The Wannsee Conference

On 20 January 1942, senior Nazi officials convened in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee to discuss the “Final Solution to the Jewish Problem”. Sometime in late 1941, Hitler authorized the mass extermination of Jews and other undesirables in Europe. Reinhard Heydrich, one of the top deputies in the SS, convened the Wannsee Conference to inform the various government ministries of Hitler’s decision and coordinate their efforts. The plan called for the undesirables to be worked to death and any who survived exterminated. Heydrich’s planning number was 11,000,000, and subjects were initially defined by the Nuremburg (Race) Laws of 1935.

Once informed of Hitler’s decision, the bulk of the conference discussed the implementation of the first step: the forced evacuation of Jews from Germany and the conquered European territory to camps in occupied Eastern Europe. Exterminations of Jews and others were being undertaken at that time across Europe by the Einsatzgruppen, but they were simply not killing fast enough, and their members were suffering severe psychological trauma from having to personally shoot each undesirable. The Wannsee Conference codified and received the acquiescence of the various German bureaucracies in the implementation of the Death Camps, a much more efficient form of mass murder.

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