Hiram Bingham IV

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Hiram Bingham IV

Hiram "Harry" Bingham IV (July 17, 1903 – January 12, 1988) was an American diplomat. He served as a Vice Consul in Marseilles, France, during World War II, and, along with Varian Fry, helped over 2,500 Jews to flee from France as Nazi forces advanced.

Hiram Bingham Tribute

Career

Bingham was one of seven sons of former Governor of Connecticut and US Senator Hiram Bingham III and his first wife, Alfreda Mitchell, heiress of the Tiffany and Co. fortune through her maternal grandfather Charles L. Tiffany. His father was also the discoverer of the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu. His great-grandfather Hiram Bingham I and grandfather Hiram Bingham II were the first missionaries to the Kingdom of Hawai'i.Bingham attended the Groton School and graduated from Yale University in 1925.[

Honors

Although family members knew some of the details, the whole story only became known when his youngest son William discovered a tightly wrapped bundle of letters, documents, and photographs hidden in the wall of a cupboard behind a chimney in the family home. That bundle disclosed Hiram Bingham's carefully guarded past. As a consequence of the discovery, Hiram Bingham IV has been honored by many groups and organizations including the United Nations, the State of Israel, and by a traveling exhibit entitled "Visas for Life: The Righteous and Honorable Diplomats". The exhibit records the events of that time and the efforts of Bingham and others who risked and lost so much to help their fellow man.After considering Bingham's deeds during the war years in Marseilles for a number years, Israel's memorial Yad Vashem ("Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority") issued the Bingham family a letter of appreciation on March 7, 2005. Although not a Righteous Among the Nations designation, the letter noted the "humanitarian disposition" of Bingham IV "at a time of persecution of Jews by the Vichy regime in France.... [in] contrast to certain other officials who rather acted suspiciously toward Jewish refugees wishing to enter the United States."On June 27, 2002, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell presented a posthumous "Constructive Dissent" award to Bingham's children at an American Foreign Service Officers Association awards ceremony in Washington, DC. Since December 1998 his son Robert Kim Bingham, Sr. had lobbied the US Postal Service to issue a stamp depicting his father in recognition of his humanitarian deeds. After the proposal received wide bipartisan support in Congress, a commemorative stamp portraying Hiram Bingham IV as a "Distinguished American Diplomat" was issued on May 30, 2006.On October 27, 2006, the Anti-Defamation League posthumously presented Bingham its "Courage to Care" award at the ADL’s national conference in Atlanta. In November 2006, the U.S. Episcopal Church added Bingham to a list of "American Saints" published in the book A Year with American Saints with a summary of his life and character.On March 28, 2011, the Simon Wiesenthal Center posthumously awarded Bingham their Medal of Valor in New York City with a film tribute. The film shows the Nazis on the march in Europe and how US Vice-Consul Bingham rose to the dangerous occasion to save lives. According to The Wall Street Journal, "more than 450 supporters of the Simon Wiesenthal Center gathered for the 2011 Humanitarian Award Dinner. The Medal of Valor was awarded posthumously to Sir Winston Churchill, Hiram Bingham IV, and Pope John Paul II....

Early life

Hiram Bingham IV

Biography

Foreign serviceBingham served in Kobe, Japan, as a civilian secretary in the United States Embassy. He worked part-time as a schoolteacher. He traveled to India and Egypt before returning to the United States to attend Harvard University. After obtaining his law degree, he scored third in his class on the foreign service exam.Bingham's first assignment in the United States Foreign Service was in Beijing, China. There, he witnessed the beginnings of the communist revolution. His travels through Asia piqued Bingham's interest in eastern religious philosophy. He spent the rest of his life trying to reconcile eastern religious philosophies with that of the Christian traditions his family historically had been known to preach.Bingham also served in Warsaw, Poland, sharing a flat with another diplomat, Charles W. Yost, whose daughter, Felicity, became Bingham's god-daughter. In 1934, Bingham served as third secretary to the United States Embassy in London.

Vice Consul in FranceIn 1939, Bingham was posted to the US Consulate in Marseilles, where he had responsibility for issuing entry visas to the USA.On May 10, 1940, Adolf Hitler's forces invaded France and the French government fell. The French signed an armistice with Germany and forced most of France's large population of foreign refugees to move to internment camps. Many thousands of refugees went to Marseilles to seek visas for the USA and other foreign destinations.Anxious to limit immigration into the United States and to maintain good relations with the Vichy government, the U.S. State Department actively discouraged diplomats from helping refugees. In Marseilles, as elsewhere, foreign service staff usually showed little flexibility or compassion towards the desperate refugees. However, American rescue workers soon noticed that "Harry" Bingham was an exception. Bingham personally toured some of the wretched internment camps and sought American aid to improve conditions. He helped many refugees to avoid internment and prepare for emigration and freely issued Nansen passports, a useful form of identity for stateless persons. An American rescue worker, Martha Sharp, organized a group of children to leave southern France for the US in late 1940. She had this to say about Bingham, “I am proud that our government is represented in its Foreign Services by a man of your quality,” she wrote. “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." Bingham also cooperated a great deal with Varian Fry, the most effective rescue worker based in Vichy France during the early years of the war. Bingham worked with Fry on notable cases, including the emigration of Marc Chagall, political theorist Hannah Arendt, novelist Leon Feuchtwanger, and many other distinguished refugees. In the case of Feuchtwanger, Bingham went so far as to help spirit the novelist out of an internment camp and sheltered him in his own house while plans were made to help the refugee walk over the Pyrenees.

ConsequenceIn 1941, the United States government abruptly pulled Bingham from his position as Vice Consul and transferred him to Portugal and then Argentina. When he was in Argentina, he helped to track Nazi war criminals in South America. In 1945, after being passed over for promotion, he resigned from the United States Foreign Service.Bingham did not speak much about his wartime activities. His own family had little knowledge of them until after Bingham's death in 1988. In 1991, Bingham's widow Rose and son Thomas found 50-year old Marseilles documents in the Connecticut farmhouse which they donated to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Several years later, Bingham's youngest son found documents in a cupboard behind a chimney and family members continued to unearth documents at the farmhouse. The materials told of Bingham's struggle to save German and Jewish refugees from death, details long hidden from the public.[citation needed]

People leaving from Fench

Exit Visa given by him


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