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HBIV Receives Lawyers' LIBERTY BELL AWARD," Law Day 1999


LAW DAY 1999

May 1, 1999

New London County Bar Association Grants Liberty Bell Award to Hiram Bingham IV


"At its annual Law Day luncheon on Friday, April 3O, 1999 at the Radisson Hotel, New London, Connecticut, the New London County Bar Association granted its 'Liberty Bell Award' posthumously to Hiram Bingham IV, for his heroism in saving between 2500 and 5000 lives from the Holocaust while he served as a U.S. consul in Marseilles, France from 1939 to 1941.

Approximately 60 members of the county bar association and president Barbara Masters, Esq., and a dozen Superior Court judges, including Administrative Judge Susan Handy, were in attendance. The luncheon was organized by Susan Connelly, Esq, Niantic, Chair of the Awards Committee. The Bingham family was represented by David and Annie Bingham, Robert Kim and Anne Bingham, Bill Bingham, Elfie Shaphere and Bill Bailey.

Presenters of the award Jerome Fischer, Executive Director of the Eastern Connecticut Jewish Federation, and a co-founder of the newly-formed national United Jewish Communities (UJC), and Rabbi Aaron Rosenberg gave excellent speeches regarding HBIV's deeds. They also pointed out the "irony" of celebrating Harry's activities on "Law Day" since he violated departmental policy and his superiors' orders while serving in Vichi France. The Rabbi urged that a commemorative stamp be issued honoring Hiram Bingham IV, recalling that the Swedish diplomat Raul Wallenburg, who rescued many thousands of Jews from the Holocaust, also was honored by an historic stamp in 1996.

The speakers were both eloquent and correct. I am reminded of what some researchers of the Holocaust recently noted, to wit: "Bingham was the only State Department official anywhere in Europe who gave Jews emergency visas. In 1945, [author and collaborator Varian] Fry sent him a copy of his book Surrender on Demand inscribed: 'To Hiram Bingham IV, Partner in the 'crime' of saving human lives."' Blanche Wiesen Cook, Who 's Your Hero? culturefront on Iine, Vol. 7, #2, NYC, Fall, 1998. (Emphasis added.) A reviewer of Professor Donna F. Ryan's book entitled The Holocaust & the Jews of Marseille, Urbana and Chicago, University of Illinois Press, 1996 also observed:

Not only did Vichy create all kinds of bureaucratic difficulties to prevent Jews from emigrating between 1940 and 1943 (despite its official message of wanting to rid France

 of Jewish influence), but the American State Department forbade its consulate in Marseille to issue entry visas without first receiving exit visas that Vichy balked at providing. One ofthe few American bureaucrats who put humanity above career was the U.S. ViceConsul in Marseilles, Hiram Bingham Jr., who ignored Washington's directives and helped hundreds of desperate Jews escape. Ryan does not say what professional price, if any, Bingham paid for this insubordination .... Finally, I would have liked to know what kind of background, upbringing, education, ideas, and experience helped make a Hiram Bingham, Jr.... (or is it just that some people are genetically endowed with more human decency than others?). But, then, even an attempt at dealing with such a question might require another book or more.... (Emphasis added.)

Review by Robert J. Soucy, Oberlin College, for H-France, H-Net, Humanities OnLine, Ja'uary 1999.

Speakers at the Law Day luncheon noted that Hiram Bingham IV helped some of the most notable intellectuals and artists escape, including Marc Chagall, painter. He rescued 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. Harry saved thousands of ordinary people as well.

America, Connecticut and the Town of Salem (Connecticut) can be proud of their native son, Salem's 'Schindler,' whose story is now unfolding, fifty years later. 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 still have not learned of these great men and their families," according to the Simon Weisenthal Center.


On April 26, 1998, three Bingham sons, who had been invited on an official tour of Israel dunng the country's 50th Anniversary celebrations and exhibit honoring Hiram Bingham IV at the Yad Vashem, Israel's National Holocaust Museum, planted a tree honoring Hiram in the Sugihara Forest at an official televised ceremony on a beautiful hillside overlooking Jerusalem. The tree is the fourth in a semi-circle of pines planted by the State of Israel in honor of the eleven officially-recognized "righteous diplomats." It was extremely moving to leave a memorial in Israel to Hiram's goodness.

The luncheon at the Radisson, where three schoolchildren also received scholarships from the New London County Bar Association for their winning essays on the topic of "Freedom," was a moving and memorable occasion for this son of Connecticut's "humble" hero, "Salem's Schindler" who never boasted of his accomplishments.

If Hiram were alive today, I would say to him? 'You walked with God while saving many from the Holocaust. You lit a candle in Hitler's occupied Europe. May your goodness and values live in the tree planted in your honor, over the city of Jerusalem, forever.'

Thank you, New London County Bar Association and essay contest winners for bringing back these thoughts about my father who put humanity above career during Europe's darkest hour. Sincerely, Robert Kim Bingham, son of Hiram Bingham IV."

Editor's Note. Robert Kim Bingham, Esq. is a proud son of Hiram Bingham IV and lives in Salem with his wife Anne Fairfax.


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