The Wannsee Conference

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On 20 January 1942, an interagency meeting of less than two hours, including lunch, was held at a lakeside villa, previously owned by Interpol, in Berlin's western suburb Wannsee to coordinate the implementation of the 'final solution of the Jewish question.' The meeting of high-ranking administrators of several ministries and other agencies was convened at the invitation of Reinhard Heydrich, head of the powerful Reich Security Main Office, on the basis of Göring's instructions to him six months earlier to make plans for a 'total solution.' In fact, by the time the meeting was held, the grim work had begun. The first systematic deportation of German Jews to the East had been undertaken, and mobile killing squads had already murdered many thousands of Jews, Gypsies, and others in the Soviet Union. Furthermore, murder by gas vans at Chelmno had started about six weeks before the Wannsee meeting.

Thus, the Wannsee Conference was held to coordinate implementation of a 'final solution' already underway. (United 39)

Adolf Eichmann, head of Department IVB4, the Gestapo's Jewish section, prepared the notes and summary known today as the Wannsee Protocol. It was carefully edited by his superiors, and euphemisms were used; the minutes spoke of 'the evacuation of the Jews to the East' and of allocation of the Jews 'for labor in the East, . . . in the course of which action a great part will undoubtedly be eliminated by natural causes.' At his trial in Jerusalem, however, Eichmann said:

'These gentlemen were standing, or sitting together, and were discussing the subject quite bluntly, quite differently from the language I have used 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.'...