project was brought to an abrupt end in 1941, when he was arrested
by the police and eventually deported. Mordecai Paldiel tells in his
book Sheltering The Jews, Stories Of Holocaust Rescuers how
Fry's passport was confiscated in January 1941. In August 1941, a
French police officer warned him that he was on the point of arrest
unless he left France. When Fry paid no heed to the warning, he was
arrested on August 27, 1941, given one hour to pack, conducted to
the border, and turned over to Spanish authorities, with an
expulsion order in his pocket.
After the war, he wrote two
books about his experiences in Marseille, Assignment Rescue and Surrender
On Demand, but he
never received the acclaim that his remarkable courage merited. His heroic actions were
considered with some suspicion by the FBI, which had kept a file on
him throughout his life.
The US State Department wanted to maintain 'good relations' with the
Vichy French and it seemed to help block Fry's work. The US
consulate confiscated his passport, and connived with the French
fascists to have him expelled from Marseille for the crime of
protecting "Jews and anti-Nazis".
In his autobiography Fry later wrote:
immediately after the closing of the office, there began one of the
most horrible manhunts in all history. Men, women and children of
Jewish ancestry were rounded up by the police, packed into cattle
cars, and sent off to Poland to be exterminated."
Bitter, Varian Fry returned to the US and desperately tried to set off warning bells
about the coming Holocaust. In the December 1942 issue of the The
New Republic he wrote a scathing article called “The Massacre
of the Jews: The Story of the Most Appalling Mass Murder in Human
History” and called on the United States to allow the unrestricted
entry of all who were suffering at the hands of the Nazis.
But his article went largely unnoticed - all his efforts proved
homecoming was filled with humiliations: the Emergency Rescue
Committee dismissed him, the army refused to allow him to enlist,
and his wife divorced him. He had trouble finding jobs, and with time he slipped into obscurity.
Mostly, he was depressed and September 13, 1967, he died alone of a
heart attack in Connecticut where he was teaching high
school Latin and Greek.
Varian Fry received one of France's highest civilian honors, the
Croix de Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, five months before his death, but it
was not until a few years ago that his contribution received the
recognition that it deserved.
24 years after his death, in 1991, he received the Eisenhower
Liberation Medal, in 1993-94 The U.S. Holocaust Memorial
Museum mounted an exhibit titled "Assignment: Rescue, The
Story Of Varian Fry and the Emergency Committee", and in 1996 The Israeli Yad Vashem Memorial
Museum, which investigates the history of the Holocaust, recognized
his humanitarian exploits and accorded
him their highest accolade: he was named posthumously as one of the
Righteous Among The Nations, an honor recognizing non-Jews for
rescue efforts during the Holocaust.
A tribute never before accorded to any American and an honor Fry
shares with Oscar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg among others. At the ceremony in
Jerusalem, Warren Christopher, Secretary of State at the time,
apologized for then-Secretary of State’s treatment of Varian Fry:
during his lifetime, his heroic actions never received the support
they deserved from our government. Even today, Varian Fry’s tale
of courage and compassion is too little-known in the United States."
In 1998, Fry was
one of the few also awarded Commemorative Citizenship of the
State of Israel.
In October 2000, the small plaza in front of the U.S. Consulate in
Marseille was renamed Place Varian Fry in recognition of his heroic
The city of Berlin has honored Varian Fry by naming a street leading
to the Potzdamer Platz Varian-Fry-Straße.