Evian-les-Bains, 11 July 2018
An international gathering of experts was held in Evian on the 80th anniversary of the notorious 1938 Conference on Jewish refugees from Nazism. The Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, was invited to keynote.
The original pre-war conference had been planned to be held in the diplomatic hub of Geneva, but due to the Swiss claim of “neutrality,” it was moved across the lake to French Evian-les-Bains.
Today’s “Evian Revisited,” or as dubbed by Samuels, “Evian II”, was organized by Elihu “Hugh” Baver of New Hampshire, USA, and a number of sponsors led by the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. It took place in the Hotel Royal, the site of “Evian I.”
Highlights from Samuels’ address
On the right-hand stand is the original registration list of the 1938 Evian diplomats.
“Evian was a death sentence:
- proving Hitler’s point that no-one and nowhere wanted the Jews;
- setting the appeasement scene of Munich a few weeks later;
- justifying the British White Paper that closed the doors of the Palestine Mandate;
- giving validity to the 1942 Wannsee Protocol, which listed by country the number of Jews to be murdered, totalling over 11 million.”
“Of 32 countries represented, 31 Ambassadors rose to explain why they would not take Jews. Only one, the Dominican Republic, offered 100,000 visas for German Jewish bachelor farmers. The bachelors were expected to marry Dominican women. Agriculturists were very few. Nevertheless, some 500 arrived after the outbreak of war – the last to leave Europe.”
“On arrival, they were sent to the coastal village of Sosua, where they established two cooperatives: one dairy, the other meat.”
In 1971, Samuels was researching Israeli technical assistance programmes in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
In Santo Domingo, he heard the story of Sosua. There, he interviewed community leaders. His findings were published in the 1972 edition of the American Jewish Year Book [see the report in attachment] entitled “Sosua: Moshav in the Caribbean.”
From Sosua in the north, he continued to Azua in the south, where an Israeli rural settlement team was training the “campesinos” (farmers) in cooperative management. Samuels arrived in time to join the team in finishing the construction of a small church.
He stressed, “for me the journey from Sosua to Azua was dramatic in representing:
- From 1938, the Jewish condition of utter powerlessness...
- To 1948, the Jewish return to history, geography and sovereignty...
- To the State of Israel’s technical assistance team building a church for Dominican ‘campesinos’…”
“Last week Bahrain hosted the UNESCO World Heritage Committee – an institution that has been a battlefield for the theft of Jewish and Christian narrative.
“Now, however, we were championing the cause of Moises Ville, a village established by the ICA – Baron Hirsh’s foundation in Paris – in 1889 for Jewish fugitives fleeing Russian and Ukrainian pogroms.
“We presented Moises Ville to be acknowledged as World Heritage in gratitude to Argentina for hosting and absorbing Jewish refugees who, in turn, reciprocated as loyal and productive citizens…
“After my presentation, the Dominican Ambassador approached me: “Why not Sosua?...” “Why not indeed? For these examples of successful absorption did not stop at ‘admission,’ but went the next step to ‘acceptance’. These are role models, best practices for today.”
Samuels announced a deal, made at this “Evian II” conference: “To work with Sosua veteran, Edith Meyerstein, to seek the support of the Dominican Government to begin the campaign for Sosua to be acknowledged as Dominican World Heritage.”
Samuels with Edith Meyerstein and Elihu Baver.
A plaque was fixed on the hotel wall to commemorate the 1938 conference.
“Evian carries another message... the undisputable justification for a Jewish State... the wandering Jew has a home... there are no more Jewish refugees... for Jews, there can never be another Evian,” concluded Samuels.