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The Wannsee Protocol (January 20, 1942)

On July 31, 1941, Hermann Göring (1893-1946), acting on Hitler’s instructions, ordered Reinhard Heydrich (1904-1942), head of the Reich Security Main Office, to draw up a complete plan for the “final solution of the Jewish question.” Heydrich’s so-called Special Operations Units [Einsatzgruppen] had already been working for weeks to “cleanse” the conquered territories through mass shootings of Jews and other designated enemies of the people. Although these mass shootings were supposed to continue up to the end of the war, the SS leadership sought to develop more efficient methods for carrying out the planned annihilation of Europe's approximately 11 million Jews. Therefore, in December 1941, experiments with exhaust-fume poisoning started in mobile trucks in Chelmno in occupied Poland; the first annihilation camp opened there the same month. To accelerate the future deportation and murder of the European Jews and to coordinate the efforts of the state and party offices involved, Heydrich hosted a secret conference on January 20, 1942. It was held in Berlin at a Wannsee villa used by the Reich Security Main Office as a guest house and conference center. The fifteen participants, high-ranking representatives of the SS, the NSDAP, and the government, approved a program of annihilation that was actually already well under way. According to the plan, Europe’s Jews would be deported to the Eastern territories and murdered there. The protocol of the conference was recorded by Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962), who concealed the planned genocide behind a series of euphemisms. Eichmann’s linguistic obfuscations notwithstanding, the protocol represented incontrovertible evidence of the Nazi’s “final solution” – which is now understood, to quote historian Christopher Browning, as “the systematic attempt to murder every last Jew within the German grasp.”

The protocol was discovered in Berlin in 1947 by Robert Kempner, assistant U.S. chief counsel in the Nuremberg Trials. A year later, it was used as important piece of evidence in the trial against the leading officials of the ministries.

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Stamp: Top Secret

30 copies
16th copy

Minutes of discussion.

I. The following persons took part in the discussion about the final solution of the Jewish question which took place in Berlin, am Grossen Wannsee No. 56/58 on 20 January 1942.

Gauleiter Dr. MEYER and
Reichsamtsleiter Dr. LEIBBRANDT
Reich Ministry for the Occupied
Eastern territories
Secretary of State Dr. STUCKART Reich Ministry for the Interior
Secretary of State NEUMANN Plenipotentiary for the Four-Year Plan
Secretary of State Dr. FREISLER Reich Ministry of Justice
Secretary of State Dr. BUEHLER Office of the Government General
Under Secretary of State LUTHER Foreign Office
SS-Oberfuehrer KLOPFER Party Chancellery
Ministerialdirektor KRITZINGER Reich Chancellery
SS-Gruppenfuehrer HOFMANN Race and Settlement Main Office
SS-Gruppenfuehrer MUELLER
SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer EICHMANN
Reich Main Security Office
SS-Oberfuehrer Dr. SCHOENGARTH
Chief of the Security Police and the SD
in the Government General
Security Police and SD
SS-Sturmbannfuehrer Dr. LANGE
Commander of the Security Police and the SD
for the General-district Latvia, as deputy of the
Commander of the Security Police and the SD
for the Reich Commissariat "Eastland".
Security Police and SD

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