The infamous “Wannsee Conference” was a high-profile gathering of high-ranking heads of the Nazi party of the German tyrannical regime. They gathered in Berlin, Wannsee, on 20 January 1942. The meeting’s agenda was to deliberate and discuss how to implement what they referred to as the “striking a final solution to the Jewish question.” The purpose was to communicate to the administrative leaders of various departments in charge of various policies and programs related to the Nazi’s endeavor. Richard Heydrich called the meeting. He was the chief executer of the plan; he was the chief of the SD, which is the security service, and doubled as the NAZI governor of Bohemia and Moravia. Through his office, the NAZI controlled both the NAZI Security police (known as Gestapo and Kriminalpolizei in German) and the SS Intelligent service (known as Sicherheit). However, there is no existing document that explains by whom, when, and in what manner they decided to carry out the massacre of 11 million Jews. Nevertheless, many scholars argue that such orders were not given in a written form. Instead, Adolf Hitler ordered them autocratically in oral form in the summer of 1941. After the meeting, a network of extermination camps were put up and millions of youths were murdered. The Wannsee house, where the conference happened, is currently preserved as a Memorial for the Holocaust.
At the conference, Heydrich Reinhardt presented the master plan under Adolf Hitler’s approval for the quick extermination of the Jews in French speaking North Africa and Europe and for the use of able-bodied Jews on road construction projects. In the end, the Jews working in road projects would also die. By 1941, in the inner circles of the Nazi top headship as well as the government corridors, it was becoming apparent that Adolf Hitler planned to eliminate the Jews in Europe and have them deported to the eastern territories for execution through any means possible at the time. That was a great challenge because it was to involve mass registration and movement of many people during the period of labor shortage. The burden was severe. Logistically, it was a difficult task. It was also imminent that some of the high-ranking state officials could collaborate inadequately or completely fail to cooperate. Therefore, it was important that the representatives of the affected departments were brought together to discuss the way forward and ensure the top officials took part.
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Heydrich gave an account of the measures against the Jews taken in Germany and Europe since their Nazi seized leadership in 1933. Heydrich explained that from 1933 to 1941, more than 530 000 German and Austrian Jews immigrate and were deported. The briefing prepared on his behalf by Eichmann, who was the top expert of practicalities, a week prior to the conference provided valuable information. According to Hedrick’s report, there were more than 11 million Jews in Europe, with about half of them coming from countries free from the German’s authoritarian control. Because the further immigration of the Jews in Europe had been stopped, Hedrick suggested to try “another possible solution to the question”. The solution was evacuating the Jews to the eastern side. There was to be a ‘provisional’ solution; however, ‘more practical remedy’ had been gathered in preparation to release the “final solution to the Jewish question.” Some scholars argue that the Wannsee conference did not go beyond the evacuation of the Jews and settling them to the east; there was no murdering. Heydrich explained their fate in his speech at the conference:
Under proper guidance, in the course of the final solution the Jews are to be allocated for appropriate labor in the east. Able bodied Jews, separated according to sex, will be taken in large columns to these areas for work on roads, in the course of which action doubtless a large portion will be eliminated by natural causes. The possible final remnant will have to be treated accordingly because it is the product of natural selection and would, if released act as a seed of new Jewish revival.
The participants of the conference could not understand what Heydrich meant. Actually, historians reveal that most of the participants were learned; most of them had a doctorate. Heydrich went further to explain that, for legal and political correctness, he found it important to define who a Jew was. He listed exemptions as well: the Jews aged 65 and above and the Jewish who were veterans of the First World War and had been injured and wounded, and those who were iron cross winners to be confined in the constructed concentration camps (at Theresienstasdt).
The situation of the half-caste people was more complex. With regard to the Nuremburg Statutes made in 1935, the half castes’ statuses were ambiguously left, maybe deliberately, for foreseen uses. Heydrich referred to them as Mischlings (a mix of races) of first degree if they had two Jewish grandparents. Surprisingly, this was not applicable to the children from the marriage of a Jew to a non-Jew. This would not be the case if they had been exempted only by a few individuals from the high offices in the Nazi party. The exempted would instead undergo sterilization. In the mixed marriages situation, Heydrich ruled that if in that marriage the children were raised in German culture, the partner (Jewish) would not suffer deportation. Since his emphasis was the effects of the German influence, a mixed marriage with children raised as Jews would unfortunately cause the children to be deported or sent to Theresienstadt. The exceptions above were applicable in Germany and Austria, and were readily flouted. In a majority of the other nations, Jews were packed and deported on masses, including everyone who shared neighborhood or closely identified themselves with the Jews as they were regarded as the Jews as well. Except for a few recorded exceptions in France, where the French regime at the time applied its own rules mainly affecting the refugees instead of the French-born Jews. Therefore, in the process, many French-Jews survived.
Some countries reported opposition. For example, in Denmark, the plan received opposition from not only the king but also the people, who were against the actions of the Danish participants who were supposed to evacuate majority of the Jewish population to Sweden. There was more opposition in Romania and Hungary, although they were at the time German allies. Heydrich commented that extermination of the Jews in Romania was inefficient and slow in spite of the observed dislike for Semitism. The Hungarian government had its own Jewish policy and resisted German’s interference until 1944, when the regime of Miklos Horthy was overthrown. Experts attribute Horthy’s fall to Nazi’s extremist interventions. In the course, Eichmann murdered more than 450 000 Hungarian Jews.
In the conference, Heydrich spoke for about an hour, after which questions and comments followed. Other participants also made their contributions. Representatives Hoffmann and Stuckart were the first to point out the legal, administrative, and other challenges in the execution of the plan. They mentioned the issue of the mixed-couple marriages rooting for forced marriage dissolutions in prevention of imminent legal battles. They said that it would call for wider use of sterilization as a better alternative to deportation. Luther, a representative of the foreign office, advised that caution should be exercised in Scandinavian as well as other Nordic nations where public view was not anti-Jewish and, therefore, it may be unpredictable on how they reacted to unpleasant scenes. Buhler, speaking for the Poland's general government, contributed that their general government did not mind implementing the plan, especially if the planned final solution to the problem began in their general government. He indicated that transportation was not to play a large role and that there were no problems with labor supply. Jews were to be deported first from the general government's territory, as quickly as possible, because in his opinion, the Jews there were a greater epidemic. He explained that they were causing permanent problems in the country’s economy because of their continued dealings in the black market. Another participant, Neumann, speaking for the four-year arrangement, advocated for the selective exclusion of the Jews, who at the time worked in industries vital to the war efforts, especially those whose replacements could not be found. Concerning Neumann’s argument, Heydrich assured him quickly that these Jews would not suffer evacuation. Historians observe that the answer was most likely not genuine; it was Heydrich’s desperate efforts not to offend Neumann’s boss. Details put off in the following meeting included questions concerning Mischlings as well as those of mixed matrimony. The questions on this subject were postponed because of their complexity.
The Wannsee conference lasted about 90 minutes. The execution was to be carried in a systematic and bureaucratic way, which saw about six million Jews executed. The holocaust was sponsored by Adolf Hitler’s regime. Historians analyze that since the Nazis ascended to power in January 1933, they have been carrying the thought that they were racially superior to the inferior, a tag given to the Jews. They were even deemed a threat to the superiors and were, therefore, treated as enemies to the German community. During the holocaust, other minority groups also suffered. The German regime also fought against the other groups because of racial inferiority. Some Slavic people, such as Russians, Poles, were also persecuted. They were selected against on unfair grounds, such as behavioral, political, and ideological grounds. Some of these groups included communists, socialists, Kingdom for Jehovah’s witnesses, and homosexuals.
The Nazi tyranny had spread to other countries in Europe. With the help of their collaborators, the Germans brutally persecuted and murdered millions of people. Millions of Soviet prisoners of war were murdered or died of starvation, maltreatments, diseases, and infections under highly deplorable conditions. Some Soviet and Polish civilians were subjected to forced labor and mistreatment. The Germans also targeted the non-Jewish Polish intelligentsia, who were killed as well, and millions faced deportation. Since the onset of the Nazi regime, homosexuals and other sexual minorities existed. The Nazi authorities had a specific norm and code, and those who did not conform to it would have to face persecution. Political opponents were not spared either. The German police department raided thousands of political opponents, such as socialists and trade unionists.
The persecution and genocide were indeed stepwise and systematic, as was outlined in the Wannsee conference. First, the laws to discriminate the Jews from the civil society were enacted long before World War II. The concentration camps were then established for detaining and confining the targeted groups for forced labor until they died of diseases and exhaustion. Ghettos were established, where the Romani were gathered and confined before being ferried to extermination camps, where most of them would die in transit. If they survived the fatal journey, they would be killed in gas chambers. The government was deeply involved in logistics so that the genocide would go efficiently as planned.
During the 1941 summer, an SS leader, Mr. Himmler, ordered the Auschwitz commandant to carry the final solution. The following year, 1942, was the year of mass murder of such a scale that had been never observed before on the planet. All the plans had been laid down in the Wannsee conference. The SS cheated Jews aboard trains at Balzac, Sobibor that they were just stopping. According to the SS, they would soon continue their journey to their respective destinations. In addition, the Jews were further told that their clothes ought to be disinfected as they proceeded to shower rooms. They walked nude into a room fitted with showers. As soon as they crammed in the place, the door was closed, and in the airtight condition, poisonous carbon monoxide gas was pumped.
In all the death camps, special crews from the Jewish people were used to remove the victims from the gas chambers. They extracted any gold materials from the teeth and searched body openings for any concealed valuables. Corpses were discarded in mass graves and cremated in heated fire pits. Valuables, such as gold, silver, clothing, glasses, watches, and jewelers were shipped to Germany for reuse. A surprising fact about their journey to the death camps was that the Nazi regime would charge the Jews exterminated from the Western Europe the train fares. They were charged as third class passengers. They were ferried disguised as they were being taken for resettlement in the eastern side. In the Polish ghettos, the Jews were told they were transferred to work. Most of them willingly availed themselves, hoping to escape the deplorable cruel conditions in the ghettos. They were confined in poorly ventilated and unheated boxcars with poor water and sanitation. Many of them died long before reaching their destination.
By around 1944, the Nazi war had started to turn against Adolf. His armies started losing battles. However, the killing of the Jews continued. On 24 July 1944, the Soviet army destroyed the first death camp Majdanek in the eastern side of Poland. More than 350 000 Jews had died there. Himmler countered and ordered the destruction of all the gas chambers. The Soviet army reached Auschwitz in 1945. By that time, over 1.5 million Jews and over half a million Polish prisoners had perished. In April 1945, the Soviet army surrounded Berlin, where Adolf Hitler took his own life. The Reich rule came down. By that time, most of the European Jews had been brutally murdered. Over 4 million lost their lives in the death camps. Over 2 million others were either shot dead or succumbed to death in the ghetto death camps. The formidable allies: the United States, Britain, and the Soviet States Union started the arduous task, digging to uncover the minds behind the master plan. Seven months afterwards, the Nuremberg War Crime Trials began.
The Wannsee conference was indeed a conglomeration of the bloodthirsty minds. The plan against the 11 million Jews was devised simply because the Germans considering themselves a superior race. The plan was mapped out by the most senior officials of the Nazi party under Adolf Hitler. They planned to exterminate the Jews through shooting, gas poisoning, and subjecting them to deplorable inhumane conditions, which led to their death.
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