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Remembering the Heroism of Varian Fry

Sept. 12 2017

Visiting Berlin as a journalist in 1935, Varian Fry was among the first to report for the American press on the Nazi government’s brutal anti-Semitic violence. Upon returning to the U.S., he founded the Emergency Rescue Committee, devoted primarily to getting Jewish artists and intellectuals out of Europe. He later went to Vichy France to help rescue refugees who had fled there from Germany. Ginia Bellafante writes:

In August 1940, Fry, a Protestant and thirty-two-year-old, went to Marseilles to begin a covert rescue operation that during his thirteen-month stay would result in the escape of more than 2,000 people, among them many artists and intellectuals, including Marc Chagall, Hannah Arendt, Max Ernst, . . . Marcel Duchamp, . . . and Alma Mahler [Gustav’s widow]. . . .

In June 1940, he had sent a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt explaining that there was an urgent need for someone—“an adventurous daredevil”—to go to France and risk his life in an attempt to “save the intended victims of Hitler’s chopping block.” But Fry did not see himself in the role, in part because his own command of French and German was merely “halting,” he wrote, and because he had “no experience whatever in detective work.”

He hoped that either Mrs. Roosevelt or her husband could suggest someone, but when no such individual surfaced, he volunteered as if there were no other reasonable choice—strapping $3,000 to his leg as he left New York, holding meetings in bathrooms with the water running to evade the detection of German spies who had planted listening devices. Moral calling inserted him in a world of black-market money, forged passports, and visas and clandestine mountain routes. He stayed in France, having originally imagined it would only be for a few weeks, long past the point at which he understood it was dangerous.

Read more at New York Times

More about: History & Ideas, Holocaust, Refugees, United States, World War II

 

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Can Learn from Ronald Reagan

When Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981, the consensus was that, with regard to the Soviet Union, two responsible policy choices presented themselves: détente, or a return to the Truman-era policy of containment. Reagan, however, insisted that the USSR’s influence could not just be checked but rolled back, and without massive bloodshed. A decade later, the Soviet empire collapsed entirely. In crafting a policy toward the Islamic Republic today, David Ignatius urges the current president to draw on Reagan’s success:

A serious strategy to roll back Iran would begin with Syria. The U.S. would maintain the strong military position it has established east of the Euphrates and enhance its garrison at Tanf and other points in southern Syria. Trump’s public comments suggest, however, that he wants to pull these troops out, the sooner the better. This would all but assure continued Iranian power in Syria.

Iraq is another key pressure point. The victory of militant Iraqi nationalist Moqtada al-Sadr in [last week’s] elections should worry Tehran as much as Washington. Sadr has quietly developed good relations with Saudi Arabia, and his movement may offer the best chance of maintaining an Arab Iraq as opposed to a Persian-dominated one. But again, that’s assuming that Washington is serious about backing the Saudis in checking Iran’s regional ambitions. . . .

The Arabs, [however], want the U.S. (or Israel) to do the fighting this time. That’s a bad idea for America, for many reasons, but the biggest is that there’s no U.S. political support for a war against Iran. . . .

Rolling back an aggressive rival seems impossible, until someone dares to try it.

Read more at RealClear Politics

More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Foreign policy