An Adventurer, Actor, and American Righteous Gentile

Stand for Israel  |  June 26, 2023

Last year, we told you the story of the first American who was named a Righteous Gentile, Varian Fry, and the many Jewish lives he saved during the Holocaust. And today, we’ll tell you about the American who helped Fry in his holy work—Charles Fernley Fawcett, a soldier, fighter pilot, actor, adventurer, and friend of the Jewish people.

Born of “old Virginia stock” in Georgia, Charles Fernley Fawcett was raised in South Carolina, and left home to join the Merchant Marines at age 16, also working as a jazz musician and professional wrestler in the years of the Great Depression.

Before the United States entered World War II, Fawcett was ready to fight the Axis powers. First joining the Polish Army to fight the oncoming Nazis in 1939, Charles was on his way to North Africa to join the French Resistance when he heard of the work of Varian Fry.

As one of Fry’s loyal helpers, the small group of Righteous Gentiles would save over 2,000 Jews during the Holocaust, including artist Marc Chagall and writer Hannah Arendt. In one daring rescue, Fawcett and a friend posed as German ambulance drivers, marching into a Nazi stronghold and leaving with a group of injured British POWs.

Later in the war, Fawcett trained to be a fighter pilot, but his childhood tuberculosis caught up with him and landed him in a sanitarium. But before the war was over, Charles returned to Europe, where he posed as the husband of Jewish women, allowing them to escape certain death. When the Gestapo learned of his ploy, Charles was forced to flee once again. He then joined the French Foreign Legion, with whom he fought until the end of the war, earning both the Croix de Guerre and the Eisenhower Medal.

After the war, Fawcett continued his life of adventure and service, fighting the communists in the Greek Civil War (wearing a leisure suit as he fought, disguised as a journalist), rescuing refugees during the 1956 Hungarian Uprising, flying rescue missions during the 1960s civil war in the Belgian Congo, and founding the International Medical Corps.

In between these daring exploits—and using his travel for Hollywood as a cover—Charles Fernley Fawcett appeared in over 100 films with the likes of Errol Flynn and Robert Taylor. But it is for his rescue of God’s people during their darkest hour that we remember this American Righteous Gentile.