Photo Credit: Courtesy
President Vladimir Putin with Israeli president Shimon Peres unveiling a monument in Netanya to the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany, June 25, 2012.

In response to European criticism of the August 23, 1939 Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a.k.a. the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet and Nazi foreign ministers who signed it, current Russian president Vladimir Putin excoriated Poland’s pre-war ambassador to Nazi Germany, Józef Lipski, as “scum and an anti-Semitic pig” for extolling Hitler and suggesting the latter deserved a monument for his idea of expelling Europe’s Jews to Africa.

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin signed the pact with Hitler to allow the Soviet Union control over eastern Poland following the Sept. 1, 1939 Nazi invasion. Stalin remained loyal to the pact even as his spies in Berlin were warning him in 1940 that a Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union was coming.

A 1937 Franco-Polish map of proposed sites for the resettlement of European Jews in Madagascar. / Lazdona via Wikimedia

The Madagascar Plan was proposed in June 1940 by Franz Rademacher, head of the Jewish Department of the German Foreign Office, shortly before the Fall of France. Madagascar was a French colony and the proposal called for the handing over of control of the island as part of the French terms of surrender, and then forcibly relocate the Jewish population of Europe there.

In 1937, the Polish government entertained forcing its Jewish citizens to Madagascar, but the task force they sent to evaluate the island’s potential determined that only 5,000 to 7,000 families could be accommodated there.

On August 15, 1940, With Adolf Hitler’s approval, Adolf Eichmann released a memorandum calling for the resettlement of a million Jews per year for four years to Madagascar, with the island being governed as a police state under the SS.

“He is scum and an anti-Semitic pig, there is no other way of describing him,” Putin said this week while commenting on a diary note left by Poland’s ambassador to Germany in the 1930s. “He shared Hitler’s anti-Semitic sentiment and moreover, he promised to erect a monument in Warsaw for the persecution of the Jewish people.”

Ambassador Józef Lipski / Anonymous via Wikimedia

Lipski’s discussion with Adolf Hitler in October 1938 on the German plans to expel European Jews to Africa, is seen as characteristic of the anti-Semitic discourse in Poland under the colonels’ regime that followed Marshal Józef Piłsudski’s demise in 1935. Ambassador Lipski responded enthusiastically to Hitler’s suggestions with “if he can find such a solution we will erect him a beautiful monument in Warsaw.”

“Honestly, I should tell you I was stunned about the manner in which Hitler and Polish officials discussed the so-called ‘Jewish question,'” Putin said. “Imagine, expelling Jews to Africa in 1938! They would’ve been doomed to extermination!”

In retrospect, Madagascar would have probably been safer for the Jews than Poland, but that’s a different debate altogether.

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