Varian and Putzi: A 20th Century Tale

“In his life, [Varian Fry] was endlessly looking for himself and for the man he truly was.” –Andy Marino, author, A Quiet American, The Secret War of Varian Fry

“Putzi Hanfstaengl was constitutionally incapable of fitting in. He was an eternal exile; always apart, never at home.” –David Marwell, author, Unwanted Exile: A Biography of Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstaengl


frywebSummary: Varian fry—Harvard Graduate, class of 1931; writer, journalist, teacher; organizer of clandestine rescue operation in 1940 that saved hundreds of Europe’s intellectual and artistic elite.

Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstaengl—Harvard Graduate, class of 1909; early supporter and confidant of Hitler; Foreign Press Chief of the Nazi Party; secret wartime advisor to Franklin Roosevelt.

Varian Fry and Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstaengl met only once, in 1935.  At that meeting, Putzi, then Foreign Press Chief of the Nazi Party, revealed to his fellow Harvard alumnus the Nazi’s plan to “exterminate” the Jews of Europe.  The impact of what Fry was told changed the course of his life. This documentary examines the lives of these two men, one a hero who rescued hundreds, the other an anti-hero who betrayed his fatherland when he became a secret wartime advisor to President Roosevelt.

Varian and Putzi: A 20th Century Tale is a compelling exploration of some of the twists and turns of twentieth-century history, a tale of circumstance and choice, and a recounting of two men’s personal journey through this history, and of their differing responses to the events of their times, and hot the actions of a single individual can affect its course.

Year/ TRT: 2003/ 80 minutes