So what does a tropical island have to do with European antisemitism? Religious hostility to Jews had been present in Christian Europe for centuries – with people wrongly blaming Jewish people for the death of Jesus. But by the late 1800s a dangerous new idea was taking hold: that Jews were not just a religious group, they were a separate and inferior race.
Furthermore, they were viewed by these antisemites as being responsible for all of Europe’s social and economic problems. By 1870 German European politicians were already talking about a “Jewish problem”. A German academic and nationalist, Paul De Legarde, thought he had the answer: all the Jews of Eastern Europe could be shipped to Madagascar. Over 60 years later, this bizarre idea was seriously considered by Hitler and the Nazis
In the years between De Legarde and Hitler, the demonization of Jewish people became commonplace: some parts of the media portrayed Jews as scheming monsters plotting to take over the world.
But the reality is that Jewish people didn’t want to take over the world, they just wanted to live in it like everyone else.