Rescue in the Holocaust by Diplomats - Hiram Bingham, IV
Hiram Bingham: Letters and Testimonies
Appendix 5: Letter to Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt from Karl Frank of ERC
This is a letter found in the US State Department archives. In it, Karl Frank, head of the Emergency Rescue Committee, writes to Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt regarding the American Consul in Marseilles who suddenly stopped issuing emergency visas. This was as a result of State Department policy. [Emphasis added.]
EMERGENCY RESCUE COMMITTEE
122 East 42nd Street
New York, N. Y.
August 30, 1940
Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt
Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:
Since I wrote you about certain first successes in rescuing people from France I am sorry to tell you that the situation has suddenly again been aggravated. The Germans probably got wind of efforts to bring people out against their ruling. They seem to have brought new pressure upon the French Government and we have more and more news from all parts of Southern France that in this territory personal papers have been taken away from emigrants, that they have been sent back to internment cams and, in the third place, local registration offices have been set up obviously in preparation for the German control and for the purpose of handing over people to the Germans.
In this situation it was the possession of American visitor’s visas which gave the only chance for people to get out. You remember when I told you months ago that if it looks very dark one shouldn’t give in. After months of combined efforts we found certain ways out. People finally dared, encouraged with the possession of visitor’s visas in their pockets, to go through Spain, and a few dozen have already reached Lisbon. Since Thursday this chance has been taken away. The American Consul in Marseilles, who, in all reports was described as a very fine soul, who had, according to his orders, helped and granted visitor’s visas to all persons recommended by the President’s Advisory Committee in Washington, suddenly stopped that. The Emergency Rescue Committee made inquiries and was told that the Consul had gotten new instructions through Mr. Coulter that he should not send any more visitor’s visas for those people not in possession of exit permits. As you perhaps know, exit visas from France are issued only after consultation with the Armistice commission at Wiesbaden, which means that well-known German refugees do not dare to request them and must try to get out of France without benefit of an official exit permit.
This new decision gives the impression that there must have been some kind of a French complaint about American help to refugees. I am sure that the intentions of the State Department are still the same, but by some accident or some chance the change of the policy has caused the situation to become as bad as I have described. You understand that if people don’t get American visas they cannot slip out of the country. First, any legal exit permit of the French Government can only be given in case somebody is in possession of an American visa.
When our Committee yesterday, through Mr. Minkoff of the Jewish Labor Committee talked to the Visa Department we were assured that for this purpose people authorized to receive a visa will get a letter from the Consul confirming that. That helps, but it is not enough. It may help in the cases of people who can dare to ask the French Government for exit permits, which request in any case will be controlled by the Wiesbaden Commission—that means by the Gestapo. The visas generally are granted to the most endangered people and these people cannot dare to go this way. For them, as I explained, the only chance is to get a visa. In possession of this visa they can get Spanish and Portuguese transit visas and sneak out of France at border stations where the friendly French officials don’t care if they have exit permits or not. If you don’t give these people visas, this last door will be closed.
What I would like you to do is the following: Could you again, in this last minute before twelve talk to somebody responsible for the visa service in France, perhaps to Mr. Sumner Welles and get the concession that the practice used before the new regulation should be reintroduced for a few more weeks or months. I am sure you feel as we do and that is why I dare to ask you to be once more the protector of these important and unfortunate people still trapped in Southern France. As you know, it is not only German anti-Nazis in whom I am particularly interested, but as well in Austrians, Czechs, Poles, Jews, Russians, Italians, Spaniards and outstanding personalities who are involved. I have the permission of Dr. Kingdon to tell you that he is in favor of this personal letter to you.
Please let me know if you have any success.
Appendix 6: Letter from Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt to Sumner Welles
This was a letter to Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles regarding the issuing of visas by the consulate in Marseilles. It was a transmittal letter for the letter in Appendix 2.
The White House
September 6, 1940
Hyde Park, New York
I am enclosing this letter to you because it explains the situation better than I can do. Is there no way of getting our Consul in Marseilles to help in getting a few more of these poor people out?
Very sincerely yours,
[signed] Eleanor Roosevelt
Appendix 7: Translation of Feuchtwanger Diary 1940 - Selected Entries
(Original German version courtesy of Feuchtwanger Memorial Library, Specialized Libraries and Archival Collections, University of Southern California)
Marseille, Monday 22 July
…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…
Marseille, Sunday, 28 July
…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.
Marseille, Monday 29 July
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.
Sunday, 4 August
…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.
Monday, 5 August
…Just after she [Marta- ed] 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.
Wednesday, 7 August
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.
Saturday, 10 August
…At noon come Bingham and Standish. The latter explains that it won't work with the fake papers, they cost 50,000 Franks…
Sunday, 11 August
… 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.
Marseille, Monday, 12 August
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.
Saturday, 17 August
…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.
Thursday, 29 August
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…
Courtesy of Feuchtwanger Library, University of Southern California
Postscript by Marta Feuchtwanger in 1987 book "Der Teufel In Frankreich," by Lion Feuchtwanger:
"Bingham's advice was again accurate. He had told us that one could achieve a lot in Spain with Camel cigarettes and he had filled my backpack and the pockets of my suit with many packs. So I went into the Customs House and told them I had heard that there was a high duty on cigarettes and I decided not to take them, I preferred leaving them here - and I threw a whole bunch of packs on the table. They all grabbed the packs, and one of them quickly stamped a paper I gave him without looking at the name. I have never gone down a mountain so fast."
Appendix 8: Letter from R. Breitscheid Dated September 10, 1940
This is a letter that was sent to Hiram Bingham by R. Breitscheid, asking him to help M. Heine receive a visitor’s visa. Breitscheid himself was a refugee who was eventually captured by the Nazis and died.
Marseille, le 10 Septembre 1940
Monsieur le Consul,
Je me permets de vous recommander tout particulièrement mon ami M. Friedrich (Bedrich) Heine dont le nom se trouve sur une des listes du State Department.
M. HEINE est un member du Comité Directeur du Parti Social-démocrate allemande et en cette qualité il a mené ardemment la lutte contre le hitlérisme et pour les idéaux démocratiques.
M. HEINE qui est resté just’à present en France pour aider ses camarades est tout à fait digne de recevoir le “visitors’ visa”.
Croyez, Monsieur le Consul, à ma haute consideration.
Appendix 9: Letter from B. Heine Dated September 24, 1940
24 Septembre 1940
Dear Mr. Bingham,
I am enclosing the list of addresses for convocations and would be very thankful if you would be so kind to send them out from the Consulate.
The cases 1, 5, 6, 8 and 9 are regular cases.
NºNº 2 and 3 are young Germans. They have already a letter from you that their visa is OK, but they are both in prison. The only thing to get them out of prison is to send them two convocations.
Nº 4 is Izaak Gurfinkel. It is a young Pole of 35 years. He is in prison too. His lawyer thought that the only possible thing to get him out of prison is to send him a cable from the Consulate that his visa is here and that he must be present not later than the 27 of Septembre. (A simple convocation would probably not be enough.) I will gladly pay the expenses for the cable and will appreciate it very much if you will be so kind to send the cable.
Nº 7 is an old lady, the mother of Mr. Alexandre Brailowsky who has already his application.
I thank you very very much.
Yours very truly
Appendix 10: Letter from Thomas Mann dated October 27, 1940
65 Stockton Street
27th October, 1940.
Dear Mr. Bingham,
My brother, Heinrich Mann, and son, Golo, since their arrival in the United States have repeatedly spoken to me about your exceptional kindness and incalculable help to them in their recent need and danger. My feeling of indebtedness and gratitude to you is very great, and I am much embarrassed that necessity compels me to make two further demands upon your goodwill and generosity.
I would be very pleased if I might have the opportunity of meeting you when your arduous duties permit you to return to the United States on leave of absence. I want particularly to be able to thank you personally for your sympathetic help to the many men and women, including members of my own family, who have turned to you for assistance.
Yours very sincerely,
Mr. Hiram Bingham,
United States Vice-Consul,
United States Consulate,
Appendix 11: Thank You Letter from Martha Sharp to Hiram Bingham
Unitarian Service Committee
25, Beacon Street, Boston, Mass. U.S.A.
United States Committee For The Care Of European Children
215, Fourth Ave., New York, N.Y.
November 26, 1940
Mr. Hiram Bingham, Jr.
Consulate of the United States,
Dear Mr. Bingham:
I cannot adequately express to you either my personal gratitude or that of the United States Committee for the Care of European Children or the Unitarian Service Committee for your many courtesies, but I should like to say that I am proud that our Government is represented in its Foreign Service by a man of your quality.
I feel so deeply about this that I shall take the earliest opportunity to transmit it through the Unitarian Service Committee to the United States State Department, for I believe that such humane and cooperative handling of individuals is what we need most coupled with intelligence and good breeding in our consular officials.
I hope that when you do return to the United States on your furlough, that you will do us the honour of coming to our home if you are near Boston. I should love to meet Mrs. Bingham and see your enchanting children.
With deepest personal gratitude, I am,
[signed “Martha Sharp”]
Mrs. Waitstill Hastings Sharp.
Marseille, France, March 6, 1941
Mrs. Martha Sharp
Unitarian Service Committee,
25 Beacon Street,
Dear Mrs. Sharp:
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.
With many thanks again to you, to Mr. Dexter and to the other members of your Committee,
Very sincerely yours,
Hiram Bingham Jr.,
American Vice Consul.
Appendix 12: Testimony of M. Friedrich Heine, Visa Recipient
“Most probably you will not remember me: in 1940 I have been in Marseille and there I had the good fortune to meet you quite a few times. Thanks to you and your understanding of the situation, probably more than 1,000 refugees have been saved. I am now over 80 years of age and the events I refer to are known to very few people nowadays -- but I still have the memory of those days and of your so very great help. I'm very happy indeed that I have the good chance to tell you, how grateful I am still to you.”
- M. Friedrich Heine, Bingham visa recipient,
in letter dated April 28th 1985
Appendix 13: Testimony of Fred Buch, Visa Recipient
“It was a brick factory and we lived in the ovens. Only there was no fire. We had emptied the ovens and we didn’t have gloves. It was miserable work, the skin came lose. Huge ovens, with hay. We slept on hay on the floor. In winter it was bitter cold.
… Bingham…God, it was such a relief. Such a sweet voice. Such a wonderful man. He looked like an angel, only without wings.
And you felt so safe there in the consulate when he was there, so safe and… You felt that new life would start. If a guy is cold you feel the frigidaire. If a man is warm, you have a feeling that it is for him such a relief to be able to help. And also his word, his encouragement for the future. He was the angel of liberation.
This is the last visa, by Bingham. He ways that I declare that I’m Fritz Buch born on so-and-so, that I reside in Marseille and he is a former Austrian and ‘he is unable to obtain the valid travel document on account of conditions prevailing in France at the present time.’ And he takes the responsibility of…’Subscribed and sworn before me, Bingham.’ March 6, 1941.
And a consul he gives you an affidavit! And with that, it’s a passport. But he trusts me. Based on what?
He was a mensch.”
- Fred Buch, Jewish refugee interned at Les Milles concentration camp
Appendix 14: Testimony of Lillian Stuart Smith, Visa Recipient
"Hiram Bingham, who did not hesitate to issue visas for our entire family. I learned later that he helped many people who were in danger from the Germans. His courage and generosity cost him much. The Germans complained of his activities to the Vichy government, who then complained to Washington. It was still the time when President Roosevelt, by sending Admiral Leahy to Vichy, hoped to influence [Marshal] Petain. Hiram Bingham was transferred out of Marseille and sent to a South American post [Buenos Aires]. He was eventually to resign from the Foreign Service.”
- Lillian Stuart Smith, survivor whose family was saved by Harry Bingham
Appendix 15: Testimony of Ralph Hockley, Visa Recipient
“Though I had been tracking the progress of my family’s applications for a visa to the United States throughout all the months I was with the Quakers, I was never totally convinced our support documents at the Consulate were so ironclad that a visa was in the offing. I was too familiar with the U.S. State Department’s ever-changing requirements to become optimistic about our own chances. Then like lightning out of the blue in March, A. Burns Chalmers, the gentle and very tall minister who advised the Quaker Office on refugee matters, called me into his office and talked to me in his soft voice.
He told me that, as I knew (which I did not), he shared a house with the American Consul, Hiram Bingham. He and Mr. Bingham had talked the evening before about my family, and Mr. Bingham had asked him to have me stop by to see him the next time I was at the Consulate. Mr. Chalmers said little more than that.
Needless to say, my next visit to the Consulate occurred very soon. I asked the receptionist to see Mr. Bingham and I met with him. Mr. Bingham told me that Mr. Chalmers had highly recommended my family to him, and upon reviewing our files, he had decided the Consulate was prepared to issue visas for us to immigrate to the United States. Since my dad was at the Gurs Internment Camp and visas once issued were only good for ninety days, he proposed to give me a letter indicating the Consulate’s intent to issue us visas. We should send this consular letter to my dad at Gurs and in all likelihood he would be released from Gurs on the basis of this letter. Once my dad was free, we would have to make arrangements to leave France, including finding transportation for the trip. Mr. Bingham provided me with the letter either that day or the next.
My family was not the only one to benefit from Consul Hiram Bingham’s and Vice Consul Myles Standish’s actions. Marta Feuchtwanger’s postscript to her husband’s book, The Devil in France, related how Myles Standish actually came with a car to the St. Nicolas Internment Camp in Nîmes and picked up her husband, who for his trip was disguised as a woman. She wrote how the Feuchtwangers and others actually stayed at Consul Hiram Bingham’s house in Marseille while waiting to leave France; how she, Marta, went to the American Consulate and felt terrible about cutting in the line of people who had been waiting for days to get into the Consulate; and how Consul Bingham and Vice Consul Myles Standish helped people. This reflected so much my own experience.
Undoubtedly Bingham and Standish did much more than was endorsed by the State Department’s policy at the time. Eleanor Roosevelt and a group of influential people in the U.S. were involved in getting Lion and Marta Feuchtwanger out of France. For the Hockenheimers, only the good will of Hiram Bingham and Myles Standish were at play. They deserve our eternal thanks for placing their humanity above their instructions.”
- Ralph M. Hockley, excerpt from Freedom is not Free (2000), pp. 65-66.
"I do want you to know that Hiram Bingham had me (when I was a 15-year old boy in Marseille working for the Quakers) into his office and told me how he would issue my family a visa to the US after we had obtained the release of my father from the Gurs Concentration Camp...I could write a treatise about what Consul Hiram Bingham did to save refugees during his posting as US Consul at the American Consulate in Marseille, France in the 1940-1941 period. He definitely helped to save my life and that of my parents and sister."
- Ralph Hockley, survivor whose family was saved by Hiram Bingham
Appendix 16: Testimony of Rabbi Joseph Schachter, Visa Recipient
“I and my entire immediate family (six persons in all) had received the life-saving visas dated Feb. 7, 1941...My sister, who has the originals, hastened to let all those to whom I had forwarded the news story know that it was more than just a supposition that he had issued the visas - but that she had the original documents...I was just 10 years old at the time and do not remember any details other than a sense of relief that we were going to be able to escape the impending disaster having already had three 'brushes' with the Gestapo - in Vienna in 1938 from which we fled to Belgium, and from Antwerp which we fled in May 1940, and in the Occupied portion of France from which we managed to make our way south. Our parents - Salomon and Gitta Schachter accompanied by four children aged 17, 10, 8, and 7 were able to embark on Feb 17 by way of the Antilles and reach US territory, the Virgin Islands in March. Our parents are gone now, but there are quite a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren scattered in many parts of the United States and Canada, and some of us now reside in Israel...To paraphrase my mother's saying: ‘When he reaches Paradise he will find a multitude of greeters welcoming him and thanking him!’”
- Rabbi Joseph Schachter, letter dated 11/27/02, family received visa from Hiram Bingham IV in Marseilles
Appendix 17: Testimony of Walter Shostal, Visa Recipient
"It happened in the summer of 1941 in Marseilles..[o]ur only faint hope was with America....Then a miracle happened. A letter arrived from the consulate... saying they were instructed to grant us a visa, and I should come by on such and such a date. I did, and the letter worked like a charm."
- Survivor Walter Shostal, age 93, excerpt from 8/5/01 letter about receiving visas in Marseilles, France for himself, his wife Magda, son Pierre,
a baby [girl?], his mother and brother Robert.
Appendix 18: Testimony of Elly (Oppenheim) Sherman, Visa Recipient
“May I add my admiration and eternal gratitude to your Father. ... Of the three of my family he saved in 1941 in Marseilles I am the last one alive and I write this with trembling fingers and many a tear. May his name be honored for ever. [He] saved my Mother, my sister and I. Without him we would not have been able to avoid the concentration camp to which we were assigned two days later. He provided us with a "Nansen Passport" because we no longer held citizenship in any country, and therefore had no papers. He risked a great deal to do this. I still have the document. We cannot honor him enough, and not that many whom he saved are still around to pay him tribute. I am grateful every day. ... Thank you.”
- Survivor Elly (Oppenheim) Sherman, October 18, 2005.
Appendix 19: Testimony of the Lichtenstein Family, Visa Recipients
“The Logic in Madness”
Column of June 30, 2006
by Zev Galili
Makor Rishon [Primary Source – An Israeli Weekly]
[The column included the following story, told to the author by Hadassa Klamen, sister of Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, Head of the Har Zion Yeshiva.]
The Family Archive
“Up until the publication of the Bingham story we assigned the miracle of our salvation to the assistance we received from three sources: An important French official, a relative in the United States, and another relative from Lisbon. When I read the Bingham story I hurried to check the documents in our family archive… I found to my surprise that our visas had been signed by Hiram Bingham. Until then we hadn’t been aware that the man who signed them was another to whom we owed our lives.
The Escape from Paris
“When the war broke out in 1939 we were living in Paris. We were a family of five: my parents, Yechiel and Bluma Lichtenstein, my older sister Shoshana who was eight, my brother Aharon who was six and I, a four year-old. Dad decided that we should all escape. There was a problem with my brother who had contracted a contagious disease and was in a quarantined section in the hospital. Dad extracted him, practically by force, and took him with us. Several months later Paris fell.
“We reached Southern France, the region that was under the rule of the puppet regime at Vichy. Not much was then known about the upcoming Holocaust, but Dad understood that we had to escape from Europe. He held out hope for two reasons. One was an important official in the French Department of Education, whose name was I. Boehel. Dad had helped him in translating examinations from French to Hebrew. These were intended for the Alliance network of schools in North Africa. Dad had done this work voluntarily from 1938 until 1940. He continued even after we had fled Paris.
To Marseille by Bicycle
“Boehel was supposed to obtain French citizenship for us. In our naivete we thought then that this would protect us. For this reason, Dad decided to leave for Marseille, a distance of 500 kilometers by bicycle. Dad wasn’t an athletic type, he was all of a scholarly bent, a man of the spirit. The trip included riding on the Sabbath and all his life Dad was proud of that Sabbath desecration, done to save our lives.
“Dad did not obtain French citizenship but he did get entry visas to the United States. Dad attributed the issuance of the affidavits to the efforts by his brother David Mordechai who was living in the United States. This brother had succeeded in finding a Jewish community in Memphis, Tennessee whose members guaranteed that we would not become a public burden in the United States.
The Spanish Obstacle
“We received the Bingham visas on October 10, 1940. Now we needed exit permits from the French. The permits were issued only a month later and here, I think, Boehel was involved.
“In December 1940 we left Marseille for Spain. At the Spanish border we were on the brink of disaster and liable to return to the inferno of Europe. Since the parents were Polish citizens and we children were French-born they wanted to send us back to whence we had come. At this point, the representative of the Joint [Distribution Committee] in Europe, who was stationed in Lisbon, intervened. This was Joseph Schwartz, who happened to be our relative. On January 8, 1941 we arrived in the United States. This was on Tevet 9. We were revived and began our new lives.
From Telz to Paris
“Dad, Dr. Jechiel Lichtenstein, was born in Poland but grew up in Germany. He was strictly observant, but also steeped in world culture. In the 1930’s he completed his doctorate in Switzerland, his dissertation was on the influence of the Bible on the 17th Century French playwright, Jean Racine.
“Mother, Bluma nee Schwartz, was born and raised in Telz, Lithuania, a source of pride for her all her life. Her father was the administrator of the famous Telz Yeshiva and the family lived on the Yeshiva grounds. In 1930 she traveled to Switzerland to visit her brother who was staying at the Yeshiva that had been founded in Montreux. Her brother, a Telz Yeshiva student, had been sent to Montreux in order to serve as a model for the new students. He later returned to Telz and perished in the Holocaust.
“My mother met my father in Switzerland, they married and moved to Paris where my father became a teacher.”
[Tr: Joseph Schachter. All words within brackets added by translator for comprehension]
Appendix 20: Letter from Bingham Visa Recipient M. Friedrich Heine
In 1985, at the age of 80, M. Friedrich Heine wrote the following letter in English to Hiram Bingham IV.
Fr. Heine. Wendelinusstrasse 38 . 5358 Bad Munstereifel, Scheuren
April 28th 1985
Dear Mr. Bingham,
Mr. Urrows was kind enough to send me your address.
Most probably you will not remember me: in 1940 I have been in Marseille and there I had the good fortune to meet you quite a few times.
Thanks to you and your understanding of the situation, probably more than 1,000 refugees have been saved.
I am now over 80 years of age and the events I refer to are known to very few people nowadays -- but I still have the memory of those days and of your so very great help.
I'm very happy indeed that I have the good chance to tell you, how grateful I am still to you.
[signed] Fr. Heine
Appendix 21: Testimony by Senator Franz Leichter, Visa Recipient
Testimony of May 24, 2006, by former NY State Senator Franz Leichter, whose family received a visa at the Marseilles consulate:
“If it were not for Harry Bingham I would not be standing here. Harry gave my father, brother and me visas in Marseilles in July 1940 to come to the United States.
“I have a distinct recollection of meeting Harry. But it is probably false. In my memory I see Harry in shirtsleeves - a tall man - sitting on the back of his chair with his legs on the seat. I know how this memory came to be.
“We went to Marseilles to apply for our visa from a small city in southern France, where we had fled as the German armies approached Paris. My father had heard that America had just made emergency visas available which however were circumscribed by many conditions. It gave a lot of discretion to the consul whether to issue the visa or not. Much later I found out these visas came about mainly through the efforts of Eleanor Roosevelt. She convinced her husband to prevail upon a reluctant State Department to provide visas for Jewish and political refugees who were now in the so-called non-occupied part of France but who faced being turned over by the Vichy Government to the Gestapo.
“On the way to Marseilles my father - who even in these dark and fearful days tried to lighten our mood and to create some amusement - told me that I would meet my first American and how Americans are different in their behavior. He described how the person who we were to meet may sit on the floor or on his desk or do other strange things. This made me very eager to meet Americans - just as a young boy being taken to the zoo looks forward to seeing what has been described to him as a new, strange creature.
“I am pretty sure that Harry was not sitting on the back of the chair when we were ushered in to meet with him. But I do well remember his warmth and interest in us - and particularly his informality. His demeanor and friendliness was at great variance with what my middle-European background had taught me about how government officials behave. He probably did lean on his desk, was in shirt sleeves and put his arm around me for comfort. It was this experience together with the anticipation my father had created which left me with the exaggerated recollection of his sitting on the back of his chair.
“I remember as we left his office my father looking very relieved and saying ‘I think it went well.’ And indeed, in a week we received our much prized visa. We left immediately for the French border to cross into Spain. We went through a small fishing village on the Mediterranean coast, using a route which Varian Fry started using in August 1940 to save as many as two thousand persons who were in danger of falling into the hands of the Gestapo. Varian Fry - another American hero - worked closely with Harry Bingham who provided the visas.
“Together Harry Bingham and Varian Fry saved some of the more illustrious writers and artists of the day. Among them were Marc Chagall, Hannah Arendt, Heinrich Mann, Lion Feuchtwanger, Max Ernst, Franz Werfel, Jacques Lipchitz, and many more. They contributed greatly to the cultural life of their new home and to the world.
“Harry Bingham did more than issue visas. He was actively involved in rescue operations - spiriting threatened persons out of the hands of the Vichy police. In one well known incident he helped Lion Feuchtwanger escape from an internment camp and hid him together with Heinrich Mann and Golo Mann- Thomas Mann's brother and son in his apartment. He helped Varian Fry through numerous scrapes with the Vichy police by using his consular post to imply U.S. interest and concern.
“Throughout this humanitarian effort Harry had to battle the State Department and his superior, the Consul Hugh Fullerton, who were seeking to cozy up to Vichy France.
“And sadly anti-Semitism, which in those days infected the State Department, was a factor in the obstructions Harry had to overcome in his effort to save Jews and opponents of the Nazis from extermination. But Harry had the courage to act on his convictions and followed his principles of humanity and decency at the risk of professional success.
“The visas Harry issued were certificates of life. For the recipient they were the difference between death and life. The visas my family received from Harry enabled us to escape the Nazis. We arrived in New York in September 1940 and were able to benefitfrom life in the United States . I cannot forget the tall man in his shirtsleeves sitting on the back of his chair with his feet on the seat who gave us the certificates of life.
“As we rejoice in the recognition accorded Harry Bingham today we must however ask ourselves why it took some 60 plus years for the State Department to acknowledge its injustice to him and for the nation to bestow this honor upon him.
“In the moral void which engulfed the world during those trying days Harry Bingham was one of the few stars piercing the darkness.”
Appendix 22: Testimony by Hans L. Schlesinger, Visa Recipient
Article appearing in the Valley News, July 2, 2006
By Hans L. Schlesinger
The writer lives in Hanover.
“Stamp to Honor Diplomat Who Helped Jews” (Valley News, May 27): When I saw that headline I could hardly believe my eyes. Then memories came streaming in, because I owe this kind man so very much—my life, in fact. How could it have happened that I had lost touch with him and never had the chance to tell him what he meant to me? And now it is too late.
But I want to go back in my mind to the first day when I met Consul Hiram Bingham IV, who defied U.S. policy by helping Jews escape the Nazis in the early years of World War II.
Marseilles—I had been interned by the Vichy government in the infamous Gurs internment camp since 1940, while my wife, Liesel, was stuck in Brussels, where we had lived before the war, and in spite of all my efforts, I had not been able to get her out into Pétain’s (unoccupied) France.
Toward the end of 1940, I was surprised to receive letters from the American consul in Marseilles, asking me to present myself at the consulate as soon as possible. When I went to the consulate, there was a block-long line of people waiting for visas to come to America. I showed my invitation to the guard and was immediately admitted.
Ascending the stairs, a tall, good looking gentleman greeted me, introduced himself and with his hand on my shoulder said how glad he was to see me. I was completely flabbergasted. He took me to his office and immediately asked whether I wanted an immigration visas, a visitor’s visa or an emergency visa. My response was that I wanted an immigration visa.
He then gave me a slip to go t a doctor to have my health certified. I returned to the consulate immediately with my doctor’s certificate, and Consul Bingham issued the visa. “Don’t you want to see my papers?” I asked Consul Bingham, and his response was, “Not necessary, I know all about you.”
At that point I raised the question of how to get my wife, Liesel, who was by then in Paris, into unoccupied France. She had previously been refused a permit, and her papers had been confiscated. However, with the help of the French Underground, she finally made it to Marseilles on April 4, 1941.
Now we needed an immigration visa for her. When we returned to the consulate, we were shown into an office where we met Consul Standish. We never saw Consul Bingham again, but heard a rumor that he had been relieved of his office since he had apparently ignored the U.S. State Department’s suggestion to keep the number of U.S.-bound immigrants as low as possible.
Now we are reminded of this wonderful, kind person by the issuance of the first in a series of U.S. postal stamps under the name of “Distinguished American Diplomats” with this picture.
I owe my life with everlasting gratitude to Consul Bingham and will never forget him.
Oral History of Hans Schlesinger
This oral history was collected in July 2006 by Bill Endicott.
Hans Schlesinger was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1910. Mr. Schlesinger was 95 years old at the time of this oral history interview.
“In 1936, I and my wife left Germany for Brussels, Belgium where I worked for a chemical company. But in 1940 when the Germans invaded Holland, Belgium and France, I was contacted by the authorities. And since I was a German national, I, like all German nationals, was interned by the Belgians and they subsequently shipped me to internment camps in southern France -- while leaving my wife alone.
“For 11 months, I was in various camps, until the spring of 1941. The first camp I was sent to, in 1940, was St. Cyprien. When I was there, I got letters from the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers) essentially asking me what they could do to help. I believe that my brother, who was a scientist living in the United States, probably caused this to happen by contacting the American Friends Service Committee and advising them of my predicament.
“While the Committee was able to send me things like food and blankets, they could not get me out of the camp. I was also able to get food and even a hammock from other friends while I was in St., Cyprien. In letters they sent to St. Cyprien, the Committee guaranteed that I would not become a ward upon the state, and even found me a place to live in unoccupied France. But it was no use; the camp would not let me go.
“Conditions at St. Cyprien were not that strict. You could leave but had to come back overnight, for example. Escaping the camp wasn’t that difficult, either, but then you would be in the community without legal papers.
“In November in 1940, all the inmates and I were evacuated. -- There was a flood and we almost drowned.
“However, the camp we were shipped to, Gurs, was really bad. I can’t describe how bad the conditions were there. In the first place, the camp was surrounded by electrified barbed wire.
“We didn’t have to work, but it was 70 men all in one barracks. We would be walking in mud up to our knees. Some friends managed to send me some rubber wading boots, however.
“I can’t describe how bad the latrines were. And rather than walk through the mud to get to them, we just peed out the door of the barracks.
“One day an inmate in a crowd shouted out an insult at a French officer of the camp. The officer tried to find out who has done it, but no one would admit it, so he picked one man from each barracks and sent them to an even worse location. One of my friends suffered this fate and for a month he was fed hardly anything. (Happily, after the month, he was returned to Gurs and eventually even made it to the United States.)
“The inmates of these camps weren’t just Jews, either. They were all sorts of people opposed to Hitler and other dictators.
“But after the armistice between France and Germany, on June 22, 1940, things got a bit better and I was even allowed to leave the camp, as long as I came back at night.
“And after the armistice, I was also able to communicate with my family -- my father and mother livingin Tiensin, China (my father was a dentist there) and my brother living in the US.
“In 1941, I was moved to the transit camp in Aix in Province.
“Meanwhile, what happened to my wife? When I was interned, she was allowed to stay in Belgium. She tried to escape but was stopped at the Belgian-France border because she didn’t have the proper papers. As a result, she got caught up in the bombardment of Dunkirk, although she emerged unscathed.
“But when the Germans found her, they transported her (and some friends who had come with her) back to Brussels. And there she stayed for almost a year. I was able to get letters to her through intermediaries so at least we each knew where the other was.
“Then, strangely the Germans gave her permission to move to Paris.
“From there she tried to get into unoccupied France, where I was. But she couldn’t get a permit to do so. Also, she didn’t speak much French.
“Then, one day, by sheer chance, she happened to be standing in a line and met the wife of a retired French general. She told the general’s wife that she was trying to get to Marseille and why. The general’s wife introduced her to her son who was a member of the French underground and the son arranged for her to get into unoccupied France.
“But once there, she didn’t know what to do. All the railroad stations were guarded and you couldn’t get into or out of the station if you didn’t have the proper papers.
“Then, again purely by chance, she overheard some recently demobilized French soldiers who were speaking German. They were from Alsace-Lorraine, so they spoke both French and German. My wife told them that she was trying to figure out how to reunite with her husband.
“The soldiers put her in touch with a French officer who took her to Marseille on the train. He knew all the tricks for getting her through the train station. He told the officials ‘we’re just looking for her luggage.’ Then, in the baggage room, he found a way out onto the street. Once on the street, she knew she had friends in Marseilles from my business that she could stay with and she took a trolley to their house.
“All the while, I didn’t know she was in Marseille, thinking she was still in Paris. Then, I got a message from the French secret police summoning me to their office -- I was scared stiff. But they just said ‘your wife is in Marseille.’
“I got my American visa in February, 1941. While in the internment camps, starting around November, 1940, I started receiving letters from the American consulate in Marseille advising me of the need to get out of France. Again, I figure my brother had probably arranged this. Or maybe the Quakers.
“By December 1940, the letters got more urgent, strongly recommending that I come to the consulate, which was more easily said than done because I was in the camps.
“But by this time, I was shipped to another camp, the one at Les Milles, which wasn’t as strict as Gurs. During the day you could go out. You needed a special permit, but I was able to get it all the time. A business friend put me in touch with a police commissioner who helped with this. Through this method, I was even able to get permits for one week leaves from Les Milles.
“So, during one of these one-week leaves, in February, 1941, I went to the Marseille consulate. People were standing in a line that went around the block. But by showing the letters I had received from the Consulate, I was able to go to the head of the line.
“And there I met Harry Bingham. He came down the stairs, and put his hand on my shoulder and said how glad he was to see me. Harry told me everything was going to be taken care of. He asked me what kind of visa I wanted. I said only an immigration visa.
“Harry said that wouldn’t be a problem. I asked him, ‘Don’t you even want to see any of my papers?’ And he said ‘no.’
“I then raised the question of what to do about my wife, who was in Paris at that time. He said he couldn’t help with that and I should go to the Quakers, which I did.
“But they sent me back to Harry Bingham!
“This happened 2 or 3 times.
“Then, on the last time, Harry Bingham wrote a letter of invitation, inviting my wife to the Marseille office, and gave it to me, for me to get to her in Paris, hoping this would help.
“But by then she was making her way to the Marseille consulate anyway. When she got there, however, Harry wasn’t there and Miles Standish gave her the visa.
“In May, my wife and I left France in a French freighter, bound for Martinique. There were about 500 men and about 200 women aboard.
“But we never made it to Martinique. After about 12 days, the British sent a warship, boarded the freighter, took the French crew prisoners and took ship to Trinidad.
“There the passengers were unloaded. The British were very nice and allowed us to send telegrams to relatives.
“My brother sent me money which enabled me and my wife to sail to New York.
“Thinking back on it all, I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t gotten the visa from Harry. I didn’t have a dime.
“One option might have been to go to Shanghai. My brother was able to get me a Shanghai visa, so in theory, I could have legally gone there. But how?!”
After the war Hans was associated with Gallard-Schlesinger Industries for many years, and retired just last year as a director - at age 94! Since 1989 Gallard-Schlesinger, headquartered in Plainview, New York, has been a subsidiary of Chemische Fabrik Budenheim of Germany, a producer of specialty phosphates for food, pharmaceutical and industrial applications.
Appendix 23: List of Visa Applicants Found in Bingham’s Papers – Part 1
This typed list of visa applicants was found among the papers of Hiram Bingham at his home in Salem, Connecticut. We have listed the applicants as they appear on his typewritten list. Please note that one visa can represent a family of several people.
2- Vogel, Hans…Allemagne
3- Stampfer, Friedrich…Tchécoslovaquie
4- Breitscheid, Dr. Rudolf…Allemagne
5- Hilferding, Dr. Rudolf…Autriche
6- Geyer, Dr. Curt
7- Rinner, Dr. Erich…Allemagne
8- Ollenhauer, Erich…Allemagne
9- Braun, Max
10- Feuchtwanger, Lion
11- Kirschmann, Emil
12- Hirschfeld, Hans
13- Juchacz, Marie
14- Hamburger, Dr. Ernst
15- Weichmann, Dr. Herbert…Allemagne
Weichmann, Elsbeth… Tchécoslovaquie
16- Dr. Jurkat
17- Max Josef Kahn
18- George Bock
19- Benedict Zender
20- Adler, Dr. Friedrich
21- Hoffmann, Max
22- Heiden, Konrad
23- Stolz, Georg
Stolz, Martha… Tchécoslovaquie
24- Hartig, Valtin
25- Schwarzschild, Leopold…Allemange
26- Bernhard, Georg
27- Misch, Carl
28- Stern, Alexander
Courtesy of the Hiram “Harry” Bingham family.
Appendix 24: List of Visa Applicants Found in Bingham’s Papers – Part 2
1. Gustav Ferl
Ilot I; Baraque 31; St: Cyprien (Pyr.)
Important leader of Labor Mouvement, Member of Parliament
Visitors visa granted. Telegrafed convocation sent to French
Camp commandant gives only leave ifPortuguese and Spanish transit
Visa are guaranteed.
This condition impossible to fulfill.
Needs help to get a leave immediately to fetch his visa.
2. Ernst Hirschberg.
21, rue des Paradoux; Toulouse.
Important leader of Labor Mouvement,
Mentioned on list of 21 names for visitors visas. List granted
All 20 have already convocation only Hirschberg is missing.
Needs telegraphed investigation from Washington.
3. Helmut Wickel.
C/37, Camp de Vernet, Ariège.
Most important leader of underground propaganda against Hitler.
Visitor visa not yet granted.
In extreme danger from his activities as well as from being
Leader of underground work: (with the Railwaymen-organization)
and as writer.
Needs urgently visitor-visa and convocation.
4. Madame Elisabeth Reinbold.
Ilot K, Bar. 7,
Gurs, Basses Pyr.
Husband Georges Reinbold got visitor-visa. Wife interned. Must
be set freed.
To send 1) a cable to Prefecture at…
2) a convocation to Mme. Reinbold,
3) a cable to the Commandant of Gurs
5. Paul Junke.
Camp les Milles, Milles B.d Rh;
Important leader of Labor Mouvement in Germany.
Member of Parliament.
Now interned. Not yet Visitor-visa.
Needs granting of the visa.
6. Max Cohen (Reuss)
50, rue des Couteliers, 2
Member of Parliament. Member of “Reichswirtschaftsrat”. Wellknown
Writer. Not yet visitor visa.
Needs granting of the visa.
7. Lothar Popp.
69, rue du Taur,
Member of Parliament. Leader of Independent Labor-Mouvement at
Needs granting of the visitor-visa.
8. Georg Beyer.
16, Rue Peyras,
Former editor of political daily newspapers. Very important
activities in University of Cologne and scientific societies of
the Rhineland. Wellknown writer.
Needs granting of the visitor-visa.
9. Gerhard Kreyssig.
Secretary of the “Internationaler Gewerkschaftsbund” (International
Federation of Labor). One of the leading men of the German Labor
Needs granting of the visitor-visa.
10. Bruno Suess.
1, Avenue du Luchon,
Loures-Barusse, Ht: Pyr.
Leader of German Labor Mouvement in France. Former secretary of
German Labor Mouvement in South-Western-Germany.
Needs granting of the visitor-visa.
11. Hanna Schmidt-Kirchner.
One of the leaders of German Socialist zomen mouvement. Secretary
Of Anti-Hitler-works in the Sarr-territory.
Needs the visitor-visa.
Courtesy of the Hiram “Harry” Bingham family.
Appendix 25: List of Visas Granted, Refugees in Danger
This is a document found in the papers of Hiram Bingham. This indicates Hiram Bingham’s efforts to get refugees released from French concentration camps with the use of American documentation. Bingham personally visited the camps to hand out American papers.
Visas granted, but not yet delivered.
particularly in danger
1.) Ernst Langendorf, C/34 Camp de Vernet par Parmiers (Ariege) no. 164
2.) Hellmut Wickel, C/37 Camp de Vernet par Parmiers (Ariege)
3.) Gustav Ferl, Ilot 1, Baraque 31, Camp St. Cyprien (Pyr. Or.) no. 81
4.) Georg Reinbold, Groupe des Suets, Thonon (The. Savoie) no. 357
5.) Elisabeth Reinbold, Ilot K, Baraque 7, Gurs (Bass. Pyr.)
6.) Maria Kall-Arning, Ilot M, Baraque 18, Gurs (Bass. Pyr.)
7.) Ernst Iurkat, 7e Comp. IIe Bat, 4 REI, Agadir (Maror)
At my charge, wire commandants to let these men off to visit Marseilles-H.B.
They all got the convocation, but they couldn’t have either leave or liberation. It is urgently to send a letter from the Consulate to the Commandants of the resp. camps, to let this people free or to give them a leave to get their visa.
They all are leading people in the German Labor Mouvement or well known intellectuals.
Courtesy of the Hiram “Harry” Bingham family.
Appendix 26: Business Cards of Visa Applicants in Marseilles
The following is a list of visa applicants found in the papers of Hiram Bingham. They were business cards stapled onto a single sheet.
Marseille – Visa applicants
2, rue Alphonse-Karr
Monsieur Serge Voronoff
[illegible] de Chirugie Experimentale au Collège de France
par Menton AM
Dr. Wilhelm Ellenbogen
(Secrétaire d’Etat / of Vienna)
Louis de Brouckère
Professeur a l’Université de Bruxelles
Membre de l’Académie Royale de Belgique
Docteur en Droit
(Leading lawyer of Berlin / [illegible] / note on reverse)
E. I. Gumbel
Maître de Recherches
1, rue P. Huvelin
Faculté des Sciences
Courtesy of the Hiram “Harry” Bingham family.
Appendix 27: HIAS List of Jewish Refugees with US Visas from Marseilles
HICEM was one of the most successful organizations in helping refugees flee from Marseilles. It was originally composed of the Hebrew Immigration Aid and Sheltering Society (HIAS), based out of New York City, and its semi-autonomous group of HICEM, which operated in Europe. HICEM served as an umbrella group throughout Europe for Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis. The HICEM received funds from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
After Germany conquered Belgium and occupied France, HICEM moved its European headquarters to neutral Lisbon and maintained an active branch office in Marseilles. Wladimir Schah, Raphael Spanien and Alexander Trocki were in charge of the HICEM office in Marseilles. It maintained a staff of approximately 80 persons until November 1942.
HICEM helped Jews in Marseilles in various ways. It supplied funds, food and shelter for Jews trapped in Marseilles. It arranged for transportation of Jews to leave Marseilles through Spain to Lisbon. It also arranged for ship transportation from Lisbon to other parts of the world. For indigent refugees, HIEM paid the cost of transportation from Europe to the United States, which was on average about $420 per person. Between June 1940 and the end of 1942, HIEM helped at least 6,449 Jews escape France.
HICEM worked directly with the Unitarian Service Committee (USC), the American Friends’ Service Committee (AFSC; Quakers), and the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC).
HICEM commended Harry Bingham for his work in helping Jews at the Marseilles consulate.
This is a partial list of individuals helped by HICEM who received American visas in Marseille. This collection is located in the YIVO archives in New York City.
HIAS-JCA EMIGRATION ASSOCIATION
51, Rue Breteuil – Marseille
First Name, Nationality, Age
US Visa No(s).
Léon, without, 35
Frieda (née Tauba), Polish, 35
Henriette, without, 3
Gisela (née Lobl), Czech., 53
713, 714, 715, 117
Emma, ex-Austr., 63
Klaus, undeterm., 40
Ruben, apatr. Russian, 75
Johanna (née Rau), German, 33
Wilhelm, German, 40
Broch de Rotherman
Arnold, ex-Austrian, 31
Hélène (née Rachkowitsch), Ref. Russian, 52
Adolf, German, 43
Olga, Hungarian, 45
Anna (née Levin), German, 62
Richard, German, 52
Eugénie (née Boas), German, 56
Eva-Rose Kuttner, German, 23
781, 367, 836 (immig.)
Alfred, Czech., 71
Max, German, 69
Jacoba, German, 35
Max, German, 15
524, 525, 526
Leni (Semi), Polish, 5
Sabine, Polish, 13
Fraidel, Polish, 11
Curt, German, 65
Maria-Johanna (née Freund), German, 40
645, 646 (immig.)
Margot, German, 27
Lipe-Samuel, German, 57
Zirla (née Weidenfeld), German, 57
Mendel, German, 31
Regine, German, 28
354, 84, 85, 86
Zéli, Ref. Russian, 62
Sarra, Ref. Russian, 49
93, 94 (immig.)
Irene, German, 20
7 (non quota immig.)
David, apatr., 44
Riwa, apatr., 43
Baruch-Nathan, apatr., 20
Moses, apatr., 18
Feiwel, apatr., 16
Miriam, apatr., 12
Wilhelm, apatr., 32
Kresel, apatr., 67
Fanny Schiff, apatr., 31
80, 15, 301 (immig.)
Oscar, apatr., 39
Rösel (née Biegeleisen), apatr., 32
Mathilde, German, 61
Max, German, 63
Lina, German, 62
Josef, Polish, 11
Susi, Polish, 12
Schaje-Leib, Polish, 32
Marcel-Mourice, French, 41
Nathan, ex-Austrian, 41
Rebecca (née Bruder), ex-Austrian, 39
Jean, Lithuanian, 41
Véra, Lithuanian, 33
Werner, German, 33
Lilly (née Baumann), German, 32
Willy, German, 34
Margot (née Mark), German, 28
Maria-Lisa, German, 34
Lotte, apatr., 35
Alois, Czech., 32
Stépan, Czech., 41
Rudolf-Edouard, German, 47
Marguerite (née Theiner), German, 52
Joseph, German, 69
Anna (née Erich), German, 63
Chaim, Polish, 40
Czarna (née Szneydermann), Polish, 38
Claude-Michel, French, 2
Jacob, German, 64
Pauline (née Pfeiffer), German, 64
Antoinette, French, 50
Eugène, German, 32
Hélène (née Eppstein), German, 22
Eliane, German, 2
817, 818, 819 (immig.)
Israël, Polish, 37
Eesia (née Ajnsztajn), Polish, 31
168, 173 (immig.)
Bernhard, Austrian, 37
Erna (née Schulmann), Austrian, 30
Herbert-Paul, Austrian, 5
457, 531 (immig.)
Gisella, ex-Austrian, 46
Katharina, ex-Austrian, 10
Benno, ex-Austrian, 41
Estera, Polish, 22
Bencjon, Polish, 40
Tydla, Polish, 42
Simon, Polish, 17
Régine, Polish, 9
Chaja Tygel, Polish, 80
207, 208, 209, 211
Charlotte, without, 50
Gerard, apatr., 19
Wilfgant, apatr., 17
796, 797, 798 (immig.)
Margarete, German, 34
Sigismund, German, 43
Boris, Ref. Russian, 51
Lehmann, German, 71
Peter, ex-Austrian, 35
Irma (née Stadler), ex-Austrian, 35
Leib, Austrian, 35
Blanka, Austrian, 36
First Name, Nationality, Age
US Visa No(s).
Anna (née Moldavsky), Ref. Russian, 44
728 (“Special Visa”)
David, Polish, 42
184 (Emergency visa)
Claire, German, 44
Louis, German, 20
Claudine, German, 16
10, 11 (“Special Visas”), 653 (immig.)
Appendix 28: Cables from Embassy in Vichy to US State Department
On September 14, 1940, the US Consulate in Vichy communicated to the Secretary of State regarding Fry and AFL-CIO representative Frank Bohn. This communication shows the ambivalence by the US consulates in Vichy France regarding the helping of refugees by relief agencies, with whom Bingham was heavily involved. US National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the Department of State, Visa Division, 1940-1945, 811.111, Refugees/1527.
Dated September 14, 1940
Rec’d 2:15 a.m., 15th
Secretary of State,
566, September 14, 6 p.m.
My telegram 539, September 11, 10 a.m.
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.’
US National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the Department of State, Visa Division, 1940-1945, 811.111, Refugees/1527
Appendix 29: Fry Letter to Cordell Hull Dated November 18, 1940
On November 18, 1940, Varian Fry wrote 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?”
US National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the Department of State, Visa Division, 1940-1945, 811.111, Refugees/1530 (Varian Fry)
Appendix 30: Letter from Matthews re Varian Fry, November 30, 1940
On 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…”
US National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the Department of State, Visa Division, 1940-1945, 811.111, Refugees
Prepared by William T. Endicott from an original document in the Hiram Bingham IV archives.
From November 27 to December 1, 1940, Vice Consul Harry Bingham IV visited 5 French concentration camps.
On December 20, 1940, Hiram Bingham wrote 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.”
It is interesting to note that Bingham did it on his own initiative and at his own expense. In a December 13 letter to Howard R. Kerchner, American Consul General Hugh Fullerton, Harry’s boss, wrote: “....As you doubtless know, Mr. Bingham’s trip to the camps was in nowise official and under instructions from the Department of State. It was, in fact, made at his own expense...”
Vice Consul Bingham openly cooperated with not only the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC), but also with other rescue and relief organizations, such as the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the American Friends’ Service Committee (Quakers), the Unitarian Committee, the Mennonite Committee, the American Red Cross, and other groups. Vice Consul Bingham received several letters of thank you and commendation from these organizations. (See below.)
The following are excerpts from 28 pages of documents pertaining to that trip:
1. EXCERPTS FROM CONSUL GENERAL HUGH FULLERTON’S COVER MEMO
Marseille, December 20, 1940
Subject: Concentration camps in Southern France
THE SECRETARY OF STATE,
I have the honor to transmit herewith a report in the form of a Memorandum prepared by Vice Consul Hiram Bingham, Jr., following a recent brief tour made by him, with my approval to 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 Miles (near Aix-en-Province).
PURPOSE OF VISIT -- IMMIGRATION PROBLEMS.
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 immigrants 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 7,000) who are included in the 50,000 or more foreigners, refugees and “suspects” now confined in the concentration camps...
...The trip was made in the company of Dr. Donald Lowrie, Chairman of the coordinating committee of organizations doing relief work in the camps (Comité de Coordination pour l’assistance dans les Camps”). This “Coordination Committee” was organized at a meeting at Nimes on September 20, 1940, to which were invited representatives of the following 20 organizations, all of whom have been engaged in some form of service in the internment camps:
American Friends Service Committee,
American Friends of Czechoslovakia,
Belgian Red Cross,
Centre American de Secours,
Comité d’Assistance aus Réfugiés,
Comité Central des Organizations Juives d’assistance en France,
European Relief Fund,
Federation Français des Associations Chrétienne d’Etudiantes,
French Y.W. C. A.
H.I.C. H. M. (HIAS-JCA Emigration Association. Jewish International
Joint Distribution Committee,
Polish Red Cross,
Secours Suisse aux enfants,
Union des Societies O.S.E.
Unitarian Service Committee,
World’s Committee Y.M.C.A...
2. VICE CONSUL HARRY BINGHAM’S REPORT
Regarding: Concentration camps for Foreigners in the Marseille Consular district.
Date: December 20, 1940
Prepared by: Vice Consul Hiram Bingham, Jr.
Of the twenty or more concentration camps located in unoccupied France (see list attached to this memorandum) five of the largest and most important were visited in the course of a trip made November 27th to December 1st, 1940.
A rough estimate of the number of persons at the camps visited is as follows:
Camp de Gurs......................................12,800 inmates (including about 5,000 women
and 1,000 children).
Camp de Vernet.....................................5,000 inmates (all men)
Camp d’Argeles...................................15,500 “(including 3,000 women and 1,500 children).
Camp d’Agde.......................................13,060 men, women and children. Capacity:
Camp des Milles........................................106 inmates (men -- capacity being
prepared for 2,000 -- former maximum
number was about 4,000)...
...THE CAMP AT GURS -- GENERAL CONDITIONS -- HOUSING, etc...
The camp at Gurs is located on the top of a long rolling hill about 1 1/2 kms. from the village of Gurs in the Department of Basses-Pyrenees about 15 miles from Pau.
The day the camp was visited it was a cold, cloudy wet day -- a “typical” day at this time of year. There are no trees or vegetation of any kind in the confines of the camp. The whole surface is damp, exposed and muddy. A paved highway runs for two kilometers along the side of the camp and a gravel road has been run down the center.
The majority of the barracks which house the present number of 12,500 internees appeared to be old and somewhat dilapidated and weather-beaten. There were a number of different kinds, some covered with tar paper, some made of corrugated iron or shiny metal sheets and some of simple wooden boards with and without windows around the top... Judging by the few little pipes with smoke escaping, only a small proportion of the buildings could have been heated.
PERSONNEL AND NUMBERS AT GURS.
“... about six thousand Germans had arrived directly from Germany having been expelled on very short notice and with no chance to bring with them more than a very small proportion of their belongings. The German Jews were said to be of all ages including a large number of old men and women and young children. About 7,000 persons had reportedly arrived from Lorraine and several hundred foreigners of all nationalities had come from other camps and cities in the non-occupied portion of France... The oldest inmate at Gurs was said to be 104 years old. Several babies were born there in the past few weeks.
INSUFFICIENCY OF FOOD
... Each person received (and this applied as far a could be seen to each of the camps visited) about 350 grams of bread each morning which had to last all day. Such other food as was obtainable such as vegetables, sometimes “semoules” and occasionally meat was put into the soup which was served twice a day as lunch and supper...the soup was often cold or filled with sand and dirt before reaching the barracks furthest from the kitchen.
SANITARY CONDITIONS -- POOR
Sanitary conditions at all of the camps visited were primitive. At Gurs the latrines consisted of out-houses raised over an open row of exposed garbage cans...To be reached one had to brave the outside cold and walk over 50 to 100 yards of muddy ground. Such washing as was possible might be done in long uncovered wooden troughs. Few of the people in any of the camps had any cots to sleep on or even wooden bunks. Many persons were even without straw to place on the floor and at the Camp at Argeles-sur-Mer many if not most of the barracks were without floors and the Commandant told us that a number of women and children had to sleep on the damp sand...at least 60 persons were understood to share each of the long wooden buildings or barracks...Some barracks, notably the barracks for women at Argeles-sur-Mer were reported to be infested with rats and mice and lice which disturbed sleep and were not pleasant to have around particularly where there were many small children.
ORGANIZATION OF CAMPS -- GROUPS DEPENDING ON SEX, NATIONALITY, ETC.
...At Gurs there are large sections of German Jews, French from Alsace and Lorraine, Spanish and some of various other nationalities including Russians, Poles, Czechs, Belgians, etc....
....At Argeles there are still six hundred German Jews ....They were of course the group that demanded the most and were most generally anxious to emigrate to the United States...
...A “special” camp at Argeles, more heavily guarded than the rest, housed those men who had tried to escape or had in other ways misbehaved...
...Discipline at he Camp at Vernet appeared to be much more severe than at the other camps visited... One section of the camp was reserved for communists of all kinds and another for extremists and anarchists...
....POSSIBILITIES OF IMPROVEMENT
...The possibility for improvement is, of course, limitless, but with such restricted means and so much real need in the cities and country throughout the unoccupied portion of France, it is understandable that the French Government does not feel it can do much more than it is doing for the numbers of refugees and unwanted foreigners now crowding the camps.
There is some reason to believe, according to one well-informed Frenchman, that the Germans wish conditions in the camps to be “hard” and will endeavor to keep them so by dumping thousands of new refugees from Germany and the occupied part of France in to the unoccupied zone where they must necessarily complicate the whole problem. By doing this, their own concentration camps in Germany would appear in a favorable light, particularly as regards sanitation. They also may wish to “convert” the inmates by an “example” of inefficiency and incompetent management as well as callous inhumanity on the part of persons brought up in a “democratic” system. When the shortage of food becomes more acute, the camps may be used as centers of unrest. Disturbances and anti-foreign sentiment may be accentuated and organized against the buyers of provisions for the camps in local markets. Resulting riots may be used if desired as an excuse for intervention and military occupation of the whole of France...
3. LIST OF CAMPS
APPENDIX No. 3 to memorandum enclosed with Dispatch number 82 of December 29, 1940, regarding “Concentration Camps in Southern France”.
Statistics prepared by Coordination Committee
Figures based on estimates as of November 20, 1940
[List summarized here from 4-page original -- ed.]
AGDE. Capacity 20,000 - present population: 3,060
ARGLES Capacity 25,000 - present population: 15,500
AIGUE BLANCHE Capacity ? - present population ?
HOTEL BOMPARD Capacity ? - present population: 100
BRAM Capacity 50,000 - present population: 3,000
BRENS-GAILLAC Capacity 4,000 - present population: 3,000
CARPIANE Capacity ? - present population: 3,060
CAYLUS Capacity ? - present population: ?
CHAUX D’ANE Capacity ? - present population: 500
CLAIRFONDS Capacity ? - present population: ?
FORT-BRKSCOU Capacity 100 - present population: ?
CARRIGUES Capacity ? - present population: ?
GURS Capacity 22,000 -present population: 14,000
LES MILLES Capacity 4,000 - present population: 3,000
LORIOL Capacity ? - present population: ?
MAS BOULBONCapacity ? - present population ?
MONTAUBAN Capacity 1,300 - present population: 150
MONTELIMAR Capacity ? - present population: 250
RECEREDOU Capacity 3,000 - present population: 300
RIVESALTES camp under construction
RIEUCROS Capacity 1,500 - present population: 1,500
SEFTFONDS Capacity 6,000 - present population: 1,000
SAINT ANTOINE Capacity ? - present population: 1,000
SAINT-HIPOLYTE Capacity 1,500 - present population: 1,000
SAINT-MARTHE Capacity 10,000 - present population: 250
SAINTE-NICOLAS Capacity ? - present population: ?
VERNET Capacity ? - present population: 4,500
Total population of camps: 54,850
of which: women: 8,341
N.B. In addition there are about 100 camps of:
b) foreign workers
making a total of nearly 25,000 men.
4. STATISTICS ON DEATHS IN THE CAMPS
APPENDIX No. 4 to memorandum enclosed with Dispatch number 62 of December 20, 1940 regarding “Concentration Camps in Southern France”.
Based on reports received from reliable persons interned in the camps.
Number of deaths: -
About 300 deaths during November 1940
150 deaths during first 10 days of December
Deaths listed in one day:-
4 from chronic heart disease
7 old people
1 45 yr old woman from malnutrition
1 16-yr old diabetic patient
1 baby of 4 months
1 two year old child from enteritis
1 16-yr old from polycephalitis
1 40-yr old woman from lung trouble
Appendix 31: Letter to Howard E. Kershner of December 13, 1940
Letter to Mr. Howard E. Kershner, American Friends’ Service Committee (Quakers), Marseille, dated December 13, 1940, from Hugh S. Fullerton, US Consul General.
Consul General Fullerton acknowledges that Vice Consul Hiram Bingham’s visit to the French concentration camps was not official and was made at Bingham’s own expense. The following is a quote from the letter:
“As you doubtless know, Mr. Bingham’s trip to the camps was in nowise official and under instructions from the Department of State. It was, in fact, made at his own expense. It was my thought in encouraging him to go that a first hand knowledge of the camps and their inmates might enable the Consulate more intelligently to estimate the immigration problem we have there – especially in view of the declared intention of the French authorities to concentrate refugees considered eligible for eventual departure abroad in a camp near Aix-en-Provence.”
This letter indicates that Bingham was extending himself beyond his normal activities as Vice Consul at the US consulate in Marseille.
Appendix 32: Letter Commending Hiram Bingham, February 12, 1941
On February 12, 1941, Lena Fishman, Secretary of the Emergency Rescue Committee in Marseille, wrote 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.”
Source: Rare Book and Manuscript Library (Butler Library, Columbia University)
Appendix 33: Letter from Varian Fry to US Embassy in Vichy, March 7, 1941
Under Bingham’s supervision, more visas were being issued at the Marseille consulate than in other consulates in France. On March 7, 1941, Varian Fry wrote 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.”
Bingham was working closely, and secretly, with Varian Fry, Frank Bohn and other rescue agencies.
US National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the Department of State, Visa Division, 1940-1945, 811.111, Refugees
Appendix 34: Fry re Uneven Implementation of Visa Policy, April 10, 1941
CENTRE AMERICAIN DE SECOURS
18 Bld. Garibaldi
April 10th 1941.
Senator Robert F. Wagner
Senate Office Building
Dear Senator Wagner,
I am enclosing herewith photo-copies of letters I have received from Mr. Felix Cole, our Consul at Algiers, and Mr. Clark Husted, our vice-Consul at Lyon.
I send you these letters because 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. Since the formation of our committee we have dealt with several thousand persons both of the Jewish and other faiths, and we have never found that persons of the Jewish faith experience any greater difficulty in obtaining exit and transit visas to proceed to the United States than do persons of other faiths, nor have we found that persons of the Jewish faith are any more liable to be interned in France than persons of other faiths. 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.
Without wishing to cause them any trouble, I should be very grateful if you would bring this matter to the attention of the proper persons at the State Department. It would doubtless be sufficient for the department to query the Consuls and ask them for reports justifying the attitude they have adopted. 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.
US National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the Department of State, Visa Division, 1940-1945, 811.111, Refugees
American Consular Service
Algier, Algeria, March 4, 1941.
Mr. Varian Fry,
Centre Américain de Secours,
18 Boulevard Garibaldi,
Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of February 14, 1941, with reference to the difference you seem to have noted in the handling of visa cases at this office and at various offices in France.
This variation was undoubtedly caused by the fact that the instruction from the Department of State reporting the opening of the German quota was not received here until February 24, 1941.
In view of your interest in immigration matters I wish to draw your attention to the fact that, at present, this office is acting under instructions from the Department of State at Washington, which prohibit it from issuing immigration visas to persons who are not in a position to use them. The past experience of the Consulate General shows that persons holding visas within the German quota, who are of the Jewish faith or origin, and who have either been members of the Foreign Legion or “workers units” experience extreme difficulty in obtaining exit and transit visas necessary for their journey to the United States. It is believed that a few visas will be issued within the near future as a method of testing whether the system of refusing visas without reason employed by the Portuguese and Spanish Consuls and the difficulties experienced with reference to the French authorities, are still present.
If, after careful recording of these cases it is found that there is less than a reasonable chance that the holder of an immigration visa will be able to leave Algeria before the expiration of the visa I shall be forced to refuse subsequent visas in view of my instructions.
There is another point which you might well consider. In view of the probable long delay and resultant expense which will probably be experienced by any person, given a quota immigration visa by this office, before he can proceed on his journey, it is entirely probable that many of them eventually will be without funds. As you are aware, my responsibility is completed with the issuance of the visa but the question still remains who will support these persons when their funds are exhausted. The question is of interest also with reference to the public charge provisions of the immigration law in view of their acceptance of charity, if such is the case.
Any cases in which satisfactory evidence is presented will be given careful and sympathetic consideration but you will understand that I am not in a position to relax, without formal instructions, the provisions of the immigration law which prohibit Consular officers from granting visas to persons who have not established to the satisfaction of the officer concerned that they are not likely to become public charges following their admission to the Untied States.
Very truly yours,
American Consul General
Appendix 35: Letter from Varian Fry to Senator Wagner, April 19, 1941
CENTRE AMERICAIN DE SECOURS
Marseille, 18, Boulevard Garibaldi
Senator Robert F. Wagner,
Senate Office Building,
April 19th 1941
Dear Senator 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. Needless to say a great number of people of Austrian or German birth wishing to immigrate to the United States do everything possible to transfer their legal residence to the Marseille consular district, and some of them succeed in doing so. It is partly because of this fact that the Marseille staff is faced with an ever increasing volume of work.
I believe that the State Department is informed of these facts, for I have already brought them to the attention of our Consuls at Lyon, Nice and Algiers that they have applied for additional staff in order to enable them to bring their work up to date (our Consul at Nice has never answered my letter). Nevertheless, I think it would be most helpful if you would be good enough to speak or write to Mr. Avra Warren to ask him how much longer this curious difference between the various American consulates in France will continue. I should be most grateful to you if you would do so.
US National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the Department of State, Visa Division, 1940-1945, 811.111, Refugees
Appendix 36: Telegram from Fullerton to Secretary of State Hull, June 11, 1941
On June 11, 1941, Consul General Fullerton (Bingham’s supervisor) at the US consulate in Marseille sent a telegram to the US Secretary of State.
Marseille via Vichy
Dated June 11, 1941
Secretary of State,
“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.”
US National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the Department of State, Visa Division, 1940-1945, 811.111, Refugees/1527
Appendix 37: Cablegram from Fry to ERC in New York on June 24, 1941
June 24, 1941
EMERESCUE NEW YORK
279 CONSULATE RECEIVED INSTRUCTIONS THIS MORNING STOPPING ALL VISAS EVEN THOSE ALREADY GRANTED BY STATE DEPARTMENT STOP ONLY EXCEPTIONS NATIVE BORN FRENCH WITH ALL NEAR RELATIVES IN UNOCCUPIED ZONE STOP FOR ALL OTHERS CONSULATE CAN ONLY CABLE STATE DEPT FOR PERMISSION TO GRANT VISA STOP EVEN PAC CASES STOP FEAR RESULT WILL BE END ALL EMIGRATION AS BY TIME STATE DEPT HAS TAKEN NEW DECISIONS IT MAY BE TOO LATE LEAVE STOP URGE YOU MAKE IMMEDIATE MOST VIGOROUS REPESENTATIONS WITH VIEW HAVING NEW REGULATIONS MODIFIED AT LEAST TO ENABLE CONSULS GRANT WITHOUT FURTHER DELAY PAC VISAS ALREADY AUTHORIZED STOP ANY OTHER DECISION WILL WORK CRUIEL AND NEEDLESS HARDSHIP ON ALREADY SORELY TRIED REFUGEES
Source: Varian Fry Papers, Columbia University
Appendix 38: Memo from Consul General Fullerton re Fry, September 1, 1941
EMBASSY OF THE
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Marseille, September 1, 1941
I enclose a copy of a telegram that I had telephoned to Mrs. Cousins this afternoon regarding Fry, which I requested be sent off as soon as possible in non-confidential code. It appears that Fry, contrary to a definite promise he had made to the authorities here upon condition that he be not interned or prosecuted, had one of his employees telegraph to the United States a report that he had been arrested and imprisoned for anti-nazi and pro-Jewish activities and that the Boston Radio actually carried this report last night. The authorities are naturally furious and have expressed the hope that I would do my best to place the matter in the proper light. 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. I do not know how far we are as yet able to go in controlling propaganda agencies in the United States, but I am sure you will agree with me that any support by the Department of Fry would be definitely against our own interests in France.
US National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the Department of State, Visa Division, 1940-1945, 811.111, Refugees, see also Post Files
Appendix 39: Fry Letter Dated October 15, 1941
On October 15, 1941, Varian Fry wrote to his replacement at the ERC, Daniel Bénédite. He refers 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.”
Varian Fry Papers, Columbia University, Document 50-51
Appendix 40: Fry Letter to Daniel Bénédite of November 25, 1941
On November 25, 1941, Varian Fry wrote to Daniel Bénédite from New York City. He stated:
“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.”
Varian Fry Papers, Columbia University, Letter 14, Document 110-113
Appendix 41: Fry Letter to Bénédite of December 24, 1941
On December 24, 1941, Varian Fry wrote from his home in New York City to his replacement in Marseille, Daniel Bénédite. He complains 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.”
Varian Fry Papers, Columbia University, Letter 16, pp. 127-129
Appendix 42: Fry Letter to Bénédite on February 2, 1942
On February 2, 1942, Varian Fry wrote 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.”
“Yet we don’t abandon hope. Some day, we believe, Duchamp, Pierre Roy and the Arps will have their visas. Perhaps we can get to Archibald MacLeish. Perhaps the Attorney General, Francis Biddle, will take an interest in the cases. Perhaps Mrs. Rockefeller will speak to her son, Nelson, who is head of the office having to do with cultural relations with Latin America, and perhaps Nelson Rockefeller will speak to Sumner Welles. Somehow, the thing will be done, for the Modern Art people have lots of influential friends.”
“The cases of the others are not so hopeful, I am afraid. 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.”
Varian Fry Papers, Columbia University, Letter 22, Document 150-151
Appendix 43: Fry Letter to Daniel Bénédite of April 3, 1942
On April 3, 1942, Varian Fry wrote from his home in New York City to Daniel Bénédite in Marseille. Fry refers 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.
Varian Fry Papers, Columbia University, Letter 25, Document 178-179
Appendix 44: Fry Letter to Daniel Bénédite of May 28, 1942
On May 28, 1942, Varian Fry wrote from his home in New York City to Daniel Bénédite in Marseille. Fry wrote 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.”
Varian Fry Papers, Columbia University, Document 231-232
Appendix 45: Letter from Bingham to Feuchtwanger, June 9, 1942
Embassy of the
United States of America
Buenos Aires, Argentina,
June 9, 1942.
An article in the May 2nd edition of “The Nation” by Varian Fry, mentioning your name and bringing back recollections of bitter and difficult days, reminded me that I had shamefully neglected to write and thank you for your book “The Devil in France”, which you were good enough to send me. Needless to say, I was most grateful to you for sending this book to me, which has so well described conditions with which we were both only too familiar, and has helped my wife to understand some more of the trying atmosphere of those days. I was glad that you had not mentioned my name, but appreciate more than I can tell you the kind inferences made in your chapter on Marseilles.
I am having almost as busy and interesting a time working here, although the life and work are both much more agreeable. Some day when we can get together for another good talk, I will tell you more about these interesting days. I hope all is going well with you and that life is not treating you too badly.
With all kind regards and best wishes,
[signed: “Harry/Hiram Bingham”]
Hiram Bingham, Jr.
Mr. Lion Feuchtwanger
U. S. A.
Appendix 46: Fry Unpublished Comments re Difficulties with American Consular Officials in France
In an unpublished portion of his manuscript, Varian Fry writes about his difficulties with the American embassy and consulate in southern France.
“When Ambassador Leahy first arrived in France to take up his post, I wrote him a letter, asking for an appointment. My letter was never answered. When the Ambassador visited Marseilles a few weeks later, I was the only American relief worker there who did not have an opportunity to meet him.
There followed a long period of fruitful work, in which I had no relations with the Embassy at all. During this period, however, I learned what had been at the basis of my troubles with the French police. A friend of mine, who knew a high official at he Prefecture, had a chance to see my dossier. In the dossier there was a report from Vichy dated September 1940. This report read about as follows:
‘The activities of Mr. Fry might prove embarrassing, in the present circumstances, because he insists on occupying himself with persons who are undesirable not only from the point of view of France, but also from the point of view of the Reich. On the other hand, Mr. Fry is too well known in the United States, and has too many important connections, to be made the subject of an expulsion order. Above all, he should not be made a martyr of. The desirable solution to the problem would be to persuade him to leave France of his own free will.’”
Varian Fry Papers, Columbia University, pp. 7-8
Appendix 47: Fry Unpublished Comments re Uncooperative Attitudes of American Diplomats in France
“For the most part, I suppose the people in Washington sit in quiet offices dealing with papers. It may be boring, it probably is excrutiatingly boring, but it doesn’t tear their hearts out, it doesn’t take their souls and twist them like towels until they can hear the fibres crack. We are here day after day, surrounded by nervous, hysterical and driven refugees who come to us day after day and ask us when, when, when, will their visas come. And all we can tell them is we don’t know.
“If someone could only get to the men in the State Department who are holding the visas up and try to give them some idea of what their action—or is it their inaction?—means in terms of human stress and misery, perhaps he could get some action visas out of them. He should tell them about the suicides—we have had seven already. He should tell them about the nervous breakdowns. One of the most successful criminal lawyers of the German Republic broke down and cried like a baby in my office yesterday. He should tell them about the growing impoverishment of those people, who are cut off not only from their funds but from all chances of earning a living. He should tell them about the frightful conditions in the camps, the high mortality rate, the tuberculosis, the lice, the fleas, the dysentery, the typhoid. And he should tell them that it is to this that their action or inaction is condemning the cream of Europe.
“I realize they want to be sure they aren’t letting in fifth columnists. But surely they can find someone whose judgment on these questions they can trust? And surely fear of fifth columnists is no excuse for holding up for months the visa request of a man like Wilhelm Herzog, who is known all over the world as the most eminent anti-Nazi, and for whom Thomas Mann himself has doubtless vouched?
“But the trouble isn’t wholly with the State Department. A great many of our protégés have repeatedly told us that the consuls at Lyon and Nice show marked ill will in their relations with are very hostile to the refugees who apply to them. The refugees are poorly treated They receive them shabbily, treat them with distrust and even at times with brutality. They multiply the administrative red tape; demand papers impossible to procure; give appointments grudgingly, and then for days, weeks and even months ahead; and they make the applicants come back again and again in an obvious effort to discourage them.
“Another thing about these consuls is that they make no effort to keep abreast of the regulations: the refugees say that at the consulates at Lyon and Nice they are being told that the German-Austrian and Polish quotas are still closed, though this has not been true since the first of January. Finally, it is extremely difficult for the refugees to get convocations from these consulates even when the authorizations have arrived from Washington or the dossiers are complete and the visas can be granted; and most of the letters and telegrams they send the consulates go unanswered even when they are accompanied by prepaid reply coupons.
“Lyon is probably the worst of all. The consul there is a stubborn man who comes from a rich and idle family and does practically no work at all. Kay Boyle went to see him a few days ago about an Austrian friend of hers, Baron du Franckenstein. I had told her the German-Austrian quota was open at Marseille and that I saw no reason why it shouldn’t also be open at Lyon. She asked the consul about it, and she says he answered something like this: ‘Yes, I’ve had thirty German-Austrian quota numbers since the first of January, but I’ve been so busy packing my linen and silver that I haven’t had time to think about visas. But don’t bother your pretty head about aliens, Kay. Come along home with me and have lunch.’
“This perhaps explains why at Lyon it is still true that no one can obtain a visa under the combined German-Austrian quota who didn’t register before September, 1936. Lyon also invents laws of its own. A vice-consul there recently told one of our clients that it was illegal for minor children to go to the United States unless accompanied by their parents.
“Nice is almost as bad as Lyon. The consul seems to enjoy associating with rich English and American expatriates and deeply resents having to have anything to do with refugees and, particularly, Jews. Both he and the consul at Lyon are more or less openly anti-semitic. Like the consul at Lyon, the consul at Nice hasn’t bothered to move the quote deadline from September, 1938.
“Pretty much the same thing is true of Algiers. There, too, the consul tells everybody that the German-Austrian and Polish quotas are closed.
“In fact, so far as I know, the Marseille consulate is the only one in France where the German-Austrian and Polish quotas are open. But we are lucky to have at the American consulate here one or two thoroughly decent and hardworking consuls who do their utmost within the laws of the United States to help rather than hinder the refugees.
“The truth is that some of our consuls have been away from Washington so long that they have forgotten they are public servants and have assumed the attitude of rich private citizens living abroad who do not care to be disturbed.
“I am going to disturb them. I am going to write them letters and find out why those quotas are still closed.”
(Varian Fry, unpublished draft of Surrender on Demand, pp. 431-433, Box 14, Folder 1, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
Appendix 48: Fry Unpublished Comments re Obtaining Exit Visas
“There was also the danger of being arrested at the frontier, for trying to leave France without an exit visa. That too was a grave offense, and would almost certainly land foreigners in concentration camps. So far it hadn’t happened; but there was no saying when it would.
“Finally, there was a real risk in crossing Spain, especially for certain well-known refugees traveling under their own names, or for others, even with false passports, if they were sufficiently well-known to be likely to be recognized.
“All in all, the perils of leaving France without an exit visa were considerable, and some of the refugees refused to do it, preferring the risks of staying to the risks of leaving. One of the hardest jobs I had in those early weeks was to persuade some of the refugees to go. Some of the intellectuals were particularly difficult. They were jittery with fear at the idea of staying, and paralyzed with fear at the idea of leaving. You would get them all ready to go, with their passports and all their visas, and a month later they’d still be sitting in the Marseille cafés, waiting for the police to come and get them. I fixed up one man and his wife a few days after I began work. Four weeks later they came around and asked me what to do: their Spanish transit visas had expired. At that time the answer was nothing, for the Spanish Consul wouldn’t renew a transit visa. Once it had expired you had to throw your passport away and start all over again. This particular man was in no more danger than I was; rather less, perhaps. He was just too scared to budge. I decided he’s probably never leave France except in an ambulance, chloroformed, and told him so.”
- Varian Fry (unpublished draft of Surrender on Demand, p. 96, Box 14, Folder 1, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)
Appendix 49: Fry Unpublished Comments re Vice Consul Bingham Aiding Refugees
“Paul’s friends were Franz Boegler, Hans Tittel, Fritz Lamm and Siegfried Pfeffer. There were visas for all of them at the Consulate. Harry Bingham sent letters and telegrams to the army officer in charge of the camp asking him to let them come to Marseille to get their visas, but it didn’t work. He just didn’t get an answer.
“Meanwhile, Mrs. Boegler and her sweet little boy of two came to me for advice and help. Mrs. Boegler was convinced that her husband would be handed over to the Gestapo any day. But she didn’t want to leave France as long as there was the slightest chance that she could do something to save him. I felt that if the American Consulate couldn’t do anything, she could do nothing either, and it seemed better for her and the boy to be out of the country when the Gestapo came and took her husband off. I had a lot of trouble persuading her to go, but in the end I succeeded. She and her little son went down to Cerbère and crossed over like everybody else, and I promised to save her husband and the others if I possibly could.
“The only people who had any trouble in the first weeks were the Victors. They had left Germany shortly after Hitler came to power and had gone to Switzerland. After living there several years, during which Victor wrote and did radio work and his wife had a baby, the whole family, including Mrs. Victor’s mother, were asked to leave the country. Not that the Swiss had anything against them; on the contrary: just that Switzerland isn’t in the habit of letting political refugees in and, on the rare occasions when it does, almost never lets them stay more than a few years. The Victors looked around frantically for some country to go to. At the last minute, they got visas for Luxembourg. Just before the war began, they went to Paris, traveling on special refugee passports which the Luxembourg government had given them in accordance with a League of Nations convention the little duchy had signed several years before.
“In May, the French interned Mr. Victor in a camp near Paris and sent Mrs. Victor’s mother to the big internment camp of Gurs, in the High Pyrenees. Mrs. Victor was allowed to stay on in her apartment in Paris because she had a three-year old child to take care of. She and her child went through the bombardment alone. Just before the Germans entered the city they escaped to southern France, walking by day and sleeping in freight cars or woods at night. Meanwhile Victor had escaped from the internment camp and found his wife and child, by one of those miracles of chance which seemed always to be happening in France.
“When they came to Marseille, I sent them to the Consulate and they got their visas on their Luxembourg refugee passports. But, on account of the baby, they felt they couldn’t go over the frontier on foot. There was a story going around Marseille that you could get exit visas at Perpignan. So they went to Perpignan to try their luck. There they met a man named Berger. Berger turned out to be a German exile of Hungarian extraction. He was always very well-dressed, used perfume, and smoked expensive imported cigarettes, which he bought on the black market. He was one of a whole tribe of men who were making money smuggling people out of France, but unlike most of the others he had a reputation for never promising more than he could perform, and of being a square shooter in his dealing with refugees. When Victor showed him the Luxembourg refugee passports, Berger examined them with professional thoroughness and said he’d take them to the prefecture and see what he could do about getting exit visas on them.
“The next day Berger met Victor again and said he could get the exit visas for 4,000 francs apiece, or $100 at the official rate of exchange. Victor had some money of his own, so he made a deal with Berger for the visas. A few hours later, Berger brought the passports back with French exit visas in them. They were real exit visas issued by the prefecture at Perpignan and signed by the prefect himself. Victor paid Berger the 8,000 francs and he and his wife and child set out for Cerbère the next morning.
“When they got to Cerbère, the frontier police wouldn’t let them out of the country. The police wouldn’t explain why they didn’t recognize the Perpignan exit visas, but they didn’t, and that was that.
“The Victors had no choice but to go back to Perpignan. When they got there they looked up Berger and told him what had happened. Berger said that for the cost of the gasoline he would take them down to the frontier in his car and see that they got over. They set out for the frontier again, this time in Berger’s car. Instead of taking them to Cerbère, he took them to Le Perthus, the first border point west of Cerbère, where there is a motor highway over the frontier, but no railroad. At Le Perthus, Berger had no trouble at all in getting them through the French police, most of whom he knew by name. But when they came to the Spanish police and presented their passports, they were told that League of Nations documents weren’t recognized in Spain.
“‘Spain doesn’t recognize the League of Nations,’ the Spanish border official said, handing the passports back.
“They watched the autobus which meets the Barcelona train at Figueras go out without them. Then they crossed back into France, and Berger drove them back to Perpignan. From Perpignan they returned to Marseille, and at Marseille they came straight to me and told me their story. Since their Luxembourg refugee passports weren’t recognized in Spain, the only thing to do was to get them American affidavits in lieu of passports. Many American consuls would have refused to give an affidavit in lieu of passport to a refugee who already had a passport, on the grounds that the man had a passport and it was no business of the American Consulate whether the passport was valid in Spain or not. But Harry Bingham wasn’t a run-of-the-mill Consul. He made out the affidavits without any hesitation at all and transferred the visas to them. Then, since the Victors had spent all their money by this time, I advanced them some and they set out for the frontier again. This time they didn’t come back.”
- Varian Fry (unpublished manuscript, pp. 115-118, Box 14, Folder 1, Varian Fry Papers, Butler Library, Columbia University, New York)