Saturday, December 22, 2007

Varian Fry -a name so sadly forgotten

Varian Fry died in rural Connecticut, known only as a teacher of Latin in the local high school.
What History reveals to us is that he was another Schindler, who in this case saved the lives of some of the twentieth century's most powerful writers ands artists from almost certain death at the hands of Hitler's Germany during World War II.
When Fry, who in 1940 was a journalist in New York, heard of the impending danger the eminent and budding ant-Nazi artists were threatened with, he contacted a private group, called the American Relief Center, sponsored by such distinguished Americans as Eleanor Roosevelt, the President's wife, and it was arranged, upon Fry's insistence, that he be spirited to France.
Upon his arrival in Marseilles, he immediately opened an office in that port, and through various means of communication, the grapevine let it be known throughout Western Europe that artists, through this office, could find a way to America and safety. Be reminded that Marseilles was in Vichy France, a region not directly dominated by the Germans through an agreement between the two countries after France's defeat in 1940.
Amazingly, within weeks, the result was that hundreds appeared in front of Fry's office seeking emergency exit visas that were made available by the American Relief Center.
At first Fry and his small staff of French and American citizens were overwhelmed; however, the result was, that within a year of Fry's arrival, over 2000 people were saved, some of whom were artists and writers such as Heinrich Mann (brother of Thomas), Werfel, Masson, Chagall, Ernst, and Lipchitz.
Their arrival in America resulted in the establishing of the United States as one of the world's leading centers of art in the form of such aspects as writers, sculptors, masters of Surrealism etc.
In short, Varian Fry altered the course of the history of art through his actions.
By August of 1941, however, Fry was forced to move out of France by order of a warning from the Vichy police. He arrived at the Spanish border on August 28, 1941, and reluctantly set sail for America.
He died alone in 1967.

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