Is Netflix's 'Transatlantic' based on a true story? Inside the heroic life of Varian Fry

Is Netflix's 'Transatlantic' based on a true story? Inside the heroic life of Varian Fry
Lucas Englander, Ralph Amoussou and Gillian Jacobs in 'Transatlantic' (Netflix)

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: In the upcoming historical drama 'Transatlantic' from Netflix, a journalist (Varian Fry) from the United States arranges for safe passage for refugees from Nazi-occupied France to the United States. The International Rescue Committee's history revolves around this incident.


The show is co-created by Anna Winger and Daniel Hendler, and Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond, and Mia Meyer directed the period drama. Together with Camille McCurry, Anna Winger is also producing 'Transatlantic'.


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Is there any truth to ‘Transatlantic’?

Based on Julie Orringer's 2019 novel 'The Flight Portfolio', the seven-episode historical drama for Netflix depicts Varian Fry, Mary-Jayne Gold, and Albert Hirschmann and their efforts as the "Emergency Rescue Committee" (ERC) during World War II. The novel by Julie Orringer was influenced by the actual rescue attempts performed by the journalist Varian Fry. Fry and his allies were able to safely transport roughly 2,000 Jewish and anti-Nazi refugees back to the United States.



At a luncheon fundraising on June 25, 1940, the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC) was established. They identified 200 artists and academics who were in danger because of the Nazi onslaught across Europe, including Max Ernst, André Breton, and Marc Chagall. American journalist Varian Fry was given the task of helping them escape to the US by locating a secure route. Fry was under police monitoring from the moment he landed in Marseille, and the crew endured continuous harassment and sporadic arrests under the Vichy officials' watchful eyes. Nonetheless, Fry and his associates put in a lot of effort to get refugees' departure visas to leave the country. They even went above and beyond to assist some in crossing the Spanish border without documentation. Fry was deported after being taken into custody by Vichy authorities on August 30, 1941.

Did Julie Orringer’s ‘The Flight Portfolio’ tell the true story?

The novel's author, Julie Orringer, reportedly stated in an interview published on Publishersweekly that she intended to add an emotional dimension to further confuse the math by saying that she intended the readers to consider what may happen if Varian Fry finds himself in a difficult circumstance when someone he cares about needs his assistance. How will he be in a position to assist them?



One of the reviewers of the book, Talya Zax wrote for Forward that "What’s curious about 'The Flight Portfolio' is the extent to which Orringer has crafted the novel’s narrative and moral arcs around characters, and conflicts, that never existed”. She adds "the force that spurs the book forward is, at its most determinative, a work of invention”. One another thing that has been pointed out is Varian Fry’s sexuality, both in the book and series. Fry is shown to be in a relationship with a man but no one can say if it’s true or not.


In conclusion, it can be claimed that the series is mostly accurate, with a few details being embellished to help the audience better comprehend the journalist's point of view and the struggles of the time.



‘Transatlantic’ will be available to stream on April 7 on Netflix.

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 Is Netflix's 'Transatlantic' based on a true story? Inside the heroic life of Varian Fry