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Happy Birthday To Ridgewood's Varian Fry, Who Helped Jews Flee Nazi Germany

Varian Fry of Ridgewood is estimated to have helped between 2,000 and 4,000 Jewish people escape the Nazis.
Varian Fry of Ridgewood is estimated to have helped between 2,000 and 4,000 Jewish people escape the Nazis. Photo Credit: Varian Fry Facebook

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. -- Happy birthday to the late journalist and humanitarian Varian Fry, who was raised in Ridgewood.

Friday, Oct. 15, would have been his 109th birthday.

Fry was born in New York City, but was raised in Ridgewood from the time he was a toddler.

He first saw the German abuse of Jewish people when he visited Berlin in 1935 as a foreign correspondent. He first raised money to assist anti-Nazi groups, but then went to France to help get both Jews and others in danger of prosecution out to safety.

In Marseilles, Fry and others hid and then smuggled people across the border to Spain, helped some escape by ship and worked to procure visas for those trying to flee.

In total, it's approximated Fry -- who was not Jewish -- helped between 2,000 and 4,000 escape, including noted artist Marc Chagall.

He continued to write, both as a journalist and author, and he also taught college. He died in 1967 at the age of 59.

Fry is often referred to as the "American Schindler," though he was not recognized for his work during his lifetime. In 1996, Israel recognized him as "one of the 'Righteous Among the Nations,' an award given by Israel to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews," according to the Los Angeles Times.

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