THE UNWANTED: European Refugees in the Twentieth Century by Michael R. Marrus

THE UNWANTED: European Refugees in the Twentieth Century

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This meticulously researched--and cogent--history of refugee movements in Europe since the 1880s answers four basic questions: who the refugees were, why they became refugees, what happened to them, and what impact they had on the international community in Europe. In the first half of the 19th century, refugees were few in number and only rarely impinged on the relations between states. By the century's end, however, the rise of nationalism, the Franco-Prussian war and the deterioration of the Ottoman Empire generated huge refugee movements. During WW I refugee numbers significantly increased and, by the 1920s, demobilization, dislocation, unemployment and fears of communist subversion made governments tighten their immigration laws. Although after the war the League of Nations High Commission for Refugees showed ""how Europeans might regulate huge flows of refugees in the common interest"" (it resettled Russian refugees and negotiated population exchanges between Greece and Turkey, etc,), it did little (except for food assistance) for the Armenian refugees who were massacred by the Turks. Marrus points out that when faced with masses of Jewish refugees--running away from Fascism in Germany and from pogroms and poverty in Eastern Europe--Western European nations only increased their immigration restrictions. By 1942, London and Washington had discussed the Jewish problem and had come up with such wild schemes as relocating Jews to Madagascar. (The British allowed only a trickle to enter Palestine.) The shift in Nazi policy to the ""final solution"" stemmed in part from the problem that the Germans had no place to dump the Jews (or so, at least, Marrus contends). The Jewish problem was not solved until the gates of Palestine opened; meanwhile, the Jews remained in camps with American and British soldiers replacing the SS. The 30 million or so war-displaced Europeans, with time, found their way home. Today, refugees still trickle out of the Eastern block and the Third World, but Europe's own refugee problems have been miraculously--with economic recovery--solved. All this is indeed woefully familiar--and Marrus does not unearth much that is new-but he provides a thorough account of the conservative response of Western Europe to refugee crisis, and warns us that until the achievement of stabilization of international order, the conscience of Europeans will forever be tested. Useful chronicle of an immense human tragedy.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press