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Justus Rosenberg (1921–2021), Holocaust hero

by Linnea Crowther

Justus Rosenberg was a Holocaust survivor who worked with the French Resistance to help refugees escape the Nazi regime.

French Resistance

A native of Danzig, in modern-day Poland, Rosenberg was sent by his parents to study in Paris in the years leading up to World War II. As the Nazi occupation of Paris neared, Rosenberg fled to Toulouse, in the south of France, where he became involved with the French Resistance. He worked with Varian Fry’s Emergency Rescue Committee, a network that helped Jews and other enemies of the Third Reich escape Nazi Europe. With the group. Rosenberg worked to carry messages and provide forged identity papers to refugees, as well as escorting them across the Pyrenees to Spain. Still in his teens when he began working with the Resistance, Rosenberg was captured at 21 and sent to a concentration camp. He faked appendicitis and was sent to a hospital for surgery, where he escaped during his recovery.

Rosenberg began working with the U.S. Army later in the war, and he was honored with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. His military service also gained him entry to the U.S., where he lived from 1946 on. Rosenberg became a professor of languages and literature. He is believed to have been the last surviving member of Fry’s network.

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Notable quote

“There were many practical matters involved in getting people safely out of France. It required a lot of money, a lot of planning, and a lot of people to carry out the tasks that made rescue possible. I think of these people as the spear-carriers in an army. It seems I was to be a spear-carrier in the struggle for freedom.” —from Rosenberg’s 2020 memoir, “The Art of Resistance: My Four Years in the French Underground”

Tributes to Justus Rosenberg

Full obituary: The Washington Post

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