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 2006 stamp in honor of Hiram Bingham IV Hiram Bingham IV Buch family papers issued by Hiram Bingham IV Fred Buch

stamp issued in honor of Bingham

Hiram Bingham IV
righteous American vice consul

Fred Buch, here during production of And Crown Thy Good, with affidavit received from Bingham, "an angel"

Hiram ("Harry") Bingham IV

In that challenging time, Hiram Bingham IV cared.

Varian Fry once wrote: "He has a heart of gold. He does everything he can to help us, within American law..."

Inscribing for Bingham his memoirs of that time, Surrender on Demand, Fry would hail him as his "partner in the crime of saving lives." 

It is unlikely that there were many other members of the American foreign service at that time who saw the situation as “Harry” Bingham put it in a letter to his wife, shortly after the start of World War II: “We can only pray that the natural goodness of men will fight off the plague before it spreads too far."

Prior to Fry's arrival, Bingham had been particularly helpful to famed anti-Nazi refugee writer Lion Feuchtwanger and his wife, at the notable urging of Eleanor Roosevelt, and Bingham worked with other organizations as well.

Though Bingham has also been singled out for his help to artist Marc Chagall--are there many U.S. consuls who wouldn't have extended help to such a world-famous figure?--it might be most memorable that Bingham provided assistance to a number of obscure refugees who might have been doomed without it.

These included the ever-grateful engineer Fred Buch and his family.  As Buch will recall in the upcoming documentary And Crown Thy Good: Varian Fry in Marseille, he experienced Bingham as "an angel."

According to a 2000 article by his niece Lucretia Bingham, Uncle Harry's Secret, towards the end of his life Bingham came regrettably to fear that all Jews were in danger of hell because they were not Christians.  Be that as it may, history will record that in a consular corps that then displayed singular cold-heartedness towards refugees from Nazism and towards Jews, Hiram Bingham IV stood out for his goodwill when it mattered most. 

The Varian Fry Institute has joined in proposing to Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem that Hiram Bingham IV be honored as a Righteous Among the Nations, along with six colleagues of Varian Fry, including four other Americans.

Son Robert Kim Bingham has led a successful stamp drive in honor of his father.  He is the author of Courageous Dissent: How Harry Bingham Defied His Government To Save Lives (Triune Books, 2007).

Son William Bingham--one of eleven children born to Harry and Rose Bingham--has been particularly active in preserving the memory of his father, and has made important contributions to the upcoming documentary And Crown Thy Good, which will recall Hiram Bingham's important role in the Fry mission.

Sons Bill Bingham, John Bingham and Hiram Anthony Bingham were interviewed for And Crown Thy Good.  Daughter Abigail Bingham Endicott provided assistance and kind hospitality.  Granddaughter Tiffany Bingham provided an interview with her grandfather.

Given the above, it is all the more regrettable that the credit due "Harry" Bingham has been undermined by recent excessive claims on his behalf (see below), most egregiously by the mistaken suggestion that Fry and Bingham should be jointly credited for the achievements of the Fry rescue mission or even that Bingham "went further" than Fry in his commitment.

Hiram Bingham IV would also surely have been among the first to recall that many others, including fellow Americans Miriam Davenport Ebel, Mary Jayne Gold, Charles Fawcett, and Leon F. Ball, also contributed to the rescue effort run by Varian Fry.

U.S. Diplomat Who Helped Save Jews From the Nazis to be Honored on Postage Stamp
News Release from The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, August 12, 2005: "Hiram 'Harry' Bingham IV, a U.S. diplomat who risked his career to help save more than 2,000 of the world's leading writers, musicians, and artists --most of them Jewish refugees--from the Nazis, will be honored on a U.S. postage stamp."
Hiram Bingham IV indeed played an important role in the Fry rescue mission.  It was Varian Fry's estimate that 2,000 people were helped by the rescue mission.

New Stamp To Honor WWII Envoy: Bingham Defied Policy To Help Jews Escape by Christopher Lee, Washington Post, May 25, 2006.
This article states that "Harry" Bingham's actions in Marseille in 1940-41 won him "the undying gratitude of the more than 2,000 refugees he helped save by issuing them travel visas and false passports." 
While mentioning Fry and Fry's initial list of a few hundred names, the article asserts that Bingham "went much further, helping thousands of Jews to escape."

Newton Woman Helps Diplomat Get Stamped by Gary Band, Jewish Advocate, June 1, 2006
This article furthers the unsubstantiated claim that "Harry" Bingham "saved some 2,000 Jews from the Holocaust."  It does not even mention Varian Fry.

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Copyright 2007, Chambon Foundation. All rights reserved.                    Revised: July 08, 2007