Conspiracy is a 2001 BBC/HBO war film which dramatizes the 1942 Wannsee Conference. Using fictionalised dialogue, the film delves into the psychology of Nazi officials involved in the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" during World War II.
The movie was written by Loring Mandel, directed by Frank Pierson, and starred an ensemble cast, including Colin Firth, David Threlfall, Kenneth Branagh as Reinhard Heydrich and Stanley Tucci as Adolf Eichmann. Branagh won an Emmy Award for Best Actor, and Tucci was awarded a Golden Globe for his supporting role as Eichmann.
|Directed by||Frank Pierson|
|Produced by||Nick Gillott|
|Written by||Loring Mandel|
On January 20, 1942, a meeting is held in order to determine the method by which the Nazi government is to implement Adolf Hitler's policy, that the German sphere of influence should be free of Jews, including those in the occupied territories of Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Czechoslovakia and France. As the film opens, various officials from different German agencies arrive and mingle at a lakeside villa in the Berlin borough of Wannsee. Among those present:
It is quickly established by those present that there is a significant "Jewish problem", in that the Jews of Europe cannot be efficiently contained, nor can they be forced onto other countries. Kritzinger interrupts at several points to opine that the meeting is pointless, given that the Jewish Question had previously been settled, but Heydrich promises to revisit his concerns.
A discussion follows of the possibilities of sterilization, and of the exemptions for mixed race Jews who have one or more non-Jewish grandparents. At this point, Stuckart loses his temper and insists that a sturdy legal framework is paramount, and that ad hoc application of standards will lead to administrative chaos. He also chides Klopfer for his simplistic portrayal of Jews as subhuman beasts, simultaneously painting his own picture of Jews as clever, manipulative, and untrustworthy.
Heydrich calls a break in the proceedings, and after praising Stuckart aloud takes him aside to warn him about the consequences of his stubbornness, implying that others in the SS will take an unwanted interest in his actions. When the meeting reconvenes, Heydrich steers the discussion in the direction of wholesale extermination using gas chambers. This causes consternation among some attendees, notably Kritzinger, who objects on the grounds that Hitler had given him personal guarantees that extermination of the Jews was not being considered, and Bühler who is shocked to discover that the SS have been building extermination camps and making preparations for the "Final Solution" under his nose.
It eventually become clear to everyone at the meeting that they have been called together not to discuss the problem but to be given orders by the SS, who are intent on wresting control of the operation from other agencies such as the Interior Ministry and the Reich Chancellery. Eichmann now describes the method that will be used, i.e. the gassing of Jews. Many have already been killed in specially-designed trucks and his figures include tens of thousands of victims. He even describes their bodies as coming out "pink" (a symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning), at which point Hofmann is suddenly taken ill. He later puts it down to a bad cigar.
Throughout the meeting and over refreshments attendees raise other side issues, reflecting the interests of their respective work areas. Lange warns executing Jews by shooting has a deleterious effect on the morale of his troops, and he clashes with Luther's indifference. Klopfer requests that the Party retains some discretionary power over the process. Bühler presses for urgency, concerned that typhus could break out from the over-populated ghettos in Poland. Meyer and Neumann do not want production stymied due to disruption or the loss of skilled workers. Heydrich admonishes Hofmann over his insistence that his office takes the lead in managing resettlement in Hungary.
A break is called and this time it is Kritzinger's turn to be taken aside and intimidated by Heydrich, who warns that Kritzinger is influential but not invulnerable. Heydrich tells Kritzinger that he wants not only consent but active support, and Kritzinger realizes that any hopes he had of assuring livable conditions for the Jewish population are unrealistic. In return, he tells Heydrich a cautionary tale about a man consumed by hatred of his father, so much so that his life loses its meaning once his father dies; Heydrich later interprets this as a warning that a similar fate awaits them if they allow their lives to revolve around antisemitism.
Heydrich then recalls and concludes the meeting, giving clear directives that the SS are to be obeyed in all matters relating to the elimination of the Jews. He also asks for explicit assent and support from each official, one by one. After giving careful instructions on the secrecy of the minutes and notes of the meeting, they are adjourned and begin to depart.
As the servants at the villa tidy away the remains of the meeting, and the officials depart, a brief account of the fate of each one is given. The movie ends with the house tidied up and all records of the meeting destroyed as if it had never happened. The final card before the credits reveals that Luther's copy of the Wannsee minutes, found by the United States Army in the archives of the German Foreign Office in 1947, was the only record of the conference to survive.
Additional cast members include:
James Rampton in The Independent praised the film, stating: "Showing as part of the BBC's commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day, Frank Pierson's film underscores only too well the old maxim that evil prospers when good men do nothing."
An impressed Austin Film Society had a lengthy review of the film and details about its making.
A Finnish review of the DVD release of the movie was positive.
A German reviewer for the Treffpunkt Critic praised the film, writing "they have done an excellent job."
Berlin is a major center in the European and German film industry. It is home to more than 1000 film and television production companies and 270 movie theaters. Three hundred national and international co-productions are filmed in the region every year. The world renowned Babelsberg Studios and the production company UFA are located outside Berlin in Potsdam.
The city is also home of the European Film Academy and the German Film Academy, and hosts the annual Berlin International Film Festival which is considered to be the largest publicly attended film festival in the world. This is a list of films whose setting is Berlin.Wannsee Conference
The Wannsee Conference (German: Wannseekonferenz) was a meeting of senior government officials of Nazi Germany and Schutzstaffel (SS) leaders, held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on 20 January 1942. The purpose of the conference, called by the director of the Reich Main Security Office SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, was to ensure the cooperation of administrative leaders of various government departments in the implementation of the Final solution to the Jewish question (German: Endlösung der Judenfrage), whereby most of the Jews of German-occupied Europe would be deported to occupied Poland and murdered. Conference attendees included representatives from several government ministries, including state secretaries from the Foreign Office, the justice, interior, and state ministries, and representatives from the SS. In the course of the meeting, Heydrich outlined how European Jews would be rounded up and sent to extermination camps in the General Government (the occupied part of Poland), where they would be killed.Soon after the invasion of Poland in September 1939, the persecution of European Jews was raised to unprecedented levels, but systematic killing of men, women, and children only began in June 1941, after the onset of Operation Barbarossa against the Soviets. On 31 July 1941, Hermann Göring gave written authorization to Heydrich to prepare and submit a plan for a "total solution of the Jewish question" in territories under German control and to coordinate the participation of all involved government organisations. At Wannsee, Heydrich emphasized that once the mass deportation was complete, the SS would take complete charge of the exterminations. A secondary goal was to arrive at a definition of who was formally Jewish, and thus determine the scope of the genocide.
One copy of the Protocol with circulated minutes of the meeting survived the war. It was found by Robert Kempner in March 1947 among files that had been seized from the German Foreign Office. It was used as evidence in the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials. The Wannsee House, site of the conference, is now a Holocaust memorial.