Justus Rosenberg was the youngest member of the team led by Varian Fry that rescued some of Europe’s most famous artists, writers, and intellectuals who had taken refuge in France prior to the Nazi occupation.
I studied linguistics under Dr. Rosenberg at The New School in the Fall of 2008. I took his class not knowing his background beyond academia, which was significant; his contributions to linguistics are far reaching. Only later did I find out about his heroics in occupied France after stumbling over reports of awards he had received.
We grew fond of each other, two old folks with history behind them, as he said it. We were walking down the hall after class one day and I said to him “I just want to tell you I’m very proud to know you.” He looked quizzically at me, as if I had just complemented him on some Chomskyism or something. He had never spoken of France, in class, or in private. I went on, “…about the war.”
“Bashhhh,” he waved me off with a one handed flourish that I could tell was well practiced at hiding his pleasure at being found out. “That was a long time ago, I was very young,” he said, with just a small smile. Then he asked me where his next class was, as if I, the youngster at 48 should know these things.
The stories of the heroism of the 30’s and 40’s, some of which I also hear from my father, voices of the witnesses to history, from those who were actually there, should all make us question what are we doing today to further their gift of our legacy.
Justice Rosenberg – A hero
(This video was produced by the IRC in February 2009)