Seventy-three years ago today, 15 high-ranking Nazi Party officials from Eastern and Western Europe were ordered to attend a meeting at Wannsee, located outside Berlin. At what became known as the infamous "Wannsee Conference," these 15 men were tasked with carrying out Hitler’s final solution to the Jewish question. Who would be classified as Jewish, along with the methods of transportation and extermination, were all discussed. Questions from these officials undoubtedly surrounded the most efficient means of making Europe free of Jewish influence, while also debating how to use Jews for labor projects before their summary executions. There were also discussions as to who will be exempt from “evacuation.”
During the meeting, which lasted only 90 minutes, the Nazis turned genocide into a science.
We have no transcript of the meeting, just a copy of the minutes, which were discovered by Allied troops in 1947 within the German Foreign Office. The minutes belonged to Martin Luther, then-Under Secretary for the Reich Foreign Ministry. It’s the only evidence we have that this meeting actually took place.
Luther was sent to a concentration camp in 1944 when he tried to unsuccessfully replace his boss, Joachim von Ribbentrop.
Besides officials from the Reich Foreign Ministry, members of the Schutzstaffel (SS), Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), Nazi Party Chancellery, Gestapo, Reich Interior Ministry, Reich Ministry of Justice, the Reich Chancellery, and their affiliate offices within the Occupied Territories were all there to carry out one of the most horrific crimes in human history.
Adolph Eichmann and Reinhard Heydrich–the Butcher of Prague–are portrayed as leading point during the meeting. In 2001, Kenneth Branagh and Stanley Tucci, playing Heydrich and Eichmann respectively, starred in “Conspiracy” -- a chilling film which re-enacted the conference. Colin Firth also stars as Dr. Wilhem Stuckart, who authored the infamous Nuremberg Laws, which deprived non-Aryans of citizenship and prohibited marriages between Germans and Jews for the "protection of German blood and German honor."
[Warning: Some strong language]
After the meeting, Eichmann carefully edited the transcripts of the conference. Copies were sent to the attendees of the conference, which were then destroyed.
Heydrich was assassinated in the spring of 1942 by two Czech expats, who were parachuted into Prague to eliminate him; British Special Operations assisted in this effort. This left Eichmann with carrying out the entire operation outlined at Wannsee alone.
In 1960, Israeli Mossad agents captured Eichmann, who fled to Argentina after the war, where he was tried and executed for his crimes in 1962.