Chapter 6: Expendable
Out of Favor
To demonstrate how expendable the world might think we are, consider the following facts: In 1938, Adolf Hitler was willing to send German and Austrian Jews out to whomever would have them. No one responded. Hitler declared that he could “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 [Nazi Germany], on our part, are ready to put all these criminals at the disposal of these countries, for all I care, even on luxury ships.”[i]
And yet, the nations unanimously declined to take in the Jews. In July of 1938, representatives of most of the countries of the free world gathered in Évian-les-Bains, a resort town on the Southern shore of the pristine Lake Geneva, in France. Their goal was to discuss, and find solutions to the “Jewish problem,” namely the Jews who wished to flee from Germany and Austria before it was too late. The German and Austrian Jews were very hopeful about the conference. They believed the participating countries would genuinely seek to help them and offer them a safe haven. They were bitterly disillusioned.
While the conference delegates did express empathy for the plight of the Jews under the Nazi regime, they made no commitments and offered no solutions. Instead, they portrayed the conference as a mere beginning, which was never continued. Diplomatically, the delegates stated 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 seriously hinder the processes of appeasement in international relations.”[ii]
However, since the conference, convened by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, assembled under a precondition that “no country would be forced to change its immigration quotas, but would instead be asked to volunteer changes,”[iii] to no one’s surprise, the resolutions of the conference offered the desperate Jews of Germany and Austria very little hope.
According to Yad Vashem, World Center for Holocaust Research, Documentation, Education and Commemoration, Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, “As the conference proceeded, delegate after delegate excused his country from accepting additional refugees. The United States delegate, Myron C. Taylor, stated that his country’s contribution was to make the German and Austrian immigration quota, which up to the time had remained unfilled, fully available. The British delegate declared that their overseas territories were largely unsuitable for European settlement, except for parts of East Africa, which might offer possibilities for limited numbers. Britain itself, being fully populated and suffering unemployment, also was unavailable for immigration; and he excluded Palestine from the Evian discussion entirely. The French delegate stated that France had reached ‘the extreme point of saturation as regards admission of refugees.’ The other European countries echoed this sentiment, with minor variations. Australia could not encourage refugee immigration because, ‘as we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one.’ The delegates from New Zealand, Canada, and the Latin American nations cited the Depression as the reason they could not accept refugees. Only the tiny Dominican Republic volunteered to contribute large, but unspecified areas for agricultural colonization.”[iv]
A few months after the conference, the doors had closed and the fate of Europe’s Jewry was sealed.
[i] Ronnie S. Landau, The Nazi Holocaust: Its History and Meaning (US, Ivan R. Dee, 1994), 137.
[ii] “Decisions Taken at the Evian Conference On Jewish Refugees” (July 14, 1938), Jewish Virtual Library, url: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/evian.html
[iii] Yad Vashem, Shoah Resource Center, “Evian Conference,” url: http://www1.yadvashem.org/odot_pdf/Microsoft%20Word%20-%206305.pdf
[iv] Yad Vashem, “Related Resources, Evian conference,” url: http://www1.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/this_month/resources/evian_conference.asp