Evian Conference
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Anti-Semitism & Holocaust

The Evian Conference - Hitler's Green Light for Genocide

Chapter 4 - Reaction To The Conference

The press varied in its support or not of government policy.  Again anti-Semitism played a role.  For example the Evening News approved the Government's fear of anti-Semitism but on 2nd December wrote of its approval to admit children.1

The Spectator on the other hand wrote:

 "The immediate necessity is that any Jewish refugees who do reach these shores should be admitted and found temporary accommodation of some kind and that the Government should not merely keep in step with the other Governments represented at the Evian Conference, but do its utmost to stimulate that body to effective action."2

The Daily Herald boldly stated:

"Until emigration of whole families on a large scale is arranged, humanity – and particularly, the British Empire – will not have done its duty by the German Jews."3

The Manchester Guardian quoted the German Das Schwarze Korps of 24 November 1938; Nazi forecast of how to achieve 'the end of Jewry and its annihilation' and explicitly replied:

"To these threats, which are not vain, there is only one answer.  The Jews in Germany must be rescued from that country and rescued quickly.  A thin trickle of emigrants through the narrow, normal channels is no way of meeting this challenge thrown to the world to save a defenceless and innocent people'....If Governments can but regard themselves as the executors of their people's consciences they will show greater energy and give greater help than are now doing to the Jews who seek to escape a country whose rules are determined to destroy them."4

Truth was openly hostile to refugees generally and talked about them as 'enemy aliens.' Also commenting "….. xenophobia rising quickly and fiercely, a development for which the refugees have only themselves to thank …… many are boorish, insulting, arrogant and unbelievably ungrateful."5 Evian

According to Andrew Sharf, "It can never be emphasised too often that the dominant note struck by the British Press in the presence of Nazi anti-Semitism was one of genuine moral outrage."6  H e goes on to say "The Rothermere campaign for British Fascism in 1934 was called off for the declared reason that the anti-Semitism in Edward Mosley's policies was out of consonance with the British character."  Sharf also points out, however, that with the exception of the Manchester Guardian and a few others, reactions to Evian and the 'Crystal Night' refugees proved that much of the British Press did not appreciate how urgent the situation was for the refugees.  He says, "It did not seem to see the difference between re-settlement and asylum, the fact that the choice was not between a difficult but fairly stable life under the Nazis and dependence on charity elsewhere, but between rescue and destruction.  This inadequacy was partly the result of an innate incapacity to understand phenomena for which there was no modern European precedent.  But it was also the result of something more practical, which cannot be too often repeated.  It was the result of a conviction that the refugee was a danger to British standards of living."7 

Letters to the press show that defenders of Jewish migrants were in the minority but this could have been due to editorial bias or the fact that minorities tend to be the most vociferous in writing and voicing their opinions.  An opinion poll in the summer of 1939 asked:

"Should refugees be allowed to enter Great Britain?  If 'Yes'. Should they be allowed to enter freely or with restrictions designed to safeguard British workers and taxpayers?"8 

Seventy percent of those questioned said 'Yes' to part one of the question but eighty percent believed that entry should be governed by the suggested restrictions. Public opinion was fickle regarding the refugee problem, and still is today in many countries. There was outrage at the way in which Jews were being treated by the Nazis but also a fear that if they came to this country they would take jobs, housing and other amenities from the native population.

A.A. Heaps, a Canadian M.P who had advised his fellow Jews to keep silent for fear of an anti-Jewish backlash and to put their trust in its leaders was shocked at the Canadian government's reaction to Evian.  He wrote a passionate, bitter and accusing letter to his friend Mackenzie King as he felt betrayed by the promise that a reasonable number of refugees would be allowed to come to Canada but this had proved 'a cruel hoax.'   He made a last desperate appeal to King 'pointing out the iniquitous behaviour' of his government, hoping that it might shame the Prime Minister to take action.  Heaps wrote:

"The existing regulations are probably the most stringent to be found anywhere in the whole world.  If refugees have no money they are barred because they are poor, and if they have fairly substantial sums, they are often refused admittance on the most flimsy pretext.  All I say of existing regulations is that they are inhuman and anti-Christian…Practically every nation in the world is allowing a limited number to enter their countries…..The lack of action by the Canadian government is leaving an unfortunate impression…. I regret to state that the sentiment is gaining ground that anti-Semitic influences are responsible for the government's refusal to allow refugees to come to Canada."9 Heaps never received a reply to his letter.

 Time wrote "Evian is the home of the famous spring of still and unexciting table water. After a week of many warm words of idealism and few practical suggestions, the Intergovernmental Committee on Political Refugees took on some of the same characteristics ….. Two days of stalling went on before a President was elected.  No delegate wanted the post, each fearing that his nation would then be responsible for the conference's all-too-probable failure…All nations present expressed sympathy for the refugees but few offered to allow them within their boundaries." 10 Evian

Danziger Vorposten observed that the conference justified German's policies against Jewry.  The Deutche Displomatische Korrespondenz, the official organ of the German Foreign Office, observed in its 12 July edition:

'Since in many foreign countries it was recently regarded as wholly incomprehensible why Germans did not wish to preserve in its population an element like the Jews..…it appears astounding that countries seem in no way particularly anxious to make use of these elements themselves, now that the opportunity offers'11

Michael Blakeney comments that Australia had a chance to display its statesmanship, maturity and humanity.  She had vast spaces of land, a small population and needed workers for primary and secondary industries.  Other countries with higher densities of population looked to Australia to help alleviate pressure on their strained economies.  Colonel White's speech was therefore later thought to be 'the most depressing' of all delegates.  Before arriving in Evian White had spoken at several meetings in England encouraging British emigration to Australia.  His Evian speech was understood as indicating that 'only Englishmen were wanted in Australia.'12

Australian newspapers varied in their opinions as to the results of the conference. The Sydney Morning Herald in its editorial was very critical of the Australian delegate, declaring:

"….There cannot but be disappointment with the negative nature of the speech made by the Australian representative ….. The Minister for Trade and Commerce expressed a pious hope for "a solution of this tragic world problem." It is a truism that the Commonwealth has no racial problem and has no desire to import one.  On the other hand it prides itself on being a democracy with a strong tradition of tolerance, and any undue suggestion of racial intolerance constitutes a betrayal of our cherished traditions."13  The paper also pointed out that the European refugee crisis presented Australia with a unique opportunity to 'obtain some of the best stock and finest minds of Europe.'14

However Labour newspapers and politicians condemned even assisted immigration from Britain and Labour paper the Sydney Truth warned of the danger to Australian 'race, blood and ideals' from the impending deluge of 'unwanted and unabsorbable Hebrews.'15

Go to Conclusion
©2001 Annette Shaw
Introduction     Chapter 1     Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Conclusion
Anti-Semitism & Holocaust      Christian Action for Israel

1               Evening News, 22 November 1938; but on 2 December it was equally favourable to admission of the children, cited  Sharf, British Press,  p172.

2               Spectator, 25 November 1938, cited ibid, p172.

3               Daily Herald, 22 November1938, cited ibid, p172.

4               Manchester Guardian, 29 November 1938, cited ibid, p173.

5               Truth, 28 July 1939, p100.

6               Sharf, British Press, p58.

7               Sharf, British Press, pp, 203, 173

8               News Chronicle, 31 July 1939. Poll conducted by the British Institute of Public Opinion.  It was (and is) known as the Gallup Poll from the name of the American originator, cited Sharf, British Press, p199.

9               A.A. Heaps to King 9 September 1938, 214195; cited Abella & Troper, None Is Too Many, pp35-36.

10             Time, 18 July 1938, p16.

11             Quoted in New York Times, 13 July 1938, p16. cited , Blakeney, Australia and the Jews, p131.

12             Blakeney, Australia and the Jews, p132.

13             Sydney Morning Herald, 9 July 1938, cited  Blakeney,  Australia and the Jews, p133.

14             Ibid, 8 August, 1938, cited ibid, p133.

15             Sydney Truth, 16 October 1938, cited Blakeney, Australia and the Jews,  p134.

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