Rescue in the Holocaust by Diplomats - Hiram Bingham, IV

 United States postage stamp honoring diplomatic rescuer Hiram "Harry" Bingham, IV.  Issued June 2006.

United States postage stamp honoring diplomatic rescuer Hiram "Harry" Bingham, IV.  Issued June 2006.


Hiram Bingham: Recognizing His Humanitarian Efforts


Appendix 66:  Thesis by Anita Kassof, Curator of the Fry Exhibit

Kassof, Anita. Intent and Interpretation: The German Refugees and Article 19 of the Franco-German Armistice 1940-1941. (Unpublished thesis, 1992.)

Excerpt, pp. 88-89: 

          …The foreign service disapproved of Fry’s activities not only because they threatened a fragile diplomacy with Vichy, but also because many in American government feared that without proper vigilance, European refugees, propelled by Germany and encouraged by France, would flood the Untied States.
          Refugee matters were generally relegated to last place in the string of issues that were of mutual concern to both the United States and France, and treatment of the refugees was usually the by-product of other, more pressing policy considerations.  Both systems left considerable latitude for individuals to influence the course of events.

Excerpt, pp. 89-90:

          …Within the bureaucracies of both countries, individuals also had the power to battle prevailing attitudes toward refugees, which ranged from indifference to hostility.  Yet, Fry found that within the American foreign service in France, those who were willing to bend the rules to save the lives of refugees were the exception.  Hiram Bingham, vice-consul and head of the visa service at the Marseille consulate, spirited German novelist Lion Feuchtwanger from a French internment camp, disguised in woman’s clothing.  Feuchtwanger stayed secretly in Bingham’s home in Marseille until Fry’s committee was able to sneak him across the Pyrenees (Feuchtwanger, 1941; Fry, 1945).  Most consuls, however, erred on the side of caution in administration of immigration laws.

Excerpt, pp. 91-93:

          In order to facilitate the issuance of visas, the State Department sent a circular telegram to consular officers in Lisbon, London, Dublin, Oporto, Marseille and Bordeaux, informing them of the new procedure designed “with a view to extending every facility and assistance permitted under the law to refugees living in difficult conditions who desire[d] to come to the United States.” Consuls were instructed to inform the State Department immediately if any impediments to flight stood in the path of people who had been authorized for visas.  If the Departments of State and Justice had already approved their cases, documentary requirements outlined in section 7 of the Immigration Act of 1924 were to be waived (Foreign Relations of the United States, 26 July 1940).  Taken in isolation, the document appears to presage a genuine liberalization of attitudes toward refugees.  However, the regulations applied only to an isolated group of influential refugees.  By and large, the less prominent refugees who lacked organizational or individual support in the United States found that obstructionist bureaucracy on both sides of the Atlantic blocked efficient or equitable issuance of visas.
          Even the early liberalism toward the elite refugees was short-lived…The State Department was quick to modify its instructions, reminding consular officers to suspend action in cases in which there was any indication that the presence of the alien might be “inimical to the United States” (Foreign Relations of the United States, 19 September 1940).

Excerpt, pp. 94-95:

          Suspicious of the President’s Advisory Committee and its allies at Justice and wary that the screening procedure in the Untied States might be too liberal, Long believed that if the consuls felt free to deny visas even to those refugees whom the President’s Advisory Committee had endorsed, they would provide an effective barrier to infiltrators.  Because the consuls had the opportunity to meet the visa applicants in person, Long reasoned that their judgment was crucial.  In September [1940], Long sent a letter to Roosevelt in which he stressed the importance of consular reevaluation of refugees whom the President’s Advisory Committee had certified. (Long to Roosevelt, 18 September 1940, NARA RG59, 811.11 Refugees/260, box 149, WNRC).  Ironically, a year later Long once again changed the locus of decision making, diminishing consular authority and centering visa control with the State Department in Washington.
          Placing greater autonomy with the consuls implicitly undermined the authority of the President’s Advisory Committee, which Long mistrusted.  He disapproved of the Committee’s liberal interpretation of immigration laws and resented their pleas to admit intellectuals and political refugees to the United States.  Long was convinced that although the intellectual and political elite comprised a tiny proportion of the immigrants, opening the door to them would set a dangerous precedent for thousands of other refugees to enter the United States, among them German “agents” and “sympathizers” (Long Diary, 4 August 1941, box 5).

Excerpt, pp. 95-96:

          The issue of French exit visas inspired the first overt conflict between the President’s Advisory Committee and Breckinridge Long.  At a meeting of 12 September 1940, George L. Warren, the committee’s executive secretary, reported that without the knowledge of the Justice Department or the President’s Advisory Committee, the State Department had instructed the consuls abroad to withhold United States visas from refugees who were unable to secure French exit visas.  The State Department’s justification was that it instructed consuls not to issue a visa until a refugee had an exit permit “in order t avoid embarrassment which might be caused through the issuance of visas to applicants who should not be permitted by their governments to depart (Welles to Eleanor Roosevelt, 12 September 1940, RG59, 811.111 refugees/322, NARA).  Since French exit visas were unavailable to German nationals and refugees from German-occupied territories the action virtually halted the issuance of visas to them.  Of the 557 refugees whom the President’s Advisory Committee had recommended for United States visas, only fifteen had actually received them (Minutes of the President’s Advisory Committee, 12 September 1940, Chamberlain papers, folder 60).  Of these, no more than four of the visas were issued to the Emergency Rescue Committee’s cases (Report of a meeting of the Emergency Rescue Committee’s Board of Directors, 18 November 1940, Reinhold Niebuhr papers, folder “ERC,” box 5, Library of Congress).

Excerpt, p. 123:

          …Hardly a day went by on which he [Fry] did not file reports with the consulates or the embassy, ask consular officials to intervene in behalf of unfortunate refugees, or complain about the uneven issuance of visas among the consulates (RG84, France Vichy Embassy general records 1940-1941; RG84, France Marseille Consulate general records, 1940-1941, WNRC).  In addition, his penchant for criticizing their policies, pointing out their inconsistencies, and exhorting them to be more efficient, put them on the defensive.  Fry’s constant requests were a nuisance to consular officials whom the State Department had instructed to be vigilant to the refugee “threat.”

Excerpt, pp. 123-124:

          The inflexible diplomats insisted that they were simply upholding United States law and following instructions from the State Department.  They tended to shield themselves in strict interpretation of the law and unrelenting adherence to consular regulations.  For example, when Fry wished to open an account at the post office in Marseille so that he could receive money from the Emergency Rescue Committee in New York, he asked Hugh Fullerton to certify his good character.  Fullerton’s reply was cold and brief.  He refused to provide Fry with such a reference because, “consular officers [were] not permitted to assume responsibilities of this kind for individuals or organizations” (Fry to Fullerton, 25 February 1941, RG84, Marseille Consulate general records 1941, 814.4, box 44, WNRC; Fullerton to Fry, 28 February 1941, RG84, Marseille Consulate general records 1941, 814.4, box 44, WNRC).

Excerpt, pp. 134-135:

          The new exit visa procedures did enable non-German refugees to flee more easily than before.  But almost as if it were contriving a macabre plot to keep the refugees from escaping the European mantrap, the United States severely curtailed immigration just as France liberalized its exit visa policy.  New procedures, developed at the State Department in 1941, were more seriously to jeopardize Fry’s ability to rescue the refugees than any measures taken by Vichy or Germany.  Because State Department personnel were growing increasingly wary of foreigners who might act in the interests of their native governments, they instituted measures that made immigration from Europe, and especially from German territory, nearly impossible by the middle of 1941.

Excerpt, pp. 143-144:

          …In April [1941], Roosevelt had approved the plan to center visa control in Washington, agreeing to allocate additional office space near the State Department (Minutes of the President’s Advisory Committee, 6 March 1941, Chamberlain papers, folder 61).  Thereafter, the president’s Advisory Committee served simply as a liaison agency, advising various independent refugee organizations of the best ways to prepare and present their requests to the State Department (Minutes of the President’s Advisory Committee, 21 May 1941, Chamberlain papers, folder 61).  Effective 1 July, not the President’s Advisory Committee, but a committee composed of representatives of Army Intelligence, Navy Intelligence, the Departments of State and Justice, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation would review visa applications (Long diary, 17 June 1941, box 5)….
          The consolidation was nearly complete.  All that remained was to ensure that the European consuls did not issue visas to anyone who had not been screened in Washington.  At the end of June [1941], the consulates received a circular telegram from the State Department, instructing diplomatic officers that effective 1 July, they were to issue visas only under specific orders from the department.”

Excerpt, p. 144:

          The State Department’s measures, coming in tandem with the departure of Hiram Bingham from the Marseille consulate and the cessation of direct shipping from Marseille severely curtailed Fry’s activities.





Appendix 67:  Letter from US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Following is a letter that was received from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC, regarding Hiram Bingham IV. 

This letter was prepared by Mr. Severin Hochberg, who is the Chief Historian of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Ms. Rebecca Erbelding, Archivist.  Ms. Erbelding wrote her master’s thesis on Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee.  She is presently the resident expert on Bingham at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Severin Hochberg can be reached via e-mail at  Rebecca Erbelding can be reached at US Holocaust Memorial Museum, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW, Washington, DC 20024-2126, tel. (202) 314-0387, fax (202) 479-9726, e-mail



February 26, 2004

Mrs. Abigail Bingham Endicott

Dear Ms. Endicott:

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has a limited amount of information on the work of Hiram Bingham IV in Marseilles, France.  However, based on the documentation available to us, the Museum can support the fact that during his tour as vice-consul in Marseilles (1940-1941), Hiram Bingham IV acted above and beyond his normal duties and instructions to extend assistance to Jewish and other refugees in Marseilles and to help them immigrate to the United States.  Bingham issued many visas to persons who did not meet the strict requirements of the Visa Division of the Department of State, especially as spelled out in the Long directive to consuls of June 26, 1940 and the obstacles placed by the Bloom-Van Nuys Act of 1941.

In providing shelter to refugees, he was also in violation of Vichy law.  At the time of Bingham's service in Marseilles, the Vichy government had full diplomatic relations with the United States.  As to the reason for his reassignment (from Marseilles), that remains unclear in the documentation that we have available.  We believe that other information may be available to shed light on the role that Hiram Bingham played in saving Jews.  We recommend that you consult these sources (listed on the attached sheet), as some of them may be helpful in your pursuit of the Righteous designation for your father.

In addition, as you are aware, in June 2002 Secretary of State Colin Powell presented posthumously the American Foreign Service Award for constructive dissent to Hiram Bingham IV for refusing to allow America's restrictive immigration policy prevent him from giving visas to Jews seeking refuge.  The Bingham family may wish to quote directly from Powell's speech on that day (the text should be available on the State Department's web site) and from the text of the award given to Bingham.  The July-August 2002 Foreign Service Journal provides additional information on the award. The family might also consider citing Senator Joseph Lieberman's (D-Conn.) speech on the Senate floor on February II, 1998, in which he paid tribute to your father.

We wish you success in finding additional documentation that can assist in giving the Righteous Person designation to Hiram Bingham IV.


(original signed)
Arthur S. Berger
Director of Communications

100 RAOUL WALLENBERG PLACE, SW, WASHINGTON, DC 20024-2126 TEL 202.488.0400 FAX 202.488.2690





Appendix 68 - Letter from the American Foreign Service Association

Following is a letter that was sent to Abigail Bingham Endicott from the American Foreign Service Association, an official group representing members of the US State Department.  In an official awards ceremony, Hiram “Harry” Bingham was awarded the Constructive Dissent award on June 27, 2002, at the Benjamin Franklin diplomatic reception room at the US Department of State.  The award was given by US Secretary of State Colin Powell.



American Foreign Service Association
2101 E Street NWWashington, DC 20037(202) 338-4045
FAX (202) 338-6820E-mail

                                                                   January 18, 2002

Mrs. Abigail Endicott

Dear Mrs. Endicott:

I am deeply honored to inform you that the Governing Board of the American Foreign Service Association has voted to give a special posthumous award to our colleague and your late father, Hiram “Harry” Bingham IV.  We would like to present his award to one or more representatives of the Bingham family at a ceremony scheduled for 4 PM on Thursday, June 27, in the Benjamin Franklin Room on the 8th floor of the Department of State’s headquarters building in Washington, D.D.  A reception will follow at 5:30 PM.

This presentation will take place during AFSA’s annual awards ceremony at which a number of other awards will be given to current and retired members of the Foreign Service.  Four of those awards will be for constructive dissent.  For several decades, AFSA has given awards for constructive dissent to honor active duty members who challenge the system from within and stick their necks out because they believe it is the right thing to do.  Our criteria for those awards call for a willingness to confront or challenge conventional wisdom, intelligently and tenaciously, by asking tough questions and coming up with some unconventional answers.  When we heard about your father’s experience in Marseilles in 1940-41, we immediately saw that he perfectly met our criteria.

I hope that you and other members of the Bingham family will be able to attend this ceremony to accept the award on your father’s behalf.  Please contact AFSA’s Coordinator for Professional Issues, Barbara Berger, to confirm your attendance or to obtain further details.  She can be reached at 202-338-4045, ext. 521, or by e-mail at


                                                                   John K. Naland
                                                                   AFSA President





Appendix 69:  Bingham Visa Recipients / Survivors

Ralph M. Hockley
Brother of Mariann Pennekamp.
Family received visas.

Senator Fred Leichter
Father received visas.  Visas were given overnight.

Mariann Pennekamp
Sister of Ralph Hockley.
Family received visas.

Rabbi Joseph Schachter
Family received visas.

Mr. Pierre Shostal
Personally received visas.

Ms. Lillian Stuart Smith

Benjamin Zucker
Extended family received 52 visas.





Appendix 70 - Acknowledgements

The Visas for Life Project would like to thank the following people for their help in preparing this document:

We would especially like to thank the Hiram Bingham family for generously lending the family papers for the preparation of this nomination.

William and Abigail Endicott helped edit and prepare this document.  They spent hours examining documents in the National Archives and in the family papers.  They conducted oral history interviews with several of the Bingham survivors.

William Bingham, Esq., has been studying his father’s rescue efforts in Marseilles for more than ten years.  He originally found most of the documentation in a closet behind the family fireplace in Harry Bingham’s home in Salem, Connecticut.  William has been a generous friend and supporter of this nomination process.  He organized his father’s papers and made them available for the Visas for Life exhibition, which opened in 1996.  Since then, he has extensively researched the intricacies of his father’s rescue activities in Marseilles.

Robert Kim Bingham, Esq., was the driving force behind having the US Postal Service issue a commemorative stamp honoring his father, Hiram Bingham, IV.  For eight years, Kim spearheaded this remarkable effort.  In June 2006, a commemorative postage stamp honoring his father was issued at a special ceremony in Washington, DC.  In addition, Kim has built a beautiful website that has informed thousands of people about the actions of Hiram Bingham.  Kim has also collected survivors’ testimony and quotes through his website.

John K. Naland, President, American Foreign Service Association
Genya Markon, Director of Outside Collections, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Jeffrey E Carter, Records Management Officer and Institutional Records Archivist, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Susan Morgenstern, Curator, Varian Fry exhibition, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Elizabeth Berman, Curator, Varian Fry exhibition, US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Dr. Israel Singer, World Jewish Congress

Institutional support:

Simon Wiesenthal Center
American Jewish Committee
World Jewish Congress
Jewish National Fund
American Foreign Service Association

The Hiram Bingham family:
William and Abigail Endicott
William Bingham, Esq.
Robert Kim Bingham, Esq.