Varian Fry

Varian Fry
Born in New York City, Varian Fry (1907-1967) attended the Taft, Hotchkiss and Riverdale Country Day schools and Harvard (in the top 10% of his class) where he co-founded the literary magazine Hound & Horn in 1927 and received his bachelor’s degree in 1931. As a foreign correspondent for The Living Age, Fry saw the Nazis mistreat Jews in Berlin in 1935, which turned him into an ardent anti-Nazi.

Fry went to Marseille in August 1940 for the newly formed Emergency Rescue Committee. There, he and a small group of colleagues helped over 1,500 anti-Nazis and Jews escape until Fry was expelled from France in September 1941 because Vichy and US State Department officials had become angered by his covert activities. Hiram Bingham, the American Vice Consul in Marseille issued thousands of legal and illegal visas, and the Unitarian Service Committee in Lisbon, through which many of Fry’s “clients” traveled before sailing to the US, assisted Fry’s efforts to save refugees — including prominent artists, scientists and intellectuals such as Hannah Arendt, Jean Arp, André Breton, Marc and Bella Chagall, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Lion Feuchtwanger, Jacques Hadamard, Konrad Heiden, Arthur Koestler, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Jacques Lipchitz, Bohuslav Martinů, Golo and Heinrich Mann, André Masson, Walter Mehring, Otto Meyerhoff, Max Ophüls, Peter Pringsheim, Jacques Schiffrin, Franz Werfel and Alma Mahler-Werfel.

Back in New York, Fry was strongly critical of US immigration policies, especially regarding Jews: his scathing “
The Massacre of Jews in Europe” appeared in The New Republic in December 1942. After the war, Fry worked as a journalist, magazine editor and business writer. He also taught college and was in film production. Shortly before his death, France awarded Fry the Legion of Honor. In 1994 Fry became the first American recognized as a “Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust Memorial.

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