Attitudes Towards Jewish Migration to Australia in the 1930s

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Describe and account for attitudes towards Jewish migration to Australia in the 1930s (distinguishing between political and public attitudes).  Did Australian policy towards Jewish refugees change significantly during and after war from what had prevailed in the 1930s?  How would you explain the policy continuity or change? Throughout the 20th Century, the policy adopted by Australia towards Jewish migration can best be described as one of restriction and limitation. Australian political and public attitudes during the 1930s were influenced by fears of the Jewish community’s inability to assimilate into Australian culture, the threat that they may have posed on job security and standards of living as well as the potential for their arrival to stimulate extreme anti-Semitism problems within Australia. The outbreak of war and the publication of Jewish persecution in Europe did little to alter the feelings of insecurity towards Jewish communities in Australia. While there were some attempts to increase the arrival of Jewish people after World War II, the sentiment of the majority of the Australian population remained unchanged and restrictions on immigration were still enforced. This theme of underlying racial prejudice continued to shape Australian policy throughout this entire period. During the 1930s, it is evident that the Coalition Government, comprised of the United Australia Party and Australian Country Party, made attempts to restrict the immigration of Jews into the country. First and foremost, the recent Australian struggle through the Depression meant that the Government was intent on protecting the job security and living standards of the Australian populace. The migration of any foreign immigrants was therefore unpopular due to the threats it placed on the Australian worker. This policy became an excuse for limiting the number of Jewish refugees accepted into Australia and resulted in an increase of the amount of landing money required to five hundred pounds for alien immigrants. This requirement was difficult for the majority of Jewish refugees to satisfy, making their entry into Australia virtually impossible. This policy remained in place until 1936 when the amount required was reduced to two hundred pounds or fifty pounds with a guarantor. Due to the poor economic conditions that had been experienced in Australia throughout the 1930s, the Government was reluctant to increase Jewish migration when so many of the migrants were impoverished, meaning that they would place a further strain on the Australian economy. The Government was also reluctant to permit the entry of a significant number of Jewish refugees due to the belief of their inability to assimilate into Australian society compared with some other cultures. The Government believed that the Jews were a separate race due to their distinctly different religious beliefs and customs and that this would significantly inhibit their assimilation into the Australian population. Australia’s political attitude towards Jewish migration was made clear at the Evian Conference, a meeting for the discussion of Jewish refugees, in June 1938. Australia realised the importance of attending the meeting so as not to gain a bad reputation, however the outcome showed that the Government was unwilling to increase the number of Jewish immigrants into the country. At this international meeting, the Australian representative Colonel T. W. White stressed the idea that Australia did not suffer from internal racial problems and its desire to maintain these peaceful conditions meant that allowing ‘undesirable’ migrants into the country was not an option. Colonel White also made it clear that the Australian Government felt that as a young nation, the importance of maintaining a strong connection with its Anglo-Saxon roots was vital for the growth of the Australian population. At the conference, the nations present most often put forward the case that they had...
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