SCSU Spring 2018 January 17, 2018 - May 13, 2018 Professor Pettigrew, Office: EN D212, x26778
JST 204 01W MWF 10:10am- 11:00am, Engleman Hall A113
JST 204 02W MWF 11:10am- 12:00noon, Engleman Hall A113
JST 203 03W TR 11:00am - 12:15pm, Engleman Hall B304
Office Hours: M 2-5pm TR 2-3pm, and by appointment.
JST 204 01W: and 02W An Introduction to Holocaust and Genocide Studies: Stories of Resistance, Rescue, and Survival (An LEP Tier II Global Awareness course)
My primary concern is with your academic achievement as part of our intellectual community at Southern Connecticut State University. In other words, I care about your learning and your success in our class as well as in your other classes and beyond. With this in mind, I have designed a syllabus and website, along with clarifications, scheduling, written assignments, reading guides, web links, draft introductions for papers, and other elements, to support your learning. I encourage you to study the course syllabus carefully. I am available in class and during my office hours to support your engagement of the reading assignments, films, web materials and other learning resources. I am available in class and during my office hours to support your accomplishment of the written assignments. Our course syllabus is designed to help you achieve academic success within the context of the learning objectives (See Appendix A: Learning Objectives). Once again, do not hesitate to ask questions, I am here to help you.
Please note: I do not engage in email correspondence with students. All essential course information is outlined in detail in the syllabus . The content of the course is addressed during class time. "Office hours," are also an alternative for further discussion and clarfication. In fact, you are required to bring me first drafts of a number of your assignments during my office hours prior to the due date. All assignments are announced well in advance -- along with detailed instructions--of the due date. If you are unable to meet during the announced office hours we can find a time to meet that will accommodate your schedule. If you wish, you can email me to explain why you will not be in class or why you were not in class (see my attendance policy). If you have a question about the readings or the class discussions that you did not have the chance to ask in class you can send that question to me in an email and I will then address your question in a subsequent class or during office hours.
Our course will revolve around close readings of texts, critical viewings and discussions of films, dialogical class discussions and written assignments (analytical, argumentative essays). A series of four written assignments will help further refine your writing and critical thinking skills in many respects, including your ability to identify the thesis, to organize the paper, to focus in each respective section of the paper, to cite relevant passages from required sources, and to craft a synthetic conclusion. (*Please see a further discussion related to our written assignments below at “*I. Written Assignments and Grades”).
Our course will investigate the manipulation, by political leaders, of historical prejudices, fears, and hatreds in the case of each of the genocides (e.g., Armenian genocide, Holocaust, and the genocides in Bosnia, and Rwanda). In each case the hatred of the other was activated through a process of dehumanization and demonization, whether targeted at the “Turks” (in Bosnia) or the “Inyenzi” (Tutsis in Rwanda). In each case we will investigate an “apparatus of genocide,” including, for example, the systematic process of dehumanization, the use of media to propagate demonizing stereotypes, hate speech and racist rhetoric. In each case we will study specific details with respect to the singularity of the suffering of the human beings who were systematically dehumanized.) In this process students will learn about the historical, geographical and cultural dimensions relevant to each of the genocides. Through our readings, films, discussions, and written assignments, we will draw critical analogies between the Holocaust as well as the genocides in the Ottoman Empire (Armenian genocide), Bosnia, and Rwanda. For example, we can consider the extent to which, in each case, political leaders manipulated dehumanizing stereotypes for political gain. Further, we can consider the extent to which the dehumanization of the victims led to a devaluation that led in turn to catastrophic violence against the victims. We will use the analogies as an aid to understanding the individual cases. By identifying a significant similarity between the Holocaust and the genocides in the Ottoman Empire (Armenian genocide) and in Bosnia, for example, we can speculate about strategies for preventing such dehumanizing rhetoric by political leaders. In other words, by recognizing an operative model in different cases, students will investigate a basis for addressing the problem of genocide as such. As a result of such interdisciplinary analyses of the causes of genocide, along with the consideration of stories of resistance, rescue and survival, we will brainstorm about possible strategies for genocide prevention through modes of intervention and education.
Week One: Introductory Remarks concerning our Syllabus and our Inquiries in Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Power, Samantha. “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide. New York HarperPerennial Edition, 2007. Preface and Chapter 1
***(Please note: You are always required to have the assigned readings ***with you in class***. We will undertake a close, detailed (line-by-line) reading and analysis of selected passages in class. This will be the work that is at the core of the educational experience of the class. Many of these passages that we will discuss and interpret will be essential in your written assignments. The books are available for your purchase in the bookstore or in some cases will be provided in photocopied form.)
Week Two: An Introduction to Raphael Lemkin and to the Armenian Genocide.
Power, Samantha. “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide. New York HarperPerennial Edition, 2007. Chapter 2.
Required Film: Ararat. DVD. Directed by Atom Agoyan. Canada/France, 2002. On reserve in Buley library and available for purchase on-line.
Week Three: Armenian Genocide
Power, Samantha. “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide. New York HarperPerennial Edition, 2007. Chapters 3-4.
Jones, Adam. “The Armenian Genocide.” Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2010.
Week Four: Armenian Genocide
Power, Samantha. “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide. New York HarperPerennial Edition, 2007. Chapter 5.
Kiernan, Ben. “The Armenian Genocide: National Chauvinism in the Waning Ottoman Empire.” Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.
Armenian Refugees 1915-1916 Photographed by Armin Wegner http://www.armenian-genocide.org/photo_wegner.html
First written assignment: Detailed instructions for each written assignment as well as the due-date and time will be distributed well in advance of the assignment.
Week Five: The Holocaust
Fry, Varian. Surrender on Demand. Boulder, CO: Johnson Books, 1997. (photocopy) Selected chapters: “Foreword,” “Original Unpublished Foreword.”
Varian Fry, New York Times article, July 17, 1935.
Required Film: Varian’s War. DVD. Directed by Lionel Chetwynd. UK/USA/Canada, 2001. On reserve in Buley Library. Available on-line.
Weeks Six and Seven: The Holocaust
Binding, Karl and Hoche, Alfred. The Release of the Destruction of Life Devoid of Value. Translated and Edited with Commentary by R.L. Sassone. A Life Quality Paperback, 1975. (selected passages photocopied).
Levi, Primo. Survival at Auschwitz. New York: Touchstone, 1996. Selected chapters: Chapter 1 “The Journey,”
Chapter 2 “On the Bottom,”
Chapter 3 “Initiation”,
Chapter 4 “Ka-Be,”
Chapter 9 “The Drowned and the Saved,”
Chapter 11” The Canto of Ulysses.”
We will also study the following links on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website and others:
1) Antisemitism, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005175
2) Kindertransport 1938-1940, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005260
4) Entartete Kunst ["Degenerate Art”],
ADDITIONAL SOURCES RE: "Degenerate Art* (Each source refers to Marc Chagall)
5) Kristallnacht, A Nationwide Pogrom, November 9-10, 1938, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005201;
6) Euthanasia killings, http://www.ushmm.org/learn/students/learning-materials-and-resources/mentally-and-physically-handicapped-victims-of-the-nazi-era/euthanasia-killings;
7) Wannsee Conference and the “Final Solution,”http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005477
8) Killing Centers, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007327
9) Speech of the Reichsführer-SS (Heinrich Himmler) at the SS Group Leader Meeting in Posen (Poznan) 4- October-1943
10) Nuremberg Laws, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=1000790211)
11) Examples of Anti-Semitic Legislation 1933-1939 http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007459
Second Written Assignment: Detailed instructions for each written assignment as well as the due-date and time will be distributed well in advance of the assignment.
Week Eight: Bosnia
Neuffer, Elizabeth. The Key to My Neighbor’s House: Seeking Justice in Bosnia and Rwanda,
Prologue, Chapter 1 Blood Ties to Blood Feuds,
Chapter 2 The Triumph of the Underworld.
Power, Samantha. “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide. New York HarperPerennial Edition, 2007. Chapter 9.
Required Film: Welcome to Sarajevo. DVD. Directed by Michael Winterbottom. 1997. On Reserve in Buley Library and available for purchase on-line.
Week Nine: Bosnia
Neuffer, Elizabeth. The Key to My Neighbor’s House: Seeking Justice in Bosnia and Rwanda,
Chapter 3 Since Unhappily We Cannot Always Avoid Wars, Chapter 6 No Safe Havens, Chapter 9 Bring Me His Body.
Power, Samantha. “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide. New York HarperPerennial Edition, 2007. Chapter 11.
Week Ten: Bosnia
A screening of Dr. Pettigrew’s documentary, The Geography of Genocide in Bosnia: Redeeming the Earth, DVD (USA 2011 50 min) will be arranged.
A Presentation of Dr. Pettigrew’s research concerning the work of the International Commission on Missing Persons in Bosnia.
Case Studies from the ICTY: http://www.icty.org/
Indictments of Karadžić and Mladić.
Web resource: http://home.southernct.edu/~pettigrewd1/Bosnia.html
Week Eleven: Bosnia
Third Written Assignment: Detailed instructions for each written assignment as well as the due-date and time will be distributed well in advance of the assignment.
Week Twelve: Rwanda
Philip Gourevitch. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda,
Chapters 3, 4, 7.
Hotel Rwanda. DVD. Directed by Terry George. 2004.
Week Thirteen: Rwanda
Philip Gourevitch. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda,
Chapters 8, 9 &10.
Case Studies from the ICTR :
United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. http://www.unictr.org
Judgement and Sentence for ELIZAPHAN and GÉRARD NTAKIRUTIMANA:
Indictment for AUGUSTIN BIZIMUNGU
Summary Judgment against HASSAN NGEZE
Week Fourteen: Rwanda
Power, Samantha. “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide. New York HarperPerennial Edition, 2007. Chapter 10.
Week Fifteen: Discussion and Synthesis
JST 204 01W TBD
JST 204 02W TBD
Group presentations will be made during the final exam time.
In-class group presentations:
"Genocide Against the Tutsis in Rwanda"
Group presentations: Critical identification of causes, effects regarding the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Students will make group presentations based on assigned chapters from Gourevitch (Chps. 4, 7, 9 and 10), Power (Chp. 10), as well as based on the film (Hotel Rwanda). Each group presentation will identify causes and effects of the genocide and reflect on strategies for prevention. Each group will read passages from the assigned chapters also raise questions for discussion with the class. Those presenting on the film will discuss specific scenes.
I. General Guidelines for Group Presentations:
* All members of the group must play an equally significant role in the presentation.
* Each group will have a total of twelve minutes for the presentation: approximately nine minutes for the presentation and three minutes for discussion with the members of the class.
II. Requirements. Each Group Must:
* present the analytic framework regarding the identification of causes and effects of the genocide and indicate whether the group's Chapter addresses causes, effects, or both;
* read relevant passages from the assigned Chapters in Gourevitch or Power (or describe scenes and report dialogue from the Film) supporting your identification of causes or effects of the genocide;
* suggest strategies for genocide prevention, reflecting first, in the context of your assigned chapter, and second, in the broader context of our discussions this semester;* engage in discussion with the class regarding the presentation
ADDITIONAL Important Information about our course:
*I. Written Assignments and Grades
Grades will be based on a series of written assignments (argumentative essays) (4-6 pages). Assignments will be assessed on the basis of a detailed outline. Students will work on assignments that help them acquire and process the content of the course. In this process of “writing to learn” students will also become habituated to developing written arguments that include introductions, transitions, and cogent reference to the required text in the process of completing the paper. Your professor may assign additional assignments if he deems such assignments necessary to support the pedagogical goals of the course. For example, scaffolding activities will be assigned or conducted in class, as part of which students will identify selected passages from the relevant texts to use in the assignments. Each essay will have an equal value in the calculation of the final grade.
Assignments must be completed by the announced due date. Any written assignment submitted past the stated deadline will receive a full grade deduction. The assignment is due at the beginning of class on the stated due date. Seven calendar days after the stated due date the assignment will no longer be accepted. If paper is submitted past the announced due date you will not be permitted to revise the paper for a better grade. Please note: I do not accept written assignments by email (text or attachment).
A further note about our written assignments. A "W" course encourages a process of ongoing writing activity and revisions.
First, you are strongly encouraged to bring a first draft of any of the assignments to my office hours for review. You are required to bring first drafts of at least one of the assignments to my office hours for review. We will discuss a strategy for improving the essay before the date of submission.
Second, the written assignments of the course are designed so that each successive written assignment will build upon the previous assignment. That is to say that each of our four-part argumentative essays will take a similar form, including an introduction, two sections addressing the content of the argument and a conclusion. In addition, each essay will include a topic sentence in the introduction and will include excerpts from the required readings.
Third, when your written assignment is returned to you with a grade and with my extensive comments, you will be strongly encouraged to revise the paper. You are required to revise at least one paper over the course of the semester. However, revising a paper for a better grade is not the only or the best reason for re-writing a paper. You need to make your best effort to accomplish the written assignment the first time that you write the assignment. If you are interested in revising a particular assignment in my class after you receive the grade there are several necessary steps. First, you need to discuss the paper with me during my office hours immediately after I return the paper to you. If we decide that a revision of the paper is appropriate then we will set specific educational objectives for your revision. Third, the paper would need to be re-written and re-submitted with one week on a date that we specify. Under no circumstances can you revise any paper or papers without going through the above process. Generally the grade on such rewritten or revised assignments will improve by half a letter grade (for example, a paper with a grade of C+ would generally improve to a B-). Revising such a paper does not refer primarily to correcting spelling, grammar, contractions, colloquial expressions, or references. Although all of those would need to be corrected, revising a paper for a better grade will involve substantial restructuring and rewriting, objectives to be identified and clarified during our meeting. Again, students are encouraged to bring first drafts of any of the papers to me for my review during office hours. If you submit a paper late you will not be permitted to revise the paper.
You will receive the details and due dates for each written assignment well in advance of each written assignment.
***Please note: I do not accept written assignments by email (as text or as attachment).***
Plagiarism: In written assignments students must cite their sources: extracting direct quotes or making indirect reference to a source both require references with page numbers. Quotes and indirect references for the written assignments must come from the assigned readings and films. No quotes or references from the internet will be permitted for written assignments during the semester (except as required and specified by the Professor). Plagiarism is prohibited (see Student Handbook for discussion of "Prohibited Conduct"). Plagiarism will result in a grade of "F" for the paper and may result in grade of "F" for the course. If you have any questions about these requirements or restrictions do not hesitate to ask questions in class or during office hours.
II. Resources: Required readings, films, and websites.
Books to be purchased:
Gourevitch, Philip. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda. New York: Picador, 1998.
Levi, Primo. Survival at Auschwitz. New York: Touchstone, 1996.
Power, Samantha. “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide. New York: Harper, Perennial Edition, 2007.
Neuffer, Elizabeth. The Key to My Neighbor’s House: Seeking Justice in Bosnia and Rwanda. New York: Picador, 2001.
Required Readings: Selected pages will be photocopied and provided to you:
Fry, Varian. Surrender on Demand. Boulder, CO: Johnson Books, 1997.
Jones, Adam. Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction. New York: Routledge, 2010.
Kiernan, Ben. Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.
You are always required to have the assigned readings ***with you in class***. We will undertake a close, detailed (line-by-line) reading and analysis of selected passages in class. This will be the work that is at the core of the educational experience of the class. Many of these passages that we will discuss and interpret will be essential in your written assignments. The books are available for your purchase in the bookstore or in some cases will be provided in photocopied form.
Ethical Responses to Genocide, A Course-dedicated website, http://home.southernct.edu/~pettigrewd1/index.html.
United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. http://www.unictr.org.
United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. http://www.icty.org.
1) Kindertransport 1938-1940, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005260;
2) Theresienstadt, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005424;
3) Euthenasia killings, http://www.ushmm.org/learn/students/learning-materials-and-resources/mentally-and-physically-handicapped-victims-of-the-nazi-era/euthanasia-killings;
4) Entartete Kunst [Degenerate Art”], http://www.ushmm.org/online/film/display/detail.php?file_num=670;
5) Kristallnacht, A Nationwide Pogrom, November 9-10, 1938, http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005201;
6) Wannsee Conference and the “Final Solution,” http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005477
Films: On Reserve in Buley Library and available for purchase on-line.
Ararat. DVD. Directed by Atom Agoyan. Canada/France, 2002.
Hotel Rwanda. DVD. Directed by Terry George. UK/USA/South Africa, 2004.
Varian’s War. DVD. Directed by Lionel Chetwynd. UK/USA/Canada, 2001.
Welcome to Sarajevo. DVD. Directed by Michael Winterbottom. UK, 1997.
III. Policy on Punctuality and Attendance:
Attendance and Punctuality are Required. The learning culture of the class involves class dialogues that are indispensable to our engagement of the readings and the ideas they entail. One cannot miss the classes, for example, and then write a meaningful paper about the material. If you are involved in an activity that will make it difficult or inconvenient for you to attend the classes then you need to take a different class. Absences tardy arrivals and early departures will negatively affect your grade. I have developed a series of guidelines to encourage you to attend class. I state these attendance and punctuality guidelines here clearly for you. If you are more than 5 minutes late for any class, you will receive an L (Late). If you receive nine L's your grade will be reduced by a full letter grade. If you receive twelve L's your grade will be reduced by two full letter grades. If you arrive twenty minutes late for any class you will receive an Abs designation. If you are absent from class you will receive an "Abs" (Absent) designation. If you receive nine "Abs" your grade will be reduced by a full letter grade (for example from a B to a C). If you receive twelve "ABS" your grade will be reduced by two letter grades (for example from B to a D). If you receive fifteen ABS your grade will be reduced by three full letter grades (for example from a B to an F). (see below for Tuesday/Thursday class) If you leave class early (before the end of class) you will receive an "Abs" designation. If you leave class during class for more than 10 minutes you will be marked absent. If you leave your things in class and then leave class and return five minutes after the beginning of class you will be marked late. You can lose points for being late and for being absent. These reductions will be applied to the final grade you receive on the basis of your written assignments, presentation and research assignments. If you arrive 20 minutes late for a class you will be marked absent (ABS). As a consequence of this attendance policy there are no medical, sports related or other allowable reasons for missing classes and no need for any documentation in this regard. The attendance policy then, values and respects the sanctity of the classroom, on the one hand, and your privacy, on the other hand. Attendance is required.
(In the case of a Tuesday Thursday class: If you are more than 5 minutes late for any class, you will receive an L (Late). If you receive six L's your grade will be reduced by a full letter grade. If you receive eight L's your grade will be reduced by two full letter grades. If you arrive twenty minutes late for any class you will receive an Abs designation. If you are absent from class you will receive an "Abs" (Absent) designation. If you receive six "Abs" your grade will be reduced by a full letter grade (for example from a B to a C). If you receive eight "ABS" your grade will be reduced by two letter grades (for example from B to a D). If you receive ten ABS your grade will be reduced by three full letter grades (for example from a B to an F).All other guidelines above apply.
A note on our final exam period: Since we do not have a final exam (we have a final paper), we are required to hold a class during the final exam time. Please be sure to plan to be present during the designated time for our final exam as we will undertake activities intrinsic to the integrity of our academic work. Absence from the final exam will be equivalent to three absences and you would fail the final group presentation project.
IV. Other policies
Policy on Email Correspondence Please be aware that I do not engage in email correspondence with students. All essential communications take place either in class or during office hours. Therefore there is no essential reason to use email. If you wish, you can email me to explain why you will not be in class or why you were not in class (see my attendance policy). If you have a question about the readings or the class discussions that you did not have the chance to ask in class you can send that question to me in an email and I will then address your question in a subsequent class or during office hours.
The use of cell phones is not permitted in the classroom. Please put your cell phones away before entering the class. (Zero tolerance).
The use of laptop computers is not permitted in the classroom. The learning culture of the class involves class dialogues that are indispensable to our engagement of the readings and the ideas they entail. Such an inquiry-based approach requires your constant attention. Any electronic devices or forms of behavior that would distract you or other students from our inquiries are unacceptable.
I believe in providing reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities on an individualized and flexible basis. If you are a student with a documented disability, the University's Disability Resource Center (DRC) determines appropriate accommodations through consultation with the student. Before you may receive accommodations in this class, you will need to make an appointment with the Disability Resource Center, located in EN C-105A. To speak with me about your approved accommodations or other concerns, such as medical emergencies or arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment as soon as possible. My office location and hours are listed at the top of the syllabus.
APPENDIX A : JST 204 W Learning Objectives
Learning Objectives Students will…
1. undertake careful, close textual reading of primary sources, Through the assigned reading of selected passages from primary texts (Primo Levi, Varian Fry, Samantha Power, Ben Kiernan and Adam Jones), and the discussion of the passages in class in order to assist students to gather the meaning of the passages, students will learn to read and interpret passages on their own.
2. develop critical thinking skills, skills of argumentation and skills of written expression. Students will learn to make appropriate and focused references to scholarly texts. Through class discussions about the reading materials and written assignments students will be encouraged to draw analogies between the instances of dehumanizing objectification that led to catastrophic violence during the Holocaust and genocides in the Ottoman Empire (Armenian genocide), Bosnia and Rwanda. Students will produce written assignments (analytical, argumentative essays) according to guidelines encouraging organization and focus, including required scholarly reference to the relevant text (learning both Chicago-style and MLA format). These assignments will argue the position according to the guidelines outlined in the assignment, thus habituating students to the practice of successfully writing critical argumentative essays. A similar structure will be outlined in successive assignments such that students can build upon their experience from assignment to assignment.
3. relate course material to real-life situations. Course readings and assignments will be drawn from real-life situations, including the Holocaust and genocides in the 20th century. Through the selected readings and assignments designed for the course students will be encouraged to draw analogies between the Holocaust and the genocides of the past century and to think of strategies for preventing future genocides.
4. become aware of and question unexamined assumptions and values. Through our course readings and discussions students will be encouraged to consider traditional assumptions such as “genocide happens because some people are evil,” or, “history repeats itself,” by considering the extent to which ethnic and religious animosities are socially constructed and exacerbated by political leaders.
5. recognize the similarities in the processes of different genocides (apparatus of genocide) through readings, class discussions, and in written assignments.
6. recognize the dehumanizing objectification (apparatus of genocide) that leads to genocide as being operative in a number of genocides through engagement in class discussions.
7. experience empathy for the suffering of the other, imagining a pre-normative bond between human beings.
8. undertake an interdisciplinary analysis of the causes of genocides (e.g., historical, geographical , political and cultural dimensions) through class discussions and written assignments.
9. propose a prevention plan for a given dehumanizing objectification or predictors of genocide in class discussions.
10. interpret course information in written assignments about genocides.
11. articulate their analyses and interpretations in written assignments.
12. draw analogies between the instances of dehumanizing objective violence that led to the Holocaust and to genocide in the Ottoman Empire, Bosnia and Rwanda, during class discussions and in written assignments.
13. draw analogies between the Holocaust and the genocides of the past century and to think of strategies for preventing future genocides.
14. reflect on the decisions made by “rescuers,” who resisted the Holocaust and Genocides in order to save lives, in their readings, class discussions and written assignments.
15. become critically aware of the variety of different kinds of sources such as books, witness literature, films and websites will model comprehensive research, critical evaluation of sources, and facilitate complex synthesis of sources in discussions and assignments.
Appendix B: Additional information about written assignments.
Students will work on assignments that help them acquire and process the content of the course. In this process of “writing to learn” the students will also become habituated to developing written arguments. Students will learn to be sure that their papers in include introductions, transitions, cogent reference to the required text in the process of completing the paper and a sequential argument.
Further, written assignments will reinforce Key Element #4 Learning Outcome for the LEP CT, namely, "Student will be able to write a well-reasoned and well-supported argumentative essay that draws upon reliable evidence.” The Rubric for the assessment of CT Key Element #4 (D. Synthesis) involves the following main points:
1. A central claim is clearly communicated.
2. The essay is well structured and clearly communicates the logical relations between paragraphs and sections. The reader is guided through a chain of reasoning or progression of ideas.
3. The essay develops a persuasive argument.
4. The essay uses examples or evidence to support each point. In the case of our assignments, the examples or evidence will come from the required films and readings, and occasionally, if specified, from a particular website.
5. The essay is free or spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors.
6. The context for the discussion is developed appropriately and clearly articulated.
Varian Fry in Marseille
by Pierre Sauvage
Viewed within the context of its times, Fry's mission seems not "merely" an attempt to save some threatened writers, artists, and political figures. It appears in hindsight like a doomed final quest to reverse the very direction in which the world—and not merely the Nazis—was heading.
In the summer of 2000, filmmaker Pierre Sauvage, President of the Chambon Foundation and its Varian Fry Institute, was among scholars from thirty countries invited to participate in London and at Oxford University in the second "Remembering for the Future" conference, which sought to grapple with the legacy of the Holocaust and the meaning of genocide in the modern world. The result including a three-volume collection of original essays. What follows is adapted from one of these essays. The material is at the heart of Pierre Sauvage's upcoming feature documentary, And Crown Thy Good: Varian Fry in Marseille.
1. The Mission
In February 1941, in Marseille1,France, an American wrote to his wife back in :
Among the people who have come into my office, or with whom I am in constant correspondence, are not only some of the greatest living authors, painters, sculptors of Europe . . . but also former cabinet ministers and even prime ministers of half a dozen countries. What a strange place Europe is when men like this are reduced to waiting patiently in the anteroom of a young American of no importance whatever.2
Varian Fry, the young American, was 32 when he arrived in Marseille early in the morning of Aug. 14, 1940—only two months after France's traumatizing defeat by the Nazis, and a full year and a half before Americans finally allowed themselves to get dragged into the war.
In that summer of 1940, high-level Nazis were talking among themselves about the need for a final solution to the Jewish question, but there is no evidence that anybody was seriously thinking of mass murder. Throughout the coming year, the German policy would remain one of emigration and resettlement.
What was possible when Fry arrived in Europe would, however, no longer be possible by the time Fry left Europe at the end of October 1941. By then, it wouldn’t only be the doors of the U. S. and other Western countries that were largely closed to refugees; the doors of departure from Europe would be shut too, and the Final Solution would be underway.
These are the circumstances in which a intellectual led what we know to have been the most determined and successful private American rescue operation during World War II. At a time of tragic American apathy about the refugee crisis in Europe, Varian Fry was assisted locally in his struggle by other singular and similarly non-Jewish Americans: the late Miriam Davenport Ebel, the late Mary Jayne Gold, Charles Fawcett, Ball, the late righteous consul Hiram Bingham IV.
Banding together with Jewish and non-Jewish refugees from the Third Reich, as well as early French opponents to Vichy, this tiny group, with erratic assistance from colleagues in , may have helped to save as many as 2,0003 people: Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Jacques Lipchitz, Heinrich Mann, Franz Werfel, Alma Mahler Werfel, André Breton, Victor Serge, André Masson, Lion Feuchtwanger, Konrad Heiden, Marcel Duchamp, Hannah Arendt, Max Ophuls, Walter Mehring, Jean Malaquais, Valeriu Marcu, Remedios Varo, Otto Meyerhof… The list—Fry’s list—goes on and on.
“There is a fire sale on brains going on here, and we aren’t taking full advantage of it,” an American official in told Fry in August 1940, long before the Holocaust became established as a metaphor.4 Even if many of the names on Fry’s list have faded into relative obscurity, the list as a whole represents much of the intelligentsia of Europe at that time; the population shifts Fry helped produce would have major ramifications for American culture.
Though Fry was not specifically concerned with saving Jews—and indeed the German and Austrian anti-Nazi émigrés in France then seemed the most vulnerable of all, whether Jewish or not—Fry became in 1996 the first American singled out to be honored as a Righteous Among the Nations by Israel’s Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem memorial to the Holocaust..5
Many basic facts about the man and his mission are still unfamiliar even to scholars, while some of what is “known” is in fact erroneous or misleading. Furthermore, there have been no attempts as yet to place the rescue effort in its full historical context.
Filling some of these gaps and drawing on extensive research and over one hundred and fifty interviews conducted for the author’s upcoming feature documentary, And Crown Thy Good: Varian Fry in Marseille,6this account of the mission will lead naturally enough to some fundamental questions about what we are to make of it, what still remains unknown, and whether the story is more than a mere footnote, however culturally significant, in the history of the Holocaust.
2. The Calling
As a student at Harvard, Fry had early on expressed his love for the arts by founding with classmate Kirstein a lively avant-garde intellectual magazine, The Hound & Horn. In the ’30s, he went on to work for small politically-minded publications, hanging out in liberal anti-isolationist circles and making friends within the anti-Nazi exile community.
A trip to Germany at that time made a strong impression on him, according to Mary Jayne Gold, who participated in her own distinctive way in the Fry mission. The American heiress would never forget the tense, quiet voice with which her friend had told her in Marseille about the anti-Jewish riotinghe had observed in in 1935.
Fry singled out one episode. In a café on the Kurfürstendamm, in the heart of the city, two Nazi youth had approached a man who was quietly having a beer and who looked as if he might be Jewish. As the man had put out his hand to lift the mug, he had suddenly found that hand nailed to the table by a dagger joyfully and triumphantly wielded by one of the thugs. Though Fry, curiously, never wrote up this particular incident, Mary Jayne Gold thought that the image of the hand pinned to the table had been a factor in Fry’s volunteering to go to France.7
When he first gazed down into Marseille from the top of the railroad station’s majestic staircase, Fry had taken a month's leave of absence from his work, which then consisted of writing and editing substantial political brochures for the Foreign Policy Association, a job he had thoroughly enjoyed. He was an intellectual through-and-through, yet mere analysis no longer satisfied him. Few intellectuals were to wander further from the ivory towers.
He and a few other Americans had noticed the especially ominous Article 19 in the French armistice agreement with Germany. In that clause, adamantly demanded by the Germans,8 France had ostensibly agreed to “surrender on demand” any citizens of Greater Germany asked for by the German authorities.
Except for its potential victims, few in France, in those stressful times, had attached much significance to Article 19. Leading French historians of that period recall that the clause had, in fact, been aimed at “les fauteurs de trouble”—those few “troublemakers” or agitators whom the Germans could accuse of having been warmongers against Germany.9 Indeed, it appears that very few refugees were, in fact, turned over to the Germans by Vichy as a result of Article 19.10 (Subsequent French complicity in the deportation of Jews from France was not related to the terms of the armistice.)
In , however, the apparent threat galvanized those concerned with the plight of the anti-Nazi refugees in France, leading to the creation of an “Emergency Rescue Committee,” an entirely private, shoestring effort launched at a fund-raising luncheon at ’s Hotel Commodore on June 25, 1940.
In Ingrid Warburg’s apartment overlooking the Museum of Modern Art, lists were frantically put together of people who were deemed to be obviously in danger or who might be in danger soon enough.11 There were many artists and writers on these lists, but also many names belonging to a small, left-socialist splinter group, Neu Beginnen (New Beginning).
As is often forgotten, the operation at the outset had been to a large extent political. The Jewish Labor Committee had quickly and remarkably succeeded in obtaining from the Department of State several hundred emergency visitors’ visas for prominent political refugees trapped in France. Neu Beginnen’s Karl Frank (who went under the name Paul Hagen) had been concerned that the help then being worked out for these German and Austrian refugees in France was being refused to his somewhat left-wing (albeit anti-Communist) friends.12
Early on, the assistance of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt was sought, and at that time she gave it. Because of this early help and encouragement to Fry and the E. R. C—perhaps also because of the general admiration for Mrs. Roosevelt—she has sometimes been misleadingly portrayed as virtually spearheading the rescue effort, and Fry sometimes and erroneously characterized virtually as her emissary. But despite her involvement in the summer and fall of 1940, Mrs. Roosevelt soon returned to the “thunderous” silence, as Blanche Wiesen Cook has characterized it, that she had displayed about Nazi persecution in the ’30s.13
On June 27, Fry brought Mrs. Roosevelt up to date:
What is urgently needed now is a new Scarlet Pimpernel who will go to France and risk his life, perhaps many times over, in an attempt to find the intended victims of Hitler’s chopping block, and either provide them with means to keep alive in hiding or, if [this] is possible, to get them out of France before the French authorities reach them. I have volunteered to go myself and shall do so if no more suitable person can be found.14
Did Varian Fry actually risk his life in Marseille, as Hollywood is bound to insist in the dreadful movies we will not be spared?15 Probably not. Neither Vichy nor the Germans were inclined at that time to interfere to that extent with the rights of even the most meddlesome American citizen; an American passport gave most Americans abroad a reasonably justified sense of invulnerability.
Did Varian Fry know that his life was probably not at risk? No, he probably didn’t. Indeed, he had been warned by a French friend in that he could easily be made to disappear from some dark street,16 and such disappearances were not rare in any event in Marseille’s crime-infested neighborhoods bordering on murky waters.
3. The Man
France’s bustling port and second city was then the real . Many of the Jewish and anti-Nazi refugees who found their way there soon felt, as refugee Hertha Pauli put it, “like rats on a sinking ship.”17 She recalled: “The seas kept rising all around us; whenever a lifeboat showed on the horizon, everyone wanted to be the first to get in—and then the lifeboat would fade away in the mist.”18
“These refugees,” Fry wrote to his wife, “are being crushed in one of the most gigantic vises in history. Unable to leave France, unable to work, and so earn money, they have been condemned to death—or, at best, to confinement in detention camps, a fate little better than death.”19
His month’s leave over, Fry gave little genuine thought to going home, despite his wife’s increasingly pointed pleas and the growing antagonism from almost all sides. He was not afraid to do whatever the situation required; to break the law under these circumstances appeared to him an obvious moral imperative. The pressures suited him, he lied with aplomb, and he knew that the task on which he had embarked was an important one—a matter of life and death. He sensed that fate would never deal him such a role again. Moreover, when Fry put his heart into a task, as somebody close to him later recalled, he was “amazingly efficient as well as just plain brilliant.”20
Yet Varian Fry had neither the manner, nor the temperament that we associate—perhaps under the influence of entertaining but misleading fiction—with secret agents. He certainly didn’t appear to have any directly relevant experience. A natty dresser, he had a passion for Latin and Greek and bird watching. He could be stuffy and pedantic, but he loved naughty limericks and had an antic, screwball sense of humor. The image we may retain is one of tweeds and bow-ties, but Fry would sometimes receive his staff in his boxer shorts.21
The late literary critic Alfred Kazin was a colleague of Fry’s at The New Republic magazine in 1943 and 1944. What struck him most about Fry in retrospect was the contrast between Fry’s appearance and Fry’s reality, a contrast that may have served him well in Marseille:
He was not only elegant, he was foppish. He had an extraordinary upper class distinction. You couldn’t miss it. Nobody was ever more surprised [than I] to learn what Varian had done in Marseille. It was not the first time, and certainly not the last time in my life—but it was the most decisive time in my life—that I discovered how little one person’s external appearance is a clue to what he really is as such. No one, but no one, who knew Varian Fry as I did—even the very name itself, Varian Fry—would ever have suspected him of being able to do what he did.22
As with many rescuers, if one scratches a little under the surface, one finds formative influences that were early, deep, and stretch back in time. There always seem to be role models.
When his father died in 1958, Fry recalled in a memorial tribute that his grandfather had worked finding foster homes in the Midwest for homeless City children.23 Though Fry himself, he once wrote, didn’t believe in God,24 his father had grown up “in an atmosphere of practicing Christianity and Christian charity.” His father’s greatest pleasure, Fry said, “had always been in helping others.”25
In a frequently astute and moving biography published in the U. S. in 1999 under the inept title “A Quiet American: The Secret War of Varian Fry”—Fry was neither quiet nor secretive—Andy Marino speculated that aspects of Fry’s sexual life and history may have been a major factor in creating in him the sense of being an outsider, leading perhaps to a special sympathy for the plight of other outsiders. Deviancy came naturally to Fry, Marino suggests, and certainly Fry’s activities in Marseille, given the political cte, can be characterized as “deviant.”26
Whatever Fry’s sexual nature may have been—and it is hard to decide to what extent speculation about such matters is relevant—the stress that Marino puts on Fry not being an “organization man” seems appropriate. Fry himself thought that his “non-conformist character structure,” which had created problems for him as a youth at Hotchkiss and Harvard, “produced, later, the . . . more useful activity [in Marseille].”27 “I’ve always been a non-conformist, I guess,” he wrote to an acquaintance, “though not, exactly, a revolutionary either.”28
He was certainly not the sort of man an established organization, given a range of candidates, would have picked for such a mission. As it happens, Fry’s American cohorts in Marseille were also non-conformists. Mary Jayne Gold had escaped the world in which she had been destined to live. Charles Fawcett viewed himself as the “black sheep” of his distinguished family. Miriam Davenport Ebel felt that they could all be characterized, to some extent, as “misfits.”
Organizations—including universities—have a vested interest in downplaying this fact: rescue during the Holocaust was not, for the most part, the work of organizations—and successful rescue even less so. As Magda Trocmé, widow of pastor André Trocmé of the Huguenot haven of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, put it in the author’s 1989 feature documentary Weapons of the Spirit: “If we’d had an organization, we would have failed.”29
4. The Organization
In Marseille, Fry quickly understood that he needed an organization—which grew into two: the official, cover organization, dispensing humanitarian relief work, and the one working illegally behind the scenes, providing rescue.
His operation, begun in his hotel room and his bathroom at the swank Hôtel Splendide, soon moved to tight quarters at 60, rue Grignan, then finally in January to larger facilities at 18, Boulevard Garibaldi. “Everybody felt a lot better, including the refugees,” staffer Marcel Verzeano recalled about the new office. “On rue Grignan, they were interviewed in small dark places. But when they came to Boulevard Garibaldi, where there was a lot more light, a lot more space, they felt a lot better. We felt a lot better working there.”30
A big American flag dominated the scene at the official Centre américain de secours—which could legitimately be translated as American Relief Center, although Fry preferred to refer to it bluntly as the American Rescue Center.31 Locally, Fry’s group was often referred to simply as the Comité Fry—the Fry Committee.
The word rapidly spread. Some of the long lines outside the American Consulate became long lines outside the American Rescue Center. It was later estimated that some 20,000 refugees in all made contact with the A. R. C.32
The situation was briefly promising. Some U. S. “emergency visas” came. Transit visas through Spain and Portugal didn’t pose a problem. Even the ostensible need for French exit visas could be safely ignored. In those early days, Fry and Ball accompanied Franz Werfel and Alma Mahler Werfel, Heinrich and Nelly Mann, and Thomas Mann’s son Golo Mann, to the Spanish frontier; the group was successfully smuggled across, with Fry himself escorting the luggage across the border.
“They were letting us operate without interfering too much,” staffer Verzeano recalled about those early months.33 (Verzeano, a Rumanian Jewish doctor known then simply as “Maurice,” played an active role in organizing illegal emigration.) Fry assumed that the lax situation with regard to exit visas was due to simple French confusion at that time.34 But was it not then unofficial French policy to try to get rid of refugees?
Tension soon mounted. The Spanish border was closed, the “danger” visas stopped coming in, and even if you were able to get a visa for a final destination, whether genuine (i.e., the U. S. or Mexico) or more or less bogus (Siam, the Belgian Congo, Panama, China...), there remained a long wait to get the Portuguese transit visa, and an additional wait to get the Spanish transit visa. The greatest frustration arose when the validity of one document ended while you were waiting for one of the other necessary documents—requiring you to start all over again. Of course, under the best of circumstances refugees were faced with the expense of the trip, and the difficulty of booking passage.
With the onset of an unusually harsh winter and increasingly severe food shortages, Fry’s operation mushroomed and changed. Relief work became more and more necessary: one refugee said that what was terrible about the small sums they were given was that you could neither live nor die on them. Emigration became more difficult and more illegal, while legal and illegal activities were increasingly compartmentalized.
There was a flourishing black market in all manner of goods and services—or rather, there was a good black market and a bad one. As refugee Barbara Sauvage later recalled, you could buy a pack of cigarettes, for instance, for which you were charged a fortune—that was the good black market; on the bad black market there would be straw in those cigarettes.35
Marseille, to put it mildly, had a very active underworld, and among the gangsters were those who would get paid for their services and deliver (notably Charles Vincii, who will later be decorated for his work with the Resistance36), and those who merely absconded. (Of Marseille’s colorful milieu, Mary Jayne Gold quipped to Miriam Davenport that “It’s a bit like high society—everybody knows everybody.”)
Thought not always reliable, underworld contacts were useful to the A. R. C. when hiding places had to be found, money changed at black-market rates, documents forged, officials bribed, people smuggled. Maisons de passe (where rooms were rented by the hour), were particularly useful places to lay low, as were Marseille’s many brothels, which were also hospitable for secretive meetings.
5. The Staff
The A. R. C. staff, which had expanded from 3 to 6 in September, was overworked at 15 in December. “Interviewers” saw fifty potential “clients” a day.37
Among the main Frenchmen on the staff were the left socialist Protestant Daniel Bénédite, the key aide at the end, and the liberal Catholic Jean Gemähling, who would go on to become an early and important figure in the French Resistance. Jews from included Lucie Heymann, Paul and Vala Schmierer, Jacques Weisslitz, and Charles Wolff (the latter two, after devoting themselves to the A. R. C. till the very end, did not survive those years).
Foreign refugees also contributed in important ways to the survival of others, before mostly escaping themselves when it became possible or necessary: Albert Hirschman, the key aide at the beginning—forever nicknamed “Beamish” by Fry, who described him privately as “the best of them all”38—Franz von Hildebrand, Lena Fiszmann, Anna Gruss, Heinz-Ernst Oppenheimer, Bedrich Heine, Karel Sternberg, Marcel Verzeano, Justus Rosenberg, Norbert Friedlander, and many others.
Finally, there were those who without formally being part of the Marseille staff were no less essential to the operation. Hans and Lisa Fittko created and ran an astonishingly effective escape route through the Pyrenees.39 Political cartoonist Bil Spira, then known as Bill Freier, became the main forger for the operation. (“You’re Fry, but I’m Freier,” he used to tell his friend, punning on the German word for “free.”) Caught with his paraphernalia and deported to Auschwitz, Spira survived.40
Other Americans recently arrived in Marseille were among the first to join in Fry’s mission. While each was very different from the other, what is most striking now is what they had in common. Fry’s account, in this regard, is not entirely reliable for a reason that can be easily stated, although it eluded biographer Andy Marino: by modern standards, Fry would be deemed to have been a sexist. In a deplorable lapse, Marino’s biography echoes Fry’s account in its condescending treatment of Miriam Davenport and especially of Mary Jayne Gold.
The late Miriam Davenport Ebel was a scholarly, witty art lover, with strong political beliefs, deeply held humanitarian inclinations, and remarkable savvy. In a brief memoir entitled “An Unsentimental Education,” Davenport later recalled her initial visit to the American Consulate in Marseille and her encounter in the early summer with a Consulate official:
Was anyone, I asked, doing anything for anti-Nazi refugees trapped in France? No. Were there any American organizations in Marseilles looking after their needs? No, none. Oddly, the Consulate's walls were decorated with portraits of Washington, , and Herbert Hoover. Franklin Roosevelt's picture was nowhere to be seen. On the way out, I noticed a long queue of refugees, most of them speaking German. I also observed the Consulate's doorman being offensively rude to them. A strong odor of xenophobia and anti-Semitism permeated the premises.41
After meeting with Fry shortly after his arrival, Davenport received a note from him urgently asking whether she could type.42 She couldn’t, but she was delighted to join his staff, even briefly being anointed Secretary General of the organization (Fry liked the waspy, ultra-American ring of her last name).
“The book of Ruth was read to me as a fairy tale, when I was a child—when I was a real little girl, four or five years old,” Davenport, a convert to Catholicism, later explained. “And one of the lines in that is more or less, ‘Your people are my people.’ And I felt very strongly that these people were indeed my people. And that I had to do something about it.”43
In Marseille, Davenport had met and become friends with the late Mary Jayne Gold, an heiress from the Midwest whose charitable instincts and political inclinations Miriam found entirely compatible with her own. Gold had been enjoying a high-living expatriate’s life in when France collapsed. “You felt it was the end of the world,” she recalled, “that everything you believed in and everything that had been built up by humanity or decency for centuries was finished. And yet, there was another part of me that said, ‘We’re going to beat ‘em.’”44
Gold had been planning to go home from Marseille, and her reasons for staying on at that time had as much to do with her budding affair with a young French gangster—she rescued him too, and he ultimately became a war hero45—as it did with the rescue effort.46 Fry was initially skeptical of the rich dilettante, but soon drew on her willingness to help financially and to participate in other ways. Most notably, she was asked to go to the repressive French internment camp of Le Vernet and seek permission from the commandant for four highly vulnerable political inmates to come to Marseille, ostensibly just to claim visas awaiting them; to everybody’s amazement, she was successful.
It was Miriam Davenport who enlisted Gold to subsidize expanding the relief and rescue effort to encompass more than just the luminaries and politicos on Fry’s initial lists, creating what Davenport called at the time “the Gold list,” which Davenport administered and Gold funded. (Years later, Gold asked longtime International Rescue Committee official Karel Sternberg, once himself a refugee in Marseille, who were some of the so-called “unimportant people” her money had gone to help. He smiled, said nothing, and pointed to himself.)47
Gold was not the air-headed blonde evoked in “A Quiet American.” After all, she understood what few Americans seemed to understand at that time—and perhaps fewer still in her waspy, prosperous social class: civilization as they knew it was at stake with the rise of Nazism. “She has already given us thousands,” Fry wrote of Gold to his wife in September 1941, “and she is more interested in our work than any one else I know.”
Moreover, Mary Jayne Gold’s flavorful memoir, “Crossroads Marseilles 1940,” edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis for publication by Doubleday in 1980 and published in France in 2001,48 remains an especially clear-eyed if colorful and idiosyncratic account of Gold’s experiences in 1940-41—a year that she later considered to have been the only one in her life that really mattered. "I was not there to witness the worst," she wrote, "only the beginning, and even then I was sometimes embarrassed into a sort of racialism—like being ashamed of belonging to the human race.”49
Throughout his life, Charles Fernley Fawcett—wrestler, Foreign Legionnaire, movie star, socialite, trumpet player, songwriter, composer, artist, expatriate—remained a moral adventurer of sorts, traveling the globe and helping resistance movements in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Independently of his work for Fry, Fawcett also accepted in Marseille to engage in a series of six bigamous and bogus marriages, helping some women to get out of internment camps and allowing all the “wives” to get out of Europe. (At one point, two Mrs. Fawcetts turned up at the same time in .)50
Fawcett did all sorts of odd jobs for Fry, but will best be remembered as the doorman receptionist at the A. R. C., decked out in an official-looking if indefinable Ambulance Corps uniform, attempting to keep order while steering people to interviewers. His gracious manner was appreciated even though his Southern drawl made his English especially hard to understand for the refugees—and he was even more indecipherable in poor Southern-accented French: “They-ah now, you-all. Step back. Take it easy. Evra-body gets his turn. They-ah now. You'll be next.”51
“I guess we were from the Promised Land,” is how Fawcett later remembered his status as an American in Marseille. “We were taught at school, you know, the strong protect the weak. And this is the way it’s supposed to be—we are our brother’s keeper, let’s face it. And America was the strong nation in those days.”52
Fawcett’s friend Ball, an expatriate lard salesman in France, was an important member of the underground team, adept at border crossings. Little is known about him, because he disappeared after an incident that was embarrassing to him; to this day, none of his Marseille friends have the slightest idea what became of him.53
Mary Jayne Gold liked being “where the action was,”54 and the same can certainly be said of the other Americans. More surprisingly, Davenport, Gold and Fawcett all happened to have family trees stretching back seemingly all the way to the Pilgrims. If American rescue in Marseille had a sense of noblesse oblige, the pedigree was authentic. (It should also be noted, however, that many members of the U. S. foreign service at that time, a body not particularly sympathetic to refugees or to Jews, also had competitively long lineages.)
The stress being placed here on Fry’s American friends is not meant to suggest that their roles in Marseille were more important than those of Fry’s European colleagues. This was not the case, as Charles Fawcett is quick to tell you. It is just that the greatest significance of the story of the Fry mission may lie in what there is to learn about the American response to the crisis—what it was, and what it could have been.
In that respect, it is significant that Fry had one ally at the U. S. Consulate in Marseille—and only one: Vice Consul Hiram Bingham IV; inscribing his book for Bingham in 1945, Fry would call him his “comrade-in-arms.” It is unlikely that there were many other members of the American foreign service at that time who saw the situation as “Harry” Bingham put it in a letter to his wife, shortly after the start of World War II: “We can only pray that the natural goodness of men will fight off the plague before it spreads too far.”55
6. The Do-gooders
Tracy Strong, Jr. of the Y. M. C. A. and the European Student Relief Fund did important work in the French internment camps (and also provided support to relief work in the Christian oasis of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.)56 He later remembered the atmosphere in Marseille:
There was complete confusion. Nothing seemed to work. Trains were packed and didn’t run on time. Very crowded streets—the whole town was just crowded and noisy and dirty. A lot of beggars or semi-beggars, people trying to make a living one way or another. Every office had refugees—whether it was the Quakers or the Y. M. C. A. office or the Consulate office—the waiting rooms were just packed with people waiting to see somebody and get some help of one kind or another, maybe get a visa, maybe find out how to get through Spain to Portugal, or get a boat to North Africa. The French would have been glad to ship all of [the refugees] anywhere. The Consulate was pretty neutral—you didn’t feel they were really pushing themselves.57
The growing familiarity of the Fry story has obscured the fact that there were, of course, other American relief organizations and committees active in Vichy France, though their priorities were often different. The American Red Cross was best known in Marseille for its distribution of milk and other needed supplies. (When Miriam Davenport read in a local newspaper about the arrival in Marseille of Varian Fry, she surmised to Mary Jayne Gold that he was “just another milkman.”58)
Of course, Jewish organizations such as the local Comité d’Assistance aux Réfugiés (supported by the Joint Distribution Committee) and HICEM, were also on the scene. Among the major American organizations represented in Vichy France were the American Friends Service Committee (Dr. Howard and Gertrude Kershner, Rev. A. Burns Chalmers), the Unitarian Service Committee (Dr. Charles R. Joy, Rev. Waitstill Sharp, later Noel Field), and the Y. M. C. A. (Donald A. Lowrie, Tracy Strong, Jr.).
While some of these “do-gooders” worked closely with Fry, they mostly restricted their activities to relief work rather than rescue, and drew the line at doing anything illegal.59 One whose agenda was similar to Fry’s was Dr. Frank Bohn, who claimed to represent the American Federation of Labor but who had actually been sent over primarily by the Jewish Labor Committee, in order to help rescue people on their lists.60 He blusteringly welcomed Varian Fry to Marseille, but was ineffectual and soon left after a Department of State telegram laid down the law:
While Department is sympathetic with the plight of refugees and has authorized consular officers to give immediate and sympathetic consideration to their applications for visas this government cannot repeat not countenance the activities as reported of Dr. Bohn and Mr. Fry and other persons in their efforts in evading the laws of countries with which the United States maintain friendly relations.61
In a memo to the American Embassy in Vichy in May 1941, Marseille Consul General Hugh S. Fullerton reported on the “under-cover activities of members of certain relief organizations operating in France,” indicating that the State Department would not be likely to approve of such activities by such people. “Other considerations aside,” he added, “they are not fitted for such work.” Referring specifically to Fry’s involvement in getting British airmen out of France, Fullerton expressed the belief that if Fry stayed on much longer, “he would find himself in jail.”62
But it was Fry’s desire to publicize the squalid conditions in French internment camps that finally led to a falling out with most of the other American relief organizations active in Marseille—who did not want to jeopardize their good relations with Vichy, despite the regime’s quick and forceful antisemitic measures during that first year. It was those good relations, after all, that made much of their work possible, including the slight ameliorating of conditions in the French camps.
The A. R. C. found itself expelled from the Nîmes Committee (chaired by the well-connected Donald Lowrie), which regrouped the major humanitarian organizations then working in Vichy France. Rev. Howard L. Brooks of the Unitarians wrote in 1942 that Fry was “ostracized by other relief workers who secretly admired his work.”63
7. The Refugees
Two months after his arrival, Fry provided the following report to his wife:
My work reached a crescendo of activity right after I got back from , but it has now slackened off a little, so that I am at least able to breathe. I still begin at 8 in the morning and work until 11 at night, and sometimes until one. I still see dozens of people every day, and am witness to displays of every possible quality of character, from heroic to despicable. I still have poor, driven refugees lurking for me in my hotel in the morning when I go out and in the evening when I come in. I still have from six to 12 phone calls an hour, and get 25 letters a day. Sometimes the refugees walk right into my bedroom without knocking or announcing themselves.
But the pressure is slackening—not because the situation is improving but because more and more of our charges are being reinterned—and I am at long last getting an occasional chance to breathe. It is horrible to be glad that anybody has been arrested; but I had reached a point in nervous exhaustion a few weeks ago where I actually was glad to have a few of the most insistent and most pestiferous “clients” carried shrieking off.64
Despite his moments of weariness, Fry felt some real affinity to the complicated refugees of the European intelligentsia. But it would probably be naïve to think that the intellectual émigrés in France—a remarkable crowd of people that would have been remarkable even without the vicissitudes of history—whole-heartedly embraced Varian Fry as one of their own. “We were slightly contemptuous of American innocents,” Albert Hirschman admitted, “people who did not really understand Europeans. But I think that on the whole it was a good thing that [Varian] played this ‘innocent abroad’ so thoroughly.”65
Lisa Fittko described with amazement Fry’s extraordinary faux-pas when he assumed that perhaps her husband and she, committed political types, were hesitating about the mission that he was asking them to undertake out of a desire to pry some money out of him. “How much?” she remembers him saying.
The Fittkos didn’t speak much English, but they understood that question. It brought Hans Fittko to a boil. “He said, ‘Do you think we’re crazy to risk our lives at the border for money?’ He said something like, ‘Do you know what anti-fascists are? Do you know what we’re about?’”66
Fry himself would later make lists of the numerous mistakes he felt he had made in Marseille.
Compounding the challenge to Fry was his realization that his job was “like a doctor’s during an earthquake”67: one must never forget to reassure. “See you in ,” Fry would say to refugees about to attempt an escape over the Fittko route.68
Nor was escape experienced by the refugees in heroic terms, à la Paul Henreid in , leaving only to continue the fight. (In real life, Henreid’s Victor Laszlo would probably have found his way to a park bench on Broadway and 72nd Street). What was on Albert Hirschman’s mind when he fled in late 1940, as he later recalled, was that his goal since 1933 had been to win out over the forces he had been fighting for seven years. “And the only success I had was the fact of escaping—not one time but three or four times. I had the feeling that I had expended a great deal of energy but in the end without success. I did not feel like a hero at all. A hero has to win.”69
Deciding not to go off to from , writer Joseph Kessel put it this way to Fry: "I have seen too much of refugees already to want to become one of them."70
Their fears, their need to adjust to an almost incomprehensibly different and challenging situation, did not bring out the best in many of the refugees. In her brilliant memoir, “Escape Through the Pyrenees,” Lisa Fittko underscored how difficult some of the refugees found it to be inconspicuous. The greater the intellect, it sometimes seemed, the greater the difficulty adjusting.71 While some refugees found it difficult to admit to themselves their vulnerable status, others besieged Fry. Daniel Bénédite warned against giving in to a system whereby refugees were given what they asked for, whether money or attention, because they resorted to hysteria or blackmail or repeatedly came back.72
Conductor Diego Masson candidly recalled that his father, artist André Masson, a well-known anti-fascist married to a Jew, would get very drunk in the evening when he couldn’t work, and would speak out loudly and provocatively at French cafés. “He never could keep his mouth shut even when he wasn’t drunk. I’m quite sure that without Varian Fry, my father would have been arrested, and my mother and my brother and me would have been put in concentration camps, as Jews. With a father like mine, we would not have survived.”73
The most famous tragedy of that time involved the prominent German Social Democratic leaders Rudolf Breitscheid and Rudolf Hilferding, who by all accounts haughtily refused to do anything illegal—they weren’t going to stoop to Hitler’s level. Convinced that the French government would protect them, they were turned over to German authorities and did not survive.
Charles Fawcett, a man disinclined to say anything derogatory about anybody, least of all a refugee, conceded that “There were maybe a few that we didn’t fall in love with—a few. They wouldn’t listen to you. They thought, ‘We were so famous, nobody will do anything to us.’ Some of them said that! ‘The French wouldn’t dare to do anything to us—there’s world opinion.’ World opinion—can you imagine that? Let me tell you, world opinion wasn’t standing behind them much in those days.”74
Writing later in diary form, in a subsequently scrapped draft of his memoirs of that time, Fry recalled the new wave of panic that set in among the refugees with the news of the arrest of Breitscheid and Hilferding. “The office has been the scene of indescribable hysteria all day; one man actually got down on his knees and with tears streaming down his face begged me to save his life.”75 The supplicant, prominent anti-Nazi lawyer Alfred Apfel, later died of a heart attack in the A. R. C office, with Fry holding him.76
“Almost everybody wants to be put into hiding,” Fry recounted. “Even artists and writers who have never had any political activity in their lives are terrified. The difficulty is to know who is in imminent danger and who is not. We can't hide everybody."77
8. The Landscape
Fry worked hard but took breaks. He found the time to write a considerable number of extraordinary letters about his life in Marseille, and his own evolution during that time. Some of these letters are surprising. In one of his more depressed moods—Fry’s second wife, Annette Riley Fry, concluded that he was manic-depressive78—Fry went so far as to suggest that maybe “the best thing is an early German victory”; he claimed he meant the statement “quite seriously.”79
But he passionately loved virtually all things French—certainly the wine—and even the increasingly difficult times that year didn’t make a dent in his enthusiasm. He loved going on bicycle trips through Provence with his friend Stéphane Hessel, who remembered how methodically he would explore churches and Roman ruins.80
In October, Mary Jayne Gold, Miriam Davenport, Theo Bénédite (Daniel Bénédite’s English wife) and Jean Gemähling stumbled on a large villa on the outskirts of Marseille. It soon came to house Fry, Gold and other A. R. C. staffers, as well as such luminaries as writers André Breton and Victor Serge and their families. Baptized “Château Espère-Visa” (Chateau Hoping-for-Visa) by Serge, villa Air-Bel became a famous haunt for the refugee Surrealist artists who congregated around Breton. Fry, who enjoyed horticulture, took a particular delight in the garden. Not the least of the house’s amenities was that it didn’t have a phone.
Fry’s life had become a study in contrasts. He wrote:
I am waiting for Harry Bingham to come with his car. We are going to drive out to Gordes to spend the weekend with the Chagalls. Now that spring is here, Provence is beautiful beyond belief. The almond trees are in bloom, a delicate pink against the soft gray-green and sage-green and dark cypress-green of the Provençal landscape. In this, of all places, it is hard to believe that men, given the beautiful world to live in, can sully and destroy it by war. And yet they do. The same spring which is bringing almond blossoms to Provence is bringing fear and terror to millions of human beings who live not so far away, and to some who live right here. For who knows what spring will bring, but who does not know that it will bring new horrors, perhaps even worse than those of last spring? I hear the sound of tires on the gravel. Harry has come.81
9. The New Yorkers
As good as Fry’s relations mostly were with the staff and the refugees, it is difficult to overstate how bad his relations were from the beginning with American officials in Marseille—and how quickly and precipitously they declined with the Emergency Rescue Committee that had sent him to France in the first place.
His frustration with his colleagues was boundless. To his wife, he railed against “those boobs in .”82 “Viewed from here,” he wrote later, “they seem like a bunch of blithering, slobbering idiots.”83 For all their sporadic goodwill, as far as Fry was concerned they just didn’t get it.
Eileen Fry tried to calm Fry down: “You really are making a great mistake in being so full of complaints in your letter to E. R. .C. They are as good as they can be, which everyone knows is pretty poor.”84 She had praise, however, for Ingrid Warburg and fund-raiser Harold Oram. “They are absolutely on your side, absolutely honest, hard-working, and devoted to the same ends as you are. . . . And do remember that in the long run their particular outfit is all you can really count on, at this end at any rate.”85
But Fry soon found himself proclaiming that the American Rescue Center was an organization that answered to no one except its “clients”: “This office is not your office: it is an independent committee consisting of various American citizens residing in France,” he wrote to the E. R. C. “Please never, even by implication, suggest that I am your representative.”86 Fry preferred to play up his connections with ’s Museum of Modern Art, the New School for Social Research, the New World Resettlement Fund and other organizations.87
Compounding the breach, the Emergency Rescue Committee put pressure on Fry to deliver the big names. “Casals is probably worth one hundred thousand,” Oram wrote. “Picasso—fifty thousand. Your trio [Heinrich Mann, Franz Werfel, Lion Feuchtwanger] brought in thirty five thousand. Since their arrival we have had nothing good to offer to the public and they are pretty shopworn by this time."88
And if some really big names elude Fry—Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Pablo Casals, André Gide, André Malraux are among those who have no wish to go to the United States—he does deliver. “YOUR LETTER MARCH TWENTYFOURTH BRETONS MASSONS EN ROUTE MARTINIQUE,” Fry cabled to the Museum of Modern Art. “ERNST CHAGALLS LEAVING INCESSANTLY ARPS SOON AS GET EXIT VISAS KANDINSKY NOT TILL AUGUST STOP WILL TRY TO HELP OR FINI.”89 (Fry never was able to provide Arp, Kandinsky, and Fini to his American backers.)
Emergency Rescue Committee Chairman Dr. Frank Kingdon became particularly frustrated with Fry. When Eileen Fry tried to help get her husband’s passport renewed, she was able to talk to Mrs. Roosevelt twice on the phone, and with her help thought she was even making headway with the unsympathetic Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long. But Kingdon “would not back up my request,” Mrs. Fry reported to her husband, “and refused to see me.”90
The breach that developed with the E. R. C. would never heal. Only a few weeks after Fry’s return to the U. S., Kingdon, after a trip to Washington, would tell Fry “that he had been reluctantly forced to conclude that the State Department would grant no visas to applicants presented by the Emergency Rescue Committee as long as [Fry] was connected with it.” Fry, “European Director” of the E. R. C., was compelled to resign, and would thereafter find himself advising his refugee friends, in their own interest, not to mention his name.91
There had been a clumsy attempt to replace Fry in early 1941, but after Fry went home, nobody would be sent to succeed him. Despite dwindling support from , the remaining French A. R. C colleagues would do their best to continue the work, but the financially ailing Emergency Rescue Committee would soon be taken over by another organization, which in turn would become the current and very active International Rescue Committee.92
Indeed, when Fry was astutely recommended to the budding Office of Strategic Services (“Mr. Fry is probably the only qualified American expert on the means of moving people around the continent of Europe despite regulations and occupations”93), the possibility of Fry being hired for government intelligence work was not increased by E. R. C. Treasurer David Seiferheld, who worked very closely with Kingdon. According to an O. S. S. report, Seiferheld had the following to say about his onetime colleague:
Varian Fry is an intelligent but highly unstable man. He is uncontrollable even with a supervisor on the spot. He has an infinite capacity for intrigue but not very successful intrigue. He managed to irritate American officials to an extraordinary extent. . . . Despite these handicaps he did a fairly good job, that is he managed to get a considerable number of people out and he managed to hold on to his job and retain his cover intact longer than [the E. R. C.] expected, but in doing so he made a good deal of trouble.94
But despite the displeasure of the E. R. C. and even when he had to go on without the safety net of an American passport, Fry dug his heels in. “This job is like death—irreversible,”95he wrote to his wife, as the marriage crumbled visibly in the correspondence exchanged between them (“Much love, if you’re interested,” Eileen Fry signed one of her letters”96).
“We have started something here we can’t stop.” Fry went on. “We have allowed hundreds of people to become dependent on us. We can’t now say we’re bored and are going home.”97 On another occasion, he cabled: “Could no more abandon my people here than could my own children. Leaving now would be criminally irresponsible."98 At that time, Fry had no children.
10. The Officials
Vichy took its time getting rid of him. Fry would never forget Marseille police chief Maurice Rodellec duPorzic’s reproach when the latter told Fry that he was being expelled: “d’avoir trop protégé les juifs et les antinazis”—that he had provided too much protection to the Jews and the anti-Nazis.99 That word “trop”—too much—suggests that exasperation as well as political retaliation may have motivated the expulsion.100
Though Vichy probably knew exactly what the Fry Committee had been doing all along, including the illegal activities engaged in, police officials seemed above all to be obsessively troubled by the presence of Trotskyites or former Trotskyites in Fry’s entourage. After Fry’s arrest, A. R. C. staffer Lucie Heymann was able to meet with the highest Vichy official for the area. She reported that the official “speculated about Mr. Fry’s being either insane, a saint, or an anti-Nazi ‘Bolshevik’ agent.” The feisty Heymann responded “that [Fry] was probably a saint, probably insane, but definitely not a ‘Bolshevik’ agent of anti-Nazism.”101
Astonishingly, Fry was not even precisely expelled; he was refoulé—which was a milder form of expulsion that did not preclude his asking for a visa to come back.102
What is certain is that by the end of his year in Marseille, everybody—except his A. R. C. colleagues and the refugees!—had wanted him to go home: the State Department, its patience entirely dissipated; the Emergency Rescue Committee; Vichy—and maybe above all the U. S. officials at the American consulate in Marseille.
Even Eleanor Roosevelt’s support ebbed. When Fry and Mary Jayne Gold are among those briefly detained by French authorities in December 1940, Mrs. Roosevelt awkwardly writes on his behalf to Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles: “I'm sure that though he was helping refugees, [Fry] did nothing actually reprehensible."103 At a crucial juncture later on, Mrs. Roosevelt reported back to Mrs. Fry that “there is nothing I can do for your husband.” “I think he will have to come home,” Mrs. Roosevelt advises, “because he has done things which the government does not feel it can stand behind.”104
Despite what should have been natural affinities of social class, prep school education, wasp and possibly antisemitic backgrounds, Fry immediately rubbed the local American officials the wrong way and it only got worse. Fry’s writings are full of disparaging remarks about those officials, and it is unlikely that in France he kept his feelings to himself. American representatives in Marseille and Vichy early on pegged him as a trouble-maker, and some of them soon came to loathe him.
According to Marseille police chief Rodellec du Porzic, with whom U. S. Consul General Fullerton developed good relations, it was as early as December 1940 that Fullerton had asked the police official “de me débarrasser de [Fry]”—to get rid of [Fry].105 A few weeks later, a Vichy document indicates that the U. S. Embassy was conveying to the French that it had “decidedly unfavorable information as to [Fry’s] morality and his activities.”106 For the rest of his stay in France, the American campaign against Varian Fry would never subside.
When after Fry’s return to the U. S., the Department of State ordered that a French receptionist at the Consulate be fired as politically suspect, the Consul General wrote to the American Embassy in Vichy to convey his conviction that the dismissal of the employee had been Fry’s handiwork. Fullerton did not acknowledge that his furious memo, which he seems to have typed himself, may have had something to do with the fact that the pretty receptionist in question was his mistress.107 He ended his “Strictly Confidential” note to First Secretary H. Freeman Matthews as follows:
In conclusion, dear friend, I think my previous intention to carry with me to Washington a considerable dossier of “Fryana” should not be shaken[,] as if the snake is attacking minor employees on the Marseille staff he is doubtless saying things far from about me, Doug, Woodie and even your august self.108 I sometimes wonder if it was, after all, wise of me to restrain the Intendant of Police at Marseille from execution of his original intention to put Varian behind the bars.109
One can speculate as to who, of the Vichy police chief or the American consul general, had really wanted Varian Fry behind bars the most. After the war, settled in a job running the American Hospital in , Fullerton would claim to Charles Fawcett that when it came to the Consulate’s frosty relations with the A. R. C., he had merely been “following orders.”110