The Wannsee Conference
On January 20, 1942 one of the most macabre conferences in history took place at an idyllic lakeside house Am Großen Wannsee 56/58 in Wannsee near Berlin. The subject was the organisation of the 'Final Solution', the destruction of all 11 million European Jews. In the relaxed and distinctively upper middle-class atmosphere of that SS guest-house fifteen highly placed Nazis met and discussed the best strategy for genocide, over a glass of good cognac. Without comment, high-ranking functionaries of the Party and the SS, as well as leading ministerial officials, were taking note of the lecture being delivered by Reinhard Heydrich, the chief of the security police and the SD, on the fate of the European Jews.
That meeting would pass into the history books as the ‘Wannsee Conference’. Taken by Adolf Eichmann, the minutes of this conference are one of the most important documents recorded on the planning and organization of the murder of European Jewry by the Nazi regime. Because of this document, the conference at Wannsee has become synonymous with the cold-blooded, administratively organized and delegated Nazi genocide.
Reinhard Heydrich, Adolf Eichmann and Roland Freisler
The minutes detail the decision, taken at Wannsee, to eliminate all Jews from Europe through a combination of "evacuation, deportation to the camps, liquidation, and ghettoization." The document's cool, factual tone and carefully tallied numbers are precisely what is meant by the phrase "the banality of evil." The Protocol of the Wannsee Conference is a horrifying document and ultimately six million Jews were to fall victim to the plans.
Stamp: Top Secret
Minutes of discussion.
The following persons took part in the discussion about the final solution of the Jewish question which took place in Berlin, am Grossen Wannsee No. 56/58 on 20 January 1942.
Gauleiter Dr. Meyer Reich Ministry for the Occupied and Reichsamtleiter Eastern territories Dr. Leibbrandt Secretary of State Dr. Stuckart Reich Ministry for the Interior Secretary of State Neumann Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan Secretary of State Dr. Freisler Reich Ministry of Justice Secretary of State Dr. Bühler Office of the Government General Under Secretary of State Foreign Office Dr. Luther SS-Oberführer Klopfer Party Chancellery Ministerialdirektor Kritzinger Reich Chancellery SS-Gruppenführer Hofmann Race and Settlement Main Office SS-Gruppenführer Müller Reich Main Security Office SS-Obersturmbannführer Eichmann SS-Oberführer Dr. Schöngarth Security Police and SD Commander of the Security Police and the SD in the Government General SS-Sturmbannführer Dr. Lange Security Police and SD Commander of the Security Police and the SD for the General-District Latvia, as deputy of the Commander of the Security Police and the SD for the Reich Commissariat "Eastland".
At the beginning of the discussion Chief of the Security Police and of the SD, SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich, reported that the Reich Marshal had appointed him delegate for the preparations for the final solution of the Jewish question in Europe and pointed out that this discussion had been called for the purpose of clarifying fundamental questions. The wish of the Reich Marshal to have a draft sent to him concerning organizational, factual and material interests in relation to the final solution of the Jewish question in Europe makes necessary an initial common action of all central offices immediately concerned with these questions in order to bring their general activities into line. The Reichsführer-SS and the Chief of the German Police (Chief of the Security Police and the SD) was entrusted with the official central handling of the final solution of the Jewish question without regard to geographic borders. The Chief of the Security Police and the SD then gave a short report of the struggle which has been carried on thus far against this enemy, the essential points being the following:
a) the expulsion of the Jews from every sphere of life of the German people,
b) the expulsion of the Jews from the living space of the German people.
In carrying out these efforts, an increased and planned acceleration of the emigration of the Jews from Reich territory was started, as the only possible present solution.
By order of the Reich Marshal, a Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration was set up in January 1939 and the Chief of the Security Police and SD was entrusted with the management. Its most important tasks were
a) to make all necessary arrangements for the preparation for an increased emigration of the Jews,
b) to direct the flow of emigration,
c) to speed the procedure of emigration in each individual case.
The aim of all this was to cleanse German living space of Jews in a legal manner.
All the offices realized the drawbacks of such enforced accelerated emigration. For the time being they had, however, tolerated it on account of the lack of other possible solutions of the problem.
The work concerned with emigration was, later on, not only a German problem, but also a problem with which the authorities of the countries to which the flow of emigrants was being directed would have to deal. Financial difficulties, such as the demand by various foreign governments for increasing sums of money to be presented at the time of the landing, the lack of shipping space, increasing restriction of entry permits, or the cancelling of such, increased extraordinarily the difficulties of emigration. In spite of these difficulties, 537,000 Jews were sent out of the country between the takeover of power and the deadline of 31 October 1941. Of these
approximately 360,000 were in Germany proper on 30 January 1933
approximately 147,000 were in Austria (Ostmark) on 15 March 1939
approximately 30,000 were in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia on 15 March 1939.
The Jews themselves, or their Jewish political organizations, financed the emigration. In order to avoid impoverished Jews' remaining behind, the principle was followed that wealthy Jews have to finance the emigration of poor Jews; this was arranged by imposing a suitable tax, i.e., an emigration tax, which was used for financial arrangements in connection with the emigration of poor Jews and was imposed according to income.
Apart from the necessary Reichsmark exchange, foreign currency had to presented at the time of landing. In order to save foreign exchange held by Germany, the foreign Jewish financial organizations were - with the help of Jewish organizations in Germany - made responsible for arranging an adequate amount of foreign currency. Up to 30 October 1941, these foreign Jews donated a total of around 9,500,000 dollars.
In the meantime the Reichsführer-SS and Chief of the German Police had prohibited emigration of Jews due to the dangers of an emigration in wartime and due to the possibilities of the East.
Another possible solution of the problem has now taken the place of emigration, i.e. 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, distributed as follows among the individual countries:
Country Number A. Germany proper 131,800 Austria 43,700 Eastern territories 420,000 General Government 2,284,000 Bialystok 400,000 Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia 74,200 Estonia - free of Jews - Latvia 3,500 Lithuania 34,000 Belgium 43,000 Denmark 5,600 France / occupied territory 165,000 unoccupied territory 700,000 Greece 69,600 Netherlands 160,800 Norway 1,300 B. Bulgaria 48,000 England 330,000 Finland 2,300 Ireland 4,000 Italy including Sardinia 58,000 Albania 200 Croatia 40,000 Portugal 3,000 Rumania including Bessarabia 342,000 Sweden 8,000 Switzerland 18,000 Serbia 10,000 Slovakia 88,000 Spain 6,000 Turkey (European portion) 55,500 Hungary 742,800 USSR 5,000,000 Ukraine 2,994,684 White Russia excluding Bialystok 446,484 Total over 11,000,000The number of Jews given here for foreign countries includes, however, only those Jews who still adhere to the Jewish faith, since some countries still do not have a definition of the term "Jew" according to racial principles.
The handling of the problem in the individual countries will meet with difficulties due to the attitude and outlook of the people there, especially in Hungary and Rumania. Thus, for example, even today the Jew can buy documents in Rumania that will officially prove his foreign citizenship.
The influence of the Jews in all walks of life in the USSR is well known. Approximately five million Jews live in the European part of the USSR, in the Asian part scarcely 1/4 million.
The breakdown of Jews residing in the European part of the USSR according to trades was approximately as follows:
Agriculture 9.1 % Urban workers 14.8 % In trade 20.0 % Employed by the state 23.4 % In private occupations such as medical profession, press, theater, etc. 32. 7%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 a the seed of a new Jewish revival (see the experience of history.)
In the course of the practical execution of the final solution, Europe will be combed through from west to east. Germany proper, including the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, will have to be handled first due to the housing problem and additional social and political necessities.
The evacuated Jews will first be sent, group by group, to so-called transit ghettos, from which they will be transported to the East.
SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich went on to say that an important prerequisite for the evacuation as such is the exact definition of the persons involved.
It is not intended to evacuate Jews over 65 years old, but to send them to an old-age ghetto - Theresienstadt is being considered for this purpose.
In addition to these age groups - of the approximately 280,000 Jews in Germany proper and Austria on 31 October 1941, approximately 30% are over 65 years old - severely wounded veterans and Jews with war decorations (Iron Cross I) will be accepted in the old-age ghettos. With this expedient solution, in one fell swoop many interventions will be prevented.
The beginning of the individual larger evacuation actions will largely depend on military developments. Regarding the handling of the final solution in those European countries occupied and influenced by us, it was proposed that the appropriate expert of the Foreign Office discuss the matter with the responsible official of the Security Police and SD.
In Slovakia and Croatia the matter is no longer so difficult, since the most substantial problems in this respect have already been brought near a solution. In Rumania the government has in the meantime also appointed a commissioner for Jewish affairs. In order to settle the question in Hungary, it will soon be necessary to force an adviser for Jewish questions onto the Hungarian government.
With regard to taking up preparations for dealing with the problem in Italy, SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich considers it opportune to contact the chief of police with a view to these problems.
In occupied and unoccupied France, the registration of Jews for evacuation will in all probability proceed without great difficulty.
Under Secretary of State Luther calls attention in this matter to the fact that in some countries, such as the Scandinavian states, difficulties will arise if this problem is dealt with thoroughly and that it will therefore be advisable to defer actions in these countries. Besides, in view of the small numbers of Jews affected, this deferral will not cause any substantial limitation.
The Foreign Office sees no great difficulties for southeast and western Europe.
SS-Gruppenführer Hofmann plans to send an expert to Hungary from the Race and Settlement Main Office for general orientation at the time when the Chief of the Security Police and SD takes up the matter there. It was decided to assign this expert from the Race and Settlement Main Office, who will not work actively, as an assistant to the police attaché.
In the course of the final solution plans, the Nuremberg Laws should provide a certain foundation, in which a prerequisite for the absolute solution of the problem is also the solution to the problem of mixed marriages and persons of mixed blood.
The Chief of the Security Police and the SD discusses the following points, at first theoretically, in regard to a letter from the chief of the Reich chancellery:
1) Treatment of Persons of Mixed Blood of the First Degree
Persons of mixed blood of the first degree will, as regards the final solution of the Jewish question, be treated as Jews.
From this treatment the following exceptions will be made:
a) Persons of mixed blood of the first degree married to persons of German blood if their marriage has resulted in children (persons of mixed blood of the second degree). These persons of mixed blood of the second degree are to be treated essentially as Germans.
b) Persons of mixed blood of the first degree, for whom the highest offices of the Party and State have already issued exemption permits in any sphere of life. Each individual case must be examined, and it is not ruled out that the decision may be made to the detriment of the person of mixed blood.
The prerequisite for any exemption must always be the personal merit of the person of mixed blood. (Not the merit of the parent or spouse of German blood.)
Persons of mixed blood of the first degree who are exempted from evacuation will be sterilized in order to prevent any offspring and to eliminate the problem of persons of mixed blood once and for all. Such sterilization will be voluntary. But it is required to remain in the Reich. The sterilized "person of mixed blood" is thereafter free of all restrictions to which he was previously subjected.
2) Treatment of Persons of Mixed Blood of the Second Degree
Persons of mixed blood of the second degree will be treated fundamentally as persons of German blood, with the exception of the following cases, in which the persons of mixed blood of the second degree will be considered as Jews:
a) The person of mixed blood of the second degree was born of a marriage in which both parents are persons of mixed blood.
b) The person of mixed blood of the second degree has a racially especially undesirable appearance that marks him outwardly as a Jew.
c) The person of mixed blood of the second degree has a particularly bad police and political record that shows that he feels and behaves like a Jew.
Also in these cases exemptions should not be made if the person of mixed blood of the second degree has married a person of German blood.
3) Marriages between Full Jews and Persons of German Blood.
Here it must be decided from case to case whether the Jewish partner will be evacuated or whether, with regard to the effects of such a step on the German relatives, [this mixed marriage] should be sent to an old-age ghetto.
4) Marriages between Persons of Mixed Blood of the First Degree and Persons of German Blood.
a) Without Children.
If no children have resulted from the marriage, the person of mixed blood of the first degree will be evacuated or sent to an old-age ghetto (same treatment as in the case of marriages between full Jews and persons of German blood, point 3.)
b) With Children.
If children have resulted from the marriage (persons of mixed blood of the second degree), they will, if they are to be treated as Jews, be evacuated or sent to a ghetto along with the parent of mixed blood of the first degree. If these children are to be treated as Germans (regular cases), they are exempted from evacuation as is therefore the parent of mixed blood of the first degree.
5) Marriages between Persons of Mixed Blood of the First Degree and Persons of Mixed Blood of the First Degree or Jews.
In these marriages (including the children) all members of the family will be treated as Jews and therefore be evacuated or sent to an old-age ghetto.
6) Marriages between Persons of Mixed Blood of the First Degree and Persons of Mixed Blood of the Second Degree.
In these marriages both partners will be evacuated or sent to an old-age ghetto without consideration of whether the marriage has produced children, since possible children will as a rule have stronger Jewish blood than the Jewish person of mixed blood of the second degree.
SS-Gruppenführer Hofmann advocates the opinion that sterilization will have to be widely used, since the person of mixed blood who is given the choice whether he will be evacuated or sterilized would rather undergo sterilization.
State Secretary Dr. Stuckart maintains that carrying out in practice of the just mentioned possibilities for solving the problem of mixed marriages and persons of mixed blood will create endless administrative work. In the second place, as the biological facts cannot be disregarded in any case, State Secretary Dr. Stuckart proposed proceeding to forced sterilization.
Furthermore, to simplify the problem of mixed marriages possibilities must be considered with the goal of the legislator saying something like: "These marriages have been dissolved."
With regard to the issue of the effect of the evacuation of Jews on the economy, State Secretary Neumann stated that Jews who are working in industries vital to the war effort, provided that no replacements are available, cannot be evacuated.
SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich indicated that these Jews would not be evacuated according to the rules he had approved for carrying out the evacuations then underway.
State Secretary Dr. Bühler 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. Moreover, of the approximately 2 1/2 million Jews concerned, the majority is unfit for work.
State Secretary Dr. Bühler stated further that the solution to the Jewish question in the General Government is the responsibility of the Chief of the Security Police and the SD and that his efforts would be supported by the officials of the General Government. He had only one request, to solve the Jewish question in this area as quickly as possible.
In conclusion the different types of possible solutions were discussed, during which discussion both Gauleiter Dr. Meyer and State Secretary Dr. Bühler took the position that certain preparatory activities for the final solution should be carried out immediately in the territories in question, in which process alarming the populace must be avoided.
The meeting was closed with the request of the Chief of the Security Police and the SD to the participants that they afford him appropriate support during the carrying out of the tasks involved in the solution.
This English text of the original German-language Wannsee protocol is based on the official U.S. government translation prepared for evidence in trials at Nuremberg, as reproduced in John Mendelsohn, ed., The Holocaust: Selected Documents in Eighteen Volumes. Vol. 11: The Wannsee Protocol and a 1944 Report on Auschwitz by the Office of Strategic Services (New York: Garland, 1982), 18-32. Revisions to the Nuremberg text were made for clarification and correction.
Berlin, July 31, 1941
To Gruppenführer Heydrich:
Supplementing the task assigned to you by the decree of January 24, 1939, to solve the Jewish problem by means of emigration and evacuation in the best possible way according to present conditions, I hereby charge you to carry out preparations as regards organizational, financial, and material matters for a total solution (Gesamtlösung) of the Jewish question in all the territories of Europe under German occupation.
Where the competency of other central organizations touches on this matter, these organizations are to collaborate.
I charge you further to submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired final solution (Endlösung) of the Jewish question.
Adolf Hitler's SS Men
Hitler surrounded himself with a small clique of fanatical, ruthless henchmen - a violent group of outsiders who rose to power in the Third Reich and established political and economic institutions of legitimized terror.
These masterminds of death were found to be quite psychologically normal. They were men of fine standing, husbands who morning and night kissed their wives, fathers who tucked their children into bed.
But murders, brutalities, cruelties, tortures, atrocities, and other inhuman acts were an everyday occurrence.
The European Jews were the primary victims of the Nazis. In 1933 nine million Jews lived in the 21 countries of Europe that would be occupied by Germany during the war. By 1945 two out of every three European Jews had been killed.
But Jews were not the only group singled out for persecution by Hitler's Nazi regime. One-half million Gypsies, 250,000 mentally or physically disabled persons, and more than three million Soviet prisoners-of-war also fell victim to Nazi genocide. Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Social Democrats, Communists, partisans, trade unionists, and Polish intelligentsia were also victims of the hate and aggression carried out by the Nazis.