Online Module: The Holocaust and Fundamental Rights

Doc. 8: The second sub-committee

Material

  • David Vital, A People Apart: The Jews in Europe, 1789–1939 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 886.

The second working group, the Sub-Committee on the Reception of Those Concerned with the Relief of Political Refugees from Germany (including Austria), chaired by the Australian minister, Lt. Colonel Thomas Walter White, heard 24 representatives of mostly Jewish organizations. Out of the originally thirty nine refugee groups attending the meeting twenty were Jewish. Ultimately twenty-four groups would be allowed one spokesman who would be granted a maximum of ten minutes; later abbreviated to five minutes.

Although these Private Voluntary Organizations (PVO) were expected to finance resettlement projects, they were allowed to participate only in an unofficial capacity. The PVOs advocated in particular four different strategies:

1. Mass emigration to Palestine coupled with a relaxation of the British imposed quota;

2. Assimilation within lands of temporary haven;

3. Resettlement in remote and underdeveloped territories and

4. Granting minority rights to Jews in nations offering sanctuary.

The Jewish representatives were "marched in one at a time, like military defaulters brought up before their commanding officer," allowed to make their presentation and answer questions (if any were asked) and then "dismissed." After the hearings the sub-committee produced a three page synopsis, which was presented to, and ignored by, the final plenary session of the Conference:

..."According to the first school of thought, it would be advisable to encourage the return of the Jews to Palestine by substantially increasing the quota which at present limits the number of Jews allowed to return to their ancient home. In this connection, it was pointed out, that, since 1933, 45,000 German Jews have been admitted to that country. In the view of others, assistance to refugees should primarily enable the latter to be assimilated into the new national environment into which they are transplanted... In this connection, the Committee’s attention was also directed to the importance of decentralizing emigrants by distributing them throughout the country of settlement in order to obviate hostility on the part of the population among which they are trying to settle.

Another point of view still was laid before the Committee. According to its advocates, emigrants should have placed at their disposal an area not inhabited by any other population, so that the refugees could settle without mingling with indigenous ethnical elements... Apart from these main trends of ideas, the Committee noted the existence of a political view which maintained that the Powers should urge the nations concerned to guarantee Jews the free enjoyment of their rights as citizens pending emigration..."

 

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