On January 20, 1942, at a villa in a suburb of Berlin called Wannsee, 15 men, all high-ranking Nazi Party officials and members of the German government, met to discuss what they called the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question. ” The head of this conference was a man named SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the chief of the Reich Security Main Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt-RSHA) and one of SS chief Heinrich Himmler’s top deputies. (ushmm. rg) Heydrich had two main goals in mind when calling this conference. First, he wanted to inform and gain support from government bureaus and other agencies that were involved in the implementation of the “final solution” (which was the code word for the systematic, pre determined, plan for the physical annihilation of the European Jews). His second goal was to inform all those present that he had gotten orders from Hitler himself to take full control of carrying out the “final solution.
Heydrich also tried to ease tension between German Civil administers and SS leaders who were occupying the same areas in Poland and some other territories. Heydrichs solution for this was to announce that he himself had total control over all areas, no matter whom they were occupied by. (historyplace. com) Prior to the conference, SS guards and the German Police had already made agreements with those in high command in the German Army to murder Jews in the spring of 1941.
It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Jews had already been murdered and hundreds of thousands of other victims had also been annihilated prior to the implementation of the “final solution”. The main difference was after the conference there was a system put in place to optimize the number of Jews killed and to ideally have a Jewish free society at some point. As said before, 15 men attended the conference.
Representing the SS at the meeting were SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the chief of the RSHA and leader of the conference; SS Major General Heinrich Muller, chief of RSHA Department IV (more commonly known as the Gestapo); SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann, chief of the RSHA Department IV B 4 (Jewish Affairs); SS Colonel Eberhard Schongarth, commander of the RSHA field office for the Government General in Krakow, Poland; SS Major Rudolf Lange, commander of RSHA Einsatzkommando 2, deployed in Latvia in the autumn of 1941; and SS Major General Otto Hofmann, the chief of SS Race and Settlement Main Office. Representing the German agencies were State Secretary Roland Freisler (Ministry of Justice);
Ministerial Director Wilhelm Kritzinger (Reich Cabinet); State Secretary Alfred Meyer (Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories-German-occupied USSR); Ministerial Director Georg Leibrandt (Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories); Undersecretary of State Martin Luther (Foreign Office); State Secretary Wilhelm Stuckart (Ministry of the Interior); State Secretary Erich Naumann (Office of Plenipotentiary for the Four-Year Plan); State Secretary Josef Buhler (Office of the Government of the Governor General-German-occupied Poland); and Ministerial Director Gerhard Klopfer (Nazi Party Chancellery). ushmm. org) At the conference, there were minutes taken, which allows us to read exactly what was said and decided. However, those minutes were tampered by Heydrich in order to hide any wrong doings or blame on his part. One example is that he changed the number of Jews that was listed in some of the surrounding countries. He changed the actual number of 3. 02 million Jews in the USSR to 5 million Jews and changed 135,000 Jews in the Netherlands to 160,800. (H. O. F. W. C) This is probably for propaganda reasons.
One shocking part of the minutes is at no point was the question of whether or not the plan of the final solution should take place. It was automatically accepted by everyone, the issues came with how it should be carried out. The main disagreement was whether or not to include what they called Mischlinges, which were people who had one Jewish parent or grandparent, and spouses of Jewish people, even if they were not Jewish themselves. Heydrich wanted to send all of them away along with the other Jews, however surprisingly some believed that was too radical and therefore they decided to figure it out on a different date.
Overall, Heydrich final concept was summed up in his quote, “Europe will be combed of Jews from east to west. ” They used terms to make it more social friendly however. He would use phrases such as “eliminated by natural causes” or working and starving the Jews to death, “Transported to the East” or move to ghettos in Poland and eventually gas chamber complexes at Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Auschwitz, and “treated accordingly” or execution by SS firing squads or death by gas. All of these were used to describe the system they created in order to kill their goal number of 11 million European Jews. Historyplace. com) After the conference, in late 1941, Hitler authorized Reich trains to transport European Jews to camps under German control. The plan was to gather and “transport to the east” where they would be split into those worthy to work and those that could not. Those that could were kept until they were “eliminated by natural causes” and those that could not were “treated accordingly”. As we all know, by the fall of the Nazi regime in 1944-45, they were successfully able to murder 6 million Jews under the jurisdiction of the final solution that was established at the Wannsee conference. (TWMK)