Scrapbookpages Blog

May 24, 2015

Auschwitz — “the largest mass murder site in human history”

In my blog post today, I am commenting on a news article, in a British newspaper, which you can read in full at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/27/auschwitz-short-history-liberation-concentration-camp-holocaust

The Wannsee house dining room as it looks today

The Wannsee house dining room as it looks today. This is the room where the Wannsee Conference was held.  (Click on the photo to enlarge)

The article in The Guardian newspaper, cited above, begins with this quote:

On 27 January 1945 Soviet soldiers entered the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp complex in south-west Poland. The site had been evacuated by the Nazis just days earlier. Thus ended the largest mass murder in a single location in human history.

The part of the article, which particularly caught my eye, is this quote:

In January 1942, the Nazi party decided to roll out the Final Solution. Camps dedicated solely to the extermination of Jews had been created before, but this was formalised by SS Lieutenant General Reinhard Heydrich in a speech at the Wannsee conference. The extermination camp Auschwitz II (or Auschwitz-Birkenau) was opened in the same year.

So what is the real story on the Wannsee conference and the “Final Solution”?

The dining room, as it looked in 1916 when the Wannsee house was built. This is the room where the Wannsee conference was held in 1942

The dining room, as it looked in 1916 when the Wannsee house was built. This is the room where the Wannsee conference was held in 1942

The photograph above shows the dining room [where the Wannsee Conference was held] as it looked in 1922. At the time of the conference in January 1942, the room was probably furnished much like this. Now the former conference room has been stripped of its Queen Ann chairs, Oriental rug, chandelier, and wall tapestry, and only a glass table and 15 stools are in the room.

Fifteen top officials of the Nazi bureaucracy and the SS attended the Wannsee conference, which was led by 38-year-old Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, the chief of the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA), on January 20, 1942 in an old mansion in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee.

A photo of the Wannsee mansion, taken shortly after it was built in 1916

A photo of the Wannsee mansion, taken shortly after it was built in 1916

The minutes or protocols of the Wannsee meeting, 15 pages in all, were written by 36-year-old Adolf Eichmann.

The copy of the minutes, that was found by the Allies in 1947, was undated and unsigned; it had no stamp of any Bureau. The copy appeared to be a draft report of the meeting.

The full title of the Conference was “The Final Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe.”

The original phrase, upon which the title was based, was “a final territorial solution of the Jewish question.”

The term “Jewish Question” referred to a question that had been discussed for years: Should the Jews have their own state within the country where they lived, or should they assimilate?

On the witness stand, at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, Hermann Goering said that the conference was about “the total solution to the Jewish Question” and that it meant the evacuation of the Jews, not the extermination of the Jews.

The full text of the letter from Goering to Heydrich, ordering the Final Solution, (Nuremberg Document PS-710) is quoted below:

Begin quote:

To the Chief of the Security Police and the SD, SS Gruppenfuehrer Heydrich

Berlin

In completion of the task which was entrusted to you in the Edict dated January 24, 1939, of solving the Jewish question by means of emigration or evacuation in the most convenient way possible, given the present conditions, I herewith charge you with making all necessary preparations with regard to organizational, practical and financial aspects for a total solution [Gesamtloesung] of the Jewish question in the German sphere of influence in Europe.

Insofar as the competencies of other central organizations are affected, these are to be involved.

I further charge you with submitting to me promptly an overall plan of the preliminary organizational, practical and financial measures for the execution of the intended final solution (Endloesung) of the Jewish question.

[signed] Goering

End quote

The former dining room in the Wannsee house is used today for meetings in which the famous Conference is discussed.

The former dining room in the Wannsee house is used today for meetings to discuss the Holocaust

The former dining room in the Wannsee house is used today for meetings to discuss the Holocaust  (Click on the photo to enlarge)