Evian Conference

Following the Nazi Anschluss with Austria in April 1938, the Jewish refugee problem worsened as a further 180,000 Jews came under Nazi rule. President Franklin D Roosevelt convened an international conference to discuss the refugee crisis.

Held in Evian, France, in June 1938, thirty-eight countries were represented. The negative position of the Australian government, which announced that it would not liberalise its alien immigration policy from an annual quota of 5000, or 15,000 over three years, was representative of all participating nations.

Australia’s delegate, Thomas W. White, declared that ‘as we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one by encouraging any scheme of large-scale foreign migration’.

As Australian historian, Paul Bartrop, stated, ‘Australia typified the world’s approach as it stood in mid-1938’. Following the Kristallnacht program of November 1938, the Australian High Commissioner in London, Stanley Bruce, recommended that the quota should be doubled but the government rejected this proposal.

Delegates at the Evian Conference
Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Colonel White
Credit: Yad Vashem