By GABRIELLA BOCK | Contributing Writer
Ten years ago, former Palisadian author David Amante was riding the train in his home country of Italy. It was there he spotted a not-so-unusual sight: a creased, day-old newspaper left carelessly on a seat by another passenger.
Instead of meeting the typical fate of muddy foot traffic, the forgotten paper was adopted by Amante, who, by sheer chance, discovered a story within its pages that would motivate the author to pen his now best-selling novel and recently adapted screenplay, “The Wallenberg Dossier.”
The book is heavily inspired by the life of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who risked his life to hide thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary during the Second World War. He also thwarted a fascist plan to destroy a Budapest ghetto that, at the time, housed nearly 70,000 people.
Among those saved by Wallenberg were biochemist Lars Ernster and Tom Lantos, who would later become a member of the United States House of Representatives.
Although a true tale of heroic bravery, what makes Wallenberg’s story even more intriguing are the circumstances that surround his disappearance after the war’s end. His last official sighting was on Jan. 17, 1945, right before he was called in to Hungarian city of Debrecen to speak with a Soviet military officer on allegations of espionage.
In 1996, the CIA released previously classified documents that confirm that Wallenberg had been working as an American intelligence asset during his time in Hungary, but to this day, nobody knows for sure what happened to the man who saved thousands of souls from Nazi internment.
Some witnesses claim to have met Wallenberg in Russian prisons and psychiatric hospitals in as late as the 1980s, while recovered Soviet documents state that he died of a sudden heart attack in 1947.
Like with any good mystery, creative speculation was not lost on Amante, and what originally began as a biography soon transformed into something a little less historical and a little more Hollywood.
Part thriller, part love-story, the novel picks up at Wallenberg’s disappearance and shifts to the perspective of his partner, a female operative who sets out to lead his rescue mission.
Speaking with the Palisadian-Post, Amante, whose own grandfather had rescued and hid a Jewish woman from Italian Nazi-sympathizers during WWII, explained that, through his writing, he aims to demonstrate the value in understanding one another’s differences.
“In a time when inclusion and human values are stoutly challenged, this story gives voice to an answer,” Amante told the Post. “A flower can stem even in the worst of situations and learning to take care of others is one of the highest actions we can do.”
A film adaptation of “The Wallenberg Dossier” is already in development with DMA International with plans to shoot in the United States, Israel and Italy. Still in its initial phase, the production company is currently raising funds and support on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.
And Amante, who drafted his first ideas for the story while living in The Huntington, revealed to the Post that he hopes to incorporate a bit of the town where it all began.
“In the Palisades, I had this constant feeling of longing. In South America they call it saudade, but in the Palisades, ‘longing’ is more appropriate because it recalls the land that pushes you to do more, to dream more, to reach out more,” he said.
“My desire is to shoot some of the scenes right here in the Palisades—that would truly close the circle for me.”
To purchase a copy “The Wallenberg Dossier” or for more information about the film campaign, visit thewallenbergdossier.com.