Government officials of the world's major industrialized nations met the first week in June in the French spa town of Evian, and the New York Times provided plenty of background for its readers on the place where all that expensive bottled water comes from. The Group of Eight summit conclave, the Times told us, was taking place in a "quiet French resort town known for mineral water and peaceful landscapes." Not known, evidently, for much else before now.
"Quiet, picturesque Evian," as the Times described it on May 30, deserved more coverage. So the next day the Times carried a story datelined Evian-les-Bains, informing its readers that a French worker could enjoy a government-subsidized spa cure at the health club overlooking lovely Lake Geneva. The story lists the ailments for which the 18-day thermal therapy is provided at taxpayer expense, irritable colons and gout among them, and goes on to deal with "the lore and lure of Evian's waters," providing many colorful details about the history of this "Alpine haven."
One would think there's nothing else to say about Evian's history or significance. As so often happens with the newspaper of record, one would be wrong.
Either because Times reporters and editors are not burdened with much knowledge about modern European history or because they don't think it's fit to print, nowhere do they mention an earlier international gathering at Evian, since seen to have had highly significant consequences.
In the summer of 1938, with persecution and mass arrests of Jews in Germany and newly annexed Austria intensifying, the concentration camp universe growing and desperate attempts being made by German and Austrian Jews to emigrate, a forum representing 32 nations met in Evian at the initiative of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to consider the question of refugees.
Whatever hopes the President's initiative raised were soon dashed. The American State Department declared unequivocally that it could not be expected to make any change in U.S. immigration quotas. Nor, evidently, could any other country. The Reich released a Viennese Jew from a concentration camp and sent him to Evian to inform the participants that the Nazis were prepared to allow the emigration of Jews at $250 per head. There were no takers. There was much oratory and much moral indignation on the part of the delegates, accusing the Germans of blackmail but of not much else. By the end of the week, the conference had made it clear that there was no nation willing to open its doors to the desperate Jews and the delegates went home.
And so the fate of six million Jews was sealed at Evian.
A Jewish delegate to the conference, quoted in The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry, 1933-1945 by Nora Levin, described the atmosphere as the conference ended:
"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. The course which the Evian Conference was taking...was a tragedy whose certain end was destruction. The gates had been closed before us."
One would have thought in its several stories on Evian, the Times might have at least mentioned in passing the earlier conference that had been held there. A sentence or two perhaps about the ironies of history. But whatever it takes to be a member of the Times staff, a subject that has come in for considerable comment recently, a knowledge or interest in what T.S. Eliot called the cunning passages of history does not seem to be one of them.
Rita Kramer's most recent book is Flames in the Field: The Story of Four SOE Agents in Occupied France.
Hitler announced his intentions to the world in Mein Kampf. So, too, have the Islamo-Nazis.
Here are some of the highlights, not to be found in the New York Times, of the Hamas terror organization's charter: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."... "The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up." ... "There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors." ... "After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying."
True to their charter, Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups have followed the endorsement of the Road Map by increasing the number of terror assaults on
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July-August 2003 - 9 - Outpost