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Recognizing an Unsung Hero

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In 1940-41, working day and night, in opposition to French and even obstructionist American authorities, Fry assembled a band of associates and built an elaborate rescue network. He established a legal French relief organization, The American Relief Center, and worked behind its cover. Using secret mountain and sea routes, he spirited over 1500 endangered people from then unoccupied Vichy France to the United States.

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Sheila Isenberg is the author of A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry.  
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The sculpture, Sieur du Lhut, which presides over UMD's Ordean Court is the work of Jacques Lipchitz, one of the artists saved by Fry.  
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A Baeumler-Kaplan Holocaust Commemoration Event

Sheila Isenberg presents:
"Mission Impossible: Varian Fry in Marseille"
7 pm, Temple Israel, 1600 E. 2nd St, Duluth

This year’s Baeumler-Kaplan Holocaust Commemoration honors the work of Varian Fry, a relatively unknown American journalist. Fry was a well-educated antifascist who arrived in Marseille in the autumn of 1940, determined to be of assistance to Europe’s intellectual elite.

Fry sought to save, in his own words, ''the novelists, poets, painters, historians, philosophers, scientists, [and] doctors.'' Fry's situation was difficult, even impossible, because over 15,000 refugees contacted Fry. Those who had been singled out by the Nazis received Fry's attention because they were in the most danger. Yet, he was practical. He knew he could save more people by concentrating on those who had already obtained the necessary documents and who were able to make the journey across the Pyrenees, through Spain and Portugal.

His efforts resulted in the rescue of well over 1500 artists, writers, and philosophers, including artists Marc Chagall and Max Ernst, philosopher Hannah Arendt, and sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, whose work Sieur du Lhut presides over UMD's Ordean Court. In 1963, Lipchitz presented Fry with the International Rescue Committee Medal and stated that he owed his life to Fry.

On Tuesday, Sept. 10, award-winning journalist, author, and adjunct faculty member at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Sheila Isenberg will present “Mission Impossible: Varian Fry in Marseille” at 7 pm at Temple Israel, 1600 E. 2nd Street, Duluth, Minn. This event is free and open to the public.

"Varian Fry is known as the American Schindler," said Deborah Petersen-Perlman, one of the event's organizers. "He spoke truth to power before the U.S. entered WWII. He stood up to his own government to save those threatened with mortal peril." Petersen-Perlman has praise for author Sheila Isenberg as well. "The biography of Varian Fry and Muriel’s War, the biography of American heiress and World War II heroine Muriel Gardiner, reveal many rich details about these real people and their amazing bravery."

The St. Louis Post Dispatch named Isenberg’s book, A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry, one of the best books of 2001. Isenberg’s 2011 book, Muriel’s War, has been called " exquisite and heartbreaking." Both books will be available for purchase at Isenberg’s presentation.

For information about the event, contact Deborah Petersen-Perlman|, associate professor in the Department of Communication, at 218-726-7528 or The event is sponsored by UMD’s Baeumler-Kaplan Holocaust Commemoration Series.

Cheryl Reitan and Kathleen McQuillan-Hofmann, September 2013.

UMD Feature News | News Releases
UMD Feature News editor, Cheryl Reitan,

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