On this date, January 20, 1942, at the Wannsee Conference held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee, senior Nazi German officials discuss the implementation of the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question".
The 15 Attendees of the Wannsee Conference
[PHOTO SOURCE: http://www.deathcamps.org/reinhard/wannsee/att.html]
The Wannsee Conference (German: Wannseekonferenz) was a meeting of senior officials of Nazi Germany, held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on 20 January 1942. The purpose of the conference, called by director of the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office; RSHA) SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, was to ensure the cooperation of administrative leaders of various government departments in the implementation of the final solution to the Jewish question, whereby most of the Jews of German-occupied Europe would be deported to Poland and murdered. Conference attendees included representatives from several government ministries, including state secretaries from the Foreign Office, the justice, interior, and state ministries, and representatives from the Schutzstaffel (SS). In the course of the meeting, Heydrich outlined how European Jews would be rounded up from west to east and sent to extermination camps in the General Government (the occupied part of Poland), where they would be killed.
Legalized discrimination against Jews began immediately after the Nazi seizure of power on 30 January 1933. Violence and economic pressure were used by the Nazi regime to encourage Jews to voluntarily leave the country. After the invasion of Poland in September 1939, the extermination of European Jewry began, and the killings continued and accelerated after the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. On 31 July 1941 Hermann Göring gave written authorization to Heydrich to prepare and submit a plan for a "total solution of the Jewish question" in territories under German control and to coordinate the participation of all involved government organisations. At the Wannsee Conference, Heydrich emphasised that once the deportation process was complete, the exterminations would become an internal matter under the purview of the SS. A secondary goal was to arrive at a definition of who was Jewish and thus determine the scope of the exterminations.
One copy of the Wannsee Protocol, the circulated minutes of the meeting, survived the war to be found by Robert Kempner, lead U.S. prosecutor before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, in files that had been seized from the German Foreign Office. The Wannsee House, site of the conference, is now a Holocaust Memorial.