European Christians Remember the Evian Conference in 1938
Recommit to the security and safety of the Jewish people in Evian 2009
Evian les-Bains 24 April, 2009 - Christians from many European nations, and from from countries as far away as Australia, USA and Israel, crossed the Lake Geneva on Tuesday from the European UN headquarter in Geneva to Evian, to commemorate the failed Evian conference in 1938. In Geneva the Iranian president Ahmadinejad had been allowed to speak at the World Conference against Racism on Monday, calling Israel a "racist state". In Evian the delegates were reminded of a similar conference in 1938 where leaders of the 33 nations had gathered to deal with the consequences of Nazi annexation of Austria and the growing number of Jewish refugees in Germany and Austria.
" - Hitler wanted to test the nations if they were willing to receive the Jews so he forced a Jewish man to go to the conference with the offer to sell Jews for 250 USD per person, otherwise the first 40.000 Jews would be sent straight to the concentrations camps. The man was ridiculed and thrown out of the conference and no nation opened their borders", said the Mayor of Evian, Member of French Parliament, Marc Francina, who greeted the international guests to the event.
Among the guests were Member of European Parliament, Hannu Takkula of Finland and Member of Swedish Parliament Mikael Oscarsson. Other parliamentarians, from the House of Commons in London and the parliament in the Netherlands, had sent their personal messages to the event.
"- Though Finland did not take part in the conference as such the government adapted the same negative position as the conference did", said MEP Hannu Takkula of Finland. "When a ship with 53 Jewish refugees tried to disembark in Helsinki on August 17, 1938 they were simply not allowed in to Finland though they had all their papers in order. On the ship was a mother who had just been given birth to a baby but the ship was sent back to Hamburg and the passengers were taken to concentration camps and ended up in the hands of the Nazis", said Takkula who as an elected leader of Finland asked for forgiveness on behalf of his country.
" - Please remember that these men and women were no different than any of us", said former minister of the French government, Georgina Dufoix, referring to the delegates which gathered in Evian in 1938 and rejected the Jewish refugees. Ahmadinejad is no fool either, he is an intelligent man but he is influenced by the most vicious spirit of racism there is, namely anti-Semitism. "This is not just another form or racism but something much worse. We only have to look at all the great disasters in Europe over the last centuries to understand the true nature of this spirit," she said.
" - The question is not whether the spirit of anti-Semitism will return to Europe or not, it is already here and we need to do something about it now while there is still time," said Eliyahu Ben-Haim from Jerusalem. "The question in 1938 is the same question that we are asking ourselves today. Would anyone be willing to stop Hitler where there were still time? The answer in Evian in 1938 was "no." But will Christians in Europe do anything to call their governments to stop Ahmadinejad today while there is still time? This is the question wee need to ask ourselves today in Evian 2009" he said.
The gathering issued a strong call to the governments of Europe to understand the seriousness of the rise of anti- Semitism in Europe and the existential threat of Israel and to learn from the mistakes of Evian 1938.
In a private written message to the meeting the Italian Foreign minister Franco Frattini said:
"- We cannot underestimate the challenge of anti-Semitism, as the Western World did in 1938 at the Evian conference; we cannot allow ourselves to hesitate in firmly reacting to any indication that anti-Semitism is gaining ground. History clearly shows us that any hesitancy can pave the way to horrible tragedies. "
" Our voice must be strong and uncontroversial about the new forms of anti-Semitism, that commonly manifest themselves in the guise of opposition to Zionism and the existence of the State of Israel," he concluded.
"- May there be another voice coming out of Evian in 2009, one of determination and recommitment to the Jewish people and to the state of Israel", said the event organizer Tomas Sandell of the European Coalition for Israel. " Let us declare once and for all that Evian shall no longer only be known as the Evian of 1938 but as Evian of 2009."
"- Let the spirit of Evian 2009 symbolize our commitment to learn from history and to stand up for the Jewish people at this critical time. Let Evian no longer only be know as the place which paved the way for the Holocaust but a place which is known for bringing peace and justice to the world", he said.