Carla Killough McClafferty
illuminating lives from the past, impacting lives in the present
While the von Trapp family did not walk over the mountains to flee the Nazis, many people really did. In the late 1930s Adolf Hitler took control over some European countries. Jewish people, and anyone who opposed the Nazis, were in danger and became refugees (ones who leave their homes to seek safety in another country.) Most refugees went to Paris, France. Then in 1940, Germany defeated France and occupied Paris. Hundreds of thousands of people left the city and traveled south to get away from the Nazis. When they arrived in Marseilles they were trapped with nowhere else to go.
In the United States, concerned citizens formed the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC) to rescue famous writers, artists, musicians and scientists who were in danger. Varian Fry, an American journalist, volunteered to go to France for the ERC to rescue as many refugees as possible. In August of 1940, he arrived in Marseilles and began making plans to get refugees out of Europe.
Refugees needed to get out of France by crossing through Spain and into Lisbon, Portugal, where they could board a ship. Fry helped some of them get needed documents to legally cross the borders of Spain and Portugal. But for other refugees, these papers were impossible to obtain. In these cases, Fry arranged for guides that would lead them over the Pyrenees Mountains so they could enter Spain unnoticed by border guards. With the help of Varian Fry, many refugees climbed over the mountains and escaped the Nazis.
For thirteen months Varian Fry lived a double life as he worked in France. Publicly he ran a relief organization (legal)—but secretly he organized rescues (illegal). During that time, he ultimately rescued more than 2000 refugees.
Varian Fry was a Harvard educated journalist who went to Marseilles, France in 1940 and rescued more than 2000 predominatly Jewish refugees before they were arrested by the Nazis. He helped many famous people out of Europe including Marc Chagal, Max Ernst, Heinrich Mann. You can learn more about this book here.
Carla McClafferty is a member of iNK's Authors on Call and is available for classroom programs through Field Trip Zoom, a terrific technology that requires only a computer, wifi, and a webcam. Click here to find out more.
Perhaps the most moving story to capture the horrors of WWII was written by a young Jewish girl. Tomorrow, Jim Whiting will tell you about Anne Frank and her famous diary.