Passport log sheds light on consular history

Passport log consular history

Photo: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Learn more about the work of the Emergency Rescue Committee and humanitarians like Varian Fry, Mary Jayne Gold and Albert Hirschman who inspired Transatlantic.

By Lindsay Henderson Passport log consular history

U.S. Consulate General Marseille Passport log consular history

When the U.S. Consulate General in Marseille cleaned out its basement file room in the summer of 2014, an unusual item came to light. Too large to fit in a shredder, a massive old ledger book was set aside. One of the consulate’s locally employed staff flipped through it, noting the many names of famous Americans listed on its pages. Recognizing it for what it was—the consulate’s register of passport services for U.S. citizens from the early days of World War II—a record of a community during wartime and a document of brave Americans from all walks of life who took great risks to save the lives of others, she put it in a drawer for safekeeping.

Passport log book, US Consulate Marseilles

Nazi Regime in France

The port city of Marseille on France’s southern coast has been a crossroads for migration since ancient times. During the 1930s, it hosted thousands of refugees from the Spanish Civil War, and, as the Nazis rose to power in Germany, the city also hosted German Jews, dissidents, artists, and others who fled the Nazi regime. When Germany invaded France in June 1940, additional refugees flocked to Marseille from Paris and other parts of Nazi-occupied northern France. Many of these refugees—often stateless—were forced into camps located throughout the region, where conditions were often grim, and the threat of being sent to Nazi-occupied territory was constant. Passport log consular history

Emergency Rescue Committee

A private American group called the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC) developed a list of anti-Nazi refugees who were in grave danger of being turned over to the Nazis. Reaching out to Eleanor Roosevelt for assistance, they managed to convince Congress to allocate a limited number of non-quota immigrant visas for these individuals.

Log book detail, US Consulate Marseilles

The ERC hired American journalist Varian Fry to go to Marseille, locate the people on the list, and to try to get them out of France. Using both legal and illegal techniques—including helping people legitimately obtain visas and exit permits, but also facilitating the smuggling of some travelers across the border into Spain—Fry helped more than 2,000 people emigrate to the United States.

Lindsay Henderson is U.S. consul general at Embassy Lima. 

Read the full exciting story at the State Magazine…
Netflix, new series – Transatlantic, inspired by the story of humanitarian Varian Fry & the origins of the International Rescue Committee.

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