Varian Fry, a 32 year old Harvard-educated classicist and editor from New York City, helped save thousands of endangered refugees who were caught in the Vichy French zone escape from Nazi terror during World War II. Yet this man, known as "the American Schindler," died in obscurity, without recognition, and having been reprimanded by the US government for his actions.
Despite having had no training in underground work and no knowledge of forgers, black marketeers, or secret passages, Fry within 24 hours after his arrival in France committed himself to a mission that saved prominent persons such as artists Marc Chagall and Max Ernst, writer Hannah Arendt, and sculptor Jacques Lipchitz.
Fry said, "I stayed because the refugees needed me. But it took courage, and courage is a quality that I hadn't previously been sure I possessed." This man who found the courage to save some of Europe's greatest artists, writers and thinkers remained unrecognized by his countrymen and unacknowledged by his country until recently.
In 1991, 50 years after his courageous actions in France saved thousands of innocent lives and 24 years after his death, Fry received his first official recognition from a United States agency, the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. In 1996, Varian Mackey Fry was named as "Righteous Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Heros and Martyrs Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem -- the first American recipient of Israel's highest honor for rescuers during the Holocaust, an honor also received by Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg.
Source: Almond Seed. Used with permission.