The Wannsee Conference held on January 20th, 1942, is seen as the meeting where the so-called 'Final Solution' was decided on. The conference at Wannsee was chaired by Reinhard Heydrich with the minutes being taken by Adolf Eichmann, pictured below.. At Wannsee, decisions were taken that led directly to the Holocaust - the setting up of death camps to eradicate Europe's Jews, gypsies etc.
Though the meeting at Wannsee was chaired by Heydrich, it was Eichmann who provided those summoned to the meeting with the figures about the number of Jews in Europe - both occupied by the Nazis and free of Nazi control at that time. The conference was meant to decide what to do with the Jews - and their solution was termed the 'Final Solution'.
The minutes for the conference were, not unnaturally, meant to be kept secret. However, one copy (the 16th out of the 30 produced) did survive and it provides historians with a detailed insight into the meeting. Those who attended the conference were:
|Gauleiter Dr Meyer||Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories|
|Reichsamtleiter Dr Leibbrandt||As above|
|Secretary of State Dr Stuckart||Reich Ministry for the Interior|
|Secretary of State Neumann||Plenipotentiary for the 4 year plan|
|Secretary of State Dr Freisler||Reich Ministry of Justice|
|Secretary of State Dr Buehler||Office of the Government General|
|Under Secretary of State Dr Luther||Foreign Office|
|SS-Oberführer Klopfer||Party Chancellery|
|Ministerialdirektor Kritzinger||Reich Chancellery|
|SS-Gruppenführer Hofmann||Race and Settlement Office|
|SS-Gruppenführer Mueller||Reich Main Security Office|
|SS-Obersturmbannführer Eichmann||Reich Main Security Office|
|SS-Oberführer Dr Schoengarth||Security Police and SD|
|SS-Sturmbannführer Dr Lange||Security Police and SD|
|SS Obergruppenführer Heydrich||Chief of the Security Police and SD|
The 'Wannsee Protocol', to a few, contains little that links the conference directly to the Holocaust. The statements in it are open to interpretation, especially the phrase 'final solution'. But very many believe that it was a very clear statement of intent and that the Holocaust followed on from this meeting and document. The very first full entry into the Wannsee Protocol refers to the "final solution of the Jewish question" and the words "final solution" are contained in the second full paragraph as well. The phrase is found regularly throughout the document.
In Paragraph III, Eichmann states the following:
possible solution of the problem (of the Jews) has now taken the place
of emigration, ie the evacuation of the Jews to the east, provided that
the Führer gives the appropriate approval in advance.
These actions are, however, only to be considered provisional, but practical experience is already being collected which is of the greatest importance in relation to the future final solution of the Jewish question.
Approximately 11 million Jews will be involved in the final solution of the European Jewish question."
One paragraph states:
the course of the Final Solution, the Jews will be allocated for
appropriate labour 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 wastage.
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 a seed of a new Jewish revival."
The Protocol gives very specific figures as to where Eichmann believed the Jews lived in Europe as a whole: Latvia - 3,500, the Netherlands - 69,600, Albania - 200, Belgium - 43,000, Russia - 5 million etc. His final total for Europe was 11 million.
The Protocol is also very precise as to who was a Jew and who was not. This primarily concerned marriages and children from marriages where one partner was a Jew and one was not. The document also states that Jews who were "severely wounded veterans" of World War One or Jews who held the Iron Cross First Class would be sent to old-age ghettos.
If the Wannsee Conference had been something else other than the plan for the mass murder of Jews in Europe, then Adolf Eichmann would have had the opportunity to state this at his trial in Israel in 1961. He did not - he merely defended himself by stating that he was simply obeying orders.