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FREEDOM HERO:
VARIAN FRY
by Elliott from Columbia


One notable hero in history was Varian Fry. He helped thousands of refugees escape from France, even though it was hard work. The American government frowned on his actions, and he had to avoid the Gestapo as well. He needed money and passports, and even though he was instructed to save only certain people, he saved thousands more. He was only supposed to stay a month in France, but he stayed for over a year. That is why he is a hero.

Varian Fry at work on the street in Marseilles,
c. 1940-41 (Photo courtesy of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum)
Varian Fry was sent to France in 1940 in order to try to rescue important political refugees and others in danger of Nazi persecution. He rescued every one on his list, over 200 people, and saved many more people than those on his list. Even when he was called back from France to come back to America, he made sure that a few more refugees could pass the border to Spain before he left. He risked being caught by the Gestapo and those who were sympathetic for their cause, those who wanted to turn in anyone to get a good reputation with the police. Even so, Varian still tried to do what was right.

Varian Fry was born in New York City on October 15, 1907. He was 32 years old when he was asked to go to France and start his mission. He had no training in missions such as the one he went on, but he was fluent in several languages. Before he left for France however, while working for a magazine he visited Berlin, and saw how the Nazis treated Jews and other people they hated. He was horrified at the treatment of the Jews, and this is part of the reason he went to France. He was forced to leave France in 1941, a year after he arrived. He died on September 13, 1967.

Varian was only supposed to stay a month, but he stayed for over a year. Even though he faced disapproval from the American government, he provided illegal passports for refugees, as well as legal ones. The only reason the American government gave him another passport was to get him out of France. Shortly before his death, Fry was awarded the Croix de Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, or the Cross of Knight of the Honor Legion, by the French government, which was the only recognition he got before his death.

To me, Varian Fry is a hero because he saved thousands of people even when he was told to save fewer. He even disobeyed the law to save innocent people when he could have just left. That tells me to do what is right, no matter what the consequences are. Varian was not rewarded for his actions until after he died, but that does not mean that we should not do good things.


Written by Elliott from Columbia
Last changed on: 6/14/2006

Varian Fry Varian Fry Foundation

Varian Fry Biography from Wikipedia

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