Australia asked to apologise to Israel for indifference to 1938 plight of Europe’s Jews

March 27, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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MP Stuart Robert has told the Australian parliament that Israel’s 70th anniversary will shortly followed by the 80th anniversary of the Evian Conference at which Australia offered no relief to the plight of Europe’s Jews…and he is suggesting an apology to Israel.

Stuart Robert speaks to the House of Representatives

The Queensland Liberal MP for Fadden spoke the indifference expressed by the Australian parliament and quoted the Minister of Trade Colonel T. White who attended the conference saying that Australia had no racial problem and did not want to import one.

The quote is exhibited in Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

Robert said: “Our nation’s government turned its back on our Jewish friends at the exact time they needed us. Our parliament said nothing.”

Jewish Federal Liberal MP Julian Lesser told J-Wire: “As an Australian Jew, I am proud of the friendship and support successive Australian Governments have shown to Israel and I support the efforts of my colleagues to right an historical wrong.

Australia’s immigration policies have changed drastically since the 1930s, including the abolishment of the White Australia policy.

The loss and legacy of the Holocaust makes it clear the world at the time, including Australia, was unprepared and too complacent. We need to be eternally vigilant.

The upcoming 70th anniversary of the creation of Israel is a chance to celebrate the success of the state and be proud of the remarkable progress made since.”

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) today welcomed the Parliamentary speeches made on March 26 by Federal MPs Stuart Robert, Steve Irons, Dr Mike Kelly, Malcolm Danby, Mark Dreyfus, Tim Wilson and Milton Dick in support of a motion  moved by Mr Robert congratulating Israel on its upcoming 70th anniversary. The motion also sought to apologise for Australia’s role at the Evian Conference held 80 years ago, which limited Jewish immigration in the lead-up to the Shoah.

Michael Danby

In his address Danby said: “What nearly happened was encapsulated in a pledge of mass murder,  synthesised in a sinister speech delivered at the Berlin Sport Palast on 30 January 1939 by Adolf Hitler. This speech was an attempted Nazi repudiation of President Roosevelt’s offer to deal with German aggression around the world. Roosevelt sought some assurances from the German Chancellor, for which he was mocked by the baying Nazi deputies, under that infamous eagle with a swastika, and seen in a film clip from Movietone News, that is a paradigm of the unbridled arrogance of that most odious of regimes.

The member for Fadden also ought to be particularly thanked for raising of then Australian attitudes, on the 80th anniversary of the fateful Evian refugee conference, convened by President Roosevelt in 1938 at Evian-les-Bains in France.

This was another honest attempt by the President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, along with 31 other countries to deal with and discuss the plight of refugees fleeing the horror of Nazism. It’s an anniversary the member for Fadden has given Australia an opportunity to atone for.

Why do we say atone? Because unfortunately, the representative of Australia at the conference, Lieutenant Colonel TW White, brought a message of indifference to that conference. He didn’t go on his own authority; he unfortunately spoke for the executive government of the day. He said Australia said it didn’t have a racial problem and didn’t seek to import one—a grotesque message given the desperate emergency of the time.

Australia was a reluctant signatory to the Evian conference in 1938, which organised asylum for the Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. Eventually Australia agreed to take small numbers. In 1935 the Australian intake was less than 100; in 1936 more than 150, and in 1937 it was 500. Thereafter the great pressure of refugees mounted: there were 300 applications per week at Australia House, equal to 50,000 per annum. In the outcome only 1556 were admitted in 1938, and 5058 in 1939, including my late father Kurt Joachim Danziger or as he was sensitively renamed by Immigration – Fred Danby.”

AIJAC Executive Director Colin Rubenstein applauded the statements by the MPs saying: “It is heartening to read these principled, genuine statements of support from Coalition and Labor MPs which celebrate Israel’s survival in its early days against the odds and subsequent flourishing success and acknowledge the importance of the long-standing special relationship Australia and Israel share.

It is a relationship that stretches back to well before the Jewish state’s founding, and it is very encouraging to see that the relationship remains a bipartisan priority. We also welcome the heartfelt apology expressed for Australia’s initial lack of empathy in the 30’s towards Jews desperate to escape the Nazi persecution spreading across Europe.”




3 Responses to “Australia asked to apologise to Israel for indifference to 1938 plight of Europe’s Jews”
  1. Silvia Piorun says:

    Brilliant powerful speech. Very moving. At this time when there are so many voices against Jews and the State of Israel I am proud to be an Australian Jew when our parliament makes these resolutions.

  2. Dorothy Stevens says:

    Thank you Stuart for the eye-opener of events just prior to and after my birth in Perth WA late November 1938 -praps it was then that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob implanted in me a love for His people and land. A love that blossomed when I met,to me, the greatest Jew of all – Yeshua -and cascaded when I visited Israel in 1986. I rejoice and pray for the great celebration Halleluyah

    • Adrian Jackson says:

      Read Wikipedia for Trade Minister Colonel Sir Thomas White KBE, DFC (1888-1957) for the full story

      White was the member for Balaclava (Vic) in PM Joseph Lyons United Australia Party (UAP) government in the 1930’s.

      He served in the Militia for 30 years from 1911 in peace time and was in the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) in WW1 and the RAAF in the UK in WW2 training aircrew.

      He even did some sorties over Europe even though he was in his 50’s during WW2. His post WW2 community activities here in Melbourne were extensive too.

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