Minutes of Wannsee Conference

Discussions on the Holocaust and 20th Century War Crimes. Note that Holocaust denial is not allowed. Hosted by David Thompson.
Posts: 678
Joined: 19 Oct 2009 02:51

Re: Minutes of Wannsee Conference

Post by uberjude » 29 Sep 2010 13:40

"To the extent that the minutes are a true reflection of what was said at the meeting..."

But that's precisely the question, isn't it? So let's review.

1. You don' t disagree that what was being discussed was the Final Solution of the Jewish Question

2. You don't disagree that "able-bodied" Jews are to be shipped East, and either worked to death or murdered.

Now, you argue that there was no discussion of what to do with the non-able bodied Jews. So

3. According to you, even though this was supposed to be the Final Solution, it only dealt with the minority of Jews (I'm basing that on Goebbels diary entry from March 1942 that puts the figures as:
"about 60 per cent of them will have to be liquidated whereas only about 40 per cent can be used for forced labor.".)
And, keep in mind, those 40 percent will also be killed.

Let's be generous, though, and split it 50/50. So according to your logic, the "Final Solution" would only account for half of Europe's Jews. Those, the most economically valuable, would be worked to death, while the remaining fifty percent would be fed and housed at no profit to the Germans. How final a solution is it that leaves 50 percent unaccounted for?

You have provided without question the best possible argument for the fact that there must have been topics discussed at Wannsee that weren't recorded in minutes, which is, of course, what Eichmann said, and what every credible historian accepts.

Posts: 296
Joined: 14 Jun 2009 01:48

Re: Minutes of Wannsee Conference

Post by paolosilv » 03 Oct 2010 08:24

Is it not likely that there were two separate decisions on the Holocaust, one before the invasion of the Soviet Union, which led to the murders of Baltic Jewry, and a second one after Dec. 7-8, 1941, when Hitler determined that the US would enter the war, and that the Holocaust would be expanded to include all of the European Jews as well? It certainly seems that way based on the planning for the Wannsee Conference, which was originally planned for Dec, 1941.

best, Paul

michael mills
Posts: 8988
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Minutes of Wannsee Conference

Post by michael mills » 07 Oct 2010 11:35

This is something I posted back in 2003. It contains some information relevant to the deportation plan presented by Heydrich at the Wannsee Conference.
Here is a quote from a private letter of 21 June 1942 from Walter Foehl, deputy head of the Department of Population Management and Welfare of the General-Gouvernement, to his "SS comrades" in Berlin.
Every day we have trains coming in with more than 1,000 Jews a time from all over Europe. The medics patch them up, and we either house them here temporarily or mostly ship them on into the Ukrainian marshes, in the general direction of the Arctic Ocean, where - assuming they survive (which the Jews from the Kurfuerstendamm or Vienna or Bratislava ertainly won't!) - they are all being collected together to await the end of the war, though not without having built a few autobahns in the meantime. (But we're not supposed to talk about that!)
The letter is in the Federal Archive/BDC, personal file of Walter Foehl, and is quoted on page 135 of the book "Architects of Annihilation", by the German leftist historian Goetz Aly.

Aly points out that the language used in the letter contains clear echoes of the minutes of the Wannsee Conference. The words in the minutes that Aly refers to are "....the able-bodied Jews will be taken off to build roads in these territories, where large numbers will undoubtedly be lost through natural wastage".

One might wonder about the reference to the arriving Jews being patched up by the medics. That could possibly be a hint at a process of selection by German doctors, with those assessed as fit for labour being sent onward into Ukraine to be used for road-building, as Foehl states.

His reference to "Housing them here temporarily" might possibly be a hint at the killing of those assessed as unfit for labour, but that can only be a conjecture. The literal sense of the letter suggests the concentration of the Jews in transit camps awaiting despatch to the "Ukrainian marshes", perhaps after undergoing a selection process.

Whatever the case may be, this letter is a piece of documentary evidence from a senior official in the Generalgouvernement indicating that at least some of the Jews deported there were sent further into the Occupied Eastern Territories for use as forced labour.
Walter Foehl was stationed at Krakow, the seat of the administration of the Generalgouvernement. Therefore, he was not in Galicia (or more precisely, he was in what used to be West Galicia before the First World War, when the area was an Austiran province; but not in what was generally called Galicia (= Lemberg District) in 1942).

Foehl refers to trains carrying Jews arriving every day, but does not say how many. Presumably there was at least one train per day.

His reference to at least 1000 Jews I interpret to mean that each train carried at least 1000.

The reference to the Arctic Ocean is drawn from an original German plan to deport the Soviet Jws (those who who had not been killed in the initial sweep, and had been ghettoised) to the White Sea area (the White Sea is a branch of the Arctic Ocean) where the first Soviet concentration camps had been set up in 1918, under the Red Terror. The German Government regarded the Bolshevik regime in Russia and the Red Terror as having been brough about by a Jewish conspiracy, and the opponents of Soviet Power who had been sent to those first Soviet concentration camps, such as Solovetskii, as victims of the Jews; accordingly, deporting Jews to that area was seen as "poetic justice".

Obviously, the Grman occupiers never deported Jews to the White Sea area since that area never came under their control. However, the Ukrainian marshes had been occupied, and thus Jews could be sent there. There was a German plan to drain the marshes and create new farmland, to which the surplus agricultural population of Poland could be transferred; but I have seen no data indiating that Jews wre ever used for such work in any numbers. However, deported Jews were used in large numbers on road-building projects in the occupied Ukraine, eg Durchgangsstrasse IV.
Durchgangsstrasse IV was a military highway that was to be built from Lvov to the Donetsk region in East Ukraine.

In Otober 1941, the project was put under the overall command of Hans-Adolf Pruetzmann, HSSPF Russland-Sued. It lasted until the end of 1943 when it was terminated due to the German retreat, and the labour-camps along its route were dissolved.

The main information about DG IV is in an article by a certain Kaienburg in a German periodical called "1999", to which I do not have access. My information comes from a summary of Kaienburg's article contained in the book "Politik der Vernichtung : eine Gesamtdarstellung der nationalsozialistischen Judenverfolgung", by Peter Longerich.

According to that summary, some 50 labour camps were attached to the DG IV project, 30 in Galicia and 20 in RK Ukraine. Exactly how many Jews in total were sent to those camps is unknown. Apparently the transports of Jews that arrived at those camps also included women and children. Selections were carried out at the camps to weed out those unfit for labour. There was a high death rate due to the harsh slave labour conditions, malnutrition, exhaustion and cold, and also arbitrary killings by the camp guards.

Presumably the surviving Jwish slave labourers were liquidated when the labour camps were dissolved at the end of 1943. It is possible that some were evacuated with the retreating German forces, as happened in the Baltic area.

Longerich's summary does not give any information on the places of origin of the Jews sent to the DG IV camps. I note that the article "Ukraine" in the 1943 Jewish Universal Encyclopedia reported that Jews deported from a number of named places in Belgium had arrived in Ukraine in October 1942; those transports may have had some connection with DG IV, but that is only conjecture on my part.

Another piece of evidence is Horst Ahnert's report on a meeting held on 30 August at RSHA HQ in Berlin to discuss the progress of the deportations. At that meeting, Eichmann informed the assembled men from the RSHA branch offices in the occupied countries (Ahnert was from Gestapo HQ Paris) that a camp for Jews was to be built in Russia; the construction components were waiting at The Hague, and would be sent progressively with each transport of Jews (who presumably would build the camp and be held there, although Ahnert did not spcifically report that). The camp referred to by Eichmann may have been one of those connected with DG IV, which would mean that Jews from the Netherland were sent there, or it may not. It any case, Ahnert's report indicates that Jews from Western Europe were being transported to places in the occupied Soviet Union.

There were also Durchgangsstrassen in White Russia. Gerlach, in his book "Kalkulierte Morde", refers to Durchgangsstrassen VI and VII as I recall, although he does not say whether Jews were used as labour in their construction. In any case, it is apparent that several Durchgangsstrassen were planned, and construction was commenced on many of them; Jewish slave labour was certainly used on some of them.

Posts: 678
Joined: 19 Oct 2009 02:51

Re: Minutes of Wannsee Conference

Post by uberjude » 07 Oct 2010 14:21

Michael, I'm not quite sure what the point of this post was. I don't think anybody questions that Jews were used for labor, nor that extermination through labor was part of the Wannsee Conference. The question is what else was discussed, and, as I noted earlier, given that the point of Wansee was to discuss the Final Solution to the Jewish Question, it's obvious that the fate of all the Jews was discussed, not merely the fifty percent (and again, being generous here) that would be fit for labor. Jews were being exterminated at the same time they were being put to labor; that's hardly news. And, given that at the time that Foehl was writing, Sobibor, Belzec, and Chelmno (not to mention Auschwitz) were already in operation, and Treblinka was about to start up, one can hardly imagine that Foehl was unaware of where many of the thousands of Jews were actually going. Moreover, his last line is pretty interesting in this context:
though not without having built a few autobahns in the meantime. (But we're not supposed to talk about that!)
italics added

Now, given what was actually going on in the East at this time (including that there were hundreds of thousands of Jews actually being gassed to death) it's hard to imagine that "building roads" would actually be verboten to discuss. That "building autobahns" seems a lot like a euphemism.

But again, if Wannsee was to be the final solution, please explain why there would be no discussion of the half (or majority) of Jews who were not "fit for labor?"

Posts: 2760
Joined: 19 Nov 2004 17:22
Location: Spain

Re: Minutes of Wannsee Conference

Post by Boby » 07 Oct 2010 15:07

Here is Peter Longerich assessment on the Wannsee Conference.

[p. 305]



On 29 November, when Heydrich invited a number of state secretaries, senior
officials, and SS officers to a meeting on 9 December,1 at which he wished to
discuss the planned ‘overall solution of the Jewish question in Europe’, the original
intention of the Nazi leadership to undertake the ‘Final Solution’ of the ‘Jewish
question’ after the end of the war had already been superseded: the Nazi regime
had by then killed several hundred thousand people, although in official parlance
Judenpolitik had not reached the stage of the ‘Final Solution’.

With the conference Heydrich plainly intended to outline the mass murders in
the various occupied territories to a number of senior officials of the Party and the
SS as well as leading civil servants as part of a ‘solution to the European Jewish
question’ ordered by Hitler and directed by the RSHA, and to ensure that they,
and especially the ministerial bureaucracy, would share both knowledge of and
responsibility for this policy.

The fact that on 8 December Heydrich was forced by the events of the war to
postpone the conference at short notice to 20 January 1942 gave him six weeks to
rethink his strategy for this major meeting. The change in the entire war situation
that followed the declaration of war on the USA may also have contributed to the
further radicalization of his attitude in the meantime.

A day after the declaration of war on the United States, on 12 December 1942,
Hitler made a speech to the Gauleiters and Reich leaders of the Party, in which he

[p. 306]

once again returned to his ‘prophecy’ of 30 January 1939, as Goebbels’s diaries
As regards the Jewish question, the Führer is resolved to make a clean sweep. He prophesied
to the Jews that if they were to bring about another world war, they would bring about their
own destruction as a result. This was not empty talk. The world war is here, the destruction
of the Jews must be the necessary consequence. The question must be seen without
sentimentality. We are not here to show sympathy with the Jews, we must sympathize
with our own German people. If the German people has once again sacrificed around
160,000 fallen in the Eastern campaign, the authors of this bloody conflict will have to pay
with their lives.
The fact that the world war was now ‘here’ gave particular emphasis to Hitler’s
prophecy, delivered repeatedly since early 1939, that the Jews of Europe would be
destroyed in the event of a world war. But it seems excessive to see Hitler’s speech
on 12 December as the announcement of a fundamental decision on Hitler’s part to
murder the European Jews.3 It was more like a further appeal to accelerate and
radicalize the extermination policy that had already been set in motion with the
mass executions in the Soviet Union, in Poland, and Serbia and the deportations
from Central Europe. In its radical rhetoric, this appeal corresponds (sometimes
literally) to Hitler’s statements of 25 October, but also to Goebbels’s article on 16
November and Rosenberg’s press conference on 18 November. From the period
around mid-December there are further indications that Hitler wanted to radicalize
the persecution of the Jews still further after the USA joined the war, although
one could not conclusively deduce a ‘fundamental decision’ on Hitler’s part to
murder the European Jews from all of these documents.4 Neither can Himmler’s
brief note in his office diary about a conversation with Hitler on 18 December be
seen as additional evidence for Hitler’s ‘fundamental decision’ made a few days
previously.5 The words: ‘Jewish question/to be extirpated as partisans’ represent a
renewed confirmation on Hitler’s part that the mass murders of the Soviet Jews
were to be continued and intensified, albeit with the reservations already given.6

The minutes of the Wannsee Conference provide very little information about
what Heydrich actually said in the SS villa on the Wannsee.7 Its author, Eichmann,
noted only the results, not the exact course of the conference. According to his
own recollections, the participants used far more drastic language; on Heydrich’s
instructions, he had used euphemistic language in the minutes.8

As we do not know the exact words used in the conference, and since
Eichmann’s statements incriminating third parties can only be trusted with
certain reservations, the minutes should not be used as a basis for speculations
about what was ‘actually’ said at the conference. Instead it should be read as a
guideline authorized by Heydrich and revealed to representatives of a number of
authorities by the RSHA, which had been commissioned to deal with the final
solution of the Jewish question. The starting point for an interpretation of the

[p. 307]

RSHA’s Judenpolitik at the beginning of 1942 should not be the conference as
such, but rather Heydrich’s subsequent distillation of it, which he then used for
external purposes.

The central passage of Heydrich’s address concerning the general aims of the
future ‘Jewish policy’ is as follows:9 ‘After appropriate prior approval by the
Führer, emigration as a possible solution has been superseded by a policy of
evacuating the Jews to the East.’ These ‘actions’ (the deportations that had
already been begun) were to be regarded merely as ‘temporary solutions’
(Ausweichmöglichkeiten), nonetheless ‘practical experience would be accumulated’
which would be ‘of great importance for the impending final solution of
the Jewish Question’. The impending ‘final solution’ was envisaged as involving
11 million Jews, a figure which was broken down by country in a statistical
addendum to the minutes. This list not only includes Jews living in areas under
German control, but also those of Great Britain, Ireland, Portugal, Sweden,
Switzerland, Spain, and Turkey. Included in the 700,000 Jews for unoccupied
France are those of the North African colonies. Heydrich thus clearly distinguished
the programme of deportations that had already been set in motion
from a far more comprehensive plan, whose execution he said was ‘dependent
on military developments’, and could therefore only be fully realized after a
German victory. According to the minutes, Heydrich made the following
remarks about the ‘Final Solution’ that he envisaged: ‘As part of the development
of the final solution the Jews are now to be put to work in a suitable
manner under the appropriate leadership. Organized into large work gangs and
segregated according to sex, those Jews fit for work will be led into these areas as
road-builders, in the course of which, no doubt, a large number will be lost by
natural wastage.’ The ‘remainder who will inevitably survive’ will, ‘since they are
the ones with the greatest powers of endurance’, ‘have to be dealt with accordingly’
to prevent their becoming ‘the germ cell of a new Jewish regeneration’.
Initially the Jews were to be taken to ‘transit-ghettos’, from which they were to
be ‘transported further towards the East’.

Heydrich thus developed the conception of a gigantic deportation programme
which would only be fully realizable in the post-war period. Those Jews who were
deported ‘to the East’ were to be worked to death through forced labour or, if they
should survive these tribulations, they would be murdered. The fate of those ‘unfit
for work’, children and mothers in particular, was not further elucidated by
Heydrich. In the context of the speech as a whole, however, and of the murderous
practice that had predominated for months in the occupied Soviet territories, and
since the beginning of December in Chelmno, it is clear that they too were to be
killed, because Heydrich wanted to prevent the survival of the ‘germ cell of a new
Jewish regeneration’ at all costs.

Heydrich’s statement indicates that the RSHA was at this time still proceeding
according to the plan, followed since the beginning of 1941, of implementing the

[p. 308]

‘Final Solution’ of the Jewish question after the end of the war in the occupied
Eastern territories. Heydrich also made it clear what was understood by the
phrase ‘Final Solution’: the Jews were to be annihilated by a combination of
forced labour and mass murder. The fact that it was Jewish forced labour that
gained importance early in 1942 suggests that Heydrich’s remarks should be taken
literally.10 Tellingly, only a few days before the Wannsee Conference, on 12
January 1942, the HSSPF Ukraine instructed the Commissars General in Brest-
Litovsk, Zhitomir, Nikolayev, Dnepropetrovsk, and Kiev to start immediately
preparing for the establishment of ghettos so that ‘Jews from the Old Reich
could be accommodated in the course of 1942’.11 By contrast, there is no evidence
that there was any plan at this point to deport the Jews from Central and Western
Europe directly to extermination camps on Polish soil. On the contrary, the first
deportations from countries outside Germany, those from Slovakia and France,
which began in the spring of 1942, as well as the ‘third-wave’ deportations from
the Reich, which were taking place at the same time, did not lead directly to the
gas chambers of the extermination camps. It was not immediately before or after
the Wannsee Conference, but in the spring of 1942 that the capacity of the
extermination camps was hastily extended at very short notice.

The minutes of the Wannsee Conference do, however, make it clear that, on the
one hand, the idea of a post-war solution was being firmly adhered to, while at the
same time there was a debate over the proposal to exempt the Jews in the General
Government and the occupied Soviet territories from this general plan and kill
them in the short term.

Five weeks before the Wannsee Conference, Governor General Frank had
already learned that the deportation of the Jews from the General Government
could not be counted on even in the medium-to-long term.12 He drew the
conclusions from this knowledge at a meeting on 16 December:13
In Berlin they said to us, ‘Why are people making such a fuss? We can’t do anything with
them in the Ostland or in the Reichsommissariat either; liquidate them yourselves!’
Gentlemen, I must ask you to resist any sense of compassion. We must annihilate the
Jews wherever we find them and whenever this is at all possible, in order to maintain here
the whole structure of the Reich.
However, the method and time-frame for this mass murder were still undecided
in mid-December 1941, as we can see from Frank’s further remarks:
We can’t shoot these 3.5 million Jews, we can’t poison them, but we will be able to intervene
in a way that will somehow lead to their successful extermination—in the context of the
greater measures that are to be discussed in relation to the Reich. The General Government
must become just as free of Jews [judenfrei] as the Reich. Where and how that happens is a
matter for the official bodies that we must set up and deploy here, and in due course I shall
let you know how effective they are being.
[p. 309]

The determination of the leadership of the General Government to achieve this
‘successful extermination’ in the short term provides the context for the remarks
made by the State Secretary, Bühler,the representative of the government of the
General Government, towards the end of the Wannsee Conference. Bühler stated
that the General Government would ‘welcome it if the final solution to this
question could begin in the General Government, because, in the first place, the
problem of transportation does not play a decisive role here and because these
measures will not be obstructed by issues involving labour deployment’. Moreover,
the approximately 2.5 million Jews who were to be removed from the
General Government ‘as soon as possible’ were overwhelmingly ‘unfit for work’.
Thus Bühler was clearly proposing that the majority of the Jews in the General
Government should be murdered within the General Government itself, and that
they should no longer be used, as Heydrich had suggested, ‘to build roads’ in the
occupied Eastern territories.

Then the conference participants went a step further, and discussed the
question of how the Jews in the General Government and the occupied Soviet
territories were actually to be ‘removed’—in other words they talked in concrete
terms about the method for murder: ‘In the concluding stages different possible
solutions were discussed. Both Gauleiter Dr Meyer [the representative of the
Eastern Ministry] and State Secretary Dr Bühler argued that certain preliminary
measures for the final solution should immediately be taken in the relevant area
itself, although in such a way as to avoid causing disquiet among the local

These ‘preliminary measures’, however, can only have meant one thing: the
construction of extermination camps in the district of Lublin: Belzec was already
under construction, while Sobibor may have been at the planning stage. However,
the minutes do not provide any evidence that any decision was taken on the
proposals of Meyer and Bühler at the conference itself.

In fact the Wannsee Conference took place at a watershed. The original plan,
for which concrete steps had already been taken, for the comprehensive deportation
and annihilation of the Jews in camps in the occupied Soviet territories
(‘road-building’ as a synonym for forced labour in inadequate conditions) was still
being adhered to. However, at the same time it had become clear that the
precondition for this, an impending victory, could not be expected at least in
the short term, while in the meantime hundreds of thousands of people had been
killed in the occupied Polish territories, in Serbia, and the Soviet Union, and there
were plans to extend these massacres.

Thus, the Wannsee minutes that have survived provide a snapshot of a stage
reached in a process in the course of which the SS leadership had shifted its
perspective away from the idea of a post-war ‘final solution’ to the new aim of
implementing ever more stages of the ‘Final Solution’ during the war, in other
words to ‘anticipate’ it, while at the same time this new perspective still included

[p. 310]

the post-war period. During this critical period, the deportation to the occupied
Soviet territories increasingly became a fiction, while mass murder in the
General Government increasingly became reality. During the greatest crisis of
the war so far, the ‘Final Solution’ of the ‘Jewish question’ that had originally
been intended, namely the mass deportations to the occupied Soviet territories,
was becoming increasingly illusory. In this context Heydrich wished to convey
the impression to those responsible for the persecution of the Jews that the
RSHA had a plan whereby the mass murders which had begun in different ways
in various occupied territories, which represented a hitherto unimaginable
realization of state terror, could lead to a ‘total solution’ that could be implemented
in the long term.

While Heydrich adhered to the scheme of deportations to the occupied Eastern
territories and allowed no doubts that the deportees would be violently killed
there, the minutes of the discussion make it clear that other solutions had already
been considered, namely the possibility of murdering all the Jews in the General
Government in situ. This idea was plainly accepted after the Wannsee Conference,
and it also became gradually accepted that the deportations from the rest of
Europe, originally planned for the occupied Soviet territories, were to be diverted
to the extermination sites under construction in the General Government. On 20
January 1942, Heydrich had two chief concerns: the deportations had to be
accepted (everything that happened after the deportations was an internal SS
matter, and no longer had to be agreed with other institutions). Secondly, the
category of those to be deported had to be established: the status of Mischlinge and
those married to non-Jews had to be clarified.

This latter issue was dealt with in the second part of the conference. Heydrich
suggested that ‘Mischlinge of the first degree’ who were married to ‘Aryans’ were
as a rule to be deported or dispatched to a ‘ghetto for the aged’. Heydrich pointed
out that the complicated classification of Mischlinge by the Nazi racial laws would
have required numerous individual decisions. The State Secretary in the Reich
Ministry of the Interior, Wilhelm Stuckart, objected to the ‘endless administrative
work’ that this would inevitably produce, and suggested ‘a move to compulsory
sterilization’. This disagreement could not be settled at the conference, and was
thus to be addressed in several subsequent meetings, albeit without any conclusive

However, by being included in the detailed discussion of the problems surrounding
Mischlinge and ‘mixed marriages’, the representatives of the ministerial
bureaucracy came to share both knowledge of and responsibility for the ‘Final
Solution’. For, with the concerns they raised against the inclusion of marginal
groups in the deportations, the representatives of the ministerial bureaucracy had
made it plain that they had no concerns about the principle of deportation per se.
This was indeed the crucial result of the meeting and the main reason why
Heydrich had detailed minutes prepared and widely circulated.
1. PAA, Inland II g 177, memo from Heydrich to Luther. On 1 December HSSPF Krüger
und State Secretary Bühler of the General Government were invited to clarify the
question of competencies concerning the ‘Jewish problem’ (note from Eichmann and
invitation letter of 1 December; it was already included in the Eichmann trial as
Dokument T 182, published in Tagesordnung Judenmord. Die Wannsee-Konferenz
am 20. Januar 1942. Eine Dokumentation zur Organisation der ‘Endlösung’, (Berlin,
1992), ed. Kurt Pätzold and Erika Schwarz; facsimile in Yehoshua Büchler and Yehuda
Bauer, ‘A Preparatory Document for the Wannsee “Conference” ’, HGS 9 (1995), 121–9.
For literature on the Wannsee Conference see: Mark Roseman, The Villa, the Lake, the
Meeting: Wannsee and the Final Solution (London, 2002); Christian Gerlach, ‘Die
Wannsee-Konferenz, das Schicksal der deutschen Juden und Hitlers politische Grundsatzentscheidung
alle Juden Europas zu ermorden’, Werkstattgeschichte, 18 (1997), 7–
44; Eberhard Jäckel, ‘The Purpose of the Wannsee Conference’, in James S. Pacy and
Alan P. Wertheimer, eds, Perspectives on the Holocaust: Essays in Honor of Raul
Hilberg (Boulder, Colo., 1995); Peter Klein, Die Wannsee-Konferenz vom 20. Januar
1942. Analyse und Dokumentation (Berlin, 1995); Pätzold and Schwarz, Tagesordnung;
Safrian, Eichmann-Männer, 171 ff.; Wolfgang Scheffler, ‘Die Wannsee-Konferenz und
ihre historische Bedeutung’, in Erinnern für die Zukunft (Berlin, 1995).

2. Elke Fröhlich, ed., Die Tagebücher, Teil II, vol. ii, 13 Dec. 41, pp. 498–9.

3. This is the argument put forward by Gerlach, ‘Wannsee-Konferenz’.

4. This is what Rosenberg recorded in his diary concerning a discussion with Hitler on 14
December, at which he presented him with the manuscript of a planned speech at the
Sportpalast (Rosenberg, Tagebuch, PS-1517, IMT xxvii. 270 ff., 16 Dec. 41, also published
in Wilhelm, Rassenpolitik, 132): ‘Where the Jewish question is concerned, I would say
that, following the decision, the remarks about the New York Jews should perhaps be
changed somewhat. I would take the view that one should not speak of the extermination
of the Jews. The Führer agreed with this stance and said they had burdened us
with the war and brought destruction; no wonder they were the first to feel the
consequences.’ In Gerlach’s view, the ‘decision’ mentioned by Rosenberg is Hitler’s
‘fundamental decision’, which must in that case have been made between 7 and 14
December (‘Wannsee-Konferenz’, 24). In my view, however, the ‘decision’ plainly
refers to Germany’s declaration of war upon the United States, as a result of which
the German policy pursued hitherto of keeping the USA out of the war with ‘reprisals’
against the German Jews and with propaganda deliberately directed at the ‘Jewish
warmongers’ around Roosevelt, had been superseded. Any further anti-Semitic threats
directed against the USA would now even be counter-productive, because they only
demonstrated the lack of effectiveness of German propaganda hitherto; on the other
hand the German leadership could not bring itself to expose the terrible realization of the
‘prophecy’ with an offensive propaganda campaign going beyond general hints.

5. Dienstkalender, ed.Witte et al., 294. According to Gerlach (‘Wannsee-Konferenz’, 22 and
27), the term ‘partisan’ should be taken to mean that in view of the now imminent war on
two frontsHitler had fallen into a ‘kind of fortress-continental-Europe mentality’, and saw
the European Jews in general as dangerous enemies in his own hinterland. As far as one
can tell, however, there is no evidence for the use of the term ‘partisan’ to describe the
European Jews inHitler’s otherwise stereotypical anti-Semitic diatribes. Onthe other hand
the idea that the Jews in the occupied Soviet territories were generally partisans or helpers
of partisans and must therefore be removed was so widespread among the Germans even
by the end of 1941 that Hitler’s statement seems quite clear.

6. See Gerlach, ‘Wannsee-Konferenz’. However, Gerlach does not explain why Himmler,
whom he takes to have been present during Hitler’s address on 12 December, himself
left no notes about the ‘fundamental decision’, but—as one of those chiefly responsible
for the murder of the Jews—was only informed by Hitler about that decision six days
later. Similarly it seems questionable whether one can really, with Gerlach, draw such
extensive conclusions from the fact that during these days a series of discussions was
held by people who played a leading role in the ‘Final Solution’, but about the contents of
which we have no detailed information (pp. 23–4).

7. PAA, Inland IIg 177, conference minutes. Published in Longerich, Ermordung, 83 ff. For
an English translation see Noakes and Pridham, eds, Nazism, iii. 535–41.

8. Trial of Eichmann, vii. 879 (text written by Heydrich and Müller); IfZ G 01 (trial
transcript, German version), session of 24 July: in fact the terms used at the conference
were ‘killing’, ‘elimination’, and ‘annihilation’

9. See n. 7.

10. On the issue of forced labour at this point see Longerich, Politik, 476 ff. The details will
be examined in the following chapter.

11. Zhitomir City Archive, P 1151-1-137. I am most grateful to Wendy Lower for allowing me
to have a copy of this document.

12. Diensttagebuch, ed. Präg and Jacobmeyer, 457–8.

13. Ibid., 16 Dec. 1941.

14. Cf. especially Cornelia Essner, Die ‘Nürnberger Gesetze’ oder die Verwaltung des
Rassenwahns (Paderborn, 2002), 410 ff.; Jeremy Noakes, ‘The Development of Nazi
Policy towards the German-Jewish Mischlinge 1933–1945’, LBIY 34 (1989), 291–354; John
A. S. Grenville, ‘Die “Endlösung” und die “Judenmischlinge” in Dritten Reich’, in
Ursula Büttner, ed., Das Unrechtsregime, vol. ii: Verfolgung—Exil—Belasteter Neubeginn
(Hamburg, 1996), 91–122.

Source: Peter Longerich, Holocaust. The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews (Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 305-310 (translation of some of his 1998 book "Politik der Vernichtung")

michael mills
Posts: 8988
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Minutes of Wannsee Conference

Post by michael mills » 08 Oct 2010 00:42

The importance of the Foehl letter is the resemblance of the process described in it to the Europe-wide deportation plan described by Heydrich at the Wannsee Conference.

Heydrich had described a plan to send Jews into occupied Soviet territory to be used for labour on road-building projects. Foehl says that convoys of Jews from "all over Europe" are arriving in the Generalgouvernment", and being sent on into the "Ukrainian marshes" where they will be gathered at the end of the war, in the meantime being used to build "Autobahns".

In other words, Foehl is writing as if the plan outined by Heydrich was actually in operation by the end of June 1942.

In fact, that deportation plan had not been implemented. Instead, Jews in the Lublin and Lemberg Districts were being sent to extermination centres at Belzec and Sobibor.

So why did Foehl write as if the Wannsee Plan was in fact being implemented? That Jews were being sent into occupied territory to build roads?

As I have said, as small number of Jews was indeed sent to those territories and used on road-building projects. But it is clear that the deportation plan was not implemented to any great extent, and was replaced by an operation to retain the fit Polish Jews within the Generalgouvernement itself for labour there, and to kill off the unfit ones.

Perhaps Foehl, as an official of the civilian administration in occupied Poland was unaware of what was going on at Belzec and Sobibor, which was kept a secret within the ranks of the SS. Perhaps he did think that the Wannsee Plan was actually being implemented.

But in any case, the operation he describes in his letter provides a good summary of what the plan outlined by Heydrich at Wannsee actually consisted of, namely to send Jews into the "Ukrainian marshes", where they would be used to build roads, in the course of which the less fit would die off, and the remainder would be gathered.

Posts: 678
Joined: 19 Oct 2009 02:51

Re: Minutes of Wannsee Conference

Post by uberjude » 08 Oct 2010 03:34

I agree, Michael. The Wansee Plan was being implemented; a minority of Jews were being sent to labor, a majority to extermination.

Again, if the Wansee Conference was to deal with the Final Solution, what was discussed about the majority of Jews who weren't judged as fit for labor? Did the discussion of the Final Solution somehow ignore the majority of the Jews?

michael mills
Posts: 8988
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Minutes of Wannsee Conference

Post by michael mills » 08 Oct 2010 09:34

To the moderator:

Back in 2004 you wrote this on this thread:

Code: Select all

Document NG-2586-G, in Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10. Vol. 13: United States of America v. Ernst von Weizsaecker, et al. (Case 11: 'Ministries Case'). US Government Printing Office, District of Columbia: 1952. pp. 210-217. 
Do you still have access to TWC Vol. 13?

If so, there is, according to a reference I have seen in the book "Ribbentrop" by Michael Bloch, a document on pages 243-249 of that volume, which is very relevant to this thread, being a report of 21 August 1942 by Martin Luther to Ribbentrop, outlining all the activities of the German Foreign Office in relation to the Final Solution. According to Bloch, the report describes in some detail the Wannsee Conference, the diplomatic negotiations leading to the removal of foreing Jews from Germany, and the mass deportations from Slovakia.

Perhaps the content of that report could be posted in this thread, if available.

Posts: 678
Joined: 19 Oct 2009 02:51

Re: Minutes of Wannsee Conference

Post by uberjude » 08 Oct 2010 13:32

BTW, just want to note that I don't know that anybody doubts that the elements in the Wansee Minutes were discussed at the actual meeting. I agree--as I think most people do--that one element of the Final Solution involved extermination through labor--that's evident on the fact of it by the fact that so many Jews were made to labor (but I think it's incredibly important to stress that the final result was to be extermination-, not just labor--all those Jews sent to labor would die, and in fact, the most fit would actually be murdered outright). If the goal was simply to provide a labor pool, they could treat them like any other slave laborers--badly, but not genocidally.

The issue is not what was in the document, but what was left out. Sure, Heydrich planned to kill a portion of the Jews through this labor process. But only a minority.

The real issue is the elements which, according to Eichmann, were not recorded in the minutes. The argument you are making is that at Wansee, the proposed "Final Solution" of the Jews only dealt with 40-50 percent of the Jews, and, by implication, not only would at least half the Jews survive this supposedly final Solution, but they would be the Jews who are of the least economic utility for the Reich, because they aren't fit for labor (those Jews being killed off as a result of the labor process).

Goebbels diary is noteworthy on this account for two reasons. One is the timeline. It was written in March, long before Foehl's letter. But also look at how circumspect Goebbels is even in the diary:

The procedure is a pretty barbaric one and not to be described here more definitely. Not much will remain of the Jews. On the whole it can be said that about 60 per cent of them will have to be liquidated whereas only about 40 per cent can be used for forced labor."

If Goebbels in his own diary won't go into details, how likely is it that Foehl--or Luther, for that matter--would in a letter? It hard to avoid the notion that Foehl's line about not being able to talk about the "autobahns" that are being built is a euphemism for what's really going on.

At any rate, I'm happy to concede that at Wannsee, one topic of discussion was extermination through a forced labor/murder process. But even by their own accounts, that didn't even account for half the Jews, would result in the least economically useful Jews (including hundreds of thousands of children) surviving and having to be cared for, and hence, can't be the sole element in what was to be the "Final Solution."

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 23721
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Re: Minutes of Wannsee Conference

Post by David Thompson » 08 Oct 2010 14:52

Michael -- Per your request, here it is (emphasis in original):



Berlin, 21 August 1942
Most Urgent (Citissime)

Reference : No. 954 of 19 August [1942]

1. The principle of the German Jewish policy after the seizure of power consisted in promoting with all means the Jewish emigration. For this purpose in 1939 Field Marshal Göring in his capacity as Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan established a Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration and the direction was given to SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich in his capacity as Chief of the Security Police.[2] The Foreign Office is represented in the committee of the Reich Central Office. The draft of a letter to this effect to the Chief of the Security Police was approved by the Reich Foreign Minister as 83/24 B in February 1939.

2. The present war gives Germany the opportunity and also the duty of solving the Jewish problem in Europe. In consideration of the favorable course of the war against France, D III proposed in July 1940 as a solution the removal of all Jews from Europe and the demanding of the Island of Madagascar from France as a territory for the reception of the Jews.[3] The Reich Foreign Minister has basically agreed to the beginning of the preliminary work for the deportation of the Jews from Europe. This should be done in close cooperation with the offices of the Reich Leader SS (compare D III 200/40).

The Madagascar plan was enthusiastically accepted by the Reich Security Main Office which in the opinion of the Foreign Office is the agency which alone is in the position techriically and by experience to carry out a Jewish evacuation on a large scale and to guarantee the supervision of the people evacuated.4 The com-
[1] The italicized portion of this document was underlined by hand on the copy introduced in evidence. The document, one of many related documents found in Foreign Office files, does not indicate to whom it was addressed, or to whom it was circulated.
[2] See Document NG-2586-A. Prosecution Exhibit 1443, reproduced earlier in this section.
[3] See Rademacher's memorandum of 3 July 1940 on "The Jewish Question in the Peace Treaty," Document NG-2586-B. Prosecution Exhibit 1445. reproduced earlier in this section.
[4] This sentence was introduced in evidence as Document Stuckart 638, Stuckart Defense Exhibit 374.


petent agency of the Reich Security Main Office thereupon worked out a plan going into detail for the evacuation of the Jews to Madagascar and for their settlement there. This plan was approved by the Reich Leader SS. SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich submitted this plan directly to the Reich Foreign Minister in August 1940 (compare D III 2171). The Madagascar plan in fact has been outdated as the result of the political development.

The fact that the Führer intends to evacuate all Jews from Europe was communicated to me as early as August 1940 by Ambassador Abetz after an interview with the Führer (compare D III 2298).

Hence the basic instruction of the Reich Foreign Minister, to promote the evacuation of the Jews in closest cooperation with the agencies of the Reich Leader SS, is still in force and will therefore be observed by D III.

3. The administration of the occupied territories brought with it the problem of the treatment of Jews living in these territories. First, the military commander in France saw himself compelled as the first one to issue on 27 September 1940 a decree on the treatment of the Jews in occupied France.[1] The decree was issued with the agreement of the German Embassy in Paris. The pertinent instruction was issued directly by the Reich Foreign Minister to Ambassador Abetz on the occasion of a verbal report.

After the pattern of the Paris decree similar decrees have been issued in the Netherlands and Belgium. As these decrees, in the same way as German laws concerning Jews, formally embrace all Jews independent of their citizenship, objections were made by foreign powers, among others protest notes by the Embassy of the United States of America, although the military commander in France through internal regulation had ordered that the Jewish measures should not be applied to the citizens of neutral countries.

The Reich Foreign Minister has decided in the case of the American protests that he does not consider it right to have military regulations issued for making an exception of the American Jews. It would be a mistake to reject objections of friendly states (Spain and Hungary) and on the other hand to show weakness toward the Americans.[2] The Reich Foreign Minister considers it necessary to make these instructions to the field commandants retroactive (compare D III 5449).

In accordance with this direction the Jewish measures have been given general application.
[1] See telegram of Minister Schleier of the German Embassy in Paris to the Foreign Office in Berlin, 9 October 1940, reproduced earlier in this section as item 5 of Document NG-4893, Prosecution Exhibit 1688.
[2] See Rademacher's file note of 19 December 1940. reproduced earlier In this section as item 8 of Document NG-4893. Prosecution Exhibit 1688.


4. In his letter of 24 June 1940-Pol XII 136-SS-Brigadeführer Heydrich informed the Reich Foreign Minister that the whole problem of the approximately three and a quarter million Jews in the areas under German control can no longer be solved by emigration-----a territorial final solution [territoriale Endloesung] would be necessary.

In recognition of this Reichmarschalll Göring on 31 July 1941 commissioned SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich to make, in conjunction with the interested German Control agencies, all necessary preparations for a total solution [Gesamtlösung] of the Jewish problem in the German sphere of influence in Europe[1] (compare D III 709 secret). On the basis of this instruction, SS-Brigadeführer Heydrich arranged a conference of all the interested German agencies for 20 January 1942,[2] at which the State Secretaries were present from the other Ministries and I myself from the Foreign Office. In the conference SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich explained that Reichmarschall Göring's assignment to him had been made on the Führer's instruction and that the Führer instead of the emigration had now authorized the evacuation of the Jews to the East as the solution (compare page 5 of the enclosure to D III 29/42 Secret). State Secretary von Weizsäcker had been informed on the conference;[3] for the time being the Reich Foreign Minister had not been informed on the conference, because SS Major General Heydrich agreed to holding a new conference in the near future in which more details of the total solution should be discussed. This conference has never taken place due to SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich's appointment as acting Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia and due to his death.

In the conference on 20 January 1942 I demanded that all questions concerned with countries outside Germany must first have the agreement of the Foreign Office, a demand to which SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich agreed and also has faithfully complied with, as in fact, the office of the Reich Security Main Office handling Jewish matters has from the beginning carried out all measures in frictionless cooperation with the Foreign Office. The Reich Security Main Office has in this matter proceeded indeed almost over cautiously.

5. On the basis of the Führer's instruction mentioned under 4 [above], the evacuation of the Jews from Germany was begun. It was urged that at the same time these Jews should also be
[1] See Document• NG-2586-E, Prosecution Exhibit 1448, also Stuckart Document 635. Stuckart Defense Exhibit 371, reproduced earlier in this section.
[2] Reference is made to the "Wannsee Conference." Extracts from the minutes of this conferenee are reproduced earlier in this section (Doc. NG-2586-G. Pros. Ex. 1452).
[3] The defendant von Weizsäcker denied having been informed of the discussion at the "Final Solution" at the Wannsee Conference. See extracts from his testimony reproduced later in this section.


taken who were nationals of the countries which had also undertaken Jewish measures. The Reich Security Main Office accordingly made an inquiry of the Foreign Office. For reasons of courtesy, inquiry was made by way of the German legations in Bratislava, Zagreb, and Bucharest to the governments there as to whether they wanted to recall their Jews from Germany in due time or to agree to their deportation to the ghettos in the East.
To the issuance of this instruction agreement was given before dispatch by the State Secretary, the Under State Secretary in Charge of the Political Division, the Director of the Division for Economic Policy and the Director of the Legal Division (compare D III 336 Secret).

The German Legation in Bucharest reports with reference to D III 602 Secret, that the Rumanian Government would leave it to the Reich government to deport their Jews along with the German Jews to the ghettos in the East. They are not interested in having the Rumanian Jews return to Rumania.

The Legation in Zagreb has informed us that the Croat Government expresses gratitude for the gesture of the German Government; but it would appreciate the deportation of its Jews to the East (compare D III 624 Secret).

The Legation in Bratislava reported with reference to D III 661 Secret that the Slovak Government is fundamentally in agreement with the deportation to the eastern ghettos. But the Slovak claims to the property of these Jews should not be endangered.

The wire reports have also been submitted, as customary, to the Reich Foreign Minister's Bureau.

On the basis of the reports of the Ministers I have informed the Reich Security Main Office with reference to D III 661 Secret that the Jews of Rumania; Croat, and Slovak nationality could also be deported, their property should be blocked. The Director of the Political Division, Section IV of the Political Division, Section IX of the Legal Division and Section IV of the Division for the Economic Policy have cosigned the document. Accordingly, the deportations of the Jews from the occupied territories was undertaken.

6. The number of the Jews deported in this way to the East did not suffice to cover the labor needs there. The Reich Security Main Office therefore, acting on the instruction of the Reich Leader SS, approached the Foreign Office to ask the Slovak Government to make 20,000 young, strong Slovak Jews from Slovakia available for deportation to the East. The German Legation in Bratislava was provided, by D III 874, with proper instruction. The instruction was signed by the State Secretary, the Under


State Secretary in charge of the Political Division, and Section IV of the Political Division.

The Legation in Bratislava reported re D III 1002 that the Slovak Government has taken up the suggestion eagerly; the preparatory work could be begun.

Following up this pleased concurrence of the Slovak Government, the Reich Leader SS proposed that the rest of the Slovak Jews also be deported to the East and Slovakia thereby be made free of Jews. The Legation was, re D III 1559 Ang. II, provided with proper instruction. The draft of the instruction was signed by the State Secretary; after its dispatch it was submitted for their information to the bureau of the Reich Foreign Minister and the Under State Secretary in charge of the Political Division.

As the Slovak Episcopacy meanwhile raised objections to the deportation of the Jews before the Slovak Government, the instruction carries the express statement that in no case must there develop internal political difficulties on account of the evacuation of the Jews in Slovakia. By the telegraphic report, re D III 2006, the Legation reported that the Slovak Government, without any German pressure, has declared itself agreeable to the deportation of all Jews and that the State President agreed personally to the deportation. The telegraphic report was submitted to the bureau of the Reich Foreign Minister. The Slovak Government has furthermore agreed that it will pay as a contribution to the cost entailed RM 500 for every evacuated Jew.

In the meantime 52,000 Jews have been removed from Slovakia. Due to church influences and the corruption of individual officials 35,000 Jews have received a special legitimation. However, Minister President Tuka wants the Jewish removal continued and therefore has asked for support through diplomatic pressure by the Reich (compare D III 3865). The Ambassador is authorized to give this diplomatic help in that he may state to State President Dr. Tiso that the exclusion of the 35,000 Jews is a surprise in Germany, the more so since the cooperation of Slovakia up to now in the Jewish problem has been highly appreciated here. This instruction has been cosigned by the Under State Secretary in charge of the Political Division, and the State Secretary.

7. The Croat Government is likewise fundamentally agreeable to the removal of the Jews from Croatia. It especially considers the deportation of the four to five thousand Jews from the Italian occupied Second Zone (centered around Dubrovnik and Mostar) to be important, as they represent a political burden and their elimination would serve the general pacification. The removal can of course take place only with German aid, as difficulties are to be expected from the Italian side. There have been practical


examples of resistance against the Croat measures by Italian officials on behalf of well-to-do Jews. Furthermore, the Italian Chief of Staff in Mostar has stated that he cannot approve the removal since all the people living in Mostar have been assured of the same treatment.

Since meanwhile according to a telephone communication from Zagreb, the Croat Government has given its written approval of the proposed measure, Minister Kasche thinks it right to begin with the removal, and in fact to begin for the whole country. One could therefore take the risk of having difficulties develop in the course of the action, so far as concerns the zone occupied by Italians.

A report for the Reich Foreign Minister to this effect (D III 562 Secret) has been held up by State Secretary von Weizsaecker since he considered an inquiry should first be made at the Embassy in Rome. The answer has not been received.

The problem of the Italian Jews has come up in the same way in connection with the evacuation of the Jews in France.

Ambassador Abetz points out in connection with the deportation in preparation from the Occupied French Territory that there was an urgent political interest to take the foreign Jews first in the evacuation measures. Since these Jews were regarded as foreign bodies they were already especially hated and passing them over and giving them thereby a quasi privileging would cause bad feeling, the more so since among them were to be found responsible instigators of Jewish terror and sabotage acts. It was regrettable that the Axis appeared exactly in this point to pursue no uniform policy.

If the evacuation of the foreign Jews were not immediately possible, the Italian Government should be for the time being asked to repatriate their Jews from France.

On the Italian side economic interests appear to play a decisive role. The safeguarding of these interests however is entirely possible, so that on this point there needs to be no obstacle to the planned solution.

On this question of the Italian Jews in France a conference record of 24 July, re D III 562 Secret, has been submitted to the Reich Foreign Minister.

8. On the occasion of a reception by the Reich Foreign Minister on 26 November 1941 the Bulgarian Foreign Minister Popoff touched on the problem of according like treatment to the Jews of European nationalities and pointed out the difficulties that the Bulgarians had in the application of their Jewish laws to Jews of foreign nationality.


The Reich Foreign Minister answered that he thought this question brought up by Mr. Popoff not uninteresting. Even now he could say one thing to him, that at the end of this war all Jews would have to leave Europe. This was an unalterable decision of the Fuehrer and also the only way to master this problem, as only a global and comprehensive solution could be applied and individual measures would not help very much. Furthermore, one should not attribute too much worth to the protests on behalf of the Jews of foreign nationality. At any rate, we would not let ourselves be taken in any further by such protests from the American side. He -- the Reich Foreign Minister -- would have the problem described by Mr. Popoff investigated by the Foreign Office.

The Reich Foreign Minister commissioned me to undertake the investigation promised
(compare D III 660g).*

I should like to make reference to my basic conference memorandum of 4 December 1941, re D III 660 Secret, which I am dispatching, together with the proper files. This conference memorandum was held up by the State Secretary, because he considered a further examination by the Legal Division first necessary. In their opinion the German-Bulgarian trade and shipping pact was not in agreement with the German-Bulgarian arrangements proposed by me. I therefore notified the German Legation in Sofia, re D III 497 Secret, under date of 19 June, in reference to the suggestion of the Bulgarian Foreign Minister Popoff at his reception to contact the Bulgarian Government and find out whether it was prepared to come to an agreement in the Jewish problem that there should be no rights from the trade and shipping pact given effect in favor of the Jews in the promise of reciprocality.


The intended deportations are a further step forward on the way of the total solution and are in respect to other countries (Hungary) very important. The deportation to the Government General is a temporary measure. The Jews will be moved on further to the Occupied Eastern Territories as soon as the technical conditions for it are given.

I therefore request approval for the continuation of the negotiations and measures under these terms and according to the arrangement made.

Signed: LUTHER
* Document NG-4669. Prosecution Exhibit 1461, reproduced earlier in this section.

By the way, all of the NMT proceedings are available on-line for free (if somewhat lengthy) pdf downloading, courtesy of the US Library of Congress, at http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/ ... inals.html

Posts: 678
Joined: 19 Oct 2009 02:51

Re: Minutes of Wannsee Conference

Post by uberjude » 08 Oct 2010 16:51

This document is, in fact, very relevant, but not perhaps for the reasons Mr. Mills imagines. It should be noted that the initial Slovak offer of "20,000 young, strong, Slovak Jews" that Luther referes to actually predates the Wannsee Conference, and actually was not in the context of the Final Solution. Rather, as Hilberg points out (below), Slovakia had offered Germany 100-120,000 Slovakian laborers, and when that number apparently became hard to reach (they ultimately sent 80,000), the government offered 20,000 Jewish laborers to fill the gap. http://books.google.com/books?id=vUyKlr ... 00&f=false

At any rate, the overwhelming majority of Slovakian Jews were not sent to build Autobahns in the Ukraine (were any?), but to gas chambers in Poland.

If this is supposed to offer evidence of Mr. Mills thesis regarding the topic of discussion of the Wannsee Conference, it's fairly significant that, far from offering a comprehensive discussion of labor, aside from the 20,000 Slovakian Jews (who were, as noted above, not initially offered as part of the Final Solution but actually as a labor force to substituted for Slovaks), there is virtually no discussion of "labor," and almost no discussion of what happens to the Jews after "evacuation," and where there is, it's not to "build autobahns," but simply to be herded into "ghettoes in the East."

And It's also particularly damning that again, with the exception of those specific 20,000 Slovak Jews, there's no discussion here of the Jews' fitness for labor. This is not the limited evactuation of Jews "fit for labor" offered by Michael; this is the deportation of entire Jewish communities. And we know what was happening to them at the time of Luther's writing (hint: it wasn't building highways).

michael mills
Posts: 8988
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Minutes of Wannsee Conference

Post by michael mills » 09 Oct 2010 07:53

David, thanks for posting this very informative document.

Luther talks of a directive by Hitler to evacuate all of the Jews of Europe "to the East". More specifically, he talks of the evacuated Jews being taken to "ghettos in the East".

The most significant thing he said was this:
The intended deportations are a further step forward on the way of the total solution and are in respect to other countries (Hungary) very important. The deportation to the Government General is a temporary measure. The Jews will be moved on further to the Occupied Eastern Territories as soon as the technical conditions for it are given.
It is likely that the above represents what was told to the participants at the Wannsee Conference. The "Final Solution" would be achieved when all Jews had left Europe, by means of transportation into occupied Soviet territory (with that territory and its inhabitants being considered non-European). As a first step in the process of achieving the Final Solution, Jews from Germany and elsewhere would be deported to the Generalgouvernement and held in ghettos there, until conditions were right for them to be sent deep into the wilds of Russia, presumably when a final victory over the Soviet Union had been achieved as a result of the offensive being planned for the summer of 1942.

That first step was actually carried out; Jews from Germany and Slovakia were transported to the Lublin District of the Generalgouvernement and housed in ghettos there. However, only a small number of them were sent onward into occupied Soviet territory as labour for road-construction projects; most stayed in the Polish ghettos and were eventually delivered to the extermination camp at Sobibor, most probably in 1943.

The eventual killing of the German and Slovak Jews who had been housed in Polish ghettos as described by Luther in his report to Ribbentrop, most probably represented a change to the plan outlined by Heydrich at Wannsee, not its fulfilment; that was the conclusion of Reitlinger back in 1953, in his book "The Final Solution". The final stage of transportation deep into Russia, to penal colonies in the White Sea area, could not be carried because of the failure of the German offensive of 1942 to achieve final victory. Since the Jews penned up in the ghettos of Lublin District had become a burden, they were killed.

The killing operation at Belzec, described by Goebbels in his diary entry of 27 March 1942, shortly after its commencement, most probably represented a variation to the deportation plan outlined by Heydrich at Wannsee, a variation arising from a reaction to a crisis in the Lublin District. Since large numbers of Jews from Germany and Slovakia were scheduled to start arriving in the Lublin District, and the movement of Jews out of that territory (both the exisitng Polish Jewish population and the incoming Jews) was not scheduled to begin until after the expected victory over the Soviet Union, the result would have been huge overcrowding in the ghettos in the Lublin District, particularly as there had already been a number of Jews moved into that area.

Perhaps the civilian administration of the Generalgouvernment had come to some sort of an agreement with Globocnik, the SSPF Lublin, to create space for the incoming German and Slovak Jews by "liquidating" the local Jews assessed as unfit for labour, estimated at 60% of the total. Presumably the remaining 40% fit for labour were to be retained, until they could be sent into occupied Soviet territory to perform the road-construction projects described by Heydrich at Wannsee as being part of the process of the Final Solution ("im Zuge der Endloesung"). Or else Globocnik may have decided on his own to commence killing of the unfit Jews in the Lublin District, without consulting the civilian administration, solely on the basis of his authority derived from Himmler. It is likely that the local operation at Chelmno, previously authorised by Himmler and Heydrich for the Sonderbehandlung of 100,00 Jews of the Reichsgau Wartheland, served as a precedent and model for a local and limited killing operation in the Lublin District.

Note that Goebbels had no qualms about describing what was happening to the unfit Jews as "liquidation". He did not resort to euphemisms to conceal the killing process, even if he declined to go into the gory details of that process.

Is it possible that the killing of the unfit Jews of the Lublin District was actually discussed at the Wannsee Conference? Buehler did request that the "Final Solution" begin in the Generalgouvernement; however, given that Heydrich had defined the process of the "Final Solution" as transporting the Jews of Europe into conquered Soviet territory, he was most probably asking that the Jews of the Geenralgouvernement should be the first to be transported, on the basis that they were the ones closest to the final destination in the East and therefore transport was less of a problem than for Jews coming from further west. No doubt he hoped that thereby the Generalgouvernement would be quickly emptied of its Jews, and the Jews coming from further west would travel straight to the East, or only stop over temporarily in the Polish ghettos.

If that interpretation be accepted, then it is apparent that Buehler's request was not granted, since the first Jews to be sent on the first stage of the journey east were those from Germany and Slovakia, and they were dumped into the Lublin District before the native Jews had been evacuated, thereby exacerbating the problem that Bühler was hoping to solve.

As for the 20,000 young, fit Slovakian Jews, Uberjude is correct in saying that their transportation from Slovakia was not a part of the mass deportation plan outlined by heydrich as Wannsee. In fact, they did not go East, but rather north to Auschwitz, to be used for labour there.

The movement of the Slovakian Jews was pursuant to the order issued by Himmler to Glücks, the Inspector of Concentration Camps, one week after the Wannsee Conference, to prepare to receive 150,000 Jews and Jewesses for important economic tasks. Himmler informed Glücks that those Jews would come from Germany, and be diverted from the movement of German Jews to the East.

It subsequently turned out that Jews from Germany were not available, and were to be substituted for by Jews from Western and South-Eastern Europe. The quotas set of Jews fit for labour, of both sexes between the ages of 16 and 30 were:



The despatch of these Jews to Auschwitz for labour was not part of the "Final Solution", but a diversion from it, resulting from the fact that Soviet POWs were no longer available to provide the 200,000-strong labour force envisaged for the Auschwitz complex.

The historians Peter Longerich and Bogdan Musial consider that the killing operation at Belzec was initially a local and limited initiative, designed to reduce overcrowding in the ghettos of the Lublin District. It was then extended to the Lemberg District, and finally in July to the whole of the Generalgouvernement, by an order of Himmler to complete the "evacuation" of the Jews in the GG by the end of 1942. According to Governor-General Dr. Frank, only the 300,000 Polish Jews working for the German war effort were to be retained and to continue to receive rations, out of a total of 1.2 million Jews in the GG.

Luther was writing to Ribbentrop in August 1942, at a time when the "liquidation" of the great majority of the Jewish population of the GG was in full swing. However, he does not talk of that extermination, since the German Foreign Office was not interested in Polish Jews, but only in the Jews of the countries allied to Germany, such as Slovakia and Hungary, or of neutral countries under German domination, such as France. Luther writes as if those Jews were simply to be sent to the Polish ghettos, awaiting final despatch into occupied Soviet territory. Perhaps that reflects that fact that as of the date of Luther;s report, no decision had yet been made at the highest levels of the German Government that Jews deported from those countries should be killed in the same way as the Polish Jews were being killed. Or if that decision had already been made, Luther was not aware of it.

Posts: 678
Joined: 19 Oct 2009 02:51

Re: Minutes of Wannsee Conference

Post by uberjude » 10 Oct 2010 01:29

Michael, I don't object to most of the facts, only the interpretation, and your interpretation still ignores the question of what was said at Wannsee about the Jews who weren't judged fit for labor. You have argued that the minutes at Wannsee reflect the actual topic of discussion, which was deportation for labor in the East. But that would hardly be a Final Solution since it excluded most Jews. You can bring in whatever statistics you want about other matters, the fact is that the most important witness to Wannsee reported, on multiple occasions (including in an interview with a friendly journalist before he was captured, when he'd have no reason to lie) that Wannsee saw a discussion of the Final Solution in the context of liquidation. Here's his quote from the Sassen interview:
By this time the formula "Final Solution for the Jewish Question" had taken on a new meaning: liquidation. In this new sense we discussed it at a special conference on Jan. 10, 1942 in the Wannsee section of Berlin.
He also makes it clear that the minutes, the specific topic of this thread, didn't include this discussion.

Even before this discussion, Chelmno was gassing Jews, and shortly after this discussion, gassings began at the other camps in Poland, including Auschwitz.

Goebbels did mention Liquidation explicitly in his diary, but again, that's a diary. As for Luther, at a time, August 1942, where Jews were being gassed in Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka and Auschwitz, there's no such language. You wrote:
Luther writes as if those Jews were simply to be sent to the Polish ghettos, awaiting final despatch into occupied Soviet territory. Perhaps that reflects that fact that as of the date of Luther;s report, no decision had yet been made at the highest levels of the German Government that Jews deported from those countries should be killed in the same way as the Polish Jews were being killed. Or if that decision had already been made, Luther was not aware of it.
this rather beggars the imagination. Considering the degree to which the Nazis used euphemisms to discuss genocide, even among themselves, the most obvious explanation (gotta love Occam's Razor), is that Luther knew very well what fate awaited the Jews of the rest of Europe. When it comes to the 20,000 Slovak Jews tasked for labor, he specifies it. As for the rest of the Jews, they are to be sent to ghettoes in the East, at precisely the the time that those ghettoes were being liquidated.

So, to sum up:

We have a conference at which the final solution to the Jewish Question was discussed, in which, you agree, all Jews fit for labor would be exterminated through labor or murder.

the most important witness to that conference stated, under no duress whatsoever, to a friendly journalist in a safe atmosphere, that extermination was discussed. And he also testified elsewhere that this information was left out of the minutes.

shortly after this discussion, the mass gassing of Jews, which had already begun, kicked into high gear, as the ghettoes in Poland were emptied.

Luther sends a letter discussing the implementation of a deportation plan to send the rest of Europe's Jews (who were enumerated in the Wannsee Conference) to Poland, where, at the time, the millions of Jews were in the process of being gassed. There is no discussion in the letter about labor, or about only sending those fit for labor. It is clear that this is to be a total "evacuation."

Readers may draw whatever conclusions they want about this--to me, it's hard to imagine that at a conference intended to discuss the "Final" solution of the Jewish question, they would only discuss the minortiy of Jews fit for labor, that it was mere coincidence that shortly after that conference, the mass gassing of Jews spread from Chelmno to Belzec, Auschwitz, Sobibor and Treblinka, and that the continued planning of deportations of European Jews to the GG was unrelated to extermination plans but only linked to labor, especially when Luther makes no mention of it. And all of this, when the most important witness we have--who was intimately involved not just with Wannsee, but with the deporations from other countries has made very clear the Wansee did discuss "liquidation," and that it was left out of the official minutes.

And I have yet to hear a response from you on the obvious question I've raised earlier--Why, in a discussion of the "final solution," would the Nazis come up with a plan that only killed a minority of Jews--the most economically useful--but keep alive the majority( including children) who would then have to be fed and housed at the Nazis' expense? A solution that leaves alive the majority of Jews, including the children, is hardly "final," but according to your argument, that's precisely what Heydrich was proposing.

michael mills
Posts: 8988
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Minutes of Wannsee Conference

Post by michael mills » 10 Oct 2010 06:14

To answer Uberjude's questions:

The participants at the Wannsee Conference did not "come up" with a plan. Rather, they were informed of a plan that had been worked out by Heydrich and which they were oblied to accept since it had received Hitler's authorisation.

According to the minutes of the conference, that plan consisted of deporting all the Jews of Europe into occupied Soviet territory, starting with the Jews in the west and moving progressively east. Jews fit for labour were mentioned specifically in the minutes for the reason that they were not only going to be transported into occupied Soviet territory, but utilised there for economic purposes, namely building roads. Jews unfit for labour were not specifically mentioned because there was no reason to mention them; since the plan was to deport all Jews, then the unfit would be transported along with the fit.

The minutes make the important point that at the destinations in the occupied Soviet territory, the sexes would be separated, which means that no more children would be born to the deported Jews. As a result, the number of Jews would dwindle away over time through "natural decrease" (the original German is "natuerliche Verminderung", a demographic terminus technicus meaning an excess of deaths over births).

Another important point made in the minutes is that the plan would be implemented when the military situation permitted it, ie when victory over the Soviet Union had been achieved and there would be no obstacle to transporting the European Jews far into former Soviet territory and dumping them there, wherever the victorious Germans wanted. Since that victory was not obtained, the plan outlined at the coference could not be implemented in full.

The minutes say nothing about where the deported Jews would be housed in occupied Soviet territory. most probably because the representatives of the Ministries did not need to know that. However, we know from other sources, such as the Goebbels diary and Heydrich's post-Wannsee address in Prague, that the plan wasto house them in camps in the White Sea area, where they would be guarded by Czechs who had been assessed as undesirable and sent to the East to work as German auxiliaries.

Another interesting fact is that when Goebbels finally received a copy of the Wannsee minutes, some weeks after the conference, he mentioned it in his diary as a deportation plan, not as a plan for "liquidation".

michael mills
Posts: 8988
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Re: Minutes of Wannsee Conference

Post by michael mills » 10 Oct 2010 06:35

On 28 July 2006, I posted the following message about an entry in the Goebbels diary dated 7 march 1942, relevant to ur discussion of the Wannsee Minutes. I am reposting it here for the enlightenment of Uberjude and any other interested readers.

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... ry#p932041
On 7 March 1942, Josef Goebbels made the following entry in his diary ("Die Tagebücher von Josef Goebbels", Munich 1987, I/4, 115-116):
Ich lese eine ausführliche Denkschrift des SD und der Polizei über die Endlösung der Judenfrage. Daraus ergibt sich eine Unmenge von neuen Gesichtspunkten. Die Judenfrage muß jetzt im gesamteuropäischen Rahmen gelöst werden. Es gibt in Europa noch über 11 Millionen Juden. Sie müssen später einmal zuerst im Osten konzentriert werden; eventuell kann man ihnen nach dem Krieg eine Insel, etwa Madagaskar, zuweisen. Jedenfalls wird es keine Ruhe in Europa geben, wenn nicht die Juden restlos aus dem europäischen Gebiet ausgeschaltet werden.

My translation:

I am reading a detailed memorandum of the SD and Police about the Final Solution of the Jewish Question. A huge number of new points of view are gleaned from it. The Jewish Question must now be solved in the pan-European framework. There are still over 11 million Jews in Europe. Later they must first be concentrated in the East; after the war an island, maybe Madagascar, can possibly be assigned to them. In any case there will be no rest in Europe if the the Jews are not totally excluded from the European area.
The SD-Police memorandum that Goebbels read was probably circulated in the wake of the Wannsee Conference, and enumerated the policy which Heydrich considered had been accepted at that venue. The basic points made in the memorandum, as described by Goebbels, reflect the deportation plan outlined in the minutes of the Conference; all the Jews of Europe are to be deported to the East (= the conquered Soviet territories) and concentrated there. Even the grossly exaggerated estimate of the number of Jews in Europe (including the Soviet Union), 11 million, is repeated.

It is noteworthy that the memorandum made no mention of any plan to physically liquidate the Jews concentrated in the east, or even hint at it. Instead, it appears to have stated that the concentration in the East was to be a temporary stage until the end of the war, when, with an assumed German victory, the Jews were to be sent to a destination outside Europe. That replicates the policy stated in the Stahlecker letter to Lohse of August 1941, when a similar concentration of Soviet Jews pending their expulsion to an extra-European destination after the war was described.

It seems unlikely that a decision to exterminate the Jews concentrated in the East in whole or in part would have been concealed from a Government Minister like Goebbels, or why, if it had been revealed to him, he would have concealed it in his private diary.

The most likely interpretation is that as of the date of Goebbels' diary entry, while a decision to deport all Jews under actual and potential German control into conquered Soviet territory had been approved by Hitler, no decision to kill them had yet been made.

The diary entry of 7 March may be concentrated with the better-known entry of 27 March, three weeks later, in which Goebbels describes the commencement of the extermination of the Polish Jews unusable for labour, being carried out by Globocnik. That entry shows that Goebbels did not shy away from talking about extermination in his diary, which supports the interpetation that he was not concealing a policy of extermination in his entry of 7 March.

It may be inferred that between 7 and 27 March 1942, a decision was made to add an element of extermination to an existing policy of deportation, to the extent that Jews assessed as unusable for labour were no longer to deported into the occupied Soviet territory, but killed at points situated along the deportation routes. The background to that decision remains unclarified, but it is possible that it resulted from opposition by the German authorities in the occupied Soviet territories to having the entire Jewish population of German-occupied Europe dumped on them.

It is clear from what Goebbels says in his diary entry of 27 March that if a decision was made between 7 and 27 March, it was one for partial, not total, extermination; Goebbels states that 60% of the Polish Jews were to be liquidated as unusable for forced labour. What is unclear is whether the putative decision applied only to the Jews of the Generalgouvernement, or to all the Jews of German-occupied Europe.

If a decision was made in March 1942 to kill part of the Jewish population of the Generalgouvernement, it was preceded by an authorisation given some months previously by Heydrich and Himmler, possibly in October 1941, to Reichsstatthalter Greiser, on the latter's application, to kill 100,000 of the Jews of Reichsgau Wartheland, ie about one-third of the Jews of that area. Subsequent events show that the selection of the one-third to be killed was made on the basis of inability to be used for labour, so it is possible that the decision to kill similarly unusable Jews of the Generalgouvernement was prompted by that earlier authorisation.

Return to “Holocaust & 20th Century War Crimes”