6/8/07

The Madagascar Plan: 67 years ago, what if Ribbentrop had signed?

[French translation here]
This is the story of a human tragedy, a dramatic turn of events in the history of 2 nations and a hypothetical situation of particular interest to Historians of the Israelo-Palestinian conflict or Madagascar. It is the story of two nations that nothing seemed to connect and yet came very close to have their destiny forever intertwined.
[wiki] "The Madagascar Plan was a suggested policy of the Third Reich government of Nazi Germany to forcibly relocate the Jewish population of Europe to the island of Madagascar".

The rampant antisemitism in the early century in Europe already floated the idea of expelling European Jews to Africa. The plan to deport jews to Madagascar gathered steam when France was vanquished in 1940. The plan was elaborated by Franz Rademacher, defended by Himmler and gained the support of Poland's Hans Frank, governor of occupied-Poland who did not want to manage what would become the Varsaw Ghetto yet and Hitler. Rademacher's plan was first formulated as such:
"
# Germany would be given the right to install military bases on Madagascar
# The 25,000 Europeans (mostly French) living on Madagascar would be removed
# Jewish emigration was to be forced, not voluntary
# The Jews on Madagascar would operate most local governmental functions but would be responsible to a German police governor
# The entire emigration and colonization of Madagascar would be paid by Jewish possessions confiscated by the Nazis"

In reality, 4 millions Jews were expected to be deported.
However, as the battle over Great-Britain and on the east front went on, the plan was put on hold temporarily.
On August 15 1940, Eichman drafted a document called "Reichssicherheitshauptamt: Madagaskar Projekt". However, the document laid on Heydich (his superior)'s desk, ignored and unapproved, therefore letting the Varsaw ghetto's construction be set in motion.
The events following the establishment of the Varsaw ghetto are tragically infamous. As the war proceeded, the systematic extermination of Jews know as the holocaust commenced.

It is probable that had the Madagascar plan been implemented, the holocaust might have proceeded in a different manner. The plan can definitely not be portrayed as an act of clemence by the Nazis, but one cannot help but wonder: "what if Heydich has approved the draft on August 1940 ?"
Assuming all things equal after this hypothetical signature, several scenarios are to be considered :

1) the Nazis would have send the initial 25,000 jews to Madagascar and put some in charge of the local government. The island was taken back from Germany by Great-Britain and the free forces only in 1942. By that time, 1.5 millions jews would have been moved to the island. (approx. 12% of the Malagasy population at the time)
2) Considering Britain and France's critical role in the creation of Israel in 1947, one would think that they would have let the local Jewish settlers in Madagascar the administration of the country.
3) The Malagasy population fought valiantly against the French occupation in 1947. It would be logical to assume that they would have done the same wherever the occupants were from. It would suggest that a similar conflict to the one in Palestine could have taken place in Madagascar. For how long, who knows ?

This is the point where I struggle to project this hypothetical situation. The Israelo-Palestinian conflict was always rendered more complex by the borders that Israel shares with other arab nations that support the Palestinians' claim. Madagascar,being an island, would not be in a similar situation.
Moreover, I believe the fact that the Jewish population would be forced to migrate to Madagascar would not carry the same adverse reaction from Malagasy people as a colonialist invasion. In my opinion, it is not too far-fetched to imagine a decade from 1940's to the 50's when Madagascar would have been a Jewish nation.
Another factor to consider is the size of the island. Madagascar is as big as France, Belgium and the Netherlands combined. An enclave of Israel surrounded by Malagasy land would seem like a viable option for both communities.
Granted all of the stuff I have just written is pure speculation and is solely for the purpose of intellectual musing from my rahter unique perspective on this story as a Malagasy; yet if you think of the "what-could-have-been", would that scenario be really that bad for all parties involved ? Let's review:
1) Part of the Jewish community would have escaped the holocaust.
2) They would not be perceived as ruthless colonialists because they would have been forced to migrate to Madagascar by the Nazis in the first place.
3) The bloodshed between France and Madagascar in 1947 might have been lessened by a Jewish mediation.
4) Considering the rapid development of Israel, maybe Madagascar would have benefited from a dynamic economic neigbhor.
5) The current Middle-East crisis would not be taking place, at least not in Palestine. There might be an Indian Ocean crisis; however looking back at the Malagasy history of conflicts (mostly a few and far in between), one cannot help but wonder what if Ribbentrop or Heydich had "greenlighted" the Madagaskar Projekt ....
Reference:
the madagascar plan on history1900s
on wikipedia
The plan by Rademacher at the Jewish virtual library

10 comments:

  1. Lova, thank you so much for writing this post. Have I told you already how much I like your blog? :-)
    "They would not be perceived as ruthless colonialists because they would have been forced to migrate to Madagascar by the Nazis in the first place."
    Mmm. Occupied territories of Madagascar?
    Madagastinians?
    Maybe litchis and persimmons from Malagasy kibbutzes at the grocery store?

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  2. Bien que l'idée 1) d'épargner plusieurs milliers de vies me soit séduisante, j'avoue manquer d'imagination pour imaginer un monde meilleur avec seulement des "si".

    Jour après jour, mon action est plutôt dictée par le désir de léguer à nos descendants un monde moins pire que celui que nous avons reçu de nos parents ... et inutile de dire que ce n'est pas aussi aisé :(

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  3. sipakv,
    :) ( the blog is thoroughly blushing right now, code color: FF0000)
    "Madagastinians ?"
    hijab=lamba ? Intifada= Ity fady ?
    Yasser Arafat=....huum (not going there)

    To,
    as long as people keep trying, that's all we can ask for.

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  4. Anonymous12:55 PM

    Writing a post on the 1940 Madagaskar Plan in 2007 is courageous, to say the least, given the civil war outbreak in the occupied territories and Israel government post Lebanese war meltdown. Most pessimistic voices during the implementation of Lord Balfour plan have now been overpassed by reality. Imagination, at that time, wasn't gloomy enough to predict the human tragedy of modern Middle East.
    As To suggested, too many "Ifs" make it tough to debate. However, your post made me think over (mind you, it does not happen often).
    *Identity and Self-determination: 1960 Decolonisation was rooted in the right of people to self-determination, which implied that the debate on identity was open and mature. In many African countries, and particularly in Madagascar, the question of national pride (today quickly translated by Gasy Ka Manja ;) was at the heart of Ratsiraka's regime, his "Boky Mena", and a national centered economic policy. Still, later on, in the 80s, pogroms against the "Karana" and Comorian communities brought back the bitter issue of integration and identity defensiveness. Who were we at the decolonisation time: a strong nation, who could look at itself with confidence and at the (racially different)others with candor? I don't think so. Colonisation had left too many wounds, and some of them were still wide open long after liberation ( 80's Vita Gasy, anyone?). A nation, after all, reacts to difference like an individual. You can only accept the other if you are at peace with yourself. And lthough, it is said that our Vezo ethny has jewish roots, Jewish integration in Madasgascar would have been violent and tough to understand.And because most Ashkenaze Jews would have come from Europe and longed for their own determination (as the root of Sionism), decolonisation might have demonstrated the need, not for one, but two nations.
    * Anyway, it is the concept that sucks: Despite its appearances, the Madagaskar plan had the same evil roots as the Ghetto and the Final solution plan: a racial pyramid, glorifying the Aryen race, where Africans, of which Malagasy, Tziganes were not even considered as humans. One wonders how the thesis elaborated by a non aryan tormented mind in a jail could spread into millions of arms hailing Heil Hitler and criminal genocide-linked silences; how "Mein Kampf" could translate later on into European "Lebensraum" to the Shoah. Let's not fool ourselves, the Madagaskar Plan stemmed out of the same insanity: in the Nazi minds, Madagascar too was the land of a sub human race (hence, the plan). Let me even go further: in the Nazi dialectic of purification, gas chambers were not just the result of a circumstancial lack of Lebensraum in Europe. In the Megalomaniac Hitler's vision, the gas chambers were the achievement of a theory, it was the hidden final point of Mein Kampf.

    So with another "if", maybe tributes to the Holocaust would have happened somewhere in Madagascar, had Ribbentrop signed.
    Randiana

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  5. Anonymous8:29 PM

    Since we're talking about the
    Israelo-palestinian issue, I couldn't resist sharing "Mon frère", of the musical "Les 10 commandements". Interestingly enough, if you watch it until the end,you'll see that it's their respective communities who separate the two brothers.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQqTtfKOMUg&mode=related&search=

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  6. I will comment some more soon but here is the link to the video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQqTtfKOMUg

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  7. "Who were we at the decolonisation time: a strong nation, who could look at itself with confidence and at the (racially different)others with candor? I don't think so."

    I did not think of the state of mind in 1960 so whether Madagascar was ready or not at that time is a great point.
    However, we were and are having trouble getting past our own differences as Malagasy so one could argue that one more difference would not have changed much.
    I totally agree that the plan was just as evil as anything that happended afterwards. However, just like the "road to hell is paved with good intentions" ;), maybe the reverse of that could have happended here. Didn't the "Schindler's list" at first start from a bottom-line concern from Schinler? ( I am just speculating here because I don't know enough about this ). No question that the plan was ill-intentioned but maybe the reason why it was not implemented was because it was not cruel enough.

    So the Vezo would the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel that JoGany was talking about ? I wonder which of the 12 tribes it would be.
    Thanks for feeding my "what if" scenario, it's sometimes easier to rearrange the past because the present is just too discombobulated to solve....

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  8. what what what vezo what?
    I seriously need to read this post and its WONDERFUL comments ENTIRELY (so lazy...). So the vezo are, in a really twisted way, the descents of a lost tribe?....ok.....go on....the fitampoha in St-Augustin is taking an interestingly historical aspect...if only I didn't desert them....you know...heat and razana...not my stuff...

    bizz

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  9. :) I will look into that Vezo story right now and the only thing close would be the Lemba or (Vhalemba) from South Africa. The traveled from Senna (Yemen) to South Africa and might have stopped in Madagascar.
    http://www.haruth.com/JewsLemba.html

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  10. Anonymous8:06 AM

    just one thing, why Malagasy people practice the circumcision for all male, as Elohim told to Mushe, did you already ask your grand-father about that. Me, I already asked, the response is just, because it was done from generation to generations, we don't know why, but we have to do it. May be some tribe of Malagasy are descents of the lost tribe...I don't want to say it, but please Lova if you could check it. Thanks

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