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Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash:
Varian Fry was a Harvard-trained classics scholar and journalist who helped Jews and other refugees escape France after the German occupation. He helped establish the Emergency Rescue Committee in New York to assist both Jewish and non-Jewish intellectuals, artists, musicians, and writers who were known anti-Nazis and whose lives would be in danger in Petainist Vichy France. Travelling first to Lisbon, Portugal, Fry met with Waitstill Sharp, the American Unitarian minister who helped him with contacts in Marseilles. Fry wasted no time setting up office space and gathering the requisite staff. He worked with Hiram Bingham IV, at this time the American vice-consul in Marseilles, and began helping refugees to safety in neutral Portugal, some crossing the so-called “Freedom Trail” across the Pyrenees to avoid Spanish border guards, before arriving safely in Lisbon. Fry and his staff worked to provide homes for refugees: Bingham, for example, hid the novelist Lion Feuchtwanger in his own home, until such time as Waitstill Sharp could ensure his safe passage to America. Fry and his network would help more than 4000 people and as many as 1000 refugees smuggled out of France, many to find sanctuary in the United States. The list included Hanna Arendt, the writers Franz Werfel and Heinrich Mann, the artist Marc Chagall and many others. The work of Fry and his staff would eventually anger both French and American authorities. United States Secretary of State Cordell Hull was concerned that Fry’s covert activities would jeopardize American neutrality, his (Hull’s) “sympathy” for the “unfortunate refugees” notwithstanding. Hull demanded that Fry return stateside immediately. When Fry refused, Hull had his passport revoked. Fry was arrested by French police on suspicion of being a terrorist, taken to the Spanish border, and returned to the US in 1941.
Fry received the French Croix de Chevalier and was the first American honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.
11 x 8 1/2"
Varian Fry, Waitstill Sharp, Martha Sharp, Hiram Bingham IV, Cordell Hull
"Varian Fry (1907-1967) 1994 Copy of 1941 Press Photograph" (1905). Bulmash Family Holocaust Collection. 2022.1.31.