Wannsee Conference
Overview
The Wannsee Conference was a meeting
Meeting
In a meeting, two or more people come together to discuss one or more topics, often in a formal setting.- Definitions :An act or process of coming together as an assembly for a common purpose....

 of senior officials of the Nazi German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 regime, held in the Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 suburb of Wannsee
Wannsee
Wannsee is a locality in the southwestern Berlin borough of Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Germany. It is the westernmost locality of Berlin. In the quarter there are two lakes, the larger Großer Wannsee and the Kleiner Wannsee , are located on the river Havel and are separated only by the Wannsee bridge...

 on 20 January 1942. The purpose of the conference was to inform administrative leaders of Departments responsible for various policies relating to Jews, that Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

 had been appointed as the chief executor of the "Final solution to the Jewish question
Final Solution
The Final Solution was Nazi Germany's plan and execution of the systematic genocide of European Jews during World War II, resulting in the most deadly phase of the Holocaust...

". In the course of the meeting, Heydrich presented a plan, presumably approved by Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, for the deportation of the Jewish population of Europe and French North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) to German-occupied areas in eastern Europe, and the use of the Jews fit for labour on road-building projects, in the course of which they would eventually die according to the text of the Wannsee Protocol, the surviving remnant to be annihilated after completion of the projects.
Encyclopedia
The Wannsee Conference was a meeting
Meeting
In a meeting, two or more people come together to discuss one or more topics, often in a formal setting.- Definitions :An act or process of coming together as an assembly for a common purpose....

 of senior officials of the Nazi German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 regime, held in the Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 suburb of Wannsee
Wannsee
Wannsee is a locality in the southwestern Berlin borough of Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Germany. It is the westernmost locality of Berlin. In the quarter there are two lakes, the larger Großer Wannsee and the Kleiner Wannsee , are located on the river Havel and are separated only by the Wannsee bridge...

 on 20 January 1942. The purpose of the conference was to inform administrative leaders of Departments responsible for various policies relating to Jews, that Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

 had been appointed as the chief executor of the "Final solution to the Jewish question
Final Solution
The Final Solution was Nazi Germany's plan and execution of the systematic genocide of European Jews during World War II, resulting in the most deadly phase of the Holocaust...

". In the course of the meeting, Heydrich presented a plan, presumably approved by Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, for the deportation of the Jewish population of Europe and French North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) to German-occupied areas in eastern Europe, and the use of the Jews fit for labour on road-building projects, in the course of which they would eventually die according to the text of the Wannsee Protocol, the surviving remnant to be annihilated after completion of the projects. Instead, as Soviet and Allied forces gradually pushed back the German lines, most of the Jews of German-occupied Europe were sent to extermination or concentration camps, or killed where they lived. As a result of the efforts of historian Joseph Wulf
Joseph Wulf
Joseph Wulf was a German-Polish-Jewish historian and Holocaust survivor.-Early life:...

, the Wannsee House, where the conference was held, is now a Holocaust Memorial.

Background

In 1935 the Reichstag codified longstanding anti-semitic practices, both official and unofficial, in the Nuremburg Laws and set them as official policies of the Third Reich: which laws provided legal definitions for who was a Jew and who was a German citizen (definitively severing Jewish identity from German citizenry); prohibited sexual intercourse between Jews and state citizens; and provided punishment in the form of forced labor camps for those who fell afoul of the law.

In 1939 Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 signed a "euthanasia decree" (later known as Action T4
Action T4
Action T4 was the name used after World War II for Nazi Germany's eugenics-based "euthanasia" program during which physicians killed thousands of people who were "judged incurably sick, by critical medical examination"...

), which instituted a forced eugenics program extending the existing laws enabling sterilisation for those deemed genetically or socially unfit. Under this new policy doctors were allowed, in some cases required, to deliberately take the lives of those deemed unfit rather than to sterilize them, as was the law before. While it is termed so it is not strictly euthanasia
Euthanasia
Euthanasia refers to the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering....

, as it does not have the aim of relieving pain or suffering but rather its goal was to prevent further 'pollution' of the race by 'inferior' genetics.

Administrative contemplation of wholesale deportation of Jews, as part of the plan to "purify" all of Europe, reached apotheosis in the forced deportation of Jews to labor camps in Poland and in the Madagascar Plan
Madagascar Plan
The Madagascar Plan was a suggested policy of the Nazi government of Germany to relocate the Jewish population of Europe to the island of Madagascar.-Origins:The evacuation of European Jews to the island of Madagascar was not a new concept...

 of 1940 but which was shelved due to logistical challenges during the war.

With the policies of legal racism delineated by the Nuremburg Laws in 1935, and their strong consequences, the continued deportation of Jews and the contemplation of 'ethnic cleansing' of Europe, and the existing laws of sterilization extended to actual murder in 1939 the Wannsee Conference in 1942 can be seen to be on a continuum and does not represent a radical departure from extant Nazi policy or doctrine but rather an expedient codification of existing policy.

The rapid German advances in the opening weeks of the invasion of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

, induced a mood of euphoria among the Nazi leadership, which began to take a view of the "solution" of the "Jewish question" increasingly freed from moral or ethical restraints. The so-called "Jewish question" seemed even more urgent with the growing likelihood that the four million Jews of the western Soviet Union would fall under German control. On 16 July 1941, Hitler addressed a meeting of ministers, including Reichsmarschall
Reichsmarschall
Reichsmarschall literally in ; was the highest rank in the armed forces of Nazi Germany during World War II after the position of Supreme Commander held by Adolf Hitler....

 Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

, at which the administration of the occupied Soviet territories was discussed. He said that Soviet territories west of the Urals
Ural Mountains
The Ural Mountains , or simply the Urals, are a mountain range that runs approximately from north to south through western Russia, from the coast of the Arctic Ocean to the Ural River and northwestern Kazakhstan. Their eastern side is usually considered the natural boundary between Europe and Asia...

 were to become a "German Garden of Eden
Garden of Eden
The Garden of Eden is in the Bible's Book of Genesis as being the place where the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, lived after they were created by God. Literally, the Bible speaks about a garden in Eden...

", and that "naturally this vast area must be pacified as quickly as possible; this will happen best by shooting anyone who even looks sideways at us."

Hitler's chief lieutenants, Göring and the SS
Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

 chief Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

, took this and other comments by Hitler at this time (most of which were not recorded, but were attested to at postwar trials) as authority to proceed with a definitive "final solution of the Jewish question" (Die Endlösung der Judenfrage), involving the complete removal of the Jews from the German-occupied territories. On 31 July 1941 Göring gave a written authorisation to SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

, Chief of the Reich Main Security Office
RSHA
The RSHA, or Reichssicherheitshauptamt was an organization subordinate to Heinrich Himmler in his dual capacities as Chef der Deutschen Polizei and Reichsführer-SS...

 (RSHA) to "make all necessary preparations" for a "total solution of the Jewish question" in all the territories under German influence, to co-ordinate the participation of all government organisations whose co-operation was required, and to submit a "comprehensive draft" of a plan for the "final solution of the Jewish question".

Göring was at this time the second most powerful figure in the Nazi regime, having been given the special rank of Reichsmarschall
Reichsmarschall
Reichsmarschall literally in ; was the highest rank in the armed forces of Nazi Germany during World War II after the position of Supreme Commander held by Adolf Hitler....

 and designated as Hitler's successor. Therefore, Heydrich would have understood that any instruction coming from Göring carried the authority of Hitler. Heydrich also knew that his immediate superior, Himmler, was in favour of exterminating the Jews, and Heydrich was at that moment directing the Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen
Einsatzgruppen were SS paramilitary death squads that were responsible for mass killings, typically by shooting, of Jews in particular, but also significant numbers of other population groups and political categories...

 to do just that in the newly conquered Soviet territories. Rudolf Lange
Rudolf Lange
Dr. Martin Franz Erwin Rudolf Lange was a prominent Nazi police official. He served as commander of the SD and SIPO in Riga, Latvia...

, commander of Einsatzkommando 2 in Latvia
Latvia
Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

, wrote that his orders were "a radical solution of the Jewish problem through the execution of all Jews". In October the deportation of the Jews of Germany, Austria and the Czech lands to the east began. When a train carrying about 1,000 German Jews arrived at Riga
Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

 in Latvia on November 29, 1941, Lange simply had them shot. But this was clearly not a feasible method of dealing with millions of people: the cost of ammunition alone was unacceptable, and it was observed that even SS troops were uncomfortable about shooting assimilated German Jews as opposed to Ostjuden ("Eastern Jews"). The head of the German civil administration in Belarus, generalkommisar Wilhelm Kube
Wilhelm Kube
Wilhelm Kube was a German politician and Nazi official. He was an important figure in the German Christian movement during the early years of Nazi rule. During the war he became a senior official in the occupying government of the Soviet Union, achieving the rank of Generalkommissar for...

, who among other crimes personally murdered Jewish children, objected to German Jews deported to the Minsk
Minsk
- Ecological situation :The ecological situation is monitored by Republican Center of Radioactive and Environmental Control .During 2003–2008 the overall weight of contaminants increased from 186,000 to 247,400 tons. The change of gas as industrial fuel to mazut for financial reasons has worsened...

 Ghetto, "who come from our own cultural circle", being casually killed by German soldiers.

During the second half of 1941, therefore, Heydrich and his staff worked on proposals to "evacuate" all Jews from Germany and the occupied countries to labour camps, either in occupied Poland or further east in the Soviet Union, which it was assumed would soon be completely conquered. Those who were unable to work would be killed, while the remainder would soon be worked to death. But the German defeat in front of Moscow
Battle of Moscow
The Battle of Moscow is the name given by Soviet historians to two periods of strategically significant fighting on a sector of the Eastern Front during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942. The Soviet defensive effort frustrated Hitler's attack on Moscow, capital of...

 in November–December led to a sharp change of emphasis. Euphoria was replaced by the prospect of a long war, and also by a realisation that food stocks were not sufficient to feed the entire population of German-occupied Europe. It was at this time the decision to proceed from "evacuation" to extermination was made. Speaking with Himmler and Heydrich on 25 October, Hitler said: "Let no one say to me: we cannot send them into the swamp. Who then cares about our own people? It is good when terror precedes us that we are exterminating the Jews. We are writing history anew, from the racial standpoint."

Planning the conference

By November 1941, it was becoming known in the upper reaches of the Nazi leadership and government offices that Hitler intended all the Jews of Europe to be deported to the eastern territories and, by some means, to have them executed. To carry out such a massive enterprise, involving the registration, assembly and transportation of millions of people, at a time when the necessary material and human resources were already severely stretched, would be a formidable logistical challenge. It was also one that at least some elements of the German state apparatus might be expected to obstruct or fail to co-operate with. It thus seemed advisable to bring together representatives of all affected departments to explain what was intended and how it was to be carried out, and to make it clear that the project had been undertaken on the highest authority of the Reich.

On 29 November, Heydrich sent invitations for a meeting to be held on 9 December at the headquarters of the International Criminal Police Commission (the forerunner of Interpol
Interpol
Interpol, whose full name is the International Criminal Police Organization – INTERPOL, is an organization facilitating international police cooperation...

, of which Heydrich at the time served as President) at 16 Am Kleinen Wannsee (in the comfortable lakeside suburb of Wannsee on the western edge of Berlin). He enclosed a copy of Göring's letter of 31 July to indicate his authority in the matter. As this was to be a meeting of administrators to discuss implementation of a policy already decided at the executive level, those invited were mostly State Secretaries, i.e., chief administrative (subministerial) officers of government ministries. The ministries to be represented were Interior, Justice, the Four Year Plan
Four year plan
The Four Year Plan was a series of economic reforms created by the Nazi Party. The main aim of the four year plan was to prepare Germany for war in four years...

 and Occupied Eastern Territories. The Foreign Office was to be represented by an undersecretary, as Heydrich suspected that State Secretary Weizsäcker
Ernst von Weizsäcker
Ernst Freiherr von Weizsäcker was a German diplomat and politician. He served as State Secretary at the Foreign Office from 1938 to 1943, and as German Ambassador to the Holy See from 1943 to 1945...

 was not fully aligned with the objectives of the regime. Also invited were representatives of the Reich Chancellery, the Nazi Party Chancellery and the Race and Resettlement Main Office of the RSHA, and the head of the Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

, Müller. When Hans Frank
Hans Frank
Hans Michael Frank was a German lawyer who worked for the Nazi party during the 1920s and 1930s and later became a high-ranking official in Nazi Germany...

, head of the General Government
General Government
The General Government was an area of Second Republic of Poland under Nazi German rule during World War II; designated as a separate region of the Third Reich between 1939–1945...

 in occupied Poland, heard of the meeting, he demanded to be represented, and Heydrich quickly agreed. SS-Sturmbannführer Lange was invited for his experience in executing German Jews in Latvia. Heydrich's right-hand man Eichmann was to take the minutes.

Developments in early December, 1941, disrupted the original meeting plans. On 5 December, the Soviet Army began a counter-offensive in front of Moscow, ending the prospect of a rapid conquest of the Soviet Union. On 7 December, the Japanese attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

, causing the US to declare war on Japan the next day. To fulfill its obligations under its Tripartite Pact
Tripartite Pact
The Tripartite Pact, also the Three-Power Pact, Axis Pact, Three-way Pact or Tripartite Treaty was a pact signed in Berlin, Germany on September 27, 1940, which established the Axis Powers of World War II...

 with Italy and Japan, the Reich government immediately began preparing to issue a declaration of war on the US on 11 December. Some meeting invitees were involved in these preparations, and Heydrich postponed the meeting, with no rescheduled time, on 8 December. In early January 1942 Heydrich sent new invitations to a meeting to be held on 20 January. The German historian Christian Gerlach
Christian Gerlach
Hans Christian Gerlach is professor of Modern History at the University of Bern. Gerlach is also Associate Editor of the Journal of Genocide Research and author of multiple books dealing with the Hunger Plan, Holocaust and genocide...

 sees in Heydrich's postponement the exploitation of an opportunity to broaden the original objective. Götz Aly
Götz Aly
Götz Aly is a German journalist, historian and social scientist.-Biography:After attending the German School of Journalists, Aly studied history and political science in Berlin...

 writes: "The postponement followed, one could assert, the political confusion that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had caused. But Gerlach substantiates with convincing details that the originally planned Wannsee Conference had an entirely different theme than that which actually took place six weeks later. It had only been anticipated to discuss problems that occurred with the deportations of the (Greater) German Jews... Only after Hitler's speech of 12 December was Heydrich able, as Gerlach shows, to broaden the theme and fix a conference on the 'Final Solution of the European Jewish question'."
The venue for the rescheduled conference was changed to a villa at 56–58 Am Großen Wannsee, a quiet residential street across the Grosser Wannsee from the popular Wannsee beach. The villa, built in 1914, had been purchased from Friedrich Minoux
Friedrich Minoux
Friedrich Minoux was a German industrialist and financier who is best known for being one of the owners of the Wannsee House, where the namesake conference that would decide the fate of millions at the hands of the Nazis during World War II was held in early 1942.-Early life:Born in the Pfalz...

 in 1940 by the SS for use as a conference centre.

List of attendees

When the conference finally assembled at midday on 20 January those present were:
Name Photo Title Organization Superior
SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

Chief of the RSHA
RSHA
The RSHA, or Reichssicherheitshauptamt was an organization subordinate to Heinrich Himmler in his dual capacities as Chef der Deutschen Polizei and Reichsführer-SS...


Deputy Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia
Presiding.
Schutzstaffel
Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

Dr. Josef Bühler
Josef Bühler
Josef Bühler was a Nazi war criminal, secretary and deputy governor to the Nazi-controlled General Government in Kraków during World War II.- Background :...

State Secretary General Government
General Government
The General Government was an area of Second Republic of Poland under Nazi German rule during World War II; designated as a separate region of the Third Reich between 1939–1945...

Governor-General Dr. Hans Frank
Hans Frank
Hans Michael Frank was a German lawyer who worked for the Nazi party during the 1920s and 1930s and later became a high-ranking official in Nazi Germany...

Dr. Roland Freisler
Roland Freisler
Roland Freisler was a prominent and notorious Nazi lawyer and judge. He was State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Justice and President of the People's Court , which was set up outside constitutional authority...

State Secretary Reich Ministry of Justice Reich Minister of Justice Dr. Franz Schlegelberger
Franz Schlegelberger
Louis Rudolph Franz Schlegelberger was State Secretary in the German Reich Ministry of Justice and served awhile as Justice Minister during the Third Reich. He was the highest-ranking defendant at the Judges' Trial in Nuremberg.- Early life :Schlegelberger was born into a Protestant salesman's...

SS-Gruppenführer Otto Hofmann
Otto Hofmann
Otto Hofmann was an Austrian SS-Gruppenführer and an official of Nazi Germany's "Race and Settlement Main Office".-Early life:Hofmann was born in Innsbruck, Tyrol. He served as a military pilot in World War I...

Head of the SS Race and Settlement Main Office (RuSHA
RuSHA
The Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt-SS , , was the organization responsible for "safeguarding the racial 'purity' of the SS" within Nazi Germany....

)
Schutzstaffel
Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

SS-Oberführer Dr. Gerhard Klopfer
Gerhard Klopfer
Gerhard Klopfer was an official of the Nazi Party and assistant to Martin Bormann in the Office of the Party Chancellery....

Permanent Secretary Nazi Party Chancellery Chief of the Party Chancellery Martin Bormann
Martin Bormann
Martin Ludwig Bormann was a prominent Nazi official. He became head of the Party Chancellery and private secretary to Adolf Hitler...

Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger
Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger
Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger was a German official and state secretary in the Reich Chancellery during the period of National Socialism...

Permanent Secretary Reich Chancellery
Reich Chancellery
The Reich Chancellery was the traditional name of the office of the Chancellor of Germany in the period of the German Reich from 1871 to 1945...

Reich Minister and head of the Reich Chancellery Dr. Hans Lammers
Hans Lammers
Dr.jur. Hans Heinrich Lammers was a German jurist and prominent Nazi politician. From 1933 until 1945 he served as head of the Reich Chancellery under Adolf Hitler....

SS-Sturmbannführer Dr. Rudolf Lange
Rudolf Lange
Dr. Martin Franz Erwin Rudolf Lange was a prominent Nazi police official. He served as commander of the SD and SIPO in Riga, Latvia...

Commander of the SiPo
Sicherheitspolizei
The Sicherheitspolizei , often abbreviated as SiPo, was a term used in Nazi Germany to describe the state political and criminal investigation security agencies. It was made up by the combined forces of the Gestapo and the Kripo between 1936 and 1939...

 and the SD
Sicherheitsdienst
Sicherheitsdienst , full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. The organization was the first Nazi Party intelligence organization to be established and was often considered a "sister organization" with the...

 for the General-District Latvia
Deputy of the Commander of the SiPo and the SD for the Reichskommissariat Ostland
Reichskommissariat Ostland
Reichskommissariat Ostland, literally "Reich Commissariat Eastland", was the civilian occupation regime established by Nazi Germany in the Baltic states and much of Belarus during World War II. It was also known as Reichskommissariat Baltenland initially...

.
SiPo and SD, RSHA, Schutzstaffel SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor der Polizei Dr. Franz Walter Stahlecker
Franz Walter Stahlecker
Franz Walter Stahlecker was Commander of the Sicherheitspolizei and the Sicherheitsdienst for the Reichskommissariat Ostland in 1941/42...

Dr. Georg Leibbrandt
Georg Leibbrandt
Georg Leibbrandt was a scholar and politician in the Nazi Party.- Early life :Leibbrandt was born to ethnic German parents in Torosovo , near Odessa, in the Zebrikovo district of the Tsarist Russia...

Reichsamtleiter Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories
Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories
The Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories was created by Adolf Hitler on July 1941 and headed by the Nazi theoretical expert and Baltic German, Alfred Rosenberg. Alfred Meyer was Rosenberg's deputy. This ministry was created to control the vast areas captured by the Germans in...

Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories Dr. Alfred Rosenberg
Alfred Rosenberg
' was an early and intellectually influential member of the Nazi Party. Rosenberg was first introduced to Adolf Hitler by Dietrich Eckart; he later held several important posts in the Nazi government...

Martin Luther
Martin Luther (diplomat)
Martin Franz Julius Luther was an early member of the Nazi Party. He served as an advisor to Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, first in the Dienststelle Ribbentrop , and later in the Auswärtiges Amt as a diplomat when von Ribbentrop replaced Konstantin von Neurath...

Under Secretary Reich Foreign Ministry Reich Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938 until 1945. He was later hanged for war crimes after the Nuremberg Trials.-Early life:...

Dr. Alfred Meyer
Alfred Meyer
Dr. Alfred Meyer was a Nazi official, achieving the rank of Staatssekretär and Deputy Reichsminister in the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories .-Early life:Meyer was born in Göttingen, the son of a government official...

Gauleiter
Gauleiter
A Gauleiter was the party leader of a regional branch of the NSDAP or the head of a Gau or of a Reichsgau.-Creation and Early Usage:...


State Secretary and Deputy Reich Minister
Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories
Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories
The Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories was created by Adolf Hitler on July 1941 and headed by the Nazi theoretical expert and Baltic German, Alfred Rosenberg. Alfred Meyer was Rosenberg's deputy. This ministry was created to control the vast areas captured by the Germans in...

Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories Dr. Alfred Rosenberg
SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller Chief of Amt IV (Gestapo
Gestapo
The Gestapo was the official secret police of Nazi Germany. Beginning on 20 April 1934, it was under the administration of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police...

)
Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), Schutzstaffel Chief of the RSHA SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich
Erich Neumann
Erich Neumann (politician)
Erich Neumann was a Nazi politician.Neumann was born in Forst into a Protestant family. His father was a factory-owner....

State Secretary Office of the Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan
Four year plan
The Four Year Plan was a series of economic reforms created by the Nazi Party. The main aim of the four year plan was to prepare Germany for war in four years...

Plenipotentiary of the Four Year Plan Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

SS-Oberführer Dr. Karl Eberhard Schöngarth
Karl Eberhard Schöngarth
Eberhard Karl Schöngarth was a German Nazi, appointed SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Polizei on Himmler’s orders in 1943. He was a war criminal who perpetrated mass murder and genocide in occupied Poland during the Holocaust.Schöngarth was born in Leipzig, Saxony...

Commander of the SiPo and the SD in the General Government SiPo and SD, RSHA, Schutzstaffel Chief of the RSHA SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich
Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart
Wilhelm Stuckart
Wilhelm Stuckart was a Nazi Party lawyer and official, a state secretary in the German Interior Ministry and later, a convicted war criminal.-Early life:...

State Secretary Reich Interior Ministry Reich Minister of the Interior Dr. Wilhelm Frick
Wilhelm Frick
Wilhelm Frick was a prominent German Nazi official serving as Minister of the Interior of the Third Reich. After the end of World War II, he was tried for war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials and executed...

SS-Obersturmbannführer
Obersturmbannführer
Obersturmbannführer was a paramilitary Nazi Party rank used by both the SA and the SS. It was created in May 1933 to fill the need for an additional field grade officer rank above Sturmbannführer as the SA expanded. It became an SS rank at the same time...

 Adolf Eichmann
Adolf Eichmann
Adolf Otto Eichmann was a German Nazi and SS-Obersturmbannführer and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust...

Head of Referat IV B4 of the Gestapo
Recording secretary
Gestapo, RSHA, Schutzstaffel Chief of Amt IV SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller


In preparation for the conference, Eichmann drafted a list of the numbers of Jews in the various European countries (pictured below). Countries were listed in two groups "A" and "B". "A" countries were those under direct Reich control or occupation (or partially occupied and quiescent, in the case of France); "B" countries were allied or client states, neutral, or at war with Germany. The numbers reflect actions already completed by Nazi forces; for example, Estonia is listed as judenfrei ("free of Jews"), as the thousand Jews who remained in Estonia after the German occupation had been virtually exterminated by the end of 1941. English translation:

[List] A.
  • Old Reich [Germany proper]: 131,800
  • Ostmark
    Ostmark (Austria)
    Ostmark was the name used by Nazi propaganda to replace that of the formerly independent Austria after the Anschluss annexation of that country by Nazi Germany in 1938....

     [Austria]: 43,700
  • Eastern Territories
    Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany
    At the beginning of World War II, nearly a quarter of the pre-war Polish areas were annexed by Nazi Germany and placed directly under German civil administration, while the rest of Nazi occupied Poland was named as General Government...

     [Polish areas annexed by the Reich]: 420,000
  • General Government
    General Government
    The General Government was an area of Second Republic of Poland under Nazi German rule during World War II; designated as a separate region of the Third Reich between 1939–1945...

     [occupied Polish lands]: 2,284,000
  • Bialystok
    Bezirk Bialystok
    The Bezirk Bialystok , also Belostok was an administrative unit that existed during the World War II occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany...

     [district in eastern Poland, under German civil administration]: 400,000
  • Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
    Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
    The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was the majority ethnic-Czech protectorate which Nazi Germany established in the central parts of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia in what is today the Czech Republic...

    : 74,200
  • Estonia
    Estonia
    Estonia , officially the Republic of Estonia , is a state in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea, to the south by Latvia , and to the east by Lake Peipsi and the Russian Federation . Across the Baltic Sea lies...

    : free of Jews
  • Latvia
    Latvia
    Latvia , officially the Republic of Latvia , is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by Estonia , to the south by Lithuania , to the east by the Russian Federation , to the southeast by Belarus and shares maritime borders to the west with Sweden...

    : 3,500
  • Lithuania
    Lithuania
    Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

    : 34,000
  • Belgium
    Belgium
    Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

    : 43,000
  • Denmark
    Denmark
    Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

    : 5,600
  • France
    France
    The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

    /occupied territory: 165,000
    • unoccupied territory
      Vichy France
      Vichy France, Vichy Regime, or Vichy Government, are common terms used to describe the government of France that collaborated with the Axis powers from July 1940 to August 1944. This government succeeded the Third Republic and preceded the Provisional Government of the French Republic...

      : 700,000
  • Greece
    Greece
    Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

    : 69,600
  • Netherlands
    Netherlands
    The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

    : 160,800
  • Norway
    Norway
    Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

    : 1,300


[List] B.
  • Bulgaria
    Bulgaria
    Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

    : 48,000
  • England [i.e. United Kingdom
    United Kingdom
    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

    ]: 330,000
  • Finland
    Finland
    Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

    : 2,300
  • Ireland
    Ireland
    Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

    : 4,000
  • Italy
    Italy
    Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

     including Sardinia
    Sardinia
    Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea . It is an autonomous region of Italy, and the nearest land masses are the French island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia and the Spanish Balearic Islands.The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard[],...

    : 58,000
  • Albania
    Albania
    Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

    : 200
  • Croatia
    Croatia
    Croatia , officially the Republic of Croatia , is a unitary democratic parliamentary republic in Europe at the crossroads of the Mitteleuropa, the Balkans, and the Mediterranean. Its capital and largest city is Zagreb. The country is divided into 20 counties and the city of Zagreb. Croatia covers ...

    : 40,000
  • Portugal
    Portugal
    Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

    : 3,000
  • Romania
    Romania
    Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

     including Bessarabia
    Bessarabia
    Bessarabia is a historical term for the geographic region in Eastern Europe bounded by the Dniester River on the east and the Prut River on the west....

    : 342,000
  • Sweden
    Sweden
    Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

    : 8,000
  • Switzerland
    Switzerland
    Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

    : 18,000
  • Serbia
    Serbia
    Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

    : 10,000
  • Slovakia
    Slovakia
    The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

    : 88,000
  • Spain
    Spain
    Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

    : 6,000
  • Turkey
    Turkey
    Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

     (European portion): 55,500
  • Hungary
    Hungary
    Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

    : 742,800
  • USSR: 5,000,000 [including subtotals for:]
    • Belarus
      Belarus
      Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

       exclusive of Bialystok: 446,484
    • Ukraine
      Ukraine
      Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

      : 2,994,684


"Total: over 11,000,000"

For comparison see "Jewish Lists" of the Korherr Report
Korherr Report
The Korherr Report is a document on the numbers of Jews in Germany and Europe as of January 1, 1943, written by the chief inspector of the statistical bureau of the SS, Dr Richard Korherr.- Significance :...

 of January 18, 1943.

Proceedings

Heydrich opened the conference with an account of the anti-Jewish measures taken in Germany since the Nazi seizure of power in 1933. He said that between 1933 and 1941, 530,000 German and Austrian Jews had emigrated. This information was taken from a briefing paper prepared for him the previous week by Eichmann who, after his experience in organizing the forced emigration of the Viennese Jews in 1938, had become the leading expert on the practicalities of solving the "Jewish question".

Heydrich reported that there were approximately eleven million Jews in the whole of Europe, of whom half were in countries not under German control. He explained that since further emigration of European Jews had been prohibited by the authorities, "another possible solution of the problem has now taken the place of emigration, i.e. the evacuation of the Jews to the East"; this would be a "provisional" solution, but "practical experience" was already being collected for the "future final solution of the Jewish question".

Holocaust denialists claim that the Wannsee Conference decided on no more than the "evacuation" of the Jewish population of Europe to the east, with no reference to killing them. In fact, Heydrich made the ultimate fate intended for the evacuees clear:
"Under proper guidance, in the course of the final solution the Jews are to be allocated for appropriate labor in the East. Able-bodied Jews, separated according to sex, will be taken in large work columns to these areas for work on roads, in the course of which action doubtless a large portion will be eliminated by natural causes. The possible final remnant will, since it will undoubtedly consist of the most resistant portion, have to be treated accordingly, because it is the product of natural selection and would, if released, act as the seed of a new Jewish revival".

No one at the meeting can have misunderstood Heydrich's meaning. The historian Christopher Browning
Christopher Browning
Christopher Robert Browning is an American historian of the Holocaust.-Education:Browning received his bachelor's degree from Oberlin College in 1968 and his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1975. He taught at Pacific Lutheran University from 1974 to 1999, eventually becoming...

 observes: "No less than eight of the fifteen participants held the doctorate. Thus it was not a dimwitted crowd unable to grasp what was going to be said to them. Nor were they going to be overcome with surprise or shock, for Heydrich was not talking to the uninitiated or squeamish."

Heydrich went on to say that in the course of the "practical execution of the final solution", Europe would be "combed through from west to east", but that Germany, Austria and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was the majority ethnic-Czech protectorate which Nazi Germany established in the central parts of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia in what is today the Czech Republic...

 would have priority "due to the housing problem and additional social and political necessities". This was a reference to increasing pressure from the regional Nazi Party leaders in Germany, the Gauleiters, for the Jews to be removed from their areas to allow accommodation for Germans made homeless by Allied bombing, as well as for labourers being imported from occupied countries. The "evacuated" Jews, he said, would first be sent to "transit ghettos" in the General Government, from which they would be transported to the East.
Heydrich said that to avoid legal and political difficulties, it was important to define who was a Jew for the purposes of "evacuation". He outlined categories of people who would be exempted. Jews over 65 years old, and Jewish World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 veterans alike, who had been severely wounded or who had won the Iron Cross
Iron Cross
The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

, would be sent to the "model" concentration camp at Theresienstadt
Theresienstadt concentration camp
Theresienstadt concentration camp was a Nazi German ghetto during World War II. It was established by the Gestapo in the fortress and garrison city of Terezín , located in what is now the Czech Republic.-History:The fortress of Terezín was constructed between the years 1780 and 1790 by the orders...

. "With this expedient solution," he said, "in one fell swoop many interventions will be prevented."

The situation of people who were in a "racial" sense half or quarter Jews, and of Jews who were married to non-Jews, was more complex. Under the Nuremberg Laws
Nuremberg Laws
The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 were antisemitic laws in Nazi Germany introduced at the annual Nuremberg Rally of the Nazi Party. After the takeover of power in 1933 by Hitler, Nazism became an official ideology incorporating scientific racism and antisemitism...

 of 1935, their status had been left deliberately ambiguous. Heydrich announced that "mischling
Mischling
Mischling was the German term used during the Third Reich to denote persons deemed to have only partial Aryan ancestry. The word has essentially the same origin as mestee in English, mestizo in Spanish and métis in French...

s" (a Nazi pejorative for mixed-"race" persons) of the first degree (persons with two Jewish grandparents), would be treated as Jews. This would not apply if they were married to a non-Jew and had children by that marriage. It would also not apply if they had been granted written exemption by "the highest offices of the Party and State." Such persons would instead be sterilised.

"Mischlings of the second degree" (persons with one Jewish grandparent) would be treated as Germans unless they were married to Jews or mischlings of the first degree, or had a "racially especially undesirable appearance that marks him outwardly as a Jew", or had a "political record that shows that he feels and behaves like a Jew". Persons in these latter categories would be deported even if married to non-Jews.
In the case of mixed marriages, Heydrich advocated a policy of caution, "with regard to the effects on the German relatives". If such a marriage had produced children who were being raised as Germans, the Jewish partner would not be deported. If they were being raised as Jews, they might be deported, or sent to Theresienstadt, depending on the circumstances. These exemptions applied only to German and Austrian Jews, and were not always observed even in regard to them. In most of the occupied countries, Jews were rounded up and deported en masse, and anyone who lived in or identified with the Jewish community in a given place was regarded as a Jew. One of the few exceptions to this was France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, where the Vichy French
Vichy France
Vichy France, Vichy Regime, or Vichy Government, are common terms used to describe the government of France that collaborated with the Axis powers from July 1940 to August 1944. This government succeeded the Third Republic and preceded the Provisional Government of the French Republic...

 regime, in exchange for ready co-operation, was able to apply its own rules, affecting mainly refugees and recent immigrants rather than French-born Jews. Heydrich commented: "In occupied and unoccupied France, the registration of Jews for evacuation will in all probability proceed without great difficulty", but in fact the great majority of French-born Jews survived. In Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

, relatively few Jews were ultimately exterminated, due to strong opposition by the King and the populace and the actions of Danish partisans in evacuating most of the Jewish population to Sweden.

More difficulty was anticipated with Germany's allies, Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 and Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

. "In Romania the government has [now] appointed a commissioner for Jewish affairs", Heydrich said, but in fact the deportation of Romanian Jews was slow and inefficient despite the high degree of popular anti-Semitism. "In order to settle the question in Hungary," Heydrich said, "it will soon be necessary to force an adviser for Jewish questions onto the Hungarian government". The Hungarian regime of Miklós Horthy
Miklós Horthy
Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya was the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary during the interwar years and throughout most of World War II, serving from 1 March 1920 to 15 October 1944. Horthy was styled "His Serene Highness the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary" .Admiral Horthy was an officer of the...

 continued to resist German interference in its Jewish policy until 1944, when Horthy was overthrown (by Nazi intervention) and 500,000 Hungarian Jews sent to their deaths by Eichmann.

Heydrich spoke for nearly an hour. Then followed about thirty minutes of questions and comments, followed by some less formal conversation. Luther from the Foreign Office urged caution in Scandinavia, "Nordic" countries where public opinion was not hostile to the small Jewish populations and would react badly to unpleasant scenes. Hofmann and Stuckart pointed out the legalistic and administrative difficulties over mixed marriages, arguing for compulsory dissolution of marriages to prevent legal disputes and for the wider use of sterilisation as an alternative to deportation. Neumann from the Four Year Plan argued for the exemption of Jews who were working in industries vital to the war effort and for whom no replacements are available. Heydrich (keen not to offend Neumann's boss Hermann Göring) assured him that these Jews would not be "evacuated". There were questions about the mischlings and those in mixed marriages: the details of these complex questions were put off until a later meeting.

Finally Bühler of the General Government in occupied Poland stated that:
"the General Government would welcome it if the final solution of this problem could be begun in the General Government, since on the one hand transportation does not play such a large role here nor would problems of labor supply hamper this action. Jews must be removed from the territory of the General Government as quickly as possible, since it is especially here that the Jew as an epidemic carrier represents an extreme danger and on the other hand he is causing permanent chaos in the economic structure of the country through continued black market dealings."

Omissions

The above account is based on the minutes taken by Eichmann, copies of which were sent by Eichmann to all the participants after the meeting. Most of these copies were destroyed at the end of the war as participants and other officials sought to cover their tracks. It was not until 1947 that a copy of the minutes (known from the German word for "minutes" as the "Wannsee Protocol") was found by Robert Kempner
Robert Kempner
Robert Kempner was a German-born American lawyer.Kempner was a successful Jewish lawyer in Berlin during the 1920s who then became the chief legal advisor to the Prussian police...

, lead U.S. prosecutor before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg
Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany....

, in the papers of Undersecretary Martin Luther, who had died in May 1945. By this time the more important participants in the meeting were dead or missing (Heydrich, Müller, Eichmann), and most of the others denied knowledge of the meeting or claimed that they could not remember what had occurred there. Only Kritzinger ever showed any genuine remorse for his role in preparing the Final Solution.

The minutes of the Wannsee Conference, however, do not mention killing. These omissions were not fully elucidated until the interrogation and trial of Eichmann in Israel in 1962. Eichmann told his questioners that towards the end of the meeting cognac was served, and that after that the conversation became less restrained. "The gentlemen were standing together, or sitting together", he said, "and were discussing the subject quite bluntly, quite differently from the language which I had to use later in the record. During the conversation they minced no words about it at all ... they spoke about methods of killing, about liquidation, about extermination".

Eichmann recorded that Heydrich was pleased with the course of the meeting. He "gave expression to his great satisfaction", and allowed himself a glass of cognac, although he rarely drank. He "had expected considerable stumbling blocks and difficulties", Eichmann recalled, but instead he had found "an atmosphere not only of agreement on the part of the participants, but more than that, one could feel an agreement which had assumed a form which had not been expected". At the conclusion of the meeting Heydrich gave Eichmann firm instructions about what was to appear in the minutes. They were not to be verbatim: Eichmann would "clean them up" so that nothing too explicit appeared in them. He said at his trial: "How shall I put it—certain over-plain talk and jargon expressions had to be rendered into office language by me". As a result, the last twenty minutes of the meeting, in which, as Eichmann recalled, words like "liquidation" and "extermination" were freely used, were summed up in one bland sentence: "In conclusion the different types of possible solutions were discussed". Thus the minutes must be read in conjunction with Eichmann's testimony to get as near as is possible to a full account of what took place.

Interpretation

The Wannsee Conference only lasted about ninety minutes, and for most of its participants it was one meeting among many in a busy week. The enormous importance which has been attached to the conference by postwar writers was not evident to most of its participants at the time. Heydrich did not call the meeting to make fundamental new decisions on the Jewish question. Massive killings of Jews in the conquered territories in the Soviet Union and Poland (e.g., at Chelmno
Chelmno extermination camp
Chełmno extermination camp, also known as the Kulmhof concentration camp, was a Nazi German extermination camp that was situated 50 kilometres from Łódź, near a small village called Chełmno nad Nerem . After annexation by Germany Kulmhof was included into Reichsgau Wartheland in 1939...

) were ongoing and new extermination camps were in preparation at the time of the conference. Fundamental decisions about the extermination of the Jews, as everybody at the meeting understood, were made by Hitler, in consultation, if he chose, with senior colleagues such as Himmler and Göring, and not by officials. They knew that in this case the decision had already been made, and that Heydrich was there as Himmler's emissary to tell them about it. Nor did the conference engage in detailed logistical planning. It could hardly do so in the absence of a representative of the Transport Ministry or the German Railways.

Eichmann's biographer David Cesarani
David Cesarani
David Cesarani OBE is an English historian who specialises in Jewish history, especially the Holocaust. He has also written several biographies, notably Arthur Koestler: The Homeless Mind.-Early life:...

 says that Heydrich's main purpose was to impose his own authority on the various ministries and agencies involved in Jewish policy matters, to avoid any repetition of the disputes that had arisen over the killing of the German Jews at Riga in late November. "The simplest, most decisive way that Heydrich could ensure the smooth flow of deportations", he writes, "was by asserting his total control over fate of the Jews in the Reich and the east, and [by] cow[ing] other interested parties into toeing the line of the RSHA". This would explain why most of the meeting was taken up with a long speech by Heydrich, the contents of which would not have been news to most of those present, and why so little time was spent discussing practical questions. It was also important to obtain the consent of the Foreign Ministry and the Four Year Plan, the ministries most likely to object (on diplomatic and economic grounds) to the mass killing of the Jews.

The leading German historian Peter Longerich
Peter Longerich
Professor Peter Longerich is a German historian.In 2002-03, Professor Longerich was the third holder of the Visiting Chair at the Fritz Bauer Institute in Frankfurt. In 2003-04, he was J.B...

 agrees, but suggests a second motive: to make all the leading ministries accomplices in Heydrich's plan.
"From Heydrich’s point of view," he writes, "the main purposes of the conference were, firstly, to establish the overall control of the deportation programme by the RSHA over a number of important Reich authorities and thereby, secondly, to make the top representatives of the ministerial bureaucracy into accomplices and accessories to, and co-responsible for, the plan he was pursuing. To reiterate: the plan was to exile all Jews in the present and future areas under German rule to Eastern Europe, where they were to be exposed to extraordinarily harsh living conditions and fatally exhausted or murdered. Heydrich had pursued this deportation plan since the beginning of 1941; in July 1941, Göring had given him the authority to execute it; and with the first deportation of Jews from central Europe in October, the first stage in that pan-European design had been realized. With his first invitation to the conference, Heydrich had waited until the second wave of deportations to Riga, Minsk and Kovno had already begun. He clearly wanted to present the representatives of the supreme Reich authorities with a fait accompli".

Fates of the attendees

In order of death
  • Reinhard Heydrich
    Reinhard Heydrich
    Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

     died in Prague on 4 June 1942 as a result of injuries sustained during a May 27 attack
    Operation Anthropoid
    Operation Anthropoid was the code name for the targeted killing of top German SS leader Reinhard Heydrich. He was the chief of the Reich Main Security Office , the acting Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, and a chief planner of the Final Solution, the Nazi German programme for the genocide of the...

     by Czech and Slovak
    Slovaks
    The Slovaks, Slovak people, or Slovakians are a West Slavic people that primarily inhabit Slovakia and speak the Slovak language, which is closely related to the Czech language.Most Slovaks today live within the borders of the independent Slovakia...

     resistance fighters parachuted in from England
    England
    England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

    .
  • Roland Freisler
    Roland Freisler
    Roland Freisler was a prominent and notorious Nazi lawyer and judge. He was State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Justice and President of the People's Court , which was set up outside constitutional authority...

     was killed in a USAAF
    United States Army Air Forces
    The United States Army Air Forces was the military aviation arm of the United States of America during and immediately after World War II, and the direct predecessor of the United States Air Force....

     air-raid in Berlin
    Berlin
    Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

     in February 1945.
  • Rudolf Lange
    Rudolf Lange
    Dr. Martin Franz Erwin Rudolf Lange was a prominent Nazi police official. He served as commander of the SD and SIPO in Riga, Latvia...

     was said to have been killed in action in Poland
    Poland
    Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

     in February 1945 but his exact fate remains unclear.
  • Alfred Meyer
    Alfred Meyer
    Dr. Alfred Meyer was a Nazi official, achieving the rank of Staatssekretär and Deputy Reichsminister in the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories .-Early life:Meyer was born in Göttingen, the son of a government official...

     killed himself in April 1945.
  • Heinrich Müller was last seen in Berlin
    Berlin
    Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

     on 29 April 1945. His fate is unknown, but he probably died in Berlin in the next few days.
  • Martin Luther
    Martin Luther (diplomat)
    Martin Franz Julius Luther was an early member of the Nazi Party. He served as an advisor to Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, first in the Dienststelle Ribbentrop , and later in the Auswärtiges Amt as a diplomat when von Ribbentrop replaced Konstantin von Neurath...

     finished the war in a German concentration camp after falling out with Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop
    Joachim von Ribbentrop
    Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938 until 1945. He was later hanged for war crimes after the Nuremberg Trials.-Early life:...

     in 1943. After being freed by the Soviets, Luther died in Berlin in May 1945.
  • Karl Eberhard Schöngarth
    Karl Eberhard Schöngarth
    Eberhard Karl Schöngarth was a German Nazi, appointed SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Polizei on Himmler’s orders in 1943. He was a war criminal who perpetrated mass murder and genocide in occupied Poland during the Holocaust.Schöngarth was born in Leipzig, Saxony...

     was executed for war crimes (killing British prisoners of war) in May 1946.
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger
    Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger
    Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger was a German official and state secretary in the Reich Chancellery during the period of National Socialism...

     was acquitted of war crimes and died in October 1947.
  • Josef Bühler
    Josef Bühler
    Josef Bühler was a Nazi war criminal, secretary and deputy governor to the Nazi-controlled General Government in Kraków during World War II.- Background :...

     was tried in Poland for war crimes and executed in Kraków
    Kraków
    Kraków also Krakow, or Cracow , is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life...

     in July 1948.
  • Erich Neumann
    Erich Neumann (politician)
    Erich Neumann was a Nazi politician.Neumann was born in Forst into a Protestant family. His father was a factory-owner....

     was briefly imprisoned and died in mid-1948.
  • Wilhelm Stuckart
    Wilhelm Stuckart
    Wilhelm Stuckart was a Nazi Party lawyer and official, a state secretary in the German Interior Ministry and later, a convicted war criminal.-Early life:...

     was imprisoned for four years before being released for lack of evidence in 1949. He was killed in a car accident in November, 1953.
  • Adolf Eichmann
    Adolf Eichmann
    Adolf Otto Eichmann was a German Nazi and SS-Obersturmbannführer and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust...

     managed to escape to Argentina
    Argentina
    Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...

     where he lived under a false identity. In 1960 he was kidnapped by Israeli agents, imprisoned in Israel
    Israel
    The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

    , sentenced to death after a trial, and finally executed in May 1962.
  • Georg Leibbrandt
    Georg Leibbrandt
    Georg Leibbrandt was a scholar and politician in the Nazi Party.- Early life :Leibbrandt was born to ethnic German parents in Torosovo , near Odessa, in the Zebrikovo district of the Tsarist Russia...

     was charged with war crimes but the case against him was dismissed in 1950. He died in June 1982.
  • Otto Hofmann
    Otto Hofmann
    Otto Hofmann was an Austrian SS-Gruppenführer and an official of Nazi Germany's "Race and Settlement Main Office".-Early life:Hofmann was born in Innsbruck, Tyrol. He served as a military pilot in World War I...

     was sentenced to 25 years in prison for war crimes, but was pardoned in 1954. He died in December 1982.
  • Gerhard Klopfer
    Gerhard Klopfer
    Gerhard Klopfer was an official of the Nazi Party and assistant to Martin Bormann in the Office of the Party Chancellery....

     was charged with war crimes but was released for lack of evidence. He became a tax advisor, later dying in January 1987.

Wannsee House Holocaust Memorial

In 1965, historian Joseph Wulf
Joseph Wulf
Joseph Wulf was a German-Polish-Jewish historian and Holocaust survivor.-Early life:...

 tried to have the Wannsee House
Wannsee House and the Holocaust
Wannsee House and the Holocaust by Steven Lehrer tells the story of the elegant suburban Berlin villa where the Wannsee Conference took place on January 20, 1942. At that meeting, Reinhard Heydrich announced the plans for the deportation and extermination of all Jews in German-occupied territory...

 made into a Holocaust memorial and document center. But the Senate of Berlin
Senate of Berlin
The Senate of Berlin is the executive body governing the city of Berlin, which at the same time is a state of Germany. According to the Constitution of Berlin the Senate consists of the Governing Mayor of Berlin and up to eight Senators appointed by the Governing Mayor, two of whom are appointed ...

 did not want Holocaust Memorials and spurned Joseph Wulf. In his last letter to his son David, 2 August 1974, Wulf wrote, "I have published 18 books about the Third Reich and they have had no effect. You can document everything to death for the Germans. There is a democratic regime in Bonn. Yet the mass murderers walk around free, live in their little houses, and grow flowers." Deeply despondent over the death of his wife and the collapse of his plans for a document center, Wulf committed suicide, age 61, by jumping from the fifth floor window of his Berlin apartment, Giesebrechtstraße 12, Charlottenburg. In 1992 the Wannsee House became a Holocaust memorial. The Joseph Wulf Bibliothek/Mediothek on the second floor holds thousands of books on Nazism, anti-Semitism, and the Jewish genocide, along with many videos, microfilm texts, and original Nazi era documents. Wulf’s last letter is on display in Berlin’s Jewish Museum.

Dramatization

The events of the Conference have been dramatized in two films.
  • The 1984 German television film Wannseekonferenz (The Wannsee Conference) runs 85 minutes—exactly the length of the conference itself, with a script derived from the minutes of the meeting.
  • In 2001 the BBC/HBO film Conspiracy starred Kenneth Branagh
    Kenneth Branagh
    Kenneth Charles Branagh is an actor and film director from Northern Ireland. He is best known for directing and starring in several film adaptations of William Shakespeare's plays including Henry V , Much Ado About Nothing , Hamlet Kenneth Charles Branagh is an actor and film director from...

     as Heydrich and Stanley Tucci
    Stanley Tucci
    Stanley Tucci is an American actor, writer, film producer and film director. He has been nominated for several notable film awards, including an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for his performance in The Lovely Bones...

     as Eichmann and was also scripted according to the exact timeframe and minutes of the original meeting.
  • The Wannsee conference is central to the plot of the alternate-historical novel Fatherland
    Fatherland (novel)
    Fatherland is a bestselling 1992 thriller by the English writer and journalist Robert Harris. It takes the form of a high concept alternative history set in a world in which Nazi Germany won World War II.The novel was an immediate bestseller in Britain...

     by Robert Harris.

External links

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