WW2 Anniversary

|   22 July 2010

The Nazis and the Madagascar Plan

The Nazis had a plan to send the Jews here, to Madagascar.

This month marks the 70th anniversary of one of the most bizarre and potentially murderous Nazi ideas of them all – a plan to forcibly deport European Jews to the island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa. It isn’t an event of 1940 – like the Fall of France, Dunkirk or the Battle of Britain – that you’ll see mentioned in the newspapers or on the TV news, but it’s certainly worth remembering all the same.

On 3 July 1940, Franz Rademacher of the German Foreign Ministry wrote a memo which suggested that ‘France must make the island of Madagascar available for the solution of the Jewish question’. The idea was that the Jews of Europe should be sent to live on Madagascar, supervised by an ‘SS Governor’. And this was clearly not some kind of relatively ‘benign’ way of ’solving’ the ‘Jewish question’. The presence of the SS Governor clearly shows how the Jews were to be treated, and the alacrity with which Reinhard Heydrich – a crucial figure in the eventual ‘Final Solution’ – subsequently muscled in on Rademacher’s plan further demonstrates the murderous intent behind it.  This plan might have involved a different route to genocide than the gas chambers of the Holocaust, but it was still a route to genocide all the same.

The decision of the British not to make peace with the Germans in 1940 consigned the Madagascar plan to the dustbin – how could the mass sea transportation of the Jews be organized whilst the war was still being fought? But the Madagascar plan remains important for at least two reasons. The first is that it shows the limitless sense the Nazis possessed that they could accomplish anything. Yes, others (including the Polish government just before the war) had fantasised that Madagascar could be a place that European Jews could settle, but no one except the Nazis had imagined forcibly pushing the policy through on this scale and with this genocidal intent.

The Madagascar plan thus fitted into a Nazi pattern of thought. For one emotion that characterized many of the former Nazis I’ve met over the years was the immense and liberating sense of excitement they felt about belonging to the Nazi party. ‘It was a time when dreams could become a reality!’ one of them told me.

And the second reason that the Madagascar plan is important is that it demonstrates that the Nazis would have carried on trying to eliminate the Jews even if they had won the war and the world was subsequently at peace. In that respect I certainly agree with those historians who no longer see September 1939 as some sudden moment of violent radicalization in Nazi anti-Semitic policy, but instead point to the pogrom against the Jews in November 1938 – the so-called Kristallnacht – as showing that the Nazis were some way along a murderous road before the invasion of Poland. And the mere ending of the war would not have assuaged their blood lust.

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2 Responses to “The Nazis and the Madagascar Plan”

  1. Frederick says:

    A very useful reminder. If I may, I’d like to add that the Madagascar plan was used as a decoy and coded cover for actual extermination late into the War, particularly in Hitler’s circle. Apart from the criminal intentions which you point out so well, it is worth noting how insane the plan was from a practical point of view and how impossible it was to believe in its feasibility. You mention the remark ‘It was a time when dreams could become a reality!’ but how stupid and/or gullible and/or evil were those who imagined it could be done? This is a point at which one is tempted to accept Daniel Goldhagen’s thesis in its entirety–those men and women were indeed Hitler’s willing executioners, even those who claimed they were driven by a “dream”.
    I also agree with your views concerning the supposed 1939 “radicalization” but I am not sure Kristallnacht can be considered as a starting point. I believe that if we turn to Raul Hilberg’s definition of the different stages of persecution in his “Destruction…” we realize that the Gestalt of nazism (if I may misuse the word) predicated the destruction of the Jews.

  2. [...] What if, the world did accept Jews fleeing Germany, or in lieu of what if the plan to ship them all out of Europe to Madagascar instead of Africa falling to the Allies making such a plan impossible. The ‘Final Solution’ [called that because the plans mentioned above fell though] may never have happened. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005267‘; http://ww2history.com/blog/ww2-anniversary/the-nazis-and-the-madagascar-plan/ [...]