• Meyer Grunberg

The Evian Conference Begins, 1938

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

On This Day in Jewish History: July 6th, 1938




The Evian Conference began #onthisday at the Évian-les-Bains in France in 1938, a year prior to the outbreak of WW2. At this conference, nations sat around a table for over a week and offered their sympathies for European Jewry. Other than the Dominican Republic, none offered to truly help Europe's Jews.


The conference lasted a little over a week, ending on the 15th of July and was initiated by US President Franklin Roosevelt who hoped to secure a deal from several of the other countries to take in more Jewish refugees trying to flee Nazi persecution and remove attention from the US' shockingly low quota of acceptance for Jewish refugees.


Representatives from thirty-two countries attended the badly organized conference and twenty-four other organizations attended voluntarily, acting as observers and showcased plans either in writing or through oration.


Unfortunately, very little was accomplished at the conference. Golda Meir, representing the Palestinian Jewish Yishuv (pre-Israel governing body in Mandatory Palestine), was present at the conference but forbidden from acting as anything beyond a mere observer. Speaking to the press after, Golda said she realized that the "world is not necessarily antisemitic, because Hitler was denounced and there was pro-Jewish sentiments... but all could stand by and allow for us to be victimized. We can't depend on any others"


At the outset, Hitler commented on the conference by welcoming any countries to take the Jews under his control, even helping to aid their exit and at one point suggesting they be sent to Madagascar.


The fact that other than the Dominican Republic, no participating delegations chose to take in more Jews only furthered Hitler’s point all along: The Nazis didn’t want the Jews and neither did anyone else. This unfortunate outcome became fervent propaganda for the Nazis going forward. The DR offered to take in 100K Jews and only about 700 German Jews were able to make it.



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