Göring puts Heydrich in Charge of the Overall Settlement of the Jewish Problem
On July 31, 1941 SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Reichssichterheitshauptamt (RSHA), the main police authority in Hitler's Reich, secured a ten-minute interview with Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, who was head of the Four Year Plan, and obtained his signature on a Vollmacht (authority) empowering Heydrich to draw up arrangements for an overall solution or settlement (Gesamtlösung) to the Jewish Problem. Göring directed Heydrich to report back to him. Heydrich had drafted the letter himself, down to even typing its letterhead (right).
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On November ... 1941 Heydrich issued invitations to dozens of junior ministers (Staatssekretäre and below) to attend a conference on December 9 to draw up this report.
The Japanese attack on the American Pacific Fleet base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, and the consequent United States entry into the European war, change the balance of history dramatically.
On the eve of the conference, the Foreign Ministry submits its own list of proposed talking points
Heydrich postpones the conference, January 8, 1942
"Because of events which suddenly became known," Heydrich had to issue a circular, postponing the planned conference. On January 8, 1942 (document) he issued a new conference invitation for January 20, 1942, at noon, following by a buffet.
The Wannsee Conference takes place on January 20, 1942.
On January 15, 1942 the British codebreakers intercepted this radio message from the Höherer SS und Polizeiführer Südost to the Höherer SS und Polizeiführer Nord, Jeckeln:
"THE Führer has ordered that Jewish compulsory labour gangs are to be sent with all speed into the area of Russian operations for the carrying out of important constructional undertakings. They go on January 18, 1942 in special transport into the building area allotted to the Silesian operations group, in the region of Dünaburg/Moscow. Medical examination and injection are necessary. The Jews wear black working dress with green armbands. Employment - Reichsautobahn. Organisation Todt undertakes guard duties. Please see to it that the pool of compulsory labourers is not reduced."
Source: Höherer SS und Polizeiführer Südost to the Höherer SS und Polizeiführer Nord, Jeckeln, Intercept No.39, Jan 15, 1942, in GC&CS summary, ZIP/MDGP.32, Feb 14. 1942, 'Police Activities in Russia' (Public Record Office file HW.16/6 pt 1).
The rescheduled inter-ministerial conference takes place in a conference room at the former Interpol headquarters on the Wannsee Lake in Berlin on January 20, 1942. Illustrated (right) is the title page of the memorandum circulated months later, around March 5, 1942, now sinisterly known as The Wannsee Protocol. [Translation].
It was evidently written by SS Lt. Colonel Adolf Eichmann, head of the "Jewish" desk at the RSHA. There is no explicit reference in it to killing Jews; there are harsh words about working them until they drop, and about "special treatment" for those who survive. Rather oddly, the statistics do not add up, as Eichmann himself points out, reading the document in his Argentina hideout in 1956.
Eichmann's report is circulated.
Summarizing Eichmann's 1942 report, Nazi propaganda minister Dr Joseph Goebbels writes that there are still eleven million Jews in Europe. 'For the time being they are to be concentrated in the east [until] later; possibly an island like Madagascar can be assigned to them after the war.' It all raised a host of 'delicate questions,' like what to do with half-Jews and Aryans married to Jews. 'Undoubtedly there will be a multitude of personal tragedies, but this is unavoidable. The situation now is ripe for a final settlement of the Jewish question.' [More].
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Hitler orders a stop to all talk of a Solution to the Jewish Problem "until the war is over".
conference leaves as many questions unresolved as it
settles. Queries fly to and fro about meanings and minutiae.
To whom precisely do the decisions apply? Who is a Jew? In
about March 1942 Adolf Hitler angrily tells his
senior ministers that there is a war on, and all these
issues should be put on the back burner until the war is
over. Hitler's reaction, as quoted by his chief civil
servant Dr Hans Lammers, chief of the Reich Chancellery, to
Franz Schlegelberger, of the Ministry of Justice - author of
the memorandum on the right - is incompatible with knowledge
that the Final Solution has already begun.
In his original (unpublished) notes to Hitler's War (now in the Sammlung Irving, Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Munich), David Irving provided this source material for the Wannsee conference:
Aufzeichnung Luther, 21.8. 42 (ND:NG-2586; AA/Serial 1513/371976ff: Abteilung Inland II geheim: Endlösung der Judenfrage. The same AA file contains a geheime Reichssache RSHA Besprechungsprotokoll (pp. 372024ff): the Sitzung was planned for 9.12.41 but auf Grund "plötzlich bekanntgegebener Ereignisse" in letzter Minute abgesagt and rearranged for 20.1.1942. Vgl. Korrespondenz Heydrich mit SS Gruf. Hofmann (ND:709-PS) and mit Luther (Serial 1513/372043). Of importance for the less extreme Deutung of the concept "Endlösung" in AA is the Aufzeichnung by Ref. III [Legationsrat Rademacher] v. 8. 12.41, setting out the Wünsche und Ideen des Ausw.Amtes zu der vorgesehenen Gesamtlösung der Judenfrage in Europa (pp. 372041f). At the IMT Nuremberg even before the Wannseekonferenzprotokoll entdeckt wurde, erklärte Lammers zuversichtlich, "Als das Protokoll bei mir einging, ergab sich auch nichts Wesentliches" (IMT, XI, 61). Kritzinger, der anwesend war, sagte bei einem knappen Vortrag nichts über Judentötungen; dieser habe auch nicht angenommen, daß Judentötungen vorgekommen sind (Kreuzverhör durch Kempner, 23.9.48, Fall XI). Nor did Luther himself gather that impression, writing in his Aufzeichnung of "die Abschiebung in die Ghettos im Osten" ...