Nazi Madagascar Plan


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Lesson Snapshot:

Before the Nazis decided to murder European Jews 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 most Nazi ideas, someone else came up with it 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 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.” 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 someone to Madagascar to investigate.

The Commission

In 1937, Poland sent a commission to Madagascar to determine whether it was realistic to force Jews to emigrate there. The leader of the commission, Major 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 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 the local population of Madagascar argued against the arrival of Jewish immigrants, Poland continued its discussions with France (it was a French colony) over this issue. It wasn’t until 1938 that the Nazis suggested their own Madagascar Plan.

Nazi Preparations

With the Nazi defeat of Poland, around 1.7 million Jews were brought under German rule. The Nazis now planned to establish a ‘Jewish reservation’ for all Jews from Poland and other parts of the German ‘Reich’. At first it was to be located in the Lublin district of Poland, in the newly established ‘General Government’. This plan was part of an extensive resettlement project that Hitler had appointed Heinrich Himmler to lead.

Hundreds of thousands of Jewish families were expelled from Poland in order to make room for ‘ethnically German’ settlers. Yet all these plans for an ‘ethnic new order’ in Poland were to fail, made impossible by the ambitiousness of their megalomania. Therefore the ‘Jewish Reservation’ remained a myth, despite the fact that by spring 1941 several thousand Jews had already been deported to the ‘General Government’. After the conquest of France in June 1940 these plans were largely replaced by another project designed to provide a new ‘territorial solution’ to the ‘Jewish question’. This was called the Madagascar Plan.

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

On November 12, 1938, Hermann Goering told the German Cabinet that Hitler was going to suggest to the West the emigration of Jews to Madagascar. Hjalmar Schacht, Reichsbank president, during discussions in London, tried to gain an international loan to send Jews to Madagascar (Germany would make a profit since the Jews would only be allowed to take their money out in German goods – they would have to buy German items instead of taking actual money with them). In December 1939, Joachim von Ribbentrop, German foreign minister, even included the emigration of Jews to Madagascar as part of a peace proposal to the Pope.

As part of the so-called ‘Madagascar Plan’, all Jews under German rule were to be deported to the French colony of Madagascar. However, this plan was rendered unworkable as long as Great Britain’s Royal Navy kept control of the seas around the island of Madagascar. In the winter of 1940 to 1941, Hitler commissioned a third variation of the ‘territorial solution’, in which the Jews would be deported to the Soviet Union after it was conquered. 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.

Whether in Poland, Madagascar or the Soviet Union, these plans show that the deported Jews would have eventually succumbed to a combination of malnutrition, disease, forced labour and general abuse. Even this ‘territorial solution’ was conceived to bring about the murder European Jews.

Worksheet Lesson Plan:

  • Aimed at Students studying across UK Year 7,8 & 9 or equivalent
  • Premium resource
  • Use as you wish in the classroom or home environment
  • Structured information sheet.
  • Challenging questions on the Nazi’s plan to move Jews to Madagascar.