Varian Fry was an American journalist who was in Germany in 1935 and saw what Nazism meant and was moved to do something about it. Varian Fry wasn’t Jewish, but thankfully his conscience was touched by what he saw. After Germany invaded France in 1940, he asked permission of the U.S. State Department to rescue Jews from the one part of wartime Europe that he could go to, namely Vichy France (see related article on Vichy here.
In August 1940 he set up a ‘front’ in Marseille in Vichy France posing as a concerned citizen who wanted to alleviate the circumstance of refugees by donations of food, clothing, and the like. Behind this front he set up a clandestine operation to help Jews get out of France. He helped thousands make the journey overland to Spain and from there to Portugal, and he helped others escape by sea. The U.S. State Department pressured him to get out but he stayed until he was kicked out by the Vichy French Authorities, after two years of operations.
Fry grew up in Ridgewood, New Jersey and there is a permanent exhibition in his honor at the public library, and a street named after him.
Further reading: Assignment: Rescue
an autobiograpy by Varian Fry
Published 1945 in conjunction with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum ISBN 0-590-46970-3