Dara Horn is an acclaimed young writer who has toured with all three of her novels, In the Image, The World to Come and All Other Nights, for the Jewish Book Network. Now she has teamed up with Tablet Magazine to publish a ‘Kindle Single’ – an online-only short book about the little known humanitarian activist Varian Fry. Horn initially found Fry’s story intriguing because of their shared background, although they are generations apart. Like Horn, Fry hails from a suburban New Jersey town and graduated from Harvard. She jokes that if they had been in college at the same time, she might have dated him.
Although Fry’s deeds were equal in heroism to those of the celebrated Oskar Schindler, Fry never achieved Schindler’s renown. He risked his life to rescue two thousand of Europe’s top artists, writers, musicians, scientists, and philosophers and their families, included such notables as Hannah Arendt, Marc Chagall, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, and Claude Levi-Strauss.
Fry volunteered to go to France after it fell to the Nazis on behalf of a group of American intellectuals who were trying to rescue European culture. His mission was to find specific endangered people in order to distribute emergency American visas to them. Although never recognized in his time, he was finally honored by Yad Vashem in 1997 as a Righteous Gentile, one of the few Americans to receive this distinction.
Horn delves into the reasons why someone becomes a “good Samaritan.” She discusses Fry’s background and personality, his motivations, the morality of the mission in terms of deciding who should be rescued, and details of the mission itself. This is a fascinating account of one man’s decision to jump in and help others totally unrelated to him during a terrifying time, when few would even consider such an option.
Horn’s writing is intelligent and accessible, with injections of her wry sense of humor. This short read should appeal to anyone curious to learn about a true unsung hero. Reading The Rescuer provided me with two firsts: an opportunity to sample the author’s non-fiction and to try out my first virtual book. As a lover of Horn’s historical fiction and as a die hard fan of the good old paper book, I was tentative about this venture, which turned out to be quite a success!
At $1.99 you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by purchasing this Kindle Single, which can be downloaded to any e‑reader. A caveat: if you’re looking for page numbers or chapters you’ll be disappointed. I can only tell you that there are 745 “locations” to this work, whatever that means.