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Surrender on Demand

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Surrender on Demand [Paperback]

Varian Fry (Author), Warren Christopher (Preface)
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews) Like (1)

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Book Description

October 1997
Like Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg, Varian Fry risked his life to rescue those targeted by the Gestapo in "the most gigantic man-trap in history." Now, more than fifty years later, the story of this neglected American hero is back in print.

Varian Fry, a young editor from New York, traveled to Marseilles after Germany defeated France in the summer of 1940. As the representative of the Emergency Rescue Committee, a private American relief organization, he offered aid and advice to refugees who found themselves threatened with extradition to Nazi Germany under Article 19 of the Franco-German armistice—the "Surrender on Demand" clause.

Working day and night in opposition to French and even American authorities, Fry assembled an unlikely band of associates and built an elaborate rescue network. By the time Fry left France after 13 months, he and his colleagues had managed to spirit more than 1,500 people from France, among them some of Europe’s most prominent politicians, artists, writers, scientists, and musicians. Their arrival in the United States significantly expanded the intellectual exodus from Europe that began when Hitler came to power, and permanently changed the face of American culture.

Editorial Reviews Review

In 1940, Varian Fry, a young American magazine editor, traveled to France to work as a representative of the Emergency Rescue Committee, a group that offered aid to political refugees in France who were in danger of being extradited to Germany. With the aid of the French government, the Germans were then in the process of creating what Fry calls "the most gigantic man-trap in history." Associating himself necessarily with shady characters who could get things done, including a few double agents and gangsters, Fry managed, during a stay of 13 months, to win the freedom of some 1,500 men and women, among them painters Marc Chagall, Marcel Duchamp, and Max Ernst; dissidents Andre Breton and Victor Serge; writer Franz Werfel; musician Wanda Landowska; and other intellectuals and artists. His memoir, Surrender on Demand, has the makings of a political thriller, and it is deeply inspiring.

From the Publisher

The dramatic story of the underground organization set up by Americans in France to rescue cultural and political refugees from the Gestapo. Published in conjunction with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Johnson Books; 1st pbk. ed edition (October 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555662099
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555662097
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #758,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
A story of loyalty & intrigue, of betrayal & fear. Fry gives us a well-documented record of the cultural and political refugees who were particularly at risk of being captured by the Nazis and lets us observe the many administrative details, and often conflicting policy positions, that were involved in successfully escaping France. Many diplomats and civil service employees put themselves at risk by helping those in need. There is a sense that Fry and others act as if unaware of the dangers. However, as much as readers will try to project on him the image of a romantic American icon like Humphrey Bogart conducting an underground through a locale like Rick's Place (as in Casablanca), they may be disappointed by Fry's matter of fact story-telling here; absent of that cloak and dagger flavor known to Hammet lovers. BUT, it is an accurate picture of a time in history when men realized whether or not their associations with others were in truth, "the beginnings of a wonderful friendship." Betrayal was commonplace and Fry displays this through many turns and climaxes. One reviewer comments that a publisher would never tolerate so many escapes and rescues in a fictional work (almost reminiscient of the comical Hogan's Heroes TV show). And finally, we come to understand that, while many cultural targets were captured, America has benefited from the insurgence of alternative thought and creativity in all media: film, art, literature, science, and philosophy. And all despite any official US foriegn policy to do so. I'm looking forward to a documentary on the subject due to be released in fall 2000!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This is a great story. Well-written, somewhat dry account of everyday bureacratic nightmares involved in getting refugees out of France. This book helped me understand a little more of the fear that people were living under as the Nazis closed in. It made that period in time come into more focus, and I'm glad I read it.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Must Read! September 26, 2002
By Olivos
Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase
Varian Fry's Surrender on Demand

Varian Fry closely takes you through his first hands experiences of often times (thought not all) resorting to not only "illegal" but "ethically" questionable methods in order to carry out the true ethically correct end of saving a great number of lives not his own.

There is no question that his intentions were noble and his end right. There is no question he was fighting against a greater systematic evil that made it illegal to do right things (so that "legality" is hardly relevant in a system where keeping the law meant being utterly and unashamedly unethical, breaking all sorts of moral codes - such as oppressing and murdering the helpless). Mr. Fry and his little organization of private persons both in France and USA almost singlehandedly went against this system at great odds.

The one thing he did "ethically wrong" was lying (falsifying passports and ID cards, and blatantly lying to authorities when there was danger). Not to mention, the French authorities knew this. If there was an eventual indifference from the French government, certainly being American was Mr Fry's most important asset because America was greatly respected as a country (most likely stemming from the US government's generosity in aids, among other things, and the relative affluence of Americans in those days - the dollar was very strong and things in Europe relatively inexpensive).

His book is a delight for those with an eye for detailed accounts, because it helps with the reconstruction of events. From his journalistic background, his writing style is very good and by no means dry, very engaging (i read the remainder ¾ non stop - though i would have probably read the whole thing non stop). It may require slowing the reading pace down because the book is packed with information.

This is a book about people. He is especially sensitive to describing people and their backgrounds. And there are quite a few of them. One advice i can give is to write a list of names and the page number where the name first appear, because many of these names reoccur in latter chapters and it helps to go back to remind oneself of their backgrounds to keep good historical continuity.

No question he and his crew went through great personal sacrifices (hunger, cold, sleep deprivation, grind, high stress, constant unsettling emotional experiences, pressure, personal failures, being taken advantage of - though he does not mention it as such) in order to take advantage of the very short time to save as many people as possible.

At times there is just not much one can do to prepare for crisis. In a war, for example, depleting food stuff, no utilities. What can you do about these? When regions are being bombarded there is no agriculture, no traveling, communication hardware breakdown. Even no internet, if cables are destroyed. But nevertheless it is better to know than not to know.

Also during war, even right in the middle of it, things can actually look very peaceful and its dread fall suddenly, though the warnings have been coming from long before. This long waiting can sometimes delude that everything will be OK, though it was not what the warning messages said...
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