HOUSTON – As he talked to students at the Emery/Weiner School in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Robert Kim Bingham wanted to get one main message across.
“One person can make a difference,” Bingham said. “My father followed his motto, to do the best that you have, to the best that you know. At that time, his policy was to save lives.”
During World War II, Bingham’s father, Hiram ‘Harry’ Bingham IV served in the United States State Department. While stationed in France as the vice consul in Marseille, Bingham had the job of administering visas.
In 1940-41, the US had a strict immigration policy, but Bingham IV defied it, issuing visas to people fleeing persecution from the Nazis and the Holocaust.
“He saw the long lines of applicants looking for visas,” Robert Bingham said. “He knew the action was necessary at that time, and he acted boldly.”
It’s estimated 2,500 people were saved through Bingham’s actions.
“It was incredible to hear his story,” said Ryan Bronston, a senior at Emery/Weiner. “It goes to show the importance of civil disobedience. As all of us go out into college and into the real world in general, it’ll be on us to preserve this memory.”
While the actions cost Bingham dearly in his career, he was ultimately honored after his death in 1988. In 2006, Bingham’s image appeared on US postal stamps for a series titled “Distinguished American Diplomats.”