Kontakt / contact     Hauptseite / page
            principale / pagina principal / home     zurück / retour / indietro / atrás / back
zurück / retour / indietro / atrás / backprevious     nextnext

Yehuda Bauer: My Brother's Keeper

A History of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee 1929-1939

[Holocaust preparations in Europe and resistance without solution of the situation]

The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia 1974

Transcription with subtitles by Michael Palomino (2007)



Chapter 6. The Beginning of the End [Whole chapter]
[C.] Evian [conference summer 1938]

[6.7. Evian Conference in July 1938 - Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (ICR) set up]

[Many countries don't want the Jewish problem - farmers for South America possible - other countries follow the "USA" and do not rise their quotas]

At the conference itself, held at Evian, France, between July 6 and July 15, 1938, two main ideas seem to have been in the minds of Taylor and George L. Warren, his executive secretary and chief aide:

-- to try to get countries of immigration to make liberal immigration declarations,
-- and to establish international machinery (directed mainly by the U.S.) that would enter into negotiations with Germany.

There were difficulties on both points, however. The statements of the various representatives were discouraging and often tinged with anti-Semitism.

For example, the Australian representative declared that "as we have no real racial problem we are not desirous of importing one". Latin American delegates were very restrained - a few countries, like Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Peru, offered some prospect for the immigration of agricultural workers or farmers. All made a special point of declaring that no merchants or intellectuals would be allowed in.

Nowhere was special legislation to allow immigration being contemplated, and of course in this matter the U.S. example was being followed.

[GB and Commonwealth states: Palestine closed - possible emigration to East Africa possible]

Britain's representative, Lord Winterton, declared that Palestine was temporarily closed to large-scale immigration until a political solution was found. However, he declared, there were prospects for settling refugees in Kenya and other parts of East Africa.

(End note 30:
The official protocols of the Evian Conference are kept in 9-28. Winterton said, 7/15/38 [15 July 1938], on Palestine:

"Il est apparu indispensable, non pas sans doute l'interrompre l'immigration juive - ce qui n'a jamais été envisagé - mais de l'assujettir à certaines restrictions d'un caractère purement temporaire et exceptionnel, ayant pour but de maintenir, dans les limites raisonnables, la population dans les rapports numériques actuel, en attendant une décision définitive ... relativement à l'avenir politique du pays" -

[Translation: "It seems to be indispensable, no, without any doubt to interrupt the Jewish immigration - what never had been in project - but to subject to certain restrictions of an absolute temporary and exceptional character, for a definitive decision ... relatively for the political future of the country"]

a clear foreshadowing of the British move away from the partition proposal of 1937 toward the 1939 White Paper on Palestine. See
-- Morse, op. cit. [Morse, Arthur D.: While Six Million Died; New York 1968], pp. 212-13;
-- Wyman, op. cit. [Wyman, David S.: Paper Walls; Amherst, Mass., 1968], pp. 49-50, and
-- Mashberg, op. cit. [Mashberg, Michael: America and the Refugee Crisis; M.A. thesis; City University of New York, 1970])

This declaration was "an unexpected and welcome gesture."

(End note 31: 9-27, Brotman to Laski, no date [July 1938?])

Britain (p.233)

itself, Winterton said, was not a country of immigration. Yet the people of the United Kingdom were ready to play their part within the narrow limits feasible, given the high degree of industrialization and the large number of unemployed in Britain.

[European representatives state the Jews have to go overseas - little countries only want to be temporary havens]

European countries emphasized the necessity for emigration overseas, but Holland and Denmark stressed their relatively liberal policies as transit countries. Speaking for Switzerland, which had refused to play host to the conference, the police chief, Dr. Rothmund, insisted that his country could only be a temporary stopover en route to other places.

(End note 32: See note 30 above and: Ludwig, op. cit. [Ludwig, Carl: Die Flüchtlingspolitik der Schweiz seit 1933 bis zur Gegenwart. Bericht an den Bundesrat [The refugee policy of Switzerland since 1933 to the present]; Zurich, no date [1957], p. 84, footnote 1)

["US" delegate Taylor states that the machinery of emigration has to begin]

Taylor himself had no illusions regarding the prospect of getting public governmental declarations welcoming refugees. Although insisting in his opening speech that governments must act promptly on the refugee question, he also said that probably no more "could be expected than that the conference should put into motion the machinery and correlate it with existing machinery that will, in the long run, contribute to a practical amelioration of the condition."

(End note 33: 9-28, and Wyman, op. cit. [Wyman, David S.: Paper Walls; Amherst, Mass., 1968], pp. 49-50)

[Jewish Refugees with special education are accepted in some countries - prepare the refugees]

The declarations, while far from satisfactory, were not quite as negative as press criticism at the time and historical accounts since then would have us believe. While we have seen that some countries of potential refuge refused to consider immigration, others were willing to accept people under certain conditions. It was therefore a matter of providing refugees with sufficient means to make their immigration to those countries attractive to the governments concerned.

(End note 34: 9-28, Brotman memo, 7/16/38 [16 July 1938]; According to Brotman, who represented the British Board of Deputies, representatives of governments were apt to be more liberal privately than in public speeches).

This was by no means easy to achieve.

[GB and France want the Jewish refugee discussion only in the League of Nations]

Britain and France were reluctant to have the refugee question taken out of the League of Nations, where their influence was paramount.

[Malcolm appeals for government funds for emigration - large emigration does not seem to be possible]

Sir Neil Malcolm, the League of Nations high commissioner for refugees, displeased the Americans by stating that government funds were needed and that private organizations could not possibly bear the burden. He also spoke his mind regarding the attitude of the governments and declared that "large-scale immigration and settlement ... presently appear impossible."

(End note 35: New York Times, 7/9/38 [9 July 1938])

Warren termed his speech "not helpful".

(End note 36: CON-2, Warren to Chamberlain, 7/9/38 [9 July 1938])

[Plan for an Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (ICR)]

In the end, however, the British and French agreed to the setting up of an Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees (ICR), which (p.234)

would be located in London; presumably ICR would swallow up the League committee under Malcolm.

[Polish and Romanian Jewish problems are not discussed at Evian conference!]

These were not the only problems raised at Evian. Poland and Romania tried to have the conference deal with the emigration of their Jewish populations, but the delegations from Britain and France very energetically rejected all such attempts. The discussions were limited to the subject of persons - termed "involuntary emigrants" - who might be forced out of Germany and Austria in the future and those who had already left but had found no satisfactory place of permanent residence (their number was estimated at 30,000).

Only in the long run was it proposed to deal with larger aspects of the question, thus including the emigration problem of East European Jewry.

[So, all European Yiddish Jews are excluded from discussion...]

The delegations of German and Austrian Jews, prodded by the Gestapo to make clear to the conferees the necessity of finding havens quickly, made a considerable impression.

(End note 37: For a fictionalized but essentially true account, see: Hans Habe: The Mission; New York 1966)

[Speeches from the Jewish organizations of the "free countries" - chaos and no collaboration]

The Jewish organizations from the free countries, about 21 of them, presented a spectacle of disunity and confusion. The Liaison Committee, under Norman Bentwich, drew up a statement, but the individual groups would not forgo their right to make separate appearances; as a result a large number of speeches were made, more or less repeating each other.

(End note 38: See note 31 above [End note 31: 9-27, Brotman to Laski, no date [July 1938?]; Brotman added that Winterton's secretary was "doing her best to tell Lord Winterton that all Jews are not like those at the conference." The remark reveals the Briton's anti-Semitic instincts and the British Jew's feeling of inferiority rather than the failings of the Jewish organizations).

Jonah B. Wise represented JDC at Evian, and his presentation on July 14 was really a summary of what JDC had achieved up to that time. He emphasized that JDC's resources were limited and based on voluntary contributions, and that it was necessary that the emigrants be able to take out some of their own capital.

["USA" and JDC want to press GB to reopen Palestine for Jewish mass immigration]

In official American eyes the role of JDC was quite important. Prior to Evian, JDC leaders had been invited to an informal meeting with Warren, Prof. Joseph P. Chamberlain, and James G. McDonald, where stress was laid on the pressure that would be brought to bear on Britain to get her to open her possessions to refugee settlement. The point was made that if the British hold back, "they may hurt their present relationship with our government".

(End note 39: 9-27, informal meeting, 6/3/38 [3 June 1938])

[Arabs and Palestinians are not asked...]

[WJC Goldmann is plain-talking]

It must be stressed that only the World Jewish Congress, represented (p.235)

by Dr. Nahum Goldman, disregarded the appeals for moderation.

-- It [WJC] sharply attacked German practices,
-- demanded that the Jewish problem be viewed as a whole,
-- said that Jews fleeing from Eastern Europe should also be helped,
-- and insisted that uncultivated areas be set aside for Jewish settlement.
-- Also, WJC thought that government financing was indispensable because private agencies would not be able to support the emigration by themselves.

[The Evian results: In fact no big result - ICR is set up under director Rublee]

JDC was not displeased with the outcome of Evian. In a telephone conversation with Baerwald on July 14, McDonald declared that he was "satisfied they accomplished everything that could be expected under the circumstances."

(End note 40: Ibid. [9-27, informal meeting], McDonald to Baerwald (telephone), 7/14/38 [14 July 1938])

Baerwald agreed. It must be remembered that JDC was privy to Taylor's intentions at the conference to have the U.S. set up ICR, whose task it should be, as Taylor constantly reiterated, to negotiate with the Germans. JDC was sympathetic to this line of thought. Its Paris secretary, Nathan Katz, was asked to prepare for and take part in the discussions at the first ICR meeting in London on August 3, 1938. Taylor's statement on that occasion had been prepared "in Paris with the cooperation of Dr. Kahn and myself", as Katz wrote.

(End note 41: Ibid. [9-27, informal meeting], Katz to Baerwald, 8/9/38 [9 August 1938])

Typically, the number of people who would have to be dealt with by ICR in Germany was put at 660,000; this included all persecuted "non-Aryans" and other gentiles, so that the Jewish aspect could be toned down as much as possible.

[and this probably included Austria, because Austria had become Germany. But there is no indication].

A small administrative budget, to be paid to ICR by the governments, was agreed to after some haggling, and George Rublee, an American lawyer, was elected director - in fact, prospective negotiator with Germany. An assistant director, Robert Pell, was loaned from the State Department, indicating that these proceedings were considered to be of some importance for American diplomacy.

(End note 42:
-- Morse, op. cit. [Morse, Arthur D.: While Six Million Died; New York 1968], pp. 218-19;
-- Wyman, op. cit. [Wyman, David S.: Paper Walls; Amherst, Mass., 1968], pp. 51-52)

JDC leadership tended to regard the very fact of American and international involvement in the refugee problem as a great step forward. Kahn wrote about "the message of the Evian Conference, the significance of a great gathering which solemnly affirmed the initial responsibility of humanity in the solution of the problems of the refugees." (p.236)

(End note 43: Executive Committee, Kahn to Budget and Scope Committee, 9/18/38 [18 September 1938])

As a result of the Evian Conference most governments adopted a "wait and see" attitude. The immediate results of the conference amounted to nothing. (p.239)