After Nazi Germany invaded France in 1940, Fry, a New York City editor, volunteered to travel to Marseille to help anti-fascist refugees. He and his colleagues helped spirit roughly 2,000 Jews and non-Jews out of the country including notable artists and intellectuals such as Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp and Andre Breton.
When the Vichy French government expelled Fry in 1941, he returned to New York to warn of the Holocaust, but few paid attention other than the FBI, which opened a file on him. He died unexpectedly in 1967 surrounded by pages of his memoir, which the investigating police officer dismissed as fiction. In 1991, Fry was finally recognized in his own country when the United States Holocaust Memorial Council posthumously awarded him its Eisenhower Liberation Medal.
"He was a remarkable person who had an assignment to rescue people, but he did much more than what was required," says Gordon Davis, director of the Aurora History Museum. "Most people have never heard of him." That may soon change, since the traveling U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum photo exhibit Varian Fry: Assignment Rescue 1940-1941 stops at the Aurora History Museum, 15051 East Alameda Parkway, staying up through April 27. Admission is free; for more information, call 303-739-6666 or visit www.auroramuseum.org.
Jan. 8-April 27, 2008