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Thursday, May 11, 2006

The water is refreshing, and the train ride will be the ride of your life 

Maharal links to a page entitled The Evian Conference - Hitler's Green Light for Genocide. Excerpts:

From 1933 when Hitler came to power in Germany Jews were being expelled and a growing problem of refugees was emerging but who were going to accommodate these refugees? The Evian Conference, called by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in July 1938, was to address this urgent and pressing issue....

It was eleven days after Hitler annexed Austria that President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the USA decided to call a conference as it was now going to cause the additional problem of Austrian Jews being expelled from their homeland. Switzerland was unwilling to host the conference, as they did not want to alienate Hitler. They also were embarrassed, as they too had begun to restrict immigration of Jews from Germany and Austria. It was decided that the venue should be Evian-les-Bains on the shores of Lake Geneva in France. Thirty-three countries including Britain, her dominions, and her colonies, Scandinavian and other European and Latin American countries were also invited. Some countries, which would have liked to be included, were not invited, including the Republic of Ireland, which eventually did attend, and Luxembourg. Poland and Rumania were rejected, as they were not regarded as likely countries of Jewish immigration but they, and the Union of South Africa sent observers to the conference. Henry Feingold says that Portugal's exclusion proved a serious mistake, as the main hope for the majority of resettlement at one time was Angola, a Portuguese colony....

Roosevelt recommended that his Consular Service remove unnecessary red tape for visa requests from those wishing to emigrate from Germany and Austria and to give these cases more sympathetic handling at US consulates. This immediately increased the numbers of immigrants into the US which, before then had not reached anywhere near the legal annual German quota of 25,957.6

Britain was agreeable to co-operate with the conference but was concerned that Palestine, which it ruled under a League of Nations Mandate, might be suggested as a recipient country for refugees. This would cause problems with the Arabs, whom they wished to appease in order to prevent another Arab uprising that took place in 1936 against Jewish immigration to Palestine, and a revolt against a three-way partition of the country in 1937. Britain therefore insisted that Palestine be left off the list of receiving countries for refugees....

The Australian government accepted the invitation to attend the conference on the condition that Britain would also attend. If they did not, according to the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, 'Australia would be subject to criticism if the invitation was refused, especially as the need for increased population for Australia has been recently and consistently stressed by government and other spokesmen."...

Australia's very negative attitude to the immigration of Jews resulted in the decision of the Cabinet in June 1938 to allow only 300 landing permits each month to be granted to Jews with a preference given to Austrians and Germans.

An example of the attitude of the Canadian Government to Jewish Refugees is that of a senior Canadian official who, when asked after the war how many Jews would be allowed into Canada, said, "None, is too many."

Canada had a tight immigration policy from the 1920s as they wanted to restrict the numbers of those deemed lest desirable and only those who had the funds to set up and sustain themselves were welcome....

The countries, which were officially represented, were –

Australia, the Argentine Republic, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, United Kingdom, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela. These countries were all regarded as potential places of refuge. The Union of South Africa, which sent an observer, and Polish and Rumanian representatives attended in an unofficial capacity, along with Germany were not considered as countries of possible immigration.

Two...speakers are worth mentioning for their differing views.

In the paragraph below, the emphasis is mine (for reasons having nothing to do with Jews or Nazi Germany).

One was Mr. M.J.M. Yepes from Colombia, whom Adler-Rudel remembers as the only one among the speakers who was warmly applauded for his courage in getting to the root of the problem. He said, "….Can a State, without upsetting the basis of our civilisation, and, indeed, of all civilisation, arbitrarily withdraw nationality from a whole class of its citizens, thereby making them Stateless….? Can a State, acting in this way, flood other countries with the citizens of whom it wishes to get rid, and can it thrust upon others the consequences of an evil internal policy?…It would be useless for us to-day to find homes for the present political refugees and to hear the grievances – well-grounded, as I freely admit they are – of those who have come to voice their complaints before this modern Wailing Wall which the Evian Conference has now become..…"9 Unfortunately the Colombian Government, even if it shared Mr Yepes' views, was no better than the others in offering refuge to these "Stateless citizens".

The other was the Swiss delegate, Dr. H. Rothmund, Chief of the Police Division of the Swiss Justice and Police Department, who, according to Adler-Rudel was "a prime example of the kind of man to whose hands the fate of the refugees was entrusted.…." He spoke at length about his country's liberal tradition in receiving political refugees. What he did not tell the conference, however, was that he had just completed negotiations with the Nazi authorities, whom he had advised that his government intended to stop the immigration of Austrian Jews into Switzerland….." Dr. Rothmund said, "Switzerland, which has as little use for these Jews as has Germany, will herself take measure to protect Switzerland from being swamped by Jews with the connivance of the Viennese police."11 The choice by the Swiss of a police chief as their delegate smacked of legalism, was threatening and confrontational and gave a clear message to the conference and anyone else who wanted to help the Jewish refugees that they would not receive any help from Switzerland.

Again, emphasis mine in the next paragraph.

Delegates from one country after another stood up and said they could do nothing more than they were already doing to help the refugees. Belgium, Denmark and Sweden were small countries and did not have room for large numbers of refugees, except for those travelling to overseas territories. Most South American countries claimed their laws did not allow a large-scale influx of immigrants but they were also concerned that their trade with Germany would be affected if they accepted German and Austrian Jews. Some also had large German populations. Only the Dominican Republic offered to accept more than a few refugees and volunteered to contribute large but unspecified areas for agricultural colonization. Unfortunately war broke out before the offer could be implemented to its full extent....

In his Report to the American Secretary of State on the meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees at Evian Myron Taylor said that he had found, with a few exceptions, that "his colleagues" in many of the Latin American countries were "extremely troublesome." Without having anything constructive to offer they raised objection after objection, "in many cases for purposes of self-advertisement". He doubted that it would be useful of them to take part in the Intergovernmental Committee in London as it might only block progress.

Taylor also felt that the League of Nations Secretariat was hostile to the success of the Evian meeting and hoped to have it fail. Major Abrams, who was in charge of the refugee activities of the League, was "extremely active in stirring up hostility to the meeting, particularly among the Latin American Delegates over whom the League Secretariat has great influence." Taylor said that Sir Neill Malcolm's attitude "was one of open hostility." Sir Neill had disagreed with the Technical Subcommittee's statement on immigration and implied that the Meeting should not have been called unless the US was prepared to modify its immigration laws....

The only tangible result of the conference was the formation of the Intergovernmental Committee and even it was only prepared to deal with the question of refugees from Germany and Austria, although there was the fear that they would be expelled from Poland and Rumania and also Czechoslovakia if Hitler invaded it.

The Intergovernmental Committee was not well supported. Twenty-seven of the thirty-two members of the IGC sent a delegate on the first meeting in London of 31 August. Most knew nothing about Evian and were not interested in attending....

Negotiations with Germany regarding orderly emigration and the transfer of part of the emigrants' property made little progress. A rehabilitation society was established, headed by Paul van Zeeland, ex-prime minister of Belgium, but no agreement could be reached with the German Authorities. The Intergovernmental Committee succeeded in reaching an international agreement on travel permits for refugees not possessing passports.

The IGC failed through lack of interest and co-operation, and a lack of funds and authority to help refugees. The onset of World War Two made its task virtually impossible. According to Tommie Sjoberg, examination of the IGC's records show that the British and US governments 'manipulated the IGC largely for their own ends, especially to defect humanitarian pressure away from themselves....

[Andrew] Sharf...points out...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."...

'Nobody wants them' claimed the German newspaper Völkischer Beobachter after the Evian Conference in July 1938 and Hitler gloated, saying, 'It is a shameful spectacle to see how the whole democratic world is oozing sympathy for the poor tormented Jewish people, but remains hard hearted and obdurate when it comes to helping them…..'

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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