Wannsee Conference

 

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SS chief Heinrich Himmler

 

The Wannsee Conference and the "Final Solution"

On January 20, 1942, fifteen high-ranking Nazi party and German government leaders gathered for an important meeting. They met in a wealthy section of Berlin at a villa by a lake known as Wannsee. Reinhard Heydrich, who was SS chief Heinrich Himmler's head deputy, held the meeting for the purpose of discussing the "final solution to the Jewish question in Europe" with key non-SS government leaders, including the secretaries of the Foreign Ministry and Justice, whose cooperation was needed.

The "final solution" was the Nazis' code name for the deliberate, carefully planned destruction, or genocide, of all European Jews. The Nazis used the vague term "final solution" to hide their policy of mass murder from the rest of the world. In fact, the men at Wannsee talked about methods of killing, about liquidation, about "extermination."

The Wannsee Conference, as it became known to history, did not mark the beginning of the "Final Solution." The mobile killing squads were already slaughtering Jews in the occupied Soviet Union. Rather, the Wannsee Conference was the place where the "final solution" was formally revealed to non-Nazi leaders who would help arrange for Jews to be transported from all over German-occupied Europe to SS-operated "extermination" camps in Poland. Not one of the men present at Wannsee objected to the announced policy. Never before had a modern state committed itself to the murder of an entire people.

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