Ohne zu zögern. Varian Fry: Berlin – Marseille – New York
When the German army invaded France in spring 1940, thousands of German émigrés – artists, intellectuals, politicians and journalists – fled to the unoccupied zone in the South of France along with countless French people. Many headed for the coast in the hope of leaving Europe for good.
Soon afterwards, a 33-year-old American journalist named Varian Fry arrived in Marseille, sent by the New York aid organization “Emergency Rescue Committee” that had been set up with the help of Eleonore Roosevelt and Thomas and Erika Mann. The organization’s founders had been alarmed by article 19.2 of the Franco-German ceasefire agreement, which declared that “all Germans residing in France and the French-owned territories who are identified by the Reich government are to be extradited on demand”. This meant de facto the end of political asylum in France. Not even Marseille was a safe haven any longer.
In the ensuing months, Varian Fry and his helpers at the “Centre Américain des Secours” managed to get several thousand refugees over the Pyrenees and aboard ships to safety from the Nazis. In summer 1941 Fry was expelled from France.
The exhibition “Ohne zu zögern… Varian Fry: Berlin – Marseille – New York” at the Akademie der Künste, in the heart of the German capital, pays tribute to a man who also helped and ultimately saved the lives of hundreds of Berliners. Thus the Akademie der Künste also addresses its own history: Leonhard Frank, Lion Feuchtwanger, Heinrich Mann and Franz Werfel were among those rescued and all members of the Akademie until 1933.
18 November – 30 December 2007 at Berlin Academy of Arts, Pariser Platz
On tour from 2008, showing at: Kongresszentrum Davos; Maison Heinrich Heine, Paris; Kunsthaus Viernheim; Ehemalige Synagoge Röbel, Müritz; Stadtgeschichtliches Museum, Kröpeliner Tor, Rostock; Dokumentationszentrum Prora, Rügen; Rathaus Würzburg; Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Steinwache, Dortmund; Leverkusen and Osnabrück adult education centres; Erlangen and Ludwigshafen town museums; university library of FernUniversität Hagen.