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Invisible Heroes of the Resistance

Lisa and Hans Fittko (Photo: Yad Vashem)

Hans and Lisa Fittko

Hans Fittko was born into a blue-collar Christian family in Brandenburg, Germany in 1903. He dropped out of school at the age of 12, but educated himself and became a renowned journalist. However in 1933, he was threatened with arrest by the Nazis and fled to Prague. There, he met Lisa Eckstein, a Ukrainian Jew who had also fled Germany, and who acted as an underground resistance fighter against Hitler's regime.

Hans and Lisa were married in Prague, but soon were forced to flee, first settling in Paris and then moving south after the Nazi occupation. On their way to safety in Lisbon, the Fittkos met Varian Fry, a journalist from the U.S. whose rescue network would save thousands during the Holocaust and who was the first American named Righteous Among the Nations. Fry asked his new friends for help. Despite the risk it posed to them, Hans and Lisa agreed to help Fry and his refugees.

From a French mayor, Lisa learned of an old smuggling path across the Pyrenees. And so, starting in September 1940, Hans and Lisa led countless victims of Nazi persecution along this secret route, known as "Route F."

Over the next year, the Fittkos smuggled many people to safety, before escaping the Nazis themselves in the fall of 1941. Hans and Lisa later immigrated to the U.S., where Lisa lived to the age of 95, also writing two memoirs of her exploits. Hans, being a Gentile, was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 2000. Both are remembered as invisible heroes of the resistance, for the selflessness and bravery they showed in the face of evil.

Tags: Advocates and Allies

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