The Wannsee Conference Essay

1768 words - 7 pages

On 20 January 1942, an interagency meeting of less than two hours, including lunch, was held at a lakeside villa, previously owned by Interpol, in Berlin's western suburb Wannsee to coordinate the implementation of the 'final solution of the Jewish question.' The meeting of high-ranking administrators of several ministries and other agencies was convened at the invitation of Reinhard Heydrich, head of the powerful Reich Security Main Office, on the basis of Göring's instructions to him six months earlier to make plans for a 'total solution.' In fact, by the time the meeting was held, the grim work had begun. The first systematic deportation of German Jews to the East had been undertaken, and mobile killing squads had already murdered many thousands of Jews, Gypsies, and others in the Soviet Union. Furthermore, murder by gas vans at Chelmno had started about six weeks before the Wannsee meeting. Thus, the Wannsee Conference was held to coordinate implementation of a 'final solution' already underway. (United 39)Adolf Eichmann, head of Department IVB4, the Gestapo's Jewish section, prepared the notes and summary known today as the Wannsee Protocol. It was carefully edited by his superiors, and euphemisms were used; the minutes spoke of 'the evacuation of the Jews to the East' and of allocation of the Jews 'for labor in the East, . . . in the course of which action a great part will undoubtedly be eliminated by natural causes.' At his trial in Jerusalem, however, Eichmann said:'These gentlemen were standing, or sitting together, and were discussing the subject quite bluntly, quite differently from the language I have used 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.'After the meeting, Eichmann reported, Heydrich expressed 'great satisfaction' and drank a glass of cognac. Thirty copies of the protocol were made, but only the sixteenth carbon copy survived. (United 39)At the Wannsee meeting, Heydrich calculated that eleven million European Jews were to be included in the 'final solution.' Other topics under discussion were mischlinge (half-Jews and quarter-Jews) and the deportation of all Jews in mixed marriages in Germany. Sterilization and compulsory divorce were mentioned as possible solutions, but no decision was taken. (United 39)The discussion about half-Jews and quarter-Jews continued in a second meeting on 6 March 1942, held at the offices of IVB4 in RSHA headquarters on the Kurfürstenstrasse in Berlin. Under Eichmann's chairmanship the meeting focused on a proposal for the compulsory sterilization of seventy thousand mischlinge of the 'first degree.' After months of interministerial correspondence, a third meeting was convened on 27 October 1942 at Eichmann's office. This session discussed the medical feasibility of sterilization and the problem of deciding the fate of Jews in mixed marriages. (United 39)The...

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