Do you recognise this man?
Do you recognize this man? If you are in the arts and are unaware of who he is, I would love to bring him to your attention. He is responsible for saving the lives of over 2200 Jews during the Holocaust in World War 2. He is, without doubt one of the greatest men of the twentieth century, and still to this day remains relatively unknown. This is Varian Fry, also referred to as the American Schindler. An American journalist who put his life at risk in order to save the heartbeat of Europe, its culture and those whom would go on to influence millions of people around the world.
In 1935, while visiting Berlin, he witnessed SA men assaulting Jewish people in the street. No longer able to remain indifferent, he went against the advise of all those around him and decided to act against the atrocities.
With the small sum of $3000 raised, he began his effort with a list of 200 men and woman who were well respected in the arts, literature, science and medicine. A list of influential figures in danger of being lost amongst the horrors of war.
Varian then set up a rescue network smuggling people out of France by bribing border guards, hiring forgers and at times even personally escorting victims across the Pyrenees. In total, more than 2,200 people were taken across the border to Spain and then on to neighboring Portugal. From there they would be issued visas for the safety of the United States.
Amongst those saved were painters Marc Chagall, Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst, along with many famed writers and even André Breton, the founder of Surrealism. This letter to his wife gives us an insight to the humble demeanor of Varian Fry;
“Among the people who have come into my office, or with whom I am in constant correspondence, are not only some of the greatest living authors, painters, sculptors of Europe . . . but also former cabinet ministers and even prime ministers of half a dozen countries. What a strange place Europe is when men like this are reduced to waiting patiently in the anteroom of a young American of no importance whatever.”
I am in awe of the courage of Varian Fry. He not only saved the lives of many, but his efforts would go on to directly influence the history and culture of Europe.