How Varian Fry Helped My Family Escape the Nazis New York Book Review Everyday

How Varian Fry Helped My Family Escape the Nazis New York Book Review Everyday

I never knew my grandfather, the book's publisher, Jacques Schiffrin. He developed emphysema during the war and then died of lung cancer in 1957. He was a devoted smoker. I still have a cigarette case that his friends gave him when he left Baku in Azerbaijan in 1918 with a box of heavy metals signed with their signatures. of which - I always imagined a carefree company of old men, perhaps in big coats with a twisting mustache like my Baku relatives in a photo album I bequeathed to my great aunt Bella Brodsky.

First living in Italy, my grandfather worked with the great American art historian Bernard Berenson. Later, after Jacques moved to France in 1919 or 1920, Peggy Guggenheim gave him money when he founded the Éditions de la Pléiade in 1923 to make beautifully bound classics on fine paper. He later sold the imprint, which is still one of the most valued in France, to Gallimard, as my grandfather needed capital to develop the business. He had retained control of the Pléiad in Gallimard, but was released a few days after anti-Semitic laws came into force in occupied France in 1940.

This year was terribly difficult. Jacques had acquired French citizenship in 1927 and was prepared in 1939. Serving in the army delayed his departure from France and damaged his health. He finally fled occupied France in 1941, taking his wife Simone and son André, my grandmother and father, with him. After a harassing expectation in hopes of boarding the ship from Marseilles, he received help from an American journalist named Varian Fry. With the help of the visas Fry helped to obtain, the Schiffrin family eventually moved to New York, an escape reminiscent of the Casablanca plot.

In 2013, my father, publisher André Schiffrin, was dying. Our family had moved to Paris to be with him for the last few months and watched him gradually slip unconscious. Restless late at night and checking the email, I was surprised by a French student, Amos Reichman, who was looking for a research topic and thought my family's history in publishing books was interesting. We met for coffee and pointed to some archives. About two years later, he sent me an escape book from his grandfather and our family, Jacques Schiffrin: Publishing House in Exile, from the early draft of the Pléiad to the Pantheon.

I had imagined a somewhat happy story of salvation and new life in the United States, but it was much harder and sadder to read than I had thought. Having emigrated from the wreckage of Imperial Russia once, by 1941 my grandfather was older and in good health - and he did not want that second exile. His letters show that he was demanding and careful about the manuscripts he left behind but still published herds. He also seemed exhausted and unhappy. As I read more about the time he lived, I began to understand the causes of his melancholy.

German intellectuals, Jews and the left had left Germany since 1933. According to Mark Anderson, a German professor of literature, by the end of 1933, about 27,000 political prisoners and about 65,000 Germans had fled in concentration camps in his 2000 book; Of the latter, 40 percent had ended up in France. In 1939, before the German invasion, many of them were declared enemy aliens. After the Nazis occupied France in 1940, the adoption of a Jewish statute meant that German Jews were probably interned in the French Gurs and Drancy transit camps. A wave of refugees fled south to Marseille.

In her novel Transit 1941, the German writer Anna Seghers describes the Mediterranean port of Vichy in France. By that time, Marseille had become the last stop for people trying to leave the Axis-occupied Europe and anxiously searching for travel documents and tickets. There were few ships and it was difficult to get a visa. In her e-book The Savior (2012), Dara Horn explained that refugees need two visas to leave Vichy France: an exit visa from France and permission to enter the country of destination:

There were complicated rules in the visa game. The US State Department had authorized the issuance of emergency visas, but the American consulate in Marseilles, which was ready to please its allies in the Vichy government, took time to issue them. Even refugees who were able to obtain French exit visas often found that by the time they did so, their American visas had expired. Sometimes a third "transit visa" was also required to travel through Lisbon, Spain and Portugal, from where flights to New York departed. Many stateless refugees were not even able to obtain the documents they needed to travel in France.

The U.S. State Department refused entry visas to anyone who could become a "public prosecution," and by 1941, fears faced by Fifth Colonialism meant that any anti-fascist refugee could be rejected as a communist and denied papers. Currency restrictions further hampered rescue efforts. Philanthropist and humanitarian Harold Oram (working with Fry's wife Eileen) raised $ 20,000 in New York to help refugees, but it was illegal to take the money to France. Stateless refugees suffered the most, many of whom had run out of money or did not have access to their savings.

The waiting days were long and terrible. Seghers describes refugees sitting in cafes who have run out of money and try to get the necessary documents every day to escape Marseille. That was my grandfather's story. Jacques Schiffrin's associations saved my family: the writer André Gide, published by Jacques, sent him money several times, allowing my grandfather to pay for these tickets. Another of his contacts, Peggy Guggenheim, describes in his 1946 Memoir of the Century, how he ended up in Marseilles in 1941 with his "old friend Jacques Schiffrin":

I have never seen anyone in the Nazis so demoralized and frightened. Of course, he understood correctly what his fate would be if he stayed in Europe: concentration camps, torture and death. But he barely had the strength to leave France. I think all his papers were obsolete one by one while waiting for the boat. I did everything I could on his behalf, but it was hard to get through him. Finally, at last minute, Fryl managed to find a room for him in the boat and he was able to leave.

Fry was a hero in all this. During his year in Marseille (1940-1941), he and his colleagues set up a rescue network that rescued at least 2,000 people from the Nazis, including Hannah Arendt, Marc Chagall, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Arthur Koestler, Max Ophüls, Seghers himself, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and many other writers, artists, and philosophers. Fry was diligent and creative, found counterfeiting and bribery of border guards. Fry and his allies spent their days trying to get visas and boats from people in a desperate hurry. Due to his legal methods, Fry kept the US consul in Marseille. But for the refugee rescue organization set up by Fry and his assistants, rescue from destruction has been recognized as a vital piece of European culture.

Grown in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and educated at Harvard, Fry was an editor working for The Living Age, a magazine founded in 1844, which wrote excerpts from the foreign press. He also wrote for The New Republic and was a contributor for several years. While visiting Berlin in 1935, Fry saw a group of storm troops and civilians attacking all passing Jews in the Kurfürstendamm. Fry went home and wrote a piece for The New York Times, warning of what was to come: “I saw a man brutally beat and spit on the sidewalk, a woman bleeding, a man whose head was covered in blood…. Nowhere did the police seem to have tried to save the victims from this brutality. "(Later, in 1942, Fry wrote a cover story for the New Republic newspaper & nbsp; entitled" The Massacre of the Jews. ")

Fry did not just sound the alarm, but set up an emergency rescue committee with Reinhold Niebuhr and others (which later became the International Rescue Committee). Following the example of the American Labor Federation, which had already sent Frank Bohn over to rescue labor activists, Fry decided that intellectuals needed similar help. He helped organize a lunch at the Commodore Hotel in New York on June 25, 1940, to raise money for the ERC.

The Fry Group met for the first time at the banking successor Ingrid Warburg's apartment at West 54th Street 25. Deciding who to add to the list was difficult and arguments arose, but "from this small apartment" wrote Fry biographer Andy Marino, "deciding the fate of hundreds of extraordinary and talented people and European culture the course was changed forever. "

The organizers soon realized that someone really needed to go to France to supervise the rescue work. Fry voluntarily. In August 1940, he arrived in Marseille with $ 3,000 in cash seized. He rented a room at the Splendide Hotel, where he began looking for people on the Commission's list. After finding them, he tried to wriggle out of the reluctant US consulate like a visa. Consul Hugh Fullerton opposed the assistance, but Fryt was assisted by sympathetic deputy consul Hiram "Harry" Bingham IV, who was entrusted with issuing many visas, including visas, including visas that rescued Hannah Arendt, Marc Chagall and Victor Sergei.

Among many other generations, Bingham personally managed to extradite Lion Feuchtwanger, the best-selling German novelist from the French concentration camp in St Nicolas, disguising him as women for transit and then hiding Feuchtwanger from his home for weeks until the German could leave. For refugees who did not have passports, Bingham sometimes provided confirmation that helped them cross the Spanish border. When word got out of his efforts, Bingham's transfer to Lisbon was punished and his foreign ministry career stalled.

Fry was able to call in a large number of volunteers. Mary Jayne Gold later remembered this as the only important year of her life. Unfortunately, in printed form, Kulla's wonderful 1980 memoir is an age-old story of a fearless rich young woman set behind war. Crossroads Marseille's 1940 writes in Gold: -

I was not the worst witness there, but the beginning, and even then I was sometimes ashamed of a kind of racism - for example, I was ashamed to belong to humanity. Fortunately, at the time I was talking about, none of us knew what was coming. In our ignorance of the limits of human contempt, there was time to have fun and laugh.

In addition to gold, there was Miriam Davenport, a graduate of Iowa Smith College, a young French leftist named Daniel Bénédite and Albert O. Hirschman of German descent, then a member of the French Resistance and later a leading American economist who fled in the late 1940s. Adventurer Charlie Fawcett (who served at various times in the RAF, the French Foreign Legion, and the Afghan Mujahideen) led the crowd for Fry as hordes of refugees heard about Fry's work and came to his office to try to get his list. Franz von Hildebrand, the son of the anti-Nazi intellectual Dietrich von Hildebrand, helped interview the refugees and prepare reports to make it easier for them to obtain their departure documents.

There were essentially only three options from France. The first method was to walk through the Mediterranean town of Portbou across the Spanish border, often to a Dutch couple named Rob and Lisa Fittko. Spanish border guards sometimes allowed refugees through so that they could then travel by train to Madrid and on to Lisbon, where they could try to get visas and there by boat. Many such passages are recorded in Fry's memoirs, including a memorable scene from the imperative Alma Werfel (who had once been married to composer Gustav Mahler), arriving with seventeen suitcases and rioting and ruffling a hill named Portugal. It is unclear why the border was closed on the day German writer Walter Benjamin arrived in September 1940. In desperation and fear of being deported to a concentration camp soon, he committed suicide on the border in France; Portbous is a monument to him.

Another way of escaping - in about six months in 1941 - was by sea from Marseilles to Martinique. The Caribbean was in Vichy's hands, but historian Eric T. Jennings claimed on his escape from Vichy: a refugee emigration to the French Caribbean (2018) that French officials simply wanted a "rescue valve designed to free France from unwanted unwanted people." nation. "Thus, in his view, the Martinique journey - although valuable as a temporary device for Operation Fry - was a" racist expulsion "accompanied by Vichy cooperationism.

Among the passengers on these ships were Claude Lévi-Strauss, André Masson, André Breton, Victor Serge and Wifredo Lam. When the surreal contingent arrived in Martinique, many friendships were formed with Negro intellectuals such as René Ménil, Aimé Césaire and his wife Suzanne Césaire. This cultural encounter influenced Lami's painting and Breton's poetry and led to the creative partnership of Tropiques magazine, despite Vichy's censorship and lack of paper and money.

The third way out was by ship, first to Casablanca, then to Lisbon and on to New York. This is the route my family chose. Like Casablanca Laszlos, the Schiffrins waited two months in Morocco for a visa, but André Gide, although still in France himself, again helped with the money and found an apartment for them.

Some of Jacques' own authors also had to go into exile. Seeing in the newspaper a comic book giraffe by Hans Rey, my grandfather had commissioned Cecily G. and Nine Monkeys (1939) from Hans and his wife Margret - the first of them to become Curious George's children's series of books. However, Reys was forced to go the other way, fleeing to Spain via Spain. Therefore, the later books in the series were published in Great Britain.

As for my grandparents and father, they finally arrived in New York on August 20, 1941 (we have news of their arrival dated). Eventually, the Cryptans settled in a small apartment on Park Avenue and 75th Street and made their new lives in America. However, my grandparents regretted having to leave France; this second exile was especially difficult for Jacques. The money was scarce, so Simone made buttons for her friend, courier Pauline Trigère.

Jacques made a brief impression at the bookstore in Brentano, which at one time published some books in French. On his own initiative, Jacques also published several books in French, including some poetry by Louis Aragon, writings by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Jean Bruller's wartime classic Le Silence de la mer (adapted by French director Jean-Pierre Melville as his first feature film in 1949).

After all their struggles, the Schiffrin family was relieved when, in 1944, Jacques was invited to join the emigrated German publisher Kurt Wolff and his wife Helen in their new American venture, Pantheon Books. Despite a significant improvement in the situation, Jacques was haunted by the idea of ​​returning to life and work in France after the war. He longed to go back to his old publishing house, but eventually it became clear that the Gallimard family did not want him back. Even when he was dying, I learned from his letters, Jacques Schiffrin fantasized about opening a small bookstore in Nice.

After my father's death, my father André joined the Pantheon. From 1962 to 1990, he worked there as an editor and publisher. After disagreements with the Newhouse family of the then owner of the Pantheon over the company's management policy, André resigned with many colleagues. He then joined the independent publisher The New Press.

Both my grandfather and my father played a significant role in bringing European and French authors to the American audience in their publishing careers. Despite the lack of paper, Jacques Schiffrin published André Gide, Denise de Rougemont, Joseph Kessel and Jacques Maritain. André Schiffrin, for his part, cited Annie Cohen Solal's groundbreaking biography of Sartre, as well as works by Michel Foucault, Marguerite Duras and countless other French authors. He also published E.P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm, Michel Foucault and the entire Myrdal family, including Gunnar and Alva Myrdal's daughter Sissela Bok. The new press continues its legacy of the struggle of politically engaged writers.

None of this would have been possible without the heroism of Varian Fry. The artists and intellectuals from whom Fry rescued brought fresh energy to the cultural life of the United States. But the State Department never forgave Fry for circumventing the rules with his freelance operation, considering him an "American who flew in the face of American politics," as filmmaker Pierre Sauvage described to Dara Horn. When the Fry Passport expired in 1941, the State Department refused to extend it, a measure to prevent foreign travel, which at the time was usually reserved for well-known "underminers" such as the Communist Paul Robeson.

Finally, on August 29, 1941, at the suggestion of US officials, Fry was arrested by the Vichy authorities and ordered to leave. Even after the deportation, the Fry network helped the refugees escape until 1942, when the Germans took effective control of Vichy France. As Pierre Sauvage said:

After Fry's departure from Marseille, the faithful Daniel Bénédite, Lucie Heymann, Anna Gruss, Paul Schmierer and colleagues - with the invaluable help of a lawyer and future Marseille mayor Gaston & Defferre - kept the American Rescue Center alive without more American involvement, and little US support or lack of support ... Vichy finally ended the operation in June 1942 and officially ended it with the German occupation of the southern zone in November.

After Fry returned to New York in 1942, the Emergency Rescue Committee and some refugees were questioned for their anti-fascist activities and were investigated by the CIA's predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Fryt himself was observed, which was ironic, as he soon became a diligent anti-communist - writing hot letters to the New Republic, accusing colleagues of pro-Soviet prejudice. Finally, in 1945, he demanded that they remove his name from the masthead.

By this time, Fry had divorced his first wife, Eileen Hughes. In 1950, she remarried Annette Riley, moved up and became a Latin teacher at the grammar school. He kept in touch with the rescued people and in 1966 tried to get the artists to contribute lithography to a book that would raise money for the Emergency Rescue Committee. However, he found that many of them were shockingly ungrateful and did not even want to raise a finger to help the ERC raise money for its continued work to help refugees, including those fleeing tyranny, as they had.

Fry's son James D. Fry believes his father suffered from bipolarity, which may explain his often turbulent relationships with friends and colleagues. Earlier this year, Julie Orringer's novel "Flight Portfolio" was published; in it, he portrays Fryt as a gay man, giving him a male mistress and imagining an orgy depicting Fry and the surrealists at Villa Air-Bel, where he actually lives with Victor Sergei, Max Ernst and others for a short time. , after leaving Splendide Hotel. When Cynthia Ozick's review appeared in The New York Times in May, the editor was followed by a correspondence discussing Fry's sexuality. James Fry actually solved this question when he wrote: “My father had well-documented signs of bipolar disorder; add to that the psychological burden of being a closed homosexual in mid-twentieth century America and you have a prescription for his mental decay. "

Others also paid a price for their efforts in Marseilles. Harry Bingham was taken to Argentina, where he tried to warn the US State Department about the dozens of older Nazis who fled there after the defeat of Germany. After the next short post, he gave up. At home in Connecticut, Bingham's frustrated wife forbade him to talk about his experiences in France. According to her niece, she became an anti-rabies anti-rabies in later years, according to her niece. After the supporters' campaign, he was posthumously honored for his work in Marseille, commemorating it on a 2006 US stamp.

Despite the fact that Fry published a compelling memoir, Surrender On Demand, he found the exploitation of Marseilles in 1945 - and a 1948 English-language novel about him by French writer Jean Malaquais, who had been rescued by an American. Fry was relatively unknown. USA. He died, just a few weeks after his sixtieth birthday, in 1967 and was buried in Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery. It was not until 1994 that Yad Vashem (World Holocaust Memorial) honored him for his work in Marseilles. This recognition was followed by the publication of Andy Marino's excellent biography in 1999; and in 2001, Sheila Isenberg's second biography was published. The same year saw the film about the exploitation of Fry, Varian's War, but it was disappointing and came and went. His own memoir remains perhaps his greatest testament; I have lost how many copies I have given to my friends.

What motivated Fryt? According to Pierre Sauvage, Fry was one of those rare people who could not resist helping people in need. He acted because he could not act. And, as James Fry points out, there was moral clarity about the father's causes. For obvious reasons, he is a hero in our family.

In this time of unrest and anger, where refugees and asylum seekers in particular are being denounced and demonized, it is impossible not to think back to the post-war Nazi refugees and brave young men and women who tried to save them. The world needs more people like Varian Fry.

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