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Hiram Bingham IV

US diplomat Hiram Bingham IV, based in Marseille, disobeyed his superiors in July 1940 by sheltering Lion Feuchtwanger, a German writer who had been so critical of the Nazis his citizenship had been revoked and his books publicly burnt.

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Over the course of ten months, Bingham accelerated the issuing of visas and travel documents so that around 2,500 refugees could flee, until the State Department moved him back to the US. One of those saved, Austrian engineer Fred Buch, later called him “The angel of liberation”.

Hiram Bingham IV

During this time, Bingham also sidestepped stubborn US state actors by working with grassroots movements. He assisted journalist Varian Fry, a representative in Marseilles of the New York-based Emergency Rescue Committee, established in 1940. Fry would help around 2,000 refugees escape France. Bingham also worked with Martha and Waitstill Sharp of the Unitarian Services Committee, who were initially based in Prague, before escaping arrest and travelling to Lisbon and later southern France to help relief efforts and refugee escape. Martha’s organisation of the transport of children to the US became a model for later child refugee rescue efforts in the war.