The Shame of the State Department
by Gad Nahshon
Even today it is hard to define the 'culture' or the set of values of the State Department as an American 'ancient' civil service entity. But those who believe that history does repeat itself or that one must draw conclusions from history should ask themselves why this entity, since the Nazis came to power, created a wall of iron against rescue policies, against refugee policies. In the 1930's and the 1940's the State Department unveiled a posture of cruelty, of encountering basic human behavior.
Somewhere inside this 'ancient' department, a 'monster' is hiding. This 'monster' hates altruism. And he is a bystander of situations of human beings being tortured. Perhaps it is not the officials, it is the 'collective,' it is the 'entity.' It's soul has been distorted.
As to the Holocaust era, there are those who argue: it is an 'anti-Semitic entity.' Others argue: it is an 'anti-Zionist entity.' Therefore, experts such as George Kennan were anti-Zionists. To be anti-Zionist, to be anti-Semitic, means to be anti-Israeli. Of course, you have to present analytical explanations of the fact that you are a servant of this 'monster.' For example: By a pro-Israeli policy you push Arabs into the Soviet block...
I just finished reading a historical thriller which originally was written in 1945. Recently 'Johnson Books' from Boulder, Colorado, in conjunction with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, re-published this fascinating book Surrender on Demand (preface by Warren Christopher, the ex-Secretary of State.) This book was written by a unique professional rescuer, Varian Fry (1907-1967).
Fry, An American 'scarlet pimpernel' was a founding father of the Emergency Rescue Committee which was active in New York City. Its goal was to find and rescue famous personalities who were anti-Nazi or anti-Fascist (Italy, Spain). Many of them found a temporary refuge in France. But when France collapsed they were in danger. Since the French planned to extradite them to the 'Gestapo' or to France, the committee decided to send Varian Fry to France in order to save them from death. Some of these anti-Nazi leaders committed suicide rather than face Hitler.
Fry, a distinguished writer and journalist came to Marseilles in Aug. 1940. Fry, 32 years old, remained over there about one year and as a rescuer made miracles. He took care of 15,000 people and rescued them by using all kinds of underground trails. He was a magician of rescue. To his 'clients' he was the 'angel of rescue.'
This book Surrender on Demand details the stories of rescues and also the tragic failures. Fry worked under the nose of the French pro-Nazi government and under the nose of the Gestapo. He had to work fast. He knew that the doors would be closed soon. The refugees were his love, his children. He knew that he functioned on the brink of hell in 1940-1941.
Fry saved Jews, but he was not a Jewish rescuer. His mission was to save and rescue refugees of fame. He knew that he must save the endangered Western civilization. The people that he saved contributed to our culture, to our civilization. They managed through Madrid or Lisbon or through North-Africa or the French Caribbean Islands to bring them to London or New York. These people were, for example, Marc Chagall, Hannah Arendt, Jacques Lipchitz, Andre Breton, Marcel Duchamp, Andre Masson, Max Ernst, Franz Werfel, Heinrich Mann, Lion Feuchtwanger, Konrad Heiden, Hans Sahl, Walter Mehring, Ivan Heilbut, Arthur Koestler, Hans Habe, Hans Natonek, Leo Lania, Hertha Pauli, and Otto Meyerhof.
The shame of the State Department stems from the testimony of Fry in this book. Not only that the State Department and its European consuls refused to help Fry in order to accomplish his mission of rescue, rescue of these unique distinguished artists and intellectuals, the ones who contributed so much to America and the West, but this 'entity' helped the French government and its pro-Nazi police stop Fry's activities. Suddenly the French and the State Department managed a campaign of pressure. They told Fry: "You must leave France or you would be deported or arrested." Furthermore, the monster told him that the committee in NYC demanded that he should leave France immediately. But when he called NYC, to his shock he found that it was a lie! They never asked for his return.
It was clear that the State Department objected to his rescue efforts. The entity unveiled its cruelty against the victims of the Nazis or the Fascists as well. American viewed these refugees as 'trouble makers,' 'Reds,' or 'Jews.'
Fry played for time. He never gave up his efforts to rescue more refugees. But one day, when his passport expired, he had to go to the Consul in Marseilles. To his shock the Consul told him after a few days that the U.S. government confiscated the passport!! Fry, at last, gave in and returned to New York City, a sad person, a frustrated one. His legacy has not been forgotten. He was a self-made hero. He demonstrated the fact that often one person can save many from death, from hell. He demonstrated that there were always ways to rescue people from the murderers. Never say, as some argued, that it was not possible to save people or to fight back.
Fry himself was a modest person. He was active in journalism but he died in 1967 as a retired teacher in Redding, Connecticut, leaving his papers to Columbia University. This book Surrender on Demand is evidence to the existence of a 'monster' inside the soul or entity of the State Department. Perhaps he retired in our time. This monster was much bigger than the 'Jews' or 'anti-Semitism,' much bigger. Even today one cannot understand the attitude of the State Department to Varian Fry. After all, this country always opens its gates to the international 'brain drain.' In the 1950's the gates were opened for the ex-Nazis or ex-facsists brain drain. (Do you remember the Paper Clip Project?)
As I explained, there was an explanation by the monster: We need them in order to win the Cold War... Let me quote (p. 251) a letter which Ms. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote to Eileen Fry (wife) on May 13, 1941 in response to the confiscation of Fry's passport: "I think he will have to come home because he has done things which the government does not feel it can stand behind. I am sure they will issue him a passport..."
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