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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Evian conference 1938

An international conference about Jewish refugees under Roosevelt's leadership with only little result
from: Evian conference; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 6

presentation by Michael Palomino (2007)

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conference on refugee problems held at Evian-les-Bains in 1938. U.S. President Roosevelt invited European, American, and Australian delegates to discuss the organization of the emigration and resettlement of political refugees and those persecuted because of their race or religion. (The United States was not a member of the League of Nations, and therefore not represented on its Refugee Committee). At the time, many refugees were fleeing from Germany and Austria, while many were in danger of being imprisoned in concentration camps. The Jews were most seriously affected, but the League of Nations could do little for them. Roosevelt's emissary was Myron Taylor; under his chairmanship, the representatives (col. 987)

of 31 countries met at Evian-les-Bains on the French shore of Lake Geneva, in July 1938. [[Switzerland resigned to held the conference]].

The League of Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees participated at the conference, though representatives of the refugees themselves or of the voluntary organizations could not do so, since it was held at governmental level. They were, however, allowed to speak, and about 20 representatives appeared before a subcommittee which merely heard their case.

The conference restricted its efforts to the extension of help to refugees from Germany and Austria and issued a statement defining its aims: negotiations with the German government to improve exit procedures so as to ensure orderly emigration, and application to the governments of the countries of immigration regarding increasing possibilities for permanent settlement.

The outcome of the deliberations disappointed Jews who had hoped that the persecuted could be saved in time. However, a few positive results were obtained. 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. Australia, which had permitted few immigrants, agreed to receive 15,000 within the ensuing three years. Some South American countries undertook to accept more settlers.

The Inter-Governmental Committee, set up to organize emigration and settlement, reached an arrangement with the Nazi government, whereby refugees could take a small portion of their capital with them. This committee, which cooperated with the League of Nations and the International Labour Organization, had its headquarters in London. Its first director, an American, George Rublee, was replaced soon after by Sir (col. 988)

Herbert Emerson, the League of Nation's High Commissioner for Refugees, thus merging the activities of the League of Nations with those of the Inter-Governmental Committee.

Exaggerated hopes of finding places of permanent settlement were pinned on the Conference, but the practical achievements were meager. The Dominican Republic announced its willingness to accept many immigrants. In November 1938 the British government proposed placing a large tract of land in British Guiana at the disposal of potential settlers. Negotiations with Germany regarding orderly emigration and the transfer of part of the emigrants' property made little progress. A rehabilitation society was established, headed by Paul van Zeeland, ex-prime minister of Belgium, but no agreement could be reached with the German authorities.

[[Roosevelt was not admitting higher refugee quotas for Jews to emigrate to the "USA", but the Jews probably were coming to the "USA" also under the quotas of other countries during the war]].

[Activities of the The Inter-Governmental Committee]

The Inter-Governmental Committee succeeded in reaching an international agreement on travel permits for refugees not possessing passports. During World War II it helped a number of refugees to emigrate to the Dominican Republic and South America. After 1943 it established camps in Italy and North Africa. The committee's work was, however, severely limited at the time. At the *Bermuda Conference (April 19-30, 1943) its mandate was extended to deal with post-war problems and in 1946 it received an allocation of $25 million from the Allied governments for assisting displaced persons. The money was derived from German assets in neutral countries and from gold bullion seized in Germany. Nine-tenths was intended for Jewish victims, with priority given to children, and its administration was entrusted to the *American Jewish Agency for Palestine. The Committee cooperated with UNRWA in the enormous task of repatriating millions of displaced persons, and in 1947 its functions merged with those of the International Refugee Organization of the United Nations.


-- A. Tartakower and K. Grossman: The Jewish Refugee (1944)
-- Earl Winterton: Orders of the Day (1953), 236-9
-- S.S. Wise: Challenging Years (1949), passim
-- A.D. Morse: While Six Million Died (1968), index
-- Hans Habe's novel: The Mission (1966): is a fictionalized account of the conference and its background

[N.BEN.]> (col. 991)

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Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Evian conference,
                    vol. 6, col. 987-988
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Evian conference, vol. 6, col. 987-988
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Evian conference,
                      vol. 6, col. 989-990
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Evian conference, vol. 6, col. 989-990
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Evian conference,
                      vol. 6, col. 991-992
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Evian conference, vol. 6, col. 991-992