I had the privilege of meeting with Madagascar’s ambassador to the United Nations last week. Madagascar is the fourth-largest island in the world, a biodiversity haven and an eco-tourist hotspot. Some 90% of its wildlife is endemic.
Madagascar has been in the news since an Israeli from Bnei Brak was imprisoned for trying to bring rare turtles back to Israel to delight his children. Both China and Russia have tried to gain a foothold in Madagascar because it is strategically situated in the Indian Ocean. It was annexed by France in 1897 and gained its independence in 1960.
Very few people know that the Nazis had a nefarious plan for Madagascar. The Nazis wanted to make all of Europe judenrein. On March 5, 1938, SS officer Adolf Eichmann was commissioned to put together a plan for chief of the Reich Security Main Office Reinhard Heydrich. It was to be a “foreign policy solution” that involved the expulsion and resettlement of Europe’s Jews.
This was the “Madagascar Plan.” It was temporarily shelved until the Nazis took over France in 1940. As part of the “peace terms” with France, Germany was to control Madagascar, then a French colony. As a result, the Madagascar Plan resurfaced.
Eichmann proposed that one million Jews be deported annually for four years. The SS would make Madagascar a “police reserve” and a giant ghetto. As in all the ghettos set up by the Nazis, the goal was to make conditions so deplorable and horrendous that most of the Jews in them would die. Hitler approved the plan.
In 1941, the American Jewish Committee caught wind of the Madagascar Plan and stated that the Jews there would never be able to survive if the plan were implemented.
However, because of the British naval blockade and the Nazis’ defeat in the Battle of Britain, the plan never went into effect.
Nonetheless, the Madagascar Plan gave rise to the Wannsee Conference of 1942 and the development of the “Final Solution”—the plan to exterminate the 11 million European Jews, which led directly to the Holocaust.
Madagascar was not complicit in the plan that bears its name. It had nothing to do with it. The island is now home to more than 300 Jews. Its ambassador could not have been more accommodating and gracious.
The Nazis wanted to turn the whole world into a killing field for Jews. However, the forces of good overcame the forces of evil. Madagascar happened to be caught in the middle.