On November 29, 1941, Reinhard Heydrich sent out invitations to a "Final Solution" conference. Although the decision to kill the Jews had already been made, Heydrich realized that there were several impediments to carrying out this policy; he hoped to eliminate these at this conference. The invitations that he sent requested the attendance of state secretaries and chiefs of various offices in the Third Reich to a meeting on December 9, 1941 at noon with refreshments.1
After these invitations went out, the conference became "the thought, if not the topic, of the day."2
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the conference was rescheduled for January 20, 1942.
January 20, 1942
In a villa in Wannsee, a suburb of Berlin, fifteen men joined together to plan the implementation of the "Final Solution" against the Jews. In attendance were
- Dr. Josef Bühler (State Secretary for the Generalgouvernement)
- Adolf Eichmann (Chief of the Jewish Office of the Gestapo)
- Dr. Roland Freisler (State Secretary of the Justice Ministry)
- Reinhard Heydrich (Head of the Reich Main Security Office)
- Otto Hofmann (Head of the Race and Settlement Main Office)
- Gerhard Klopfer (State Secretary of the Party Chancellery)
- Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger (State Secretary of the Reich Chancellery)
- Dr. Rudolf Lange (Commander of Einsatzkommando 2)
- Dr. Georg Leibbrandt (Chief of the Political Division)
- Martin Luther (Under Secretary of the Foreign Office)
- Dr. Alfred Meyer (State Secretary for the Occupied Eastern Territories)
- Heinrich Müller (Chief of the Gestapo)
- Dr. Erich Neumann (State Secretary of the Office of the Four-Year Plan)
- Dr. Karl Eberhard Schöngarth (Commander of Security Police and Security Service in the Generalgouvernement)
- Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart (State Secretary of the Interior Ministry)
The new solution was to be the Final Solution. It was estimated at this meeting that 11 million Jews resided in Europe, including 330,000 in England (though England was not occupied, they were planning ahead).
The plan was to evacuate Jews from west to east. Supposedly, Jews were to be sent to the East to work in forced labor, though it was understood that "in the course of which action a great part will undoubtedly be eliminated by natural causes."5
The problem then remained with the remnant - the Jews still alive even after such harsh treatment, for they would "consist of the toughest . . . as it is the product of natural selection, and would, if liberated, act as a bud cell of a Jewish reconstruction."6 This remnant, it was decided, would be "treated accordingly."7
The discussion thus far had taken up approximately half of the conference - that is, thirty to forty-five minutes. The conference then turned to the discussion of people of "mixed blood" and Jews married to Germans. This was to finalize who was to be included in the Final Solution and who was to be excluded; most, it was decided, would be included.
Toward the end of the conference, Dr. Bühler spoke up and advocated for the start of the Final Solution to begin in the Generalgouvernement. He argued that transportation was not a problem and that the Jews in the Generalgouvernement were "unfit for work."8
After the Conference
After the conference ended, several of the participants mulled around discussing details of the conference. Heydrich was quite relaxed and very pleased for the conference had been a success, far more than he had hoped. Not only did he have the cooperation of the various departments to participate in the implementation of the Final Solution, he had their enthusiasm.
Within only an hour or hour and a half, the implementation of the Final Solution had been planned and the death sentence of millions passed down.
1. Christopher Browning, "Wannsee Conference," Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Ed. Israel Gutman. Vol. 4. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990) 1591.
2. Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, 3 vols. (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1985) 403.
3. Michael Berenbaum, ed. Witness to the Holocaust, (New York: HarperCollins, 1997) 166.
4. Berenbaum, Witness 166-167.
5. Berenbaum, Witness 168.
6. Berenbaum, Witness 168.
7. Berenbaum, Witness 168.
8. Berenbaum, Witness 170.
Berenbaum, Michael, ed. Witness to the Holocaust. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
Browning, Christopher. "Wannsee Conference." Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Ed. Israel Gutman. Vol. 4. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990. 1591-94.
Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews. 3 vols. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1985.
Yahil, Leni. The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.