How Varian Fry Saved Hundreds of Jews from Hitler

Oct. 26 2020

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
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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.

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Read more at New York Review of Books

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

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia