Madagascar Plan

The Nazi Plan to Move Jews to Madagascar

Map of Madagascar
Map of Madagascar, an island off the southeast of Africa. (Map courtesy of the CIA)

Before the Nazis decided to murder European Jewry in gas chambers, they considered the Madagascar Plan - a plan to move four million Jews from Europe to the island of Madagascar.

Whose Idea Was It?

Like almost all Nazi ideas, someone else came up with the idea first. As early as 1885, Paul de Lagarde suggested deporting Eastern European Jews to Madagascar. In 1926 and 1927, Poland and Japan each investigated the possibility of using Madagascar for solving their over-population problems.

It wasn't until 1931 that a German publicist wrote: "the entire Jewish nation sooner or later must be confined to an island. This would afford the possibility of control and minimize the danger of infection."1 Yet the idea of sending Jews to Madagascar was still not a Nazi plan.

Poland was the next to seriously consider the idea; they even sent a commission to Madagascar to investigate.

The Commission

In 1937, Poland sent a commission to Madagascar to determine the feasibility of forcing Jews to emigrate there.

Members of the commission had very different conclusions. The leader of the commission, Major Mieczyslaw Lepecki, believed that it would be possible to settle 40,000 to 60,000 people in Madagascar. Two Jewish members of the commission didn't agree with this assessment. Leon Alter, the director of the Jewish Emigration Association (JEAS) in Warsaw, believed only 2,000 people could be settled there.

Shlomo Dyk, an agricultural engineer from Tel Aviv, estimated even fewer.

Even though the Polish government thought Lepecki's estimate was too high and even though the local population of Madagascar demonstrated against an influx of immigrants, Poland continued its discussions with France (Madagascar was a French colony) over this issue.

It wasn't until 1938, a year after the Polish commission, that the Nazis began to suggest the Madagascar Plan.

Nazi Preparations

In 1938 and 1939, Nazi Germany tried to use the Madagascar Plan for financial and foreign policy arrangements.

On November 12, 1938, Hermann Goering told the German Cabinet that Adolf Hitler was going to suggest to the West the emigration of Jews to Madagascar. Hjalmar Schacht, Reichsbank president, during discussions in London, tried to procure and international loan to send the Jews to Madagascar (Germany would make a profit since the Jews would only be allowed to take their money out in German goods).

In December 1939, Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German foreign minister, even included the emigration of Jews to Madagascar as part of a peace proposal to the Pope.

Since Madagascar was still a French colony during these discussions, Germany had no way to enact their proposals without France's approval. The beginning of World War II ended these discussions but after France's defeat in 1940, Germany no longer needed to coordinate with the West about their plan.

The Beginning...

In May 1940, Heinrich Himmler advocated sending the Jews to Madagascar. About this plan, Himmler stated:

However cruel and tragic each individual case may be, this method is still the mildest and best, if one rejects the Bolshevik method of physical extermination of a people out of inner conviction as un-German and impossible."2

(Does this mean Himmler believed the Madagascar Plan to be a better alternative to extermination or that the Nazis were already starting to think of extermination as a possible solution?)

Himmler discussed his proposal with Hitler of sending the Jews "to a colony in Africa or elsewhere" and Hitler responded that the plan was "very good and correct."3

The news of this new solution to the "Jewish question" spread. Hans Frank, governor-general of occupied Poland, was elated at the news. At a large party meeting in Krakow, Frank told the audience,

As soon as sea communications permit the shipment of the Jews [laughter in the audience], they shall be shipped, piece by piece, man by man, woman by woman, girl by girl. I hope, gentlemen, you will not complain on that account [merriment in the hall].4

Yet the Nazis still had no specific plan for Madagascar; thus Ribbentrop ordered Franz Rademacher to create one.

The Madagascar Plan

Rademacher's plan was set down in the memorandum, "The Jewish Question in the Peace Treaty" on July 3, 1940. In Rademacher's plan:

  • The French would give Madagascar to Germany
  • Germany would be given the right to install military bases on Madagascar
  • The 25,000 Europeans (mostly French) living on Madagascar would be removed
  • Jewish emigration was to be forced, not voluntary
  • The Jews on Madagascar would operate most local governmental functions but would be responsible to a German police governor
  • The entire emigration and colonization of Madagascar would be paid by Jewish possessions confiscated by the Nazis

This plan sounds similar, though larger, to the set-up of the ghettos in Eastern Europe. Yet, an underlying and hidden message in this plan is that the Nazis were planning to ship four million Jews (the number did not include the Jews of Russia) to a location deemed ill-prepared for even 40,000 to 60,000 people (as determined by the Polish commission sent to Madagascar in 1937)!

Was the Madagascar Plan a real plan in which the effects were not considered or an alternate way of killing the Jews of Europe?

Change of Plan

The Nazis had been expecting a quick end to the war so that they could transfer European Jews to Madagascar. But as the Battle of Britain lasted much longer than planned and with Hitler's decision in the fall of 1940 to invade the Soviet Union, the Madagascar Plan became unfeasible.

Alternate, more drastic, more horrific solutions were being proposed to eliminate the Jews of Europe. Within a year, the killing process had begun.

Notes

1. As quoted in Philip Friedman, "The Lublin Reservation and the Madagascar Plan: Two Aspects of Nazi Jewish Policy During the Second World War" Roads to Extinction: Essays on the Holocaust Ed. Ada June Friedman (New York: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1980) 44.
2. Heinrich Himmler as quoted in Christopher Browning, "Madagascar Plan" Encyclopedia of the Holocaust Ed.

Israel Gutman (New York: Macmillan Library Reference USA, 1990) 936.
3. Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Hitler as quoted in Browning, Encyclopedia, 936.
4. Hans Frank as quoted in Friedman, Roads, 47.

Bibliography

Browning, Christopher. "Madagascar Plan." Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Ed. Israel Gutman. New York: Macmillan Library Reference USA, 1990.

Friedman, Philip. "The Lublin Reservation and the Madagascar Plan: Two Aspects of Nazi Jewish Policy During the Second World War," Roads to Extinction: Essays on the Holocaust. Ed. Ada June Friedman. New York: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1980.

"Madagascar Plan." Encyclopedia Judaica. Jerusalem: Macmillan and Keter, 1972.