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July 24, 2011

December 12, 1941 — the day that Hitler ordered the Final Solution

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:05 am

This morning I was searching the internet when I came across a web site which mentioned that Hitler ordered the extermination of all the Jews on December 12, 1941.  The source given for this information was Christian Gerlach.  I looked him up on Wikipedia here and learned that he is a professor of Modern History at the University of Bern in Switzerland.  Professor Gerlach has written lots of books and essays and his credentials are impeccable, but is he right about the date of Hitler’s order?

Let’s consider what was happening on December 12, 1941:  Hitler had just declared war on America in a long-winded speech on December 11, 1941 which you can read in full here.  President Roosevelt immediately responded by declaring war on Germany on the same day.

According to Christian Gerlach, Hitler gave the order to kill all the Jews the next day after his declaration of war against America. But wait a minute!  The gassing of the Jews had already started on December 8, 1941 at the Chelmno death camp.  Every student of the Holocaust knows that!

After World War II ended in Europe with the surrender of the German Army in May 1945, the provisional Polish government set up the Central Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland. The Central Commission’s job was to gather evidence for the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal which was set to begin on November 20, 1945, and for the planned Polish trials of Germans who had committed war crimes in Poland.

The main report by the Central Commission was entitled GERMAN CRIMES IN POLAND; it was originally published in two volumes in 1946 and 1947. The report included an overview of the main Nazi concentration camps and death camps in Poland. Two of the death camps, Auschwitz and Chelmno, had been in Greater Germany while they were in operation but after the war, they were located in Poland.

This quote is from the Report of the Central Commission:

The aim of the Chelmno camp was the extermination of the Jews from the Warthegau, the part of Poland which consisted of the 1939 province (voivodship) of Poznania, almost the whole province of Lodz, and a part of the province of Warsaw, inhabited altogether by 4,546,000 People (including 450,000 Jews).

The camp was established in November 1941. The extermination process began on December 8, with the ghetto population of the cities and towns of the Warthegau, first from the neighbouring Kolo, Dabie, Sompolno, Klodawa and many other places, and later from Lodz itself. The first Jews arrived at Chelmno from Lodz in the middle of January 1942. From that time onwards an average of 1000 a day was maintained, with short intermissions, till April 1943.

Did you catch that?  “The extermination process began on December 8…”  You can read the entire Report in English here. Some Holocaust historians say that the killing of the Jews at Chelmno began on December 6, 1941.  Famous Holocaust historian Martin Gilbert gives the date of the first gassing of the Jews at Chelmno as December 8, 1941.

In his book entitled “Holocaust,” Gilbert wrote the following:

On 7 December 1941, as the first seven hundred Jews were being deported to the death camp at Chelmno, Japanese aircraft attacked the United States Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Unknown at that time either to the Allies or the Jews of Europe, Roosevelt’s day that would “live in infamy” was also the first day of the “final solution.”

According to Martin Gilbert, the “Final Solution” began when 700 Jews from the Polish village of Kolo arrived at Chelmno on the evening of December 7, 1941 and on the following day, all of them were killed with carbon monoxide in gas vans. The victims were taken on 8 or 9 separate journeys in the gas vans to a clearing in the Rzuchowski woods near Chelmno.  At his trial, Adolf Eichmann confessed that the Jews were killed in gas vans at Chelmno.  What more proof do you want?

Monument in honor of the murdered Jews at Chelmno Photo credit: Alan Collins

Several years ago, I visited the house where the Wannsee Conference was held on January 20, 1942.  This conference had been ordered several months before by Hermann Goering for the purpose of planning the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question in Europe.”  Section 6 in the Wannsee Museum is about the Wannsee Conference itself. Here is a quote from Section 6:

When the Wannsee Conference was held on January 20, 1942 mass executions (of Jews) had been going on in the Soviet Union for half a year, deportations (of Jews) from Germany had begun, and Chelmno, the first extermination camp, had already been operative for six weeks.

It seems that the Nazis had already been killing the Jews for six months before Hitler’s order and the gassing of the Jews had been going on for several days before Hitler gave the order. The gassing had been going on for six weeks before the Conference to plan the Final Solution was held.  How do Holocaust historians explain that?  Were the Nazis perpetrating the genocide of the Jews without an order from Hitler?  Did Hitler know this? Is that why he finally gave an order on December 12, 1941 in order to save face?


  1. As far as I know, the authenticity of Goebbels’ diaries are widely disputed. Let’s imagine for a second that they are genuine. So where is the order?
    It is my understanding that “the order” means assigning specific tasks to the persons in attendance and setting up the deadlines for completion. Based on the entry in Goebbels’ “diary”, it is not clear: who was ordered to do what. Which orders were given and to whom?
    Same story with Wannsee Conference. No decisions had been made, just talks.

    Comment by Gasan — July 26, 2011 @ 6:50 pm

  2. please ask the professor if he can produce the order. or perhaps the notes from that day that Hitler’s stenographers would surely have recorded.

    Comment by schlageter — July 25, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

    • The professor is basing his claim on entries in the diaries of Josef Goebbels and Hans Frank who both attended a meeting with Hitler on December 12, 1941.

      According to Wikipedia, “On the afternoon of 12 December 1941, Hitler ordered the leading members of the Nazi party to a meeting in his private rooms at the Reich Chancellery. Because the meeting took place in private rooms rather than Hitler’s office, no official record of it exists. However, entries in the diaries of Goebbels and Frank confirm it.”

      This quote from Joseph Goebbels is from Wikipedia:

      “Regarding the Jewish question, the Führer is determined to clear the table. He warned the Jews that if they were to cause another world war, it would lead to their own destruction. Those were not empty words. Now the world war has come. The destruction of the Jews must be its necessary consequence. This question is to be regarded without sentimentalism. We are not here to have sympathy with the Jews, but rather with our German people. If the German people have sacrificed 160,000 dead in the eastern campaign, so the authors of this bloody conflict will have to pay for it with their lives.”

      It is my understanding that Hitler had a secretary who followed him around and took down every word that he ever said. I have read the autobiography of his secretary, but she didn’t mention anything about this meeting. This was on the day after Germany had declared war, so naturally, they were talking about their war plans. Goebbels was putting words in Hitler’s mouth. We don’t know exactly what Hitler said and there is no record of what he said.

      Comment by furtherglory — July 25, 2011 @ 2:20 pm

      • “The professor is basing his claim on entries in the diaries of Josef Goebbels and Hans Frank who both attended a meeting with Hitler on December 12, 1941.”

        So how does he explain, Frank’s testimony at the IMT:

        “I asked Heinrich Himmler for this special permission. He said that he would urge me not to go to the camp (Majdanek). Again some time passed. On 7 February 1944 I succeeded in being received by Adolf Hitler personally-I might add that throughout the war he received me three times only. In the presence of Bormann I put the question to him: “My Fuehrer, rumors about the extermination of the Jews will not be silenced. They are heard everywhere. No one is allowed in anywhere. Once I paid a surprise visit to Auschwitz in order to see the camp, but I was told that there was an epidemic in the camp and my car was diverted before I got there. Tell me, My Fuehrer, is there anything in it?” The Fuehrer said, “You can very well imagine that there are executions going on-of insurgents. Apart from that I do not know anything. Why don’t you speak to Heinrich Himmler about it?” And I said. “Well, Himmler made a speech to us in Krakow and declared in front of all the people whom I had officially called to the meeting that these rumors about the systematic extermination of the Jews were false; the Jews were merely being brought to the East.” Thereupon the Fuehrer said, “Then you must believe that.””

        Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Vol. 12 – 18th April 1946

        Comment by Black Rabbit — July 26, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

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