Extremely well written and sophisticated in style and presentation. One of the best.
Few writers capture the essence of the region quite like Dana Facaros and Michael Pauls, who have written one of the most comprehensive guides available.
In the early 1940s, in spite of open visa quotas, the US Department of State with its prejudiced, bury-its-head-in-the-sand bureaucracy maintained a policy of turning back ships of refugees from Hitler. Consulates in Europe were advised, as one memo put it, ‘to resort to various administrative devices which would postpone and postpone and postpone the grant of the visas’. In one particularly shameful episode, the US Vice Consul in Lyon denied visas to Jewish children because their parents might be arrested, leaving their children to become public charges in the USA.
The one hero in the story was Varian Fry. Two months after the Nazis occupied Marseille, 32-year old Fry, editor of a New York foreign policy review, arrived in the city as the representative of a privately funded group called the Emergency Rescue Committee. Although he had no previous experience in the field, and in spite of the considerable risks from the Gestapo and Vichy and the opposition of his own government, Fry quickly made himself an expert in obtaining false papers, forging documents and organizing safe transport out of Marseille: among the 1,500 people he saved were Marcel Duchamp, Marc Chagall, Hannah Arendt, André Breton and Max Ernst. Fry worked for 15 months before he was expelled from Marseille. On his return to the United States, he published an article on the systematic persecution of the Jews and the concentration camps, which made later pleas of official ignorance ring less than true. Just before Varian Fry died in 1967, the French government awarded him the Legion of Honour. And in October 2000 a square next to the American consulate (on Boulevard Paul Peytral) was named in his honour, Place Varian Fry. Presiding over the dedication ceremony was the US amabassador to France, Felix Rohatyn, who as a child was spirited out of occupied Marseille, in all likelihood by the good offices of Fry.
© Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls