By: Deepa Ravindra
Fry also loved to spend his summers with his grandfather at the Children's Summer Home. This home was run by the Children's Aid Society. Charles Fry, Varian's grandfather, spent many years bring orphans and abandoned children to this home. His grandfather was a "child rescuer". These experiences perhaps inspired Varian to eventually be motivated and decide to rescue the Jews from the Holocaust.
When he attended Hotchkiss, he had a great academic record and made a few friends. However, he felt like he never belonged there. In his third year, he was hazed by some of the seniors. He believed that this was very wrong and stood up against it, refusing to do as they wished. The next day, he talked to his headmaster, saying that he didn't like the ways and traditions of the school. That very day, his father came and picked him up. This was an instance in which Fry stood up to what he believed wrong, which was what he would do as an adult.
He completed high school in Riverdale Country School. Here, he found out that he had gotten the highest score ever gotten on an English College Board Exam he had taken at Hotchkiss, a 99 percentile.
He was also accepted at Harvard College.
Experience At Harvard College
Fry's passion of Greece and Rome classics emerged in these years.
He also began a literary magazine called "Hound & Horn" with fellow freshman, Lincoln Kirstein. This gave Fry a great motivation and basic knowledge for his passion, journalism. This magazine had works of many famous writers and poets at the time, along with students' works. This magazine was well known at the time.
Fry eventually married Kirstein's sister, Eileen.
Fry's First Look At The Holocaust
After college, Fry took up the job as a foreign correspondent for the American Journal, “The Living Age”. His wife, Eileen, was a school teacher. They settled in New York City.
For his job, he visited Berlin, Germany in 1935. There, he witnessed the brutal treatment of specific groups (Jews, Homosexuals, Gypsies...).
At that time, he decided that he wanted to help these people.
Fry's Involvement In The Holocaust
When Varian Fry was sent to Marseille, France, he had only $3000 and a long list of people that were imminent danger who he was supposed to evacuate. When people found out what he was doing, people came to his door, begging for help.
Working day and night, continuously, against all odds,he eventually got a group of people to help him with his operations. He established a legal French relief organization, called the American Relief Center, and through illegal ways he used black market trading, forged documents, and secret routes to help people escape.
In 1940, even though there was a strict watch from the Vichy regime, Fry and some volunteers managed to hide people in the Villa Air-Bel (a HUGE safe house) until they could be smuggled out. More than 2,200 people were taken to Spain, eventually neutral/safe Portugal, and were able to go to the United States.
He also helped people escape onto ships leaving for a French colony called Martinique. From that colony, they could go to the United States.
Through his operations, he helped more than 2,000 people evacuate Europe. Most of these people were recognized European intellectuals, writers, artists, scientists, philosophers and musicians. Since they came to America, they blended new cultures and ideas into our nation.
~People Varian Fry worked closely with~
1) Hiram Bingham IV. He helped get passports for the refugees. He is known for issuing many many illegal and legal passports.
2) Miriam Davenport.
3) Mary Jayne Gold
4) Albert O. Hirschman. After working with Fry, he would become a very influential economist and political/economic writer.
Fry's Life In America After Returning From France
In September 1941, he was ousted from France by the Vichy Regime government because he was helping Jews.
He entered the field of Journalism again. This time, he was the new editor of "The New Republic", a liberal American magazine. He wrote a renowned piece called "The Massacre of the Jews,". This piece was featured as the lead article in the December 21, 1942 issue.
In 1942, he and his wife, Eileen separated. This caused Varian to enter a slight depression. However, Eileen died in 1948, making him feel even more isolated.
Varian Fry wished to serve in the armed forces, but he couldn't because he had an ulcer. So he, turned to writing again. At this time, he wrote Surrender on Demand, in 1945. This book was published by Scholastic under the name of Assignment: Rescue.
Fry talked a lot about American immigration and the condition of the Jews in Europe. He did not like the American immigration policies because it made him think that so many more Jews couldv'e been saved if the ways were different.
Varian Fry was also monitored by the FBI because of his illegal ways (even though they were for a good cause) in France. This prevented him from ever working for the United States Government.
In the winter of 1948, he met Annette Riley. They got married in November 1950. They lived in Connecticut and then moved to New York. He had three children with her (2 boys and one girl).
Throughout his time, he also wrote many memoirs about his experiences in France.
He spent most of his time with journalism, teaching, and serving on the boards of the American Civil Liberties Union. Fry began teaching at a boys' school. He taught Latin.
He and Annette got a divorce in 1967. Two weeks later, he was found, dead, in his bed. People believe he may have died of a heart attack or in his sleep. He was also editing and revising his memoirs at the time.
Eisenhower Liberation Medal-From the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 1991
"Righteous Among the Nations"-By Yad Vashem, 1994