| There has been a campaign by the
Bingham family to portray Hiram (or Harry) Bingham, IV as a hero for saving
Jews from the Nazis in France, and Bingham's story has been promoted by his
family, and even by Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT). The promotion appears to
strictly emanate from the Bingham family, and Boycott Watch
(www.BoycottWatch.org) received several requests to look into the claims by
skeptics, and the following is what Boycott Watch uncovered:
Harry Bingham came from a prominent Connecticut
family and there is evidence that he did get some visas for Jews while working
as the Vice US Consul in France, thus helping some Jews escape the Nazi's.
There is, however, no specific evidence that we were able to find that showed
Bingham went out of his way for, or specifically wanted to help Jews. According
to the circulating email, "In defiance of his bosses in Washington, he granted
over 2,500 USA visas to Jewish and other refugees
" There are two points
to consider. First, as Vice Consul, Bingham more than likely processed visa
paperwork, but the decision as to who was granted visas may have rested with
Consul, not the Vice Consul. This procedure is consistent with standard
operating procedures, as the Consul is usually engaged in diplomacy, thus
assigning routine work to his staff, which included Bingham. Second, we ask
what percentage of these 2,500 visas were specifically issued to Jews? How many
Jews were rejected? What were the inclusion criteria? Did Bingham issue
passports based on social status? The truth is we really don't know, but just
doing his job makes him the person who happened to be at the desk at the time,
and that alone does not make him a hero.
family appears to have first claimed to find four letters, then a box of
documents and photos that Harry Bingham IV put in his attic revealing him as a
hero of the Holocaust, but Boycott Watch has yet to find any website disclosing
those documents despite the fact that the Bingham family appears to have
purchased the domain names www.harrybingham.com, www.harrybingham.org, and
www.harrybingham.net on January 18, 2000. If Mr. Bingham is a hero as claimed,
one would expect that the evidence of this would be made public, thus allowing
it to withstand public scrutiny.
Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial center has rejected the Bingham family
requests for special recognition and as "Righteous Among Nations", but did
recognize that Bingham had in fact issued visas that allowed some Jews to
escape Nazi persecution. While searching the Yad Vashem website, Mr. Bingham's
name was mentioned once when his family visited an exhibit, which included a
mention that Mr. Bingham did sign visas, but we found no other mention of Mr.
Bingham, not even in the exhibit specifically dedicated to people issuing visas
to help Jews escape the Nazi's.
After seven years of
reviewing the Bingham family request to name Mr. Harry Bingham "Righteous Among
Nations", Yad vashem issued a cordial letter recognizing Bingham's work, but
did not recognize him with the title "Righteous Among Nations". According to
what we have seen, Mr. Bingham may have saved the lives of Jews, but he may
have done so as part of his job. A hero is someone who goes above and beyond
the call of duty, and although Mr. Bingham's actions were honorable and he does
deserve praise and gratitude, granting the hero status may in and of itself be
beyond the call of duty. The Yad Vashem letter and story is posted at
www.isurvived.org is the Holocaust Survivors Network,
a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that documents the Holocaust, and they issued
the following statement on their website (same page as above) regarding the Yad
Vashem rejection of Bingham as "Righteous Among Nations": "The reason for Yad
Vashem's rejection of the Righteous title for Bingham IV can be explained in
simple terms as follows: Bingham IV during his consular activity in Marseille
by not opposing and in fact fully cooperating with Varian Fry's operation made
Bingham IV a clear sympathizer and a facilitator, but not a rescuer! And that
paramount distinction is at the crux of understanding this entire decision
rendered by Yad Vashem." Detailed comments about Bingham by Holocaust Survivors
Network are posted at
The real rescuer was in fact Varian Fry, who walked
with Gustav Mahler and his wife Alma across the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain
to save their lives, and all because Harry Bingham IV refused to grant a visa
to Gustav and Alma Mahler. This incident is detailed in Fry's book 'Surrender
The Jewish Virtual Library described
Varian Fry as "an American journalist who helped anti-Nazi refugees escape from
France" and further states "Fry's efforts resulted in the rescue of some 2,000
persons, including such distinguished artists and intellectuals as Marc
Chagall, Max Ernst, Franz Werfel, Lion Feuchtwanger, and Heinrich Mann. His
covert activities angered officials of both the U.S. State Department and Vichy
France and in September 1941, he was expelled from France."
The people Bingham's family apparently claims Harry
Bingham IV saved, therefore, are well documented as being saved by Varian Fry.
It may be that Bingham signed the visa documents, but Bingham was more likely
one of Fry's consulate contacts who processed paperwork by request of Fry, who
is credited by Yad Vashem for saving the same Jews the Bingham family now
apparently claims Harry Bingham IV saved. In fact, some of the wording
promoting Bingham as a hero clearly echoes the words published by the Jewish
Virtual Library about Varian Fry
While Oskar Schindlar, to name one person, clearly
went beyond the call of duty and risked his own life to save a group of Jews,
Bingham's family is now comparing him to Schindlar, yet so far, we see no
comparison. While we certainly applaud Bingham for saving the lives of some
Jews, Bingham may have just been doing his job and apparently assisted Varian
Fry who is recognized as "Righteous Among Nations" by Yad Vashem. That,
however, does not mean Bingham himself went beyond the call of duty since it
was his job to issue visas, not to mention that he refused the visas for Gustav
and Alma Mahler resulting in Fry walking them out of France, not Bingham. As
such, it appears that Bingham's family ran a PR campaign which resulted in a US
postage stamp which he may have deserved for his work as a Vice Consul, but the
Bingham family may need to review and temper their other claims.
|Start Of Original email:
| Subject: Harry Bingham was a hero
Who Was Harry
Why is He Getting a Stamp?
Just an interesting piece of
evidence of the curious behavior of the Roosevelt administration toward the
Jews during WWII ----- A few months ago, the US Secretary of State, Colin
Powell, gave a posthumous award for "constructive dissent" to Hiram (or Harry)
Bingham, IV. For over fifty years, the State Department resisted any attempt to
honor Bingham. For them he was an insubordinate member of the US diplomatic
service, a dangerous maverick who was eventually demoted. Now, after his death,
he has been officially recognized as a hero.
Bingham came from an
illustrious family. His father (on whom the fictional character Indiana Jones
was based) was the archeologist who unearthed the Inca City of Machu Picchu,
Peru, in 1911. Harry entered the US diplomatic service and, in 1939, was posted
to Marseilles, France, as American Vice-Consul.
The USA was then
neutral and, not wishing to annoy Marshal Petain's puppet Vichy regime,
President Roosevelt's government ordered its representatives in Marseilles not
to grant visas to any Jews. Bingham found this policy immoral and, risking his
career, did all in his power to undermine it.
In defiance of his bosses
in Washington, he granted over 2,500 USA visas to Jewish and other refugees,
including the artists Marc Chagall and Max Ernst and the family of the writer
Thomas Mann. He also sheltered Jews in his Marseilles home, and obtained forged
identity papers to help Jews in their dangerous journeys across Europe. He
worked with the French underground to smuggle Jews out of France into Franco's
Spain or across the Mediterranean and even contributed to their expenses out of
his own pocket. In 1941, Washington lost patience with him. He was sent to
Argentina, where later he continued to annoy his superiors by reporting on the
movements of Nazi war criminals.
Eventually, he was forced out of the
American diplomatic service completely. Bingham died almost penniless in 1988.
Little was known of his extraordinary activities until his son found some
letters in his belongings after his death. He has now been honored by many
groups and organizations including the United Nations and the State of Israel.
PLEASE honor his memory and resend this.
|End Of Original email: