Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee - Part 2
Emergency Rescue Committee Timeline
January 30, 1933
Adolf Hitler appointed Chancellor of Germany.
March 22, 1933
Dachau concentration camp opens.
April 1, 1933
German boycott of Jewish shops and businesses.
February 17, 1934
Great Britain, France and Italy declare that Austria must remain an independent nation.
September 27, 1934
Great Britain, France and Italy again reaffirm their support for an independent Austria.
September 15, 1935
“Nuremberg Laws”: anti-Jewish racial laws enacted; Jews no longer considered German citizens.
March 7, 1936
Germans march into the Rhineland, previously demilitarized by the Versailles Treaty.
Léon Blum, a Jew, is elected Premier of France.
July 16-18, 1936
The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. In Spain, right wing general Francisco Franco leads a mutiny against the Spanish Republican government. Hitler sends thousands of German troops to support Franco’s forces. The Germans use the Spanish Civil War to test new weapons and tactics, especially the Luftwaffe (air force), which perfects the technique of dive bombing. Hitler also perfects the Blitzkrieg (lightening war). Mussolini sends his Italian soldiers to fight for the Republican side. The war will last until 1939 with Franco’s victory over the legal Spanish Republican Government.
October 1, 1936
The Nationalist Rebellion appoints General Franco as Chief of State in its provisional government.
October 25, 1936
Hitler and Mussolini form Rome-Berlin Axis.
December 27, 1936
Great Britain and France agree to non-intervention in the Spanish Civil War.
February 11, 1938
Hitler invites Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg to Berchtesgaden. Hitler demands that the Austrian Nazi party be incorporated into the Austrian government. He demands that Artur von Seyss-Inquart be made Austrian Minister of the Interior. Schuschnigg understands that this ultimatum will inevitably lead to the end of Austrian independence.
February 16, 1938
Under pressure, Schuschnigg appoints Seyss-Inquart as Minister of Security. Schuschnigg declares a general amnesty for all Austrian Nazi party members, including those who were responsible for the murder of Dollfuss.
March 9, 1938
Schuschnigg calls for a popular vote on Austrian independence. Hitler demands that the vote be postponed and demands Schuschnigg’s resignation.
March 12, 1938
German troops cross into Austria.
March 13, 1938
Anschluss (annexation of Austria by Germany). Austria becomes a province of the German Greater Reich and is renamed Oustmark. Vienna loses its status as a capital and becomes a provincial administrative seat. All anti-Semitic decrees previously enacted in Germany are immediately applied in Austria.
More than 185,000 Jews live in Austria, of whom 170,000 reside in Vienna. This is the third largest Jewish community in Europe.
In Austria, legal recognition of Jewish organizations and their tax exempt status is withdrawn by Nazi occupying forces.
March 14, 1938
Cheering crowds greet Hitler as he parades triumphantly through Vienna.
March 18, 1938
SS Chief Heinrich Himmler given power to operate in Austria. The offices of Vienna’s Jewish community and Zionist organizations are closed and their leaders jailed. All Jewish organizations and congregations are forbidden. One hundred ten prominent Jewish leaders are arrested and deported to Dachau. Jews are banned from any public activity.
The Nazi government in Austria prepares a list of wealthy Jews in preparation for large scale confiscations of Jewish property and assets.
April 10, 1938
99.73% of Austrians vote in favor of annexation to Germany (Anschluss).
The German Nuremberg Laws, which forcibly segregate Jews in Germany and deprive them of citizenship and the means of livelihood, are officially enforced in Austria. More than 200,000 Austrian Jews would be persecuted under these laws, according to German records.
To force emigration, the families of Jews arrested and deported to concentration camps are told that proof of immediate emigration would secure their release. German Property Transfer Office actively confiscates Jewish property, businesses and bank accounts.
The methods used in Austria combining economic expropriation and expulsion of Jews become the model in future Nazi-conquered territories.
Vienna becomes the center of emigration. All foreign consulates are besieged by Jewish refugees desperate for visas. Most refuse to help.
July 6-15, 1938
Representatives from 32 countries meet at Evian, France, to discuss refugee policies; none of the participating countries are willing to open their doors to Jewish refugees.
After the Anschluss, the Swiss government sets up policy to bar emigration of Jews. They demand that passports of Jews be stamped with a red "J" to prevent them from crossing into Switzerland.
August 1, 1938
SS Lieutenant Adolf Eichmann establishes the Office of Jewish Emigration in Vienna to increase the pace of forced emigration. It is Eichmann’s first major assignment and he eventually becomes one of the chief architects of the Holocaust.
Besides having to obtain and show proof of destination, Jews emigrating from Austria are automatically divested of all of their property and assets. Emigrants are required to pay a tax based on the assets they declare.
September 26, 1938
France partially mobilizes its army in the wake of the Sudeten Czechoslovakia crisis.
September 29-30, 1938
The Munich Conference is held. It is attended by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, French President Daladier, Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini, and Hitler. Great Britain, France and Italy agree to allow the Nazis to annex the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia is not allowed to participate in the conference.
October 10, 1938
Hitler gives personal instructions to “act for the deportation of 27,000 Viennese Jews of Czech nationality.”
October 28, 1938
In Austria, thousands of Jews who are Polish nationals are deported into the no-man’s-land on the German-Polish border.
November 9-10, 1938
Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass): an anti-Jewish pogrom in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland; 200 synagogues are destroyed, cemeteries desecrated, 7,500 Jewish shops looted and nearly 100 Jews murdered. Many Jews commit suicide in the following weeks and months. 30,000 German, Austrian and Sudeten Jews are sent to concentration camps of Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen. Between 1938 and 1939, more than 1,000 Jews are murdered in these camps.
80,000 German, Austrian and Czech Jews are allowed to emigrate to England. The Central British Fund, a relief agency, is very helpful in providing cost of transportation.
Many Austrian Jews are released from Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and other concentration camps on the strength of exit visas.
November 12, 1938
The Council of Foreign Ministers meets in Berlin. It is headed by Hermann Göring. This policy meeting decides the fate of German and Austrian Jews. This policy will be to force German and Austrian Jews into poverty, thereby forcing them to emigrate.
All Austrian and German Jews are forced by decree to transfer their businesses to non-Jewish ownership. This process is known as “Aryanization.”
Jews are fined more than $28,000,000 for the destruction of their property during the Nazi rampage of Kristallnacht in Austria.
November 15, 1938
In Austria, Jewish children are barred from public schools. By the end of November, a curfew is imposed and Jews are denied access to most public places. Virtually all remaining Jewish businesses and properties are confiscated by the Nazis.
The Mossad for Aliyah Bet [Committee for Illegal Immigration] is established to smuggle Jews out of Europe and illegally into Palestine. They operate in Germany and Austria. They are extremely successful in helping thousands to flee.
December 6, 1938
France and Germany sign nonaggression pact.
December 1938-January 1939
Seven thousand Austrian Jews cross the border to Switzerland, Italy or France.
Mossad agents Moshe Auerbach and Pino Ginsurg, in Vienna, organize the escape of thousands of Jews, often with the cooperation of Eichmann and the Gestapo. Auerbach gets 20,000 transit visas from an engineer named Karthaus to allow Jews to escape through Yugoslavia. Karthaus also obtains Mexican visas from Mexican consul General Gilberto Bosques. After Auerbach leaves Vienna, he is replaced by Mossad agent Echud Avriel. They both later relocate to Istanbul, Turkey.
Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas appoints Gilberto Bosques Consul General in France. He maintains consulates in Paris and Marseilles. Bosques issues thousands of visas to Spanish Republican soldiers who are trapped in southern France. Eventually, he issues more than 40,000 visas to these anti-Fascist fighters. Many of them immigrate to Mexico. Bosques also issues visas to thousands of Austrian and German Jews. Most of these Jews use the transit visa to escape out of southern France. 1,800 of these Jews eventually immigrate to Mexico. Luis I Rodriguez is the Mexican Ambassador to France. Together, they present demands to Pétain and Laval regarding treatment of Jews and Spanish refugees.
January 1, 1939
Mandatory identification cards are required of all Jews in Germany and Austria.
January 10, 1939
Hitler announces to the German Reichstag [Parliament] that a world war will result in “the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.”
January 21, 1939
The French government opens first concentration camp for foreigners and Jewish refugees in the district of Mende.
January 24, 1939
Reichszentrale für Jüdische Auswanderung (Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration) in Berlin is created by Göring and Eichmann. This is based on the Austrian model.
Reinhardt Heydrich is given authority by Göring to “solve the Jewish question by emigration and evacuation in the way that is most favorable under the conditions prevailing at present.”
The Gestapo is given control of Jewish emigration in German-occupied territories.
February 5, 1939
The President of France rebukes the racist policies of Nazi Germany.
March 15, 1939
German troops invade Czechoslovakia.
March 17, 1939
A census determining the degree of Jewishness is taken of Austrian Jews. Jews who have three or four Jewish grandparents are counted as a full Jew. With two Jewish grandparents, they are categorized as “part Jew, grade I.” With one Jewish grandparent, “part Jew, grade II.” This census targets Jews for future arrests and deportations.
March 28-29, 1939
Spanish Republican government surrenders to General Francisco Franco in Madrid, ending the Spanish Civil War.
March 31, 1939
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and the French President Edouard Daladier declare that Britain and France will go to war with Germany if Poland is attacked.
After the Spanish Civil War ends, thousands of anti-Franco Republican soldiers of the International Brigade flee to southern France. More than 70,000 refugees enter the Bouches du Rhône region of southern France.
The US recognizes Franco’s Nationalist government.
Under a special law, Austrian Jews are evicted from their homes and are gathered into designated streets and selected districts of Vienna.
May 17, 1939
British government issues a Palestine White Paper establishing a limit of 75,000 Jews to be admitted to Palestine over the next five years. Of these, only 25,000 can be refugees.
July 20, 1939
French authorities order military registration for all men of draft age. This includes foreign refugees.
August 30, 1939
A French government memorandum reads: “All foreign nationals from territories belonging to the enemy must be brought together in special center.” This memorandum is in response to the flood of German, Austrian, Czech and Spanish refugees entering France.
September 1, 1939
Germany invades Poland. Beginning of World War II.
The French believe that the Polish army will hold out and offer stiff resistance to the German army. However, Poland collapses in only three weeks.
The British and French Armies mobilize, but do nothing to intervene in the attack on the West. They lose an important opportunity to stop German aggression.
Beginning of the drôle de guerre (phony war) or Sitzkrieg (sitting war).
The French government enacts anti-Jewish measures against the Jews in Paris.
There are between 300,000 and 330,000 Jews living in France; 200,000 live in Paris. This is less than one percent of the total population in France, which is 43 million.
Three thousand German and Austrian Jews are interned in French camps as “undesirable aliens.”
The French government arrests German and Austrian nationals who have landed in French ports but who are bound for the western hemisphere. Most of these are Jews fleeing the Nazis. Most are interned in Les Milles detention camp.
By the outbreak of war, nearly 70% or 185,246 Jews in Austria have emigrated. Many go to southern France.
The French government outlaws the French Communist Party.
September 3, 1939
In response to the German invasion of Poland, France, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand officially declare war on Germany. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain forms a wartime cabinet with Winston Churchill as the First Lord of the Admiralty.
September 4, 1939
All Austrian and German male refugees residing in France between the ages of 17 and 50 years are ordered to report for internment.
The French government opens numerous concentration camps throughout France to house the influx of refugees entering the country. Eventually, they become deportation centers to the Nazi death camps.
October 1, 1939
By this date, the Marseilles police arrest more than 13,000 Germans and Austrians, most of whom are Jews.
October 12, 1939
Germany begins deportation of Austrian and Czech Jews to the Lublin district of Poland. 1,672 Austrian Jews arrive in Lublin.
Hitler extends power of doctors to kill mentally and physically disabled persons.
4,000 Jews are leaving Austria monthly. A Nazi report declares there are too many Jews remaining in Vienna and in Austria.
13,000 Jews successfully emigrate from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. 55,000 Jews remain in Austria. Since 1933, more than 300,000+ Jews have left the Old Reich and Greater Reich.
French Premier Edouard Daladier resigns. He is succeeded by Paul Reynaud. Reynaud appoints World War I French hero Marshal Pétain as the Vichy Premier.
January 5, 1940
Great Britain announces that German and Austrian Jews will not be allowed into Palestine because they are considered “enemy aliens.”
10,000 Jews are deported from Vienna to Lublin.
March 5, 1940
The Central Immigration Office, under Adolf Eichmann, maintains complete control of all Jews in Czechoslovakia.
April 9, 1940
Germany invades Denmark and Norway.
May 10, 1940
Germany invades France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. 136 German divisions participate in the invasion. Germans enforce anti-Jewish measures in each area. Soon, four million refugees are fleeing the onslaught of the Nazis.
May 17, 1940
Commanding General of the French army Maxine Weygood declares that the invasion cannot be stopped and France should accept reasonable terms for an armistice with Germany.
May 20, 1940
Concentration camp established at Auschwitz. It will become the largest death camp in the Nazi system.
May 26-June 4, 1940
Following the encirclement of Allied forces in northeastern France, the British, French and Belgian forces are evacuated from Dunkirk, France. 338,226 soldiers are rescued by 861 ships.
June 10, 1940
Italy enters the war as a German ally, declares war on Great Britain and France. Italy’s armies invade France from the south.
June 11, 1940
General Weygood declares that the battle of France is lost and advises the French government to maintain order and avoid chaos of war.
A million French soldiers are taken prisoner by the German armed forces.
French government evacuates Paris.
June 14, 1940
Paris falls and the French government is transferred to Bordeaux. More than 1 million refugees pour into the south of France, more than 195,000 of whom are Jews.
June 16, 1940
French Vichy government is established under World War I hero Marshal Philippe Pétain. Pétain becomes head of the French cabinet. Pétain asks for an armistice eight days before the fighting ceases.
June 17-19, 1940
The Portuguese Consul General Dr. Aristides de Sousa Mendes, his staff and his son, Pedro Nuno, issue 30,000 Portuguese visas to Jewish and non-Jewish refugees in Bordeaux, France. This is completely unauthorized and against Portuguese immigration regulations.
June 20, 1940
Representatives from the Portuguese foreign office are dispatched to relieve de Sousa Mendes of his post and return him to Portugal to face charges of insubordination. A few days later, de Sousa Mendes and his family travel to Bayonne, France; several thousand additional visas are issued there; Mendes helps these refugees cross closed borders.
June 22, 1940
France surrenders, and the French sign an armistice with Germany. The French armed forces are to be disarmed. Three fifths of France is surrendered to German control.
In Article 19 of the French armistice with Germany, the French agree to “surrender on demand all Germans named by the German government in France.”
Approximately 350,000 Jews reside in France at the time of the German invasion. They constitute less than one percent of the total population of France, which is 45 million. 150,000 Jews are French native born. About 50,000 are recent refugees from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania. 50,000 are from the invaded countries of Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg. An undetermined number of Eastern European, mostly Polish, Jews have entered the country after the German invasion of Poland.
France becomes the largest population center for Jews in Western Europe. More than half of the Jews in France are in the south. Eventually, one third of the Jewish refugees in the south return to Paris.
Austrian and German Jews in France who are interned at Rieucros concentration camp are eventually sent south to camps in Vichy.
June 23, 1940
General Charles de Gaulle, head of the French National Committee in London, pledges war against Germany.
June 24, 1940
France signs an armistice agreement with Italy.
June 26, 1940
Assistant US Secretary of State Breckinridge Long implements a policy to effectively block or obstruct the granting of US visas to Jews seeking asylum in the US. Long argues that immigration can be “delayed and effectively stopped” by ordering US consuls “to put every obstacle in the way [to] postpone and postpone and postpone the granting of visas.”
June 27, 1940
Joseph Buttinger and Paul Hagen go to Washington, DC, to petition Mrs. Roosevelt to influence her husband to issue emergency visas to notable Jewish artists, labor leaders and other refugees in France. Mrs. Roosevelt immediately calls her husband and persuades her husband to authorize the emergency visas.
June 28, 1940
The British government recognizes General Charles de Gaulle as leader of the Free French organization during the German occupation of France.
Marshal Pétain is installed as head of state with Pierre Laval his Vice President of the Council of Ministers. Pétain is granted executive powers under the armistice agreement and the French National Assembly is merely a “rubber stamp.” Pétain abolishes the French constitution of 1875 and dismisses the French Senate and Chamber of Deputies. Pierre Laval is a Nazi collaborationist and puppet. Laval will eventually comply with German requests to turn over for deportation foreign Jewish refugees in France. Ironically, Laval will protect naturalized French Jews.
The Third French Republic no longer exists.
Civil liberties in France are suspended.
France is divided into two zones. The northern zone is administered by German military forces. The south, called the “Free Zone,” is established in the resort town of Vichy. The Nazi military occupation forces control about two thirds of France.
Four million French, Belgian, Luxembourg and other refugees have fled the German onslaught.
France is forced to pay Germany 400 million francs a day as a war indemnity.
The French begin to implement Nuremberg-style antisemitic laws imposed on all Jews in France. These laws and policies are initiated entirely by the Vichy government. These restrictive laws and decrees will eventually disenfranchise most foreign Jews in France.
By the end of 1940, Lisbon becomes a major center of refuge for thousands of Jews escaping Nazi occupied Europe. Until the end of June 1940, trains regularly run from Berlin, Vienna and Prague to Lisbon. The Jewish Joint Distribution Committee provides money for destitute refugees who have escaped to Lisbon. The US consulate in Lisbon processes hundreds of visas to Jewish refugees.
Luis Martins de Souza Dantas, Brazilian Ambassador to France, issues visas to hundreds of Jews in occupied France. He does this against the strict orders of the pro-fascist Brazilian government headed by Getulio Vargas, and at great risk to his diplomatic career. Several of the Jews arrived in Brazil and were detained by the Brazilian government, but were later released.
20,000 Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg are interned in the 31 French camps in the southern unoccupied zone.
An estimated 30,000 Jews escape from France into Spain and Portugal with the help of rescuers. Upon arrival in Lisbon, these refugees are helped by Jewish relief agencies such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Hebrew Immigration and Sheltering Society (HIAS).
July 8, 1940
Eleanor Roosevelt writes Varian Fry explaining that she is trying to get the President to get cooperation of South American countries to accept refugees.
July 16, 1940
French Jews are removed from the Colmar region in Alsace. 22,000 Jews are expelled.
July 22, 1940
A French commission is set up to review French citizens who have been naturalized since 1927. It is set up with the intention of revoking the citizenship of citizens who are considered “undesirable.” 15,000 people, including 6,000 Jews, have their citizenship revoked.
Lion Feuchtwanger is staying at Hiram Bingham’s house. Bingham tells Feuchtwanger “all about the work that emigrants are making for him. He is always tired and exhausted.”
American private citizen Varian Fry, appointed by the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC), arrives in Marseilles, France. He is empowered to save artists, writers, composers and other intellectuals who are on Hitler’s arrest lists. Fry and his volunteers make contact with numerous rescue and relief agencies, including the Nîmes Committee. Fry and his volunteers also work with various foreign consular officials who issue him hundreds of legal and extra-legal visas and other documents to help Jews escape the Nazis. These diplomats include US Vice-Consul Hiram “Harry” Bingham, Mexican Consul General Gilberto Bosques, a Chinese diplomat and Vladimir Vochoc, the Czech Consul in Marseilles. (Vladimir Vochoc is later arrested, but manages to escape to Lisbon.) Fry and his associates organize escape routes over the Pyrenees mountains for refugees. Hans and Lisa Fittko are among his most able guides.
August 6, 1940
The French order a census of all foreigners.
August 7, 1940
British government signs agreement with the Free French organization of French exiles under Charles de Gaulle.
August 27, 1940
Vichy repeals the Loi Marchendeau [Marchendeau Law] that protects religious and racial groups against press attacks “when it is intended to arouse hatred among citizens or residents.”
September 27, 1940
Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis alliance is signed.
First antisemitic German law (Verordnung) is enacted in the occupied zone. It defines Jews by race. It requires Jews to register with the police in the French prefects. It orders a census of Jews to be conducted by October 20, 1940. It requires Jews to publicly identify their businesses. In addition, it forbids Jews who flee to the southern zone from returning to the northern occupied area. This law requires Jews to have all of their papers stamped with the word “Jew.”
Under this law, the French Vichy government can arrest and send foreigners to the newly established labor camps. These camps are called Foreign Labor Battalion (GTE) camps. Prisoners are forced to work under severe conditions. Relief agencies in France protest the conditions in these camps.
October 3, 1940
French Vichy government enacts Statut des Juifs [Jewish Statute]. This law has constitutional authority. Under this law, Jews are defined as Jews not by religion, but by race. The law is signed by Pétain and Laval and eight members of the French government. It is a law that removes many Jewish civil rights. Jews are forbidden from holding government positions, military service, teaching, and other public positions. Unemployed Jews are now subject to internment. All Jews under the French and German laws must register with the French police. Jews must carry an ID card with the words “Juif” or “Juife” [Jew] in bold red letters.
October 4, 1940
The Vichy Law of October 4 authorizes French prefects to arrest and intern “foreigners of the Jewish race” in “special camps.”
Concentration camps in France are administered and staffed solely by Frenchmen. There are 31 camps established throughout France. Conditions are harsh and brutal. 50,000 Jews are interned in French camps in the north and south. 70% of those interned in the south are Jewish. Between 3,000 and 4,000 Jews die in these camps. The camps are so inhumane that even Vichy officials complain. One official writes: “The internees’ living conditions put the honor of France on the line...” Even the German Red Cross is horrified by the conditions in the camps, which include starvation and death. News of the conditions in the camp is disseminated throughout the world.
By the end of 1942, 42,000 internees in these camps will be transferred and killed in the death camps in Poland.
The Riversaltes concentration camp in France, in the winter of 1941-1942, has a mortality rate of 14-18% per year.
50,000 German and Austrian Jews are sent to forced labor units doing heavy labor or working in war industries.
Jews of Baden and the Saarland are deported and interned in French concentration camps. 800 of these internees will die in the winter of 1940-1941. In November 1942, the surviving refugees of this deportation will be deported and murdered in Auschwitz.
October 7, 1940
The Vichy Law of October 7, 1940, strips Algerian Jews of citizenship. They had been citizens for more than 75 years.
October 18, 1940
A second German decree (Verordnung) is enacted in France compelling all Jewish businesses to be registered with French and German officials. Ownership of the businesses is to be transferred away from Jewish hands under so-called provisional administration. Some French officials undermine this process.
October 21, 1940
149,734 Jews are registered in the French census. 86,664 are French Jews. 65,070 are foreign Jews.
Central Commission on Jewish Relief Organizations (Commission Centrale des Organizations Juives d’Assistance; CCOJA) is created to unite Jewish relief organizations. It establishes a communal fund and represents the Jewish community to French authorities. It continues to function until it is bombed in 1942.
40,000 Jews are deported from Lorraine to Lyon.
The Nîmes Committee (Coordinating Committee for Camp Aid) is created. The organization is headed by Dr. Donald Lowrie, an American representing the International YMCA. It consists of 25 organizations, including the American Friends’ Service Committee (AFSC; also known as the Quakers), Unitarian Service Committee (USC), the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the American Federation of Labor (AFL), the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HICEM), Committee for Action on Behalf of Refugees (Comite d’Inter Mouvement après des Evacues; CIMADE) and several Swiss relief agencies including the Swiss Red Cross and the Swiss Service Civil International. Other organizations include the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the French Red Cross. The Nîmes Committee unites to bring relief and rescue to thousands of Jews and other refugees throughout France. These organizations supply food, medicine, clothing, blankets, educational material and other supplies to internees in the French camps. The Nîmes Committee, along with its organizations, individually and collectively protests the internment and treatment of refugees in these camps and actively seeks the release of the refugees. The Nîmes Committee writes and distributes numerous reports regarding conditions in the camps. The Nîmes Committee leadership meets with foreign diplomats and representatives to report on the conditions of the refugees. Eventually, the Nîmes leadership meets with leaders of the Vichy government, including Pierre Laval.
The Nîmes Committee works with and is helped by French civilians and, in some cases, entire towns and villages. Monsieur Azéma, the mayor of the French border town Banyuls-sur-Mer, issues identity and food ration cards and opens a house for refugees along the French-Spanish border. He helps refugees escape detection. Monsieur Cruzet, the mayor of Cerbère, also on the French-Spanish border, helps refugees cross the border secretly. He also works with his business partner, who is the mayor of Port-Bou.
The Nîmes Committee and its organizations establish escape routes for refugees leaving France. Spain’s border becomes a vital escape route for Jewish refugees. By October, several thousand Jewish refugees have escaped across the border.
French Catholic and Protestant clergy are particularly helpful in hiding, transporting and feeding Jewish refugees. Archbishop Gerlier, of Lyon, Dr. Marc Boegner, President of the Protestant Federation of France, and Archbishop Saliège, of Toulouse, are among those who protest the outrages against Jews by Nazi authorities. Abbé Glasberg, an assistant of Archbishop Gerlier, rescues thousands of Jews. Father Charles Devaus, of the Pères de Notre Dame de Sion, rescues one thousand Jews.
Many of these rescue operations are financed by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Hebrew Immigration Aid and Sheltering Society (HIAS). They raise millions of dollars for the relief of refugees. Much of this money comes from the American Jewish community. These funds are distributed by Catholic and Protestant churches. Thousands of Christians shelter Jews throughout the countryside. These organizations provide false ration cards, baptismal certificates, and identity cards.
Henri François Deroover, Belgian Consul in Bayonne, France, issues 150 blank Belgian passports to French and Belgian Jews. The visas are filled out by the Jewish refugees themselves, who use them to escape to neutral Portugal.
Boyan Atanassov, Bulgarian Diplomat in Paris, France, issues unauthorized visas to Bulgarian Jews and other refugees to escape France under the Nazi occupation.
Jewish self-help and rescue organizations are extremely active in hiding and sheltering thousands of Jews.
November 7, 1940
In France, Jews must have passports, visas stamped with “Jew” in prominent letters.
November 11, 1940
An article appears in the New Republic magazine exposing conditions in the French concentration camp Le Vernet. They call it the “French Dachau.”
During the Italian occupation of Tunisia in North Africa, Italian officials there prevent the implementation of anti-Jewish laws. They demand that the French refrain from confiscating the property of 5,000 Jews in Tunisia who held Italian passports. After December 1942, thousands of Jews are made to do forced labor under harsh conditions. In the Italian forced labor camps, the Jews are treated far better than in German camps. On May 7, 1943, the Allies liberate Tunis and thousands of Jews are saved from annihilation.
SS Haputsturmführer (Captain) Theodore Dannecker, under Eichmann, sets up the Anti-Jewish Institute in Paris.
All Jewish businesses must display a large yellow placard in their windows identifying it as a Jewish business.
Vichy government negotiates with Mexican Consul General Gilberto Bosques regarding the fate of 150,000 Spanish Republican refugees. The object is to send these refugees to Mexico. The Germans object to this plan and are fearful that these repatriated soldiers will fight for the British.
The German policy in France 1940-1941 is designed to make living conditions so bad that it forces Jews to emigrate. This is done by forcibly excluding them from all civil and economic life in France. Ironically, the German and French bureaucracy makes emigration so difficult and complicated that many Jews are unable to leave France legally.
During this period, French Vichy officials object to Germans using southern France as a dumping ground for Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria and other occupied territories.
February 5, 1941
Reinhardt Heydrich states in memorandum that he sees the “later total solution to the Jewish problem” is to “send them off to whatever country will be chosen later on.”
February 14, 1941
Heydrich tells German foreign ministry representative in France Martin Luther, “After the conclusion of the peace, they [Jews] will be the first transported to leave fortress Europe in the total evacuation of the continent we plan.” Luther then tells his diplomatic representatives that forced Jewish emigration from German territories must take priority.
February 27, 1941
“Lucie Heymann, our new office manager, pleases me very much. She is a very civilized and cultured woman, and she gives the office an air of distinction it has always previously lacked. I confess I even like the way she comes into my office every morning to shake hands and say, Bonjour, patron.’
“Her daughter, Isabelle, is also working with us now.” (Dated “Thursday, February 27th .” Varian Fry, unpublished draft of Surrender on Demand, pp. 456, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
“…[The number of] refugees in Lisbon is now so great that it’s almost impossible to get Portuguese transit visas here. The situation has reached such a point that the American Consul has cabled the State Department about it. If it were not for the boats to Martinique, hardly anyone would be leaving at all.
“There are rumors of serious trouble in the camp of Argelès, where many Spanish Republicans and many former members of the International Brigade are interned.” (Dated “March ,” Varian Fry, unpublished manuscript for Surrender on Demand, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
March 17, 1941
“Then about 7 o’clock tonight a boy from the Czech Consulate came running up to the office to tell us that Vochoc, the Consul, had just been arrested. They think he will be extradited. He has shown great courage, and by his generosity with passports he has saved many lives, including some stalwart anti-Nazi lives. I suppose the Gestapo knows that, and that he is now to pay for what he has done. But will France calmly hand him over?
“Why not? Didn’t she hand his country over two years ago?” (Dated March 17 . Varian Fry, unpublished manuscript for Surrender on Demand, 1941, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
Tuesday, March 18, 1941
“Jay Allen has been arrested by the Germans. They caught him at the demarcation line, trying to get back to the unoccupied zone. This is bad.
“Suppose they torture him? Will he be able to keep his mouth shut about us and our work? Or will he break down and talk when the matches are pushed up under his fingernails and the fire bites into the flesh?
“Saturday Freier. Yesterday Vochoc. Today Jay. They are getting the range.” (Dated “Tuesday, March 18th /Morning.” Varian Fry, unpublished manuscript for Surrender on Demand, p. 482, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
Wednesday, March 19, 1941
“I have been to the Prefecture about Freier. They were very cold, asking superciliously why I was particularly interested in him: ‘Pourquoi est-ce que vous vous y intéressez tellement?’ I didn’t like that question, or the way it was put. Though Freier had begun to forge papers for his friends before I ever met him, and I was only one of his customers, I can’t afford to show an unusual interest in his case. I am afraid he will have to stay in Vernet until his visa arrives.” (Dated “Wednesday, March 19 ,” Varian Fry, unpublished manuscript for Surrender on Demand, p. 483, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
“The entire Consular corps of Marseille, headed by Hugh Fullerton, the American Consul-General, went to the prefecture today to protest against Vochoc’s arrest. Getting no satisfaction there, Fullerton sent Hiram Bingham to Vichy to ask Admiral Leahy to intervene. Apparently the American authorities can be militant enough when the rights and safety of consuls are concerned, even when the consuls are ‘aliens.’ Too bad they can’t be equally militant in defense of a simple American citizen like me, or the poor devils of refugees who have spent the last eight years fighting Hitler, and now seem likely to pay with their lives for it.” (Dated “Wednesday, March 19 .” Varian Fry, unpublished manuscript for Surrender on Demand, p. 483, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
Wednesday, March 26, 1941
“Vichy has issued a decree forbidding all Spanish males between 18 and 48 to leave the country. This evidently abrogates the accord Vichy France signed with Mexico last August, in which Mexico agreed to take the Spanish refugees and Vichy France agreed to let them go. It also betrays the Spanish refugees to Franco. But what is a little betrayal to the men who run France today?
“Thanks to the new regulations, even Julio Just, the former Counselor of the Bank of Spain, can no longer leave France, though he has Mexican, Colombian, Bolivian, Cuban, Nicaraguan and Dominican immigration visas.” […]
“The [American] Consul thinks that Jay’s [Jay Allen’s] arrest had nothing to do with us. He was recognized in Paris and followed down to the line by secret police, who arrested him for trying to cross without permission. He will probably be in jail for several months.”
(Dated “Wednesday, March 26 .” Varian Fry, unpublished manuscript for Surrender on Demand, p. 491, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
March 29, 1941
French authorities create the Antisemitic General Commission on Jewish Affairs (Commissariat General aux Questions Juives). Its function is to implement policies to liquidate Jewish property and to enforce police measures and ordinances against Jews. Xavier Vallat, an antisemite, is appointed its first commissioner.
Wednesday, April 2, 1941
“Captain Dubois, our friend and protector in the Service de la Surveillance du Territoire, has been ordered to Rabat. For him it is a demotion; for us it is a calamity a serious loss. He generally managed to warn us of impending police raids before they happened. Now we have no one we can count on for that.
Dubois thinks he is being sent down to Morocco as a kind of punishment because he is pro-British and pro-American. (Dated Wednesday, April 2 , Varian Fry, unpublished manuscript for Surrender on Demand, p. 499, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
April 26, 1941
In France, Jews are forbidden to have certain occupations, particularly those that involve public contact.
May 1, 1941
Varian Fry wrote: “Official anti-semitism is very strong here now and getting stronger every day. We are already in bad odor because we help so many Jews and have a number of Jewish employees. I have even been ‘accused’ of being a Jew myself. Jews—even American citizens—are now treated with supreme contempt officially.” (Dated “May 1 ,” Varian Fry, unpublished manuscript for Surrender on Demand, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
May 7, 1941
Fry writes in his diary: “Wednesday, May 7. Harry Bingham told me this morning that he has just received instructions to go to Lisbon. He is closing his house and packing his things. His going will be a great loss to the refugees, and may seriously cripple our work. He has been the one man at the Consulate who had always seemed to understand that his job now is not to apply the rules rigidly but to save lives whenever he could without actually violating United States law. Without his help, much of what we have done we could [not] have done. Especially since the opening of the Martinique route, he has worked very hard, minimizing formalities and always showing a sympathetic attitude towards candidates for immigration. His behavior has always been in sharp contrast to that of most other American Consuls in France. I hate to think what it is going to be like here after he has gone."
“Today has been a black one in Marseille. There have been enormous râfles throughout the city. The police have arrested hundreds, perhaps thousands, of foreigners. Nobody knows what is to become of them, but as they are taking only men of working age I am afraid they are going to send them to Africa to work on the Trans-Saharan Railway.
“On our way home from the office tonight we were met halfway up the path to the house by Maria, our young Spanish scullery maid, who lives with her family in the nearby workers’ quarter and comes in by the day. She was crying so hard that we had some trouble finding out what was the matter. But when she had recovered herself a little she told us that her father had gone out in the morning to get milk and medicine for the baby, and had not come back. He had all the family’s food tickets with him.
“We knew, as Maria didn’t, what had happened to him. We told her not to worry and promised to try do our best to get him released in the morning.” (Dated “Villa Air-Bel/ Wednesday, May 7 .” Varian Fry, unpublished manuscript for Surrender on Demand, p. 544, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
“We took a tally of our work today. It is quite impressive. In less than eight months, over 15,000 people have come to us or written to us, and we have had to consider every one of their cases and take a decision on it. We have decided that some 1,800 of the cases fell within the scope of our activities: in other words, that they were genuine cases of intellectual or political refugees with a good chance of emigrating soon. In these 1,800 cases, which represent, in all, some 4,000 human beings, we have had to make all kinds of efforts. We have had to help some people be liberated from the camps, others transferred from the camps where they were to the embarkation camp at Les Milles.” (Dated “Later May 7 .” Varian Fry, unpublished manuscript for Surrender on Demand, p. 548, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
May 13-15, 1941
Pétain broadcasts pledge of cooperation with German occupying forces.
Thousands of Polish Jews in Paris are rounded up pending deportation. They are deported to French concentration camps Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande.
SS Haputsturmführer (Captain) Theodore Dannecker meets with Director of the German military rail system General Kohl. Kohl agrees to supply trains to deport between 10,000 and 20,000 French Jews in the next few months.
May 14, 1941
“The Mexicans have succeeded in getting some of the Spaniards whose visas are ready released from the Massilia. Everybody else is being sent to work camps in France and Africa. […]
“Johannes Schnek’s dossier has at last arrived from Paris, but the affidavits are too old to be any good. Nevertheless Harry Bingham has agreed to give him a visa if I can get the man who originally gave the affidavits to cable the Consulate that they are still valid. I am cabling New York via Switzerland.
“The Consulate got some more German quota numbers today.
“Had an amusing experience last night. Figuière, the honorary consul of Panama, asked me to have dinner with him to meet a M. Denis, who could be helpful with false passports. I went to the private dining room of the Hotel Isnard where Figuière had given me the rendezvous, to find my old friend Drach waiting with him there. Figuière introduced Drach as M. Denis, and, since Drach gave no sign of knowing me already, I pretended not to know him either…” (Dated “Wednesday, May 14 .” Varian Fry, unpublished manuscript for Surrender on Demand, p. 553, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
May 16, 1941
“Chaminade reports that the Massilia incident is part of an agreement Admiral Darlan has made with the Germans to reorganize the French police and [illegible] it to German demands. In future, foreigners are to be even more closely…” (Dated “May 16 .” Varian Fry, unpublished manuscript for Surrender on Demand, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
May 20, 1941
Gestapo issues circular prohibiting Jewish emigration from Germany and Austria.
May 28, 1941
Ordinance is issued in France forbidding Jews to negotiate or transfer capital.
Saturday, May 31, 1941
“The Winnipeg has been taken to Trinidad and all the passengers have been interned. The British are hinting that they are Gestapo agents, but I know at least ninety who are not: those sent by us. Damn the British! Unless they release the Winnipeg, it looks as though there definitely wouldn’t be any more boats to Martinique. The only other way is via Lisbon, but Portuguese transit visas are now unobtainable unless passage has already been booked for definite sailings, and nothing is available before the beginning of next year. For the great majority of Spanish refugees in France, this means the end of the last hope of escape.” (Dated “At the Office/ Saturday, May 31 .” Varian Fry, unpublished manuscript for Surrender on Demand, p. 572, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
By the end of May 1941, the Jewish office of HICEM in Marseilles had received more than 35,000 requests from Jews to leave France. The HICEM managed to help approximately 3,000 Jews leave France in 1941 and another 3,000 Jews emigrated in the first months of 1942. Between June 1940 and the end of 1942, HICEM helps 6,449 Jews leave France.
SS Haputsturmführer (Captain) Theodore Dannecker creates a Nazi-sponsored antisemitic propaganda department called the Institute for the Study of Jewish Questions (IEQJ).
Louis Darquier de Pellepoix becomes head of Commissariat General aux Questions Juives. He is extremely antisemitic.
Czech Consul Vladimir Vochoc is arrested by Vichy authorities in southern France. He later escapes.
June 2, 1941
The second antisemitic Statute des Juifs (Jewish statute) is enacted by the French Vichy government. It subjects French or foreign Jews to administrative internment for violation of the Statute des Juif or for any reason whatsoever. The law removes the boundaries between French and foreign Jews. A person could even be interned if “suspected of being Jewish.” Further laws calling for the expropriation and Aryanation of Jewish property are enacted. A mandatory inventory of Jewish property is demanded. Eventually, 42,000 Jewish businesses, buildings, homes and other properties are confiscated.
Pastor Marc Boegner writes to Pétain to protest these new laws.
Tuesday, June 3, 1941
US State Department institutes policies discouraging and interfering with refugees from German occupied territories.
“Now that there are no more boats to Martinique, the most serious problem of all is that of getting reservations in New York on boats sailing from Lisbon. All we can do is to cable New York, and then wait, and the waiting seems very long, not only to the clients but also to us.” (Dated “Tuesday, June 3 .” Varian Fry, unpublished manuscript for Surrender on Demand, p. 575, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
June 7, 1941
Jews are ordered to wear the yellow star in France. There is widespread resentment, both in the Jewish community and by non-Jews, of this order. Many Jews refuse to wear the star and some French citizens wear stars and yellow flowers in solidarity with persecuted Jews. Jews in the south are not yet required to wear the star.
Monday, June 9, 1941
“It looks as though the Martinique route were definitely finished. Have just learned that all the passengers on the Mont Viso and the Wyoming have been disembarked at Casablanca.
“Received a message from Lisbon today, in reply to my toothpaste letters to Heine. Heine has left for England, but Müller opened the letters and sent the answers by a Portuguese businessman. He says that Aufricht wasn’t able to get the salvos conductos, and that people arriving in Portugal with false transit visas are in a very difficult position and are likely to be arrested and sent back to Spain. But in very special cases he can take care of them. Lussu?” (Dated “Monday, June 9 .” Varian Fry, unpublished manuscript for Surrender on Demand, p. 581, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
June 11, 1941
Eichmann announces plans to deport 100,000 Jews from France in the coming three months. The plan is to deport 22,000 Jews from Paris and 10,000 from Vichy.
June 16, 1941
“It was announced today that all the Jews in France must declare themselves to the authorities before the end of the month. Special forms are to be distributed for the purpose. Ominous note: among other things, they must declare their wealth.” (Dated “June 16 .” Varian Fry, unpublished manuscript for Surrender on Demand, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
June 22, 1941
German army invades Soviet Union; Nazi Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads) begin mass murder of Jews, civilians and Communist leaders.
Fry writes in his diary: “The blow has fallen in the east after all; Germany has attacked Russia!”
July 22, 1941
The Law of July 22, 1941, gives the General Commission on Jewish Affairs even wider latitude to expropriate Jewish assets and property.
July 31, 1941
Heydrich appointed by Göring to implement the “Final Solution.”
US Congress passes the Bloom-Van Nuys act, which authorizes US consuls to withhold any type of visa if they had reason to believe the applicant might endanger public safety. This results in extensive visa application and screening procedures. For the rest of the war, only a small fraction of German and other European quotas will be filled.
The Drancy detention/transit camp is established in a suburb of Paris. It is under French administration. Most of the Jews who are deported to the Auschwitz death camp will leave from Drancy.
3,429 Jews are arrested and interned in the southern occupied zone. As a result, a flood of complaints is registered by Frenchmen opposed to the treatment of Jews and Vichy’s collaboration with the Nazis.
The Nazis order the closing of the emigration departments of the Reichsvereinigung in Austria and Germany. Nazis ban emigration for Jews between 18 and 45 years old. The age is soon extended to 60 years old.
A HICEM Report of August-September, 1941 [The Hebrew Immigration Aid Society] CDJC, CDXIV-39, recorded that 30 or 40 American entry visas were issued daily, [from the US Consulate in Marseille].
Bernardo Rolland de Miota, the Spanish Consul General in Paris, actively intervenes in the cases of 14 Jews who were deported to the Drancy concentration camp. At the same time, he embarks on a dangerous mission to transfer 2,000 Jews from Drancy to Morocco. Throughout the war, he denounced Nazi persecution of Jews. By September 1943, Rolland would be partially responsible for the escape of hundreds of French Jews to Spain.
August 8, 1941
Deportation of 11,485 Jews begins from the Gurs and Rivesaltes camps in the southern zone. The Coordinating Relief Committee for the Camps (CIMADE), a Protestant relief organization comprised of the Red Cross, the Quaker Relief Committee, the Swiss Service Civil International and the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, is allowed to rescue some Jews. Ross McClelland, Dr. Donald Lowrie and Father Arnoux, representing Catholic Archbishop Gerlier, lobby Philippe Pétain to save Jews.
August 20, 1941
The Eleventh District in Paris is sealed off and 4,000 Jews are interned and sent to Drancy. French officials protest the arrests.
Protestant Minister Marc Boegner sends protest letter to Marshal Pétain. In the letter, he expresses “…the indescribable sadness that our Churches feel at the news of the decisions taken by the French government, with regard to [the treatment of] foreign Jews, whether converted to Christianity or not.”
August 23, 1941
Monsignor Saliège, Archbishop of Toulouse, publicly disapproves of the deportations. He orders a message to be read in churches by his priests at mass: “The Jews are men and women. Not every action may be committed against them. Foreigners are men and women. Not every action may be committed against them, against these men and women, against these fathers and mothers of families. They are part of the human race.” This is the first major written protest by the Catholic Church. The statement is widely publicized throughout France. Even foreign diplomats send copies to their home governments.
August 26-28, 1941
A massive roundup of Jews in Lyons, France. In response, Monsignor Théas, Bishop of Montauban, issues this statement: “I voice the indignant protest of the Christian conscience and I declare that all men, Aryan or non-Aryan, are brothers because created by the same God; that all men, regardless of race or religion have the right to the respect of individuals and States. Now, the present anti-Semitic measures are contemptuous of human dignity, and a violation of the most sacred rights of the person and of the family.”
August 27, 1941
Marc Boegner declares that the Christian churches in France should not remain silent in the face of deportations of Jews. He meets with Pierre Laval and asks that deportations to the unoccupied zone should be halted and the right of asylum for Jews should be respected.
Jews in Austria and Germany are ordered to wear the yellow star.
Antisemitic exhibit entitled “Jews of France” opens in Paris. This exhibit, organized by the Nazi occupying forces, is poorly attended and largely ignored.
September 2, 1941
Vichy Ambassador to the Vatican Léon Berard submits a report to Marshal Pétain regarding the Vatican’s opinion on France’s anti-Jewish programs. Berard writes, “At no time did the Papal authority seem occupied or preoccupied with this part of French policy.”
September 6, 1941
Archbishop Pierre Gerlier issues statement against deportation and treatment of Jews. He states, “We have the categorical and painful duty to voice the protest of our conscience…” to invoke the “inalienable rights of the human person and the inviolability of the right of asylum.”
September 28, 1941
The Fifth German Ordinance (Verordnung) blocks the proceeds of the forced sale of Jewish property.
German and Austrian Jews are deported to ghettoes in Eastern Europe.
The Archbishop of Lyons, Pierre Gerlier, founder of Amitié Chrétienne [Christian Friendship], protests anti-Jewish decrees and instructs French Catholics to help Jews. Nuns, priests and monks are arrested and deported for their efforts to save Jews. Some are killed.
The Archbishop of Toulouse, France, protests Nazi terror.
October 1, 1941
All legal emigration out of German occupied territories is stopped by Gestapo order. It is estimated that 163,000 Jews are still living in the Greater Reich.
October 4, 1941
The Conseil National de l’Eglise réformée (National Council of the Reform Church) protests the deportation of Jews. It states, “Divine law does not allow families created at God’s wish to be broken up, children separated from their mothers, the right of asylum and divine pity to be brushed aside, the respect for the human person to be violated and defenceless creatures to be delivered up to a tragic fate.”
October 23, 1941
Himmler orders that no more Jews are to emigrate from the German occupied zones. This order takes effect in France in February 1942.
Late October 1941
After being forced to leave Marseilles, Varian Fry returns to New York City. Fry eventually becomes persona non grata with the administrators of the ERC over Fry’s policies in Marseilles.
There are approximately 17,500 internees in French camps in the southern unoccupied zone. 11,150 are Jews (63%). Many will receive exit visas to leave these camps.
A Catholic resistance organization called Temoignage Chrétien publishes a brochure that directly addresses the issue of French antisemitism. It mentions the concentration camps, Nazism, and French hypocrisy.
November 10, 1941
All emigration of Jews from Austria now officially prohibited. 126,445 Jews have been able to emigrate from Austria, thousands with the Ho, Bosques and other diplomatic visa.
November 29, 1941
Under German pressure, Vichy orders the dissolution of all Jewish organizations. Their records must be turned over to Vichy officials. Vichy forms the Union General de Isrealites du France (UGIF), which the Germans hope to turn into a Judenrat (Jewish Council). The UGIF refuses to take part in selecting Jews for deportation during the roundups. The UGIF helps Jews escape and provides them with food and shelter.
The Swiss Red Cross launches a relief operation specifically to save French Jewish children. The Swiss Red Cross has delegations located in Paris, Marseilles, Lille, Lyon, Toulouse and Arles.
Harry Bingham, US Vice Consul in Marseilles, hides painter Marc Chagall in his home, issues him visa to leave France.
December 7, 1941
Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. America declares war on Japan and, the next day, on Germany.
American Jewish welfare agencies are cut off from funding Jewish French refugee relief efforts.
Night and Fog Decree: Hitler orders the suppression of anti-Nazi resistance in occupied Western Europe.
December 8, 1941
Gassing of Jews begins at Chelmno extermination camp in Poland.
December 12, 1941
743 French Jews and 257 foreign Jews are arrested in Paris and sent to Compiègne camp for deportation to the east.
December 14, 1941
Major deportations in France are announced. Due to lack of rail transportation, the deportations to the death camps do not begin until March 1942.
The German occupying force in France fines the Jewish community one billion francs.
December 15, 1941
53 Jewish hostages are shot at Mont-Valerien.
French police subject Jews to random checks of addresses. The French have established a file system on Jews that contains information on 150,000 individuals.
2,000 Jews legally emigrate from the southern unoccupied zone. Many cross borders or go into hiding.
Many Christian organizations help to rescue Jews. These include entire religious orders. Among them are the Sisters of Zion at the Hospice de la Vieille Charité, the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Dominican Order of St. Baume, led by Father Régis de Perceval in Boulogne. Fathers Perrin and Pipro hide Jews in their houses and issue texts called Voix du Vatican denouncing Vichy policies. CIMADE helps Jewish evacuees interned at Gurs to escape to Switzerland. Fathers Perceval and Perrin are arrested in August 1943 for helping Jews. Father Abbé Blanc and 50 agents provide Jews with false records. During this period, Church people issue thousands of false Baptismal Certificates.
Father Marie-Benoit, a Capuchin priest, works with the UGIF and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to print and distribute false documents and hide Jews. He establishes a Jewish children’s refuge in the French province of Var. He is credited with rescuing as many as 4,000 Jews.
A number of French prefectural officials in southern France are helpful to Jews. Among them are Jean Séguy, Marseilles police captain Dubois, Monsieur Roux and Madame Esmiol of the Aliens’ Bureau, Marie-Ange Rodriguez, Secretary General of the Cassis Town Hall, Monsieur Boyer, also of Cassis, Antoine Zattara and Georges Barellet.
A number of guards at the French concentration camps take great risks to help Jewish internees survive and eventually escape. Among them are Lucien Mercier, Auguste Boyer, Aimé Bondi, and Jean-Louis Kissy. The Commandant of Les Milles, Robert Maulavé, helps individual Jews. He is later put in jail for these efforts.
The French village of Le Chambon begins rescue work to hide 5,000 Jews. This rescue is led by Pastor André Trocmé. All survive until the end of the war.
Father Pierre Chaillet of the Amitié Chrétienne [Christian Friendship], centered in Lyons, organizes an association of priests and laypersons under the guidance of Archbishop Gerlier and Paster Boegner.
Necdet Kent, Consul for Turkey in Marseilles, France, issues numerous Turkish certificates of citizenship to Jewish refugees, preventing them from being deported to Nazi death camps. On one occasion, Kent boards a deportation train with Jews loaded on a cattle car. He successfully intervenes to have them released to his custody.
January 13, 1942
The government in exile of France in London condemns the murder of French citizens by the Germans. Jews are not specifically mentioned.
January 20, 1942
Wannsee Conference in Berlin; Heydrich outlines plan to murder Europe’s Jews.
January 21, 1942
Admiral Darlan warns the German occupying authorities that forcing Jews to wear the yellow star will “profoundly shock French opinion” and “risk the provocation of a movement in favor of the Israelites, considered as martyrs.”
January 22, 1942
Hitler and Himmler personally order the evacuation and destruction of the old port in Marseilles and, with it, part of the Jewish Quarter. French police and SS conduct door-to-door searches and round-ups of Jews.
Germans order Jews and others to report for the Obligatory Labor Service (STO; Service du Travail Obligatoire), which will deport workers to Germany by mid-February.
February 1, 1942
SS troops begin demolition of the old port of Marseilles. The demolition lasts 17 days and displaces 20,000 people.
February 2, 1942
The Sixth German Ordinance (Verordnung) orders a curfew for Jews in Paris. Jews are not allowed out between 8 pm and 6 am. Jews are not allowed to change residence.
February 4, 1942
Himmler orders that no Jew can leave the French occupied zone without his direct approval.
February 15, 1942
First transport of Jews murdered at Auschwitz using Zyklon B gas.
March 16, 1942
The American Friends Service Committee – Quakers estimate that there are 16,400 internees in camps in the southern zone.
March 24, 1942
The Seventh German Ordinance (Verordnung) further defines who is a Jew.
March 27, 1942
First deportation of Jews from France to Auschwitz. 1,112 Jews are sent; only 19 survive the war. Vichy says nothing about this deportation.
Admiral François Darlan, Deputy Head of Vichy, and his staff resign from the Vichy government.
April 26, 1942
Pierre Laval is returned to his post in the cabinet. Laval becomes head of the Departments of the Interior, Information and Foreign Affairs. He becomes virtual head of state.
May 7, 1942
Reinhardt Heydrich arrives in Paris to speed up and oversee lagging deportation efforts in France.
SS police officer Carl Oberg visits Paris to prepare to take up his new post. On June 1, he will be appointed head of SS and SD operations in France.
SS Obersturmführer Heinz Röthke succeeds Theodore Dannecker as head of the Jewish Office in France. He remains there until the French surrender. The SS now has free reign for the deportations in France.
May 29, 1942
The Eight German Ordinance (Verordnung) orders all Jews in France to wear the Jewish star. The law is to be enforced on June 1, 1942. Many Jews decide not to wear the star. French population resists identifying Jews with the stars, and the French people are outspoken in their protests. It is estimated that more than 100,000 are subject to the ordinance.
Varian Fry writes Surrender on Demand. It is his account of the rescue efforts of the Emergency Rescue Committee in southern France. He outlines in detail the activities of Hiram Bingham, Vladimir Vochoc, Gilberto Bosques and other diplomats who helped Jews in southern France. It is published in 1945.
In Marseilles, the Emergency Rescue Committee is forced to close by the French police for subversive activities in helping refugees. The ERC continues to operate secretly. The Villa Air-Bel estate outside Paris becomes a haven for the Alsatian refugees.
June 11, 1942
Himmler orders increased deportations to Auschwitz from southeastern Europe. He includes 100,000 Jews to be deported from both zones in France. The French are asked to revoke the citizenship of the deportees and even pay for the cost of their deportation, which is set at 700 DM per Jew.
June 26, 1942
French Interior Minister Pucheu orders internment for all Jews who are stateless or are no longer protected by the country of their origin.
June 27, 1942
Vichy is asked to round up 50,000 Jews from the southern zone for deportation.
Pierre Laval agrees to cooperate with the deportation of stateless (i.e., German, Austrian and Czech) Jews. He later claims to have done this to save French Jews from deportation. Later, he states “I did all I could, considering the fact that my first duty was to my fellow countrymen of Jewish extraction whose interests I could not sacrifice.”
In Bordeaux, the SS sends a train to deport the Jews there. In a lightening raid, the SS could find only 150 stateless Jews. Eichmann is furious and cancels the train transport. Eichmann says, “This never happened before.”
June 30, 1942
Adolph Eichmann arrives in Paris with an order from Himmler to deport all Jews, regardless of whether they are French citizens or not.
The German Wehrmacht [army] has only three battalions (3,000 soldiers) of military police in the French occupied zone. This is hardly enough manpower to identify and arrest Jews. After November 1942, these same battalions will be responsible for deportations in both zones in France.
The French government has 100,000 police, which is the same size as the French army. 30,000 of these police are under Laval’s direct control.
July 4, 1942
Vichy agrees to deport foreign Jews in both zones. The Germans call this deportation operation “Vent Printanier” [spring wind].
July 8, 1942
Ninth German Ordinance (Verordnung) forbids Jews access to such public places as parks, squares and gardens. It also limits Jews to shopping for food and other necessities to only one hour daily.
July 16, 1942
In two days, 12,884 Jews are arrested in Paris and are interned in Drancy pending deportation. 4,051 are children.
July 20, 1942
French Ministry of the Interior suspends issuing exit visas for foreign Jews except for those from the Benelux countries.
July 27, 1942
French officials order the roundup of between 3,000 and 4,000 Jews in the occupied zone. These deportations are to be carried out by French police.
Germans demand that 32,000 Jews be deported by the end of the summer of 1942.
Deportation of Jews from France to killing centers in Poland. 42,000 Jews are sent to their deaths, at least one third of them from the unoccupied zone.
The roundup of Jews is supported by Vichy officials and accomplished by the French police. Other than Bulgaria, this was the only case in which a sovereign country in Western Europe signed a contract for the deportation of its Jews.
Deportation of Jewish refugees is defied and Jews are hidden in secret rescue and relief organizations. These organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, hide Jews, move them to safe-havens, provide them with food, forged documents and passports. Jews are also helped to escape from French concentration camps.
In Paris, French officials warn Jews of impending arrests and are able to escape.
In the southern zone of Lyon, General Robert de Saint-Vincent refuses to use his military troops in the roundup and deportation of Jews. He is immediately relieved of his command. Other French officials refuse to participate in the deportations and resign their commissions rather than participate.
August 3, 1942
The Nimes Committee and Quakers, led by Lindsey Nobel, meet with Pierre Laval to plead humanity and to protect Jews. Laval turns them away.
August 4, 1942
Tracy Strong, of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), meets with Marshal Pétain and informs him of the adverse publicity regarding the deportation of Jews and how it affects American public opinion.
August 5, 1942
Order for all foreign Jews to be sent to the occupied zone. All legal exit visas are now cancelled. As a result, only 600 Jews emigrate legally in the last half of 1942.
August 6, 1942
The Quakers meet with US Chargé d’Affaires in Vichy H. Pinkney Tuck and inform him about their meeting with Pierre Laval. They indicate that Laval stated that “these foreign Jews had always been a problem in France and that the French government was glad that a change in German attitude towards them gave France an opportunity to get rid of them.”
August 26-28, 1942
7,100 Jews are deported from the unoccupied zone. This is way below the German demand.
25,000 Jews in France are deported to Auschwitz. Most of them are murdered upon arrival.
Following the mass deportations of Jews from the occupied and unoccupied zones of France, Spain’s border continues to be a vital escape route for Jewish refugees. By October, several hundred Jewish refugees have escaped across the border.
The Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers) are able to get a few hundred Jewish children out of southern France to Spain, Portugal and Switzerland.
Dr. Donald Lowrie, of the Nîmes Committee, gives detailed accounts of the atrocities against Jews and others to close aids of Marshal Pétain. Pétain does not acknowledge the information.
Father Pierre Chaillet and his group, the Amitié Chrétienne [Christian Friendship], hide Jewish children in a number of religious institutions. The Christian Friendship organization also rescues Jewish children from deportations. Among those who take part in the rescue are Madeleine Barot and Abbe Glasberg. Father Chaillet is placed under house arrest for three months, and he refuses to give up the address where Jewish children are being hidden. Archbishop Gerlier also refuses to give the addresses of the children’s shelters to the regional police in Lyons.
Germans demand that Laval enforce sanctions against clergy and church groups who aid Jews.
General de St. Vincent, the military governor of Lyons, refuses to assist in the deportation of Jews and uncovering hidden Jewish children, and is dismissed from his position.
24 French prefects in the southern zone stated that public opinion was overwhelmingly shocked by the deportation of Jews there.
H. Pinkney Tuck, the US Chargé d’Affaires in Vichy France, discusses with Laval the deportation of Jews. In a letter to the US Secretary of State, he writes, “It is evident from Laval’s attitude that he had never interest nor sympathy in the fate of the Jews who he callously remarked were already too numerous in France.”
27,000 Jews in 13 separate deportations are sent to Auschwitz from both French zones. These deportations are accomplished with the cooperation of French authorities and police.
Pierre Laval expresses reservations about cooperating in future deportations of French Jews by the Germans.
Germany’s allies in France, including Hungary, Romania, and Italy, refuse to cooperate with deportations.
Several European and South American governments offer entry visas t Jews. They are Argentina (1,000), Uruguay (500), Mexico (250), Ecuador (200) and Switzerland.
60 clergymen, briefed by Pastor Marc Boegner, create a secret rescue network known as the “Refuge Cévenol.”
This network throughout the southern zone is established by Amitié Chrétienne [Christian Friendship]. Refugees are hidden in convents and churches. Escape routes are established from Toulouse to Spain and from Lyons, Grenoble and Valence to Switzerland. Clergy in Haute-Savoie become guides. The nuns of Notre-Dame-de-Sion in Lyons provide forged documents. Protestant hostels in Lyons are used as refuges.
Monsignor Rémond, Bishop of Nice, forbids the checking of baptismal certificates by anti-Jewish police. On September 30, a report states, “it is of public notoriety that he [the bishop] sets himself up as champion in defence of the Jews.”
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer corporation donates one million dollars toward rescue of Jews in southern France.
Italian consul general in Nice Alberto Calisse refuses to cooperate with German officials in interning Italian stateless Jews. He asks the Italian foreign ministry for permission to protect Italian Jews. This prompts the Italian foreign ministry to issue a decision paper that will in fact protect Italian Jews throughout France. Calisse informs Italian police official Ribiere that Italians have authority over Jews in the Italian zone. Calisse is not required to enforce the regulation of having “Jew” stamped in the identity cards and ration books of Jews in the Italian zone.
September 6, 1942
Archbishop Gerlier issues a public protest about the deportations.
Half of the religious leaders in the unoccupied zone make public statements against the deportations.
September 8, 1942
Prime Minister Winston Churchill, during a meeting of the British House of Commons, reports on the Nazi deportation of French Jews.
September 11, 1942
US Chargé d’Affaires in Vichy France Pinkney Tuck obtains 1,000 blank US entry visas for Jewish children trapped in southern France. He eventually gets permission from US Secretary of State Cordell Hull to obtain a total of 5,000 visas to the US. Pierre Laval, reacting to German pressure, rescinds the offer to release the Jewish children. The rescue efforts fail.
September 16, 1942
The German army and SS occupy Marseilles.
September 22, 1942
Pastor Marc Boegner protests Jewish deportations from France. He personally tries to intervene with Vichy leader Pierre Laval. Laval refuses.
No deportations of Jews are carried out in October due to train transport limits.
Darquier de Pellepoix and the Commissariat Général aux Questions Juives attack church leaders for their role in helping Jews and stirring up public opinion against deportation.
Marc Boegner is put under police surveillance.
US breaks off diplomatic relations with Vichy France.
Some French police continue to sabotage deportations.
November 9, 1942
The Law of 1942 forbids foreign Jews in France from leaving. Vichy closes all of its borders and cancels all exit visas. Vichy ceases issuing visas to Jews.
November 11, 1942
The Allies land in North Africa, in Algeria and Morocco. As a response, the Germans and Italians occupy southern France. This occupation extends to the Mediterranean coast. The operation is called “Attila.” There is no French resistance to this occupation. France is now a fully occupied country. Vichy maintains a limited sovereignty. The SS and Gestapo now have complete authority over Jewish issues in the south, except in the Italian zone of occupation.
During the Nazi occupation of the south, 22,000 refugees are able to flee successfully to Spain. By the end of 1942, more than 30,000 refugees have crossed the border.
SS Obersturmführer in France Helmut Knochen assigns his SS Einsaztkommando [special deportation squad] to regional offices attached to French prefects in the south, including the cities of Marseilles, Montpellier, Toulouse, Lyon and Vichy.
November 27, 1942
French naval officers sink their own ships at Toulon to prevent them from falling into the hands of the German navy. The Allies occupy all of French overseas possessions. The Jews in French North Africa are protected from deportation.
November 1942-September 1943 - France
Beginning in November of 1942, the Italian Army and Foreign Ministry officials occupy and administer eight French departments east of the Rhône River, in southern France. A French government remains in place, but the Italians control the area. In these zones, French Jews and other refugees are protected until the Italians surrender and leave southern France in September 1943.
Italian forces and diplomats refuse to enforce anti-Semitic measures in their zones. They refuse to allow any forced labor camps in their occupation zones. Further, the Italian occupying Army prevents any arrests or deportations of Jews in their area. By 1943, more than 50,000 Jews flee to the Italian zone. Twenty to thirty thousand of these are non-French Jews. Many gravitate to the area around Nice.
For nearly 10 months, Italian diplomats and the occupying military forces thwart the Nazis' "final solution" in southern France.
The following Italian diplomats are active in rescue of Jews in southern France: Gino Buti; Alberto Calisse, Consul in Nice; Guido Lospinoso, Foreign Ministry Official and 'Inspector General of Racial Policy,' Nice; Vittoriano Manfredi, Consul in Grenoble; Gustavo Orlandini, Italian Consul in Paris; and Vittorio Zoppi.
December 10, 1942
Hitler orders all Jews to be deported from France to the German occupied territories of the East. This includes enemies of the state, Communists and Gaullists. This order is not conveyed to French officials.
In preparation for the deportations, all Jews are evacuated from coastal or border departments. All Jews, with the exception of British, American or other neutrals, are ordered to be arrested. In most cases, only three days notice is provided to the Jews.
December 11, 1942
Vichy government orders all Jews to have their personal papers stamped with “Juif” or “Juive” [male or female Jew]. These include identity and ration cards as well as work permits.
December 17, 1942
The United States, Great Britain, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and the French government in exile make a joint declaration of condemnation against the murder of European Jews. They declare their intention to prosecute Nazi war criminals after the war. This declaration makes headlines around the world. Thousands of letters are sent to the US State Department and the British Foreign Ministry at Whitehall regarding this declaration.
The Joint Relief Commission of the International Red Cross is allowed to operate in the occupied zone of France. They supply food, medicine and other supplies to Jews and others in the internment camps. In addition, the Commission tries to help Jews by redefining their legal status by having them declared prisoners of war and entitled to protections under the Geneva Convention. The Red Cross is able to improve some of the conditions in the camps.
The French Red Cross provides relief to Jewish prisoners at the internment camps at Hôtel Terminus des Ports, Bombard, and Les Milles.
The Red Cross and Quaker missions continue to collect information on internees and conditions in the camps. They report these conditions to the Allies.
Carvalho da Silva, Vice Consul for Portugal in Paris, France, personally intervenes on behalf of 40 Portuguese Jews who are at the deportation center of Drancy, France. He convinces the Gestapo to free them and personally accompanies the group through a border crossing of France into Spain. He rescues a second group of about 100 Jews, and accompanies them across the border as well.
Mexican Consul General Gilberto Bosques, Mexican Ambassador Luis I. Rodriguez, and the entire Mexican legation are arrested by German and French officials. The Brazilian Ambassador and the Brazilian legation are also arrested. The diplomats and their families are interned in the German city of Bad Godesberg for a year. This action is in violation of international conventions.
Antoine Zattara, at the prefecture in Marseilles, helps many Jews escape the Nazis. Zattara is arrested and deported by the Gestapo in 1944.
French Interior Ministry declares in a circular that it has the authority to assign all foreign Jewish men who came to France after 1936 to labor battalions and work groups.
When the German army occupies Marseilles, they arrest and intern members of the Quaker, Unitarian and Mennonite committees in Baden Baden, Germany. All legal and semi-legal rescue groups in Marseilles are shut down.
January 22-27, 1943
Ten thousand French police and several thousand German soldiers are sent to move the 22,000 residents of the old port of Marseilles and destroy it. In the process, 2,000 Jews are arrested.
There may be as many as 140,000 Jews in the south of France, not including the Italian zone. Jews are completely protected in the Italian sector.
February 18, 1943
French police are ordered to round up French and foreign Jews and send them to the Gurs concentration camp, and then to Drancy. The Germans have limited success in this action due to increasing French resistance.
February 22, 1943
In Lyons, France, occupying Italian soldiers order local French chief of police to rescind German deportation order.
German and SS authorities are increasingly dissatisfied with French and Italian cooperation in the deportations.
Italian police in the cities of Valence, Chambery and Anecy prevent French prefects from arresting Jews in their zones.
The US State Department blocks the rescue of 70,000 Jews from France and Romania by refusing to transfer money to support a plan worked out by Gerhardt Riegner of the World Jewish Congress. Funds are blocked in Swiss bank accounts until the end of the war. Agents of the Treasury Department discover this intentional delaying of the transfer of money. They determine that this is being done by Breckinridge Long and other officials at the State Department. A report on these activities is eventually submitted to Henry Morgenthau, Secretary of the Treasury. Morgenthau submits this report to President Roosevelt, which eventually leads to the creation of the War Refugee Board.
In Grenoble, Italian soldiers protect Jewish internees about to be deported. They are released from custody.
March 2, 1943
Italian General Avarna de Gualtieri delivers a note to the French secretary of state, Admiral Charles Platon, stating that “henceforth, not only non-French Jews were under Italian protection but French Jews as well. No Jew in the Italian zone could be coerced or arrested by anyone except Italian authorities, except for violations of the common law.”
March 6, 1943
SS Obersturmführer Heinz Röthke estimates there are 270,000 Jews remaining in France, including 200,000 in the southern zone. He hopes to deport 8,000-10,000 Jews per week beginning in April.
Under new ordinances, Germans are free to arrest Jews without French police present.
March 20, 1943
Mussolini transfers authority over Jews from the Italian army to the Italian ministry of the interior. He appoints Guido Lospinoso Commissioner for Jewish Questions in Nice. Lospinoso does everything in his power to thwart German plans to deport Jews. He is successful in helping Jews through September 1943. He works closely with Jewish banker and rescuer Angelo Donati and Catholic monk Father Benoit. Benoit operates out of a monastery in Marseilles.
March 25, 1943
Von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, complains to Mussolini regarding lack of cooperation by the Italian diplomatic corps and Army in the Italian occupied zone of southern France.
April 19, 1943
SS begins large scale arrests of Jews in Nîmes, Avignon, Carpentras and Aix. The arrested Jews are taken from Marseilles to Drancy.
May 27, 1943
The secret organization, National Resistance Council, is created in France. Jean Moulin is its head.
Himmler orders the liquidation of all ghettos in Poland and the Soviet Union.
Daniel Bénédite takes the name Pierre Benedetti and works with the French underground.
Eichmann sends his SS assistant Alois Brunner to Paris with 25 men to speed up the deportations. Brunner takes over operations at the Drancy camp. Vichy announces it will no longer actively cooperate with the Germans in the arrest of French Jews.
July 10, 1943
The Marseilles Gestapo reports that Italian police commissioner Guido Lospinoso has moved between 20,000 and 50,000 Jews out of the German area to Megéve, St. Gervain and Vence, which are Italian protected areas.
July 16, 1943
Catholic priest Father Marie-Benoit has audience with Pope Pius XII. He presents the Pope with documents regarding the persecution of Jews in France. He asks for assistance in rescuing Jews in the Italian occupied zone in France. Working with Jewish Italian businessman Angelo Donati, he begins preparation for evacuating 30,000 Jews from the south of France to Italy, Spain and North Africa. The project is approved by the Vatican, by Sir Arcy Osborne, the British Ambassador to the Holy See, and by Harold Tittman, US Ambassador to the Vatican. The evacuation plan fails due to the Italian withdrawal from the war on September 8, 1943.
July 23, 1943
Jean Changeneau, police prefect of the Alpes Maritimes, replaces French policeman Ribiere. Changeneau announces that he will protect Jews in his area.
Late July 1943
Mussolini agrees to withdraw from the Italian zones in southern France, except for the area around Nice.
September 8, 1943
The Italian government surrenders to the Allies and withdraws from the war. Italian Armed Forces in Yugoslavia, southern France and parts of Greece return to Italy. Thousands of Jewish refugees attempt to flee with them.
September 9, 1943
German army occupies former Italian zone in southern France. Thousands of Jews are trapped around Nice. Nazis are free to round up Jews.
End of September 1943
By the end of September, a total of 52,000 Jews are deported from France. 6,000 are citizens. 13,000 are refugees from Vichy, 4,000 of which are from Marseilles. This was less than half the figure Eichmann had projected. He concluded the French “no longer wished to follow [them] in the Final Solution in France.”
November 24, 1943
Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau drafts a letter to the Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, objecting to the State Department’s slow approval of the transfer of funds for the rescue of Jews in France and Romania.
Breckinridge Long continues his campaign against Jewish immigration to the United States. He gives misleading testimony about immigration before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Between December 1941 and the end of the war, only 21,000 refugees are admitted to the US and they comprise only ten percent of the US quota available for Axis-controlled countries.
40 deportation trains leave France for Auschwitz. There are no deportations in December and January 1943-1944.
Several French prefects destroy the Jewish census and registration files. Refugees are helped by French citizens to flee to the Spanish border by sympathetic French police and civilian officials.
December 23, 1943
Gerhardt Riegner is finally given a license to transfer funds from Jewish agencies for the relief and rescue of the Jews of Romania and France. This is eight months after Riegner first requested permission from the US State Department to do so.
The Representative Council of French Jewry (Conseil Représentatif des Juifs de France; CRIF) is founded to coordinate rescue activities among Jewish groups. They work with the Armée Juive to arrange rescue of Jews through Spain. They also participate with the French underground, both in the north and the south.
Early in 1944, US Ambassador Laurence Steinhardt manages to have the Turkish government intercede on behalf of ten thousand Turkish Jews living in France. Steinhardt uses his good relationship with Turkish foreign minister Noman Menenencioglu in helping to untangle bureaucratic rules that prevented Jews from passing through Turkey as an escape route. Hirschmann and Steinhardt are able to get Turkish official in charge of visas, Kemel Aziz Payman, to liberalize some of the Turkish immigration laws.
Two transports leave France for Auschwitz.
The SS conduct arrests without the help of French police. As a result, the arrests are way below German anticipated quotas.
Only one transport leaves France for Auschwitz.
June 6, 1944
D-Day: Operation Overlord is launched. Allied invasion at Normandy, in northwestern France, opens second front. Seven Allied divisions attack in the largest amphibious operation in history. The invasion involves more than 4,000 ships and 1,000 transport planes.
Deportations from France are halted.
July 9, 1944
The Allied Armies capture the city of Caen in Normandy, France.
August 14, 1944
Operation Anvil. Allied forces land on the south coast of France. They quickly advance 20 miles on the first day.
August 15, 1945
Marshal Philippe Pétain, former head of the Vichy government, is convicted in a French court of treason and is sentenced to death. His sentence is later commuted to life imprisonment.
August 17, 1944
US forces break out of the German defenses in western Normandy.
August 24, 1944
Drancy transit camp, on the outskirts of Paris, is liberated.
August 25, 1944
Paris is liberated by the Allies. De Gaulle leads victory parade.
January 27, 1945
Soviet troops enter Auschwitz concentration camp.
May 8, 1945
V-E Day: Germany surrenders; end of the Third Reich.
End of War
The total number of Jews deported and murdered in France is 75,000. This is out of more than 375,000 Jews in France. 80% of Jews in France survived the war. This is one of the highest survival rates for a Jewish community in a Nazi-occupied territory. 86% of native French Jews survive; 72% of foreign born Jews survive. There are countless testimonies and evidence to indicate that many of the Jews, especially foreign Jews, escaped arrest and deportation and survived the war with the help of courageous individuals, willing to risk their life and liberty by breaking the law to follow their conscience. Individuals hid Jews in the cities, villages, towns and in remote areas of the country. French officials overlooked irregular papers and documents to get Jews housing, food and medicine. Religious leaders throughout France extended a hand of help. They provided food, shelter, and false baptismal certificates. Many organizations, including the member groups of the Nîmes Committee, put themselves at considerable risk to save hundreds of thousands of Jews throughout France. Without their help, most Jews would not have survived.
In 1942, 42,000 Jews are deported from France and murdered. In 1943, 22,000 Jews are deported from France and murdered. In 1944, 12,500 Jews are deported from France and murdered. (4,000 Jews from Marseilles are deported and killed.)
Himmler and Eichmann consider the deportation of Jews from France to be a dismal failure. Himmler states that the total removal of Jews from France was “extremely difficult” because of the “very strained relations with the French military administration.”
October 9, 1945
Pierre Laval, the Prime Minister of France in Vichy, is convicted in a French court of treason. He is sentenced to death.
Daniel Bénédite of the ERC is awarded Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.
April 12, 1967
Varian Fry is honored at the French consulate in New York City with the Croix de Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur. Fry is honored for the work he had done for France.
September 13, 1967
Varian Fry passes away.
Hiram “Harry” Bingham IV passes away.
French President Francois Mitterand publicly denounces the actions of the French Vichy government during World War II.
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum opens in Washington, DC. Its first traveling exhibit honors Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee.
Varian Fry is honored the title of Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel. A tree is planted in Yad Vashem by US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, along with Fry’s son. Christopher apologizes for the State Department’s treatment of Fry.
Harry Bingham is honored in the Visas for Life exhibit for his work in helping Jewish refugees in Marseilles in 1940-1941.
Harry Bingham is nominated for the title Righteous Among the Nations by the Visas for Life Project.
June 27, 2002
American Foreign Service Association posthumously awards Hiram Bingham with the Constructive Dissent award. His citation reads: “His actions violated the State Department anti-refugee policy… [and showed] his willingness to put humanity before his career….” The award was presented by Secretary of State Colin Powell.
June 28, 2002
Washington Post article entitled “At State, Giving Dissent its Due” honors Harry Bingham.
Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats Project nominates members of the Emergency Rescue Committee as Righteous Among the Nations.
United States Postal Service announces it will issue a commemorative postage stamp in honor of Hiram “Harry” Bingham. The stamp will be issued in spring 2006.
Harry Bingham receives Letter of Recognition from Yad Vashem for his activities in Marseilles on behalf of Jews.
German Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt)
Jewish Consistorial Association of the Israelites of Paris, France
American Federation of Labor, USA
American Friends’ Service Committee (Quakers), USA
Universal Jewish Alliance (Alliance Israelite Universelle), France
Armée Juive (Jewish Army), France
American Jewish Committee, USA
American Red Cross, USA
American Relief for France, USA
Armée Secrète (Secret Army)
Chief German Security Official (Befehlshaber der Sicherheitsdienstes)
Comité d’Action et de Défense des Immigrés (Action and Defense Committee for Immigrants)
Comité d’Action et de Défense de la Jeunesse Juive (Jewish Youth Committee for Defense and Action), France
Committee for Aid to Refugees from Germany (Comité d’Aide aux Réfugiés), France
Consistoire Central des Israelites de France (Central Consistory of Jews of France)
Commission Centrale des Organizations Juives d’Assistance (Central Commission for Jewish Relief Agencies), France
Jewish Defense Committee (Comité de Défense des Juifs)
Comité Directeur de la Jeunesse (Administrative Committee for Jewish Youth)
Comité Général de Défense (General Defense Committee), France
General Commissariat for Jewish Affairs (Commissariat Général aux Questions Juives)
Commissione italiano de l’armistizia con la Francia
Commission d’Inter-mouvement auprès des Evacués (Committee for Action on Behalf of Refugees), France
Comité National de Defense des Juifs, France
Comité d’Organisation (Organizing Committee)
Comité Juif d’Action Sociale et Reconstruction (Jewish Committee for Social Action and Professional Reorientation)
Comité des Oeuvres Sociales des Organisations de Resistance (Social Aid Committee for Resistance Organizations)
Representative Council of Jewish Organizations (Conseil Représentatif des Israelites de France)
Conseil Représentatif des Juifs de France (Representative Council of the Jews of France), presently CRIF, Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France), France
Comité d’Union et de Défense des Juifs (Committee for the Union and Defense of Jews)
Main Office for the Shelter
Aid Commission for Jewish Refugees (Delegazione Assistenza Emigranti Ebrei), Italy, France
French Israelite Mutual Aid Society (Entr’aide Française Israélite)
French-Jewish Scouts (Eclaireurs Israélites de France), France, formerly OJC
Emergency Rescue Committee
Temporary Mutual Assistance (Entr’aide Temporaire)
Fédération des Sociétés Juives (Federation of Jewish Societies [of France]), France
Franc-Tireurs et Partisans Français (French Irregulars and Partisans)
Military branch of the immigrant resistance, see FTPF and MOI, France
Groups Mobiles de Réserve (Mobile Reserve Groups)
Foreign Labor Battalions (Groupements de Travailleurs Étrangers)
Hebrew Immigrant Aid and Sheltering Society, headquarters New York, USA
Umbrella organization composed of HIAS, ICA, and EMIGDIREKT (Berlin Aid Society)
Jewish Colonization Association (Paris)
International Committee for the Red Cross
International Migration Service
Jeunesse Juive de France (Jewish Youth in France)
Karen Kayemeth l’Israel
Ligue Internationale Contre l’Antisemitisme (International League Against Antisemitism), France
German Military Command in France (Militärbefehlshaber in Frankreich)
Main Forte (Strong Fist); part of Jewish Army
Mouvement des Jeunesses Sionistes (National Movement Against Racism)
Mouvement de Libération Nationale (National Liberation Movement), France
National Movement Against Racism (Mouvement National Contre le Racisme), France
Main d’Oeuvre Immigrée (Immigrant Workers Organization), France
Mouvements Unis de la Résistance (United Resistance Movements), France
National Refugee Service, USA
Organisation Juive de Combat (Jewish Fighters Organization), name adopted by Jewish Army (Armée Juive; AJ), May 1944 (France)
National Committee for the Child (Oeuvre National d’Enfance)
Oeuvre de Protection de l’Enfance Juive (Program for the Protection of Jewish Children)
Organization for Reconstruction through Labor (Organisation pour le Reconstruction et le Travail, also known as Institution for Vocational Guidance and Training) – Society for Propagation of Artisanal and Agricultural Work, Geneva
Aid Operations for Children (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants), France
Organisation Sioniste de France (Zionist Organization in France)
Parti Communiste Français (French Communist Party)
Police for Jewish Affairs (Police des Questions Juives)
Relief Committee for the War-Stricken Jewish Population, Geneva, Switzerland
Reich Security Division (Reichssicherheitshauptamt)
Service de contrôle des administrateurs provisoires (Agency to Control Trustees)
Germany Security Service, a division of the RSHA (Sicherheitsdienst)
Investigation and Inspection Division (Section d’Enquête et Contrôle) a special anti-Jewish police of the CGQJ
Service d’Evacuation et de Regroupement (Zionist Service for Evacuation and Resettlement), France
Service d’Evacuation et de Regroupement (Office of Evacuation and Regrouping), France
Service des Faux Papiers (False Documents Service), MLN, France
Germany Security Police (Sicherheitspolizei)
Order Service of the Legion, Veterans’ Legion (Service d’Ordre Légionnaire), known after January 1943 as the Milice
Service Social d’Aide aux Émigrants (Society for Aid to Immigrants), France
Social Services for Foreigners (Service Social des Étrangers)
Obligatory (Forced) Labor Service (Service du Travail Obligatoire)
Travailleurs Étrangers (Foreign Workers)
Union Française pour la Défense de la Race (French Union for the Defense of the Race)
Union des Femmes Juives de France pour la Palestine (Federation of Jewish Women of France for Palestine), France
Union Générale des Israélites de France (General Union of French Jews), France (N – North; S – South)
Union de la Jeunesse Juive (Union of Jewish Youth), France
Jewish Union for Resistance and Mutual Aid (Union des Juifs pour la Résistance et l’Entraide), France
Unitarian Service Committee, headquarters, USA (non-Jewish)
Union of Jewish Associations (Union des Sociétés Juives), France
Women’s International Zionist Organization
Young Men’s Christian Association, USA
Terms – Glossary
Affidavit in Lieu of Passport
Many refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied territories left their countries illegally without passports, papers or identity cards. Local consuls and diplomats could issue an affidavit in lieu of passport as a means of providing refugees with a document that could legally allow them to cross international borders.
German: “Annexation”; German annexation of Austria by Germany on March 13, 1938. It was accomplished by popular vote. It put approximately 189,000 Austrian Jews under German rule. Many thousands fled to Southern France, especially after the Kristallnacht action of November 10, 1938.
Jewish Army. Founded by Abraham Polonski and Lucien Lubin in France in 1942.
The Armistice Commission located in Wiesbaden negotiated the Pence Treaty between Germany and France in 1940. It was composed of German and French military, diplomats and economic specialists.
District in city
Clause of the German-French Armistice agreement of June 1940. Stipulated that the French were obliged to “surrender on demand” German nationals on French soil to the German occupying government.
Aryan Papers Documents
Expropriation – confiscation of Jewish property, businesses and money in Germany and German-occupied Europe. Under these laws and the French Statut des Juifs, more than 42,000 Jewish businesses and properties were confiscated in France.
Jews of European ancestry
Auschwitz (G.); Oswiecim (P.)
Nazi death camp in Poland
Vrba-Wetzler Report. Rudolph Vrba and Alfred Wetzler escape from the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in 1943. They successfully escaped to Slovakia, where they prepared an elaborate report of the murder of Jews. The report was translated into numerous languages and sent around the world.
Political and military alliance between Germany, Italy and Japan. It also included Bulgaria, Hungary, Finland and Slovakia.
French: “Sub”; A French term for Jews in hiding (referring to “submarine”). Jews in France who posed as Aryans in order to avoid arrest and deportation. There were elaborate networks to hide these Jews and provide them with false documents.
Certificate of Exemption
Certificate of Good Conduct
Chantiers de la Jeunesse
Cooperation of French citizens and German occupying forces. Collaboration between French officials or private citizens and the Nazi government enabled them to Aryanize Jewish businesses, enforce antisemitic laws, and arrest and deport Jews and other enemies of the Nazis to the concentration and death camps.
Council of State
French: Consistory, council
Converting to Christianity
Law passed October 1870 making Algerian Jews citizens of France. The Vichy government reversed the law in 1940.
The Nazi government built six camps that were used as killing centers for Jews and others. Jews from France were deported to three of these camps: Sobibor, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau. 75,000 Jews from France were murdered in these camps.
Delegazione de Assistenza Emigranti Ebrei (Delegation for the Assistance of Immigrants). Jewish rescue and relief agency founded in Italy in December 1939. It operated in France and throughout Italy until September 1943.
Removal of citizenship.
Department of Information and Propaganda for Jewish Questions
Forced removal of Jews to concentration camps or murder centers
Transit camp. Place from which Jews and others were sent to concentration or death camps.
German: German State Railroad. Responsible for transporting deportees to the death camps in Poland. 77 deportation trains left France between 1941-1944.
Displaced Person (DP)
Mostly located in occupied France, these centers held interned Jews and others prior to deportation. Centers were run by Vichy officials.
Transit camp located in suburb of Paris, established in 1940. 74,000 Jews in France were deported to Auschwitz from this camp. 11,000 were children. 5,000 Jews were from Belgium. Drancy was a French camp until July 1943.
Embassy (see also Legation)
Also “unblocked visa.” The US State Department authorized consuls in France to issue a limited number of visas outside of the US quota system. Several hundred of these special visas were issued to artists, writers, intellectuals trapped in Southern France, particularly in Marseilles.
French: “Purge” – Postwar trials of collaborators in France. Between 1945-1946, 39,000 trials for collaborators were held in France.
Conference held in the French resort town of Evian, July 6-15, 1938. It was attended by 33 countries. Its purpose was to resolve the refugee crisis that resulted from the German annexation of Austria and thousands of Jews fleeing from Germany and Czechoslovakia. Virtually nothing of substance was accomplished at this conference, as no countries were willing to accept Jewish refugees.
Endlösing der Judenfrage in Europa; German: “Final Solution of the Jewish Problem in Europe”
More than 700,000 French people were impressed by the German government to work for the Nazi war industries.
French: Brotherhood. Pro-Jewish newspaper published in Southern France. Cooperated with MNCR to fight anti-Semitism and advocated helping Jews to avoid deportation.
French armed forces under General Charles de Gaulle. Fought for the liberation of France.
French Forces of the Interior (EFI)
French: constables, French police. Many collaborated with German occupying forces to enforce antisemitic policy and aid in round-ups and deportations.
German: Geheime Staatspolizei; German State Secret Police. Headed by SS General Heinrich Mueller. IVB4 was a department of the Gestapo.
La Grande Rafle
French: The Grand Roundup. 12,884 Jews, 4,000 of them children, were arrested in the Paris area on July 16-17, 1942. Most were sent to the Auschwitz death camp, where they were murdered on arrival.
Germany and Austria after annexation.
Groupments de Travailleurs Étranges (GTE)
Labor battalions authorized by Vichy law to work prisoners or war. Supervised by the French Ministry of Industrial Production and Labor. Jews and former Spanish Republican soldiers were impressed into these foreign labor units.
Hebrew: “Training”; agricultural training farm. Several of these farms were located in Southern France.
Hebrew: “Young Guard”; Socialist-Zionist Youth Movement; organized to help young Jews train for life on collective farms (kibbutzim) in Palestine (Israel); many became partisans and rescuers during the war.
Hasidei Umot Ha’Olam (H.)
Righteous Among the Nations; Righteous Person.
He Halutz (Halutzim; H.)
Hebrew: “Pioneer.” Jewish youth organization that helped prepare young Jews for immigration to Palestine.
Institute for the Study of Jewish Problems, Paris, France
Volunteers from all over the world who fought against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Many were Jewish.
Established in 1939 in France to detain Spanish Republican soldiers and refugee aliens. Run by French officials and police forces.
Gestapo and SS “Jewish Office,” headquartered in Berlin, in charge of arrest and deportation of Jews in France and other occupied countries. Headed by SS Colonel Adolph Eichmann, his deputies were Dieter Wisliceny and Major Alois Brunner.
“J,” Jude, Juif, Jew
Stood for Juif (Jew). Stamped on German, Austrian and Czech passports.
French: “I Accuse”; pro-Jewish newspaper published in Paris. Cooperated with MNCR to fight anti-Semitism and advocated helping Jews to avoid deportation.
Jewish Agency for Palestine. Established in 1921 to establish Jewish self rule in the British Mandate of Palestine. It set up Palestine Offices to promote immigration to Palestine.
After June 7, 1942, French Jews in the northern occupied zone were forced to wear a yellow Star of David with the word “Juif.”
Department of Jewish Affairs in RSHA office, Paris. Headed by SS Hauptsturmführer Theodore Dannecker (Bureau IVB4). Responsible for planning and implementing anti-Jewish actions and deportations.
French: Jew. In France, Jews had their papers and documents stamped with the word “Juif” in large red letters.
Konzentrationslager (G.); concentration camp. There were thousands of these camps throughout Nazi occupied Europe.
Headed by German diplomat Dr. Kundt, the Commission was a detachment of Gestapo and German officials that searched French internment camps for those wanted by the German government. They arrested 800 persons.
Landsmann (G., Y.)
League of Nations
Loi Marchandeau. A French law passed in 1881 that outlawed press attacks “toward a group of persons who belong by origin to a particular race or religion when it intended to arouse hatred among citizens or residents. This law was repealed by the Vichy government on August 27, 1940. This allowed virulent antisemitic attacks on the Jews in France.
French: Militia. French paramilitary force of 30,000 formed by Vichy government in 1943. Led by Joseph Darnand and Paul Touvier. Participated in round up and deportation of Jews.
Militärbefehlshaber im Frankreich
German: Military Command in France; MBF. Headed by General Otto von Stülpnagel, 1940 and Karl Heinrich von Stülpnagel 1942-1944. The civil administrative director was SS-Brigadeführer Dr. Werner T. Best, 1940-1942.
Mossad le Aliya Bet
Jewish underground organization, often operated illegally to smuggle Jews from Europe to Palestine.
Nazi, Nazi Party
Quota. In France, quota systems were used to exclude Jews from professions, businesses and schools.
Area occupied by the German Army and civil government. This comprised most of Northern France and the border along Spain.
Palestine Office. Palestine Offices, located throughout Europe (usually in capitols), issued Palestine Certificates. These were staffed by Jewish volunteers from Palestine.
A certificate issued by the Yishuv, and authorized by the British mandatory government, that allowed Jews in Europe to immigrate legally to Palestine.
Resistance fighters against German occupying forces.
French word for guide. These were individuals who guided refugees across international borders.
Official document issued by a country of origin for an individual.
Police for Jewish Affairs (PQJ)
Prisoner of War
Ration card, ration book
Reich Security Division (RSHA)
German: Reichssicherheitshauptamt. Reich Security Main Office. Combined offices of Nazi Gestapo (Secret Police), Security Service (SD) and Police (SIPO). Headed by SS General Reinhard Heydrich and later Ernst Kaltenbrunner. It coordinated the final solution for the murder of Jews of Europe and millions of others. In France, the RSHA office was headed by SS Obersturmführer Helmut Knochen. He was responsible to Himmler and the SS office in Berlin. Other RSHA officers were SS-Sturmbannführers Herbert Martin Hagen and Kurt Liska, SS-Hauptsturmführer Theodore Dannecker. Coordinated the murder of more than 75,000 Jews in France.
International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC)
Individual displaced from his or her country of origin.
French: “Garel Network”
Righteous Among the Nations
Non-Jews who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. Official title and honor created by the State of Israel in 1953.
Jew of Spanish origin.
Service du Travail Obligatorie (STO)
French: Forced Work Force. In February 1943, Vichy government passed a law forcing selected French men and women to work in Germany.
Hebrew: “Catastrophe”; term commonly used in Israel for the Holocaust
Volunteers from Spain and other countries who fought against Franco forces in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. When the war ended, thousands of Spanish Republicans fled to Southern France. Many were interned in the French camps of Gur and Le Vernet.
SS; Schutzstaffel (G.)
Statut des Juifs
French: Jewish Statute. Group of antisemitic laws first enacted by the Vichy government on October 3, 1940. These and subsequent laws were applied against Jews in France and the French territories of Tunisian Algeria, and Morocco in North Africa. Combined with the German Aryanization laws, Jews were effectively removed from public and economic life in France.
Area of Southern France not occupied by German forces June 1940-September 1943.
Sports arena in suburbs of Paris. On July 16-17, 1942, 13,000 Jews were arrested and imprisoned here pending deportation.
Resort town in Southern France, in the unoccupied zone. Established as the headquarters of the French government let by Martial Philippe Pétain. Government until German occupation in November 1942.
Document that permitted bearer to travel through, enter and exit a country. There were entry, exit and transit visas. Visas could be attached to or stamped in passports.
Hebrew: “Settlement”; Prewar Jewish Community in Palestine/Israel. Established under British mandate by League of Nations in 1921.
Jewish youth organization that prepared Jews to emigrate to Palestine.
Underground rescue network headed by Joop Westerweel* (1899-1944), a Dutch Christian. Working with Jewish groups, it smuggled Jews from France into Spain. Westerweel was shot in 1944 by Germans.
Zionist Youth Groups
Books and Articles Relating to Rescue in France and America in the Holocaust
Anderson, Mark M. (Ed.). Hitler’s Exiles: Personal Stories of the Flight from Nazi Germany to America. (New York: The New Press, 1998).
Barron, Stephanie, with Saline Eckmann. Exiles & Emigrés: The Flight of European Artists from Hitler. (Los Angeles: Museum Association, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1997).
Bénédite, Daniel. La Filiere Marseillaise. (Paris: Clancier-Guenaud, 1984).
A Book of Tribute to Varian Fry. A collection of various authors issued by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council on the occasion of Fry’s posthumous Eisenhower Liberation Medal, 1991.
Dawidowicz, Lucy S. The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945. (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1975).
Fermi, Laura. Illustrious Immigrants: The Intellectual Migration from Europe 1930-1941. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968).
Feuchtwanger, Lion. The Devil in France. (Viking, 1941).
Fittko, Lisa, translated by David Koblick. Escape Through the Pyrenees. (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1991).
Fittko, Lisa, translated by David Koblick. Solidarity and Treason: Resistance and Exile, 1933-1940. (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1991).
Friedman, Saul S. No Haven for the Oppressed. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1973).
Fry, Varian. Assignment Rescue. (New York: Scholastic, 1997).
Fry, Varian. Surrender on Demand. (New York: Random House, 1945).
Fry, Varian. Surrender on Demand. (Colorado: Johnson Books, 1997).
Fry, Varian. “The Massacre of the Jews.” The New Republic, December 21, 1942.
Fry, Varian. “Operation Emergency Rescue.” The New Leader, 1965.
Gold, Mary Jayne. Crossroads Marseilles, 1940. (New York: Doubleday, 1980).
Goodyear, Julie. American Rescuers: Varian Fry. (Unpublished thesis.)
Hirschman, Albert O. A Propensity to Self-Subversion. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995).
Hockley, Ralph M. Freedom is not Free. (2000).
Isenberg, Sheila. A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry. (New York: Random House).
Klein, Anne. “Conscience, conflict and politics: The rescue of political refugees from southern France to the United States, 1940-1942.” Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, 43 (1998), 287-311.
Kraut, Alan M., and Richard Breitman. American Refugee Policy and European Jews. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987).
Levenstein, Aron. Escape to Freedom: The Story of the International Rescue Committee. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983).
Marino, Andy. A Quiet American: The Secret War of Varian Fry. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999).
Marrus, Michael, R., and Robert O. Paxton. Vichy France and the Jews. (New York: Basic Books, 1981).
Mehring, Walter, translated by S. A. deWitt. No Road Back. (New York: Samuel Curl, Inc., 1944).
Meyerhof, Walter. “An Episode Missing from Escape Through the Pyrenees by Lisa Fittko.” (Unpublished manuscript.)
Morse, Arthur D. While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy. (New York: Random House, 1967).
Poznanski, Renée. Jews in France during World War II. (Hanover: Brandeis University Press, 2001).
Ryan, Donna F. The Holocaust and the Jews of Marseille: The Enforcement of Anti-Semitic Policies in Vichy France. (Urbana, IL: The University of Illinois Press, 1996).
US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Assignment Rescue: The Story of Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee. [Exhibit catalog.] (Washington, DC: US Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1997).
Wyman, David S. Paper Walls: America and the Refugee Crisis, 1939-1941. (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1968).
Wyman, David S. The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust, 1941-1945. (New York: Pantheon, 1984).
Zuccotti, Susan. The Holocaust, the French, and the Jews. (New York: Basic Books, 1993).
US National Archives and Records Administration. State Department documents: RG 59 (740.00011) European War; Central Decimal File 837.55J and 840.48 Refugees; RG 84 Records of the Vichy Embassy and Marseilles consulate.
US National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC. General records of the Department of State (RG59), files 840.48 Refugees and 811.111 Refugees.
Washington National Records Center, Suitland, MD: Records of the Department of State visa division (RG59), files 811.111 Refugees.
The Varian Fry Papers, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University, especially box 7, folders “American Consulates in Europe” and “American Embassy, Vichy” and box 18, “Visa Policy, US” and Feuchtwanger files.
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives, NYC. (See file number 363 in “Emigration-General 1930-44.” Letter dated October 26, 1940, from Morris Troper to George Warren praising Bingham’s refugee work in Marseilles. There may be other references in JDC archives.)
The recollections of those personally involved: Albert O. Hirschmann and Charles Fawcett, both employees of Centre Américain de Secours still alive, as well as at least eight oral histories deposited in the USHMM oral history collection.
© Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats Project
The Visas for Life Project would like to thank the following people for their help in preparing this document and supporting the nomination of members of the Emergency Rescue Committee for the title of Righteous among the Nations:
Agnes Lutz Hirschi, Visas for Life European Coordinator
Dr. Rafael Medoff, Executive Director, Wyman Institute
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center
Liebe Geft, Director, Museum of Tolerance, Simon Wiesenthal Center
John K. Naland, President, American Foreign Service Association
Arthur Berger, Director of Communications, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Genya Markon, Director of Outside Collections, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Jeffrey E Carter, Records Management Officer and Institutional Records Archivist, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Susan Morgenstern, Curator, Varian Fry exhibition, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Elizabeth Berman, Curator, Varian Fry exhibition, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Dr. Israel Singer, World Jewish Congress
Congressman and Mrs. Tom Lantos
Dr. Justus Rosenberg, surviving member of the ERC
Dr. Walter Meyerhof, Varian Fry Foundation, Bingham visa recipient
Simon Wiesenthal Center
American Jewish Committee
World Jewish Congress
Jewish National Fund
The Wallenberg Society of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford
American Foreign Service Association
The Hiram Bingham family:
William and Abigail Endicott
William Bingham, Esq.
Robert Kim Bingham, Esq.
Appendix 1: Administrative Report, Daniel Benedite, Marseilles, August 21, 1941, Perpignan, September 3, 1941
Appendix 2: Administrative Report, Varian Fry, 14/1/41
Appendix 3: Cables from Embassy in Vichy to US State Department
On September 14, 1940, the US Consulate in Vichy communicated to the Secretary of State regarding Fry and AFL-CIO representative Frank Bohn:
“As the matter is in danger of becoming a public scandal, I reluctantly feel that I must report the activities of Dr. Bohn and Mr. Fry in their well-meaning endeavors to help unfortunate aliens reach the United States. The Prefect at Marseille has taken occasion to tell Hurley of the ‘difficulty and delicacy of this position by reason of the certainty and inevitability of reprisals which would follow violation of the Armistice regulations consequent on the illegal departure of emigrants of certain nationalities.’ He asked Hurley to make this plain to Americans ‘such as Mr. Fry and others.’”
This communication shows the ambivalence by the US consulates in Vichy France regarding the helping of refugees by relief agencies.
US National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the Department of State, Visa Division, 1940-1945, 811.111, Refugees/1527
Department of State
June 25, 1941
The Emergency Rescue Committee has agreed to order Mr. Varian Fry to return to United States.
US National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the Department of State, Visa Division, 1940-1945, 811.111, Refugees/1527
Appendix 4: Fry Letter to Cordell Hull Dated November 18, 1940
On November 18, 1940, Varian Fry wrote to US Secretary of State Cordell Hull regarding the plight of refugees in southern France:
“Deprived of all hope of diplomatic or consular intervention in their behalf, hundreds of these new stateless are confined in the concentration camps of France and Spain, with little or no prospect of obtaining their release. I am sure that you are only too well aware what such confinement means…”
Fry pleads on behalf of the refugees:
“Is this not an occasion for the United States and the other nations of the Western Hemisphere to take extraordinary measures? Cannot the Government of the United States intervene in behalf at least of those upon whom it has seen fit to confer its visas, so that they may be released from the concentration camps, be granted French sortie visas and Spanish and Portuguese transit visas, and then be able to proceed on their way to liberty and the opportunity to rebuild their shattered lives?”
US National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the Department of State, Visa Division, 1940-1945, 811.111, Refugees/1530 (Varian Fry)
Appendix 5: Letter from H. Freeman Matthews re Varian Fry
On November 30, 1940, H. Freeman Matthews, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim, US embassy, Vichy France, wrote a report about Varian Fry. In one instance, when Fry was denied introduction to French officials, Matthews writes: “Mr. Fry became extremely belligerent when he received this response and stated that the Foreign Service had treated him in the most unfriendly fashion and that he intended to make a full report to the Department of State. He added that certain persons at the Consulate General at Marseille had been spreading malicious stories about him to the effect that he was to be expelled from France…Upon his return to Marseille, Mr. Fry called on Mr. Fullerton in order to make further complaints about the treatment he had received at the hands of the Consulate General at Marseille. When Mr. Fullerton pointed out to him that he had in his files letters from Mr. Fry stating that Dr. Bohn was associated with him, and that he also had evidence in his files indicating that Mr. Fry had employed two former members of an American ambulance corps to assist refugees in leaving France without the necessary exit visas, Mr. Fry became most conciliatory…”
US National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the Department of State, Visa Division, 1940-1945, 811.111, Refugees
Appendix 6: Fry Letter Dated October 15, 1941
On October 15, 1941, Varian Fry wrote to his replacement at the ERC, Daniel Bénédite. He refers to a previous letter that was sent to him by Bénédite regarding the consulates in southern France: “I am distressed to learn that the Consulates are putting one more obstacle in the path of the poor refugees and I am writing New York to ask them to try to get the State Department to authorize the Consuls to request quota numbers before asking for fixed reservations. I gather from letters and telephone calls from New York and copies of the New Republic, which I have been able to buy here, as well as from the conversation with Dr. Joy last night that all decent people are now thoroughly disgusted with the State Department’s visa policy. The source of the trouble appears to be Mr. Avra Warren, Head of the visa section. Dr. Joy told me that when Mr. Warren was here last autumn, he boasted that, though the State Department had sent him to simplify visa procedure and hasten the issue of visas to hard-pressed refugees, he had been able to do just the opposite. The New Republic writes that the smell which seeps out of his office at the State Department nauseates all decent Americans. Dr. Joy says he thinks we can hope for no great improvement in the State Department visa policy as long as Warren remains head of the Visa Section. The task of getting him removed is one of several similar tasks which I expect to tackle as soon as I get back. I think the time has come to let loose at the State Department, and not only for its visa policy.”
Varian Fry Papers, Columbia University, Document 50-51
Appendix 7: Fry Letter to Daniel Bénédite of November 25, 1941
On November 25, 1941, Varian Fry wrote to Daniel Bénédite from New York City. He stated:
“It is also growing harder and harder to get money for our work. It was never a very popular appeal, the idea of bringing foreigners over in time of war. There is an exaggerated zenophobia [sic] in all countries in war time: today not even the ‘experts’ in the Department of State seem able to distinguish between friend and foe.”
Fry continues about the visa situation: “The visa situation is despairing. The requirement of two affidavits of support is alone enough to make it almost impossible to get visas for people who have no rich and close relatives here. Then the Department grants visas with record speed to Italian princes and the like but holds up those of refugees for months. I am afraid that there is a situation in Washington similar to that which prevailed at the Faubourg St. Germain not so long ago. You know what I mean, I guess. I am writing an article about it, and will send you a copy, when it appears. One might almost say that the State Department has become America’s open scandal. Everybody talks about, but nobody does anything about, this extraordinary situation. And yet wars have been lost by Trojan Horses within the gates.”
Fry comments on Consul General Hugh Fullerton at the Marseille consulate: “I have been told here that all our troubles are to be laid at the doorstep of a certain H--h F-------n. [Donald] Lowrie considers him to be one of his best friends. Actually, of course, H.F. has said numerous nasty things behind his back. But that is the practice of H.F.”
Varian Fry Papers, Columbia University, Letter 14, Document 110-113
Appendix 8: Fry Letter to Bénédite of December 24, 1941
On December 24, 1941, Varian Fry wrote from his home in New York City to his replacement in Marseille, Daniel Bénédite. He complains about Dr. Frank Kingdon, head of the ERC in New York City, and of Fry’s relationship with the US State Department.
“Three weeks ago Dr. Kingdon told me that he had been forced, reluctantly, to the conclusion that the State Department would grant no more visas to our protégés as long as I remained associated with the committee. The Department is sore as a boil at me because I refused to return to the United States a year ago last September, when they brought pressure on me to come back. So he said I would have to take a leave of absence, and that we would examine the situation again later, to see whether I could go back to the committee or not.”
Varian Fry Papers, Columbia University, Letter 16, pp. 127-129
Appendix 9: Fry Letter to Bénédite on February 2, 1942
On February 2, 1942, Varian Fry wrote from his home in New York City to his replacement in Marseille, Daniel Bénédite.
“The visa situation becomes more and more despairing every day. It has now boiled down to a question of wire-pulling, as we say in America. In other words, about the only way to get a visa for anybody now is to get some very important, influential person to bring pressure on the State Department for it. All the Modern Art cases are being held up for no reason under the sun, so far as anybody can see, and the Modern Art people are scurrying around trying to get somebody like Ambassador Bullitt or Mrs. Secretary Perkins, to speak to Sumner Welles about them. But Ambassador Bullitt and Mrs. Secretary Perkins are naturally extremely busy and it is very hard to get at them. It’s rather like the atmosphere at the court of Louis XIV, isn’t it? If only you can get the ear of someone who has the ear of le Roi Soleil, perhaps you can get the favor you want. Otherwise, there is no hope at all. I often wonder how the boys in the Visa Division put in their days. Sharpening pencils, I suppose, which they then chew until they need sharpening again.”
“Yet we don’t abandon hope. Some day, we believe, Duchamp, Pierre Roy and the Arps will have their visas. Perhaps we can get to Archibald MacLeish. Perhaps the Attorney General, Francis Biddle, will take an interest in the cases. Perhaps Mrs. Rockefeller will speak to her son, Nelson, who is head of the office having to do with cultural relations with Latin America, and perhaps Nelson Rockefeller will speak to Sumner Welles. Somehow, the thing will be done, for the Modern Art people have lots of influential friends.”
“The cases of the others are not so hopeful, I am afraid. I doubt whether there will be more than extremely rare exceptions to the rule that no more visas are to be given to ‘enemy aliens’—if, in fact, there are any exceptions at all.”
Varian Fry Papers, Columbia University, Letter 22, Document 150-151
Appendix 10: Fry Letter to Daniel Bénédite of April 3, 1942
On April 3, 1942, Varian Fry wrote from his home in New York City to Daniel Bénédite in Marseille. Fry refers to the visas for Helen and Ulrich Hessel:
“Their visa applications were submitted to the State Department about the 10th of March. It will take some four to six months to get a decision at the present rate.”
This case illustrates how long it takes to get a visa cleared through normal channels at the State Department.
Varian Fry Papers, Columbia University, Letter 25, Document 178-179
Appendix 11: Fry Letter to Daniel Bénédite of May 28, 1942
On May 28, 1942, Varian Fry wrote from his home in New York City to Daniel Bénédite in Marseille. Fry wrote about the visa situation.
“Alas, the visa outlook is growing darker and darker every day. You know that Cuban visas have been stopped, and even those already granted to so-called ‘enemy aliens’ have been cancelled…The United States continues to grant visas, but so slowly and after such long delays that one goes almost frantic waiting for them. There seems to be absolutely nothing to do to speed up a case even when it is a very urgent and important one.”
Varian Fry Papers, Columbia University, Document 231-232
Appendix 12: Fry Unpublished Comments re Difficulties with American Consular Officials in France
In an unpublished portion of his manuscript, Varian Fry writes about his difficulties with the American embassy and consulate in southern France.
“When Ambassador Leahy first arrived in France to take up his post, I wrote him a letter, asking for an appointment. My letter was never answered. When the Ambassador visited Marseilles a few weeks later, I was the only American relief worker there who did not have an opportunity to meet him.
There followed a long period of fruitful work, in which I had no relations with the Embassy at all. During this period, however, I learned what had been at the basis of my troubles with the French police. A friend of mine, who knew a high official at he Prefecture, had a chance to see my dossier. In the dossier there was a report from Vichy dated September 1940. This report read about as follows:
‘The activities of Mr. Fry might prove embarrassing, in the present circumstances, because he insists on occupying himself with persons who are undesirable not only from the point of view of France, but also from the point of view of the Reich. On the other hand, Mr. Fry is too well known in the United States, and has too many important connections, to be made the subject of an expulsion order. Above all, he should not be made a martyr of. The desirable solution to the problem would be to persuade him to leave France of his own free will.’”
Varian Fry Papers, Columbia University, pp. 7-8
Appendix 13: Fry Unpublished Comments re Uncooperative Attitudes of American Diplomats in France
“For the most part, I suppose the people in Washington sit in quiet offices dealing with papers. It may be boring, it probably is excrutiatingly boring, but it doesn’t tear their hearts out, it doesn’t take their souls and twist them like towels until they can hear the fibres crack. We are here day after day, surrounded by nervous, hysterical and driven refugees who come to us day after day and ask us when, when, when, will their visas come. And all we can tell them is we don’t know.
“If someone could only get to the men in the State Department who are holding the visas up and try to give them some idea of what their action—or is it their inaction?—means in terms of human stress and misery, perhaps he could get some action visas out of them. He should tell them about the suicides—we have had seven already. He should tell them abut the nervous breakdowns. One of the most successful criminal lawyers of the German Republic broke down and cried like a baby in my office yesterday. He should tell them about the growing impoverishment of those people, who are cut off not only from their funds but from all chances of earning a living. He should tell them about the frightful conditions in the camps, the high mortality rate, the tuberculosis, the lice, the fleas, the dysentery, the typhoid. And he should tell them that it is to this that their action or inaction is condemning the cream of Europe.
“I realize they want to be sure they aren’t letting in fifth columnists. But surely they can find someone whose judgment on these questions they can trust? And surely fear of fifth columnists is no excuse for holding up for months the visa request of a man like Wilhelm Herzog, who is known all over the world as the most eminent anti-Nazi, and for whom Thomas Mann himself has doubtless vouched?
“But the trouble isn’t wholly with the State Department. A great many of our protégés have repeatedly told us that the consuls at Lyon and Nice show marked ill will in their relations with are very hostile to the refugees who apply to them. The refugees are poorly treated They receive them shabbily, treat them with distrust and even at times with brutality. They multiply the administrative red tape; demand papers impossible to procure; give appointments grudgingly, and then for days, weeks and even months ahead; and they make the applicants come back again and again in an obvious effort to discourage them.
“Another thing about these consuls is that they make no effort to keep abreast of the regulations: the refugees say that at the consulates at Lyon and Nice they are being told that the German-Austrian and Polish quotas are still closed, though this has not been true since the first of January. Finally, it is extremely difficult for the refugees to get convocations from these consulates even when the authorizations have arrived from Washington or the dossiers are complete and the visas can be granted; and most of the letters and telegrams they send the consulates go unanswered even when they are accompanied by prepaid reply coupons.
“Lyon is probably the worst of all. The consul there is a stubborn man who comes from a rich and idle family and does practically no work at all. Kay Boyle went to see him a few days ago about an Austrian friend of hers, Baron du Franckenstein. I had told her the German-Austrian quota was open at Marseille and that I saw no reason why it shouldn’t also be open at Lyon. She asked the consul about it, and she says he answered something like this: ‘Yes, I’ve had thirty German-Austrian quota numbers since the first of January, but I’ve been so busy packing my linen and silver that I haven’t had time to think about visas. But don’t bother your pretty head about aliens, Kay. Come along home with me and have lunch.’
“This perhaps explains why at Lyon it is still true that no one can obtain a visa under the combined German-Austrian quota who didn’t register before September, 1936. Lyon also invents laws of its own. A vice-consul there recently told one of our clients that it was illegal for minor children to go to the United States unless accompanied by their parents.
“Nice is almost as bad as Lyon. The consul seems to enjoy associating with rich English and American expatriates and deeply resents having to have anything to do with refugees and, particularly, Jews. Both he and the consul at Lyon are more or less openly anti-semitic. Like the consul at Lyon, the consul at Nice hasn’t bothered to move the quote deadline from September, 1938.
“Pretty much the same thing is true of Algiers. There, too, the consul tells everybody that the German-Austrian and Polish quotas are closed.
“In fact, so far as I know, the Marseille consulate is the only one in France where the German-Austrian and Polish quotas are open. But we are lucky to have at the American consulate here one or two thoroughly decent and hardworking consuls who do their utmost within the laws of the United States to help rather than hinder the refugees.
“The truth is that some of our consuls have been away from Washington so long that they have forgotten they are public servants and have assumed the attitude of rich private citizens living abroad who do not care to be disturbed.
“I am going to disturb them. I am going to write them letters and find out why those quotas are still closed.”
(Varian Fry, unpublished draft of Surrender on Demand, pp. 431-433, Box 14, Folder 1, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
Appendix 14: Fry Unpublished Comments re Noncooperation by the Consul General’s Office in Marseilles
“The visa rigamarole here is inhuman. It is almost literally killing the refugees. These poor devils not only have to go through a rigamarole with the French authorities to get their exit visas; they have to go through endless rigamaroles at the American Consulate and a good deal too at the Spanish and Portuguese Consulates. They have to wait in corridors and lines over and over and over again, until their very souls must be shriveled and shrunken by the experience. I know of nothing more dessicating than standing in line. And yet there seems to be no solution for them.
“I talked to the American Consul this morning, for instance, about the possibility of issuing immigration visas without first demanding to see the exit visas. It would save the refugees from three to four months’ time in the long and weary process of getting their visas together. The exit visa is actually the only one they can demand without first having the American visa in their hands. This they can do by producing a letter signed by the Consul, stating that they may have the American immigration visa as soon as the exit visa has been accorded. Once they have this paper, they make the demand, and then they wait anywhere from one to five or six months for the answer. If the answer is favorable, they take the American visa and then and then only can they begin the process of getting the Portuguese and Spanish transit visas. We know of cases where the according of Spanish visas has taken two months or more. We have one case where the demand was made early in November, repeated in December, and is still without an answer.
“I explained to the Consul that if the Consulate could somehow give the immigration visa before the exit visa had been granted, the request for all the visas, exit, Spanish and Portuguese could be made almost simultaneously. Thus weeks and perhaps months of waiting could be saved. He said that he understood the situation, but ‘the fault is not ours.’
“Of course, this is the attitude of everybody. Each nation makes its own rules, without regard for the rules of the others. The result is that emigration has become in practice exceedingly difficult, but ‘the fault is not ours.’
“The argument of the American Consulate is that the quota numbers cannot be wasted on people who take their immigration visas and then let them expire because they can’t get exit visas. This would be a perfectly sound argument in normal times. But it seems to me that, the circumstances being what they are, and the total amount of immigration into the United States being presumably very much reduced, it woulsbe better to waste a few quota numbers than to wast months and years of the lives of human beings, and in some cases the very lives themselves. Yet only in the rarest cases can I get anyone a United States visa until he has obtained the French exit visa. This was not he case last autumn. It is the result of a new order from the State Department. Has Vichy complained that the Consulate was facilitating illegal emigration?”
- Varian Fry (Dated “Thursday, February 13 ,” unpublished draft of Surrender on Demand, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
Appendix 15: Fry Unpublished Comments re Obtaining Exit Visas
“There was also the danger of being arrested at the frontier, for trying to leave France without an exit visa. That too was a grave offense, and would almost certainly land foreigners in concentration camps. So far it hadn’t happened; but there was no saying when it would.
“Finally, there was a real risk in crossing Spain, especially for certain well-known refugees traveling under their own names, or for others, even with false passports, if they were sufficiently well-known to be likely to be recognized.
“All in all, the perils of leaving France without an exit visa were considerable, and some of the refugees refused to do it, preferring the risks of staying to the risks of leaving. One of the hardest jobs I had in those early weeks was to persuade some of the refugees to go. Some of the intellectuals were particularly difficult. They were jittery with fear at the idea of staying, and paralyzed with fear at the idea of leaving. You would get them all ready to go, with their passports and all their visas, and a month later they’d still be sitting in the Marseille cafés, waiting for the police to come and get them. I fixed up one man and his wife a few days after I began work. Four weeks later they came around and asked me what to do: their Spanish transit visas had expired. At that time the answer was nothing, for the Spanish Consul wouldn’t renew a transit visa. Once it had expired you had to throw your passport away and start all over again. This particular man was in no more danger than I was; rather less, perhaps. He was just too scared to budge. I decided he’s probably never leave France except in an ambulance, chloroformed, and told him so.”
- Varian Fry (unpublished draft of Surrender on Demand, p. 96, Box 14, Folder 1, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
Appendix 16: Fry Unpublished Comments re Vice Consul Bingham Aiding Refugees
“Paul’s friends were Franz Boegler, Hans Tittel, Fritz Lamm and Siegfried Pfeffer. There were visas for all of them at the Consulate. Harry Bingham sent letters and telegrams to the army officer in charge of the camp asking him to let them come to Marseille to get their visas, but it didn’t work. He just didn’t get an answer.
“Meanwhile, Mrs. Boegler and her sweet little boy of two came to me for advice and help. Mrs. Boegler was convinced that her husband would be handed over to the Gestapo any day. But she didn’t want to leave France as long as there was the slightest chance that she could do something to save him. I felt that if the American Consulate couldn’t do anything, she could do nothing either, and it seemed better for her and the boy to be out of the country when the Gestapo came and took her husband off. I had a lot of trouble persuading her to go, but in the end I succeeded. She and her little son went down to Cerbère and crossed over like everybody else, and I promised to save her husband and the others if I possibly could.
“The only people who had any trouble in the first weeks were the Victors. They had left Germany shortly after Hitler came to power and had gone to Switzerland. After living there several years, during which Victor wrote and did radio work and his wife had a baby, the whole family, including Mrs. Victor’s mother, were asked to leave the country. Not that the Swiss had anything against them; on the contrary: just that Switzerland isn’t in the habit of letting political refugees in and, on the rare occasions when it does, almost never lets them stay more than a few years. The Victors looked around frantically for some country to go to. At the last minute, they got visas for Luxembourg. Just before the war began, they went to Paris, traveling on special refugee passports which the Luxembourg government had given them in accordance with a League of Nations convention the little duchy had signed several years before.
“In May, the French interned Mr. Victor in a camp near Paris and sent Mrs. Victor’s mother to the big internment camp of Gurs, in the High Pyrenees. Mrs. Victor was allowed to stay on in her apartment in Paris because she had a three-year old child to take care of. She and her child went through the bombardment alone. Just before the Germans entered the city they escaped to southern France, walking by day and sleeping in freight cars or woods at night. Meanwhile Victor had escaped from the internment camp and found his wife and child, by one of those miracles of chance which seemed always to be happening in France.
“When they came to Marseille, I sent them to the Consulate and they got their visas on their Luxembourg refugee passports. But, on account of the baby, they felt they couldn’t go over the frontier on foot. There was a story going around Marseille that you could get exit visas at Perpignan. So they went to Perpignan to try their luck. There they met a man named Berger. Berger turned out to be a German exile of Hungarian extraction. He was always very well-dressed, used perfume, and smoked expensive imported cigarettes, which he bought on the black market. He was one of a whole tribe of men who were making money smuggling people out of France, but unlike most of the others he had a reputation for never promising more than he could perform, and of being a square shooter in his dealing with refugees. When Victor showed him the Luxembourg refugee passports, Berger examined them with professional thoroughness and said he’d take them to the prefecture and see what he could do about getting exit visas on them.
“The next day Berger met Victor again and said he could get the exit visas for 4,000 francs apiece, or $100 at the official rate of exchange. Victor had some money of his own, so he made a deal with Berger for the visas. A few hours later, Berger brought the passports back with French exit visas in them. They were real exit visas issued by the prefecture at Perpignan and signed by the prefect himself. Victor paid Berger the 8,000 francs and he and his wife and child set out for Cerbère the next morning.
“When they got to Cerbère, the frontier police wouldn’t let them out of the country. The police wouldn’t explain why they didn’t recognize the Perpignan exit visas, but they didn’t, and that was that.
“The Victors had no choice but to go back to Perpignan. When they got there they looked up Berger and told him what had happened. Berger said that for the cost of the gasoline he would take them down to the frontier in his car and see that they got over. They set out for the frontier again, this time in Berger’s car. Instead of taking them to Cerbère, he took them to Le Perthus, the first border point west of Cerbère, where there is a motor highway over the frontier, but no railroad. At Le Perthus, Berger had no trouble at all in getting them through the French police, most of whom he knew by name. But when they came to the Spanish police and presented their passports, they were told that League of Nations documents weren’t recognized in Spain.
“‘Spain doesn’t recognize the League of Nations,’ the Spanish border official said, handing the passports back.
“They watched the autobus which meets the Barcelona train at Figueras go out without them. Then they crossed back into France, and Berger drove them back to Perpignan. From Perpignan they returned to Marseille, and at Marseille they came straight to me and told me their story. Since their Luxembourg refugee passports weren’t recognized in Spain, the only thing to do was to get them American affidavits in lieu of passports. Many American consuls would have refused to give an affidavit in lieu of passport to a refugee who already had a passport, on the grounds that the man had a passport and it was no business of the American Consulate whether the passport was valid in Spain or not. But Harry Bingham wasn’t a run-of-the-mill Consul. He made out the affidavits without any hesitation at all and transferred the visas to them. Then, since the Victors had spent all their money by this time, I advanced them some and they set out for the frontier again. This time they didn’t come back.”
- Varian Fry (unpublished manuscript, pp. 115-118, Box 14, Folder 1, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
Appendix 17: Telegram, US Department of State
Department of State
1940 Sep 18
VICHY (France) FOR PARIS
Your 539, September 11, 10 a.m. and 566, September 14, 6 p.m.
You should inform Dr. Bohn and Mr. Fry in personal interview if this can be arranged immediately that while Department is sympathetic with the plight of unfortunate refugees, and has authorized consular officers to give immediate and sympathetic consideration to their applications for visas, this Government can not repeat not countenance the activities [as reported] of Dr. Bohn and Mr. Fry and other persons, however well-meaning their motives may be, in carrying on activities evading the laws of countries with which the United States maintains friendly relations.
You are requested in your discretion, to inform the appropriate officials of the Foreign Office that while aliens who qualify for and obtain visas at American consular offices as meeting the requirements of American immigration laws have the required visa documentation to proceed to the United States, this Government does not repeat not countenance any activity by American citizens desiring to evade the laws of the governments with which this country maintains friendly relations. You may also ask Mr. Hurley to inform the Prefect at Marseille in this sense. Consul at Marseille should also be informed that Dr. Bohn has been requested to return to United States immediately. You may also advise Embassy Paris and Consuls at Bordeaux and Nice regarding situation. Keep Department advised of developments.
Enciphered by ENC