Wannsee Conference

On January 20, 1942, fifteen high-ranking Nazi party and German government leaders gathered for an important meeting.  The meeting or conference  was organized by Adolf Eichmann  at the order of Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of the German State Police.

The conference was held in a suburb of Berlin at a villa by a lake known as Wannsee. The goal of this conference was the debate of the so-called “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”. Heydrich wanted to harmonize the organization and implementation of that “Final Solution” with every office and administrative department that was to participate in it.

Fifteen people attended the conference  including high ranking party officials and SS- officers.

The purpose of the meeting was to outline the newly planned Final Solution would entail the rounding up of all Jews throughout Europe. They would be transported eastward and organized into labor gangs. Work and living conditions would be extremely harsh as to kill large numbers by natural reduction. Any survivors would be treated accordingly. Treated accordingly was euphemism for extermination.

The final protocol of the Wannsee Conference never explicitly mentioned extermination, but within a few months after the meeting, the first gas chambers were installed in some of the extermination camps in Poland. These six camps, Belzec, Birkenau, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka were in operation in Poland.

To see biographical sketches of the atnendees and the minutes from the conference click here.

“Europe would be combed of Jews from east to west,” Heydrich stated.

The minutes of that meeting have been preserved but were edited by Heydrich substituting the coded language Nazis used when referring to lethal actions to be taken against Jews.

“Instead of emigration, there is now a further possible solution to which the Führer has already signified his consent – namely deportation to the east,” Heydrich stated for example when referring to mass deportations of Jews to ghettos in occupied Poland and then on to the soon-opened death camps at Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka.

“…eliminated by natural causes,” refers to death by a combination of hard labor and starvation.

“…treated accordingly,” refers to execution by SS firing squads or death by gassing – also seen in other Nazi correspondence in a variety of connotations such as “special treatment” and “special actions” regarding the Jews.

To see a real time recreation of the conference click here


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