The rise of Nazism
, that was at first limited to Germany
, spread throughout Europe
in the years preceding World War II
movements appeared all around the continent.
In Fascist Italy, even though Italy always prided herslf for going her own way, and rejected anti semitism as "foriegn to the Italian spirit", the government had to legislate, under German pressure, anti-jewish laws in 1938.
The Romanian government (Romania was home for about 850,000 Jews), declared in January 1938 that the legal status of all the Jews will be changed and that half the Romanian Jews will have to leave the country within the next few years.
The Hungarian parliament (Hungary was the home of 910,000 Jews) passed a law in that same year according to which 300,000 of the Jews of the country would lose their jobs within 5 years. They were no longer allowed to hold government or municipal positions, they were not allowed to be employed by professional unions or public institutions. All trade permits were to be taken from them as well. A Numerus Clausus of 6% was to be enforced in all professions (except commerce, were it was going to be 12%).
The status of the Jews of Poland (about 3,300,000 people) also deteriorated during the 1930's. Massacres of Jews were performed in several Polish cities, in which the government did not interfere. Economical boycots were repeatedly placed on companies which were owned, run or which employed Jews. It was the declared policy of all Polish governments to make the situation of the Jews unbearable, thus forcing them to emmigrate.
I don't think I need to elaborate on the conditions of German (600,000 people) and Austrian (190,000 people) Jews at those times.
Those Jews of Eastern and Central Europe, who were under constant pressure to leave their countries, had nowhere to go to. Even under those circumstances the United States would accept only 6,252 Jewish immigrants in 1935, Argentina 5,159 Jews, Brazil 1,758 Jews, South Africa 1,078 Jews, Canada 624. Other countries would accept even less, or none at all.
In order to coordinate the assistance to these refugees, and to organize the chaotic process of the fleeing of Jews from Europe, the United States president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, invited the representatives of 38 countries to Evian, France, in July 1938. The purpose of the convention was to find means and places to absorb the refugees leaving mainly Germany and Austria, but also other European countries. Although officially he talked of 'refugees' in general, it was quite obvious to everyone, that nearly 100% of those refugees were Jews.
This initiative of the American president aroused quite a stir. Such an impressive gathering in the proximity of Germany seemed, at first, important as a demonstration against the deeds of the Nazis, and as evidence that the world was aware of the persecution of Jews and sympathized with the victims. The Jewish public was encouraged by the very fact that their problems were recognized as an issue for international discussion and action.
In their opening speeches, all the representatives in the convention expressed their deep concern of the severity of the situation, and seemingly most promised the generosity of their countries. However, when discussions turned to practical programs it became clear that no country was willing to accept a significant amount of refugees. The logic in the claims of the Australian delegate, explaining his country's unwillingness to accept Jews, was particularly intricate: "There is no Anti Semitism in Australia, if there were Jews there would be Anti Semitism, since we abhore Anti Semitism, we cannot allow Jews to enter Australia."
The only practical outcome of the Evian Convention was the decision to create a permanent international commitee, which would seek options for the settelment of refugees and attempt to reach a comprehensive agreement with Germany, organising systematic emmigration of Jews from her territories.
At first the Nazi government accepted the prospects of the convention with nervousness and apprehension, but soon all their fears faded. In the outcomes of the convention they saw proof that Jews were welcome nowhere, and they quickly harnessed them to their propaganda. The results of the convention, as they saw them, validated their racial theories in their eyes, and encouraged them to find actions and solutions of their own. Out of the assesment that no one was concerned with the fate of the Jews The Germans reached the conclusion that they could do anything they wanted with German and Austrian Jews, and that they could deport them from Germany (or worse) in the most brutal ways possible, without worrying about reprocussions from any other country.