80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference is Jan. 20


Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

At a secluded villa on Berlin’s Wannsee lake, 15 senior Nazi officials came together on January 20th, 1942. The 15 had been invited for a conference by SS General Reinhard Heydrich, who was appointed by Adolf Hiter to prepare for the Final Solution of the European Jewish Question. The meeting would become known as the Wannsee Conference.

The “Final Solution” was the code name for the systematic, deliberate, physical annihilation of the European Jews. Heydrich convened the Wannsee Conference to inform and secure support from government ministries and other interested agencies relevant to the implementation of the “Final Solution,” and to disclose to the participants that Hitler himself had tasked Heydrich with coordinating the operation.

The attendees, which also included Adolf Eichmann, did not deliberate whether such a plan should be undertaken, but instead discussed the implementation of a policy decision that had already been made at the highest level of the Nazi regime.

In his best selling book Never Again, a History of the Holocaustauthor Sir Martin Gilbert wrote:


“Eichmann presented the gathering with a list of countries, setting out the number of Jews living in each, whom it was intended to deport to their deaths.  Estonia (Estland) was marked as being Judenfrei (Jew-free), as almost all Estonia’s 1,000 Jews had already been murdered.  There were two figures for France:  one for the area, including Paris, that had been occupied by Germany since June 1940.  The other, much larger figure, was for “Unoccupied France” still under French rule (with its capital at Vichy), which included the Jews of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.”


One copy of the Wannsee Conference minutes, prepared by Eichmann, survived World War II and was discovered accidentally in 1947. (English Translation). The term “Final Solution” only appears in it once.

One notable quote from the minutes came from Dr. Josef Bühler, who said:  “Jews should be removed from the domain of the General Government as fast as possible because it is precisely here that the Jew constitutes a substantial danger as carrier of epidemics …. Moreover, the majority of the two and a half million Jews involved were not capable of work.”  Bühler then asked the meeting for “only one favour”, that “the Jewish question in this territory be solved as rapidly as possible.”

When complete, the plan created an “elimination list,” focusing on the 11 million Jews in England, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Denmark, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, and France. 

After The War

Of the 15 Nazis who attended the conference, four were never prosecuted, five were tried and three were executed, including Eichmann.

Today, the villa is a memorial site and learning center, visited by thousands of attendees and students regularly.