He continued his studies at a Lycee and the Sorbonne in Paris, fled south as the Germans occupied France, and became in Marseille a member of the American-sponsored Emergency Rescue Committee (headed by Varian Fry), whose task it was to save artists, intellectuals, scientists, mostly refugees, from being surrendered by the French Petain government to the Gestapo.
During its one year existence the E.R.C. succeeded in getting hundreds of people out of the country, among them Max Ernst, Andre Masson, Marc Chagall, Franz Werfel, Andre Breton and Heinrich Mann.
As the Vichy police became aware of Justus’s role in the group, to avoid arrest, he hid out in Valence, to be eventually arrested during the 1942 August “Great Roundup” and placed in an assembly camp near Lyon, whose inmates were being sent to Auschwitz.
Two days before the transport was to leave, Justus escaped from the camp and joined, under an assumed name, the French Underground Army (F.F.I).
Following the Allied invasion, he volunteered to become a scout/guide of the Reconnaissance Company of an American Tank Destroyer Battalion. As soon as the Allies entered Germany, he was appointed Supply Officer of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation organization, responsible to provide for the care of 16,000 Displaced Persons (D.P.).
After the war he emigrated to the U.S., continued his studies, got a PhD. in comparative Linguistics and Literature from the University of Cincinnati, and held professorships at Swarthmore College, New York University, the New School for Social Research, Singapore University and Bard College.
To watch Justus Rosenberg speak about his experiences during World War II, including his work with Varian Fry rescuing artists and intellectuals, and his work in the underground, click here.
To read a major profile of Justus in the May 1, 2016 New York Times, click here.
To watch Justus in conversation with Sarah Wildman at the Center for Jewish History on July 27, 2016 click here