Sadly, I did not invent the Madagascar Plan. The credit goes to the Third Reich. An early version of the plan to locate all the Jews of Europe on Madagascar had been championed by Hermann Göring in 1938, but it was not until 1940 that the Plan gained sufficient momentum to become a near-reality. The Nazi official who masterminded the details was Franz Rademacher, the leader of the Judenreferat III der Abteilung Deutschland (aka Jewish Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). He wrote a memo outlining the logistical details in which he declared (in German, of course), "The desirable solution is: all Jews out of Europe." He proposed that the Jews transported to Madagascar would be useful hostages to help make guarantee "future good behavior of the members of their race in America."
Plans for this Jurassic Park for Jews fell apart when the British fleet was not available for transport after all (which is to say when the British did not lose the Battle of Britain, as anticipated by the Third Reich). And so this first solution was abandoned, and instead there was the Final Solution.
What does the Madagascar Plan have to do with True Confections, a novel Booklist declared has “a wacky comic sensibility” and the Cleveland Plain Dealer called “a hoot with an edge”? In my novel, Julius Czaplinsky, the left-behind younger brother of Eli (founder of Zip's Candies in New Haven, Connecticut in 1924), gets wind of the Plan, and so he leaves Budapest for Madagascar to get there ahead of the crowd, to stake a claim and get established before the other four million Jews of Europe show up. And so he does just that. But of course there are no ships on the horizon. Ever. He is the first, last, and only Jew on Madagascar.
And so I didn’t exactly rewrite history (unlike, for example, Michael Chabon’s very entertaining Yiddish Policeman’s Union, about a colony of “Frozen Chosen” in Alaska) so much as tuck my fiction neatly into an actual historic event.
Everywhere I go for readings and discussions of True Confections, I learn that many readers have assumed that the Madagascar Plan is fiction, while also believing that Zip’s Candies is real. I am bemused. Why are so many readers looking for reality in all the wrong places?