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 IV
Hiram Bingham IV.jpg
BornJuly 17, 1903
DiedJanuary 12, 1988 (aged 84)
EducationHamden Hall Country Day School
Groton School
Yale University (1925)[1]
ChildrenHiram Bingham
Thomas Bingham
David Bingham
John Bingham
Robert Kim Bingham
Benjamin Bingham
William Bingham
R. Tiffany Bingham
Cecilia Bingham Hanson
Abigail Bingham Endicott
Margaret Bingham Turner[2]
Parent(s)Hiram Bingham III
Alfreda Mitchell

Early lifeEdit

Bingham was one of seven sons of former Governor of Connecticut and U.S. Senator Hiram Bingham III and his first wife, Alfreda Mitchell, heiress of the Tiffany and Co. fortune through her maternal grandfather Charles L. Tiffany.[3] His father was also the first American to explore the Inca ruins at Machu Picchu. His great-grandfather Hiram Bingham I and grandfather Hiram Bingham II were among the first Protestant missionaries to the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi.

Bingham attended the Groton School and graduated from Yale University in 1925.[4]


Foreign serviceEdit

Bingham 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.

An example of Hiram Bingham's signature in a passport.

Vice Consul in FranceEdit

In 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."[5] 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 Lion 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.[6][7]


In 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 early 1946,[8] after being passed over for promotion, he resigned from the United States Foreign Service.[4]

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. Rose and Thomas subsequently donated these documents 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.[9]

Personal lifeEdit

While posted in London, he met Rose Lawton Morrison (1908-1996), a college drama teacher from Waycross, Georgia, whom he escorted to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen. They later married and had 11 children: Hiram Bingham, Thomas Bingham, David Bingham, John Bingham, Robert Kim Bingham, Benjamin Bingham, William Bingham, R. Tiffany Bingham, Cecilia Bingham Hanson, Abigail Bingham Endicott (mother of Sam Endicott),[10] and Margaret Bingham Turner.[2]


Although family members knew some of the details, the whole story became known only 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 for several years Bingham's deeds during the war years in Marseilles, 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."[11]

On June 27, 2002, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell presented a posthumous "Constructive Dissent" award[12] 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.[12] 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.[13][14]

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.[15] 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...."[16]


  1. ^ "History | Hamden Hall".
  2. ^ a b "Hiram Bingham; Diplomat, 84". New York Times. January 17, 1988. Retrieved June 9, 2013.
  3. ^ "Illustrations from the Tiffany Fortune: Founder of Tiffany & Co., Charles Tiffany with his granddaughter Alfreda Mitchell, 1877". tiffanyfortne.com. October 12, 2007. Retrieved June 9, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Rigg, Bryan Mark (May–June 2006). "Civil Disobedience". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 2008-01-25.
  5. ^ Susan Elisabeth Subak, Rescue and Flight: American Relief Workers Who Defied the Nazis, "University of Nebraska Press, 2010, p. 93.
  6. ^ Feuchtwanger, Leon.Der Teufel in Frankreich: Erlebnisse, Berlin, Aufbau-Verlag, 1942.
  7. ^ Fry, Varian. Surrender on Demand, "La Liste Noire", Plon ed., 1945 French translation, Paris, 1997.
  8. ^ "Rescue in the Holocaust by Diplomats - Hiram Bingham, IV". Institute for the Study of Rescue and Altruism in the Holocaust (ISRAH). Retrieved 2020-02-20.
  9. ^ "Saving the Jews of Nazi France". Smithsonian Magazine. March 2009. Retrieved 2015-02-05.
  10. ^ Endicott, William T. (2003). An Insider's Guide to Political Jobs in Washington: About the Author. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780471473626. Retrieved June 9, 2013.
  11. ^ Bingham, Robert Kim. Courageous Dissent: How Harry Bingham Defied His Government to Save Lives. Triune Books. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
  12. ^ a b Arnold Fine (December 6, 2002). "Hiram Bingham IV - Unsung Hero, Righteous Gentile during the Holocaust". The Jewish Press. p. M14.
  13. ^ "Commemorative Stamp Honoring Diplomat Hiram Bingham Unveiled". United States Department of State. Archived from the original on 2008-02-19. Retrieved 2008-01-25.
  14. ^ Gicker, William J., ed. (2006). "Distinguished American Diplomats 39¢". USA Philatelic (print). 11 (3): 14. {{cite journal}}: |first= has generic name (help)
  15. ^ Film tribute to Bingham on YouTube by the Simon Wiesenthal Center
  16. ^ The Wall Street Journal, 30 March 2011.
  • Wainstain, C. "La liste de Hiram Bigham", L'Arche, November 2007
  • Subak, Susan Elisabeth, "Rescue and Flight: American Relief Workers Who Defied the Nazis, University of Nebraska Press, 2010, 342 pp.
  • Assignment Rescue. Institutional Archive. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

External linksEdit

Hiram Bingham IV website http://www.hirambinghamrescuer.com/

Simon Wiesenthal Center film Tribute to Hiram Bingham IV https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6MfzibYZFU .

History Channel DVD "Diplomats for the Damned" http://www.cduniverse.com/productinfo.asp?pid=7688861