters Evan Parter and Paul Hilborn to develop a feature adaptation to I Escaped From Auschwitz memoir by Rudi Vrba. It details Vrba’s experience in a concentration camp as well as his harrowing escape.
In 1942, Vrba was deported to Auschwitz at the age of 18 from his hometown in Slovakia. He became connected to the underground resistance within the camp where he and his friend Fred Wetzler devised an ingenious escape plan. In the Spring of 1944, they broke out of the prison, just as the Nazi’s Final Solution was heading into its deadliest months. Once free, Vrba and Wetzler set off an epic manhunt for them through nearly 100 miles of treacherous Nazi territory, being tracked by SS search parties desperate to hunt them down. After multiple close calls, they made it back home to Slovakia where they would write the first eyewitness accounts of the death camps. The Vrba-Wetzler Report found its way to FDR, Churchill, the Pope, and finally, to the front page of the New York Times, where it exposed the truth of the Final Solution to the world. In the end, Rudi’s escape and thorough account of the horrors of Auschwitz helped to save hundreds of thousands of lives.
The novel, which was first released n 1963 (under the title I Cannot Forgive) will be re-released later this month via Skyhorse Publishing.
Catlin, who is producing the pic under his label, Story in the Sky, acquired the rights from Rudi’s widow, Robin Vrba, who married Rudi in 1975 and has been keeping his story alive since his passing in 2006. “Rudi believed it was his duty to help the world understand the sinister meaning of the Nazis and how to recognize the warning signs in the future,” said Robin, who is repped by New York attorney and scholar Gary Lipson.
Parter and Hilborn are behind the 2016 Black List, Kings Canyon, with Parter also making the list for The Independent in 2013. Most recently, Parter sold a pitch to Amazon Studios about John Dean and the Watergate scandal with Billy Ray and
Bob Cooper producing, and Chris Pine attached to star. The duo is repped by Anonymous Content and Ziffren Brittenham.
“Rudi’s story contains the full spectrum of the human condition, bearing witness to pure evil alongside true love, friendship and the triumph of the human spirit,” said Parter and Hilborn. “Following one man’s mission to expose the horrifying truth and save his people, I Escaped from Auschwitz is the most inspiring memoir we have ever read. We are so grateful that Robin has trusted us to share Rudi’s story with the world.”
In addition to I Escaped from Auschwitz, Catlin is also producing The Standoff, a film set up at Netflix with The Fast And The Furious helmer Justin Lin directing. It’s set 1969 when a newly formed Police unit known as the “SWAT team” embarked on their first major operation: to raid the Los Angeles Headquarters of the Black Panther Party. Seen from both perspectives, the resulting face-off would be the most intense in the city’s long history, and its ramifications are still felt today.