How important was the Wannsee Conference

C. How important was the Wannsee Conference when it came to the actual extermination of European Jewry?

The Wannsee Conference occurred on 20 January 1942 at Berlin. The purpose of the conference was to discuss how to implement of the ‘Final Solution’ concerning. The conference was important when it came to the real execution of the Jews in Europe for various reasons. First, it helped in drafting the blueprint of implementing the ‘Final Solution’. It provided direction on who was to be deported. It helped Nazi Germany to gain support for their plan from government agencies across Europe. The conference led to the development of a centralized action plan towards the implementation of the policy. By the time the conference was happening, the Final Solution had already been in various places Jews were already being executed.The Wannsee Conference served as a function of streamlining and consolidating the execution of the ‘Final Solution’.

The Wannsee Conference was held by senior government officers of Nazi Germany. The meeting was held in 1942 in Berlin. The invitations of the meeting were sent for a ministerial conference which included interior ministry, propaganda, justice, and the four year plan. The meeting was aimed at determining the ‘Final solution’. The entry of the United States in the war after the attack of Japan on Pearl Harbor on 7 December led to the cancellation of the meeting as most of the attendees had to pay attention to the new developments. The meeting was rescheduled for January 1942. In a meeting with party officials on 12 December 1941, Hitler declared that Jews in Europe had to be annihilated. Eventually the Wannsee Conference happened on 20 January. Heydrich led the meeting where he cleared that by final solution he meant exterminating Jews by mass murder and forced labor[1].

The Wannsee Conference helped in drafting the blueprint of implementing the ‘Final Solution’. The Conference was important when it came to the actual extermination of European Jewry in various ways. It was used in ascertaining the challenges that arose in the implementation of the ‘Final Solution’. The result of the deliberations of the meeting is found in the minutes that were taken by Eichman Adolf. For example during the meeting the blue print of how to implement the plan was drafted[2]. This includes evacuating Jews to the East. The term evacuation was used euphemistically referring to the formation of camps for extermination. During the conference, the plan for the ‘Final Solution’ was outlined. The plan involved the mass killing of the Jews in Europe. Potential challenges in the process of implementing the plan were raised[3]. This proves that the conference had an important role in the implementation process.

The conference provided direction on who needed to be deported. Earlier proposal of expanding the definition of Jewish had been presented. During the conference, Heydrich presented the idea again. This involved treating part-Jews with exceptions. This favoured first and second degree Jews, and Jews who were married to non-Jews. This gave direction on who to be deported. Stuckart suggested the introduction of laws that would require dissolution of mixed marriages. The law was to be followed by deporting and executing the Jewish spouse. The attendees also discussed the authority of the SD and the Security Police in conducting the anti-Jewish practices. During the conference, a detailed table was drawn listing the number of Jews who were living in Europe. They were grouped according to nations. 11 million Jews were identified and categorised into two. Category A comprised of Jews who were under direct control of Nazi. This group was in direct danger. Category B comprised of Jews who were living in nations that neutral, unconquered or under allies of German who upheld sovereignty. The threat of this group varied significantly. It is only Jews by faith that was counted as per the minutes since there was no scope to define their number based on racial principles living in other nations.

The Wannsee Conference helped Nazi Germany to gain support for their plan. Nazi Germany and the collaborators needed cooperation and coordination from government agencies throughout Europe to be able to conduct the mass killings of the Jews. This is why the conference was called. To secure cooperation from all the agencies. For example. Towards the end of the conference, Heydrich was happy with the support they acquired[4]. They expected opposition from Stuckart and Buhler but they raised no objections. The support from the attendees was important in ensuring that Nazi Germany conducted the actual extermination of European Jewry. While ministries for SS, police officials, and East argued over the definition of Jewish they agreed on the need of extermination. For instance the East Ministry had already shown its willingness to have European Jews transported to its area where they would be eliminated either through inhumane living or by liquidation[5]. It is important to note that the Final Solution had been decided before the conference and that the conference played the role of handling challenges that might have hindered the implementation of the plan. This is based on various prior events including the destruction of Jews by killing of Jews of military age on 22 June 1941, repressive measures against Jews in Serbia in 1941, Jews mass executions in Galicia by October 1941, construction of Belzec extermination camp which had begun in November 1941 in Lublin, In Wartheland, Jews mass killings had begun in October 1941, and in September 1941, Hitler had already approved initiation of the deportation program of the German Jews to the East.

The conference promoted the implementation process. One challenge would be an objection from government agencies an issue that was addressed during the conference. These examples prove that the Final Solution had been established before the conference, and that it only played the role of promoting the implementation process of the plan. Additionally, these examples show that the conference was not about deciding whether to proceed with the exterminations. Instead, it was about sharing authority, gaining support, and cooperating to implement the plan. Even though Heydrich confirmed that not all details were settled, he confirmed that Wannsee had addressed the basic outline for the practically implementing the final solution concerning the Jewish question. In the initial testimony, Eichmann declared that the conference marked the beginning of the actual extermination story[6]. This statement indicates that extermination was already taking place but the intensity would increase after the conference. Gaining support from government agencies across Europe was important because according to Heydrich there were challenges in handling Hungary and Romania who were allies of Germany. The support would be useful in proceeding with the plan without great difficulty. Eventually, Jews in Hungary were exterminated by Eichman with the help of the Hungarian authorities.

The conference led to the development of a centralized action plan towards the implementation of the policy by the Nazi government. The ideas of mass sterilization, and mass deportations among other ideas were raised during the conference. Through the conference, the Nazi regime was able to coordinate the ‘Final Solution’ process by involving all the relevant parties. The conference helped in streamlining the whole process as per the plans of the Nazi regime. By asserting his authority over Jews’ fate during the conference, Heydrich was able to ensure that the flow of deportations was smooth. Imposing his authority over various agencies and ministries that were involved with policies of Jewish matters through the conferencehe aimed at ensuring that disputes that had been witnessed earlier on annihilation campaign would not occur again promoting the implementation process of the campaign. After the conference millions of Jews in Europe were destroyed. For example, Jozefow village that had 1,800 Jews in Poland was destroyed by a convoy of the battalion with orders from the Nazi regime[7].

In conclusion, it is clear that the period which the Wannsee Conference was taking place, the Final Solution against the Jews had already begun. Therefore, the conference served a role of streamlining and consolidating the execution of the ‘Final Solution’ when it came to the real massacre of the Jews. The conference was important because it helped Nazi Germany to gain support from government agencies across Europe. This led to coordination that led to mass murder. It helped in drafting the blueprint of implementing the plan. It provided direction on who was to be deported. The conference led to the development of a centralized action plan towards the implementation of the policy. Although the conference did not play a key role at the beginning of the ‘Final Solution’ plan, it played an important role in the actual annihilation of the Jews by solving challenges that would have affected the success of the plan.


[1] Peter Longerich, Policy of Destruction: Nazi Anti-Jewish Policy and the Genesis of the ‘Final Solution’ (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: 2001): 13.

[2] Hans-Christian Jasch & Christoph, Kreutsmuller, The Participants: The Men of the Wannsee Conference (Berghahn, 2017): 16.

[3] Christian Gerlach, The Wannsee Conference, the Fate of German Jews, and Hitler’s Decision in Principle to Exterminate All European Jews, (The Journal of Modern History, 2007, 70 no. 4):764.

[4] Gerlach, The Wannsee Conference, the Fate of German Jews, and Hitler’s Decision in Principle to Exterminate All European Jews: 762.

[5] Gerlach, 765.

[6] Gerlach, 777.

[7] Christopher, Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (Harper Perennial; Reprint edition, 1998):2.