Online Module: The Holocaust and Fundamental Rights

Doc. 11: Comments on the Evian Conference

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In the following, you will find statements of three women, Golda Meir, Nora Levin and Anne O’Hare McCormick, who eyewitnessed the conference. The last statement of Walter Mondale dates back to 1979 and refers to the Vietnamese refugees in 1978 and 1979 ("Boat People").


  • Nora Levin: The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry, 1933-1945, New York 1973, p. 70. 

  • Anne O’Hare McCormick: Europe; The Refugee Question as a Test of Civilization, in: New York Times, 4 July 1938. 

  • Golda Meir: My Life, New York, 1975, p. 158.

  • Walter Mondale: Evian and Geneva, in: New York Times, 28July 1979. 

 Golda Meir

Portrait of Golda Meir"Sitting there in that magnificent hall and listening to the delegates of 32 countries rise, each in turn, to explain how much they would have liked to take in substantial numbers of refugees and how unfortunate it was that they were not able to do so, was a terrible experience. I don’t think that anyone, who didn’t live through it, can understand what I felt at Evian – a mixture of sorrow, rage, frustration and horror. I wanted to get up and scream at them all, 'Don’t you know that these 'numbers' are human beings, people who may spend the rest of their lives in concentration camps, or wandering around like lepers, if you don’t let them in?'"

Golda Meir (1898-1978) was the Jewish observer from Palestine at the Evian Conference. She later became the 4th prime minister of Israel (1969-1974).

Nora Levin

Portrait of Nora Levin"When the old trees of Evian cast their evening shadows over Lake Geneva and the bright lights of the Casino shone across the serene waters, I was overcome with grief and despair over the situation….All our work would soon be ended by a policy of sauve-qui peut  ["Every man for himself"]. The course which the Evian Conference was taking...was a tragedy whose certain end was destruction. The gates had been closed before us."

Nora Levin (1916-1989) was a historian and a writer. She was a Jewish delegate at the Evian Conference.

Anne O'Hare McCormick

Portrait of Anne O'Hare McCormick"It is heartbreaking to think of the queues of desperate human beings around our consulates in Vienna and other cities waiting in suspense for what happens at Evian. But the question they underline is not simply humanitarian. It is not a question of how many unemployed this country can safely add to its own unemployed millions. It is a test of civilization."

Anne O'Hare McCormick was a foreign news correspondent for the New York Times. One year before the Evian Conference, in 1937, she won the Pulitzer Price.

Walter Mondale

 Portrait of Walter Mondale"At stake at Evian were both human lives – and the decency and self-respect of the civilized world. If each nation at Evian had agreed on that day to take in 17,000 Jews at once, every Jew in the Reich could have been saved... At Evian, they began with high hopes. But they failed the test of civilization. The civilized world hid in a cloak of legalisms."

These sentences were part of a speech on the question of boat people at the United Nations Conference on Indochinese Refugees, 21 July 1979. Walter Mondale (*1928) then was Vice-President of the United States (1977-1981).


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