Madagascar is a large island (almost 600,000 sq km) located off the coast of southeast Africa. Currently it is an independent nation of some 28 million people, but from 1897 through World War Two, it was a colony of France.
For at least two centuries prior to the war, German critics of the Jews had discussed the option, and the need, to physically remove the allegedly troublesome German Jews from German territory. In 1885, German writer Paul de Lagarde offered some specific suggestions: the Jews should be transferred “to Palestine or, better still, to Madagascar” (“nach Palästina oder noch lieber nach Madagaskar”). Evidently, the island was both large enough to accommodate well over a million Jews, and of sufficiently benign climate to allow them to survive and prosper. It was also far enough away to make any return to Europe implausible. It would be a permanent mass relocation, not a death sentence.
Some time in the early 1930s, German National Socialists picked up on this idea and began to seriously promote it. By the late 1930s, leading Germans began to discuss the concept of a negotiated transfer solution with France. In April 1938, Goebbels first referred to the idea in his diary:
“Long discussion at breakfast, on the Jewish Question. The Führer wants the Jews completely squeezed out (herausdrängen) of Germany. To Madagascar, or some such place. Right!” (11 April 1938)
The onset of war in September 1939 temporarily side lined plans, but within a year, when it became clear that the French government would soon fall, the idea re-emerged. In a May 1940 memo, Himmler wrote to Hitler of the need for “massive immigration of all Jews to Africa or some other colony,” implicitly referring to Madagascar. In June, Franz Rademacher was tasked with developing a formal proposal for a “Madagascar Plan” for the Jews, which he completed on 3 July:
“The approaching victory gives Germany the possibility, and in my view also the duty, of solving the Jewish Question in Europe. The desirable solution is: all Jews out of Europe. … France must make the island of Madagascar available for the solution of the Jewish Question… The island will be transferred to Germany under a mandate. … Apart from this, the Jews will have their own administration in this territory: their own mayors, police, postal, and railroad administration, etc… Moreover, the Jews will remain in German hands as a pledge for the future good behavior of the members of their race in America.”
In July and August, Goebbels again briefly remarked on the plan in his diary:
“The big plan for the evacuation (Evakuierung) of the Jews from Berlin was approved. Additionally, all the Jews of Europe are supposed to be deported (deportiert) to Madagascar after the war.” (26 July 1940)
“Later on, we want to ship (verfrachten) the Jews to Madagascar. There they can build their own state.” (17 August 1940)
We see here, in private and personal documents, a remarkable lack of animosity; the Jews simply needed to leave the Reich, and a new home had been found for them. Clearly there was no plan to kill them because, “after the war,” they would be relocated. And in any case, the Jews were worth more alive than dead; they would serve as insurance against belligerence by the potent American Jews.
Due to developments in the war, however, the plan never moved beyond this stage. There was little discussion in 1941, and by early 1942, some in the National-Socialist hierarchy were ready to abandon it completely. But Goebbels, at least, still considered it a viable option, as late as March 1942:
“I read a detailed report from the SD and police regarding a final solution of the Jewish Question. Any final solution involves a tremendous number of new viewpoints. The Jewish Question must be solved within a pan-European frame. There are 11 million Jews still in Europe. They will have to be concentrated later, to begin with, in the East; possibly an island, such as Madagascar, can be assigned to them after the war. In any case, there can be no peace in Europe until the last Jews are shut off (ausgeschaltet) from the continent.” (7 March 1942)
This is a highly significant statement: that the “final solution of the Jewish Question” is still, in March 1942, a territorial solution – first concentration in the East, and then deportation after the war. Still, there is no talk of mass murder; and this at a date when, if we follow the orthodox narrative, the camps at Chełmno, Belzec and Auschwitz had already begun their homicidal gassings.
By May of 1942, the British had begun their invasion of Madagascar in order to take it out of the hands of the Vichy French government. The Brits completed their takeover in November of that year, effectively ending all German talk of a Madagascar Plan for the Jews.