Rescue in the Holocaust by Diplomats - Hiram Bingham, IV
Hiram Bingham and U.S. State Department Chronology
Hiram Bingham was the American Vice Consul in charge of visas, stationed in Marseilles, France, in 1940-1941. Shortly after the fall of France, Bingham, against the orders and policy of his superiors, issued visas, safe passes, and letters of transit to Jewish refugees. Many visas were falsified in order to protect the refugees from internment. Bingham helped set up the contacts and issued visas for the Emergency Rescue Committee, headed by Varian Fry. Bingham also worked with other rescue operations in Marseilles, including the American Friends’ Service Committee (Quakers), the American Red Cross, the Unitarian Service Committee, the Mennonite Committee, and Jewish relief organizations. Bingham also worked with the Nîmes (Camps) Committee. He was, in part, responsible for saving several thousand Jews. Among them were many anti-Nazi activists, labor leaders, and Communists. He also rescued Jewish artists, intellectuals, writers and scientists, such as Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, André Breton, Heinrich Mann, and Jewish Nobel Prize winners. Bingham visited the concentration camps and facilitated issuing visas to Jews trapped in the Les Milles French concentration camp. In May 1941, Bingham helped the Quakers, the Nîmes Committee and the OSE rescue several hundred Jewish children by issuing US visas. These children left France in June 1941. In 1942, Bingham was transferred to the US embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the end of the war, he reported on the immigration of Nazi war criminals to Buenos Aires. He wrote numerous reports and encouraged his supervisors to report these activities to the State Department. His superiors did nothing and he resigned from the Foreign Service in protest. In 2000, Bingham was presented the American Foreign Service Association Constructive Dissent award by the US Secretary of State. In 2005, Hiram Bingham was given a letter of commendation from Israel’s Holocaust Museum. In 2006, a US commemorative postage stamp was issued in his honor.
February 5, 1917
US Congress passes Comprehensive Immigration Act of 1917. It restricts immigrants who are “likely to become public charges” (LPC). A special provision of this law exempts “persons fleeing persecution because of religious faith” [Jews] from taking the mandatory literacy exam. World War I virtually sweeps from American consciousness the old belief in unrestricted immigration.
May 26, 1924
The Immigration Act of 1924, also called the Johnson-Reed Bill, the National Origins Act, signed into law, stipulates annual immigration cap at 164,667 persons, or 2% of each Caucasian nationality as determined by the census of 1890. This act will still be in force in 1940-1941, with slight amendments. US consuls in Europe are required to follow this law. This is important because the decision to grant visas to aliens is placed in the hands of consular officers rather than immigration officers at US ports of entry. Under Section 24, “The Commissioner General, with the approval of the Secretary of Labor, shall prescribe the rules and regulations for the enforcement of the provisions of this Act; but all such rules and regulations, insofar as they relate to the administration of this Act by consular officers, shall be prescribed by the Secretary of State on the recommendation of the Secretary of Labor.”
July 1, 1929
New US immigration quota is set at 153,714. It sets an annual quota based on the census of 1920. It severely limits immigration from southern and eastern Europe. Immigration from Poland, Russia and Germany is greatly limited. The Polish quota goes from 30,977 visas in 1921 to 6,524 in 1924.
September 8, 1930
US Immigration Law of 1917 is enforced by the Hoover administration to limit immigration to the US. As a result of the depression, it strictly enforces the “likely to become a public charge” clause. It directs consular officials “before issuing a visa…to pass judgment with particular care on whether the applicant may become a public charge and if the applicant cannot convince the officer that it is not probable, the visa will be refused.” Immigrants must have funds and produce affidavits from relatives in the US. The demand for visas drops by 75%. 241,000 immigrate to the United States in 1930.
President Hoover states, with regard to the decline in US immigration: “With the growth of democracy in foreign countries, political persecution has largely ceased. There is no longer a necessity for the United States to provide an asylum for those persecuted because of conscience.” Later in 1932, the American Federation of Labor states: “There is not a country in the world where there is not religious or political persecution.”
November 8, 1932
Franklin Delano Roosevelt elected President of the US by a landslide.
January 30, 1933
Adolf Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany by German President Paul von Hindenburg.
The Nazi party becomes the ruling party in Germany.
There are 525,000 German Jews, including those living in the Saar District. German law defines Jews by race. Under German law, there are 566,000 Jews. Jews comprise less than one percent of the German population.
More than 52,000 Jews leave Germany in the first year of the Nazi government. There are 37,000 German Jews traveling who remain abroad.
There are 4,770,000 Jews in the United States. Most live in urban areas of the northeast. Most Jews support Franklin Roosevelt in his bid for President. American Jews are sympathetic to the plight of German Jews.
Cyrus Adler, president of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), tries to persuade US Secretary of State to intervene on behalf of persecuted German Jews.
March 4, 1933
Franklin D. Roosevelt inaugurated as 32nd President of the United States. Roosevelt appoints Cordell Hull as Secretary of State and Sumner Wells as Assistant Secretary of State.
Worldwide boycott of German goods establishes a headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
US Secretary of State Cordell Hull waves police certificate requirement for immigrants coming from Nazi Germany. This is intended to protect immigrants from reprisals from the Nazi government.
December 27, 1935
James MacDonald, High Commissioner for Refugees of the League of Nations, issues a scathing report and resigns in protest over the failure of the League to help Jews. MacDonald is concerned about the complete indifference to the plight of refugees worldwide.
League of Nations calls for a conference on the refugee crisis. US Secretary of State Cordell Hull advises Roosevelt that the US should not participate.
Hiram “Harry” Bingham, IV assigned to the US consulate in Marseilles, France. He is vice consul in charge of the visa section.
January 20, 1937
Roosevelt is inaugurated for a second term as US President.
US Ambassador to Germany William E. Dodd formally protests treatment of Jews in Germany. He protests the confiscation of Jewish property and other civil rights violations. He sends numerous reports to the State Department, many of which are ignored.
March 13, 1938
Anschluss (annexation of Austria). Austria becomes a province of the German Greater Reich and is renamed Austmark. Vienna loses its status as a capital and becomes a provincial administrative seat. All antisemitic decrees imposed on German Jews are immediately applied in Austria. Nearly 200,000 Austrian Jews come under Hitler’s control.
As a result of the Anschluss, the Roosevelt administration combines both the German and Austrian quotas together.
April 14, 1938
Rescue and relief organizations meet to “undertake a preliminary consideration of the most effective manner in which private individuals and organizations within the United States can cooperate with this government in the work to be undertaken by the International Committee which will be shortly created to facilitate the emigration of political refugees from Austria and Germany.” This committee becomes the Presidential Advisory Committee on Political Refugees (PACPR).
May 16, 1938
The President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees (PACPR) meets at the US State Department and appoints James G. MacDonald as Chairman and Samuel Cavert as its Secretary.
July 6-15, 1938
Representatives from 32 countries and 39 private organizations, 21 of which are Jewish, meet at Evian, France, to discuss international refugee policies. All of the participating countries refuse to help or let in more Jewish refugees. The US does nothing to help refugees. There is a saying among Jews in Europe: “The world is made up of two types of countries: the kind where Jews could not live and the kind where Jews could not enter.” The lack of support for Jewish refugees signals to Hitler that the world is unconcerned with Jewish refugees.
The US State Department declares, “No country would be expected to make any changes in its immigration legislation.”
President Roosevelt meets with State Department officials to discuss the refugee crisis. State Department issues directive to US consuls to issue fewer visas.
November 9-10, 1938
Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass): anti-Jewish pogrom in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland. Thousands of Jews are beaten, hundreds killed; 200 synagogues set fire and destroyed; 7,500 Jewish shops looted; 171 Jewish homes destroyed; 30,000 German, Austrian and Sudeten Jews sent to concentration camps (Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen), 15,000 from Austria. 680 men and women commit suicide in Austria.
The US Ambassador to Germany Hugh Wilson sends an extensive report about the Kristallnacht pogrom to the US State Department. Wilson recommends that strong diplomatic action be taken against Germany for the persecution of Jews.
November 17, 1938
The British ambassador to the United States in Washington meets with the Undersecretary of State, Sumner Wells, and offers to allow 32,500 German Jews to come to Great Britain. Wells refuses the offer.
November 18, 1938
In response to the Kristallnacht persecution of Jews, Roosevelt recalls the US Ambassador to Germany, High Wilson, back to Washington “for consultation.”
President Roosevelt announces visitors’ visas for approximately 15,000 refugees will be extended. This is in response to the Kristallnacht pogroms.
December 27, 1938
Presidential Executive Order 8029 is signed into law. It requires certain documents to be submitted for immigration to the US. This is later superseded by Executive Order 8430, signed on June 4, 1940.
Between 1933 and 1939, 14,000 anti-Jewish laws are passed in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia.
300,000 Germans, 90% of them Jewish, apply for visas to the United States.
US admits only 90,000 immigrants in 1939.
60 anti-alien proposals are introduced into the US Congress in 1939. These proposed laws are supported by so-called patriotic and nativist organizations. American public opinion polls indicate that opinion against changing immigration laws to favor refugees goes from 67% in 1938 to 83% in 1939.
January 21, 1939
The French government opens first concentration camp for foreigners and Jewish refugees in the district of Mende.
February 9, 1939
The Wagner-Rogers bill is introduced into the US Congress. It proposes to allow 10,000 refugee children under 15 years of age to be admitted to the US in 1939-1940. The Nonsectarian Committee for German Refugee Children lobbies for this legislation. They propose that refugee children be taken care of with private money and assistance. The bill is supported by Eleanor Roosevelt, Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, Frances Perkins, Francis Biddle, and former US President Herbert Hoover. Due to anti-refugee feelings and pressure groups, the bill is stalled and eventually put aside.
March 28-29, 1939
Spanish Republican government surrenders to General Francisco Franco in Madrid, ending the Spanish Civil War.
March 31, 1939
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and the French President Edouard Daladier declare that Britain and France will go to war with Germany if Poland is attacked.
After the Spanish Civil War ends, thousands of anti-Franco Republican soldiers of the International Brigade flee to southern France. More than 70,000 refugees enter the Bouches du Rhône region of southern France.
The US recognizes Franco’s Nationalist government.
July 20, 1939
French authorities order military registration for all men of draft age. This includes foreign refugees.
August 30, 1939
A French government memorandum reads: “All foreign nationals from territories belonging to the enemy must be brought together in special center.” This memorandum is in response to the flood of German, Austrian, Czech and Spanish refugees entering France.
September 1, 1939
Germany invades Poland. World War II begins.
The French believe that the Polish army will hold out and offer stiff resistance to the German army. However, Poland collapses in only three weeks.
The British and French Armies mobilize, but do nothing to intervene in the attack on the West. They lose an important opportunity to stop German aggression.
Beginning of the drôle de guerre (phony war) or Sitzkrieg (sitting war).
The French government enacts anti-Jewish measures against the Jews in Paris.
There are between 300,000 and 330,000 Jews living in France; 200,000 live in Paris. This is less than one percent of the total population in France, which is 43 million.
Three thousand German and Austrian Jews are interned in French camps as “undesirable aliens.”
The French government arrests German and Austrian nationals who have landed in French ports but who are bound for the western hemisphere. Most of these are Jews fleeing the Nazis. Most are interned in Les Milles detention camp.
By the outbreak of war, nearly 70% or 185,246 Jews in Austria have emigrated. Many go to southern France.
The French government outlaws the French Communist Party.
State Department Order #810 establishes a Special Division “to handle special problems arising out of the disturbed conditions in Europe” (War Problems Division).
September 3, 1939
In response to the German invasion of Poland, France, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand officially declare war on Germany. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain forms a wartime cabinet with Winston Churchill as the First Lord of the Admiralty.
September 4, 1939
All Austrian and German male refugees residing in France between the ages of 17 and 50 years are ordered to report for internment.
September 6, 1939
State Department Order #813 appoints Breckinridge Long Special Assistant in the Department of State in charge of Special War Problems Division.
The French government opens numerous concentration camps throughout France to house the influx of refugees entering the country. Eventually, they become deportation centers to the Nazi death camps.
October 1, 1939
By this date, the Marseilles police arrest more than 13,000 Germans and Austrians, most of whom are Jews.
October 16, 1939
The Intergovernmental Committee meets in Washington to discuss the refugee crisis. FDR calls for a major plan to resettle Jewish refugees from Europe into a “supplemental national home.” A number of major proposals are submitted to Roosevelt. Because of Roosevelt’s indifference and lack of attention, no plan is adopted.
President Roosevelt appoints Breckinridge Long as Assistant Secretary of State for Special Problems. Long supervises 23 of the 42 divisions of the State Department. Among his duties is overseeing the visa section, civilian internees, overseas relief, prisoners of war, immigration and refugee policies. From the outset of his appointment, Long is opposed to helping refugees escape Nazi Germany and its occupied territories. Long claims that refugees entering the country pose a major security risk for the United States. This, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Long and his associates in the State Department implement anti-Jewish immigration policies. This policy lasts until the creation of the War Refugee Board in January 1944. Further, Long exploits divisions among American Jewish groups. He states in his diary, “there is no cohesion, nor any sympathetic collaboration—rather rivalry, jealousy and antagonism…”
Roosevelt submits a list of 200 people to the State Department to be given special consideration, i.e., emergency visas.
January 29, 1940
State Department Order #835 appoints Breckinridge Long as Assistant Secretary of State for Administration.
February 16 and 23, 1940
Assistant Secretary of State Adolph A. Berle, Jr., tries to persuade US Secretary of State Cordell Hull to protest treatment of Jews in Poland. This request is based on a report by the Chargé in Warsaw, Alexander Kirk. Berle sates: “We should register a protest. We did so during the far less significant, though more dramatic, riots of a year ago November; and I see no reason why we should not make our feelings known regarding a policy of seemingly calculated cruelty which is beginning to be apparent now.” The protest is ultimately quashed by Breckinridge Long.
February 17, 1940
Reorganization of the Visa Division of the US State Department. Visa division responsibility is to “ensure the uniformity of procedures and a uniform interpretation of the immigration laws and regulations by our consular officers throughout the world. General instructions affecting the administration of immigration laws originate in the Visa Division in cooperation, in appropriate instances, with other divisions of the Department and with the Department of Labor.” Note: Chief of the Visa Division, Avra Warren, attends legislative committee meetings regarding proposed legislation regarding immigration.
New administrative policy on the issuing of visas: “the consular officer may desire to have the documents submitted by such persons include evidence to show not only that the sponsors are financially able to support the applicants but that their interest in the applicants and their plans for the latter are such that the sponsors will in all probability assume the obligation of supporting the intending immigrants for an indefinite period of time.”
May 10, 1940
Germany invades the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. 136 German divisions participate in the invasion. Germans enforce anti-Jewish measures in each area. In the wake of the German invasions, more than 8 million persons are displaced all over Europe.
May 12, 1940
Germany invades France.
May 17, 1940
Commanding General of the French army Maxine Weygood declares that the invasion cannot be stopped and France should accept reasonable terms for an armistice with Germany.
May 20, 1940
Concentration camp established at Auschwitz, Poland. It will become the largest and deadliest death camp in the Nazi system. More than 1.2 million Jews, and tens of thousands of others, will be systematically murdered there.
May 26-June 4, 1940
Following the encirclement of Allied forces in northeastern France, the British, French and Belgian forces are evacuated from Dunkirk, France. 338,226 soldiers are rescued by 861 ships.
Marshal Pétain is installed by the Nazis as head of the French state with Pierre Laval his Vice President of the Council of Ministers. Pétain is granted executive powers under the armistice agreement and the French National Assembly is merely a “rubber stamp.”
Pétain abolishes the French constitution of 1875 and dismisses the French Senate and Chamber of Deputies. Pierre Laval is a Nazi collaborationist and puppet. Laval will eventually comply with German requests to turn over for deportation foreign Jewish refugees in France. Ironically, Laval will protect naturalized French Jews.
The Third French Republic no longer exists.
Civil liberties in France are suspended.
France is divided into two zones. The northern zone is administered by German military forces. The south, called the “Free Zone,” is established in the resort town of Vichy. The Nazi military occupation forces control about two thirds of France.
Four million French, Belgian, Luxembourg and other refugees have fled the German onslaught.
France is forced to pay Germany 400 million francs a day as a war indemnity.
The French begin to implement Nuremberg-style antisemitic laws imposed on all Jews in France. These laws and policies are initiated entirely by the Vichy government. These restrictive laws and decrees will eventually disenfranchise most foreign Jews in France.
By the end of 1940, Lisbon becomes a major center of refuge for thousands of Jews escaping Nazi occupied Europe. Until the end of June 1940, trains regularly run from Berlin, Vienna and Prague to Lisbon. The Jewish Joint Distribution Committee provides money for destitute refugees who have escaped to Lisbon. The US consulate in Lisbon processes hundreds of visas to Jewish refugees.
US embassies and consulates in Nazi-occupied Europe (Germany, Austria, France, Holland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Luxembourg) are ordered to begin closing. US embassy in Paris will be moved to a new headquarters in Vichy.
US visa regulations for refugees are severely tightened. Refugees must now be able to prove that they can return to the countries of their origin from which they are fleeing. This is, in most cases, impossible because they are subject to arrest in their home country. Further, visa waiting periods are significantly lengthened.
After the surrender of France, a US Gallup Poll shows that 58% of Americans are willing to admit French and British children to the US during the war.
June 4, 1940
The US Immigration and Naturalization Service is transferred from the Department of Labor to the Justice Department, ostensibly for reasons of national security.
Breckinridge Long writes in his diary: “Still engaged in preparation of papers, consultations with Justice and Labor and arranging final draft executive orders and telegrams to restrict the granting of visas and to stop up the holes of unauthorized immigrants into the United States. Provided the President signs the Executive Order we will dispatch a long telegram which will tighten up our Consular examinations of persons requesting visas all along the line…”
June 5, 1940
Executive Order #8430 signed into law. It remains in effect until June 3, 1941. It supersedes Executive Order #8029 of December 1938. Part I, Sec. 1: Nonimmigrant aliens must present unexpired passports or “travel documents showing their origin and identity” and “valid passport visas.” Part II, Sec. 1: “Alien immigrants must present unexpired passports from country to which they owe allegiance and valid immigration visas granted by consular officers. Part VI: The Secretary of State and the department head charged with the administration of the immigration laws are hereby authorized to make such rules and regulations, not inconsistent with this order, as may be deemed necessary for carrying out the provisions of this order and the statues mentioned herein.”
The Secretary of State sends a cable to diplomatic and consular officers: “In view of the international situation, it is essential that all aliens seeking admission into the United States, including both immigrants and nonimmigrants be examined with the greatest care. Effective immediately, all applications for…nonimmigration visas, transit certificates and limited entry certificates, except as hereinafter specified, shall be executed in triplicate on Form 257, under oath administered by the Consul.”
June 11, 1940
General Weygood declares that the battle for France is lost and advises the French government to maintain order and avoid chaos of war.
A million French soldiers are taken prisoner by the German armed forces.
French government evacuates Paris.
June 14, 1940
The US President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees (PACPR) submits list of 600 refugees to be issued special emergency visas.
June 14, 1940
Paris falls and the French government is transferred to Bordeaux. More than 1 million refugees pour into the south of France, more than 195,000 of whom are Jews.
June 16, 1940
French Vichy government is established under World War I hero Marshal Philippe Pétain. Pétain becomes head of the French cabinet. Pétain asks for an armistice eight days before the fighting ceases.
June 21, 1940
The Bloom-Van Nuys Immigration Law is passed and takes effect on July 1. Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long lobbies for this bill. It was meant to encourage US consuls stationed in Europe to deny entry to the US by refugees based on the possibility that they could endanger public safety. This law is intended to prevent refugees from receiving visas. A clause in this law called the “close relative clause,” denies visas to people who have relatives in Nazi-occupied territories. Almost all refugees have close relatives in their home countries. This restrictive clause sends a clear message to US embassies and consulates that help to refugees is to be restricted and discouraged. This act imposes upon immigrants five complicated levels of visa application review. This complicated review is designed to take power away from local consuls to make independent decisions regarding the suitability of the immigrant to enter the US. Decisions by diplomats often have to be reviewed by the Department of State, Navy and Army intelligence, the Department of Justice, and the FBI. Refugees denied visas have long, complicated appeals processes. The process often takes up to five months to process applications. More than one half of visa applications are rejected by the US State Department. The strict provisions of the Bloom-Van Nuys Act are not rescinded until May 1945. For the rest of the war, only a small fraction of US immigration quotas for German, Austrian, French and other European refugees will be filled.
Long further imposes on diplomats and consuls the regulation that potential refugees must obtain exit visas from the countries they are leaving, to include Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Southern France, before they can obtain an entry visa to the US. By mid-1940, these exit visas from Nazi government are extremely difficult to obtain. Long understands that these regulations will tie up refugees in elaborate rules and regulations of government red tape, stating: “We can delay and effectively stop for a temporary period of indefinite length the number of immigrants into the United States. We could do this by simply advising our consuls to put every obstacle in the way and to resort to various administrative advices which would postpone and postpone the granting of visas.”
James McDonald, of the President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees (PACPR) is outraged by the Bloom-Van Nuys Act: “The so-called relative rule should be cancelled or substantially modified. Our experience with refugees has convinced us that it is unnecessary, illogical, ill-adapted to the purposes claimed for it, and cruelly burdensome on the refugees affected by it.”
A number of US diplomats independently subvert the intention of the Bloom-Van Nuys Act and provide visas to a number of Jewish refugees.
June 22, 1940
France surrenders to Germany. The French sign an armistice with Germany; in Article 19 of this document, the French agree to “surrender on demand” all persons named by the German authorities in France. France is divided into two zones. The French Army is limited to 125,000 officers and soldiers in metropolitan France.
Approximately 350,000 Jews reside in France at the time of the German invasion. They constitute less than one percent of the total population of France, which is 45 million. France becomes the largest population center for Jews in Western Europe.
France is divided into two zones. The northern zone is administered by German military forces. The south, called the “Free Zone,” is established in the resort town of Vichy. The Nazi military occupation forces control about two thirds of France.
June 23, 1940
General Charles de Gaulle, head of the French National Committee in London, pledges war against Germany.
June 24, 1940
France signs an armistice agreement with Italy.
June 27, 1940
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and influential refugee advocates, including Thomas Mann and Joseph Chamberlain, influence the President to authorize the issuance of emergency visas to notable Jewish artists, labor leaders and other refugees in France who are endangered. As a result, the National Coordinating Committee for Aid to Refugees draws up a list of prominent refugees to receive temporary emergency visas to the US. In all, the names of 3,286 individuals of “superior intellectual attainment, of indomitable spirit, experienced and vigorous support of the precepts of liberal government, and who are in danger of persecution or death at the hands of autocracies.” This rescue project is undermined by Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long and senior State Department officials in Washington. The State Department cuts the list down and slows the processing of temporary emergency visas. By December 19, 1940, only 238 emergency visas are issued by the State Department. When the rescue effort is ended in January 1941, only 1,236 emergency visas will have been issued. The refusal of Long and his deputies to approve and expedite these visas leads to complaints among members of PACPR.
Joseph Buttinger and Paul Hagen go to Washington, DC, to petition Mrs. Roosevelt to influence her husband to issue emergency visas to notable Jewish artists, labor leaders and other refugees in France. Mrs. Roosevelt immediately calls her husband and persuades her husband to authorize the emergency visas.
June 28, 1940
US Congress passes the Alien Registration Act of 1940. It requires registration and fingerprinting of all resident aliens above 14 years of age.
The British government recognizes General Charles de Gaulle as leader of the Free French organization during the German occupation of France.
June 29, 1940
Cable from the Secretary of State to diplomatic and consular officers: “All applications for immigration visas must be examined with extreme care during the present period of emergency no such visa should be issued if there is any doubt whatsoever concerning the alien. Although a drastic reduction in the number of quota and nonquota immigration visas will result therefrom and quotas against which there is a heavy demand will be underissued, it is essential to take every precaution at this time to safeguard the best interests of the United States.”
20,000 Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg are interned in the 31 French camps in the southern unoccupied zone.
An estimated 30,000 Jews escape from France into Spain and Portugal with the help of rescuers. Upon arrival in Lisbon, these refugees are helped by Jewish relief agencies such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Hebrew Immigration and Sheltering Society (HIAS).
US Vice Consul in Marseilles, Hiram “Harry” Bingham IV, liberally issued visas to many Jews who had come to the US consulate in Marseilles. In addition, Bingham worked secretly with a number of rescue and relief agencies in the Marseilles area. Bingham conducts inspection tours of conditions in the French concentration camps and reports his findings to these groups.
In an impressive rescue, Bingham aided in the rescue of best-selling author Lion Feuchtwanger. Feuchtwanger, an anti-Nazi German author who had been considered for the Nobel Prize in literature, had been arrested and interned in a French/Nazi concentration camp. Lion Feuchtwanger was one of the men most wanted by Hitler in France as a result of his scathing attack on Hitler in his anti-Nazi historical novel The Oppermanns, published in 1934, which detailed the horrors of Nazism after Hitler rose to power.
American Consuls Harry Bingham and Miles Standish planned and implemented the rescue and escape of Lion Feuchtwanger from the concentration camp at Nimes. Feuchtwanger was dressed in women’s clothing and passed through several German checkpoints. Feuchtwanger was taken to Bingham’s villa disguised as Bingham’s mother-in-law from Georgia. There he was reunited with his wife Marta, who had also been released from a concentration camp.
German writer Lion Feuchtwanger is hiding in Bingham’s house in Marseilles. Bingham tells Feuchtwanger “all about the work that emigrants are making for him. He is always tired and exhausted.”
July 8, 1940
Eleanor Roosevelt writes Varian Fry explaining that she is trying to get the President to get cooperation of South American countries to accept refugees.
July 16, 1940
French Jews are removed from the Colmar region in Alsace. 22,000 Jews are expelled.
July 22, 1940
A French commission is set up to review French citizens who have been naturalized since 1927. It is set up with the intention of revoking the citizenship of citizens who are considered “undesirable.” 15,000 people, including 6,000 Jews, have their citizenship revoked.
Feuchtwanger writes in his diary, “Bingham is an awkward, friendly, puritanical, dutiful, somewhat sad New Englander, who is very attached to his wife. He very much misses her and his children who have been removed to America. The servants are bad and not very friendly. Bingham tells about all the work that emigrants are making for him. He is always tired and exhausted.”
July 28, 1940
Feuchtwanger writes in his diary, “With Bingham personal understanding is getting better. Towards evening, however, while I am speaking with him, he gets a telephone call from his consul-general, which puts him into a sharp conversation. It's about a quite unimportant matter, but he is totally troubled, and I fear that my own thing will be unfavorably influenced by this coincidence. Nevertheless, he explains very confidentially about his difficult position in the Consulate, and our personal relations improve.”
July 29, 1940
Feuchtwanger writes in his diary, “At noon Lilo arrives. In the camp on the day of my abduction French officers, who were supposed to bring me away, were looking for me. When they can't find me, there is great excitement and poor Wolf is suspected of an abduction in collaboration with the Nazis. Everything a bit dark. Lilo's husband is in Sanary [French town where Feuchtwanger had been living for 8 years -- ed]. In our house a certain Joachim, a refugee is also lodging. In the evening Bingham is in a happier mood. For the moment, his clash with the consul-general has had no consequences. General conversation about national economic problems.”
American private citizen Varian Fry, appointed by the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC), arrives in Marseilles, France. He is empowered to save artists, writers, composers and other intellectuals who are on Hitler’s arrest lists. Fry and his volunteers make contact with numerous foreign consular officials who issue him hundreds of legal and extra-legal visas and other documents to help Jews escape the Nazis. These diplomats include US Vice-Consul Hiram “Harry” Bingham. Fry and his associates organize escape routes over the Pyrenees mountains for refugees. Hans and Lisa Fittko are among his most able guides. The Fry group will rescue an estimated 2,500 persons.
Hiram Bingham introduces Varian Fry to Frank Bohn, a rescue activist representing the AFL-CIO. Dr. Bohn says of Bingham, “He is the Vice Consul in charge of visas...he has a heart of gold. He does everything he can to help us...”
During this period, Bingham uses his villa as a safe house for some of the most wanted refugees, including Lion Feuchtwanger and his wife Marta as well as Golo Mann. In early August 1940, Bingham tells Feuchtwanger, who is hiding in his villa, that he is in great personal danger.
In addition, many clandestine meetings are held at Bingham’s house. At his villa, Bingham introduces Varian Fry to Captain Du Bois, an anti-Nazi member of the Marseilles police. Du Bois provides secret information regarding French and Nazi arrests and internments to Bingham, Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee. Du Bois also provides assistance in planning escape and rescue efforts. Fry writes in his autobiography: “Harry Bingham invited me to dinner at his villa, to meet Captain Dubois. Captain Dubois was a member of the Marseille staff of the Sûreté Nationale. Though a Vichy policeman, he was friendly to England and America, and Harry thought it would be useful for me to know him. It was. Dubois was the first French official I had met who was familiar with my case and willing to talk about it.”
Despite the risk to his career, for a year Bingham continues his efforts on behalf of Jews and anti-Nazi refugees residing in occupied France. Bingham continues to provide visas and affidavits for refugees detained in French concentration camps. These papers enable the refugees to be released so that they can travel to the consulate and make contact with the ERC and other rescue agencies. Bingham far exceeds his authority and the regulatory requirements of the US State Department by assisting those he knows are planning “illegal” escapes. Bingham issues visas to refugees without the normal 4-6 month waiting period. In addition, Bingham coordinates with the rescue organizations to develop escape plans for the refugees.
August 4, 1940
European writer Lion Feuchtwanger is still being hidden at Vice Consul Bingham’s home in Marseilles. He writes in his diary, “Bingham hints that I should leave, he fears that it will be too dangerous for him if I stay too long in his house. After that he made a portrait of me. I read. Worked. Bingham expresses regret and explains that of course he still wants to keep me here.”
August 5, 1940
Feuchtwanger writes in his diary, “Just after she [Marta] left, my tent friend Wolf [a fellow transit camp internee - ed] telephones. That's very pleasant. It's also good that the maid believes that the caller is Golo Mann and not Wolf, because Bingham is not supposed to know that with the exception of Golo Mann, no one knows that I am living in his house.”
August 6, 1940
The French order a census of all foreigners.
August 7, 1940
British government signs agreement with the Free French organization of French exiles under Charles de Gaulle.
Feuchtwanger writes in his diary, “Slept very badly. Wonderful weather. Standish and his wife are there for breakfast, I am awkward. Then, quite unexpectedly, Lilo arrives with her husband…She says it is too dangerous for me to return to Sanary and advises that I should dog Bingham as long as possible and that I should try hard to obtain a fake French document. But Mr. Brousse, through whose intervention that might work, is not here. In the afternoon, spoke to kind Loewenbein, but he also had no advice. In the evening Standish is here again; he wants to speak with a flyer about whether he would perhaps fly me to Portugal.”
August 9, 1940
Acting Secretary of State Sumner Welles signs Departmental order #870. Functions of the Visa Divisions: “To have general charge, within the scope of the authority of the Department of State, of the administration of the Immigration laws and regulations,” and “To initiate the policy action of the Department and to advise the Secretary of State in respect to problems arising from the measures necessary for the strengthening of the national defense; and to supervise the carrying out of these policies,” and “To maintain liaison with other Departments and Agencies of this Government and with Committees of the Congress concerned with entry and expulsion of aliens.”
August 10, 1940
Feuchtwanger writes in his diary, “At noon come Bingham and Standish. The latter explains that it won't work with the fake papers, they cost 50,000 Franks.”
August 11, 1940
Feuchtwanger writes in his diary, “At noon Bingham brings the man from the American Federation of Labor [Frank Bohn? - ed]. He explains that with regular procedures there is absolutely nothing that can be done. But he wants to put a smuggling boat at my disposal. Everything very adventurous but not quite hopeless.”
August 12, 1940
Feuchtwanger writes in his diary, “Wonderful weather. Slept OK. The prospect of escape lifts my mood, but the impending hardships and dangers make me nervous. Worry about whether I can take Marta with me. But Bingham takes it as obvious. Worked a bit.”
August 17, 1940
Feuchtwanger writes in his diary, “I try to suggest to Bingham that he should give me a visa with the name Wetcheeck. He goes along with it and is happy that he thought of it himself. We have a lively conversation…Then Bohn phones, and shares that the boat will indeed go, wants gas from the Wolfs. Bohn and another American from his people, Fry, eat here in the evening. Many problems emerge. Gabbed quite a lot with Bingham.”
August 27, 1940
Vichy repeals the Loi Marchendeau [Marchendeau Law] that protects religious and racial groups against press attacks “when it is intended to arouse hatred among citizens or residents.”
August 29, 1940
Feuchtwanger writes in his diary, “Bingham in a bad mood. I did not sleep long enough. A lot of unpleasant little things to think about. Then Wolf arrives and reports that the whole story with the exit visa and Toulouse has gone out the window and that they will probably be keeping careful watch on Mrs. Wetcheek and Mrs. Feuchtwanger.
Big panic. Back and forth, what should one do if someone comes to Bingham inquiring about Wetcheek and so forth. A half hour later he calls, everything is over. It turns out that it certainly is not so simple but rather that the people with our passes have been arrested and now a big bribe must be paid to the police. Then Heinrich Mann arrives and reports in a depressed manner that the story about the boat come to naught again. Then I'm supposed to meet an influential communist, but instead of that Kantorowicz stands in for him. Very tired. Evening with Bingham and Fry who comes late. I let the meal pass by without inquiring what exactly is wrong. Then I ask, and it turns out that the boat is not going and never will go. Instead of this, Fry suggests that we should under his protection simply go over the Spanish border illegally. The plan immediately takes shape and I quickly agree without delay. A lot of individual technical difficulties, but I am in a good mood because finally there is a tangible plan.”
Bingham writes to his wife regarding issuing visas: “Hectic day…at least 100 callers—and many visas to give.”
September 6, 1940
US Minister in Portugal Herbert C. Pell, in cable to the Secretary of State, expresses concern that the Departmental Order of July 26, 1940 is “resulting in visas being granted in many cases to the least desirable element.” Requests that instruction of July 26 be modified [to make it more restrictive] and that consuls be instructed to act in accordance with provisions outlined in telegrams of June 5, and June 29. Pell cautions that certain aliens, not necessarily the most desirable, are receiving priority because they have been able “through organizations in the United States to have their names put on special lists for favorable consideration.” Pell states that “It is openly and frequently said that the Consulate can be overruled by anyone able to use influence in the United States and it is suggested that this influence is purchased.”
September 12, 1940
New review procedure for refugee artists and intellectuals seeking visas and entry to the United States in the summer of 1940. The names of these refugees are submitted to the President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees (PACPR). If PACPR approves an individual, the information is forwarded to the Department of Justice and to the Department of State. The consuls are then instructed as follows. On exit permits: “Consuls have been informed that they may furnish the applicants with notifications regarding their status as of possible assistance to them in applying for exit permits and for transit visas…” “It has been the general practice of consular officers, before issuing visas to applicants in countries which require exit permits, to ask that permission to depart be first obtained in order to avoid embarrassment which might be caused through the issuance of visas to applicants who should not be permitted by their governments to depart.” The US should “avoid any possible charge of implication in attempts of aliens to evade the laws of their countries with which this country maintains friendly relations.” However, “a distinction may be drawn between cases of citizens and non-citizens, especially in the occupied areas of France, and consular officers in France have already been informed by telegraph that in view of the representations which have been made that citizens who are not nationals of the country may find it of assistance in making arrangements to proceed on their journeys, to obtain their visas, such visas may be issued without first requiring the applicants to obtain exit permits, it being understood in such cases that the applicants will have the full responsibility for making the necessary arrangements to proceed on their journeys.”
September 14, 1940
Consulate in Vichy communicates to the Secretary of State regarding Fry and AFL-CIO representative Frank Bohn: “As the matter is in danger of becoming a public scandal, I reluctantly feel that I must report the activities of Dr. Bohn and Mr. Fry in their well-meaning endeavors to help unfortunate aliens reach the United States. The Prefect at Marseille has taken occasion to tell Hurley of the ‘difficulty and delicacy of this position by reason of the certainty and inevitability of reprisals which would follow violation of the Armistice regulations consequent on the illegal departure of emigrants of certain nationalities.’ He asked Hurley to make this plain to Americans ‘such as Mr. Fry and others.’” This communication shows the ambivalence by the US consulates in Vichy France regarding the helping of refugees by relief agencies.
September 18, 1940
Breckinridge Long writes in his diary: “A number of developments in our procedure in granting visas in [excess] of the quota have troubled me recently…” Long goes on to discuss how he wishes to take the power to grant visas away from the President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees (PACPR). “I layed [sic] it before the Secretary [of State Cordell Hull], and he authorized me to present the whole matter to the attention of the President. I did this today in the form of a letter which reviewed the situation and asked his consent to change the procedure, which would place in our Consuls abroad rather than in the President’s Committee in New York the final determination as to whether the person was entitled to entry into the United States…And now it remains for the President’s Committee to be curbed in its activities so that the laws again can operate in their normal course. I have felt that the procedure of extending visas to persons in the categories indicated was a perfectly legitimate practice provided the bars were not thrown down to the extent that the categories were expanded and a lot of person admitted to the United States in contravention of the law. I have been very careful to limit the authorization of visas to the end that the law be observed, and in my opinion a departure from this practice would be in effect to render the immigration laws nugatory.”
September 19, 1940
Cable from Secretary of State to certain diplomatic and consular officers (Lisbon, London, Moscow, Stockholm, Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Casablanca, Oporto, Zurich): “To correct any misunderstanding regarding visa work, all visa applications should be carefully examined and if any doubt exists regarding alien’s activities in the past and possible activities in the United States which might be inimical to the United States, action in the case should be suspended and the alien should be requested to present clear evidence to establish essential facts.”
September 24, 1940
Long writes in his diary: “A long session this evening with James G. McDonald and his man Warren and Welles. McDonald is very wroth at the limitation upon the activities of his Committee, which were set out in a letter sent to him by the Secretary. He looks upon me as an obstructionist and was very bitter and somewhat denunciatory. There were a few warm words between us, but it straightened out. He said he wanted to see the President, and I said I hoped he would and would lay the whole matter before him.”
September 27, 1940
Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis alliance is signed.
First antisemitic German law (Verordnung) is enacted in the occupied zone. It defines Jews by race. It requires Jews to register with the police in the French prefects. It orders a census of Jews to be conducted by October 20, 1940. It requires Jews to publicly identify their businesses. In addition, it forbids Jews who flee to the southern zone from returning to the northern occupied area. This law requires Jews to have all of their papers stamped with the word “Jew.”
Under this law, the French Vichy government can arrest and send foreigners to the newly established labor camps. These camps are called Foreign Labor Battalion (GTE) camps. Prisoners are forced to work under severe conditions. Relief agencies in France protest the conditions in these camps.
September 28, 1940
Lion Feuchtwanger thanks US Vice Consul Harry Bingham for helping him escape from Vichy.
October 3, 1940
French Vichy government enacts Statut des Juifs [Jewish Statute]. This law has constitutional authority. Under this law, Jews are defined as Jews not by religion, but by race. The law is signed by Pétain and Laval and eight members of the French government. It is a law that removes many Jewish civil rights. Jews are forbidden from holding government positions, military service, teaching, and other public positions. Unemployed Jews are now subject to internment. All Jews under the French and German laws must register with the French police. Jews must carry an ID card with the words “Juif” or “Juife” [Jew] in bold red letters.
Breckinridge Long meets with President Roosevelt and convinces him to implement a policy that will let local US consuls make the final decision regarding visas to be issued to refugees. Long does this because he believes most US consulates will deny visas on the issue of a possible threat by the refugee to “national security.” He states in his diary, “About noon I had a long satisfactory conversation with the President on the subject of refugees. McDonald, Chairman of the President’s Advisory Committee on Refugees, has developed a very definite and violent antagonism to me. He thinks I have been non-cooperative and obstructive and has given evidence of his personal animosity. In a recent conversation in Mr. Welles’ office he indicated that he had a superlative ego and a vindictive mentality added to his disregard, to put it lightly, of me.” He goes on to say: “I found that [Roosevelt] was 100% in accord with my ideas.”
October 4, 1940
The Vichy Law of October 4 authorizes French prefects to arrest and intern “foreigners of the Jewish race” in “special camps.”
Concentration camps in France are administered and staffed solely by Frenchmen. There are 31 camps established throughout France. Conditions are harsh and brutal. 50,000 Jews are interned in French camps in the north and south. 70% of those interned in the south are Jewish. Between 3,000 and 4,000 Jews die in these camps. The camps are so inhumane that even Vichy officials complain. One official writes: “The internees’ living conditions put the honor of France on the line...” Even the German Red Cross is horrified by the conditions in the camps, which include starvation and death. News of the conditions in the camp is disseminated throughout the world.
By the end of 1942, 42,000 internees in these camps will be transferred and killed in the death camps in Poland.
The Riversaltes concentration camp in France, in the winter of 1941-1942, has a mortality rate of 14-18% per year.
50,000 German and Austrian Jews are sent to forced labor units doing heavy labor or working in war industries.
Jews of Baden and the Saarland are deported and interned in French concentration camps. 800 of these internees will die in the winter of 1940-1941. In November 1942, the surviving refugees of this deportation will be deported and murdered in Auschwitz.
October 8, 1940
James G. McDonald and representatives of rescue groups meet with FDR to complain that Undersecretary Breckinridge Long and the US State Department are unjustly using security as a reason to block legitimate rescue of needy refugees. McDonald states: “[I] cannot believe, that those without visas present threats to the national interest.” Specifically, McDonald criticizes US consuls in Europe. FDR takes no action on this. 567 names are submitted to the State Department in August and September, yet only 40 visas are issued.
James McDonald states that refugees, despite reaching Portugal, “are still refused visas. To close this last avenue of escape is to condemn many scientists, scholars, writers, labor leaders and other refugees to further sacrifices for their belief in democracy and to bring to an end our tradition of hospitality to the politically oppressed. The original arrangements were wisely and soundly planned. Their purpose is still to be achieved.” Breckinridge Long defends his policies using the security issue as a rationale. After the complaint by McDonald, Long states: “In view of reports indicating that Nazi and other totalitarian agents are endeavoring to enter the United States in the guise of refugees, it has been considered essential in the national interest to scrutinize all applications carefully.” Reports by the FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover state that there was negligible entry of foreign agents into the United States during World War II.
October 18, 1940
A second German decree (Verordnung) is enacted in France compelling all Jewish businesses to be registered with French and German officials. Ownership of the businesses is to be transferred away from Jewish hands under so-called provisional administration. Some French officials undermine this process.
October 21, 1940
149,734 Jews are registered in the French census. 86,664 are French Jews. 65,070 are foreign Jews.
Roosevelt elected to an unprecedented third term as US President. Democrats retain a majority in the Senate and House of Representatives.
New and more complicated screening procedures for approving visas to refugees are implemented by the State Department. The procedure involves a review of visa applicants not only by the State Department, but also by the Justice Department, the FBI and US Military and Naval Intelligence. This system requires that if a diplomat or consul in the field rejects an applicant for any reason, the visa would have to be approved by these various government departments. The visa process is slowed to a trickle.
40,000 Jews are deported from Lorraine to Lyon.
The Nîmes Committee (Coordinating Committee for Camp Aid) is created. The organization is headed by Dr. Donald Lowrie, an American representing the International YMCA. It consists of 25 organizations, including the American Friends’ Service Committee (AFSC; also known as the Quakers), Unitarian Service Committee (USC), the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the American Federation of Labor (AFL), the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HICEM), Committee for Action on Behalf of Refugees (Comite d’Inter Mouvement après des Evacues; CIMADE) and several Swiss relief agencies including the Swiss Red Cross and the Swiss Service Civil International. Other organizations include the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the French Red Cross. The Nîmes Committee unites to bring relief and rescue to thousands of Jews and other refugees throughout France. These organizations supply food, medicine, clothing, blankets, educational material and other supplies to internees in the French camps. The Nîmes Committee, along with its organizations, individually and collectively protests the internment and treatment of refugees in these camps and actively seeks the release of the refugees. The Nîmes Committee writes and distributes numerous reports regarding conditions in the camps. The Nîmes Committee leadership meets with foreign diplomats and representatives to report on the conditions of the refugees. Hiram Bingham works closely with the Nîmes Committee.
November 7, 1940
In France, Jews must have passports, visas stamped with “Jew” in prominent letters.
November 11, 1940
An article appears in the New Republic magazine exposing terrible conditions in the French concentration camp Le Vernet. They call it the “French Dachau.”
November 13, 1940
Avra Warren, head of the Visa Division of the US State Department, serving under Breckinridge Long, criticizes and vetoes plan to permit 12,000 German Jews residing in Portugal safe refuge in the US Virgin Islands.
November 18, 1940
Varian Fry writes to US Secretary of State Cordell Hull regarding the plight of refugees in southern France: “Deprived of all hope of diplomatic or consular intervention in their behalf, hundreds of these new stateless are confined in the concentration camps of France and Spain, with little or no prospect of obtaining their release. I am sure that you are only too well aware what such confinement means…” Fry pleads on behalf of the refugees: “Is this not an occasion for the United States and the other nations of the Western Hemisphere to take extraordinary measures? Cannot the Government of the United States intervene in behalf at least of those upon whom it has seen fit to confer its visas, so that they may be released from the concentration camps, be granted French sortie visas and Spanish and Portuguese transit visas, and then be able to proceed on their way to liberty and the opportunity to rebuild their shattered lives?”
November 30, 1940
H. Freeman Matthews, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim, US embassy, Vichy France, wrote a report about Varian Fry. In one instance, when Fry was denied introduction to French officials, Matthews writes: “Mr. Fry became extremely belligerent when he received this response and stated that the Foreign Service had treated him in the most unfriendly fashion and that he intended to make a full report to the Department of State. He added that certain persons at the Consulate General at Marseille had been spreading malicious stories about him to the effect that he was to be expelled from France…Upon his return to Marseille, Mr. Fry called on Mr. Fullerton in order to make further complaints about the treatment he had received at the hands of the Consulate General at Marseille. When Mr. Fullerton pointed out to him that he had in his files letters from Mr. Fry stating that Dr. Bohn was associated with him, and that he also had evidence in his files indicating that Mr. Fry had employed two former members of an American ambulance corps to assist refugees in leaving France without the necessary exit visas, Mr. Fry became most conciliatory…”
SS Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Theodore Dannecker, under Eichmann, sets up the Anti-Jewish Institute in Paris.
All Jewish businesses must display a large yellow placard in their windows identifying it as a Jewish business.
Vice Consul Bingham is able to have Varian Fry and other members of the Emergency Rescue Committee released from custody after arrest. This was the occasion when the president of Vichy, Pétain, is visiting Marseilles and there is a general roundup of dissidents. Varian Fry, Mary Jayne Gold, and others are taken to a prison ship called the Sinaïa, anchored offshore in Marseilles harbor. At the time, they do not know why they have been arrested or where they were. Fry is able to get a message to Harry Bingham to secure their release. As Fry will later complain to the captain of the ship:
“…a cabin boy came in and announced that Monsieur le Consul des Etats-Unis was waiting below. Much impressed, the captain instructed the boy to bring the Consul up at once.
When Harry Bingham walked through the door and shook hands with us, whatever doubts the captain may previously have had about us were immediately dissipated. His manner became perceptibly more cordial. He took out a key ring from his trousers’ pocket and unlocked a cupboard, revealing a large collection of half-filled bottles. He selected a bottle of cognac and took down four small glasses.
‘Voilà, messieurs, dame,’ he said, pouring us glasses of the brandy. ‘A votre santé.’
As we drank, Harry told us that he had called up the Prefecture several times to find out why we were being held and for how long. But all the high officials were out with the Marshal, or busy protecting him, and he hadn’t been able to get any information. He hoped to do better tomorrow, when the Marshal would be on his way back to Vichy and things would be returning to normal in Marseille. A great many people had been arrested in honor of the Marshal’s visit, he said, at least seven thousand, and most of them would probably be released in a few days. Whether we would be released or not he couldn’t say, but he would do his best to see that we were.”
December 20, 1940
Hiram Bingham writes a report to the Secretary of State after touring “five of the largest and most important concentration camps situated in the Marseille consular district—the camps at Gurs, Vernet, Argeles-sur-Mer, Agde and Les Milles (near Aix-en-Provence).” According to the report, “The trip was made primarily for the purpose of giving information, with a view to reducing the volume of visa correspondence and the number of callers from the camps. The Consulate at Marseille has been receiving an average of four hundred letters per day from prospective immigrant or other persons desiring visas for the United States. A large proportion of the visa correspondence comes from the thousands of persons, applicants for visas (estimated at over 7000) who are included in the 50,000 or more foreigners, refugees and “suspects” now confined in concentration camps.”
Bingham further states, “The representatives of several organizations in Marseille expressed interest in having some one from the Consulate visit the camps to study conditions and to see what if anything could be done to relieve the suffering there by speeding up the granting of visas. The Prefecture of the Bouches-du-Rhône advised the Consulate that, on instructions from the Government at Vichy, it would be disposed to facilitate the departure of aliens out of France in every way possible. The camp at Les Milles near Aix was being prepared to serve as a ‘Camp d’Embarquement.’ All aliens at other camps for whom Vichy would grant exit permits would be transferred to this camp as soon as they could prove that they were likely to obtain a visa for emigration to any country.”
The United States, a non-belligerent in the war, has a more rigid screening procedure for refugees than does Britain, who had been fighting for two years. As a result of the US State Department’s interference and antisemitic policies, many European Jews are unable to obtain refuge in the United States. In the crucial year of 1941, only 47% of quota for German-Austrian immigration to the United States is filled.
State Department communication with consulates in the field, Foreign Service Regulations, ch. XXII: “Visas for aliens” sec. 1: “Officers of the Foreign Service, except consular agents, shall familiarize themselves with the existing laws on the subject of immigration and visas and with the rules and regulations established thereunder by the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization, or other officials acting in the name of the President, and they shall perform the duties prescribed therein for them.” This law reminds diplomats in the field that they must strictly adhere to the regulations.
Harry Bingham receives transmittal of a thank you letter from Mr. Robert C. Dexter of Boston, Massachusetts. The letter is transmitted to Consul General Hugh Fullerton by Undersecretary of State Breckinridge Long: “Sir: It is a pleasure to send you herewith a copy of a letter which has been received from Mr. Robert C. Dexter of Boston, Massachusetts, containing statements commendatory of Mr. Hiram Bingham, Jr., Vice Consul at your post. A copy of the Department’s reply to Mr. Dexter’s letter is also enclosed.”
January 23, 1941
Communication from Adolf A. Berle to Eliot B. Coulter regarding inconsistencies among European consulates regarding documentation required to assure aliens will not become public charges. Berle expresses concern that some consuls interpret the “likely to become a public charge” clause too strictly. This memo is written after it becomes known to the Visa Division that the Marseille consulate had developed a 13 point questionnaire which it issued to sponsors who gave affidavits for aliens not closely related to them, ostensibly in order to assure sponsor’s sincere willingness to support the alien.
The German policy in France 1940-1941 is designed to make living conditions so bad that it forces Jews to emigrate. This is done by forcibly excluding them from all civil and economic life in France. Ironically, the German and French bureaucracy makes emigration so difficult and complicated that many Jews are unable to leave France legally.
During this period, French Vichy officials object to Germans using southern France as a dumping ground for Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria and other occupied territories.
February 4, 1941
Avra Warren, head of the Visa Division of the US State Department, rejects rescue plan to settle Jewish refugees in the US territory of Alaska. He states “Nearly all of them belong to a particular race.”
February 5, 1941
Reinhardt Heydrich states in memorandum that he sees the “later total solution to the Jewish problem” is to “send them off to whatever country will be chosen later on.”
February 7, 1941
Undersecretary of State Breckinridge Long writes to Mr. Adolf Berle, also of the State Department: “From time to time, some of our consuls, as is natural with any group of human beings with different reactions, have given different interpretations to the Department’s instructions. We have communicated with them directly by cablegram and by telephone in order to bring them in line with the Department’s policy. Our consulates in Germany, Switzerland, unoccupied France, and Portugal have been painstakingly supervised in this respect and are conforming to the pattern of the Department’s instructions. The requirements of the immigration law are specific. Irrespective of what the Department might desire, our policies are necessarily bound by the law in force.”
February 12, 1941
Lena Fishman, Secretary of the Emergency Rescue Committee in Marseille, writes to Varian Fry on her way out of Europe from Lisbon: “P.S. I did get that time my immig. visa and was home at 10.45. It was really swell of Mr. Bingham. I shall send him some red ribbons for it since they seem to have difficulties in getting them.”
February 14, 1941
Heydrich tells German foreign ministry representative in France Martin Luther, “After the conclusion of the peace, they [Jews] will be the first transported to leave fortress Europe in the total evacuation of the continent we plan.” Luther then tells his diplomatic representatives that forced Jewish emigration from German territories must take priority.
February 22, 1941
In a cable, Fry states: “…American consul refusing to issue visas until passage is bought and proof presented.”
March 6, 1941
Hiram Bingham writes Martha Sharp, of the Unitarian Service Committee. [Martha and Waitsill Sharp were active in saving Jews in Southern France and have recently been honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous among the Nations. Bingham was known to have worked closely with the Sharps.] Bingham is acknowledging a letter of commendation: “It was awfully good of you to get your committee to write to the Department of State at Washington about me and the others of our staff here. I certainly appreciate your thoughtfulness tremendously and am most grateful. Anything I may have done was a pleasure particularly where you personally were concerned and it is always cheering and helpful to have some one take the trouble to put in a good word of approval and encouragement. Mr. Dexter’s beautifully expressed remarks were most generous and naturally reflected the whole hearted way that you devoted yourself to your work here. You certainly are to be congratulated on the efficient way in which you succeeded in getting your party out of France and through Spain in the face of a million difficulties. We are as busy as ever but now have some additional help to meet the waiting crowds. I’ve been separated from my family now for nine months, and as you can well understand, am more homesick than ever.”
March 7, 1941
Varian Fry, representing the ERC, writes to the US embassy in Vichy: “I should like to call your attention to a curious difference between the various American Consulates in France as regards the question of German/Austrian quota numbers. As you perhaps know, this quota is now open at Marseille. That is to say, the Consulate here has obtained from the Consulate at Berlin a considerable supply of quota numbers and is granting immigration visas under the combined German/Austrian quota without any delay at all. On the other hand, it appears that the Consulates at Nice and at Lyon are still unable to grant immigration visas under the German/Austrian quota to anyone who is not registered on or before September 1938. Many of our ‘protégés,’ who live in the Nice or Lyon consular districts, have been told that they will have to wait at least a year before they can obtain immigration visas under the German/Austrian quota.” This indicates that under Bingham’s supervision, more visas were being issued at the Marseille consulate than in other consulates in France. Bingham was working closely, and secretly, with Varian Fry, Frank Bohn and other rescue agencies.
March 15, 1941
Noted European Jewish artist Marc Chagall writes a letter of thanks to Hiram Bingham. They become lifelong friends.
March 29, 1941
French authorities create the Antisemitic General Commission on Jewish Affairs (Commissariat General aux Questions Juives). Its function is to implement policies to liquidate Jewish property and to enforce police measures and ordinances against Jews. Xavier Vallat, an antisemite, is appointed its first commissioner.
April 10, 1941
Varian Fry writes Senator Robert Wagner in Washington, DC, to complain about two consuls in France. He is complaining about Mr. Felix Cole, the consul in Algiers, and Mr. Clark Husted, the vice consul in Lyon. Fry states: “I feel that they reveal very clearly a regrettable but undeniable attitude of prejudice on the part of these two members of our Foreign Service…Mr. Cole and Mr. Husted both appear to assume that the fact that a person is of the Jewish faith makes it very much less likely that he will be able to reach the United States, than if he were of another faith. Since it is in my opinion contrary to the facts, this attitude appears to me to constitute an unwarranted prejudice on the part of these two officials…I may say that the Marseille consulate does not share this attitude and it is perhaps significant that the Marseille consulate has had a far larger experience than our consulates at Algiers and Lyon in recent months.”
April 12, 1941
Communication from the Secretary of State to the US consulate in Marseille asks them to use their 13-point questionnaire “only in cases which clearly fail to meet Department’s 1048 March twenty-seventh.”
April 19, 1941
Varian Fry writes to Senator Robert Wagner: “To what I have written you in my letter of April 10th, I should like to add that the American Consulates at Lyon, Nice, and Algiers were, according to my latest information, refusing to consider applications for immigration visas under the combined German-Austrian quota which were not made before September 1938. At the Consulate at Marseille, on the other hand, prior registration is no longer necessary. In other words, the German-Austrian quota is open at Marseille, but in effect closed at Lyon, Nice and Algiers. This not only results in an unfair distinction against persons of German and Austrian birth residing in the Lyon, Nice and Algiers consular districts, but also imposes upon our hard-working consular staff at Marseille an even greater burden than they would normally have to carry. As you know, it is very difficult for foreigners living in France to obtain permits to travel. Thus many persons of German or Austrian birth who have the misfortune to be living in the Lyon, Nice or Algiers consular districts, are unable to change their residence to the Marseille consular district and must resign themselves to an indefinite wait for their immigration visas, though those persons, who by pure luck happen to be living in the Marseille consular district, receive their immigration visas immediately.”
April 26, 1941
In France, Jews are forbidden to have certain occupations, particularly those that involve public contact.
May 7, 1941
Consul Hiram Bingham notified he is being transferred out of Marseilles.
Fry writes in his diary: “Wednesday, May 7. Harry Bingham told me this morning that he has just received instructions to go to Lisbon. He is closing his house and packing his things. His going will be a great loss to the refugees, and may seriously cripple our work. He has been the one man at the Consulate who had always seemed to understand that his job now is not to apply the rules rigidly but to save lives whenever he could without actually violating United States law. Without his help, much of what we have done we could [not] have done. Especially since the opening of the Martinique route, he has worked very hard, minimizing formalities and always showing a sympathetic attitude towards candidates for immigration. His behavior has always been in sharp contrast to that of most other American Consuls in France. I hate to think what it is going to be like here after he has gone."
May 13-15, 1941
Pétain broadcasts pledge of cooperation with German occupying forces.
Thousands of Polish Jews in Paris are rounded up pending deportation. They are deported to French concentration camps Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande.
SS Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Theodore Dannecker meets with Director of the German military rail system General Kohl. Kohl agrees to supply trains to deport between 10,000 and 20,000 French Jews in the next few months.
May 28, 1941
Ordinance is issued in France forbidding Jews to negotiate or transfer capital.
By the end of May 1941, the Jewish office of HICEM in Marseilles had received more than 35,000 requests from Jews to leave France. The HICEM managed to help approximately 3,000 Jews leave France in 1941 and another 3,000 Jews emigrated in the first months of 1942. Between June 1940 and the end of 1942, HICEM helps 6,449 Jews leave France.
SS Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Theodore Dannecker creates a Nazi-sponsored antisemitic propaganda department called the Institute for the Study of Jewish Questions (IEQJ).
Louis Darquier de Pellepoix becomes head of Commissariat General aux Questions Juives. He is extremely antisemitic.
US Congress passes Russell Bill, which permits US diplomats and consults in Europe to deny visas to refugees who, in their opinion, would “endanger the public safety of the United States.” Breckinridge Long, who lobbied for this bill, did it to keep State Department diplomats in check.
June 2, 1941
The second antisemitic Statute des Juifs (Jewish statute) is enacted by the French Vichy government. It subjects French or foreign Jews to administrative internment for violation of the Statute des Juif or for any reason whatsoever. The law removes the boundaries between French and foreign Jews. A person could even be interned if “suspected of being Jewish.” Further laws calling for the expropriation and Aryanization of Jewish property are enacted. A mandatory inventory of Jewish property is demanded. Eventually, 42,000 Jewish businesses, buildings, homes and other properties are confiscated.
June 5, 1941
US State Department institutes additional policies discouraging help for refugees from German occupied countries. It requires consuls in Europe to submit visa applications to Washington for review of those applicants who have “close relatives” in Nazi-occupied territories. Since most of these applicants in fact have relatives, this slows down their visa applications. This law applies to immigrants from Germany, Austria, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, occupied France, Poland and the Balkans. The “close relative” clause states: “…the fact that a relative of the first degree of consanguinity, with whom the applicant had maintained close family ties [father, mother, brother, sister, wife, children], remains abroad in any country or territory under the control of a country whose form of government is opposed to the form of government of the United States may be considered with other evidence that the ties between such relative and the applicant would make the entry of the applicant prejudicial to the public safety or inimical to the interests of the United States.”
In addition to the above, all refugees are required to get the endorsement of two US sponsors. One sponsor must vouch for the financial solvency of the refugee and the other to attest to their moral qualifications. Under these regulations, refugees are forced to go through three separate review committees: a primary committee, an independent visa review committee, and if the application is denied a Board of Appeals. An elaborate visa application is then filled out in sextuplicate and distributed to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the FBI, Military and Naval Intelligence, and the State Department. It takes 3-6 weeks to process the forms. As a result, the application process falls 4-5 months behind schedule for each applicant. Applicants are divided between “friendly aliens” (not escaping from Nazi-occupied countries) and “enemy aliens” (escaping from Germany, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria or Hungary). Applicants who are rejected have to wait six months to reapply for a visa. They are not told the reason that their visa was turned down. If the applicant clears all these hurdles, the local consulate is cabled by Washington and the visa can be approved at the discretion of the consul if the immigration quota is not yet filled. The refugee must on their own obtain exit visas to leave the country from which they are escaping. They must also obtain transportation to the point of departure and, ultimately, to the United States. The visa process is time-sensitive. If the refugee cannot secure paperwork from the foreign government and transportation, his US visa application could be cancelled and the whole process started over.
These regulations immediately trap 3,000 refugees in Lisbon bound for the United States. Many thousands more are trapped in Germany and Nazi-occupied areas.
June 7, 1941
Jews are ordered to wear the yellow star in France. There is widespread resentment, both in the Jewish community and by non-Jews, of this order. Many Jews refuse to wear the star and some French citizens wear stars and yellow flowers in solidarity with persecuted Jews. Jews in the south are not yet required to wear the star.
June 11, 1941
Eichmann announces plans to deport 100,000 Jews from France in the coming three months. The plan is to deport 22,000 Jews from Paris and 10,000 from Vichy.
Telegram to US Secretary of State from Consul General Fullerton (Bingham’s supervisor) at the US consulate in Marseille: “Would it be possible and appropriate for the Department to convey to the Emergency Rescue Committee and Foreign Policy Association for whom he is understood still to be acting in Unoccupied France my strong recommendation that they endeavor to induce Varian Fry, whose position here is under existing circumstances increasingly dangerous, to return to the United States. The police authorities in Marseille have recently warned me that steps would eventually and possibly soon be taken against Fry and stated that the only reason for his immunity from expulsion or arrest up to this time has been the reluctance of the French Government to take any measures against an American citizen which might arouse further criticism of France in the American press. In view of the recent turn in events the force of this latter consideration has greatly diminished.” Fullerton expresses anger at Fry and tries to have him removed from France and even have him removed by the ERC. This shows Fullerton’s disdain for Fry, who has been working secretly with Hiram Bingham.
June 20, 1941
Act denying aliens who would endanger the public safety admission to the US: “whenever any American diplomatic or consular officer knows or has reason to believe that any alien seeks to enter the United States for the purpose of engaging in activities which will endanger the public safety of the United States, he shall refuse to issue to such alien any immigration visa, passport visa, transit certificate, or other document entitling such alien to present himself for admission to the Untied States.”
June 22, 1941
German army invades Soviet Union; Nazi Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads) begin mass murder of Jews, civilians and Communist leaders.
Hiram Bingham transferred from his post in Marseilles, France. He is eventually sent to Buenos Aires, Argentina. While in Argentina, Bingham reports on the activities of pro-Nazi groups and infiltrators. The State Department refuses to act on his recommendations and he resigns from the State Department in protest.
July 1, 1941
New regulations by the State Department centralize alien visa control at the US Department of State. Applications for visas are required to be submitted to the State Department before they are referred to the consuls in the field. “As cases will be considered and action taken by the consuls under the law strictly according to the facts of the cases, special consideration may not be accorded and should not be requested.”
July 15, 1941
US consulates in Nazi occupied Europe are closed. These include consulates in Germany, Austria, France, Holland, Luxembourg and Belgium. Escape routes from these areas are cut off from legal emigration.
July 22, 1941
In France, the Law of July 22, 1941, gives the General Commission on Jewish Affairs even wider latitude to expropriate Jewish assets and property.
July 28, 1941
Former US diplomat Alfred Wagg publishes a series of articles in the New Republic magazine highly critical of the visa policy of the US State Department. He accuses the State Department of widespread antisemitism and anti-refugee sentiments in the US Foreign Service.
July 31, 1941
Heydrich appointed by Göring to implement the “Final Solution.”
The Drancy detention/transit camp is established in a suburb of Paris. It is under French administration. Most of the Jews who are deported to the Auschwitz death camp will leave from Drancy.
3,429 Jews are arrested and interned in the southern occupied zone. As a result, a flood of complaints is registered by Frenchmen opposed to the treatment of Jews and Vichy’s collaboration with the Nazis.
August 6, 1941
American Friends’ Service Committee (Quakers) sends report to the State Department that Jews in Vichy France are being sent to Nazi-occupied Poland “where conditions of life are such that few can survive.”
August 8, 1941
Deportation of 11,485 Jews begins from the Gurs and Rivesaltes camps in the southern zone. The Coordinating Relief Committee for the Camps (CIMADE), a Protestant relief organization comprised of the Red Cross, the Quaker Relief Committee, the Swiss Service Civil International and the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, is allowed to rescue some Jews.
August 15, 1941
German government stops issuing exit visas to Jews.
August 20, 1941
The Eleventh District in Paris is sealed off and 4,000 Jews are interned and sent to Drancy. French officials protest the arrests.
August 26-28, 1941
A massive roundup of Jews in Lyons, France.
August 27, 1941
Breckinridge Long meets with FDR to reinforce Long’s negative views on issuing visas to refugees. In his diary, Long claims FDR is in agreement with this restrictive policy.
Antisemitic exhibit entitled “Jews of France” opens in Paris. This exhibit, organized by the Nazi occupying forces, is poorly attended and largely ignored.
US Representative Emanuel Celler introduces a bill into the US House of Representatives that calls for letting refugees from France enter the US. Celler’s bill dies in committee.
September 1, 1941
Hugh Fullerton, the Consul General in Marseille, writes memo regarding Varian Fry. He states: “Fry, as we all know, is a dirty skunk and I am more and more convinced that he is a communist—evidence of which I will probably be able eventually to wire over. He cares little or nothing for the committee over which he presides or the refugees whom he is pretending to protect.” This memo conveys Fullerton’s extreme antipathy to Fry’s activities on behalf of refugees in Marseille.
Before Fry is forced to leave France, the French police advise him why he is being expelled. The police inform him, “because you have protected Jews and anti-Nazis” and “you have caused my good friend, the Consul General of the United States much annoyance.”
After Fry is forced to leave France, the work of the Emergency Rescue Committee continues for more than a year, under the leadership of Daniel Bénédite.
September 2, 1941
Vichy Ambassador to the Vatican Léon Berard submits a report to Marshal Pétain regarding the Vatican’s opinion on France’s anti-Jewish programs. Berard writes, “At no time did the Papal authority seem occupied or preoccupied with this part of French policy.”
Francis Biddle and James G. MacDonald convince FDR to liberalize the “close relative clause” and the visa policy for refugees. In a small way, this helps refugees in their appeals process. The rate of visa rejection is lowered by 15%.
September 28, 1941
In France, the Fifth German Ordinance (Verordnung) blocks the proceeds of the forced sale of Jewish property.
German and Austrian Jews are deported to ghettoes in Eastern Europe.
Only 4,800 visa applications out of 9,500 have been approved by the US State Department for refugees. The US State Department and Department of Justice disagree on refugee visa policy and security issues.
October 1, 1941
All legal emigration out of German occupied territories is stopped by Gestapo order. It is estimated that 163,000 Jews are still living in the Greater Reich.
October 15, 1941
Varian Fry writes to his replacement at the ERC, Daniel Bénédite. He is referring to a previous letter that was sent to him by Bénédite regarding the consulates in southern France. “I am distressed to learn that the Consulates are putting one more obstacle in the path of the poor refugees and I am writing New York to ask them to try to get the State Department to authorize the Consuls to request quota numbers before asking for fixed reservations. I gather from letters and telephone calls from New York and copies of the New Republic, which I have been able to buy here, as well as from the conversation with Dr. Joy last night that all decent people are now thoroughly disgusted with the State Department’s visa policy. The source of the trouble appears to be Mr. Avra Warren, Head of the visa section. Dr. Joy told me that when Mr. Warren was here last autumn, he boasted that, though the State Department had sent him to simplify visa procedure and hasten the issue of visas to hard-pressed refugees, he had been able to do just the opposite. The New Republic writes that the smell which seeps out of his office at the State Department nauseates all decent Americans. Dr. Joy says he thinks we can hope for no great improvement in the State Department visa policy as long as Warren remains head of the Visa Section. The task of getting him removed is one of several similar tasks which I expect to tackle as soon as I get back. I think the time has come to let loose at the State Department, and not only for its visa policy.”
October 23, 1941
Himmler orders that no more Jews are to emigrate from the German occupied zones. This order takes effect in France in February 1942.
There are approximately 17,500 internees in French camps in the southern unoccupied zone. 11,150 are Jews (63%). Many will receive exit visas to leave these camps.
November 22, 1941
Bingham writes a confidential memorandum to Mr. Reed regarding the Nazi influx into South America at the end of the war. His memorandum is largely ignored.
November 25, 1941
Varian Fry writes to Daniel Bénédite from New York City. He states: “It is also growing harder and harder to get money for our work. It was never a very popular appeal, the idea of bringing foreigners over in time of war. There is an exaggerated zenophobia [sic] in all countries in war time: today not even the ‘experts’ in the Department of State seem able to distinguish between friend and foe.” Fry continues about the visa situation: “The visa situation is despairing. The requirement of two affidavits of support is alone enough to make it almost impossible to get visas for people who have no rich and close relatives here. Then the Department grants visas with record speed to Italian princes and the like but holds up those of refugees for months. I am afraid that there is a situation in Washington similar to that which prevailed at the Faubourg St. Germain not so long ago. You know what I mean, I guess. I am writing an article about it, and will send you a copy, when it appears. One might almost say that the State Department has become America’s open scandal. Everybody talks about, but nobody does anything about, this extraordinary situation. And yet wars have been lost by Trojan Horses within the gates.” Fry comments on Consul General Hugh Fullerton at the Marseille consulate: “I have been told here that all our troubles are to be laid at the doorstep of a certain H--h F-------n. [Donald] Lowrie considers him to be one of his best friends. Actually, of course, H.F. has said numerous nasty things behind his back. But that is the practice of H.F.”
November 29, 1941
Under German pressure, Vichy orders the dissolution of all Jewish organizations. Their records must be turned over to Vichy officials. Vichy forms the Union General de Isrealites du France (UGIF), which the Germans hope to turn into a Judenrat (Jewish Council). The UGIF refuses to take part in selecting Jews for deportation during the roundups. The UGIF helps Jews escape and provides them with food and shelter.
December 8, 1941
The United States, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand declare war on Japan.
By the end of December 1941, the Nazis have murdered more than one million Jews.
December 12, 1941
743 French Jews and 257 foreign Jews are arrested in Paris and sent to Compiègne camp for deportation to the east.
December 14, 1941
Major deportations in France are announced. Due to lack of rail transportation, the deportations to the death camps do not begin until March 1942.
The German occupying force in France fines the Jewish community one billion francs.
December 24, 1941
Varian Fry writes from his home in New York City to his replacement in Marseille, Daniel Bénédite. He is complaining about Dr. Frank Kingdon, head of the ERC in New York City, and of Fry’s relationship with the US State Department. “Three weeks ago Dr. Kingdon told me that he had been forced, reluctantly, to the conclusion that the State Department would grant no more visas to our protégés as long as I remained associated with the committee. The Department is sore as a boil at me because I refused to return to the United States a year ago last September, when they brought pressure on me to come back. So he said I would have to take a leave of absence, and that we would examine the situation again later, to see whether I could go back to the committee or not.”
January 27, 1942
President Roosevelt, in a private conversation with Leo Crowley, Wartime Alien Property Custodian, states: “Leo, you know this is a Protestant country, and the Catholics and the Jews are here on sufferance. It is up to both of you [Crowley and Henry Morgenthau, a Jew and Secretary of the Treasury] to go along with anything that I want at this time.”
February 2, 1942
The Sixth German Ordinance (Verordnung) orders a curfew for Jews in Paris. Jews are not allowed out between 8 pm and 6 am. Jews are not allowed to change residence.
Varian Fry writes from his home in New York City to his replacement in Marseille, Daniel Bénédite. “The visa situation becomes more and more despairing every day. It has now boiled down to a question of wire-pulling, as we say in America. In other words, about the only way to get a visa for anybody now is to get some very important, influential person to bring pressure on the State Department for it. All the Modern Art cases are being held up for no reason under the sun, so far as anybody can see, and the Modern Art people are scurrying around trying to get somebody like Ambassador Bullitt or Mrs. Secretary Perkins, to speak to Sumner Welles about them. But Ambassador Bullitt and Mrs. Secretary Perkins are naturally extremely busy and it is very hard to get at them. It’s rather like the atmosphere at the court of Louis XIV, isn’t it? If only you can get the ear of someone who has the ear of le Roi Soleil, perhaps you can get the favor you want. Otherwise, there is no hope at all. I often wonder how the boys in the Visa Division put in their days. Sharpening pencils, I suppose, which they then chew until they need sharpening again.” Fry continues: “I doubt whether there will be more than extremely rare exceptions to the rule that no more visas are to be given to ‘enemy aliens’—if, in fact, there are any exceptions at all.”
February 4, 1942
Himmler orders that no Jew can leave the French occupied zone without his direct approval.
February 15, 1942
First transport of Jews murdered at Auschwitz using Zyklon B gas.
March 24, 1942
In France, the Seventh German Ordinance (Verordnung) further defines who is a Jew.
March 27, 1942
First deportation of Jews from France to Auschwitz. 1,112 Jews are sent; only 19 survive the war. Vichy says nothing about this deportation.
Admiral François Darlan, Deputy Head of Vichy, and his staff resign from the Vichy government.
April 3, 1942
Varian Fry writes from his home in New York City to Daniel Bénédite in Marseille. Fry is referring to the visas for Helen and Ulrich Hessel: “Their visa applications were submitted to the State Department about the 10th of March. It will take some four to six months to get a decision at the present rate.” This case illustrates how long it takes to get a visa cleared through normal channels at the State Department.
April 26, 1942
Pierre Laval is returned to his post in the cabinet. Laval becomes head of the Departments of the Interior, Information and Foreign Affairs. He becomes virtual head of state.
May 7, 1943
Reinhardt Heydrich arrives in Paris to speed up and oversee lagging deportation efforts in France.
SS police officer Carl Oberg visits Paris to prepare to take up his new post. On June 1, he will be appointed head of SS and SD operations in France.
SS Obersturmführer Heinz Röthke succeeds Theodore Dannecker as head of the Jewish Office in France. He remains there until the French surrender. The SS now has free reign for the deportations in France.
Deputy Head of the US Visa Section of the State Department Robert Alexander suggests in a memo that Jews in the United States are “in league with Hitler” and are hampering the US war effort.
Cordell Hull writes FDR, “The unknown cost of moving an undetermined number of persons from an undisclosed place to an unknown destination, a scheme advocated by certain pressure groups, is, of course, out of the question.”
May 19, 1943
President Roosevelt writes Secretary of State Hull rejecting the idea of using North Africa as a safe refuge for Jews. Roosevelt says: “That would be extremely unwise.”
May 28, 1942
Varian Fry writes from his home in New York City to Daniel Bénédite in Marseille. Fry is writing about the visa situation. “Alas, the visa outlook is growing darker and darker every day. You know that Cuban visas have been stopped, and even those already granted to so-called ‘enemy aliens’ have been cancelled…The United States continues to grant visas, but so slowly and after such long delays that one goes almost frantic waiting for them. There seems to be absolutely nothing to do to speed up a case even when it is a very urgent and important one.”
May 29, 1942
The Eight German Ordinance (Verordnung) orders all Jews in France to wear the Jewish star. The law is to be enforced on June 1, 1942. Many Jews decide not to wear the star. French population resists identifying Jews with the stars, and the French people are outspoken in their protests. It is estimated that more than 100,000 are subject to the ordinance.
In Marseilles, the Emergency Rescue Committee is forced to close by the French police for subversive activities in helping refugees. The ERC continues to operate secretly. The Villa Air-Bel estate outside Paris becomes a haven for the Alsatian refugees.
November 24, 1943
Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau drafts a letter to the Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, objecting to the State Department’s slow approval of the transfer of funds for the rescue of Jews in France and Romania.
November 26, 1943
Breckinridge Long continues his campaign against Jewish immigration to the United States. He gives misleading testimony about immigration before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Long intentionally exaggerates the number of refugees admitted to the country. Long claims that 547,775 refugees have entered the country. Yet, between December 1941 and the end of the war, only 163,843 Jewish refugees are admitted to the US and they comprise only 5.9% of the US quota available for Axis-controlled countries.
Jewish groups and refugee advocates sharply criticize Long for his gross exaggeration of the number of refugees entering the country. They also criticize the State Department’s restrictive immigration policy and regulations.
Breckinridge Long also testifies before a Congressional committee that there is inadequate shipping to take Jewish refugees from Europe to the United States. Yet, by this time, more than 200,000 prisoners of war are shipped to the US. By the end of the war, 435,400 POWs are sent from Europe to the US.
By the end of 1943, 28 countries are at war with Germany. Not one country, including the United States and Great Britain, is actively involved in the rescue of Jews.
Two agents from the Treasury Department discover the State Department’s cable telegrams suppressing information about the murder of Jews in Europe. The cables are sent to Secretary of the Treasure Morgenthau, who is infuriated. Morgenthau and Treasury agents draft a document outlining the failure of the State Department to help Jews.
December 20, 1943
US Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau and his assistant, John Pehle, meet with US Secretary of State Cordell Hull and his assistant, Breckinridge Long. Morgenthau complains about the State Department’s almost complete non-cooperation in approving the transfer of funds to be used for the rescue of Jews. Morgenthau assigns Randolph Paul, General Counsel of the Treasury Department, to prepare a background paper documenting the eight month delay in granting World Jewish Congress representative Gerhardt Riegner the license to transfer money. Josiah E. DuBois, Jr., prepares the paper with John Pehle and the Foreign Funds Control Division. Pehle and DuBois investigate the State Department’s inaction on this and other matters, and they prepare a document entitled Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of Jews. It is signed by Randolph Paul. The full report is never published.
Roosevelt elected President of the US for a fourth term.
November 22, 1944
Hiram Bingham writes a confidential memorandum regarding Nazi war criminals fleeing to Argentina and other countries in South America. He writes: “The broad aims of the whole set up are to build up a Nazi-inspired (and controlled) block of South American States under Argentine domination. The manufacture of arms and munitions, trucks, et cetera, is proceeding at a tremendous rate.… Our objective…breaking up the Nazi organization…Yes. Peron and his whole gang are completely unreliable, and, whatever happens, all countries in South America will be seed beds of Nazism after the war. Constant vigilance will be required to weed out dangerous elements for years to come… Dictatorship is merely one symptom of the Nazi disease. Others just as important are abuse of the state of siege provisions of the constitution (including arrest of Americans and thousands of Argentines without trial), use of fear to keep people in line, abolition of Congress, interference with freedom of the press, interference with teaching of religion, abolition of political parties, anti-Semitism, rampant militarism and preparation for war, et cetera, et cetera. But it is important to wipe out the transmitters of the disease and destroy the centers of infection before paying too much attention to the symptoms… Steps toward a solution (i.e., eradication of Nazi influence)… Make clear to the Argentines that we are not fighting them but an outside enemy. The same enemy that we are fighting on other fronts with tanks and guns is attacking them and us here with subversive underground weapons…fifth column organizations which planted the Nazi disease in this country…”
Varian Fry publishes his autobiography, Surrender on Demand. In the book, Fry gives Vice Consul Harry Bingham much credit for helping save refugees. He presents Bingham with a copy of his book, inscribed: “To Harry Bingham, my partner in the ‘crime’ of saving human lives.” Fry and Bingham remain lifelong friends.
April 12, 1945
US President Franklin Roosevelt dies. Harry Truman becomes the new President.
May 8, 1945
Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day): German General Alfred Jodl surrenders at Eisenhower’s headquarters, the end of the Third Reich.
May 15, 1945
Hiram Bingham writes in his journal, “PROMOTIONS!...but not for me…hell! It doesn’t matter but it does damn, d--- d---…career again blasted…why? What’s the matter?...who’s responsible?...why are these others jumped ahead?...R says it’s the price for doing what I want instead of what they want…no real change…but terribly discouraging…Ed says he doesn’t know why and that it can’t be my efficiency report from here…he says he will make inquiries in Washington.”
July 1, 1945
The State Department removes strict screening procedures for refugees. It reverts to prewar regulations.
In an article, Fry discusses the process of rescuing refugees, “And not all left illegally; for a while it was possible to send certain refugees to Martinique legally, on small French passenger ships. As one of my fellow conspirators said, ‘All methods are good, even legal ones.’ But, by and large, our operation was an illegal one—or, as we preferred to call it, an ‘extralegal’ one—a business of false identity papers, false passports, false visas, secret hideaways, clandestine meetings, secret passwords and other and better ways of distinguishing friends and clients from police agents and spies.”
Varian Fry passes away.
April 28, 1985
Bingham receives letter from Frau Heine, a former refugee. The letter says “Thanks to you and your understanding of the situation, probably more than 1,000 refugees have been saved.”
Hiram Bingham IV passes away in Salem, Connecticut. He is buried on the family estate.
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum opens in Washington, DC. Its first traveling exhibit honors Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee. Hiram Bingham is honored in this exhibit and in the museum catalogue and brochures.
Varian Fry is honored the title of Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel. A tree is planted in Yad Vashem by US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, along with Fry’s son. Christopher apologizes for the State Department’s treatment of Fry.
Harry Bingham is honored in the Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats exhibit for his work in helping Jewish refugees in Marseilles in 1940-1941. The exhibit opens at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.
The curators of the Varian Fry exhibition at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Susan Morgenstern and Elizabeth Berman, recommend that Visas for Life include Harry Bingham in its exhibitions program. They believe that Bingham went far beyond his duties in helping Jewish refugees and helping the ERC. The Visas for Life Project nominates Hiram Bingham IV for the title of Righteous Among the Nations. Bill Bingham contributes to this important document.
Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats exhibit opens in Jerusalem at Yad Vashem. Harry Bingham is a major part of the exhibition. Kim, David and Bill Bingham attend the tour and program.
The exhibit shows for six months at Yad Vashem and then begins a tour around the world sponsored by the Israeli foreign ministry.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum opens with its first temporary exhibit called Surrender on Demand. It honors Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee. Bingham is honored in the exhibition. The curators state that Bingham was a partner with Varian Fry in the saving of Jews.
Harry Bingham is honored in the Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats exhibit at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. The Bingham family is in attendance.
Visas for Life: The Righteous Diplomats exhibit opens at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Exhibit is sponsored by the Secretary General and the Chief of Protocol, Mehmet Ülkümen. Harry Bingham is honored in the exhibit. Kim and Anne Bingham attend the opening of the exhibit.
June 27, 2002
American Foreign Service Association posthumously awards Hiram Bingham with the Constructive Dissent award. His citation reads: “His actions violated the State Department anti-refugee policy… [and showed] his willingness to put humanity before his career….” The award was presented by Secretary of State Colin Powell.
June 27, 2002
American Foreign Service Association posthumously awards Hiram Bingham with the Constructive Dissent award. His citation reads: “His actions violated the State Department anti-refugee policy… [and showed] his willingness to put humanity before his career….” The award was presented by Secretary of State Colin Powell.
June 28, 2002
Washington Post article entitled “At State, Giving Dissent its Due” honors Harry Bingham.
Hiram Bingham is honored in the Foreign Service Journal with a cover story: “Harry Bingham: Beyond the Call of Duty.”
Hiram Bingham is honored at a State Department ceremony with Colin Powell. An exhibit is installed in the Cannon Senate Office Building rotunda.
Yad Vashem recognizes Hiram Bingham IV with a Letter of Commendation for his actions in issuing visas to save Jews in Marseilles, 1940-1941.
Hiram Bingham will be honored with a US commemorative postage stamp for