January 20, 1942: The Wannsee Conference takes place.
Named after the Berlin locality in which it took place, this meeting was called to assemble representatives from the main departments of the Nazi government to a single location where they could discuss the management of the “Final Solution” (Die Endlösung) - the Nazi euphemism used to describe the systematic annihilation of the Jewish people.
Reinhard Heydrich, the notoriously cruel and efficient head of the Reich Main Security Office, presided over the conference; Hitler’s “Hangman” is also thought to have lent his name to Operation Reinhard, the first step of the Final Solution. Other leaders present included Heinrich Müller, head of the Gestapo; Josef Bühler,representing the General Government of Poland; and representatives from the Chancellery of the party and Reich, the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry for the Eastern Occupied Territories. Adolf Eichmann, who later served as (essentially) the Final Solution’s chief organizer (in charge of the technical and administrative aspects of extermination) attended the conference as its recording secretary. There was no question posed at the Wannsee Conference, or if there was, the question was not “should the Final Solution be carried out?”. Hitler and the officials serving in the highest echelons of his government had already decided that the Final Solution was not only inevitable but the “necessary consequence” the Jews would face for “plunging the nations once more into a world war”.
Adolf Eichmann, in preparation for the conference, also compiled a list of countries, including allies, enemies, and occupied territories, and their Jewish populations, which added up to a total of over 11,000,000. Millions of these people were eventually deported in trains, along with millions of Poles, Romani, and individuals of other groups, from all over Europe to the labor camps and gas chambers of one of six extermination centers in German-occupied Poland. These camps, including Auschwitz II-Birkenau, had been built to facilitate the implementation of the Final Solution and to ensure that this plot was speedily and efficiently carried out.
In 1992, the Wannsee villa became a Holocaust memorial.
Other links: English version of the Wannsee Protocol.