Julius George Stephen Fein examines the French response to the large number of German refugees between 1933 to 1938. Fein demonstrates how the Quai d’Orsay sought a compromise between the Republican canon which said France must help the persecuted and the factors which limited its willingness to accept refugees, including economic depression, anti-Semitism, anti-German sentiment, and mass unemployment.
Julius George Stephen Fein is an independent scholar.
Chapter 1: The Circumstances
Chapter 2: The Quay d’Orsay
Chapter 3: The Refugees
Chapter 4: Definitions
Chapter 5: Debating Human Rights
Chapter 6: Minorities and Intervention
Chapter 7: Pressure Groups
Chapter 8: The High Commission for Refugees (Jewish and Other) coming from Germany
Chapter 9: Resettlement and Transit
Chapter 10: International Agreements
Chapter 11: Evian
Julius George Stephen Fein has produced a meticulously researched, balanced, and authoritative analysis of French policy towards refugees from Nazi Germany before the outbreak of the Second World War. He also tells a moving story, not least because of his examination of the refugees themselves.
This book has excellent internal insight on how the French state reacted towards the influx of refugees from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Fein shows us that the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs was an important actor not only in protecting refugees in France, but also in securing an international refugee regime—a regime which left us with concepts, such as country of first settlement and non-refoulement, essential to contemporary refugee policy.
Fein has written an extraordinary book on an extraordinary subject: the willingness of the French alone among the Western democracies to accept large numbers of Jewish refugees from Germany in the 1930s. It is a book that not only examines a vital episode in the history of migrants and the judicial, racial, ideological and economic reactions to them, but which also casts interwar France in a better light than is usual in history books covering this period. Fein is to be congratulated for producing a highly original, superbly researched, and well-written study.
How to resolve the migrant problem? This question, current today, had already arisen in the 1930s in connection with the German Jews fleeing the Nazi regime. Thanks to a vast amount of well-mastered documentation, Fein describes the attitude of France, and in particular of the Quai d’Orsay, to the arrival of these immigrants between 1933 and 1938. This original approach to a delicate problem—how to reconcile the ideals of human rights with the political reality—is handled with skill and common sense. It is a success.
Comprehensively researched and perceptively analyzed, this is an impressive new book on France’s response to the refugees from Nazi Germany. It highlights the role of the Foreign Ministry, which, caught between international relations, France’s republican traditions, and crises in domestic politics, struggled to find a compromise between hospitality and xenophobia. While bureaucrats worked assiduously in developing policy, foreign ministers and their governments disclosed their timidity in the face of one stark choice: could the refugees stay or be asked to leave? This dilemma, Fein argues, exposes fundamental weaknesses in the French polity of the 1930s.
Astonishingly this is the first scholarly study of the response of the Quai d’Orsay to Jewish immigration into France in the interwar years, and in particular after Hitler’s arrival to power in 1933. It is a meticulously documented monograph with conclusions that are finely nuanced. All this makes it an important contribution to this difficult and controversial period of France’s twentieth-century history.
I was delighted to be able to give Fein access to my great-grandfather Louis Oungre’s archives and to be able to contribute to this duty of remembrance which seems essential to me. Immigration is at the heart of Europe's concerns today, proof that history is repeating itself and that it is important to be aware of it. Congratulations to Fein for his accomplished work.