Carole Fink presented the highlights of her recently published book, Defending the Rights of Others: The Great Powers, the Jews, and International Minority Protection, 1878-1938. She pointed out that minority rights were a huge issue in the 1990s and many looked back to the period of 1921-1922 when the minority treaties following the first World War were signed and in part implemented. She noted when she began this project some eight years ago that there were no good studies of the relationship between great power politics, small state activities, and minority rights in the period 1900-1925 so she set out to do it, and came to realize that she would really have to go back to the Congress of Berlin in 1878 in order to begin looking at minority rights issues.
Her study looks at the development of issues of immigration, minority persecution, and westward migration up through and during the first World War creating the stage for the victorious powers at the Versailles Conference to design a series of treaties to create minority states out of the German, Hapsberg, and Ottoman empires and to establish some protections for minorities within both major powers and other states. She draws particular attention to the attempt by some Jewish groups to argue the case of minority rights within states where they wished to remain, but points out that their efforts were complicated by the arguments of Zionists who were opposed to minority rights and wanted the Jews to establish a separate state in Palestine. Her ultimate conclusion was that the minority treaties were not successful because they left the Jews and other minorities with great promises but very little actual protection due to the fact that the League of Nations was extremely weak and many states only partially implemented the treaties and then began to regress on those steps of implementation. By the time of the Munich crisis in 1938, the minority treaties and their protections were almost totally in abeyance.
Samuel Wells, Associate Director, 202/691-4208