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The Evian Conference
Transcript of The Evian Conference
Contemporary thoughts on Evian
"This problem of involuntary emigration, even in the case of Austria and Germany, is not one that can be solved in a few days or indeed in a few weeks, but I venture to claim that the results of Evian are a good augury for the future"
(Earl of Plymouth, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs)
Later thoughts on Evian
"In the end the Evian Conference showed Germany that no-one wanted the Jews, leading the Nazis to a different solution to the 'Jewish Question' - extermination" (Jennifer L Goss)
German Jews seeking to emigrate, on the wall a map of South America and a sign about emigration to Palestine
(US Holocaust Memorial Museum)
Cartoon in New York Times: July 3, 1938 - each road ends in a "stop" sign
What do you think?
The Evian Conference
Myron Taylor, a US businessman, addresses the Internal Conference on Refugees
Aug 1: Adolf Eichmann establishes the Office of Jewish Emigration in Vienna to increase the pace of forced emigation
Sept 30: Munich Conference - Britain and France agree to German occupation of the Sudetenland, previously Western Czechoslovakia
Oct 5: Following request from Swiss authorities, Germans mark all Jewish passports with a large letter "J" to restrict Jews from immigrating to Switzerland
Nov 9-10 1938: Kristallnacht - anti Jewish pogrom in Germany, Austria & Sudetenland
Nov 15: All Jewish pupils expelled from German schools
On 12 March 1938 the refugee crisis, ongoing since persecution began in 1933, dramatically worsened when Germany annexed Austria (the Anschluss), resulting in another potential 180,000 immigrants, 90% of them Jewish
Due to the Nazi Government's policy of confiscating all their assets and refusing them permission to transfer their money abroad, the tens of thousands of Jewish emigres were destitute
11 days later US President Roosevelt convened a meeting of the League of Nations to discuss the crisis. Held in Evian, France from 6-15 July, the conference was attended by representatives from 32 countries, including Great Britain
One country, the Dominican Republic, agreed to take a substantial amount of extra immigrants. The others declined on social, economic and political grounds
It was felt that the countries of origin should be approached to reconsider their policy on seizing refugees' assets
Formed at the conference, the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (ICR) reconvened in London on 3 August to continue resolution efforts
Was the Evian Conference a "Green Light to Genocide"?
"The Evian Conference stands in historical perspective as a critical turning point. At the conference the world's democracies made it clear that they were willing to do next to nothing for the Jews of Europe. Several months later Kristallnacht signalled to the world that Jews no longer could live under Nazi rule, while at Evian the world had shown it would not make room for these Jews. The world's doors, closed at Evian, remained shut throughout World War II"
Alleged reasons for refusal
prepared to accept children on Kindertransport (10,000 arrived) but not willing to accept their parents due to fear of anti-Semitic feelings rising due to a sudden rush of Jewish refugees
Ruled out Palestine as destination due to ongoing political conflict with Arabs
settlement in other colonial countries ruled out on economic grounds
France: Stressed it had reached saturation point
Peru: example of caution & wisdom had been set by USA by its immigration restrictions
Australia: "As we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one"
Central American states issued a joint statement saying they could accept no "traders and intellectuals"
Brazil: every visa application would have to be accompanied by a certificate of Christian Baptism
Canada:only prepared to accept
experienced agricultural workers
Would not exceed usual annual German immigration quota
Demanded Jews produce certificates of good conduct from German police
Switzerland: Swiss representative Dr Heinrich Rothmund "Switzerland, which has as little use for these Jews as Germany has, will herself take measures to protect Switzerland from being swamped by the Jews"
Yad Vashem claim:
"Are they to harden their hearts and shut their doors against these people who are seeking refuge, which will be contrary to their own feelings of humanity;
or on the other hand
are they to throw open widely their doors and allow in perhaps a great flood of indiscriminate emigration, numbering tens or hundreds of thousands, with perhaps serious effects upon the economic situation of their own people?"
(Jewish Peer: Viscount Samuel
House of Lords 27 July 1938)
"As regards the Evian Conference the difficulty it had to face was that it had to avoid giving support to suggestions or decisions which might encourage a growing pressure on Jews in Poland and Rumania, who might be forced out of those countries if too great ease were shown in receiving masses of refugees... There is no secret of the fact that many people are perturbed by the rise of anti-Semitic feeling in a large number of countries at the present moment, and nothing should be done in my opinion to exacerbate or cause a rise in that very dangerous state of mind. The speeches of most of the delegates were very guarded. They were not exactly optimistic, yet I am inclined to agree ... that the mere existence of the Conference did raise hopes of increased efforts"
(Lord Marley - Peer who attended conference but was not the delegate)
Marquess of Reading:
"Evian has in my view realised all but the most extravagant hopes. It was admittedly only a beginning; it could be nothing else; but it has already had the result of establishing this permament Committee in London. It has, I believe, built enduring foundations of hope in many countries, and it has at least demonstrated that the conscience of mankind neither slumbers nor sleeps."
"The Evian Conference was a beginning, and there are certain tangible gains already manifested [but] the fundamental point may be put in this way, that the refugee problem of Austria and Germany cannot be solved unless the non-German Governments can secure some concessions from the German Government, by which the refugees can take a proportion of their property with them into emigration."
(Lord Bishop of Chichester)
It is heartbreaking to think of the queues of desperate human beings around our consulates in Vienna and other cities waiting in suspense for what happens at Evian... It is not a question of
how many unemployed this country can safely add to its own unemployed millions. It is a test of
civilization... Can America live with itself if it lets Germany get away with this policy of
(New York Times: July 4, 1938)
For the most part refugees belong to classes no-one wants to accommodate. Sir Neil Malcolm [High Commissioner] comments on restrictions imposed by the majority of countries on newcomers' right to work. He thinks a more liberal course might be taken but it is hard to see how it can. With economic conditions as they are and unemployment widely prevalent the first duty of a Government is to its own people and provision for others a secondary consideration
(Western Morning News:September 6, 1938)
"the people who are driven from their native land reach another country in a state of destitution and either dispossess native workers of their jobs or become candidates for charitable relief. It is obvious that in the present economic state of the world in general the countries which have always granted the right of asylum to political refugees cannot continue to grant that right to all and sundry"
(Gloucestershire Echo: July 6 1938)
"Great Britain, France, the United States and others represented at the Evian conference have in the sacred name of humanity voluntarily assumed a burden which have been imposed on them by others...but Evian is and must remain tragically inadequate"
(Dr Chaim Weizmann - future president of Israel)
"A statement was issued today on behalf of the World Jewish Congress, which represents several Jewish bodies, expressing full agreement with the ideas underlying the conference resolution, namely, to substitute systematic and organised migration for chaotic exodus"
(Reported in Yorkshire Post:July 16, 1938)
UNITED STATES PROPOSAL FOR AN INTERGOVERNMENTAL CONFERENCE ON REFUGEES:
"The government has become so impressed with the urgency of the
problem of political refugees that it has inquired of a number of
governments in Europe and in this hemisphere whether they would be
willing to cooperate in setting up a special committee for the purpose of
facilitating the emigration from Austria, and presumably from
Germany, of political refugees. Our idea is that whereas such
representatives would be designated by the governments concerned,
any financing of the emergency emigration referred to would be
undertaken by private organizations with the respective countries.
Furthermore, it should be understood that no country would be
expected or asked to receive a greater number of immigrants than is
permitted by its existing legislation… It has been prompted to make its
proposal because of the urgency of the problem with which the world is
faced and the necessity of speedy cooperative effort under
governmental supervision if widespread human suffering is to be
Department of State, Press Releases, XVIII, March 26, 1938
"since in many foreign countries it was recently regarded as wholly incomprehensible why Germans did not wish to preserve in its population an element like the Jews...it appears astounding that countries seem in no way particularly anxious to make use of these elements themselves, now that the opportunity offers"
(Deutche Displomatische Korrespondenz, Official Paper of German Foreign Office:July 12, 1938)
"widespread racial prejudices among Americans - including anti-semitic attitudes held by the US State Department officials - played a part in the failure to admit more refugees"
(Jewish Virtual Library)
"the Germans caught the signal. The world may, on occasion, issue a formal protest and pay lip service to Christian charity. But underneath the mask of humanitarianism and Christian compassion, the Western world does not want to be troubled by Jewish concerns. Mankind had no interest in the fate of the Jews...with Evian all confusion and uncertainty evaported. Nazi Germany was given the green light"
"the hypocritical rhetoric and actions of the delegates and the ineffectiveness of the conference's sole creation, the Intergovernmental Committee for Political Refugees, was clearly recognised by Nazi Germany and ultimately influenced its anti-Jewish policies"
(Dennis Ross Laffer)
"The name 'Evian' will forever be remembered as the site of an international conference...that was supposed to save the Jews of Germany, but instead sealed their doom"
Warning of impending tragedy?
"It is a shameful spectacle to see how the whole democratic world is oozing sympathy for the poor tormented Jewish people, but remains hard hearted and obdurate when it comes to helping them"
Adolf Hitler, January 30 1939
By April 1945 it is estimated that 6 million European Jews were exterminated
Dundee Courier and Advertiser
August 4, 1938