In war, whichever side may call itself victor,
there are no winners, all are losers. —Neville Chamberlain
Inspiration Behind the Book
A Little-Known Hero Learning how to write historical fiction about the early months of the war in France meant doing tons of research—and loving it, of course! And my learning curve went sky high! I discovered dozens of events in history I knew little or nothing about...
The characters in my novel The Forger of Marseille danced into my imagination in different ways. Mr. Lieb, a luthier and adoptive father of Sarah, a young Jewish woman in Berlin, was brought back to life from another novel
This is the story of the most intense experience of my life. I have been told that I can’t tell it now, that I can never tell it. But I think I can tell it now and what’s more I think I must.
Real Life Heroes
Donald Caskie was minister of the Scots Kirk in Paris when the Germans were at the gate of Paris in June, 1940. Offered the last berth on a ship in Bayonne, he refused to leave France, feeling a calling to stay. He ended up in Marseille creating a refuge, a legal one, for seamen and British civilians, but it soon turned into a safehouse for British soldiers seeking food, shelter, and a means to return to Great Britain to fight again. He established a network of safe houses and escape routes for allied soldiers.
Betrayed in 1942, he was arrested and sent to Grenoble, warned not to continue his rescues, but he still comforted the refugees and saved lives. He was arrested again and given a death sentence. He spent a year in Italian custody in a “bottle prison,” the size of a man’s body. Finally, a German pastor was allowed to meet with him, and he put in a word with higher ups in Berlin to get Caskie returned to prison in France. After liberation he returned to Paris, to find the key to his church on the hook where he left it. He saved over 2,000 lives and is a hero in his hometown of Islay, Scotland. His Gaelic Bible was recovered and resides in the Scots Kirk on Rue Bayard in Paris.
From the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (https://www.ushmm.org/collections/bibliography/varian-fry):
Varian Fry (1907-1967) led rescue efforts in wartime France that enabled approximately 2,000 anti-Nazi and Jewish refugees to flee Nazi-dominated Europe. In recognition of his efforts, Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust remembrance authority, honored Fry as a “Righteous Among the Nations,” making him the first American to have received that distinction.
Fry’s concern for refugees arose from his shock at witnessing Nazi violence against Jews on a 1935 trip to Berlin and from his later involvement with the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC), a New York-based organization of political activists who gathered after Germany’s defeat of France in 1940 to promote the emigration of refugee intellectuals. In August 1940, under the auspices of the ERC, Fry traveled to Marseille with $3,000 and a short list of refugees under imminent threat of arrest by the police or agents of the Gestapo. Once there, Fry found clamoring at his door a tumultuous horde of anti-Nazi writers, avant-garde artists and German socialists. All were desperately seeking any chance to escape France.
The situation forced Fry to look for assistance and in time he gathered around himself a small group of like-minded Americans, refugees with diplomatic or underworld connections, and those French citizens who were sympathetic to the refugees’ plight. Fry and his compatriots arranged escapes from French internment camps, forged passports, and orchestrated illegal border crossings, among other dangerous activities. Eventually, Fry and his compatriots provided financial or travel assistance to approximately 4,000 refugees and enabled almost half of them to escape, all on limited resources and without the approval of the United States consulate in Marseille.
Fry’s activities put him in conflict with the Vichy police, who put him under surveillance and eventually expelled him from France in September 1941. Fry returned home to New York to a less than warm reception from both the State Department, whose policies he had flouted, and surprisingly from the Emergency Rescue Committee itself, which disapproved of his extralegal methods. What recognition Fry has received has been for the most part posthumous, though the French government did honor him with the Croix de Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur for his rescue activities, just prior to his untimely death in 1967.
The following bibliography was compiled to guide readers to selected materials on Varian Fry that are in the Library’s collection. It is not meant to be exhaustive. Annotations are provided to help the user determine the item’s focus, and call numbers for the Museum’s Library are given in parentheses following each citation. Those unable to visit might be able to find these works in a nearby public library or acquire them through interlibrary loan. Follow the “Find in a library near you” link in each citation and enter your zip code at the Open WorldCat search screen. The results of that search indicate all libraries in your area that own that particular title. Talk to your local librarian for assistance.
Spanish Civil War – Read how the Spanish Civil war developed and progressed. Spain’s Fascist government was aided by German stukas to bomb innocent civilians, such as the village of Guernica, made famous by Picasso’s famous painting “Guernica.” Picasso painted it in rage and grief immediately after the bombing, and the painting appeared at the 1937 exposition in Paris which garnered the word’s attention to the tragedy.
- Beevor, Anthony. “The Battle for Spain.”
- Berlowitz, Judith. “Home So Far Away.”
- Caws, Mary Ann. “Portrait of Picasso’s Weeping Woman—Life and Art of Dora Maar.”
- Chadwick, Whitney. “Farewell to the Muse.”
- Clayton, Meg Waite. “The Postmistress of Paris.”
- Diamond, Hanna and Simon Kitson. “Vichy, Resistance, Liberation: New Perspectives on Wartime France.”
- Diamond, Hanna. “Fleeing Hitler-France 1940.”
- Diamond, Hanna. “Women and the Second World War in France—1939-1948.”
- Drake, David. “Paris at War.”
- Eisenberg, Shelia. “A Hero of Our Own.”
- Evans, Richard J. “The Third Reich in Power.”
- Fogg, Shannon L. “The Politic of Everyday Life in Vichy France.”
- Hochschild, Adam. “Spain in Our Hearts.”
- Jackson, Julian. “France: The Dark Years.”
- Joukowsky III, Artemis. “Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War”
- Kaplan, Marion A. “Between Dignity and Despair-Jewish life in Nazi German.”
- Kladstrup, Don and Petie. “Wine and War.”
- Lisner, Peter. “The Freedom Line.”
- Lottman, Herbert R. “The Fall of Paris.”
- Marino, Andrew. “The Quiet American.”
- Orringer, Julia. “The Flight Portfolio.”
- Paxton, Robert O. “Vichy France.”
- Risser, Nicole. “France Under Fire.”
- Rosbottom, Ronald C. “When Paris Went Dark.”
- Ryan, Donna E. “The Holocaust and the Jews in Marseille.”
- Shirer, William. “The Nightmare Years.”
- Shirer, William. “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.”
- Sullivan, Rosemary. “The Villa Air Bel—World War II, Escape, and a House in Marseille.”
- Thomas, Hugh. “The Spanish Civil War.”
- Vaill, Amanda. “Hotel Florida.”
- Vinen, Richard. “The Unfree French.”
- Bailey, Rosemary. “Love and war in the Pyrenees.”
- Brittain, Vera. “Testament of Youth.”
- Caskie, Donald. “The Tartan Pimpernel.”
- Feuchtwanger, Lion. “The Devil in France.”
- Fittko, Lisa. “Escape Through the Pyrenees.”
- Fry, Varian. “Surrender on Demand.”
- Goldsmith, Martin. “The Inextinguishable Symphony.”
- Guggenheim, Peggy. “Confession of an Art Addict.”
- Hillesum, Etty. “An Interrupted Life.”
- Kaminsky, Sarah. “Adoloph Kaminsky-A Forger’s life.”
- Klemperer, Victor. “I Will Bear Witness-A Diary of the Nazi Years.”
- Koestler, Arthur. “Scum of the Earth.”
- Long, Helen. “Safe Houses are Dangerous.”
- Lowrie, Donald A.. “The Hunted Children.”
- Metz, Julie. “Eva and Eve.”
- Orwell, George. “Homage to Catalonia.”
- Pretzel, Marian. “Portrait of a Young Forger.”
- Rosbottom, Ronald C.. “Sudden Courage.”
- Werth, Leon. “33 Days.”
- Zweig, Stefan. “The World of Yesterday.”
June 1940: The Paris Exodus