Wannsee Conference : Nazi Germany

At the Wannsee Conference held on 20th January 1942, Reinhard Heydrich chaired a meeting to consider what to do with the large number of inmates in Germany's concentration camps. Also at the meeting were Heinrich Muller, Adolf Eichmann and Roland Friesler.

Eichmann gave the conference numbers of the Jews living in the occupied territories. This included Nazi occupied territories in Eastern Europe (3,215,500), Germany (131,800), Austria (43,700), France (865,000), Netherlands (160,800), Greece (69,600), Belgium (43,000), Denmark (5,600) and Norway (1,300).

Eichmann also provided details of the Jews living in countries that the Nazis hoped to have control over during the next few years. This included the Soviet Union (5,000,000), Hungary (742,000), Britain (330,000), Romania (342,000), Turkey (55,000), Switzerland (18,000), Sweden (8,000), Spain (6,000), Portugal (3,000) and Finland (2,300).

Those at the meeting eventually decided on what became known as the Final Solution. From that date the extermination of the Jews became a systematically organized operation. It was decided to establish extermination camps in the east that had the capacity to kill large numbers including Belzec (15,000 a day), Sobibor (20,000), Treblinka (25,000) and Majdanek (25,000).

It has been estimated that between 1942 and 1945 around 18 million were sent to extermination camps. Of these, historians have estimated that between five and eleven million were killed.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Adolf Eichmann, spoke about the Wannsee Conference in 1960.

I remember that at the end of this Wannsee Conference, Heydrich, Muller and my humble self, settled down comfortably by the fireplace, and that then for the first time I saw Heydrich smoke a cigar or cigarette, and I was thinking: today Heydrich is smoking, something I have not seen before. And he drinks cognac - since I had not seen Heydrich take any alcoholic drink in years. After this Wannsee Conference we were sitting together peacefully, and not in order to talk shop, but in order to relax after the long hours of strain.

(2) Wannsee Protocol (January 20, 1942)

At the beginning of the discussion Chief of the Security Police and of the SD, SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich, reported that the Reich Marshal had appointed him delegate for the preparations for the final solution of the Jewish question in Europe and pointed out that this discussion had been called for the purpose of clarifying fundamental questions. The wish of the Reich Marshal to have a draft sent to him concerning organizational, factual and material interests in relation to the final solution of the Jewish question in Europe makes necessary an initial common action of all central offices immediately concerned with these questions in order to bring their general activities into line. The Reichsführer-SS and the Chief of the German Police (Chief of the Security Police and the SD) was entrusted with the official central handling of the final solution of the Jewish question without regard to geographic borders. The Chief of the Security Police and the SD then gave a short report of the struggle which has been carried on thus far against this enemy, the essential points being the following:

a) the expulsion of the Jews from every sphere of life of the German people,

b) the expulsion of the Jews from the living space of the German people.

In carrying out these efforts, an increased and planned acceleration of the emigration of the Jews from Reich territory was started, as the only possible present solution.

By order of the Reich Marshal, a Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration was set up in January 1939 and the Chief of the Security Police and SD was entrusted with the management. Its most important tasks were

a) to make all necessary arrangements for the preparation for an increased emigration of the Jews,

b) to direct the flow of emigration,

c) to speed the procedure of emigration in each individual case.

The aim of all this was to cleanse German living space of Jews in a legal manner.

All the offices realized the drawbacks of such enforced accelerated emigration. For the time being they had, however, tolerated it on account of the lack of other possible solutions of the problem.

The work concerned with emigration was, later on, not only a German problem, but also a problem with which the authorities of the countries to which the flow of emigrants was being directed would have to deal. Financial difficulties, such as the demand by various foreign governments for increasing sums of money to be presented at the time of the landing, the lack of shipping space, increasing restriction of entry permits, or the cancelling of such, increased extraordinarily the difficulties of emigration. In spite of these difficulties, 537,000 Jews were sent out of the country between the takeover of power and the deadline of 31 October 1941. Of these

approximately 360,000 were in Germany proper on 30 January 1933

approximately 147,000 were in Austria (Ostmark) on 15 March 1939

approximately 30,000 were in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia on 15 March 1939.

The Jews themselves, or their Jewish political organizations, financed the emigration. In order to avoid impoverished Jews' remaining behind, the principle was followed that wealthy Jews have to finance the emigration of poor Jews; this was arranged by imposing a suitable tax, i.e., an emigration tax, which was used for financial arrangements in connection with the emigration of poor Jews and was imposed according to income.

Apart from the necessary Reichsmark exchange, foreign currency had to presented at the time of landing. In order to save foreign exchange held by Germany, the foreign Jewish financial organizations were ­ with the help of Jewish organizations in Germany ­ made responsible for arranging an adequate amount of foreign currency. Up to 30 October 1941, these foreign Jews donated a total of around 9,500,000 dollars.

In the meantime the Reichsführer­SS and Chief of the German Police had prohibited emigration of Jews due to the dangers of an emigration in wartime and due to the possibilities of the East.