Fry - today known as the American Schindler, a reference to Oscar
Schindler, who saved 1200 Jews during the Holocaust - only
recently began to win widespread recognition and his exploits are
just coming to light. During World War II
this quiet, faintly absent-minded American hero risked his life to save the heart and soul
of Europe during the Holocaust
and helped numerous writers, artists and thinkers escape
the Nazis. One of the great men of the twentieth century, a Scarlet
Like Schindler Varian Fry also had a list of life,
including 200 of the brightest names in art, science, literature and
medicine. Among those on Fry's list were painters Marc Chagall, Bernard Reder and Andrè Masson,
Nobel laureate physiologist Otto Meyerhof, mathematician Jaques
Hadamard, writers Franz Werfel, Hannah Arendt, Heinrich Mann and
Lion Feuchtwanger, sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, the hebraic scholar
Oscar Goldberg, Max Ernst, Konrad
Heiden, Hans Habe, Wanda Landowska, and many more.
At great personal risk, Varian Fry set up contacts with the French Resistance and the
Corsican mob, hired forgers, bribed border guards, and he personally
escorted Franz Werfel and Heinrich Mann over the Pyrenees - his
rescue efforts made an indelible influence on our culture.
But unlike Oscar
Schindler, whose story became a best-selling book
and an Oscar-winning movie, the legacy of Varian Fry is little known
and his courageous acts went largely ignored for years.
The Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel - Nobel Prize For Peace recipient,
teacher, sage, activist, humanitarian - has dedicated his
life to ensuring that none of us forget what happened to the
He has taught us that we must not forget - that there is no greater
sin than that of silence and indifference. He wrote:
is a passion no less powerful or pervasive than love. What does it
mean to remember? It is to live in more than one world, to prevent
the past from fading and to call up the future to illuminate it. It
is to revive fragments of existence, to rescue lost beings, to cast
light on faces and events and to drive back the sands that cover the
surface of things, to combat oblivion and to reject death ...
those times there was darkness everywhere. In heaven and on earth,
all the gates of compassion seemed to have been closed. The killer
killed and the Jews died and the outside world adopted an attitude
either of complicity or of indifference. Only a few had the courage
to care ..."
One of them was Varian Fry. According to Yad
Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority
it is estimated that Fry and his team dealt with some 15,000 cases by May
1941. Of these, assistance was provided to approximately 4,000
people, over 1,000 of whom were smuggled from France in various ways.
When asked as to his motives, Varian Fry responded that when he had
visited Berlin in 1935, he saw SA men assaulting Jews in the city's
streets, and he felt
he could no longer remain indifferent. When he returned to US he
decided to act:
remembered what I had seen in Germany. I knew what would happen to
the refugees if the Gestapo got hold of them ... It was my duty to
help them ... Friends warned me of the danger. They said I was a
fool to go. I, too, could be walking into the trap. I might never
come back alive."
the age of 32 Varian Fry had found his vocation ...