Serving as a U.S. diplomat in France during World War II, Hiram Bingham IV is remembered for saving the lives of thousands of refugees during the war through his principled opposition to U.S. policy.
The portrait of Hiram Bingham IV is a detail from a photograph dated August 17, 1933, which accompanied news reports of Bingham sailing to Europe to serve as vice consul in Warsaw.
During the late 1930s, he was named vice consul in Marseilles, France, where he was in charge of issuing visas. In 1940 and 1941, against the official policies of the United States, he issued visas and false passports to Jews and other refugees, assisting in their escape and sometimes sheltering them in his own home. Bingham is credited with saving more than 2,000 people from the Nazis, among them such famous figures as artist Marc Chagall, Nobel-winning biochemist Otto Meyerhoff, and historian Hannah Arendt. He was transferred briefly to Portugal and then to Argentina.
Born to a prominent Connecticut family, Bingham (1903-1988) graduated from Yale in 1925 and studied international law at Harvard. After he entered the Foreign Service in 1929, his postings included China, Poland and England.
Since the posthumous discovery of his humanitarian activities during the 1980s and 1990s, Bingham has been recognized by the United Nations, and in June 2002 he was honored by the American Foreign Service Association with a special award for "constructive dissent."