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Part of Jewish history
The Évian Conference was convened at the initiative of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in July 1938 to respond to the plight of the increasing numbers of Jewish refugees fleeing murderous persecution in Europe by the Nazis—and perhaps he hoped to obtain commitments from some of the invitee nations to accept more refugees, although he took pains to avoid stating that objective plainly. It was true that Roosevelt desired to deflect attention and criticism from his own national policy that severely limited the quota of Jewish refugees admitted to the United States.
For eight days, from July 6 to 15 at Évian-les-Bains, France, representatives from 32 countries and 39 private organizations and some 24 voluntary organizations met and formally discussed the issue among themselves, both orally and in writing. Golda Meir, the attendee from Palestine, was the only representative of a landed Jewish constituency, but she was not permitted to speak or to participate in the proceedings except as an observer. Some 200 international journalists gathered at Évian to observe and report the conclave.
The dispossessed and displaced Jews of Austria and Germany were hopeful that this international conference would lead to acceptance of more refugees and safe haven. "The United States had always been viewed in Europe as champion of freedom and under her powerful influence and following her example, certainly many countries would provide the chance to get out of the German trap. The rescue, a new life seemed in reach."
Hitler responded to the news of the conference by saying essentially that if the other nations would agree to take the Jews, he would help them leave.
I can only hope and expect that the other world, which has such deep sympathy for these criminals [Jews], will at least be generous enough to convert this sympathy into practical aid. We, on our part, are ready to put all these criminals at the disposal of these countries, for all I care, even on luxury ships.
The conference proved a failure because both the United States and Britain refused to accept any (substantially) more refugees, and most of the countries at the conference followed suit, the result being that the Jews had no escape and were ultimately subject to what was known as Hitler's "Final Solution to the Jewish Question". The conference was seen by some as "an exercise in Anglo-American collaborative hypocrisy."
The Nuremberg Laws made German Jews, who were already persecuted by the Hitler regime, stateless refugees in their own country. By 1938, some 450,000 of about 900,000 German Jews had fled Germany, mostly to British Mandate Palestine, though the British had a white paper barring Jews from Palestine during the war, (a number which also included over 50,000 German Jews who had taken advantage of the Haavara, or "Transfer" Agreement between German Zionists and the Nazis), but British immigration quotas prevented many from migrating. In March 1938, Hitler annexed Austria and made the 200,000 Jews of Austria stateless refugees. In September, Britain and France granted Hitler the right to occupy the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia, and in March 1939, Hitler occupied the remainder of the country, making a further 200,000 Jews stateless.
In 1939 the British White Paper capped Jewish immigration to Palestine at 75,000 over the next five years, after which the country was to become an independent state (Palestine was then a British mandate concerning which Britain had agreements with Arabs who had helped defeat Ottoman Turkey during the First World War). Britain offered homes for Jewish immigrant children and proposed Kenya as a haven for Jews, but refused to back a Zionist state or to take steps that might imply the legitimacy of Hitler's policies.
Before the Conference the United States and Great Britain made a critical agreement, to wit: the British promised not to bring up the fact that the United States was not filling its immigration quotas, and any mention of Palestine as a possible destination for Jewish refugees was excluded from the agenda.
Conference delegates expressed empathy for Jews under Nazism but made no immediate joint resolution or commitment, portraying the conference as a mere beginning, to the frustration of some commentators. Noting "that the involuntary emigration of people in large numbers has become so great that it renders racial and religious problems more acute, increases international unrest, and may hinder seriously the processes of appeasement in international relations", the Évian Conference established the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (ICR) with the purpose to "approach the governments of the countries of refuge with a view to developing opportunities for permanent settlement." The ICR received little authority or support from its member nations and fell into inaction.
No government official was sent by the United States; instead Roosevelt's friend the American businessman Myron C. Taylor represented the U.S. with James G. McDonald as his advisor. The U.S. agreed that the German and Austrian immigration quota of 30,000 a year would be made available to Jewish refugees. In the three years 1938 to 1940 the US actually exceeded this quota by 10,000. During the same period Great Britain accepted almost the same number of German Jews. Australia agreed to take 15,000 over three years, with South Africa taking only those with close relatives already resident; Canada refused to make any commitment and only accepted a few refugees over this period. The Australian delegate T. W. White noted: "as we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one". The French delegate stated that France had reached "the extreme point of saturation as regards admission of refugees", a sentiment repeated by most other representatives.
The only country willing to accept a large number of Jews was the Dominican Republic, which offered to accept up to 100,000 refugees on generous terms. In 1940 an agreement was signed and Rafael Trujillo donated 26,000 acres (110 km2) of his properties for settlements. The first settlers arrived in May 1940: only about 800 settlers came to Sosúa; most later moved on to the United States. The Sosua Virtual museum is a living memorial to the settlers.
In her autobiography My Life (1975), Golda Meir described her outrage being in "the ludicrous capacity of the [Jewish] observer from Palestine, not even seated with the delegates, although the refugees under discussion were my own people...." After the conference Meir told the press: "There is only one thing I hope to see before I die and that is that my people should not need expressions of sympathy anymore." Chaim Weizmann was quoted in The Manchester Guardian as saying: "The world seemed to be divided into two parts – those places where the Jews could not live and those where they could not enter."
In July 1979, Walter Mondale described the hope represented by the Evian conference:
"At stake at Evian were both human lives – and the decency and self-respect of the civilized world. If each nation at Evian had agreed on that day to take in 17,000 Jews at once, every Jew in the Reich could have been saved. As one American observer wrote, 'It is heartbreaking to think of the ...desperate human beings ... waiting in suspense for what happens at Evian. But the question they underline is not simply humanitarian ... it is a test of civilization.'"
|High Commission for Refugees from Germany|
|General Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Committee||
- Agudas Israel World Organization, London
- Alliance Israélite Universelle, Paris
- American,British, Belgian, French, Dutch, and Swiss Catholic Committees for Aid to Refugees
- American Joint Distribution Committee, Paris
- Association de colonisation juive, Paris
- Association of German Scholars in Distress Abroad, London
- Bureau international pour le respect du droit d'asyle et l'aide aux réfugiés politiques, Paris
- Central Bureau for the Settlement of German Jews, London
- Central Committee for Refugees from Germany, Prague
- Centre de recherches de solutions au problème juif, Paris
- Comité d'aide et d'assistance aux victimes de l'anti-semitisme en Allemagne, Brussels
- Comite for Bijzondere Joodsche Belangen, Amsterdam
- Comité international pour le placement des intellectuels réfugiés, Geneva
- Comité pour la défense des droits des Israélites en Europe centrale et orientale, Paris
- Committee of Aid for German Jews, London
- Council for German Jewry, London
- Emigration Advisory Committee, London
- Fédération des émigrés d'Autriche, Paris
- Fédération internationale des émigrés d'Allemagne, Paris
- Freeland Association, London
- German Committee of the Quaker Society of Friends, London
- HICEM, Paris
- International Christian Committee for Non-Aryans, London
- Internationale ouvrière et socialiste, Paris and Brussels
- Jewish Agency for Palestine, London
- The Joint Foreign Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association, London
- Komitee für die Entwicklung der grossen jüdischen Kolonisation, Zürich
- League of Nations Union, London
- New Zionist Organization, London
- ORT, Paris
- Royal Institute of International Affairs, London
- Schweizer Hilfszentrum für Flüchtlinge, Basel
- Service international de migration, Geneva
- Service universitaire international, Geneva
- Société d'émigration et de colonisation juive Emcol, Paris
- Society for the Protection of Sciences and Studies, London
- Union des Sociétés OSE, Paris
- World Jewish Congress, Paris
The international press was represented by about two hundred journalists, chiefly the League of Nations correspondents of the leading daily and weekly newspapers and news agencies.
- Kristallnacht (November 9, 1938)
- The Holocaust
- The Haavara Agreement
- Bermuda Conference
- British Mandate of Palestine
- White Paper of 1939
- SS St. Louis
- SS Navemar
- International response to the Holocaust
- Allen Wells (2009). Tropical Zion : General Trujillo, FDR, and the Jews of Sosua. Duke University Press. pp. 6–8. ISBN 978-0-8223-4407-0.
- July 6–15, 1938: Évian Conference
- William R. Perl (December 1, 1989). The Holocaust conspiracy: an international policy of genocide. SP Books. pp. 37–. ISBN 978-0-944007-24-2. Retrieved March 24, 2011.
- Ronnie S. Landau (2006). The Nazi Holocaust. I.B.Tauris. pp. 137–140. ISBN 978-1-84511-201-1. Retrieved 24 March 2011.
- Fischel, Jack R., The Holocaust (1998), pp. 28–29
- Sykes, Christopher (1965) Cross Roads to Israel: Palestine from Balfour to Bevin. New English Library Edition (pb) 1967. Pages 198, 199.
- Crassweller RD. Trujillo. The Life and Times of a Caribbean Dictator. The MacMillan Co, New York (1966). pp. 199–200.
- Golda Meir: An Outline of a Unique Life. A Chronological Survey of Golda Meir's Life and Legacy by Norman Provizer and Claire Wright
- Manchester Guardian, May 23, 1936, cited in A.J. Sherman, Island Refuge, Britain and the Refugees from the Third Reich, 1933–1939, (London, Elek Books Ltd, 1973), p. 112
- The Évian Conference – Hitler's Green Light for Genocide by Annette Shaw
- New York Times : Evian and Geneva By Walter F. Mondale
- Bio & Photo
- Bio & Photo
- Bio & Photo
- Bio & Photo
- Bio & Photo
- History of HICEM
- A list of the papers and agencies and their reporters was published by Hans Habe, present at the Conference as a foreign correspondent of the Prager Tagblatt (Prague Daily), as an appendix to his novel Die Mission (The Mission, 1965, first published in Great Britain by George G. Harrap & Co. Limited in 1966, re-published by Panther Books Ltd, book number 2231, in 1967).