During the year 1941, it became clear to Germany’s top officials that there would be no peace in the West. Therefore, any plans to force Jews out of Europe to some overseas region, as was suggested with the so-called Madagascar Plan, became increasingly unlikely. On the other hand, Germany’s initial successes during its invasion of the Soviet Union opened new perspectives of deporting Jews into those newly conquered regions. Therefore, the Third Reich’s plans for a Final Territorial Solution shifted from Madagascar to territories in eastern Europe.
First steps in this regard were discussed during a meeting of higher party echelons at a mansion in the Wannsee District of Berlin, which later became known as the Wannsee Conference. It had originally been scheduled for 9 December 1941, but due to America’s entry into the war, it was rescheduled for 20 January 1942. We know of the contents of this conference thanks to several participants who testified about it after the war, and due to the so-called Wannsee Protocol, a document which is said to contain the meeting’s minutes.
If we follow this document, Reinhardt Heydrich was both the organizer and the main speaker at that conference. The protocol starts with a summary of measures taken by the German government up to the fall of 1941 in order to expedite the emigration of Jews from the German sphere of influence. Next, it explains that deportation to the east has replaced the policy of emigration. The Protocol lists the number of Jews in Europe. Strangely, it even contains countries where Germany had no influence at all: England, Ireland, Turkey, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain. Furthermore, many figures listed are highly inflated.
The Protocol next deals briefly with how deportations from some of these countries could be implemented. A long section deals with the question of whether, and under which circumstances, so-called “half-Jews” and “quarter-Jews” are to be deported, and what is to happen with children from marriages between Jews and non-Jews or between persons of “mixed blood.”
In connection with deportations to the east, it states that Jews will henceforth be put to work constructing roads on their migration to the east, which will result in a reduction of their total number due to a natural selection process effected by the harsh conditions. It then addresses what to do with the Jews who will survive these harsh conditions:
“The possibly finally remaining leftover, since it will undoubtedly consist of the most resistant portion, will have to be treated accordingly, because it is the product of natural selection and, on their release, has to be regarded as a seed of a new Jewish revival (see the experience of history.)”
This is the only ambivalent passage in this protocol. The orthodoxy interprets it to mean that surviving Jews will not be released, but treated by simply killing them off. However, the protocol speaks of “natural” selection at the end of this forced-labor project during this forced migration to the east. Nothing is said here about any murder during that process. Only when this project is over, and possibly after the end of the war, the question of some kind of “special treatment” arises. What that might imply is not dealt with in the protocol, for that was obviously an issue of the distant future. The text moreover states clearly that these Jews have to be regarded as a seed of a Jewish revival on their release. It does not say that the Jews would be a seed of a Jewish revival if released.
In fact, the Third Reich was not opposed to a Jewish revival. Prior to the outbreak of war with the Soviet Union, numerous projects existed in Germany geared toward facilitating a new beginning of Jews after they had emigrated from the German sphere of influence (see the entry on emigration). Several documents indicate that plans existed for the time after the war to get the Jews out of Europe for a new beginning. This evidently makes sense only if this “remaining leftover” was still there at war’s end.
There is not a word in this protocol about whether, when or how Jews were supposed to be exterminated. Hence, Yehuda Bauer, professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, explained in 1992:
“The public still repeats, time after time, the silly story that at Wannsee the extermination of the Jews was arrived at.”
However, that does not stop mainstream media to repeat that false assertion. Orthodox historians insist instead that the decision to murder the European Jews had already been made earlier. The Wannsee Conference’s function was merely to coordinate the efforts of various government branches to organize and implement that decision. However, the protocol’s contents only point at coordination with regard to deportation and forced labor, not extermination. In addition, there is no trace of a Hitler order for an extermination, and the orthodox narrative of how the Holocaust allegedly unfolded – in a chaotic and anarchistic fashion – points to there not having been any plan or coordination at all. (See the entry on Plan, to Exterminate the Jews.)
A second Wannsee Conference took place on 6 March 1942, during which issues left open at the first conference were discussed. They centered around whether forced sterilization and forced divorces should be implemented for certain Jews or their spouses who were unwilling to emigrate or get deported. This meeting’s protocol also merely refers to evacuations and settlements, but not to murder. However, even discussion about forced sterilization remained purely on paper. No program of forced sterilization was ever pursued.
The Wannsee Conference was not held in a vacuum. In fact, there are several documents by German high-level politicians and bureaucrats created around the time of this conference which discuss the matters involved. All of them speak about deportation, evacuation and resettlement. Not even one of them has the slightest reference to any plans of extermination.
For a formal critique of the protocol created during the Wannsee Conference, see the next entry.