The Forger of Marseille

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. —George Santayana

It’s 1939, and all across Europe the Nazis are coming for Jews and anti-fascists. The only way to avoid being imprisoned or murdered is to assume a new identity. For that, people are desperate for papers. And for that, the underground needs forgers.
In Paris, Sarah, a young Jewish artist originally from Berlin, along with her music teacher and father figure, Mr. Lieb, meet Cesar, a Spanish Republican who knows well the brutality of fleeing fascism. He soon recognizes Sarah’s gift. She will become the underground’s new forger.

When the war reaches Paris, the trio joins thousands of other refugees in a chaotic exodus south. In Marseille, they’re received by friends, but they’re also now part of a resistance the government is actively hunting.  Sarah, now Simone, continues her forgery work in the shadows, expertly creating false papers that will mean the difference between life and a horrifying death for many. When Mr. Lieb is arrested and imprisoned in Les Milles internment camp. Simone, Cesar, and their friends vow to rescue him, enlisting the help of American journalist Varian Fry, known for plotting the escapes of high- profile people like Andre Breton and Marc Chagall. In this enlightening and thrilling story of war, love, and courage, author Linda Joy Myers explores identity, ingenuity, and the power of art to save lives.

 

Inspiration Behind the Book

Donald Caskie

How my characters came to life in Forger of Marseille

Foreword to Surrender and Demand

Real-life Heroes

Donald Caskie was minister of the Scots Kirk in Paris when the Germans were at the gate of Paris in June, 1940. Offered the last berth on a ship in Bayonne, he refused to leave France, feeling a calling to stay. He ended up in Marseille creating a refuge, a legal one, for seamen and British civilians, but it soon turned into a safehouse for British soldiers seeking food, shelter, and a means to return to Great Britain to fight again. He established a network of safe houses and escape routes for allied soldiers.

Betrayed in 1942, he was arrested and sent to Grenoble, warned not to continue his rescues, but he still comforted the refugees and saved lives. He was arrested again and given a death sentence. He spent a year in Italian custody in a “bottle prison,” the size of a man’s body. Finally, a German pastor was allowed to meet with him, and he put in a word with higher ups in Berlin to get Caskie returned to prison in France. After liberation he returned to Paris, to find the key to his church on the hook where he left it. He saved over 2,000 lives and is a hero in his hometown of Islay, Scotland. His Gaelic Bible was recovered and resides in the Scots Kirk on Rue Bayard in Paris.

 

From the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Varian Fry:

Varian Fry (1907-1967) led rescue efforts in wartime France that enabled approximately 2,000 anti-Nazi and Jewish refugees to flee Nazi-dominated Europe. In recognition of his efforts, Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust remembrance authority, honored Fry as a “Righteous Among the Nations,” making him the first American to have received that distinction.

Fry’s concern for refugees arose from his shock at witnessing Nazi violence against Jews on a 1935 trip to Berlin and from his later involvement with the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC), a New York-based organization of political activists who gathered after Germany’s defeat of France in 1940 to promote the emigration of refugee intellectuals. In August 1940, under the auspices of the ERC, Fry traveled to Marseille with $3,000 and a short list of refugees under imminent threat of arrest by the police or agents of the Gestapo. Once there, Fry found clamoring at his door a tumultuous horde of anti-Nazi writers, avant-garde artists and German socialists. All were desperately seeking any chance to escape France.
The situation forced Fry to look for assistance and in time he gathered around himself a small group of like-minded Americans, refugees with diplomatic or underworld connections, and those French citizens who were sympathetic to the refugees’ plight. Fry and his compatriots arranged escapes from French internment camps, forged passports, and orchestrated illegal border crossings, among other dangerous activities. Eventually, Fry and his compatriots provided financial or travel assistance to approximately 4,000 refugees and enabled almost half of them to escape, all on limited resources and without the approval of the United States consulate in Marseille.

Fry’s activities put him in conflict with the Vichy police, who put him under surveillance and eventually expelled him from France in September 1941. Fry returned home to New York to a less than warm reception from both the State Department, whose policies he had flouted, and surprisingly from the Emergency Rescue Committee itself, which disapproved of his extralegal methods. What recognition Fry has received has been for the most part posthumous, though the French government did honor him with the Croix de Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur for his rescue activities, just prior to his untimely death in 1967.

The following bibliography was compiled to guide readers to selected materials on Varian Fry that are in the Library’s collection. It is not meant to be exhaustive. Annotations are provided to help the user determine the item’s focus, and call numbers for the Museum’s Library are given in parentheses following each citation. Those unable to visit might be able to find these works in a nearby public library or acquire them through interlibrary loan. Follow the “Find in a library near you” link in each citation and enter your zip code at the Open WorldCat search screen. The results of that search indicate all libraries in your area that own that particular title. Talk to your local librarian for assistance.

Additional Resources

Abbreviated Bibliography

Books

  • Beevor, Anthony. “The Battle for Spain.”
  • Berlowitz, Judith. “Home So Far Away.”
  • Caws, Mary Ann. “Portrait of Picasso’s Weeping Woman—Life and Art of Dora Maar.”
  • Chadwick, Whitney. “Farewell to the Muse.”
  • Clayton, Meg Waite. “The Postmistress of Paris.”
  • Diamond, Hanna and Simon Kitson. “Vichy, Resistance, Liberation: New Perspectives on Wartime France.”
  • Diamond, Hanna. “Fleeing Hitler-France 1940.”
  • Diamond, Hanna. “Women and the Second World War in France—1939-1948.”
  • Drake, David. “Paris at War.”
  • Eisenberg, Shelia. “A Hero of Our Own.”
  • Evans, Richard J. “The Third Reich in Power.”
  • Fogg, Shannon L. “The Politic of Everyday Life in Vichy France.”
  • Hochschild, Adam. “Spain in Our Hearts.”
  • Jackson, Julian. “France: The Dark Years.”
  • Joukowsky III, Artemis. “Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War”
  • Kaplan, Marion A. “Between Dignity and Despair-Jewish life in Nazi German.”
  • Kladstrup, Don and Petie. “Wine and War.”
  • Lisner, Peter. “The Freedom Line.”
  • Lottman, Herbert R. “The Fall of Paris.”
  • Marino, Andrew. “The Quiet American.”
  • Orringer, Julia. “The Flight Portfolio.”
  • Paxton, Robert O. “Vichy France.”
  • Risser, Nicole. “France Under Fire.”
  • Rosbottom, Ronald C. “When Paris Went Dark.”
  • Ryan, Donna E. “The Holocaust and the Jews in Marseille.”
  • Shirer, William. “The Nightmare Years.”
  • Shirer, William. “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.”
  • Sullivan, Rosemary. “The Villa Air Bel—World War II, Escape, and a House in Marseille.”
  • Thomas, Hugh. “The Spanish Civil War.”
  • Vaill, Amanda. “Hotel Florida.”
  • Vinen, Richard. “The Unfree French.”

Memoirs

  • Bailey, Rosemary. “Love and war in the Pyrenees.”
  • Brittain, Vera. “Testament of Youth.”
  • Caskie, Donald. “The Tartan Pimpernel.”
  • Feuchtwanger, Lion. “The Devil in France.”
  • Fittko, Lisa. “Escape Through the Pyrenees.”
  • Fry, Varian. “Surrender on Demand.”
  • Goldsmith, Martin. “The Inextinguishable Symphony.”
  • Guggenheim, Peggy. “Confession of an Art Addict.”
  • Hillesum, Etty. “An Interrupted Life.”
  • Kaminsky, Sarah. “Adoloph Kaminsky-A Forger’s life.”
  • Klemperer, Victor. “I Will Bear Witness-A Diary of the Nazi Years.”
  • Koestler, Arthur. “Scum of the Earth.”
  • Long, Helen. “Safe Houses are Dangerous.”
  • Lowrie, Donald A.. “The Hunted Children.”
  • Metz, Julie. “Eva and Eve.”
  • Orwell, George. “Homage to Catalonia.”
  • Pretzel, Marian. “Portrait of a Young Forger.”
  • Rosbottom, Ronald C.. “Sudden Courage.”
  • Werth, Leon. “33 Days.”
  • Zweig, Stefan. “The World of Yesterday.”

Praise for The Forger of Marseille

“Myers movingly conveys the traumas faced by her Jewish characters who flee Nazi Germany only to find themselves caught up in the turmoil of the 1940 Paris exodus and the early months of the occupation of France. Their involvement in Marseilles’ growing resistance movement highlights the crucial work of Varian Fry and Donald Caskie who aided the escape of countless individuals pursued by the authorities. In this gripping story of a tumultuous period of history, Myers offers us a vivid and compelling read.”

—Hanna Diamond, author of Fleeing Hitler, and professor of French History at Cardiff University

 

Praise for The Forger of Marseille

The Forger of Marseille transports you to interwar Europe where you experience warmth, wine, and song in the cafés of Paris and also discover skills the forger must master to rescue Europe’s victims. In her historical novel, Myers reveals important figures such as Varian Fry who saved thousands, and points an accusing finger at France as it capitulates to occupation and betrays its citizens. A lesson for nations of today and a call for peace through art.”

—Judith Berlowitz, author of Home So Far Away

Praise for The Forger of Marseille

“In this carefully researched and crafted novel, The Forger of Marseille, Linda Joy Myers tells the story of resistance by those who risked their lives to save others—one of the few bright spots in the Holocaust. While accurately portraying what went on in France in 1940, Myers weaves elements of love, tension, art, music, and the gradual unfolding of her characters as they begin to trust one another. Myers draws the reader in with her descriptive prose and insight into what individuals endured during that horrific time.”

—Merle R. Saferstein, retired Director of Educational Outreach at the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in South Florida

Praise for The Forger of Marseille

The Forger of Marseille a historical gem! Myers delivers an absolute page-turner with just the right amount of suspense and laced with a gripping love story. The historical detail, pitch-perfect prose, and realistic dialogue makes this one unputdownable. You’ll be thinking about these characters long after the last page is finished. Highly recommend!”

—Michelle Cox, author of the Henrietta and Inspector Howard series.

Praise for The Forger of Marseille

“This well-paced story of an artist turned forger in WWII era France weaves fictional characters with real-life people in a novel of gripping authenticity.”

—Barbara Stark Nemon, award winning author of Even in Darkness and Hard Cider.

The Forger of Marseille is available from these sources:

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