August 12, 2005
Hiram “Harry” Bingham IV, a U.S. diplomat who risked his career to help save more than 2,000 of the world’s leading writers, musicians, and artists –most of them Jewish refugees– from the Nazis, will be honored on a U.S. postage stamp.
Bingham (1903-1988), a U.S. vice-consul in France under the pro-Nazi Vichy regime, secretly worked side-by-side with rescue activist Varian Fry until the Roosevelt administration halted their activity in 1941, by refusing to renew Fry’s passport and transferring Bingham out of France.
The U.S. Postal Service has announced that Bingham will be one of six U.S. diplomats featured on forthcoming postage stamps, chosen from among more than 50,000 stamp proposals that the Postal Service receives each year. He will appear as part of a six-stamp souvenir sheet honoring unique American diplomats, including the first black U.S. ambassador and the first woman U.S. ambassador.
The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which has been publicizing Bingham’s story in schools, public programs, and the news media, strongly praised the decision to issue the Bingham stamp. Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff said: “It is an act of historic justice that the U.S. government, which in 1941 interfered with Bingham’s rescue activity, is now publicly recognizing that Bingham was right, and, in effect, acknowledging that the Roosevelt administration was wrong.”
The stamp decision follows a five-year educational campaign initiated by one of Bingham’s sons, Robert Kim Bingham, whose efforts attracted nationwide interest and resulted in an outpouring of letters to the Postal Service. The campaign was endorsed by the American Foreign Service Association, a professional association of U.S. Foreign Service officers, as well as Members of Congress and the Connecticut House of Representatives.
Bingham’s youngest son, Connecticut attorney William S. Bingham, will be a featured speaker at the Wyman Institute’s national conference in New York City on September 18, 2005, as will Bella Chagall Meyer, granddaughter of the artist Marc Chagall, who was rescued by Varian Fry and Harry Bingham. They will be joined by Varian Fry’s widow, Mrs. Annette Fry; the three will meet for the first time at the Wyman conference. A rare film clip of Chagall and Fry, made by Bingham at Chagall’s home in 1941, will be also be shown at the conference.
Bingham’s rescue work was almost completely unknown to the public until after his death, when William S. Bingham discovered a cache of documents about his father’s activity that had been hidden in an old linen closet in the family’s Salem, CT home. He is currently researching the story for a book and film projects on his father’s rescue work.
The Wyman Institute conference at which Bingham, Chagall and Mrs. Fry will appear, will be held at the Fordham University School of Law, 140 West 62 St., New York, on Sunday, September 18, 2005, from 10 am to 5 pm; for more information, please call 202-434-8994.