My colleague Justus Rosenberg died last week at the age of 100. Aside from teaching literature, Justus was known for the stories he would tell about his experiences during WWII, which included working with Varian Fry to help save many Jewish writers, artists, and intellectuals, including Hannah Arendt. Alex Vadukul writes:
For nearly 60 years, Justus Rosenberg was a beloved literature professor at Bard College. Clad in his familiar tweed jacket, he taught French, German and Russian classics and was known for popular courses like “10 Plays That Shook the World.”
But on Bard’s leafy campus in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., Mr. Rosenberg also represented a remarkable living link to Holocaust history.
As a teenager in World War II, he served as a courier in the fabled rescue team of Varian Fry, an American journalist who launched a covert operation that provided safe passage to artists and intellectuals out of Vichy France. The mission aided luminaries like Hannah Arendt, Marcel Duchamp, Marc Chagall, Max Ernst and André Breton.
Mr. Rosenberg then fought in the French Resistance, lobbing grenades at German tanks, and aided the U.S. Army as a reconnaissance scout, earning a Bronze Star. He also received the Purple Heart: a jeep in which he was riding hit a land mine, badly wounding him and killing the soldier who had taken his usual seat.
He died at 100 on Oct. 30 at his home in Rhinebeck, N.Y. His wife, Karin, confirmed the death. Sometimes Mr. Rosenberg’s students prodded him about the past, eager to learn about his heroics during the war, but he preferred to focus on the present. However, if they persisted, and he was in a storytelling mood, he might perch on a classroom table and tell his tale.