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Year
1942

The Wannsee Conference

On this day, Nazi officials meet to discuss the details of the “Final Solution” of the “Jewish question.”

In July 1941, Herman 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.”

Heydrich met with Adolf Eichmann, chief of the Central Office of Jewish Emigration, and 15 other officials from various Nazi ministries and organizations at Wannsee, a suburb of Berlin. The agenda was simple and focused: to devise a plan that would render a “final solution to the Jewish question” in Europe. Various gruesome proposals were discussed, including mass sterilization and deportation to the island of Madagascar. Heydrich proposed simply transporting Jews from every corner Europe to concentration camps in Poland and working them to death. Objections to this plan included the belief that this was simply too time-consuming. What about the strong ones who took longer to die? What about the millions of Jews who were already in Poland? Although the word “extermination” was never uttered during the meeting, the implication was clear: anyone who survived the egregious conditions of a work camp would be “treated accordingly.”

Months later, the “gas vans” in Chelmno, Poland, which were killing 1,000 people a day, proved to be the “solution” they were looking for–the most efficient means of killing large groups of people at one time.

The minutes of this conference were kept with meticulous care, which later provided key evidence during the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

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