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Villa Air-Bel: World War II, Escape, and a House in Marseille

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  117 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
France, 1940. The once glittering boulevards of Paris teem with spies, collaborators, and the Gestapo now that France has fallen to Hitler's Wermacht. For André Breton, Max Ernst, Marc Chagall, Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry, and scores of other cultural elite who have been denounced as enemies of the Third Reich the fear of imminent arrest, deportation, and death defines their ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published October 30th 2007 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Erik Graff
Jan 13, 2017 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Westerners
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
This is a history of the Emergency Rescue Committee, its Centre Americain de Secours operations in Vichy France and of the many who worked there and the thousands they rescued during World War II. Originally assigned to facilitate the escape from European fascism of prominent intellectuals and artists, promoted by Eleanor Roosevelt, but stymied repeatedly by the U.S. State Department, the CAS, founded and organized by Varian Fry, went on to help others as well, among them refugees from the Stali ...more
Jul 22, 2011 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was loaned to me by my father-in-law who is a huge WWII buff. I keep swearing off the genre, and then run across something fascinating like this one. I haven't actually read very much about relief efforts in Vichy France, so this book contained a lot of information that was new to me. The author did in-depth research and was able to provide a really complete picture of the many players in this drama. I found the philosophical underpinnings of the war to be very well explained. It was a ...more
Jul 07, 2013 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
An incredible story! An American refugee organization in Marseilles tries for years to get Jewish, communist and other Nazi-targeted refugees out of the country. Varian Fy is at the center of a coterie of artists, intellectuals and adventurers who congregate at the Villa Air-Bel while waiting for visas, exit permists and money orders to arrive. Tales of everyday heroism, of incredible humanity and pluck, and of the slow erosion of French culture under the Vichy regime. A very poignant read.
Carrie R
There are so many stories that have come out of the atrocities and trials of World War II- most of them we will never hear about or read about it. This book is the story of one American's attempt (successful most of the time) to save some of the great artists and intellects who were trapped in German-occupied France & considered enemies of the Nazi regime.
Angel Serrano
En la Francia ocupada de la II Guerra Mundial, un joven americano luchará por facilitar la huida de los intelectuales alemanes, judíos y europeos en general en peligro de ser deportados al régimen nazi. Escrito como un documental, el libro es un alegato por la libertad.
May 28, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really found this book fascinating. This is the story about Varian Fry and his operations in Marseille during the era of the Vichy regime. The book does a great job at describing the setting, and the story had me sitting on the edge of my chair.
May 17, 2010 Melanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Impeccably well researched, and engaging like a novel while sticking to the facts as they were. Awesome book.
Aug 21, 2008 Eileen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting. Another story about the atrocities, but not as graphic, during the Nazi regime...
Nov 07, 2011 Ari rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why I decided to read this book:

I decided to read this book because World War II interests me as well as art also I needed to read a book for a book that teaches me about another time in history.

Which category on the bingo board does this book complete:

A book that teaches you about another time in history.

What I liked about this book and why:

I liked how it gives you a really well described view on what happened during WWII from many different perspectives, also I learnt sides of history that I p
Nov 06, 2015 Allyson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a chilling read and I was reminded of the movie "Casablanca" throughout the reading simply with the constant mention of transit and exit visas.
I did not find the use of feelings and dialogue annoying or distracting as I usually do in biographies as the subject matter was so compelling and engrossing. What a horrific time to live through and I marvel at the ability of those who helped others putting their lives at great risk and many times losing them. I am thankful books such as these
Jul 17, 2016 Johan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is a great read and an important reminder how crucial it is to continue to help refugees and not hide behind excuses not to do so. Unfortunately one cannot in this day and age read this book and draw parallels with what is happening now at our European borders, although I doubt this was the intention of the writer when she wrote the book almost 10 years ago, when the international situation was altogether different. A reminder too about the cowardly collaboration of so many French citizens an ...more
Jan 07, 2016 Marianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great subject: Varian Fry really does need more recognition as the dedicated rescuer he was for many refugees trying to leave France during WWII. The beginning of the book does spend a bit too much time "setting the scene" of what was happening in France and the War. Most people interested in reading about the rescue of intellectuals, artists, poets and the like would already know most of that and want to dive right into the subject. That being said, a good read.
Aug 09, 2014 Bev rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating true story of a refuge for outcast artists and writers during the Nazi occupation of Paris in WWII. A chateau on the outskirts of Marseille is home to a number of famous figures (Max Ernst, Victor Serge, Marc Chagall, Consuelo de Saint-Exupery, Remedios Varo, Benjamin Peret, and scores of other cultural elite denounced as enemies of the Third Reich)-- a glimpse of the desperation and creativity of people who fear for their lives. Loved it.
Oct 19, 2014 Johanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book greatly helped my understanding of the very human struggles of those that lived through WWII. Not believing the worst, hoping beyond hope for the best, walking a tightrope of fear and courage, petty battles and great art. How do you chose who is to be saved? Who to leave behind? Lives distilled, focused painfully on the edge.
Feb 02, 2008 Diana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
Slightly choppy & confusing at the beginning due to the vast number of people being written about. Well researched & interesting to anyone with an interest in WWII, France & the artists & writers of that period
Jan 31, 2016 Raphaelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish the writing and especially the editing were better . Nevertheless, this book is worth reading for the heroics of the very few who worked to get refugees out of Vichy France. It is horrifying to read just how evil that administration was, and how our State Department aided and abetted them.
This book was very well written, and well researched. The author clearly had investigated the story thoroughly, and found a lesser-known holocaust story to tell. I have read a lot of books about the holocaust and learned a lot from this book about some of the famous artists and Varian Fry.
Feb 22, 2010 Lu marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii, france
WWII France
Aug 17, 2015 Sharon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. Fascinating true story. I am always humbled by the experiences of those people who lived during and survived the hell of WW2.
Dec 16, 2008 Darrell rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub
Very interesting to learn about wartime France.

Well written but hard to follow all the characters and the seemingly hap-hazard timing.
Ana rated it it was amazing
Sep 06, 2014
Bonnie Stanaitis
Bonnie Stanaitis rated it liked it
Nov 16, 2014
M Golesworthy
M Golesworthy rated it liked it
Jan 09, 2017
Denjeel rated it really liked it
Mar 22, 2014
Dominique rated it it was amazing
Jan 10, 2015
Sharon rated it it was amazing
Jan 03, 2009
tina rated it really liked it
Jul 29, 2008
Lindsay rated it liked it
Aug 23, 2009
Michael rated it liked it
Aug 06, 2015
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Rosemary Sullivan (born 1947) is a Canadian poet, biographer, and anthologist.

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