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Evian Conference

Evian Conference - Conference on Jewish refugees held July 6 to 16 at Evian les Bains in France, on the initiative of United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The conference was held in Evian, on the French side of Lake Geneva, since Switzerland declined to host the conference. The conference was held against the background of rising Nazi persecution of the Jews, as the Nazi government passed laws that progressively deprived German Jews of citizenship and property rights, rights to work in most occupations and the right to marry non-Jews.

The Nazi anti-Semitic legislation and rhetoric had accelerated since the Anschluss, the German annexation of Austria in March of 1938. The major outcome of the conference was the fact that there was no outcome. None of the participating countries agreed to allow the immigration of substantial numbers of Jewish refugees. The key issue, generally neglected in accounts of the conference, was greed. The Nazis would not allow Jews to take property out of Germany. The would-be host countries would not admit Jews who did not have any capital. 

Most delegates made speeches deploring Nazi discrimination against Jews, but in some cases these speeches fronted for openly anti-Semitic policies and sentiments. The conference agreed to create an intergovernmental committee on the problem, which did practically nothing. The Nazi government gloated over the isolation of the  Jews.

Six days after the Nazi annexation of Austria, US President Roosevelt invited 33 nations to attend a conference on refugees. of the invited countries, only Italy  refused to attend in any capacity. The countries that did attend: Australia, the Argentine Republic, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, United Kingdom, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela. These countries were all regarded as potential places of refuge. The Union of South Africa sent an observer, and Polish and Rumanian representatives attended in an unofficial capacity. Germany was not invited. These countries were not considered potential places of refuge. In addition, numerous non-government organizations sent observers who were allowed to speak. These included the Alliance Israelite, Jewish Agency, New Zionist organization, Friends society and many others. They were allowed to speak their case to a subcommittee for the record, but no action was taken on their pleas or proposals. The conference was chaired by Roosevelt's emissary, Myron Taylor.

Outcomes of the Evian Conference

The U.S. government resumed the admission of refugees from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia, which had ceased five years earlier, admitting the maximum immigration quota for each country. The combined quota of Germany and Austria was 27,000 persons annually. As Czechoslovakia would soon be annexed to the Reich, 200,000 more Jews became stateless.  Australia, which had permitted few immigrants, agreed to receive 15,000 within the ensuing three years, but in fact they only admitted about 10,000, pleading that they wanted a "uniform population."  Some South American countries undertook to accept more settlers, particularly the Dominican Republic. The Dominican dictator Trujillo, wanted Jews to provide "whiteness" in his country to balance out the large population of African dissent. Originally 100,000 were invited, but somehow, only 700 managed to get exit and transit visas to their new home, which was Sosua, an agriculture colony. Most were unsuited to agricultural work, but they adapted. ref Britain made promising noises about settlement in Kenya and Guiana, but not much came of that.  

The Nazi newspaper Voelkischer Beobachter summed up the proceedings of the conference in a most objective and painfully accurate article: ref

... The development of the Evian Conference so far is very embarrassing for the Marxists, because according to them, it leads to an international legalization of German antisemitic policy.

In accordance with their democratic ideology and political tendencies, the official statements made by the representatives of the United States, France and to a lesser degree England, made noises of moral outrage over the liquidation of the Jewish problem in Germany. At the same time, however, England and France were so reserved when it came to declaring readiness to accept more emigrants, that the representatives of other states, who did not wish to speak out at all at the outset, found the courage to express one after the other their reluctance to permit new Jewish emigration.

The European countries did this, while pointing to the fact that they had reached the point of saturation; the south Americans spoke unanimously of the agricultural structure of their countries which permitted the emigration of farmers, not of merchants and city intellectuals. Some of them, as for example the representative of Brazil, let it be understood that Jews often would enter disguised as farmers, only to move to the city at the earliest opportunity.

The representative of the British Dominions made excuses based on the situation of the labor market (Canada), the wish for a uniform population (Australia), or the danger of increasing anti-Semitism.

It seems, therefore, that the United States alone can be considered a target for Jewish emigration of any significant proportion. In his opening speech, the American representative pointed out the now combined immigration quota for Germany and Austria (approximately 27,000 per annum). Beyond this, most of the delegates are convinced, and the Swedish representative said so openly today, that a real solution to the Jewish emigration problem can only be solved on a territorial basis, in which the Jews will be among themselves and where, besides the German emigrants, within time also millions of Polish and other Jews can be settled. The English representative referred to the African colony of Kenya in this respect, but all this was dependent on present developments. Other colonial powers did not mention their colonies at all (France, Belgium) or they have declared that they were not fit for white settlers (Belgium, Holland).

 In his Reichstag speech of January 30, 1939, Hitler used the world's reluctance to absorb Jewish refugees to legitimize the Nazi program of expulsion:

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 aiding them -- which is surely, in view of its attitude, an obvious duty. The arguments that are brought up as excuses for not helping them actually speak for us Germans and Italians.

For this is what they say:  

1. "We," that is the democracies, "are not in a position to take in the Jews." Yet in these empires there are not even ten people to the square kilometer. While Germany, with her 135 inhabitants to the square kilometer, is supposed to have room for them!

2. They assure us: We cannot take them unless Germany is prepared to allow them a certain amount of capital to bring with them as immigrants. (Stackelberg, Roderick and Sally Anne Winkle, The Nazi Germany Source book p. 228)

The conference had a bizarre agenda, since no country was asked to increase refugee quotas, yet somehow they were supposed to find "solutions" for the refugees.

Resolutions of the Evian Conference

The resolutions of the conference were as follows:

"Having met at Evian, France, from July 6th to July 13th, 1938:

1. Considering that the question of involuntary emigration has assumed major proportions and that the fate of the unfortunate people affected has become a problem for intergovernmental deliberation;

2. Aware that the involuntary emigration of large numbers of people, of different creeds, economic conditions, professions and trades, from the country or countries where they have been established, is disturbing to the general economy, since these persons are obliged to seek refuge, either temporarily or permanently, in other countries at a time when there is serious unemployment; that, in consequence, countries of refuge and settlement are faced with problems, not only of an economic and social nature, but also of public order, and that there is a severe strain on the administrative facilities and absorptive capacities of the receiving countries;

3. Aware, moreover, 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;

4. Believing that it is essential that a long-range program should be envisaged, whereby assistance to involuntary emigrants, actual and potential, may be coordinated within the framework of existing migration laws and practices of Governments;

5. Considering that if countries of refuge or settlement are to cooperate in finding an orderly solution of the problem before the Committee they should have the collaboration of the country of origin and are therefore persuaded that it will make its contribution by enabling involuntary emigrants to take with them their property and possessions and emigrate in an orderly manner;

6. Welcoming heartily the initiative taken by the President of the United States of America in calling the Intergovernmental Meeting at Evian for the primary purpose of facilitating involuntary emigration from Germany (including Austria), and expressing profound appreciation to the French Government for its courtesy in receiving the Intergovernmental Meeting at Evian;

7. Bearing in mind the resolution adopted by the Council of the League of Nations on May 14th, 1938, concerning international assistance to refugees:

Recommends:

8. a) That the persons coming within the scope of the activity of the Intergovernmental Committee shall be 1) persons who have not already left their country of origin (Germany, including Austria), but who must emigrate on account of their political opinion, religious beliefs or racial origin, and 2) persons as defined in 1) who have already left their country of origin and who have not yet established themselves permanently elsewhere;

b) That the Governments participating in the Intergovernmental Committee shall continue to furnish the Committee for its strictly confidential information, with 1) details regarding such immigrants as each Government may be prepared to receive under its existing laws and practices and 2) details of these laws and practices;

c) That in view of the fact that the countries of refuge and settlement are entitled to take into account the economic and social adaptability of immigrants, these should in many cases be required to accept, at least for a time, changed conditions of living in the countries of settlement;

d) That the Governments of the countries of refuge and settlement should not assume any obligations for the financing of involuntary emigration;

e) That, with regard to the documents required by the countries of refuge and settlement, the Governments represented on the Intergovernmental Committee should consider the adoption of the following provision:

In those individual immigration cases in which the usually required documents emanating from foreign official sources are found not to be available, there should be accepted such other documents serving the purpose of the requirements of law as may be available to the immigrant, and that, as regards the document which may be issued to an involuntary emigrant by the country of his foreign residence to serve the purpose of a passport, note be taken of the several international agreements providing for the issue of a travel document serving the purpose of a passport and of the advantage of their wide application;

f) That there should meet at London an Intergovernmental Committee consisting of such representatives as the Governments participating in the Evian Meeting may desire to designate. This Committee shall continue and develop the work of the Intergovernmental Meeting at Evian and shall be constituted and shall function in the following manner: There shall be a Chairman of this Committee and four Vice-Chairmen; there shall be a director of authority, appointed by the Intergovernmental Committee, who shall be guided by it in his actions. He shall undertake negotiations to improve the present conditions of exodus and to replace them by conditions of orderly emigration. He shall approach the Governments of the countries of refuge and settlement with a view to developing opportunities for permanent settlement. The Intergovernmental Committee, recognizing the value of the work of the existing refugee services of the League of Nations and of the studies of migration made by the International Labor Office, shall cooperate fully with these organizations, and the Intergovernmental Committee at London shall consider the means by which the cooperation of the Committee and the director with these organizations shall be established. The Intergovernmental Committee, at its forthcoming meeting at London, will consider the scale on which its expenses shall be apportioned among the participating Governments;

9. That the Intergovernmental Committee in its continued form shall hold a first meeting at London on August 3rd, 1938."

Proceedings of the Intergovernmental Committee, Evian, July 6th to 15th, 1938...Record of the Plenary Meetings of the Committee. Resolutions and Reports,


Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: See Holocaust Anti-Semitism  


Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.


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