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Verso of an affadavit in lieu of passport issued to Hans Julius Cahnmann by Hiram Bingham, Jr., Vice Consul of the United States of America for the district of Marseille, France.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 34511A

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    Verso of an affadavit in lieu of passport issued to Hans Julius Cahnmann by Hiram Bingham, Jr., Vice Consul of the United States of America for the district of Marseille, France.
    Verso of an affadavit in lieu of passport issued to Hans Julius Cahnmann by Hiram Bingham, Jr., Vice Consul of the United States of America for the district of Marseille, France.


    Verso of an affadavit in lieu of passport issued to Hans Julius Cahnmann by Hiram Bingham, Jr., Vice Consul of the United States of America for the district of Marseille, France.
    1941 May 03
    Marseilles, [Bouches-du-Rhone] France
    Variant Locale
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Hans Cahnmann
    Event History
    The Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC) was established in New York in the summer of 1940 in the wake of the defeat of France and its acceptance of Hitler's terms for an armistice. Article 19 of the agreement committed the new French government under Marshal Philippe Petain to surrender on demand all refugees from the Greater German Reich. The impetus for the ERC came from some of the leaders and associates of the American Friends of German Freedom, an organization formed in the U.S. in 1936 to provide support for the socialist, anti-Nazi underground in Germany. Among these people were Karl B. Frank (an Austrian Jewish political activist, who had recently fled to the U.S.), Reinhold Niebuhr (Protestant theologian), Frank Kingdon (Methodist churchman) and Raymond Gram Swing (radio commentator). The members of the ERC feared for the lives of hundreds of anti-Nazi refugee intellectuals and artists, who had fled the Reich and were now trapped within the closed borders of Vichy France. Under the chairmanship of Kingdon, the committee set itself the mission to locate a group of approximately 200 prominent refugees and to arrange for their escape from France and transport to America. The mission was intended to last approximately three weeks. For their emissary to France, the ERC selected Varian Fry, an editor for the Foreign Policy Association with ties to the International YMCA. This connection allowed Fry to secure a visa to France at a time when they were difficult to obtain, as well as give him a cover for his rescue work. Soon after arriving in Marseilles on August 4, 1940, Fry assembled a staff and established a legal French relief organization, the Centre Americain de Secours (American Relief Center), to serve as a cover for their illegal activities. As word spread that an American had come with visas to help them escape, the refugees flocked to his office, and it quickly became clear that Fry could not complete his mission in the allotted time, nor limit his assistance to the names on the list. Fry and his staff did their utmost for the desperate refugees. They dispensed modest allowances, helped the refugees find places to stay, assisted them in securing legal and false documents, sought to obtain the release of those held in internment camps, and explored escape routes out of France. To find respite from the crush of their responsibilities, Fry and some of his staff rented a villa on the outskirts of Marseilles. They were soon joined at the Villa Air-Bel by surrealist writer Andre Breton and former Russian revolutionary Victor Serge, who were also waiting to leave France. In December 1940, the villa was raided by French police, who detained Fry and his colleagues on a ship in the harbor for several days during the visit of Marshal Petain. The following month Fry's American passport expired, and the State Department, which disapproved of his high-handed activities, refused to renew it. Fry decided to continue his mission, nonetheless, though he knew he faced ever-increasing hostility from both the American and French authorities. By the time he was expelled from France on August 27, 1941, Fry had spent thirteen months in the country. He and his colleagues had spirited more than 1,500 refugees from France and provided support to 2,500 others. Among the refugees he saved were the artists Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Andre Masson and Jacques Lipchitz; the writers Heinrich Mann, Lion Feuchtwanger and Franz Werfel; the scientists Otto Meyerhof and Jacques Hadamard; and the political scientist Hannah Arendt. Varian Fry was recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations in 1994.

    [Greenberg, Karen J. Columbia University Library, New York: the Varian Fry papers: the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter papers. New York: Garland, 1990; Gold, Mary Jayne. Crossroads Marseilles 1940. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980.]

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Hans Cahnmann
    Source Record ID: Collections: 1996.69.4

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Hiram (Harry) Bingham IV (1903-1988), Vice Consul at the US consulate in Marseilles from 1939 to 1941, who worked with American rescue committees to help save more than 2,500 Jews and political opponents of the Nazi regime who were caught in France after the country's defeat. The son of a Connecticut governor and US Senator (and noted archaeologist, who unearthed the Inca city of Machu Picchu, Peru in 1911), Hiram Bingham IV was raised in a family of wealth and privilege. After graduating from Yale and attending Harvard Law School, Bingham went into the foreign service. In December 1936 he was posted to the US consulate in Marseilles, where he served as vice consul in charge of the visa section. Sympathetic to the plight of the refugees, who were being incarcerated in French concentration camps, Bingham developed contacts with members of the French resistance. Later he used these contacts to assist the rescue efforts of Varian Fry's Emergency Rescue Committee and Frank Bohn's American Federation of Labor committee. In violation of US State Department regulations, Bingham issued hundreds of visas beyond State Department quotas and falsified others to provide cover for individual refugees. He also provided the rescue committees with special papers that enabled refugees detained in French concentration camps to be released into Bingham's custody. Once they were released, the Vice Consul issued affidavits in lieu of passports and visas to the US. In addition, he helped Fry devise escape plans, offered his villa as a safe house for many prominent refugees and, on several occasions, personally escorted individuals across the border into Spain. When Varian Fry and more than a dozen members of his rescue network were arrested and detained by Vichy authorities on a prison ship, Bingham intervened to secure their release. The growing opposition of US Consul General Hugh Fullerton to his deputy's involvement in rescue efforts was a contributing factor to Bingham's reassignment to Lisbon in late April 1941. A few months later, in September 1941, he was transferred to Buenos Aires, where he sent back reports to the State Department warning about the Nazi infiltration of Argentina and the smuggling of looted gold into the country. His warnings, however, were not heeded. Disappointed by his experience, Bingham resigned from the foreign service at the end of 1945. He died almost penniless in 1988. Bingham was survived by his wife Rose and eleven children: Rose Tiffany, Hiram Anthony, Thomas, John, David, Robert Kim, Maria Cecilia, Abigail, Margaret, Benjamin and William. Although family members knew some of the details of his work in Marseilles, the whole story of Bingham's involvement in the rescue of refugees from Nazi persecution was not revealed for many decades until his youngest son discovered a bundle of documents in a cupboard behind a chimney in the family home. In 2002 Bingham was given a posthumous award for "constructive dissent" by the American Foreign Service Association. It was presented by US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

    [Sources: Saul, Eric. "Visas for Life" exhibition, February 2000]
    Record last modified:
    2015-04-28 00:00:00
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