The conference that paved the way to the murder of millions

In one fateful day, 200,000 Austrian Jews were caught in the jaws of the power-hungry, Jew-hating monsters to whom nothing was sweeter than Jewish blood.

evian conference 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
evian conference 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Two conferences can be considered most crucial to the development of the Holocaust scheme.
The first one was the Evian Conference, convened in France in July 1938 to discuss the plight of the increasing numbers of Jewish refugees fleeing persecution by Nazi Germany.
The second was the Wannsee Conference, a one-day event that took place on January 20, 1942 – two and a half years later – on Hermann Göring’s order issued to Reinhard Heydrich: “I hereby charge you with making all necessary preparations with regard to organizational and financial matters for bringing about a complete solution of the Jewish question in the German sphere of influence in Europe.”
As head of the Gestapo, Heydrich called together 15 heads of departments in Wannsee to outline to them the Final Solution of the Jewish question. What was at stake was the total elimination of European Jewry, from deportation to liquidation. With the complete cooperation of the department heads, the fate of the Jewish People was resolved in a few hours and the participants could sit down to a quiet and comfortable lunch.
The Evian Conference was meant to preclude the fateful Wansee Conference. It was called at the unwilling initiative of US president Franklin Roosevelt shortly after the German Anschluss (Annexation) of Austria in March 1938. The march of the German troops from the border to Vienna was hailed by the delirious Austrians like a veritable victory march, showering the German troops with flowers, embraces and kisses, while the bells of the Viennese St. Stephen Cathedral pealed hymns of victory to the accompaniment of a half-crazed crowd drunk with happiness. By the next day, March 16, the New York Times already reported that the Viennese Jewish Quarter, Leopoldstadt, was invaded by triumphant crowds who chased the Jews out of their homes in their elegant dress, forcing them on their knees to scrub the sidewalks clean with their toothbrushes. The proceedings were supervised by stormtroopers wearing swastika armbands.
In one fateful day, 200,000 Austrian Jews were caught in the jaws of the power-hungry, Jew-hating monsters to whom nothing was sweeter than Jewish blood. Reports by the world press show that suicides by desperate Jews increased to 200 daily. Jewish physicians and other professionals were taken from their jobs to concentration camps without allowing them to part from their loved ones. Since events in Austria dominated the news, President Roosevelt and his American administration were forced to display some humanitarian consideration. In the light of newspaper headlines they were incapable of claiming any longer that the Western world was ignorant of Nazi designs vis-à-vis the Jews.
Shortly after the Anschluss, on March 22, President Roosevelt invited 33 states to work out a plan of aiding the political refugees of Germany and Austria within the limits of the countries’ “existing legislation.” From the outset, the president made it clear that the conference would not result in “an increase or revision of US immigration quotas,” which stood at an annual figure of 27,370 for Germany and Austria combined – effectively less than a drop in the bucket. Some 3,000 Jews waited daily at the American Consulate in Vienna, in vain; more than 10,000 requests lay on the desk of the Australian Consul, unanswered. In the light of the US government’s obdurate stand not to increase immigration quotas, numerous groups petitioned the White House that unused quotas from any country be made available for refugees of other countries. Although more than half a million petitions reached the White House, no favorable reply was forthcoming.
No wonder Hitler arrogantly challenged the democratic nations in a memorable speech at Konigsberg prior to the gathering in Evian: “I can only hope and expect that the other world, which has such deep sympathy for these criminals, will at least be generous enough to convert this sympathy into practical aid. We, on our part, are ready to put all these criminals at the disposal of these countries, for all I care, even on luxury ships.”
Two weeks before the Evian Conference began, the London Times Vienna correspondent wrote, “Demoralization is pursued by constant arrest of the Jewish population. No specific charge is made, but men and women, young and old, are taken each day and each night from their homes or in the streets and carried off, the more fortunate to Austrian prisons, and the rest to Dachau…. There is a state of hopelessness and panic.”
Two days before the conference, Anne McCormick wrote in the New York Times, “It is heartbreaking to think of the queues of desperate human beings around our consulates in Vienna and other cities waiting in suspense for what happens in Evian.”
The Evian Conference opened in on July 6, 1938 and adjourned on July 15, 1938 – Ten days of endless speeches. Here are some of the comments:
• Australia: “As we have no real racial problem, we are not desirious of importing one.”
• Peru: “The United States has given my country an example of caution and wisdom by its own immigration restrictions.”
• Canada: “We will welcome agricultural workers and none other.”
• France: Had reached its “saturation point” of refugees.
• South American states: Could not accept “traders and intellectuals.”
And so on.
Only the Dominican Republic expressed willingness to take in a few thousand Jews. Otherwise, the conference was not only a total, unmitigated failure, it was an outspoken disaster by pointing out to the Nazis that by their actions they were actually doing a favor to humanity. They were eliminating a segment of humanity that nobody wants.
The German Danziger Vorposten stated triumphantly: “We see that one likes to pity the Jews as long as one can use this pity for wicked agitation against Germany, but that no state is prepared to fight the cultural disgrace of Europe by accepting a few thousand Jews. Thus the conference serves to justify Germany’s policy against Jewry”.
Evian was a direct stepping-stone to Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, three months later, where throughout Germany hundreds of synagogues and thousands of Jewish-owned stores were smashed to pieces – and to all that was forthcoming till the next conference of doom at Wannsee and beyond, to the ultimate liquidation of the six million.
The writer, a retired professor of International Relations at City University in New York, is founder and director of the Shearim Netanya outreach program to Russian immigrants in Israel.