Following the invasion of Poland, the Nazis developed plans for a ‘reservation’ to which all of the growing numbers of Jews living under their control would be deported. They initially intended that this would be in eastern Poland but this plan failed due to divisions within the Nazi regime. After France surrendered to Germany in June 1940, a new plan was developed, as set out by Franz Rademacher, an official in the German Foreign Office, in July 1940.

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…

In the Peace Treaty France must make the island of Madagascar available for the solution of the Jewish question, and to resettle and compensate the approximately 25,000 French citizens living there. The island will be transferred to Germany under a mandate… That part of the island not required for military purposes will be placed under the administration of a German Police Governor, who will be under the administration of the Reichsführer-SS [Himmler]. Apart from this, the Jews will have their own administration in this territory: their own mayors, police, postal and railroad administration, etc. The Jews will be jointly liable for the value of the island…

The Jews will remain in German hands as a pledge for the future good behaviour of the members of their race in America.

Use can be made for propaganda purposes of the generosity shown by Germany in permitting cultural, economic, administrative and legal self-administration to the Jews; it can be emphasized at the same time that our German sense of responsibility towards the world forbids us to make the gift of a sovereign state to a race which has had no independent state for thousands of years: this would still require the test of history.

Despite Rademacher’s talk of German generosity, it was intended that the Madagascar Plan would kill large numbers of the Jews sent there since most of the island was not suitable for human habitation. The plan was abandoned after Germany’s failure to defeat Britain meant that it could not control the seas. 

Photo: 1922 map of Madagascar; public domain

Memorandum: Yitzhak Arad et al. (eds.), Documents on the Holocaust: Selected Sources on the Destruction of the Jews of Germany and Austria, Poland, and the Soviet Union (Yad Vashem, 1981)