A Book by Tony Matthews
The failure of the majority of the world’s powers to secure a safe path for Jewish refugees to flee Nazi occupied Europe in 1938 is one of the biggest “what if” situations and tragedies in history. There’s always this tendency to look at World War II from an American viewpoint and lean into 80 years of propaganda that we were the glorious infallible good guys that did no wrong. The truth is, we were largely apathetic as a country to the plight of the Jews, had many times where we could have stopped the Holocaust, and we did nothing. But it wasn’t just us, much of the world was just as anti-Semitic as Germany, Germany just happened to be the ones that did the thing other countries talked about. This book tells the story of the disastrous conference at Évian-les-Bains to discuss the persecution and possible emigration of the European Jews, where we basically sealed the fate of six million men women and children.
“There is no doubt that the Évian conference was a critical turning point in world history. The disastrous outcome of the conference set the stage for the murder of six million people. Today we live in a world defined by turmoil with a disturbing rise of authoritarian governments and ultra right-wing nationalism. The plight of refugees is once more powerfully affecting public attitudes towards those most in need. Now, on the 76th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of the Second World War, it’s time to reflect on the past to ensure we never again make the same mistakes.
Tragedy at Évian also shines a spotlight on some of the astonishing and courageous stories of heroic efforts of individuals and private organisations who, despite the decisions made at Évian, worked under extremely dangerous conditions, frequently giving their own lives to assist in the rescue of the Jewish people.”
As you can tell by the tone I am using above, this book was infuriating for me to read. I knew this happened, but was unaware of the inane political nonsense going on that ultimately led to nothing of value being decided. This book is filled with instances that are almost identical to modern discussions about refugees all leading to the very same inaction and ambivalence today. Having recently visited a Holocaust exhibition in Kansas City, Missouri that made me equal parts sad and angry, I recall being moved to almost tears at a point when you saw a small child’s shoes with balled-up socks in them. The child was told to take them off before taking a “shower” and was killed. We could have stopped it, but as typical, humanity is a stain on this planet. Hopefully, books like this keep getting released because I fear that far too many people are forgetting what happened in those camps.
This was an awesome book, very well researched, and very important. I highly recommend it to anyone that doesn’t quite understand geo-politics of the World War II era other than a gross simplification of “us=good, Hitler=bad”. Be prepared to be angry, and be prepared to be sad, as this book will not help one be very patriotic as most countries involved look pretty terrible.
If you are interested in this book, please click HERE