Discuss the ‘Final Solution’ Arrived at During the Wannsee Conference and How It Was Carried Out
Nazi officials meet to discuss the details of the “Final Solution” of the “Jewish question.”In July 1941, Hermann Goering, writing under instructions from Hitler, had ordered Reinhard Heydrich, SS general and Heinrich Himmler’s number-two man, to submit “as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative, material, and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired final solution of the Jewish question.”
The conference marked a turning point in Nazi policy toward the Jews. An earlier idea, to deport all of Europe’s Jews to the island of Madagascar, off of Africa, was abandoned as impractical in wartime. Instead, the newly planned final solution would entail rounding up all Jews throughout Europe, transporting them eastward, and organizing them into labour gangs. The work and living conditions would be sufficiently hard as to fell large numbers by “natural diminution”; those that survived would be “treated accordingly.” The men seated at the table were among the elite of the Reich. More than half of them held doctorates from German universities. They were well informed about the policy toward Jews. Each understood that the cooperation of his agency was vital if such an ambitious, unprecedented policy was to succeed.Among the agencies represented were the Department of Justice, the Foreign Ministry, the Gestapo, the SS, the Race and Resettlement Office, and the office in charge of distributing Jewish property. Also at the meeting was a representative of the General Government, the Polish occupation administration, whose territory included more than 2 million Jews. The head of Heydrich’s office for Jewish affairs, Adolf Eichmann, prepared the conference notes.
In sum, the participants discussed a number of other issues raised by the new policy, including the establishment of the Theresienstadt camp-ghetto as a destination for elderly Jews as well Jews who were disabled or decorated in World War I, the deferment until after the war of “Final Solution” measures against Jews married to non-Jews or persons of mixed descent as defined by the Nuremberg laws, prospects for inducing Germany's Axis partners to give up their Jewish populations, and preparatory measures for the “evacuations.” Despite the euphemisms which appeared in the protocols of the meeting, the aim of the Wannsee Conference was clear to its participants: to further the coordination of a policy aimed at the physical annihilation of the European Jews.