As the German tanks destroy the Warsaw Ghetto, one of the few remaining fighters, Yosl Rakover, writes out his last words to God, seals the text in a glass bottle and thrusts it into the rubble before preparing to die. The text surfaces in Europe in the 1950s, is passed from hand to hand, broadcast on Radio Berlin - where it is acclaimed by Thomas Mann as a religious masterpiece - is anthologised and translated into many languages.
But what is hailed as the greatest piece of writing to have emerged from the Holocaust is in fact a short story, written in 1946 for a Yiddish newspaper by a remarkable young Jew. Zvi Kolitz, in Buenos Aires, where he had gone to raise money for the Jewish underground in the struggle to establish the State of Israel. The story of what happened to the text and to Kolitz in the fifty years since, and their eventual rejoining, forms the second part of this fascinating book.