The Systematic Character of the National Socialist Policy for the Extermination of the Jews: Electronic Edition, by Heinz Peter Longerich

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E. The Wannsee Conference

1.The Wannsee Conference of 20 January 1942 served Heydrich in his intention to present the mass murders in the various occupied areas, as part of a general plan - ordered by Hitler and directed by the RSHA - for the "solution of the European   Jewish Question". The presence of a number of high-ranking functionaries of the Party and the SS, as well as leading ministerial officials, allowed Heydrich to implicate these groups and especially the ministerial bureaucracy, by virtue of their knowledge and resposibilities as accomplices.
2.The central passage of Heydrich's address concerning the general aims of the future "Jewish Policy" is as follows:
A further possible solution instead of emigration has come up. After appropriate approval by the Führer, the evacuation of the Jews to the East has stepped into its place.279
3.These "actions" - that is, the deportations which had already commenced - are merely "possible alternatives " They were, however, "of vital importance in view of the impending Final Solution of the Jewish Question" due to "the practical experiences gathered".280 Heydrich thus clearly distinguished two time periods: the "impending Final Solution", and the provisional measures for the near future - "possible alternatives". The coming "Final Solution", according to Heydrich, concerned a total of 11 million Jews This figure was broken down according to country in a statistical addendum to the protocol. 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 figured for unoccupied France, are those of the North African colonies. Heydrich thus clearly separated the programme of deportations already set into motion from a far more comprehensive plan. The execution of the latter was said to be "dependent on the military development"281, and could only be fully realised after a German victory. According to the protocol, Heydrich made the following remarks concerning the "Final Solution":
Under the appropriate direction, the Jews shall now be put to work in the course of the Final Solution. Organised into large work gangs and segregated according to sex, those Jews fit for work will be led into these areas as road-builders, whereby, no doubt, a large part will fall out   by natural elimination. The remainder who will survive - and they will certainly be those who have the greatest power of endurance - will have to be dealt with accordingly. For, if released, they would, according to the natural selection of the fittest, form the seed of a new Jewish regeneration.282
4.Initially, the Jews should be brought to "transit-ghettos", in order to be "transported from there further to the East".283
5.Heydrich thus developed the conception of a gigantic deportation programme which would only be fully realisable in the post-war period. The Jews who were deported "to the East" were to find death through forced labour. In the case that they should survive these trials, they would be murdered. The fate of those "unfit for work" - the children and mothers in particular - was not further elucidated by Heydrich. In the context of his speech as whole, however, it is clear that these too were to be killed. For as Heydrich said, he wanted to prevent the "seed of a new Jewish reconstruction" at all costs. Heydrich continued, that "in the process of carrying out the Final Solution, Europe would be combed through from the West to the East." The Reich, including the Protektorat, should be "first".284 Here once more, the distinction is being made between the "Final Solution" realisable in the long-term, and the already implemented, smaller, "anticipated" steps. Jews over the age of 65, Heydrich went on to say, should be removed to an old-peoples ghetto or Altersghetto (Theresienstadt). This special regulation for the elderly, was designed to lend the idea of a labour programme in the East, a degree of added plausibility.
6.Heydrich's exposition indicates that the RSHA was at this time still proceeding according to the plan followed since the beginning of 1941, of implementing the "Final Solution" after the end of the war in the Eastern Areas. Heydrich also made clear what was understood by the "Final Solution": the Jewish people were to be   annihilated through a combination of forced labour and mass murder. The fact that precisely forced Jewish labour was gaining importance at the turn of 1941/1942, speaks in favour of taking Heydrich's remarks literally. On the other hand, there is no evidence to suggest that there were already plans at this point in time to deport the Jews straight out of Central and Western Europe into extermination camps. On the contrary, the first deportations from non-German countries (Slovakia and France) which began in early 1942, as well as the simultaneous "third wave" of deportations from the Reich, were not to lead directly to the gas-chambers of the extermination camps. Neither immediately before nor after the Wannsee Conference, but only in late Spring 1942 was the capacity of the extermination camps suddenly and hurriedly expanded.
7.On the one hand, the protocol of the Wannsee Conference, makes it clear that a post-war solution was being adhered to. At the same time, however, the proposal was debated, whether the Jews in the Generalgouvernement and the occupied Soviet Areas should be exempted from this general plan, and killed in the short-term.
8.Already five weeks prior to the Wannsee Conference Generalgouverneur Frank had learned that the deportation of the Jews from the Generalgouvernement could not be counted on, even in the middle to long-term. He drew the consequences of this knowledge at a meeting on 16 December:
In Berlin they told us: what is the point of this trouble; we can't do anything with them in Ostland or in the territory of the Reich either, liquidate them yourselves! Gentlemen, I must ask you to arm yourself against all considerations of compassion. We must annihilate the Jews, wherever we meet them, and wherever it is at all possible, in order to uphold the entire structure of the Reich.285
9.The method and time-frame for this mass murder were still open in mid-December 1941 , as can be gleaned from Frank's further remarks:
These 3.5 million Jews cannot be shot, we cannot poison them; we will however be able to make anticipatory steps, which will somehow lead to a successful extermination - in the context of the large measures from the perspective of the Reich - to be discussed. The   Generalgouvernement must become just as free of Jews as is the Reich.. Where and how that happens is a matter for the authorities which we must create and employ, and whose usefulness I will report on to you in due course.286
10.The determination of the government of the Generalgouvernement to achieve this "successful extermination" in the short-term within the Generalgouvernement itself, is the background to the remarks of the representative of the government of the Generalgouvernement, Secretary of State (Staatssekretar) Bühler, near the end of the Wannsee Conference. He stated that "the Generalgouvernement would welcome the commencement of the Final Solution of this question in the Generalgouvernement, because the problem of transportation does not play a decisive role, for one, and that problems related to labour would not obstruct the course of this action. "287 Added to this, the approximately 2.5 million Jews who were to be removed from the Generalgouvernement "as soon as possible", were overwhelmingly "unfit to work". Bühler followed this with a clear proposal to murder the majority of the Jews of the Generalgouvernement in the Generalgouvernement itself.
11.Following on from this, the question of how to then "eliminate" the Jews of the Generalgouvernement and the occupied Soviet Areas was discussed - this is to say, a discussion of the concrete methods of murder ensued:
In the concluding discussion different possible solutions were talked about. Gauleiter Dr. Meyer [the representative of the Ministry for the occupied Eastern Territories, P.L.] as well as Staatssekretar Dr. Bühler represented the position that certain preparatory measures in the course of the Final Solution should be carried out in the relevant areas themselves, whereby however, the disquieting of the population must be avoided.288
12.The protocol, however, doesn't give any evidence that the proposals of Meyer and Bühler were decided at the conference itself.


277. 'Im Osten leben noch etwa sechs Millionen Juden, und diese Frage kann nur gelöst werden in einer biologischen Ausmerzung des gesamten Judentums in Europa. Die Judenfrage ist für Deutschland erst gelöst, wenn der letzte Jude das deutsche Territorium verlassen hat, und für Europa, wenn kein Jude mehr bis zum Ural auf dem europäischen Kontinent steht. [...] Und dazu ist es nötig, sie über den Ural zu drängen oder sonst irgendwie zur Ausmerzung zu bringen.' Draft of the speech quoted in Wilhelm, Rassenpolitik, p. 131 from PAA, Pol XIII, 25, VAA-Reports: draft. Cf. the notes of a journalist , printed in Hagemann, Presselenkung, p. 146.
278. 'Bezüglich der Judenfrage ist der Führer entschlossen, reinen Tisch zu machen. Er hat den Juden prophezeit, daß, wenn sie noch einmal einen Weltkrieg herbeiführen würden, sie dabei ihre Vernichtung erleben würden. Das ist keine Phrase gewesen. Der Weltkrieg ist da, die Vernichtung des Judentums muß die notwendige Folge sein. Diese Frage ist ohne jede Sentimentalität zu betrachten. Wir sind nicht dazu da, Mitleid mit den Juden, sondern nur Mitleid mit unserem deutschen Volk zu haben. Wenn das deutsche Volk jetzt wieder im Ostfeldzug an die 160.000 Tote geopfert hat, so werden die Urheber dieses blutigen Konflikts dafür mit ihrem Leben bezahlen müssen.' Fröhlich (ed.), Tagebücher , 13.12.41.
279. 'Anstelle der Auswanderung ist nunmehr als weitere Lösungsmöglichkeit nach entsprechender vorheriger Genehmigung durch den Führer die Evakuierung der Juden nach dem Osten getreten.' PAA, Inland II g 177, protocol -issue No. 16, printed in Longerich (ed.), Ermordung, pp. 83ff (p. 85).
280. 'Diese Aktionen sind jedoch lediglich als Ausweichmöglichkeiten anzusprechen, doch werden hier bereits jene praktischen Erfahrungen gesammelt, die im Hinblick auf die kommende Endlösung der Judenfrage von wichtiger Bedeutung sind.' Ibid.
281. 'von der militärischen Entwicklung abhängig'. Ibid, p. 87.
282. 'Unter entsprechender Leitung sollen nun im Zuge der Endlösung die Juden in geeigneter Weise zum Arbeitseinsatz kommen. In großen Arbeitskolonnen, unter Trennung der Geschlechter, werden die arbeitsfähigen Juden straßenbauend in diese Gebiete geführt, wobei zweifellos ein Großteil durch natürliche Verminderung ausfallen wird. Der allfällig verbleibende Restbetand wird, da es sich bei deisen zweifellos um den widerstandsfähigsten Teil handelt, entsprechend behandelt werden müssen, da dieser, eine natürliche Auslese dartellend, bei Freilassung als Keimzelle eines neuen jüdischen Aufbaues anzusprechen ist.' Ibid., p. 85
283. 'Durchgangsghettos', 'von dort aus weiter nach dem Osten transportiert zu werden'. Ibid., p. 87
284. 'Im Zuge der praktischen Durchführung der Endlösung wird Europa von Westen nach Osten durchgekämmt. Das Reichsgebiet einschließlich Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren wird (...) vorweggenommen werden müssen.' Ibid., p. 87.
285. 'Man hat uns in Berlin gesagt: weshalb man diese Scherereien; wir können im Ostland oder im Reichskommissariat auch nichts mit ihnen anfangen, liquidiert sie selber! Meine Herren, ich muß sie bitten, sich gegen alle Mitleidserwägungen zu wappnen. Wir müssen die Juden vernichten, wo immer wir sie treffen und wo es irgend möglich ist, um das Gesamtgefüge des Reiches hier aufrecht zu erhalten.' Präg/Jacobmeyer (eds.), Diensttagebuch, 16.12.41, pp. 457f.
286. 'Diese 3,5 Millionen Juden können wir nicht erschießen, wir können sie nicht vergiften, werden aber doch Eingriffe vornehmen können, die irgendwie zu einem Vernichtungserfolg führen, und zwar im Zusammenhang mit den vom Reich her zu besprechenden großen Maßnahmen. Das Generalgouvernement muß genau so judenfrei werden, wie es das Reich ist. Wo und wie das geschieht, ist eine Sache der Instanzen, die wir hier einsetzen und schaffen müssen und deren Wirksamkeit ich Ihnen rechtzeitig bekanntgeben werde.' Ibid..
287. 'das Generalgouvernement es begrüßen würde, wenn mit der Endlösung dieser Frage im Generalgouvernement begonnen würde, weil einmal hier das Transportproblem keine übergeordnete Rolle spielt und arbeitseinsatzmäßige Gründe den Lauf dieser Aktion nicht behindert würden.' Longerich (ed.)., Ermordung, pp. 83ff.
288. 'Abschließend wurden die verschiedenen Lösungsmöglichkeiten besprochen, wobei sowohl seitens desGauleiters Dr. Meyer als auch seitens des Staatssekretärs Dr. Bühler der Standpunkt vertreten wurde, gewisse vorbereitende Maßnahmen im Zuge der Endlösung gleich in dem betreffenden Gebiet selbst durchzuführen, wobei jedoch eine Beunruhigung der Bevölkerung vermieden werden müsse.'
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