How Varian Fry Saved Hundreds of Jews from Hitler

While Britain had barred the gates of Palestine to Jewish immigration, and the U.S. did the same regarding its own shores, an American Gentile journalist named Varian Fry undertook a vast, private operation to rescue Jews from the Nazis. Most of his beneficiaries were German Jewish artists and intellectuals who had fled to France after Hitler’s rise to power, and found themselves again in danger after the French capitulation to the Nazis in 1940. Anya Schiffrin—whose grandfather, the Russian-born Jewish publisher Jacques Schiffrin owed his life to Fry—writes:

During the year he spent in Marseille, from 1940 to 1941, [Fry] and his colleagues created a rescue network that saved at least 2,000 people from the Nazis—including Hannah Arendt, Marc Chagall, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Arthur Koestler, [the director] Max Ophüls, [the writer] Anna Seghers, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and scores of other writers, artists, and philosophers. Fry was tenacious and creative, finding a forger and bribing border guards.

Fry and his allies spent their days trying to get people visas and onto boats in a desperate rush against time. Because of his extra-legal methods, Fry was shunned by the U.S. consul in Marseille. But the refugee rescue organization that Fry and his helpers built has been credited with saving from annihilation a crucial piece of European culture
While visiting Berlin in 1935, Fry saw a group of storm troopers and civilians attacking any passing Jew on the Kurfürstendamm. Fry went home and wrote a piece for the New York Times warning of what was to come. . . . Later, in 1942, Fry wrote a cover story for the New Republic titled “The Massacre of the Jews.” Fry didn’t just sound the alarm but, along with Reinhold Niebuhr and others, cofounded the Emergency Rescue Committee (which later became the International Rescue Committee).

[O]n August 29, 1941, the Vichy authorities—under prodding from U.S. officials—arrested Fry and ordered him to leave. Even after his deportation, Fry’s network continued to help refugees escape until 1942, when the Germans took effective control of Vichy France.

Fry’s exploits give lie to the long-refuted, but oft repeated claims that little was known in America or Britain about the plight of European Jewry, and that little could be done. It is likewise typical of U.S. officialdom at the time that, even as the U.S. military was engaged in crushing Germany, it looked with hostility upon Fry’s efforts to thwart Hitler’s plans.

Read more at New York Review of Books

More about: German Jewry, Holocaust, Reinhold Niebuhr, Vichy France


An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security