“The Wannsee Conference and the Genesis of the Final Solution, 1942”
On this day in 1942, the infamous Wannsee Conference in Berlin took place. This gathering of 15 high-ranking Nazi government officials, led by Adolf Eichmann, laid out the plan for the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” – a euphemism for the mass extermination of Europe’s Jewish population.
This conference marked a pivotal moment in history. Had the Nazis not been defeated, their genocidal policies would have likely extended to Jews worldwide, as evidenced by their actions in North Africa and Iraq. In 1941, Hitler determined it was the “right time” to “deal with the Jews,” leading to this meeting to coordinate the involvement of various government agencies.
Agencies present included the SS, Ministry of Justice, Reich Cabinet, and others, each with a role in implementing this heinous plan. At the time, the Einsatzgruppen were already conducting mass murders in the Soviet Union and Serbia, notably in Ukraine at Babi Yar. The Wannsee Conference aimed to extend these atrocities to an estimated 11 million Jews across Europe.
Methods for extermination were discussed, with an emphasis on efficiency over the previously used guns and murder pits. The plan included temporary ghettos, labor camps for those able to work, and direct transportation to concentration and extermination camps for others, including children, women, and the elderly.
Throughout the meeting, the Nazis used euphemisms to disguise their intent. Yet, their true goal became evident with the construction of the first gas chamber in Poland and the subsequent deportations that began in 1943.
HBO’s film “Conspiracy” (2001) dramatizes the events of this dark day in history.