CT resident, rescuer of Jewish refugees, will be topic of talk

Varian Fry, who once lived in Easton and has been credited with helping some 2,000 Jews escape Nazi Germany during World War II, will be the subject of a talk in Southbury.

Rita Frost of Newtown will tell the story of Varian Fry at the Jewish Federation of Western Connecticut on Sunday, April 12, at 4 p.m. The program will tie in with Yom Hashoah, Remembrance of the Holocaust and will be held at the Walzer Family Jewish Community Campus at 444 Main Street North.

Among those Fry is credited with saving are painter Marc Chagall, painter-poet Max Ernst, photographer Fred Stein, sculptor Jacques Lipshitz, poet Andre Breton and physician and biochemist Otto Meyerhof, yet few know his name. Frost’s talk will also include a short film about Fry.

Frost serves on the Board of Directors for the Varian Fry Foundation. She has been researching the heroic deeds of Fry for 18 years. She and her colleague, Marion Percy of Stamford, have found 10 people who were rescued, they are all in their 90s.

In 1935, as a journalist visiting Berlin, he saw the brutality, which changed the course of his life forever. Fry wrote an article published in the New York Times, telling the world that Hitler was planning to exterminate the Jews. He learned this after meeting with Ernst Hanfstaengl, a fellow graduate of Harvard. Five years later, while rescuing refugees in Vichy France, he also wrote of the horrid conditions of the concentration camps in France.

Varian Fry lived in Ridgefield from 1956 until shortly before his death in 1967, on Olmstead Lane and later in Farmingville. He also lived in Easton and taught at Joel Barlow. He attended Hotchkiss School and later Fairfield University. He taught Latin and Greek in schools from Ridgefield to Greenwich. “Connecticut is where he was schooled, lived, worked and died … it’s important that we get to know his story,” said Frost.

This year, Frost and Percy have met with the granddaughter of Max Ernst, who is now on their committee. They have also met with Dr. James Fry, Varian’s son. The Varian Fry Memorial is a Connecticut based nonprofit whose mission is to keep the name of Varian Fry alive. More information may be found at varianfrymemorial.org

They have been accepted by the Yale Non-Profit Organization Clinic. Frost and her committee are also working to revive interest in the Varian Fry Foundation.

The Yom Hashoah program is sponsored by the Fay & Max Katz Memorial Yom Hashoah Fund, administered through the Foundation of the Jewish Federation of Western Connecticut.