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Tragedy at Evian

How the world allowed Hitler to proceed with the holocaust

(17 customer reviews)
Authors: Tony Matthews
07/Sep/2020
Hitler, Holocaust
456
Paperback
9781922387356
$34.99

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In July 1938 the United States, Great Britain and thirty other countries participated in a vital conference at Évian-les-Bains, France, to discuss the persecution and possible emigration of the European Jews, specifically those caught under the anvil of Nazi atrocities. However, most of those nations rejected the pleas then being made by the Jewish communities, thus condemning them to the Holocaust.

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 75th 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.

Tony Matthews

Tony Matthews

Tony Matthews is a Queensland author who has dedicated almost his entire adult life to writing and researching Australian history. He also writes extensively on military and espionage history with a specific emphasis on both world wars. He is the author of more than thirty books including several historical novels.

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17 reviews for Tragedy at Evian

  1. Tragedy at Evian is deeply researched and comes up with some astounding revelations. I could not help thinking ‘surely not’ as I read time and again of the world turning it’s back on the Jewish population. It made me feel ashamed. By the time I finished this very well written book I had two words that constantly came to mind…if only…
    Steve Matthews (no relation to the author)

  2. This timely book serves as an important reminder of what happens when world leaders fail to act. When self interest and political cowardice triumphs over decency and respect for human life. In the end, it was individuals and private organisations who did the most to help a relatively small number of Jewish people escape the scourge of Nazi Germany.

  3. I put this book to one side so I could savour it and not have to meet a deadline. A wise decision.
    Thank you Mr Matthews. This book is being safely put amongst the Holocaust books on my shelf and will not be lent out.

  4. This account of the failure of the Evian Conference of 1938 to secure a managed and safe emigration of the primarily Jewish populations of Germany and Austria, is a frightening inditement of the ‘refuge nations’ attitude to those peoples. There was to be collective blame as to what caused the failure of producing any successful outcome of the conference however, the constraint imposed by the USA when calling for the conference that no change to immigration law was to be applied, predicated failure.
    Despite the evidence that had been obvious since 1933 that persecution of certain minorities, especially the Jews, was an essential mantra of Hitlers’ ethnic philosophy, the majority of the world’s nations were ambivalent to halting the process. The book takes us through the convoluted maneuverings over the selections of delegates to the Conference and the constraints imposed on those delegates by their host governments compounding the inability to reach a meaningful solution.
    Today, we are well aware what continued to develop into the holocaust but, the accounts at the end of the book that recount the actions by individuals to facilitate, at great personal risk, to secure the emigration of certain numbers of Jewish people especially children, is heartening and shows there was and still is good in this world.

  5. The book was very well written and informative. The author had done a lot of research on this topic.

  6. This has to be one of the most disturbing books I have ever read. In spite of all the teeth gnashing and moral outrage expressed at the end of WWII about the Holocaust, this book proves, time and time again, that the opportunities to prevent this annihilation of a group of people whose only crime was to be born a Jew were not simply missed, they were actively ignored and almost universally avoided. While there might be a small concession that the enormity of what would happen was beyond their ken, the leaders of the world decided to speak platitudes but do nothing.

    The conference at Evian, about which much of the book focuses, was but one cog. The fact that the conference was held proves there was a recognition of a terrible situation. One would have needed to be deaf and blind to have not seen the increasing degradation of the Jews in Germany and Austria. Many voices were crying out for help. Why they were ignored is the most frightening part of it all. Why were nations not prepared to welcome the immigrants from Europe, often highly educated and successful people before Hitler came to power. One merely has to look back for two millennia and track the entrenched anti-semitism that has dogged Jews from place to place and country to country.

    This was nothing new. Pogroms were a fact of life particularly in Eastern Europe and Russia. Whenever something went wrong, it was easier to find a scapegoat and the Jews were a convenient one for the Christian world. Many of the countries around the world that could have provided sanctuary refused and not just European ones but Canada, the United States Australian, essentially the entire world with very few exceptions like Denmark. Unlike the Germans who wanted to eradicate the “infection”, the declining countries did not wish to contaminate their people. It is a very thin line between the two.

    While their inactions did not endorse Hitler, it convinced him that no one would care if he instituted a Final Solution. At the time he was probably right. It was only afterwards when faced with the reality of what occurred did nations stop and think and denounce. If lessons had been learned and hearts changed, there might have been some good to come out of such evil. Sadly anti-semitism is still just under the surface in many places and the same hatred shown to them has been replicated many times throughout the years since. The same slurs, the same vitriol, the same stupidity lives. Not in the vast numbers of the Holocaust but simply replace one group for another and you will hear the hatred perpetrated to this day- perhaps even amplified by the anonymity of the internet.

    What is most distressing is the knowledge, the surety, that this could happen again. And if it does, will the world respond any better than it did in the late 1930s. I have my doubts.

  7. Very interesting read. Gives you a lot to think about. The book is very well written. Would recommend this book. It’s always an interesting topic of conversation. Could be a great book for a book club

  8. Tragedy at Evian by Tony Matthews is a detailed account of an often glossed over conference that truly did do as the title of the book states. Reading this will, if you adhere to any sort of moral or ethical system that values human life, make you at times angry, disappointed, and profoundly sad. It should also make you want to show that same emotion toward the many refugee situations taking place around the globe today and the inhumanity being shown by the various forms of nationalism.

    While the focus is indeed the conference itself Matthews does a very good job of showing what was happening in various countries that influenced the various decisions to do little to nothing. Most of what the opponents to helping European Jewry stated as reasons weren’t so much reasons as rationalizations for their antisemitism. Even many that wanted to help often used racist and offensive terms and generalizations.

    I like the way the book is titled. I was taken aback a bit when the main title looked like what would usually come after the colon while the short phrase after the colon looked more like a normal title. But the way it is emphasizes that the world allowed the Holocaust to happen, that there was knowledge of what was happening and had been for some time. If a reader takes nothing else from the book take away the fact that all of these countries fighting the “good fight” are the same ones who implicitly sanctioned the Holocaust.

    In addition to the background leading up to the conference (including a senatorial candidate suggesting the US learn from Hitler) and a detailed account of the conference we also learn about many of the people and organizations that tried, sometimes successfully sometimes losing their own lives, against all odds and with minimal government support from any country, to save as many people as possible.

    It is hard to read some of the comments and rationales of those deciding not to help, thus sentencing many of the Jews to death, without hearing a lot of the various forms of current nationalism that so many countries are experiencing. Today’s version is just as content to allow people who might not look like them or worship like them die miserable deaths as the version from the 1930s.

    I would recommend this to readers who want to better understand exactly what most of the countries of the world did in the lead up to the Holocaust. If you have read and found fascinating how Germany could go from Weimar to Nazi, the background to the conference will serve the same purpose for those fighting the so-called “good fight.” Readers who believe we can learn from the past will find many lessons here that urgently need to be shared today.

  9. This book was an exceptional read!… Read over 2 days. Well researched and fully engaging!

  10. The title of this book says it all. That the holocaust could have been prevented is undenbiable and fairly obvious. Tony Matthews puts it all into context in a way that will provoke thought and disquiet.

    Books Monthly

  11. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    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.

    NetGalley, Stephen Kelley

  12. Rating 5 Star
    Reflecting on the past is always important. The issue of how the world simply sat back and let millions of people get murdered, a genocide, is something we need to face.
    Mr Matthews takes the time to highlight the stories of several very brave individuals who risked their lives helping the Jewish people. These are few of many, and their stories dont get told nearly as often.
    NetGallery, Zohar Laor

  13. J Earl rated it: Really liked its

    How the World Allowed Hitler to Proceed with the Holocaust: Tragedy at Evian by Tony Matthews is a detailed account of an often glossed over conference that truly did do as the title of the book states. Reading this will, if you adhere to any sort of moral or ethical system that values human life, make you at times angry, disappointed, and profoundly sad. It should also make you want to show that same emotion toward the many refugee situations taking place around the globe today and the inhumanity being shown by the various forms of nationalism.

    While the focus is indeed the conference itself Matthews does a very good job of showing what was happening in various countries that influenced the various decisions to do little to nothing. Most of what the opponents to helping European Jewry stated as reasons weren’t so much reasons as rationalizations for their anti-Semitism. Even many that wanted to help often used racist and offensive terms and generalizations.
    I like the way the book is titled. I was taken aback a bit when the main title looked like what would usually come after the colon while the short phrase after the colon looked more like a normal title. But the way it is emphasizes that the world allowed the Holocaust to happen, that there was knowledge of what was happening and had been for some time. If a reader takes nothing else from the book take away the fact that all of these countries fighting the “good fight” are the same ones who implicitly sanctioned the Holocaust.
    In addition to the background leading up to the conference (including a senatorial candidate suggesting the US learn from Hitler) and a detailed account of the conference we also learn about many of the people and organizations that tried, sometimes successfully sometimes losing their own lives, against all odds and with minimal government support from any country, to save as many people as possible.
    It is hard to read some of the comments and rationales of those deciding not to help, thus sentencing many of the Jews to death, without hearing a lot of the various forms of current nationalism that so many countries are experiencing. Today’s version is just as content to allow people who might not look like them or worship like them die miserable deaths as the version from the 1930s.
    I would recommend this to readers who want to better understand exactly what most of the countries of the world did in the lead up to the Holocaust. If you have read and found fascinating how Germany could go from Weimar to Nazi, the background to the conference will serve the same purpose for those fighting the so-called “good fight.” Readers who believe we can learn from the past will find many lessons here that urgently need to be shared today.
    Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

  14. A review by @naffnickname
    1. Every country would make a clear statement of its immigration laws and practice and a general statement of the number of immigrants it is prepare to receive US State Department recommendations for International Committee consideration
    In a world struggling with global economic depression, food supply instability and political insecurity, how to deal with a sudden influx of hundreds of thousands of people displaced for ethnic reasons? How, at a time of international flexing, does a government arrive at a humane proposal without becoming a dumping ground? More so when large portions of its home population are jobless, starving, and already protesting and restless at the lack of internal support? When nations who accepted home Jewish populations, feared that an unlimited influx of aliens without consolidating with the aliens within would tip the societal and political balance.
    It was on a greater scale and less humane than Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain instituting the 1492 Edict of Expulsion on 300,000 Jews who could at least opt to remain by converting to Christianity.
    The US Government tasked semi-retired industrialist Myron C Taylor to assess the issue, organise a world conference, explore solutions for increasingly urgent implementation and report to Roosevelt.
    A workable solution was moot but had to be attempted. Other countries followed Germany to excuse deporting their own Jews, Germany pushed deadlines. The size of these surplus populations required an international response, and the challenge of setting up a working conference alone was vast. Every complexity arose: from venue to precedence, funding and reach; from genuine desire to find a humanitarian solution, to mere lip service and games of golf. All this discussion was held against the early struggles of moving Jews to Palestine.
    The book goes on to record the post-conference descent into the holocaust history were more familiar with. It lists those gentiles who assisted with individual rescues and were lauded as Righteous Among Nations for their humane courage, tells the stories of those who escaped by their own efforts, their early life in safe, albeit contained, exile and rounds off with Taylors report.
    The Background, Event, Aftermath and Appendix sections are subdivided into national responses to the evolving crisis. I cant see how else it could have been handled, but contemporary circumstances made each nations reaction repetitively similar. Reading breaks helped me track slight but telling variations. Due to these constraints I rate this well written book as an approachably organised reference work rather than an informative recreational read. Helpfully, pictures were embedded in the relevant text. Other readers will doubtless find it gels better with their style of reading.

  15. How the World Allowed Hitler to Proceed with the Holocaust: Tragedy at Évian by Tony Matthews takes a look at the international 1938 conference in Évian-les-Bains. Representatives from all over the world came together to especially discuss the possible emigration of European Jews. Mr. Matthews is a published historian specializing in Australian, as well as world history.
    My rating for How the World Allowed Hitler to Proceed with the Holocaust 5
    Thoughts:
    Not as famous as the conference between Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, The Intergovernmental Committee for Political Refugees meeting met in France, July 1938 to discuss an international cooperative specifically to solve the massive refugee crisis caused by the Nazis. Mr. Matthews reviews both official and unofficial policies of the countries involved, as well as the failure of the conference. Of course, feel the reverberations of that failure to this day.
    The nations rejected the pleas of the Jewish communities; indeed condemning them to a prolonged death at the hands of the Nazis. The outcome of the Évian, undeniably set the stage for the murder of millions of people by giving Nazi Germany the signal that the civilized Western nations will not stand in their way.
    I am not a historian, but reading between the lines of How the World Allowed Hitler to Proceed with the Holocaust: Tragedy at Évian by Tony Matthews, it seemed to me that the conference was set up to fail, its value only in propaganda. President Roosevelt, while sympathetic, wouldn’t expend any political capital on this unpopular domestic, and political issue.
    Sadly, not much has changed, as the influx of refugees due to the brutality of ISIS in the Middle East has shown. The reasoning for not helping them are eerily familiar, and the right-wing policies across Europe and the US show xenophobia is still alive and well. Argentina, for example, steadily refuse to accept any refugees, but had no issues allowing ex-Nazis take residence after World War II.
    Reflecting on the past is always important. The issue of how the world simply sat back and let millions of people get murdered, a genocide, is something we need to face.
    Mr. Matthews takes the time to highlight the stories of several very brave individuals who risked their lives helping the Jewish people. These are few of many, and their stories dont get told nearly as often.
    Zohar Man of la Book

  16. At times disturbing yet at times uplifting this narrative of a critical turning point in history is a necessary prelude to the unfolding of the Holocaust and all its associated terrors.

    Martin Willoughby, The Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association.

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