Boycott Watch
Monday, July 10, 2006
Is Harry Bingham really a hero or did he just do his job?
Summary:An email is circulation claiming Hiram (or Harry) Bingham, IV was a hero for rescuing Jews in France from the Nazi's, and Boycott Watch reviewed the claims that resulted in a US postage stamp being issued in his honor.
   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 ( 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.

   The Bingham 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,, and 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.

   Furthermore, Yad 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 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 on Demand'.

   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 Bingham?
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:

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