The letter below was written to Hiram Bingham by the Secretary of State Cordell Hull, in response to rescue efforts of Jews and non-Jews in Vichy France.1In addition to Hiram Bingham, who served as a Vice Consul in Marseilles, France, and as such was in charge of issuing US visas, the letter mentions two other men. The first man is Dr. Frank Bohn, a representative of US labor organizations who helped to locate and rescue communists and socialists who were targeted by the Nazis for their political beliefs. The other man, Varian Fry, was a journalist sent by the Emergency Rescue Committee to Southern France, where the government of Vichy France agreed to turn all anti-Nazi activists in to the Nazis. Fry played a major role in rescuing thousands.
September 18, 1940
VICHY (France) FOR PARIS
Your 539, September 11, 10 a.m. and 566, September 14, 6 p.m.
You should inform Dr. Bohn and Mr. Fry in personal interview if this can be arranged immediately that while Department is sympathetic with the plight of unfortunate refugees, and has authorized consular officers to give immediate and sympathetic consideration to their applications for visas, this Government can not repeat not countenance the activities as reported of Dr. Bohn and Mr. Fry and other persons, however well-meaning their motives may be, in carrying on activities evading the laws of countries with which the United States maintains friendly relations.
You are requested in your discretion, to inform the appropriate officials of the Foreign Office that while aliens who qualify for and obtain visas at American consular offices as meeting the requirements of American immigration laws have the required visa documentation to proceed to the United States, this Government does not repeat not countenance any activity by American citizens desiring to evade the laws of the governments with which this country maintains friendly relations. You may also ask Mr. Hurley to inform the Prefect at Marseille in this sense. Consul at Marseille should also be informed that Dr. Bohn has been requested to return to United States immediately. You may also advise Embassy Paris and Consuls at Bordeaux and Nice regarding situation. Keep Department advised of developments.
- 1 : For an additional document relating to the activity of this network, known as the American Rescue Center, see excerpts “from a report of the Chief of the French Police in the Bouches du Rhone Department to the Minister of the Interior, 30 December 1940,” Yad Vashem website, May 30, 2013.
- 2 : Secretary of State Cordell Hull to the American Embassy in Vichy, France, telegram, September 18, 1940.