Madagascar Plan

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MADAGASCAR PLAN , proposal for Jewish settlement devised by the Nazi regime in the 1930s. Like most of the Nazis' schemes to solve the "Jewish question," the Madagascar Plan had already been conceived by others. In 1885 the German antisemitic nationalist Paul de *Lagarde had advocated deporting the Jews of Poland, Russia, Romania, and Austria in preparation for German colonization of the East. He preferred the French island colony of Madagascar on the east coast of Africa over Palestine. In 1926 and 1927, both Poland and Japan investigated Madagascar and proposed the island as a possible solution to their overpopulation problem; both dismissed the idea as not feasible. In 1937, a new Polish commission was sent to Madagascar to determine if Jews could be induced to settle there. Leon Alter, the director of *hicem in Warsaw, and Salmon Dyk, an agricultural engineer from Tel Aviv, took part in the mission. The assessments of the commission's director Major M. Lepecki and of Alter differed widely, but it was obvious to all that the area was generally inhospitable to Europeans and that there was a serious danger of potential settlers contracting endemic tropical diseases. This point was emphasized by the French governor-general of the island Marcel Olivier in his statements and writings opposing the proposal. Yet the proposal refused to die. On December 9, 1938, French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet informed German Foreign Minister Joachim *Ribbentrop that, in order to rid France of 10,000 Jewish refugees, it would be necessary to ship them elsewhere. According to Ribbentrop, the French were seriously considering sending them to Madagascar.

The island of Madagascar was also discussed within the Nazi regime, which generally considered mass emigration to be the "Final Solution" to the "Jewish problem." On March 5, 1938, the SS officer in charge of forced Jewish emigration, Adolf *Eichmann, was commissioned to assemble material to provide the chief of the Security Police (sipo) Reinhardt *Heydrich with "a foreign policy solution as it had been negotiated between Poland and France," i.e., the Madagascar Plan. Temporarily shelved in the wake of the war, the project was again taken up after the fall of France in the summer of 1940. Eichmann prepared a detailed official report on the island and its "colonization" possibilities based on information gathered from the French Colonial Office. He added an evacuation plan calling for 4,000,000 Jews to be shipped to Madagascar over a period of four years. Eichmann also advocated the creation of a "police reserve" as a giant ghetto ("Gross-Getto"). The plan was to be financed by a special bank managing confiscated Jewish property and by contributions exacted from world Jewry. The idea was also analyzed by Martin Luther's department in the German Foreign Office, which served as a liaison with the SS. The plan leaked out and was published in Italy in July. The *American Jewish Committee was alarmed enough to commission Eugene Hevesi to write a special report, which was eventually published in May 1941, that sought to demonstrate that Jews, as Europeans, could not survive the conditions on the island. By that time, of course, the Nazis were already preparing a completely different "*Final Solution." In August 1940, the Third Reich officially endorsed the Madagascar Plan. The 20-page proposal presented a detailed plan which no longer depended upon the consent of defeated France. The operation, whose code word was "Endloesung," was repeatedly discussed throughout 1940 and 1941. By the fall of 1941, the extermination program was already well underway. On February 10, 1942, only a few weeks after the *Wannsee Conference, the Madagascar Plan was officially shelved and replaced in public policy statements by the program of "evacuation to the East."


G. Reitlinger, Final Solution (19682), 23, 49, 79–82; J. Robinson, And the Crooked Shall be Made Straight (1965), index; E. Hevesi, in: Contemporary Jewish Record, 4 (1941) 381–94.

[Leni Yahil]