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In Defiance of Hitler: The Secret Mission of Varian Fry

by Carla Killough McClafferty

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008
196 pages
ISBN: 978-0-374-38204-9

Age 12 and older

In 1935, Varian Fry, an American journalist, went to Germany to determine if reports about the growing mistreatment of Jews were true. While in Berlin, Fry witnessed a mob gathered around Nazi storm troopers vandalizing Jewish-owned stores. “ ‘This is a holiday for us,’ a German youth said to Varian.” The experience had a profound effect on Fry. Returning to the United States, he became involved with the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC)—an organization assembled to rescue artists and scientists from Europe before they were taken by the Nazis. The ERC sent Fry to Marseilles, France, with $3,000 and a list of names for rescue. Fry was an unlikely candidate for the mission in many ways, but he made up for it with his passion. Fry’s mission was to assist in the escape of 200 individuals within two weeks, but he quickly discovered the need for more time and more resources. As Fry’s experience unfolds, the author introduces an unforgettable cast of characters who worked with Fry on a complex and secretive scheme to rescue enemies of Hitler. Fry’s actions tie him resolutely to the cause, while his relations across the Atlantic with the ERC and his wife become strained as the months slip by. This mesmerizing history is complemented by photographs as well as comprehensive records of the author’s research.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center


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