19 Geo. Immigr. L.J. 313 (2004-2005)
Evian's Legacy: The Holocaust, the United Nations Refugee Convention, and Post-War Refugee Legislation in the United States

handle is hein.journals/geoimlj19 and id is 323 raw text is: EVIAN'S LEGACY: THE HOLOCAUST, THE
UNITED NATIONS REFUGEE CONVENTION,
AND POST-WAR REFUGEE LEGISLATION
IN THE UNITED STATES
NAOMI S. STERN*
I. INTRODUCTION
Historians and other scholars who have examined the role of the United
States during the period of World War II (1939-1945) have demonstrated the
failure of the U.S. to respond to the refugee crisis that arose at the outset of
the Holocaust. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish persons who faced emerging
anti-Jewish laws and increasing state violence, particularly in Nazi Germany,
fled Europe and sought entry into the U.S. and other countries. Although the
U.S. admitted about 250,000 refugees during the period of the Holocaust, it
admitted proportionately fewer refugees than other countries, such as Britain,
the Netherlands, France, and other western European nations, given the size
of its population, its capacity for refugee absorption, and the desperate need.'
In addition, despite German Jewish refugees' requests for visas under the
then-existing national origins system of U.S. immigration law, the U.S.
quota for German immigration went unfilled.
In a paradigmatic example of the U.S. response to the refugee crisis, in
1938 the U.S. called an international conference on the status of political
(Jewish) refugees to occur at Evian, France. Held on the condition that no
invited nation would be asked to alter its immigration laws, the Evian
conference resulted in the creation of an independent and subsequently
ineffectual U.S.-based committee to address the refugee problem.3 Evian
set the tone for the U.S. response to the refugee crisis during the war.4 Less
hand-wringing occurred when, following Cuba's example, the U.S. rejected
the St. Louis from our shores, forcing the ship of refugees from Nazi
* J.D., Georgetown University Law Center, 2002; A.B., Harvard University, 1997. The author
currently works in Washington, D.C., as a public interest attorney on women's housing rights in the
U.S. She wishes to thank Professor David Luban for his comments on an earlier version of this piece.
1. See DAVID S. WYMAN, PAPER WALLS: AMERICA AND THE REFUGEE CRISIS 1938-1941, at 209,
217-19 (1968) [hereinafter PAPER WALLS]. From a proportional perspective, the greatest absorber of
refugees during this time was Palestine. See id. at 209.
2. See PHILIP G. SCHRAG, A WELL-FOUNDED FEAR: THE CONGRESSIONAL BATTLE TO SAVE POLITICAL
ASYLUM IN AMERICA 22 (2000); PAPER WALLS, supra note 1, at 209-10.
3. See PAPER WALLS, supra note 1, at 33, 43, 51-63.
4. See discussion infra, notes 19-27 and accompanying text.

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