This Day In History: The Wansse Conference Plans the Holocaust (1942)

On this day in 1942, the Nazis hold a conference that was to lay the foundation for the Final Solution. The Final Solution was the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe. They systematically planned to destroy every Jew in occupied Europe. Hitler had long considered the Jews as Germany’s greatest enemy. It appears that he gave the order for the extermination of the Jews. Goering in 1941, gave Heydrich, the SS general, a direct order to develop a comprehensive plan for the destruction of the Jewish population in the country. The plan was envisaged to be the ‘Final Solution’ to the Jewish Question.

Adolf Eichmann a key participant in the Wannsee Conference

Heydrich convened a conference in a villa in Wannsee an affluent suburb of Berlin, that was attended by over a dozen top Nazi officials. Among those in attendance was the notorious Nazi Adolf Eichmann, he was head of the Central Office for Jewish Emigration and an expert on Jewish affairs. The agenda for the conference was a way to destroy the Jewish race and to come up with the best way to do this. There were various proposals offered, these included mass deportations, sterilization programs and even an idea to send the Jews to Madagascar. Heydrich had his own ideas, he had a plan that was as simple as it was evil. He proposed that the Nazis transported Jews from every corner of Europe to specially designed camps.

Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Heydrich’s idea was that the Jews would be worked and starved to death. The majority of the camps were in Poland. Some objections were raised and among these were that it would take too long and that too many Germans were be involved in guarding hundreds of thousands of Jewish prisoners.  The conference debated all the alternatives and eventually, they decided on one course of action. That was the destruction of every Jew in Europe. The participants agreed that the camps should be built and that those who survived too long would be treated in ‘special ways’; they would be killed.

The conference at Wannsse was significant in that it marked a new stage in the Nazi campaign of terror against the Jews. Previous to Wannsse the Germans had killed many Jews but after the conference, they began to kill them on a massive scale. Wannsse was important in the development of a system for the murder of Jews on an industrial scale.

The first outcome of the Wannsse Conference was the so-called ‘gas vans’. These were vans that would kill the occupants with gas. Later this was deemed not to be efficient enough even though they were killing 1000 people a day. Later the concentrations camps were provided with gas chambers and they greatly increased the numbers that were killed by the Nazis.  The records of the conference were kept and later used in the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.