Madagascar: An Almost Jewish Homeland

By | Nov 02, 2011
2009 May-June, History, International

“Do you think your brother knew about the Nazi plans for Madagascar?” I ask. “I don’t know,” Herzl responds, “all I know is that he wanted to fight for his country.” Which country? I ask. “Ours!” Herzl is surprised at my obtuseness. Rachel clears the crumbs from my place with the edge of her hand. “I grew up in Poland…,” she interjects, “as a girl I had to keep my voice down, be polite everywhere, on the bus or in the park, so people wouldn’t point at the ‘noisy Jew.’” Her eyes mist over, her voice trails off. “And you know what happened there….” Herzl adds, “But here we’re like everybody else, here we can be just as bad as every other country.”

Is that what Israel Genussow fought and died for, serving to protect his adopted homeland so it could be just like every other place? I ask. They both turn to look each other, then at me, and answer “no.” Herzl sighs and fiddles with his hearing aid.

The photo album rests open on a picture of Israel in uniform, his moustache neatly trimmed, round spectacles framing his face. Herzl shakes his head in disbelief at the loss of his brother so long ago. He shakes his head at the history that never was, the future his brother never had. He stares out the window toward the Mediterranean, toward his brother’s tomb an ocean away on an island without Jews, where they say crocodiles wear jewelry and the natives are the happiest people on earth. “But here at least,” Herzl says, and raps his knuckles on the table, “here is home.”

Adam Rovner is an assistant professor of English and Jewish literature at the University of Denver and translations editor for Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture. His work has appeared in American History, The Forward and The Jewish Quarterly. He is writing a book about various proposals to establish Jewish “homelands” around the globe.


7 thoughts on “Madagascar: An Almost Jewish Homeland

  1. Rainer Kunze says:

    An interesting feature. I was wrong when I thought the idea of Madagascar as a homeland for Jews was created by the allies after the war but (this also I thought) was dismissed by Churchill who wanted to give the Arabs a pain in the ass by settling Israel on Palestine ground . Now I learned that Nazi Germany invented this idea.

    1. errata says:

      >>Early Zionists debated a host of proposals to settle Jews in remote regions of the world, and one of them was Madagascar.<<

      What do you mean, "Now I learned that Nazi Germany invented this idea."?

      What in the article speaks of Nazi Germany inventing the idea?

      The article clearly states that it was an early idea by Zionists, obviously relative to the Jews who had been settling into areas of South Africa already, etc.

      Just because the Nazi's had a proposal to resettle Jews into this area of the world also doesn't mean it was a Nazi Germany idea any more than they, the Nazi's, invented the word Aryan and the swastika!

      Many many peculiar liaisons were formed before, during and after the "Nazi" regime became evident with their similar separation of Jew and Gentile, and eugenics, which is today found in mainly one nation.


      The "Jewish solution", wasn't just a Nazi ideal, it's an Ashkenazi//Zionist ideal that has never died, to which most of the Western world supports fully and rejoices as the bed becomes too small, the head has not place to rest, and the feet dangle!

      1. tez says:

        Well said

  2. Yakov Zamir says:

    Thank you Adam for learning and then sharing this story. I am marrying a woman from Madagascar and it means a lot to know that her homeland might have become the homeland for our people.

  3. Yitzhak says:

    Interesting. This affirmation of jews origins is quite popular in Madagascar though. However there is not enough proof to confirm it. As from Madagascar I would say may be jews were there long days ago. But left for an X reason.

  4. Fascinating stuff!

    We’re really looking forward to your complete book!

    While many of the earlier plans are no longer possible, hopefully their stories can provide some insight and guidance for our new initiative to create a New Jewish State, now, in a more peaceful part of the world.

  5. Feigue Cieplinski says:

    NO, the idea originated with the Polish government and then after a three person commission surveyed the issue , that was shelved. It is my understanding that once the Nazis took this over it was not the same benign project for sure.

    NO the idea was not of the Zionists, the had in mind Uganda, that was shelved too. The only place that is home is Israel the Zionist said then and so it happened. It was the Territorialist in desperation that they would have accepted any where no matter what including the Patagonia.

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