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.[1]

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 began only 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.

Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz 02-2014
The villa Am Großen Wannsee 56–58, where the Wannsee Conference was held, is now a memorial and museum.


Legalized discrimination against Jews in Germany began immediately after the Nazi seizure of power in January 1933. Violence and economic pressure were used by the Nazi regime to encourage Jews to voluntarily leave the country. The ideology of Nazism brought together elements of antisemitism, racial hygiene, and eugenics and combined them with pan-Germanism and territorial expansionism with the goal of obtaining more Lebensraum (living space) for the Germanic people.[2] Nazi Germany attempted to obtain this new territory by attacking Poland and the Soviet Union, intending to deport or exterminate the Jews and Slavs living there, who were viewed as being inferior to the Aryan master race.[3]

Discrimination against Jews, long-standing, but extra-legal, throughout much of Europe at the time, was codified in Germany immediately after the Nazi seizure of power on 30 January 1933. The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, passed on 7 April of that year, excluded most Jews from the legal profession and the civil service. Similar legislation soon deprived Jewish members of other professions of the right to practise.[4] Violence and economic pressure were used by the regime to force Jews to leave the country.[5] Jewish businesses were denied access to markets, forbidden to advertise in newspapers, and deprived of access to government contracts. Citizens were harassed and subjected to violent attacks and boycotts of their businesses.[6]

Nuremberg laws Racial Chart
1935 chart shows racial classifications under the Nuremberg Laws: German, Mischlinge, and Jew.

In September 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were enacted, prohibiting marriages between Jews and people of Germanic extraction, extramarital sexual relations between Jews and Germans, and the employment of German women under the age of 45 as domestic servants in Jewish households.[7] The Reich Citizenship Law stated that only those of German or related blood were defined as citizens; thus, Jews and other minority groups were stripped of their German citizenship.[8] A supplementary decree issued in November defined as Jewish anyone with three Jewish grandparents, or two grandparents if the Jewish faith was followed.[9] By the start of World War II in 1939, around 250,000 of Germany's 437,000 Jews emigrated to the United States, Palestine, Great Britain, and other countries.[10][11]

After the invasion of Poland in September 1939, Hitler ordered that the Polish leadership and intelligentsia should be destroyed.[12] The Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen (Special Prosecution Book Poland)—lists of people to be killed—had been drawn up by the SS as early as May 1939.[12] The Einsatzgruppen (special task forces) performed these murders with the support of the Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz (Germanic Self-Protection Group), a paramilitary group consisting of ethnic Germans living in Poland.[13] Members of the SS, the Wehrmacht (German Armed Forces), and the Ordnungspolizei (Order Police; Orpo) also shot civilians during the Polish campaign.[14] Approximately 65,000 civilians were killed by the end of 1939. In addition to leaders of Polish society, they killed Jews, prostitutes, Romani people, and the mentally ill.[15][16]

On 31 July 1941, Hermann Göring gave written authorization to SS-Obergruppenführer (Senior Group Leader) Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), 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.[17] The resulting Generalplan Ost (General Plan for the East) called for deporting the population of occupied Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to Siberia, for use as slave labour or to be murdered.[18] The minutes of the Wannsee Conference estimated the Jewish population of the Soviet Union to be five million, including nearly three million in Ukraine.[19]

In addition to eliminating Jews, the Nazis also planned to reduce the population of the conquered territories by 30 million people through starvation in an action called the Hunger Plan devised by Herbert Backe.[20] Food supplies would be diverted to the German army and German civilians. Cities would be razed and the land allowed to return to forest or resettled by German colonists.[21] The objective of the Hunger Plan was to inflict deliberate mass starvation on the Slavic civilian populations under German occupation by directing all food supplies to the German home population and the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front.[22] According to the historian Timothy Snyder, "4.2 million Soviet citizens (largely Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians) were starved" by the Nazis (and the Nazi-controlled Wehrmacht) in 1941–1944 as a result of Backe's plan.[23][24]

Harvests were poor in Germany in 1940 and 1941 and food supplies were short, as large numbers of forced labourers had been brought into the country to work in the armaments industry.[25] If these workers—as well as the German people—were to be adequately fed, there must be a sharp reduction in the number of "useless mouths", of whom the millions of Jews under German rule were, in the light of Nazi ideology, the most obvious example.[26]

At the time of the Wannsee Conference, the killing of Jews in the Soviet Union had already been underway for some months. Right from the start of Operation Barbarossa—the invasion of the Soviet Union—Einsatzgruppen were assigned to follow the army into the conquered areas and round up and kill Jews. In a letter dated 2 July 1941, Heydrich communicated to his SS and Police Leaders that the Einsatzgruppen were to execute Comintern officials, ranking members of the Communist Party, extremist and radical Communist Party members, people's commissars, and Jews in party and government posts.[27] Open-ended instructions were given to execute "other radical elements (saboteurs, propagandists, snipers, assassins, agitators, etc.)".[27] He instructed that any pogroms spontaneously initiated by the occupants of the conquered territories were to be quietly encouraged.[27] On 8 July, he announced that all Jews were to be regarded as partisans, and gave the order for all male Jews between the ages of 15 and 45 to be shot.[28] By August the net had been widened to include women, children, and the elderly—the entire Jewish population.[29] By the time planning was underway for the Wannsee Conference, hundreds of thousands of Polish, Serbian, and Russian Jews had already been killed.[30] The initial plan was to implement Generalplan Ost after the conquest of the Soviet Union.[18][31] European Jews would be deported to occupied parts of Russia, where they would be worked to death in road-building projects.[30]

Planning the conference

Wannsee Conference - Letter from Reinhard Heydrich to Martin Luther (Invitation)
Letter from Heydrich to Martin Luther, Undersecretary at the Foreign Office, inviting him to the Wannsee Conference (Wannsee Conference House Memorial, Berlin)

On 29 November 1941, Heydrich sent invitations for a ministerial conference to be held on 9 December at the offices of Interpol at 16 Am Kleinen Wannsee.[32] He changed the venue on 4 December to the eventual location of the meeting.[32] He enclosed a copy of a letter from Göring dated 31 July that authorised him to plan a so-called Final solution to the Jewish question. The ministries to be represented were Interior, Justice, the Four-year plan, Propaganda, and the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories.[33]

Between the date the invitations to the conference went out (29 November) and the date of the cancelled first meeting (9 December), the situation changed. On 5 December 1941, the Soviet Army began a counter-offensive in front of Moscow, ending the prospect of a rapid conquest of the Soviet Union. On 7 December 1941, the Japanese attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, causing the U.S. to declare war on Japan the next day. The Reich government declared war on the U.S. on 11 December. Some invitees were involved in these preparations, so Heydrich postponed his meeting.[34] Somewhere around this time, Hitler resolved that the Jews of Europe were to be exterminated immediately, rather than after the war, which now had no end in sight.[35][a] At the Reich Chancellery meeting of 12 December 1941 he met with top party officials and made his intentions plain.[36] On 18 December, Hitler discussed the fate of the Jews with Himmler in the Wolfsschanze.[37] Following the meeting, Himmler made a note on his service calendar, which simply stated: "Jewish question/to be destroyed as partisans".[37]

The war was still ongoing, and since transporting masses of people into a combat zone was impossible, Heydrich decided that the Jews currently living in the General Government (the German-occupied area of Poland) would be killed in extermination camps set up in occupied areas of Poland, as would Jews from the rest of Europe.[1]

On 8 January 1942, Heydrich sent new invitations to a meeting to be held on 20 January.[38] The venue for the rescheduled conference was a villa at Am Großen Wannsee 56–58, overlooking the Großer Wannsee. The villa had been purchased from Friedrich Minoux in 1940 by the Sicherheitsdienst (Security Force; SD) for use as a conference centre and guest house.[39]


Heydrich invited representatives from several government ministries, including state secretaries from the Foreign Office, the Justice, Interior, and State Ministries, and representatives from the SS. The process of disseminating information about the fate of the Jews was already well underway by the time the meeting was held.[40] Of the 15 who attended, 8 held academic doctorates.[41]

List of attendees[42]
Name Photo Title Organization Superior
SS-Obergruppenführer (Lieutenant-General) Reinhard Heydrich Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1969-054-16, Reinhard Heydrich Chief of the RSHA
Deputy Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia
Schutzstaffel (SS) Reichsführer-SS (Reich Leader SS) Heinrich Himmler
SS-Gruppenführer (Major-General) Otto Hofmann Otto Hofmann Head of the SS Race and Settlement Main Office (RuSHA) Schutzstaffel (SS) Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler
SS-Gruppenführer (Major-General) Heinrich Müller Heinrich Müller Chief of Amt IV (Gestapo) Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), Schutzstaffel Chief of the RSHA SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich
SS-Oberführer (Senior Colonel) Dr. Karl Eberhard Schöngarth Commander of the SiPo and the SD in the General Government SiPo and SD, RSHA, Schutzstaffel Chief of the RSHA SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich
SS-Oberführer (Senior Colonel) Dr. Gerhard Klopfer Bundesarchiv Bild 119-06-44-12, Gerhard Klopfer Permanent Secretary Nazi Party Chancellery Chief of the Party Chancellery Martin Bormann
SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) Adolf Eichmann Adolf Eichmann, 1942 Head of Referat IV B4 of the Gestapo
Recording secretary
Gestapo, RSHA, Schutzstaffel Chief of Amt IV SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller
SS-Sturmbannführer (Major) Dr. Rudolf Lange Commander of the SiPo and the SD for Latvia; Deputy Commander of the SiPo and the SD for the RKO
Head of Einsatzkommando 2
SiPo and SD, RSHA, Schutzstaffel SS-Brigadeführer (Brigadier General) and Generalmajor der Polizei (Brigadier-General of Police) Dr. Franz Walter Stahlecker
Dr. Georg Leibbrandt LeibbrandtGeorg Reichsamtleiter (Reich Head Office) Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories Dr. Alfred Rosenberg
Dr. Alfred Meyer Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1991-0712-500, Alfred Meyer Gauleiter (Regional Party Leader)
State Secretary and Deputy Reich Minister
Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories Dr. Alfred Rosenberg
Dr. Josef Bühler Josef Bühler State Secretary General Government
(Polish Occupation Authority)
Governor-General Dr. Hans Frank
Dr. Roland Freisler Bundesarchiv Bild 183-J03238, Roland Freisler State Secretary Reich Ministry of Justice Reich Minister of Justice Dr. Franz Schlegelberger
SS-Brigadeführer (Brigadier General) Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart Wilhelm Stuckart at the Ministries Trial State Secretary Reich Interior Ministry Reich Minister of the Interior Dr. Wilhelm Frick
SS-Oberführer (Senior Colonel) Erich Neumann NeumannErich State Secretary Office of the Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan Plenipotentiary of the Four Year Plan Hermann Göring
Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger KritzingerFriedrich Permanent Secretary Reich Chancellery Reich Minister and head of the Reich Chancellery SS-Obergruppenführer Dr. Hans Lammers
Martin Luther LutherMartin Under-Secretary Reich Foreign Ministry Ernst von Weizsäcker, State Secretary to Reich Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop


Eichmann's list

In preparation for the conference, Eichmann drafted a list of the numbers of Jews in the various European countries. Countries were listed in two groups, "A" and "B". "A" countries were those under direct Reich control or occupation (or partially occupied and quiescent, in the case of Vichy France); "B" countries were allied or client states, neutral, or at war with Germany.[43][b] The numbers reflect the estimated Jewish population within each country; for example, Estonia is listed as Judenfrei (free of Jews), since the 4,500 Jews who remained in Estonia after the German occupation had been exterminated by the end of 1941.[44] Occupied Poland was not on the list because by 1939 the country was split three ways among Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany in the west, the territories of Poland annexed by the Soviet Union in the east, and the General Government where many Polish and Jewish expellees had already been resettled.[45]

Heydrich opened the conference with an account of the anti-Jewish measures taken in Germany since the Nazi seizure of power in 1933. He said that between 1933 and October 1941, 537,000 German, Austrian, and Czech Jews had emigrated.[46] This information was taken from a briefing paper prepared for him the previous week by Eichmann.[47]

Heydrich reported that there were approximately eleven million Jews in the whole of Europe, of whom half were in countries not under German control.[43][b] He explained that since further Jewish emigration had been prohibited by Himmler, a new solution would take its place: "evacuating" Jews to the east. This would be a temporary solution, a step towards the "final solution of the Jewish question".[48]

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 the seed of a new Jewish revival.[49]

German historian Peter Longerich notes that vague orders couched in terminology that had a specific meaning for members of the regime were common, especially when people were being ordered to carry out criminal activities. Leaders were given briefings about the need to be "severe" and "firm"; all Jews were to be viewed as potential enemies that had to be dealt with ruthlessly.[50] The wording of the Wannsee Protocol—the distributed minutes of the meeting—made it clear to participants that evacuation east was a euphemism for death.[51]

Wannsee Conference - Conference room at the Wannsee Conference House
The conference room at the Wannsee Conference House, 2006

Heydrich went on to say that in the course of the "practical execution of the final solution", Europe would be "combed through from west to east", but that Germany, Austria, and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia would have priority, "due to the housing problem and additional social and political necessities".[49] This was a reference to increasing pressure from the Gauleiters (regional Nazi Party leaders) in Germany for the Jews to be removed from their areas to allow accommodation for Germans made homeless by Allied bombing, as well as to make space for laborers being imported from occupied countries. The "evacuated" Jews, he said, would first be sent to "transit ghettos" in the General Government, from which they would be transported eastward.[49] Heydrich said that to avoid legal and political difficulties, it was important to define who was a Jew for the purposes of "evacuation". He outlined categories of people who would not be killed. Jews over 65 years old, and Jewish World War I veterans who had been severely wounded or who had won the Iron Cross, might be sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp instead of being killed. "With this expedient solution", he said, "in one fell swoop, many interventions will be prevented."[49]

The situation of people who were half or quarter Jews, and of Jews who were married to non-Jews, was more complex. Under the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, their status had been left deliberately ambiguous. Heydrich announced that Mischlinge (mixed-race persons) of the first degree (persons with two Jewish grandparents) would be treated as Jews. This would not apply if they were married to a non-Jew and had children by that marriage. It would also not apply if they had been granted written exemption by "the highest offices of the Party and State".[52] Such persons would be sterilised or deported if they refused sterilisation.[52] A "Mischling of the second degree" (a person with one Jewish grandparent) would be treated as German, unless he or she was married to a Jew or a Mischling of the first degree, had a "racially especially undesirable appearance that marks him outwardly as a Jew",[53] or had a "political record that shows that he feels and behaves like a Jew".[54] Persons in these latter categories would be killed even if married to non-Jews.[53] In the case of mixed marriages, Heydrich recommended that each case should be evaluated individually, and the impact on any German relatives assessed. If such a marriage had produced children who were being raised as Germans, the Jewish partner would not be killed. If they were being raised as Jews, they might be killed or sent to an old-age ghetto.[54] These exemptions applied only to German and Austrian Jews, and were not always observed even for them. In most of the occupied countries, Jews were rounded up and killed en masse, and anyone who lived in or identified with the Jewish community in any given place was regarded as a Jew.[55][c]

Wannsee Conference - List of Jews in European countries
Facsimiles of the minutes of the Wannsee Conference and Eichmann's list, presented under glass at the Wannsee Conference House Memorial

Heydrich commented, "In occupied and unoccupied France, the registration of Jews for evacuation will in all probability proceed without great difficulty",[56] but in the end, the great majority of French-born Jews survived.[57] More difficulty was anticipated with Germany's allies Romania and Hungary. "In Romania the government has [now] appointed a commissioner for Jewish affairs", Heydrich said.[56] In fact the deportation of Romanian Jews was slow and inefficient despite a high degree of popular antisemitism.[58] "In order to settle the question in Hungary", Heydrich said, "it will soon be necessary to force an adviser for Jewish questions onto the Hungarian government".[56] The Hungarian regime of Miklós Horthy continued to resist German interference in its Jewish policy until the spring of 1944, when the Wehrmacht invaded Hungary. Very soon, 600,000 Jews of Hungary (and parts of Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia occupied by Hungary) were sent to their deaths by Eichmann, with the collaboration of Hungarian authorities.[59]

Heydrich spoke for nearly an hour. Then followed about thirty minutes of questions and comments, followed by some less formal conversation.[60] Otto Hofmann (head of the SS Race and Settlement Main Office; RuSHA) and Wilhelm Stuckart (State Secretary of the Reich Interior Ministry) pointed out the legalistic and administrative difficulties over mixed marriages, and suggested compulsory dissolution of mixed marriages or the wider use of sterilisation as a simpler alternative.[61] Erich Neumann from the Four Year Plan argued for the exemption of Jews who were working in industries vital to the war effort and for whom no replacements were available. Heydrich assured him that this was already the policy; such Jews would not be killed.[62][d] Josef Bühler, State Secretary of the General Government, stated his support for the plan and his hope that the killings would commence as soon as possible.[63] Towards the end of the meeting cognac was served, and after that the conversation became less restrained.[61] "The gentlemen were standing together, or sitting together", Eichmann said, "and were discussing the subject quite bluntly, quite differently from the language which I had to use 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".[60] Eichmann recorded that Heydrich was pleased with the course of the meeting. He had expected a lot of resistance, Eichmann recalled, but instead, he had found "an atmosphere not only of agreement on the part of the participants, but more than that, one could feel an agreement which had assumed a form which had not been expected".[55]

Wannsee Protocol

Lake Wannsee Berlin
View of the Großer Wannsee lake from the villa at 56–58 Am Grossen Wannsee, where the conference was held

At the conclusion of the meeting Heydrich gave Eichmann firm instructions about what was to appear in the minutes. They were not to be verbatim: Eichmann ensured that nothing too explicit appeared in them. He said at his trial: "How shall I put it – certain over-plain talk and jargon expressions had to be rendered into office language by me".[63] Eichmann condensed his records into a document outlining the purpose of the meeting and the intentions of the regime moving forward. He stated at his trial that it was personally edited by Heydrich, and thus reflected the message he intended the participants to take away from the meeting.[64] Copies of the minutes (known from the German word for "minutes" as the "Wannsee Protocol"[e]) were sent by Eichmann to all the participants after the meeting.[65] Most of these copies were destroyed at the end of the war as participants and other officials sought to cover their tracks. It was not until 1947 that Luther's copy (number 16 out of 30 copies prepared) was found by Robert Kempner, a U.S. prosecutor in the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, in files that had been seized from the German Foreign Office.[66]


The Wannsee Conference lasted only about ninety minutes. The enormous importance which has been attached to the conference by post-war writers was not evident to most of its participants at the time. Heydrich did not call the meeting to make fundamental new decisions on the Jewish question. Massive killings of Jews in the conquered territories in the Soviet Union and Poland were ongoing, and a new extermination camp was already under construction at Belzec at the time of the conference; other extermination camps were in the planning stages.[30][67] The decision to exterminate the Jews had already been made, and Heydrich, as Himmler's emissary, held the meeting to ensure the cooperation of the various departments in conducting the deportations.[68] Observations from historian Laurence Rees support Longerich's position that the decision over the fate of the Jews was determined before the conference; Rees notes that the Wannsee Conference was really a meeting of "second-level functionaries", and stresses that neither Himmler, Goebbels, nor Hitler were present.[69] According to Longerich, a primary goal of the meeting was to emphasise that once the deportations had been completed, the implementation of the "final solution" became an internal matter of the SS, totally outside the purview of any other agency.[70] A secondary goal was to determine the scope of the deportations and arrive at definitions of who was Jewish, who was Mischling, and who (if anybody) should be spared.[70] "The representatives of the ministerial bureaucracy had made it plain that they had no concerns about the principle of deportation per se. This was indeed the crucial result of the meeting and the main reason why Heydrich had detailed minutes prepared and widely circulated", said Longerich.[71] Their presence at the meeting also ensured that all those present were accomplices and accessories to the murders that were about to be undertaken.[72]

Eichmann's biographer David Cesarani agrees with Longerich's interpretation; he notes that Heydrich's main purpose was to impose his own authority on the various ministries and agencies involved in Jewish policy matters, and to avoid any repetition of the disputes that had arisen earlier in the annihilation campaign. "The simplest, most decisive way that Heydrich could ensure the smooth flow of deportations", he writes, "was by asserting his total control over the fate of the Jews in the Reich and the east, and [by] cow[ing] other interested parties into toeing the line of the RSHA".[73]

House of the Wannsee Conference

In 1965, historian Joseph Wulf proposed that the Wannsee House should be made into a Holocaust memorial and document centre, but the West German government was not interested at that time. The building was in use as a school, and funding was not available. Despondent at the failure of the project, and the West German government's failure to pursue and convict Nazi war criminals, Wulf committed suicide in 1974.[74]

On 20 January 1992, on the fiftieth anniversary of the conference, the site was finally opened as a Holocaust memorial and museum known as the Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz (House of the Wannsee Conference).[75] The museum also hosts permanent exhibits of texts and photographs that document events of the Holocaust and its planning.[76] The Joseph Wulf Bibliothek / Mediothek on the second floor houses a large collection of books on the Nazi era, plus other materials such as microfilms and original Nazi documents.[76]

See also


  1. ^ German historian Christian Gerlach has claimed that Hitler approved the policy of extermination in a speech to senior officials in Berlin on 12 December. Gerlach 1998, p. 785. This date is not universally accepted, but it seems likely that a decision was made at around this time. On 18 December, Himmler met with Hitler and noted in his appointment book: "Jewish question – to be exterminated as partisans". Browning 2007, p. 410. On 19 December, Wilhelm Stuckert, State Secretary at the Interior Ministry, told one of his officials: "The proceedings against the evacuated Jews are based on a decision from the highest authority. You must come to terms with it." Browning 2007, p. 405.
  2. ^ a b This information was contained in the briefing paper Eichmann prepared for Heydrich before the meeting. Cesarani 2005, p. 112.
  3. ^ At a meeting of 17 ministerial representatives held at the Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories on 29 January, it decided that in the eastern territories, all Mischlings were to be classed as Jews, while in western Europe, the relatively more lenient German standard would be applied. Browning 2007, p. 414.
  4. ^ Göring and his subordinates made persistent efforts to prevent skilled Jewish workers whose labour was an important part of the war effort from being killed. But by 1943, Himmler was a much more powerful figure in the regime than Göring, and all categories of skilled Jews eventually lost their exemptions. Tooze 2006, pp. 522–529.
  5. ^ The minutes are headed Besprechungsprotokoll (discussion minutes).


  1. ^ a b Longerich 2010, pp. 309–310.
  2. ^ Evans 2008, p. 7.
  3. ^ Longerich 2010, p. 132.
  4. ^ Longerich 2010, pp. 38–39.
  5. ^ Longerich 2010, pp. 67–69.
  6. ^ Longerich 2010, p. 41.
  7. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 346.
  8. ^ Evans 2005, p. 544.
  9. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 347.
  10. ^ Longerich 2010, p. 127.
  11. ^ Evans 2005, p. 555.
  12. ^ a b Longerich 2010, p. 144.
  13. ^ Longerich 2010, pp. 144–145.
  14. ^ Longerich 2012, p. 429.
  15. ^ Evans 2008, p. 15.
  16. ^ Longerich 2012, pp. 430–432.
  17. ^ Browning 2007, p. 315.
  18. ^ a b Snyder 2010, p. 416.
  19. ^ Roseman 2002, p. 112.
  20. ^ Tooze 2006, pp. 476–486, 538–549.
  21. ^ Snyder 2010, pp. 162–163, 416.
  22. ^ Tooze 2006, p. 669.
  23. ^ Snyder 2010, p. 411.
  24. ^ Gerhard 2009.
  25. ^ Tooze 2006, p. 539.
  26. ^ Tooze 2006, pp. 538–549.
  27. ^ a b c Longerich 2012, p. 523.
  28. ^ Longerich 2010, p. 198.
  29. ^ Longerich 2010, p. 207.
  30. ^ a b c Longerich 2010, p. 309.
  31. ^ Kershaw 2008, p. 683.
  32. ^ a b Roseman 2002, p. 57.
  33. ^ Browning 2007, p. 406.
  34. ^ Browning 2007, p. 407.
  35. ^ Longerich 2000, p. 2.
  36. ^ Browning 2007, pp. 407–408.
  37. ^ a b Dederichs 2009, p. 119.
  38. ^ Browning 2007, p. 410.
  39. ^ Roseman 2002, p. 65.
  40. ^ Browning 2007, pp. 410–411.
  41. ^ Rees 2017, pp. 252–253.
  42. ^ Roseman 2002, p. 66.
  43. ^ a b Roseman 2002, pp. 111–112.
  44. ^ Longerich 2010, pp. 237, 239.
  45. ^ Browning 2007, p. 93.
  46. ^ Roseman 2002, p. 110.
  47. ^ Cesarani 2005, p. 112.
  48. ^ Roseman 2002, pp. 110–111.
  49. ^ a b c d Roseman 2002, p. 113.
  50. ^ Longerich 2010, pp. 189–190.
  51. ^ Roseman 2002, p. 77.
  52. ^ a b Roseman 2002, p. 115.
  53. ^ a b Roseman 2002, pp. 115–116.
  54. ^ a b Roseman 2002, p. 116.
  55. ^ a b Browning 2007, p. 414.
  56. ^ a b c Roseman 2002, p. 114.
  57. ^ Marrus & Paxton 1981, pp. 343–344.
  58. ^ Cesarani 2005, pp. 151–155.
  59. ^ Cesarani 2005, pp. 159–195.
  60. ^ a b Browning 2007, p. 413.
  61. ^ a b Cesarani 2005, p. 113.
  62. ^ Roseman 2002, p. 71.
  63. ^ a b Cesarani 2005, p. 114.
  64. ^ Roseman 2002, p. 68.
  65. ^ Cesarani 2005, pp. 117–118.
  66. ^ Roseman 2002, p. 1.
  67. ^ Breitman 1991, pp. 229–233.
  68. ^ Longerich 2010, p. 310.
  69. ^ Rees 2017, pp. 251–252.
  70. ^ a b Longerich 2000, p. 14.
  71. ^ Longerich 2010, pp. 306, 310.
  72. ^ Longerich 2000, p. 7.
  73. ^ Cesarani 2005, pp. 110–111.
  74. ^ Lehrer 2000, p. 134–135.
  75. ^ Wannsee House.
  76. ^ a b Lehrer 2000, p. 135.


  • Breitman, Richard (1991). The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution. The Tauber Institute Series for the Study of European Jewry. Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press. ISBN 978-0-87451-596-1.
  • Browning, Christopher R. (2007) [2004]. The Origins of the Final Solution : The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939 – March 1942. Comprehensive History of the Holocaust. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-0392-1.
  • Cesarani, David (2005) [2004]. Eichmann: His Life and Crimes. London: Vintage. ISBN 978-0-099-44844-0.
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  • Gerhard, Gesine (February 2009). "Food and Genocide. Nazi Agrarian Politics in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union". Contemporary European History. 18 (1): 57–62. doi:10.1017/S0960777308004827.
  • Gerlach, Christian (December 1998). "The Wannsee Conference, the Fate of German Jews, and Hitler's Decision in Principle to Exterminate All European Jews" (PDF). Journal of Modern History. 70 (4): 759–812. doi:10.1086/235167.
  • Kershaw, Ian (2008). Hitler: A Biography. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06757-6.
  • Lehrer, Steven (2000). Wannsee House and the Holocaust. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-0792-7.
  • Longerich, Peter (2000). The Wannsee Conference in the Development of the 'Final Solution' (PDF). Holocaust Educational Trust Research Papers. 1. London: The Holocaust Educational Trust. ISBN 978-0-9516166-5-9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 April 2015.
  • Longerich, Peter (2010). Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280436-5.
  • Longerich, Peter (2012). Heinrich Himmler: A Life. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-959232-6.
  • Marrus, Michael R.; Paxton, Robert O. (1981). Vichy France and the Jews. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-2499-9.
  • Rees, Laurence (2017). The Holocaust: A New History. New York: PublicAffairs. ISBN 978-1-61039-844-2.
  • Roseman, Mark (2002). The Villa, The Lake, The Meeting: Wannsee and the Final Solution. London; New York: Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0-71-399570-1.
  • Snyder, Timothy (2010). Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-00239-9.
  • Tooze, Adam (2006). The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy. London; New York: Allen Lane. ISBN 978-0-713-99566-4.

External links

Coordinates: 52°25′59″N 013°09′56″E / 52.43306°N 13.16556°E

Achim Gercke

Achim Gercke (August 3, 1902 – October 27, 1997) was a German politician.

Born in Greifswald, Gercke became a department head of the NSDAP in Munich on January 1, 1932. In April 1933, he was appointed to the Ministry of the Interior, where he served as an expert on racial matters.Gercke devised the system of "racial prophylaxis", forbidding the intermarriage between Jews and Aryans. As a student, he had attempted to develop a card index listing all Jews in Germany. His articles outlined Nazi policy on what to do to the Jews during the early phase of the Third Reich, which included expulsion from Germany. He described the just-enacted Nuremberg Laws restricting Jews as provisional measures, which indicated the direction future measures would take. Gercke argued for defining "Jew" as including any person with one-sixteenth Jewish blood. Later in 1942, the Wannsee Conference ultimately defined "Jew" quite differently: Persons having one Jewish grandparent were mostly excluded and even certain persons with two Jewish grandparents might be excluded, if they followed the Christian faith.In 1932, Nazi Gauleiter Rudolf Jordan claimed that SS Security Chief Reinhard Heydrich was not a pure "Aryan". Within the Nazi organisation such innuendo could be damning, even for the head of the Reich's counterintelligence service. Gregor Strasser passed the allegations on to Achim Gercke who investigated Heydrich's genealogy. Gercke reported that Heydrich was "... of German origin and free from any coloured and Jewish blood". He insisted that the rumours were baseless. Even with this report, Heydrich privately engaged SD member Ernst Hoffman to further investigate and deny the rumours.In 1935, Gercke was dismissed following allegations of homosexuality. After the war, he worked as an archivist and town clerk.

Adolf Eichmann

Otto Adolf Eichmann (; German: [ˈʔɔtoː ˈʔaːdɔlf ˈʔaɪ̯çman]; 19 March 1906 – 1 June 1962) was a German-Austrian Nazi SS-Obersturmbannführer ("Senior Assault Unit Leader") and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust. He was tasked by SS-Obergruppenführer ("Senior Group Leader") Reinhard Heydrich with facilitating and managing the logistics involved in the mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe during World War II. He was captured by the Mossad in Argentina on 11 May 1960 and subsequently found guilty of war crimes in a widely publicised trial in Jerusalem, Israel. Eichmann was executed by hanging in 1962.

After an unremarkable school career, Eichmann briefly worked for his father's mining company in Austria, where the family had moved in 1914. He worked as a travelling oil salesman beginning in 1927, and joined both the Nazi Party and the SS in 1932. He returned to Germany in 1933, where he joined the Sicherheitsdienst (SD; Security Service); there he was appointed head of the department responsible for Jewish affairs—especially emigration, which the Nazis encouraged through violence and economic pressure. After the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Eichmann and his staff arranged for Jews to be concentrated in ghettos in major cities with the expectation that they would be transported either farther east or overseas. He also drew up plans for a Jewish reservation, first at Nisko in southeast Poland and later in Madagascar, but neither of these plans was ever carried out.

The Nazis began the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, and their Jewish policy changed from emigration to extermination. To co-ordinate planning for the genocide, Heydrich, who was Eichmann's superior, hosted the regime's administrative leaders at the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942. Eichmann collected information for him, attended the conference, and prepared the minutes. Eichmann and his staff became responsible for Jewish deportations to extermination camps, where the victims were gassed. Germany invaded Hungary in March 1944, and Eichmann oversaw the deportation of much of the Jewish population. Most of the victims were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp, where about 75 per cent were murdered upon arrival. By the time that the transports were stopped in July 1944, 437,000 of Hungary's 725,000 Jews had been killed. Dieter Wisliceny testified at Nuremberg that Eichmann told him he would "leap laughing into the grave because the feeling that he had five million people on his conscience would be for him a source of extraordinary satisfaction".After Germany's defeat in 1945, Eichmann was captured by US forces, but escaped from a detention camp and moved around Germany to avoid re-capture. He ended up in a small village in Lower Saxony, where he lived until 1950, when he moved to Argentina using false papers. Information collected by the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, confirmed his location in 1960. A team of Mossad and Shin Bet agents captured Eichmann and brought him to Israel to stand trial on 15 criminal charges, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against the Jewish people. During the trial, he did not deny the Holocaust or his role in organising it, but claimed that he was simply following orders in a totalitarian Führerprinzip system. He was found guilty on all of the charges, and was executed by hanging on 1 June 1962. The trial was widely followed in the media and was later the subject of several books, including Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem, in which Arendt coined the phrase "the banality of evil" to describe Eichmann.

Alfred Meyer

Gustav Alfred Julius Meyer (5 October 1891 in Göttingen – 11 April 1945 in Hessisch Oldendorf) was a Nazi official. He joined the Nazi party in 1928 and was the Gauleiter of North Westphalia from 1930 to 1945 and the Reichsstatthalter in Lippe and Schaumburg-Lippe from 1933 to 1945.

By the time of his death at the end of World War II in Europe, he was a State Secretary and Deputy Reichsminister in the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories (Reichministerium für die Besetzten Ostgebiete or Ostministerium). He represented the ministry with Georg Leibbrandt in the Wannsee Conference.

Meyer committed suicide in April 1945.

Ernst Marlier

Ernst Ferdinand Emil Marlier (born 28 July 1875 in Coburg; died Lugano 1948) was a German pharmaceutical manufacturer who built the Wannsee Villa, where the Wannsee Conference was held.

Final Solution

The Final Solution or the Final Solution to the Jewish Question was a Nazi plan for the genocide of Jews during World War II. The "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" was the official code name for the murder of all Jews within reach, which was not restricted to the European continent. This policy of deliberate and systematic genocide starting across German-occupied Europe was formulated in procedural and geopolitical terms by Nazi leadership in January 1942 at the Wannsee Conference held near Berlin, and culminated in the Holocaust, which saw the killing of 90% of Polish Jews, and two thirds of the Jewish population of Europe.The nature and timing of the decisions that led to the Final Solution is an intensely researched and debated aspect of the Holocaust. The program evolved during the first 25 months of war leading to the attempt at "murdering every last Jew in the German grasp". Most historians agree, wrote Christopher Browning, that the Final Solution cannot be attributed to a single decision made at one particular point in time. "It is generally accepted the decision-making process was prolonged and incremental." In 1940, following the Fall of France, Adolf Eichmann devised the Madagascar Plan to move Europe's Jewish population to the French colony, but the plan was abandoned for logistical reasons, mainly a naval blockade. There were also preliminary plans to deport Jews to Palestine and Siberia. In 1941, wrote Raul Hilberg, in the first phase of the mass murder of Jews, the mobile killing units began to pursue their victims across occupied eastern territories; in the second phase, stretching across all of German-occupied Europe, the Jewish victims were sent on death trains to centralized extermination camps built for the purpose of systematic implementation of the Final Solution.

Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger

Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger (14 April 1890 – 25 April 1947) was a German official and state secretary in the Reich Chancellery during the period of Nazi Germany. He was the deputy head of the Reich Chancellery under Hans Lammers, and was present at the Wannsee Conference as Lammers' representative.

Georg Leibbrandt

Georg Leibbrandt (6 September 1899 – 16 June 1982) was a Nazi German bureaucrat and diplomat. He occupied leading foreign policy positions in the Nazi Party Foreign Policy Office (APA) and the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories (RMfdbO) as an expert on issues relating to Russia. Both agencies were headed by Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg. Leibbrandt was a participant of the Wannsee Conference. In the postwar period, criminal proceedings against Leibbrandt were initiated, but the case against him was ultimately dismissed.

Gerhard Klopfer

Gerhard Klopfer (18 February 1905 – 29 January 1987) was an official of the Nazi Party and assistant to Martin Bormann in the Office of the (Nazi) Party Chancellery.

Klopfer was born in Schreibersdorf, Silesia (now in Poland), in 1905. He studied law and economics and in 1931 became a judge in Düsseldorf, Germany. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, he joined the Nazi Party and the SA (Sturmabteilung) along with the Gestapo (Secret State Police) the following year. In 1935, he became a member of Rudolf Hess's staff and the SS (Schutzstaffel) with the honorary SS rank of Oberführer (Senior Colonel). In 1938, he became responsible for the seizing of Jewish businesses, for questions about mixed marriages between Gentile and Jewish Germans, and general questions about occupation of foreign states.

As State Secretary of the Parteikanzlerei (Party Chancellery), Klopfer represented Bormann, who was head of the Parteikanzlei, at the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942 in which the details of the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" were formalised, policies that culminated in the Holocaust. Along with Helmuth Friedrichs, Klopfer was the highest-ranking bureaucrat behind Bormann in the Chancellery. This position gave him extensive power of patronage within the Nazi Party as Bormann often left appointments to party positions to Klopfer and Friedrichs. In this position he was also responsible as signatory for the concept of final call to arms of the underaged and elders in the age range of 16 – 60 years "Volkssturm" in the final stage of the war.

In 1944, he was promoted to SS-Gruppenführer.

As the Red Army closed in on Berlin in 1945, Klopfer fled the city. He was captured and imprisoned and was charged with war crimes but was released for lack of evidence. He became a tax advisor in the city of Ulm (Baden-Württemberg) in 1952 and retrieved his Admission to the Bar in 1956 in order to practice as a lawyer. He was the last surviving attendee of the Wannsee Conference, dying in 1987.Klopfer was portrayed by Ian McNeice in the BBC/HBO made-for-cable film Conspiracy in 2001.

Hermann Frenkel

Hermann Frenkel (born May 21, 1850, Danzig - died May 26, 1932, Berlin) was a partner of the Jacquier and Securius Bank and after 1923 a partner of Friedrich Minoux, owner of the Wannsee Villa, later the venue of the Wannsee Conference. Frenkel was a Privy Commercial Councillor (Geheimer Kommerzienrat), and one of the founders of Universum Film AG. Frenkel was also a noted art collector, who concentrated on German, French, and Spanish 19th-century paintings, as well as Dutch 17th-century and Venetian 18th-century works. His heirs sold most of the collection in October 1932. Some works were not sold, among them a still-life by Snyders, which today is in the Museum Kunstpalast in Düsseldorf, which was bought in 1938.

Josef Bühler

Josef Bühler (also referred to as Joseph Buehler) (16 February 1904 – 22 August 1948) was a state secretary and deputy governor to the Nazi Germany-controlled General Government in Kraków during World War II.

Martin Luther (diplomat)

Martin Franz Julius Luther (German: [ˈmaɐ̯tiːn ˈlʊtɐ] (listen); 16 December 1895 – 13 May 1945) was an early member of the Nazi Party. He served as an advisor to Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, first in the Dienststelle Ribbentrop ("Ribbentrop Bureau"), and later in the Auswärtiges Amt ("Foreign Office") as a diplomat when von Ribbentrop replaced Konstantin von Neurath. He participated in the Wannsee Conference, at which the Final Solution was planned; it was the 1947 discovery of his copy of the minutes that first made the Allied powers aware that the conference had taken place and what its purpose was.

Metropol Verlag

The Metropol Verlag is a German publishing house, established in 1988 and generally acknowledged as one of the leading publishers on the Nazi era and the history of the GDR.

The company was founded in West Berlin by Friedrich Veitl. Together with S. Fischer, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Rowohlt, and other publishers, it was a member of the “Article 19 publisher”, who in 1989 printed Salman Rushdie The Satanic Verses in Germany. Metropol publishes mainly books in German. Exhibition catalogs also appear in an English edition.

According to Open Library Metropol publishes about 35 books a year. The most successful works include Eugen Herman-Friede's autobiography Für Freudensprünge keine Zeit (“No time to jump for joy”; 5th edition 2002) and the documentary about the Wannsee Conference by Kurt Pätzold and Erika Schwarz Tagesordnung: Judenmord (“Agenda: Jews Murder”; 4th edition 1998). It also publishes the former East German Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft (Journal of Historical Science) and the yearly periodical Voyage. Studies on Travel & Tourism.

Reich Chancellery meeting of 12 December 1941

The Reich Chancellery meeting of 12 December 1941 was an encounter between Adolf Hitler and the highest-ranking officials of the Nazi Party. Almost all important party leaders were present to hear Hitler declare the ongoing destruction of the Jewish race, yet it remains less known than the later Wannsee Conference.

Roland Freisler

Roland Freisler (30 October 1893 – 3 February 1945) was a jurist and judge of Nazi Germany. He was State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Justice, and President of the People's Court. He was also an attendee at the Wannsee Conference in 1942, which set in motion the Holocaust.

Rudolf Lange

Rudolf Lange (18 April 1910 – 23 February 1945?) was a German SS functionary and police official during the Nazi era. He served as commander in the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and all RSHA personnel in Riga, Latvia. He attended the Wannsee Conference, and was largely responsible for implementing the murder of Latvia's Jewish population. Einsatzgruppe A killed over 250,000 people in less than six months.

The Wannsee Conference (film)

The Wannsee Conference (German: Die Wannseekonferenz) is a 1984 German TV film portraying the events of the Wannsee Conference, held in Berlin in January 1942. The script is derived from the minutes of the meeting. Since no verbatim transcription of the meeting exists, the dialogue is necessarily fictionalised. The main theme of the film is the bureaucratic nature of the genocide.The same events were later depicted in the 2001 English-language film Conspiracy.


Wannsee (German: [ˈvanˌzeː] (listen)) is a locality in the southwestern Berlin borough of Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Germany. It is the westernmost locality of Berlin. In the quarter there are two lakes, the larger Großer Wannsee (Greater Wannsee) and the Kleiner Wannsee (Little Wannsee), are located on the River Havel and are separated only by the Wannsee Bridge. The larger of the two lakes covers an area of 2.7 km2 (1.0 sq mi) and has a maximum depth of 9 m (30 ft)

Wannsee House and the Holocaust

Wannsee House and the Holocaust by Steven Lehrer tells the story of the elegant suburban Berlin villa where the Wannsee Conference took place on January 20, 1942. At that meeting, Reinhard Heydrich announced the plans for the deportation and extermination of all Jews in German-occupied territory. This to be coordinated with the representatives from the Nazi state agencies present at the meeting.

A prosperous drug manufacturer, Ernst Marlier, built the Wannsee Villa in 1914, but was forced to sell in 1921 because of business and legal problems. The buyer was Friedrich Minoux, a wealthy German industrialist and partner of Hugo Stinnes. Minoux was later convicted of swindling the Berlin Gasworks, the largest fraud of the Nazi era. From his jail cell in Berlin, Minoux sold the Wannsee Villa to the Stiftung Nordhav, a foundation controlled by Reinhard Heydrich, whose Berlin home was nearby. After World War II, a Holocaust survivor and historian, Joseph Wulf, campaigned in vain to have the Wannsee Villa made into a Holocaust memorial. Bitterly frustrated, Wulf committed suicide in 1974. In 1992, the Berlin Senate finally made the Wannsee Villa into a memorial.

"The German decision to make the Wannsee House a shrine to victims is another part of the society's effort to remember its past. This book ensures that Wannsee will not be forgotten."

Wilhelm Stuckart

Wilhelm Stuckart (16 November 1902 – 15 November 1953) was a Nazi Party lawyer, official and a state secretary in the German Interior Ministry during the Nazi era. Stuckart was convicted as a war criminal at the Ministries Trial in 1949.

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