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Hiram Bingham IV, WWII Hero

A campaign to support U.S. Postage Stamp recognition of
Hiram Bingham IV for his efforts during World War II.

Email me to receive more information on how to be involved in our campaign.
Robert Kim Bingham, Esq.

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  Background Material - Letter to Postmaster General from Robert Kim Bingham, Esq.

 

      
ROBERT KIM BINGHAM, ESQ.
42 ROUND HILL RD.
SALEM, CONNECTICUT 06420

December 30, 1998

Honorable William J. Henderson
Postmaster General
United States Postal Service
475 L'Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20260-lS40

Recommendation:
Issue Commemorative Stamp Featuring lIiram Bingham IV, W~II "Righteous Diplomat" Who Saved Thousands of Refugees From Holocaust

Dear Mr. Postmaster:

I respectfully recommend that the United States Postal Service issue a commemorative stamp in honor of my father Hiram Bingham IV, a WWll diplomatic hero (Who died in January 1988), for the following reasons:

Basis for recommendation:

1. Hiram Bingham IV saved between 2500 and 5000 refugees as they fled Hitler's occupied Europe through Marseilles. At great personal danger, he conducted clandestine rescue efforts with Varian Fry and others, against his superiors' policies, and harbored many refugees at his diplomatic residence in Marseilles, France, where he was stationed as U.S. Consul from 1939-1941.

2. Hiram Bingharn IV helped some of the most notable intellectuals and artists escape, including Marc Chagall, painter; Leon Feutwanger, author; Golo Mann, historian, son of Thomas Mann; and Dr. and Mrs. Otto Meyerhof, Nobel Prize winning physicist, and their son Walter. Harry rescued Mr. Feutwanger from an internment camp by driving to the camp's "authorized" swimming hole and telling Feutwanger to get in the car and put on women's clothes as they sped away. He later hid Feutwanger at his diplomatic residence, keeping Feutwanger dressed at all times as Harry's "mother-in-law" from Waycross, Georgia.

3. America, Connecticut and the Town of Salem (Connecticut) can be proud of their native son,

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Salem's 'Schindler,' whose story is now unfolding, fifty years later. (See attached news accounts.) The eleven "righteous diplomats" are:

Hiram ("Harry") Bingham of the United States, in Marseilles, France
Aristides De Sousa Mendes, of Portugal, in Bordeaux, France
George Dickuitz of Germany, in Copenhagen, Denmark
Feng Shan Ho of China, in Vienna, Austria
Paul Komor of Hungary, in Shanghai, China
Carl Lutz of S`vitzerland, in Budapest, Hungary
Giorgio Perlasca' an Italian possessing temporary Spanish citizenship, in Budapest, Hungary
Chiune Sugihara of Japan, in Kovno, Lithuania
Raoul Wallenberg and Per Anger of Sweden, in Budapest, Hungary
Jan Zwartendijk of Holland, in Kaunas, Lithuania

Collectively, these eleven men, at great personal risk to themselves, clandestinely saved 200,000 lives from the Holocaust, by writing visas and affidavits of eligibility for passage, and planning escapes from Europe, in derogation of their superiors' orders. Today, there are an estimated one million descendants of these survivors, yet "many people in the world have still not learned of these great men and their families," according to the Simon Weisenthal Center.

The curator of the Simon Weisenthal Center continues to gather all pertinent information and is discussing the possibility of having an exhibit of the righteous diplomats at the United Nations, at the Capitol in Washington, DC, and in Paris, France; Bern, Switzerland; and the European Parliament, in Strasbourg.

4. Hiram Bingham IV is uniquely qualified for the honor of a commemorative postage stamp since his heroism involves federal service that has received bipartisan praise.

5. On February 11, 1998, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut recounted the 'Bingham story' on the Senate floor, speaking in support of Hiram's nomination by the Yad Vashem as a "Righteous Gentile." (See Senator Lieberman's tribute to Hiram Bingham IV in the Congressional Record.) In April 1998, Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Jodi Rell gave a stirring tribute to Hiram Bingham IV during Holocaust ceremonies at the State House, as a heroic, compassionate, son of Connecticut.

6. Hiram Bingham IV's WWII activities have already been featured at museums: On April 24, 1998, an exhibit opened at the Yad Vashem, Israel's National Holocaust Museum, featuring the eleven righteous diplomats, including Hiram Bingham. 'Hiram's wall' contained his large photograph and documents relating to his exploits in Marseilles. He has also been featured in exhibits at the Simon Weisenthal Center in Los Angeles and at the Jewish Heritage Museum in New York City, and in memorabilia at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.

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7. Hiram Bingham IV, the only Ulited States Diplomat who has been officially honored by the State of Israel as a "righteous diplomat" is increasingly so recognized by the American government, for his role in saving thousands of refugees from the Holocaust.

8. The State of Israel invited Harry's children and other foreign diplomatic rescuers' families on a two-week VIP tour of Israel April 21 - May 5, 1998. We were opening exhibit ceremonies at the Yad Vashem and to 50th anniversary national celebrations. Harry's sons and six other diplomatic families were welcomed as VIPs at various receptions and dedications in Jerusalem, Galilee, and Tel Aviv. The families met with the Foreign Ministry of Israel; dined at the Japanese Embassy in Tel Aviv; shared breakfast with the American Ambassador; met with other ambassadors to Israel; received front-row seating at the National Holocaust Memorial ceremony and a warm personal greeting from Vice President and Mrs. Gore, after the Vice President's speech in Jerusalem on Israel's 50th Anniversary. Because Harry saved Marc Chagall, the group was given a special tour of Marc Chagall's glass windows in the hospital temple in Jerusalem which beautifully portray the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The families also attended a ceremony for the first day issue of Israel's new postage stamp which featured several of these eleven heroic diplomats.

9. When touring Israel, we were greeted by a large municipal sign posted at Jerusalem's city limits declaring: "Israel Welcomes the Families of Diplomats Who Saved Jews From the Holocaust. " Vice President Al Gore and Mrs. Gore greeted the families, after speaking in Jerusalem.

10. On April 26, the three Bingham sons planted a tree for Hiram at a nationally televised ceremony in the Sugihara Forest overlooking Jerusalem. Hiram's tree is the fourth in a semicircle of pines officially planted in honor of the eleven righteous diplomats. It was extremely moving leaving a memorial in Israel to Hiram's goodness.

Personal note: Tour of Israel. While growing up, I never knew the extent of my father's exploits until I read details published by the Simon Weisenthal Center, saw the descriptive plaques on "Hiram's Wall" at the Yad Vashem National Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, and greeted people in Israel. I had always known about Marc Chagall (whom my father admired tremendously), Leon Feutwanger, Varian Fry (civilian rescuer), and the other persons apparently on a list provided to Harry by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt. In later years, my father painted oil copies of Chagall's works, which have hung in the Salem Mumford House for decades. (This association added to the poignancy of experiencing Chagall's exquisite stained glass windows in Jerusalem.)

The "Visas for Life Tour"of Israel was very emotional for this writer. Many survivors of the Holocaust gave speeches of gratitude to these eleven diplomats and personal accounts of their own families' escapes from Europe during WWII. We responded by speaking about our fathers. At a place called the "Bible Park" between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the Bingham sons hugged the granddaughter of a survivor who had escaped Europe through Marseilles when our father was stationed there. She happened to be the official guide for the Bible Park, and we now have her

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photograph. Other families joyously met survivors saved by their diplomatic fathers.

Our visit to the Yeshiba orthodox law center in Jerusalem also was very moving. Three survivors saved by Mr. Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Lithuania, expressed profound gratitude to Mrs. Sugihara, his widow. One spoke of his escape from the Holocaust. When he was only six years old, a taller neighbor boy came and led him away up the street (by prearrangement of the parents). He looked back for his mother, who was standing at the second floor window of their house, looking down at him while he was proceeding to Sugihara's visa office. As he spotted her, she closed her eyes and kept her mouth shut. She could not wave to him. He cried "Mommy, Mommy!" but she did not respond ~ and he never saw her again. Everyone in the crowded Rabbi's conference room was in tears, including the speaker, who then embraced the frail Mrs. Sugihara whose husband had given him the visa that day in Lithuania.

My mother, Rose, also was a "woman of valor." She was a devoted wife and mother who was sent back to the United States from Marseilles with four children, while German U2 boats patrolled the Atlantic, so that Harry could carry on his activities in Marseilles. They were separated for 18 months. When he retumed to the States briefly before his next assignment to Buenos Aires, Argentina (where this writer was born), my father appeared frail to her, had white hair, and was a chain smoker. My mother hardly recognized him, but their underlying devotion to each other caused them to renew their marriage vows, to begin life anew (and eventually beget eleven children).

When we were growing up in Salem (from 1945 until his death in 1988), my father always reminded his eleven children of a personal motto he developed, which, paraphrased, was "Give the best that you have to the best that you know." When given the opportunity as a government officer, he delivered many from evil. He resigned from the Foreign Service not long after his heroic efforts during WWII, moving to Salem, Connecticut, in 1945 to raise his large family on an inherited farm.

During our "Visas for Life Tour of Israel," at one dinner in the Renaissance Hotel in Jerusalem, a group of Orthodox Jews who had heard of the diplomatic families' presence came and stood by our table. Our tour guide introduced them to us. Two of them were survivors who had been saved by Otto Schindler, whom they personally knew well. Two others had been saved by Raoul Wallenberg. One of the latter, a professor, gratefully remarked, "You righteous gentiles honor us wherever you sit." Two of the owners of the hotel were there, and one whom Schindler had saved said to his fellow attendees, "We should be very proud -- because of them we are alive." When Schindler came to Israel, he visited the man's house and called the man's children, and all Jewish children, "my children." In expressing gratitude to the diplomatic families, the man said that he was unimpressed with official titles such as "President" or "Chairman of this or that." What counted most to him was that our fathers were the rescuers "and we thank you for being here."

My father, a humble man who did not boast of his activities, never told me a great deal about his

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experiences during WWII. A number of other diplomatic family members likewise indicated that they had only recently made such discoveries about their relatives (thanks, undoubtedly, to the initiatives of the respective museums, their curators, and researchers).

I was grateful to hear histories of several survivors during our tour of Israel, as their expressions of gratitude inspired feelings of deep pride for my father, who was being celebrated in the august group of heroic diplomats. The trip abounded in serendipitous encounters: for instance, the chance meeting on our second-to-last day with the guide of a preserve called Bible Park, who was the granddaughter of a woman who had escaped the Holocaust through Marseilles. This was a moving and emotional experience for my brothers and me.

I believe that my father's devotion to good works came, in part, from our family's long missionary zeal. Hirams I and II were Hawaiian missionary leaders in the last century, depicted in James Mitchener's novel "Hawaii." Hiram III, apart from earning fame as the explorer who discovered Machu Pichu in Peru, was a politician and became a Connecticut Govemor and U.S. Senator. Instead of converting souls or solving political issues, Hiram IV, who walked in the shadow of his more famous father, the explorer, was a humble, deeply religious, Episcopalian who saved many lives from the Holocaust.

Attached are documents submitted in support of the instant recommendation to issue a commemorative stamp. You may wish to verify my father's hero status with the offices of Senator Lieberman, Lieutenant Governor Jodi Rell (Connecticut), or Mr. Eric Saul, Curator of the Simon Wiesanthal Center in Los Angeles, Califomia, to whom I have forwarded copies of this recommendation. My younger brother, William, who recently published an informative account in a regional newspaper, the New London Day, after reviewing hundreds of my father's documents of that period in Marseilles that were tucked away in the 230 year-old family homestead in Salem for over fifty years until their discovery in a closet behind my father's desk, also can be a source of information (at 860-859-3387).

I would be happy and honored to discuss this matter further with you. I am a senior government attorney in the Office of the General Counsel, United States Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service, at Hartford, Connecticut and can be reached at 860-240-3381 (office) or 860-8894381 (home).

Sincerely Yours,

Robert Kim Bingham
42 Round Hill Rd.
Salem CT 06420

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