The Wannsee Conference was held at a villa
in Wannsee (a district of Berlin
) on January 20, 1942. The topic of discussion was the "Jewish problem" (Judenfrage
) and the eventual "Final Solution
). The previous year, Hermann Göring
had authorized SS
official Reinhard Heydrich
to come up with and organize a plan to deal with the "problem" and "solution."
The conference was attended by fifteen high-ranking Nazis, including Adolf Eichmann, and was led by Heydrich. There they abandoned an earlier "solution" that involved forced deportation of the Jews to Madagascar as logistically impractical. They decided to forcibly evacuate the Jews to eastern countries and put them in labor camps. Separation of families (sending the elderly to ghettos, for example) and the sexes, as well as forced sterilization were all also discussed. These measures alone would greatly decrease the population of the Jews (and constitute genocide), and being sent to the forced labor camps would in their words "in the course of which action doubtless a large portion will be eliminated by natural causes." Additionally:
The possible final remnant will, since it will undoubtedly consist of the most resistant portion, have to be treated accordingly, because it is the product of natural selection and would, if released, act as a the seed of a new Jewish revival (see the experience of history.)
It seems clear what the intentions of the Nazis were, despite using language that doesn't explicitly state the objective of killing off all or most of the Jewish population, destroying their cultural identity
, or even mentioning "extermination." (Though it's telling that, within months, the first gas chambers were built in Poland
The minutes of the conference (see below) were prepared by Eichmann with "help" from Heydrich. According to Eichmann's testimony at trial, the discussion was "not in the language that I had to use in the minutes, but in absolutely blunt terms." When asked what it meant, in general, on the topic, Eichmann said that "the discussion covered killing, elimination, and annihilation."
It should be noted that the meeting did not mark the beginning of the genocide, as mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen) were already functional, experimental gassing at Auschwitz had begun, and the first killing center at Chelmno, Poland, was operational. Wannsee marked a point when a comprehensive plan and framework were laid out and party members outside of the Nazis' innermost circle or the SS were brought into the workings of what would become the Final Solution. It also left behind a document as evidence of the Nazis' determination to destroy, in whole or part, the Jewish people (while not explicit in the Protocol, the list should include Gypsies, slavs, intellectuals, homosexuals, and other "undesirables").
(Sources: www.scrapbookpages.com/EasternGermany/Wannsee/ and www.britannica.com. The text of the protocol is public domain and available on many sites)
Wannsee Protocol January 20, 1942; Translation
This English text of the original German-language Wannsee protocol is based on the official U.S. government
translation prepared for evidence in trials at Nuremberg, as reproduced in
John Mendelsohn, ed., The Holocaust: Selected Documents in Eighteen Volumes.
Vol. 11: The Wannsee Protocol and a 1944 Report on Auschwitz by the Office of
Strategic Services (New York: Garland, 1982), 18-32. Revisions to the Nuremberg text were made for clarification and correction. The revisions were made by Professor Dan Rogers of the History Department of the University of South Alabama. This document is in the public domain and may be freely reproduced.
* * * * * *
Stamp: Top Secret
Minutes of discussion.
The following persons took part in the discussion about the final solution of the
Jewish question which took place in Berlin, am Grossen Wannsee No. 56/58
on 20 January 1942.
Gauleiter Dr. Meyer Reich Ministry for the Occupied
and Reichsamtleiter Eastern territories
Secretary of State Dr. Stuckart Reich Ministry for the Interior
Secretary of State Neumann Plenipotentiary for the
Four Year Plan
Secretary of State Dr. Freisler Reich Ministry of Justice
Secretary of State Dr. Bühler Office of the Government General
Under Secretary of State Foreign Office
SS-Oberführer Klopfer Party Chancellery
Ministerialdirektor Kritzinger Reich Chancellery
SS-Gruppenführer Hofmann Race and Settlement Main Office
SS-Gruppenführer Müller Reich Main Security Office
SS-Oberführer Dr. Schöngarth Security Police and SD
Commander of the Security Police
and the SD in the
SS-Sturmbannführer Dr. Lange Security Police and SD
Commander of the Security Police
and the SD for the General-District
Latvia, as deputy of the Commander
of the Security Police and the SD
for the Reich Commissariat "Eastland".
At the beginning of the discussion Chief of the Security Police and of the SD,
SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich, reported that the Reich Marshal had appointed him
delegate for the preparations for the final solution of the Jewish question in Europe
and pointed out that this discussion had been called for the purpose of clarifying
fundamental questions. The wish of the Reich Marshal to have a draft sent to him
concerning organizational, factual and material interests in relation to the final solution
of the Jewish question in Europe makes necessary an initial common action of all
central offices immediately concerned with these questions in order to bring their
general activities into line.
The Reichsführer-SS and the Chief of the German Police (Chief of the Security Police
and the SD) was entrusted with the official central handling of the final solution of the
Jewish question without regard to geographic borders.
The Chief of the Security Police and the SD then gave a short report of the struggle
which has been carried on thus far against this enemy, the essential points being
a) the expulsion of the Jews from every sphere of life of the German people,
b) the expulsion of the Jews from the living space of the German people.
In carrying out these efforts, an increased and planned acceleration of the emigration
of the Jews from Reich
territory was started, as the only possible present solution.
By order of the Reich Marshal, a Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration was set up
in January 1939 and the Chief of the Security Police and SD was entrusted with the
management. Its most important tasks were
a) to make all necessary arrangements for the preparation for an increased
emigration of the Jews,
b) to direct the flow of emigration,
c) to speed the procedure of emigration in each individual case.
The aim of all this was to cleanse
German living space of Jews in a legal manner.
All the offices realized the drawbacks of such enforced accelerated emigration.
For the time being they had, however, tolerated it on account of the lack of other
possible solutions of the problem.
The work concerned with emigration was, later on, not only a German problem,
but also a problem with which the authorities of the countries to which the flow of
emigrants was being directed would have to deal. Financial difficulties, such as the
demand by various foreign governments for increasing sums of money to be presented
at the time of the landing, the lack of shipping space, increasing restriction of entry
permits, or the cancelling of such, increased extraordinarily the difficulties of emigration.
In spite of these difficulties, 537,000 Jews were sent out of the country between the
takeover of power and the deadline of 31 October 1941. Of these
- approximately 360,000 were in Germany proper on 30 January 1933
- approximately 147,000 were in Austria (Ostmark) on 15 March 1939
- approximately 30,000 were in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia on 15 March 1939.
The Jews themselves, or their Jewish political organizations, financed the emigration.
In order to avoid impoverished Jews' remaining behind, the principle was followed that
wealthy Jews have to finance the emigration of poor Jews; this was arranged by imposing
a suitable tax, i.e., an emigration tax, which was used for financial arrangements in
connection with the emigration of poor Jews and was imposed according to income.
Apart from the necessary Reichsmark exchange, foreign currency had to presented
at the time of landing. In order to save foreign exchange held by Germany, the foreign
Jewish financial organizations were - with the help of Jewish organizations in Germany -
made responsible for arranging an adequate amount of foreign currency. Up to 30 October
1941, these foreign Jews donated a total of around 9,500,000 dollars.
In the meantime the Reichsführer-SS and Chief of the German Police had prohibited
emigration of Jews due to the dangers of an emigration in wartime and due to the
possibilities of the East.
Another possible solution of the problem has now taken the place of emigration,
i.e. the evacuation of the Jews to the East, provided that the Führer gives the appropriate
approval in advance.
These actions are, however, only to be considered provisional, but practical experience
is already being collected which is of the greatest importance in relation to the future
final solution of the Jewish question.
Approximately 11 million Jews will be involved in the final solution of the European
Jewish question, distributed as follows among the individual countries:
A. Germany proper 131,800
Eastern territories 420,000
General Government 2,284,000
Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia 74,200
Estonia - free of Jews -
France / occupied territory 165,000
unoccupied territory 700,000
B. Bulgaria 48,000
Italy including Sardinia 58,000
Rumania including Bessarabia 342,000
Turkey (European portion) 55,500
excluding Bialystok 446,484
Total over 11,000,000
The number of Jews given here for foreign countries includes, however, only those
Jews who still adhere to the Jewish faith, since some countries still do not have a definition
of the term "Jew" according to racial principles.
The handling of the problem in the individual countries will meet with difficulties due
to the attitude and outlook of the people there, especially in Hungary and Rumania. Thus,
for example, even today the Jew can buy documents in Rumania that will officially prove
his foreign citizenship.
The influence of the Jews in all walks of life in the USSR is well known. Approximately
five million Jews live in the European part of the USSR, in the Asian part scarcely 1/4
The breakdown of Jews residing in the European part of the USSR according to trades
was approximately as follows:
Agriculture 9.1 %
Urban workers 14.8 %
In trade 20.0 %
Employed by the state 23.4 %
In private occupations such as
medical profession, press, theater, etc. 32. 7%
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 work 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, since it will undoubtedly consist of the most resistant
portion, have to be treated accordingly, because it is the product of natural selection and
would, if released, act as a the seed of a new Jewish revival (see the experience of history.)
In the course of the practical execution of the final solution, Europe will be combed
through from west to east. Germany proper, including the Protectorate of Bohemia and
Moravia, will have to be handled first due to the housing problem and additional social
and political necessities.
The evacuated Jews will first be sent, group by group, to so-called transit ghettos, from
which they will be transported to the East.
SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich went on to say that an important prerequisite for the
evacuation as such is the exact definition of the persons involved.
It is not intended to evacuate Jews over 65 years old, but to send them to an old-age
ghetto - Theresienstadt is being considered for this purpose.
In addition to these age groups - of the approximately 280,000 Jews in Germany proper
and Austria on 31 October 1941, approximately 30% are over 65 years old - severely wounded
veterans and Jews with war decorations (Iron Cross I) will be accepted in the old-age ghettos.
With this expedient solution, in one fell swoop many interventions will be prevented.
The beginning of the individual larger evacuation actions will largely depend on military
developments. Regarding the handling of the final solution in those European countries
occupied and influenced by us, it was proposed that the appropriate expert of the Foreign
Office discuss the matter with the responsible official of the Security Police and SD.
In Slovakia and Croatia the matter is no longer so difficult, since the most substantial
problems in this respect have already been brought near a solution. In Rumania the
government has in the meantime also appointed a commissioner for Jewish affairs.
In order to settle the question in Hungary, it will soon be necessary to force an adviser
for Jewish questions onto the Hungarian government.
With regard to taking up preparations for dealing with the problem in Italy,
SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich considers it opportune to contact the chief of police
with a view to these problems.
In occupied and unoccupied France, the registration of Jews for evacuation will in all
probability proceed without great difficulty.
Under Secretary of State Luther calls attention in this matter to the fact that in some
countries, such as the Scandinavian states, difficulties will arise if this problem is dealt
with thoroughly and that it will therefore be advisable to defer actions in these countries.
Besides, in view of the small numbers of Jews affected, this deferral will not cause any
The Foreign Office sees no great difficulties for southeast and western Europe.
SS-Gruppenführer Hofmann plans to send an expert to Hungary from the Race and
Settlement Main Office for general orientation at the time when the Chief of the Security
Police and SD takes up the matter there. It was decided to assign this expert from the
Race and Settlement Main Office, who will not work actively, as an assistant to the police
In the course of the final solution plans, the Nuremberg Laws should provide a certain
foundation, in which a prerequisite for the absolute solution of the problem is also the
solution to the problem of mixed marriages and persons of mixed blood.
The Chief of the Security Police and the SD discusses the following points, at first
theoretically, in regard to a letter from the chief of the Reich chancellery:
1) Treatment of Persons of Mixed Blood of the First Degree
Persons of mixed blood of the first degree will, as regards the final solution
of the Jewish question, be treated as Jews.
From this treatment the following exceptions will be made:
a) Persons of mixed blood of the first degree married to persons of German blood
if their marriage has resulted in children (persons of mixed blood of the second
degree). These persons of mixed blood of the second degree are to be treated
essentially as Germans.
b) Persons of mixed blood of the first degree, for whom the highest offices of the
Party and State have already issued exemption permits in any sphere of life.
Each individual case must be examined, and it is not ruled out that the decision
may be made to the detriment of the person of mixed blood.
The prerequisite for any exemption must always be the personal merit of the person
of mixed blood. (Not the merit of the parent or spouse of German blood.)
Persons of mixed blood of the first degree who are exempted from evacuation will be
sterilized in order to prevent any offspring and to eliminate the problem of persons of mixed
blood once and for all. Such sterilization will be voluntary. But it is required to remain
in the Reich. The sterilized "person of mixed blood" is thereafter free of all restrictions
to which he was previously subjected.
2) Treatment of Persons of Mixed Blood of the Second Degree
Persons of mixed blood of the second degree will be treated fundamentally as persons
of German blood, with the exception of the following cases, in which the persons of mixed
blood of the second degree will be considered as Jews:
a) The person of mixed blood of the second degree was born of a marriage in which
both parents are persons of mixed blood.
b) The person of mixed blood of the second degree has a racially especially
undesirable appearance that marks him outwardly as a Jew.
c) The person of mixed blood of the second degree has a particularly bad police and
political record that shows that he feels and behaves like a Jew.
Also in these cases exemptions should not be made if the person of mixed blood of the
second degree has married a person of German blood.
3) Marriages between Full Jews and Persons of German Blood.
Here it must be decided from case to case whether the Jewish
partner will be evacuated or whether, with regard to the effects
of such a step on the German relatives, [this mixed marriage]
should be sent to an old-age ghetto.
4) Marriages between Persons of Mixed Blood of the First Degree
and Persons of German Blood.
a) Without Children.
If no children have resulted from the marriage, the
person of mixed blood of the first degree will be
evacuated or sent to an old-age ghetto (same treatment
as in the case of marriages between full Jews and
persons of German blood, point 3.)
b) With Children.
If children have resulted from the marriage (persons of
mixed blood of the second degree), they will, if they
are to be treated as Jews, be evacuated or sent to a
ghetto along with the parent of mixed blood of the
first degree. If these children are to be treated as
Germans (regular cases), they are exempted from
evacuation as is therefore the parent of mixed blood of
the first degree.
5) Marriages between Persons of Mixed Blood of the First Degree
and Persons of Mixed Blood of the First Degree or Jews.
In these marriages (including the children) all members of
the family will be treated as Jews and therefore be evacuated or
sent to an old-age ghetto.
6) Marriages between Persons of Mixed Blood of the First Degree
and Persons of Mixed Blood of the Second Degree.
In these marriages both partners will be evacuated or sent
to an old-age ghetto without consideration of whether the
marriage has produced children, since possible children will as a
rule have stronger Jewish blood than the Jewish person of mixed
blood of the second degree.
SS-Gruppenführer Hofmann advocates the opinion that
sterilization will have to be widely used, since the person of
mixed blood who is given the choice whether he will be evacuated
or sterilized would rather undergo sterilization.
State Secretary Dr. Stuckart maintains that carrying out in
practice of the just mentioned possibilities for solving the
problem of mixed marriages and persons of mixed blood will create
endless administrative work. In the second place, as the
biological facts cannot be disregarded in any case, State
Secretary Dr. Stuckart proposed proceeding to forced
Furthermore, to simplify the problem of mixed marriages
possibilities must be considered with the goal of the legislator
saying something like: "These marriages have been dissolved."
With regard to the issue of the effect of the evacuation of
Jews on the economy, State Secretary Neumann stated that Jews who
are working in industries vital to the war effort, provided that
no replacements are available, cannot be evacuated.
SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich indicated that these Jews
would not be evacuated according to the rules he had approved for
carrying out the evacuations then underway.
State Secretary Dr. Bühler stated that the General
Government would welcome it if the final solution of this problem
could be begun in the General Government, since on the one hand
transportation does not play such a large role here nor would
problems of labor supply hamper this action. Jews must be
removed from the territory of the General Government as quickly
as possible, since it is especially here that the Jew as an
epidemic carrier represents an extreme danger and on the other
hand he is causing permanent chaos in the economic structure of
the country through continued black market dealings. Moreover,
of the approximately 2 1/2 million Jews concerned, the majority
is unfit for work.
State Secretary Dr. Bühler stated further that the solution
to the Jewish question in the General Government is the
responsibility of the Chief of the Security Police and the SD and
that his efforts would be supported by the officials of the
General Government. He had only one request, to solve the Jewish
question in this area as quickly as possible.
In conclusion the different types of possible solutions were
discussed, during which discussion both Gauleiter Dr. Meyer and
State Secretary Dr. Bühler took the position that certain
preparatory activities for the final solution should be carried
out immediately in the territories in question, in which process
alarming the populace must be avoided.
The meeting was closed with the request of the Chief of the
Security Police and the SD to the participants that they afford
him appropriate support during the carrying out of the tasks
involved in the solution.