What was The Evian Conference?

With the rise of Nazi power in Germany, the period of 1933 to 1941 witnessed the Nazi movement of cleaning Germany of the Jews. Their plan was to make the lives of nearly 600,000 German Jews so difficult so to force them out of the country. By 1938, Germans were successful in forcing one-fourth of the Jews out of their country which made an approximate 150,000 people. After the annexation of Austria with Germany in 1938, another 185,000 Jews came under Nazi rule.

The situation got worse for the German and Austrian Jews when the countries they wanted to seek refuge in showed an unwillingness to take them in. The most prominent of them was United States where a substantial percentage of Jews were not allowed immigration visas when they tried. Americans felt this way as they feared that a new population would only add to the burden of social reforms that were implemented during the time of Great Depression.

To take action regarding the mounting political pressure, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for a conference among a number of countries to find an appropriate response to the situation of Jews and to facilitate the refugees. The aim of this conference was also to establish an international organization that will look for a solution of the refugee problem overall. Delegates of some 32 countries met at the French resort of Evian on Lake Geneva in early July 1938. Myron C. Taylor was sent to represent the United States at The Evian Conference. The meeting was held for nine days where all the delegates expressed their sympathies to the Jews. However, none of them came forward to take them in their country, offering excuses for their inability to take in the refugees. Of the few countries that did agree to accept the refugees was Dominican Republic.

The result of this conference was the establishment of ICR (Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees), which was set up to help in developing a permanent settlement for the refugees and approaching Germany to offer cooperation in establishing orderly conditions for Jew emigration. The ICR enjoyed little authority and had achieved minimal achievements until the start of the World War II in September 1939 ended all the little efforts it had made.  In response to The Evian Conference, German government stated that it was ‘astounding’ that how foreign countries criticized them for treating Jews badly while none of them stood up to the help of Jews when there was an opportunity.

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