Between 1933 and 1941, Germany encouraged Jews to emigrate to other countries. By 1938, as many as 150,000 Jews, about twenty-five percent, had fled the country. But leaving became increasingly difficult as the countries of the world closed their borders to Jews and restricted immigration. In July 1938, at the request of President Franklin Roosevelt, delegates from 38 countries met at Evian on Lake Geneva, Switzerland to address the international refugee crisis.
While the participants expressed concern for the plight of the Jews fleeing Germany, almost none of the countries would agree to increase immigration quotas. Anti-Semitism and the lingering effects of the depression were the primary impediments. “None was too many,” said the Canadian delegate. Britain said it had no more room, and also refused to expand immigration to Palestine. Only the tiny Dominican Republic in Central America, under dictator General Manuel Trujillo, made a generous offer to receive 100,000 Jews if funds were provided, but only about 600 were able to come.
Out of political concern for bigots at home, the rest of the world closed their doors to the Jews. The message to Hitler was clear: forced emigration would not work; no one wanted the Jews.
Above: U.S. Delegate Myron Taylor speaks at the Evian Conference.