Lion and Marta Feuchtwanger pose in front of a bookcase.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 34489
- Marseilles, [Bouches-du-Rhone] France
- Variant Locale
- Photo Designation
PERSONALITIES: JEWS -- Names (F)
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Donald Carroll
Lion and Marta Feuchtwanger pose in front of a bookcase.
- Event History
- The Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC) was established in New York in the summer of 1940 in the wake of the defeat of France and its acceptance of Hitler's terms for an armistice. Article 19 of the agreement committed the new French government under Marshal Philippe Petain to surrender on demand all refugees from the Greater German Reich. The impetus for the ERC came from some of the leaders and associates of the American Friends of German Freedom, an organization formed in the U.S. in 1936 to provide support for the socialist, anti-Nazi underground in Germany. Among these people were Karl B. Frank (an Austrian Jewish political activist, who had recently fled to the U.S.), Reinhold Niebuhr (Protestant theologian), Frank Kingdon (Methodist churchman) and Raymond Gram Swing (radio commentator). The members of the ERC feared for the lives of hundreds of anti-Nazi refugee intellectuals and artists, who had fled the Reich and were now trapped within the closed borders of Vichy France. Under the chairmanship of Kingdon, the committee set itself the mission to locate a group of approximately 200 prominent refugees and to arrange for their escape from France and transport to America. The mission was intended to last approximately three weeks. For their emissary to France, the ERC selected Varian Fry, an editor for the Foreign Policy Association with ties to the International YMCA. This connection allowed Fry to secure a visa to France at a time when they were difficult to obtain, as well as give him a cover for his rescue work. Soon after arriving in Marseilles on August 4, 1940, Fry assembled a staff and established a legal French relief organization, the Centre Americain de Secours (American Relief Center), to serve as a cover for their illegal activities. As word spread that an American had come with visas to help them escape, the refugees flocked to his office, and it quickly became clear that Fry could not complete his mission in the allotted time, nor limit his assistance to the names on the list. Fry and his staff did their utmost for the desperate refugees. They dispensed modest allowances, helped the refugees find places to stay, assisted them in securing legal and false documents, sought to obtain the release of those held in internment camps, and explored escape routes out of France. To find respite from the crush of their responsibilities, Fry and some of his staff rented a villa on the outskirts of Marseilles. They were soon joined at the Villa Air-Bel by surrealist writer Andre Breton and former Russian revolutionary Victor Serge, who were also waiting to leave France. In December 1940, the villa was raided by French police, who detained Fry and his colleagues on a ship in the harbor for several days during the visit of Marshal Petain. The following month Fry's American passport expired, and the State Department, which disapproved of his high-handed activities, refused to renew it. Fry decided to continue his mission, nonetheless, though he knew he faced ever-increasing hostility from both the American and French authorities. By the time he was expelled from France on August 27, 1941, Fry had spent thirteen months in the country. He and his colleagues had spirited more than 1,500 refugees from France and provided support to 2,500 others. Among the refugees he saved were the artists Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Andre Masson and Jacques Lipchitz; the writers Heinrich Mann, Lion Feuchtwanger and Franz Werfel; the scientists Otto Meyerhof and Jacques Hadamard; and the political scientist Hannah Arendt. Varian Fry was recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations in 1994.
[Greenberg, Karen J. Columbia University Library, New York: the Varian Fry papers: the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter papers. New York: Garland, 1990; Gold, Mary Jayne. Crossroads Marseilles 1940. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980.]
- Lion Feuchtwanger (1884-1958), German novelist and dramatist of Jewish origin. Raised in an Orthodox family in Munich that also maintained ties to German secular culture, Feuchtwanger was exposed both to traditional Jewish learning and modern secular thought from an early age. At the University of Munich (1903-7), where he studied philology, history and anthropology, he wrote his dissertation on the origins of Heinrich Heine's "The Rabbi of Bacherach." Unable to pursue an academic career without converting to Christianity, Feuchtwanger turned to writing. In 1912 he married author Marta Loeffler. After serving in the German army during World War I, Feuchtwanger returned to writing and collaborated on several plays with Bertolt Brecht. In 1926 he moved to Berlin, where he published his first historical novel, Jud Suess (1926). The novel, which dealt with the issues of conversion and anti-Semitism in the life of an 18th century Jewish court financier, was an international bestseller that brought him worldwide acclaim. (It was later made into a film in Great Britain and used as the basis for the Nazi anti-Semitic film by the same name released in 1940.) Feuchtwanger was being feted in Washington, D.C during a lecture tour of the U.S. when Hitler came to power on January 30, 1933. Soon after, Feuchtwanger's home and library in Berlin were ransacked and his citizenship was revoked. He followed the German ambassador's advice not to return to Germany and instead met his wife elsewhere in Europe. They eventually found asylum in Sanary, France. During his first year in exile Feuchtwanger completed "The Oppermanns," the first explicitly anti-Nazi novel written by a German exile. With its publication and rapid translation into ten languages, Feuchtwanger became a leading spokesman for the German opposition to the Third Reich. In 1937 he traveled to Moscow to meet with Stalin and later that year published "Moscow, 1937" about this venture. When World War II broke out in 1939, Feuchtwanger was completing his historical trilogy, "Josephus" about the first century CE Jewish historian who was torn between his attachment to Rome and his Jewish nationalism (written between 1931 and 1941). Along with thousands of other German exiles, Feuchtwanger was interned by the French government. He was sent to the Les Milles camp. He was soon released, only to be re-interned on May 21, 1940 after the Germans invaded France. When, after the signing of the armistice on June 22, it was rumored in Les Milles that German troops were moving in, a group of inmates were placed on a train that eventually discharged them at Camp St. Nicholas near Nimes. In nearby Marseilles, Feuchtwanger's wife, Marta, sought the assistance of American consuls Hiram Bingham and Miles Standish, who agreed to help her orchestrate Feuchtwanger's escape from St. Nicolas. Several days later, Miles Standish rode in a chauffeur driven car to a river near the camp where the inmates were allowed to bathe. He found Feuchtwanger by the river clad only in shorts and showed him a note from his wife: "Don't ask anything, don't say anything, go along." He got into the car. On the back seat Standish helped him into a woman's overcoat, put a shawl over his head and gave him dark glasses. When French police officers stopped the American car and asked Standish who the lady was, he replied that it was his mother-in-law. Feuchtwanger joined his wife at Bingham's villa on the outskirts of Marseilles. The consul had arranged to have a picture of Feuchtwanger standing behind a barbed wire fence at Les Milles sent to America. Feuchtwanger's American publisher, Ben Huebsch of the Viking Press, had friends show the photo to Eleanor Roosevelt. Shortly thereafter, the President sent an unofficial order to Bingham in Marseilles to issue emergency visas for the Feuchtwangers. Eleanor Roosevelt also sent Unitarian Minister Waitstill Sharp and his wife Martha to assist the refugee couple. With false identifications made out to Lion Wetcheek and Marta Leoffler, the Sharps accompanied them over the Pyrenees into Spain and then on to Portugal. Reports of Nazi plans to kidnap refugees led Feuchtwanger and Sharp to depart for the U.S. immediately, without their wives. They arrived in New York aboard the SS Excalibur on October 5, 1940. The women followed two weeks later. In New York Feuchtwanger wrote a book on his experience in Les Milles called "The Devil in France." In 1941 he and his wife moved to California, settling in Pacific Palisades. Feuchtwanger continued to write until his death in 1958.
[Sources: Hofe, Harold von. "The Novelist Lion Feuchtwanger." Feuchtwanger Memorial Library, University of Southern California.
(23 June 2004); Abramson, Glenda (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Jewish Culture. Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1989, pp. 222-3.]
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Donald Carroll
Record last modified: 2005-03-11 00:00:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1139066