When the Nazis occupied Paris in June 1940, thousands of European refugees fled to the south of France. In August of that year, the young American journalist Varian Fry arrived in Marseilles with a list of imperiled refugees taped to his leg. Over the course of the next year Fry, on behalf of the Emergency Rescue Committee, arranged for the escape of over 1,200 artists, politicians and intellectuals, most to the United States. His work was secretive and dangerous, and ultimately he was expelled from France for protecting Jews and anti-Nazis.
In the mid-1960s, in order to raise funds for what by then had become known as the International Rescue Committee, Fry began assembling a collection of prints on the subject of refugee flight. Twelve artists contributed to the project including several whom Fry had saved during the war: Eugene Berman, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Viera da Silva, Adolph Gottlieb, Wifredo Lam, Jacques Lipchitz, André Masson, Joan Miró, Robert Motherwell, Edouard Pignon, and Fritz Wotruba. 300 copies of the portfolio were produced in 1971 before the artists destroyed the plates.