Ebel (Davenport), Miriam

Ebel (Davenport), Miriam

Righteous Gentile

Ebel was born in Boston in 1915 and attended school and college in New York. She studied architecture and art at Smith College. Ebel notes that she was aware of the discrimination and persecution of Jews in Germany before World War II.

In 1938 Ebel moved to Paris to continue her study of the history of art. At the beginning of the war in September 1939 she was still living in France. After the fall of France in June 1940 to the German army, Ebel fled along with thousands of refugees in August, 1940, to the unoccupied zone in southern France. According to the armistice with Germany, France was divided into two areas: the occupied zone under German rule and occupation and the unoccupied zone, under a new French regime which was set up in the town of Vichy.

On her way to Toulouse, Ebel met a so called “degenerate artist”, Walter Mehring, who introduced her to Varian Fry. In New York, a group of men and women had formed the Emergency Rescue Committee to get artists, scientists, and political figures who were enemies of the Third Reich out of France. An agent of the Committee, Fry had been sent to Marseilles carrying a list of names of people he was supposed to rescue. Fry was in urgent need of someone to help him so Ebel started to work for the Emergency Rescue Committee. Ebel spoke fluent French and German. Her knowledge of art and artists made her most helpful to the Committee who often needed to judge whether someone was in fact an artist or just claimed to be one. The Committee provided particularly endangered refugees with fake passports, exit visa, and money. In cases where no visa could be obtained, the Committee arranged for the refugee to escape across the frontier to Spain on foot. Fry and his assistants helped between 2,000 and 3,000 endangered persons to flee to the United States.

In November 1940 her visa for France expired and Ebel had to leave France. She tried but could not get another visa so she moved to Yugoslavia. Ebel married in Yugoslavia and returned with her husband to the United States. After the war, Ebel was honored by the state of Israel as a Righteous Gentile, one of those Christians who risked their lives to save Jews. Ebel eventually moved to Michigan where she and her husband became members of the faculty at Central Michigan University.

Interview Information:
Date: May 5, 1999
Interviewer: Hans Weinmann
Length: 1 hour 15 minutes
Format: Video recording