Wannsee Conference - Proceedings


Heydrich opened the conference with an account of the anti-Jewish measures taken in Germany since the Nazi seizure of power in 1933. He said that between 1933 and 1941, 530,000 German and Austrian Jews had emigrated. This information was taken from a briefing paper prepared for him the previous week by Eichmann who, after his experience in organizing the forced emigration of the Viennese Jews in 1938, had become the leading expert on the practicalities of solving the "Jewish question".

Heydrich reported that there were approximately eleven million Jews in the whole of Europe, of whom half were in countries not under German control. He explained that since further emigration of European Jews had been prohibited by the authorities, "another possible solution of the problem has now taken the place of emigration, i.e. the evacuation of the Jews to the East"; this would be a "provisional" solution, but "practical experience" was already being collected for the "future final solution of the Jewish question".

Holocaust denialists claim that the Wannsee Conference decided on no more than the "evacuation" of the Jewish population of Europe to the east, with no reference to killing them. But in fact, Heydrich made the ultimate fate intended for the evacuees clear:

"Under proper guidance, in the course of the final solution the Jews are to be allocated for appropriate labor in the East. Able-bodied Jews, separated according to sex, will be taken in large work columns to these areas for work on roads, in the course of which action doubtless a large portion will be eliminated by natural causes. The possible final remnant will, since it will undoubtedly consist of the most resistant portion, have to be treated accordingly, because it is the product of natural selection and would, if released, act as the seed of a new Jewish revival".

After appropriate prior approval by the Führer, emigration as a possible solution has been superseded by a policy of evacuating Jews to the East.

“ ” —Heydrich addressing the Wannsee conference

No one at the meeting could have misunderstood Heydrich's meaning. The historian Christopher Browning observes: "No less than eight of the fifteen participants held the doctorate. Thus it was not a dimwitted crowd unable to grasp what was going to be said to them. Nor were they going to be overcome with surprise or shock, for Heydrich was not talking to the uninitiated or squeamish."

Heydrich went on to say that in the course of the "practical execution of the final solution", Europe would be "combed through from west to east" but that Germany, Austria and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia would have priority "due to the housing problem and additional social and political necessities". This was a reference to increasing pressure from the regional Nazi Party leaders in Germany, the Gauleiters, for the Jews to be removed from their areas to allow accommodation for Germans made homeless by Allied bombing, as well as for laborers being imported from occupied countries. The "evacuated" Jews, he said, would first be sent to "transit ghettos" in the General Government, from which they would be transported eastward. Heydrich said that to avoid legal and political difficulties, it was important to define who was a Jew for the purposes of "evacuation". He outlined categories of people who would be exempted. Jews over 65 years old, and Jewish World War I veterans who had been severely wounded or who had won the Iron Cross, would be sent to the "model" concentration camp at Theresienstadt. "With this expedient solution," he said, "in one fell swoop many interventions will be prevented."

The situation of people who were in a "racial" sense half or quarter Jews, and of Jews who were married to non-Jews, was more complex. Under the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, their status had been left deliberately ambiguous. Heydrich announced that "Mischlings" (a Nazi pejorative for mixed-"race" persons) of the first degree (persons with two Jewish grandparents) would be treated as Jews. This would not apply if they were married to a non-Jew and had children by that marriage. It would also not apply if they had been granted written exemption by "the highest offices of the Party and State." Such persons would instead be sterilized.

"Mischlings of the second degree" (persons with one Jewish grandparent) would be treated as Germans unless they were married to Jews or Mischlings of the first degree, or had a "racially especially undesirable appearance that marks him outwardly as a Jew", or had a "political record that shows that he feels and behaves like a Jew". Persons in these latter categories would be deported even if married to non-Jews.

In the case of mixed marriages, Heydrich advocated a policy of caution "with regard to the effects on the German relatives". If such a marriage had produced children who were being raised as Germans, the Jewish partner would not be deported. If they were being raised as Jews, they might be deported or sent to Theresienstadt depending on the circumstances. These exemptions applied only to German and Austrian Jews, and were not always observed even for them. In most of the occupied countries, Jews were rounded up and deported en masse, and anyone who lived in or identified with the Jewish community in any given place was regarded as a Jew. One of the few exceptions to this was France, where the Vichy French regime, in exchange for its ready cooperation, was able to apply its own rules, affecting mainly refugees and recent immigrants rather than French-born Jews. Heydrich commented, "In occupied and unoccupied France, the registration of Jews for evacuation will in all probability proceed without great difficulty", but in fact the great majority of French-born Jews survived. In Denmark, very few Jews were ultimately exterminated due to strong opposition from both the king and the populace and the actions of Danish partisans in evacuating most of the Jewish population to Sweden.

More difficulty was anticipated with Germany's allies Romania and Hungary. "In Romania the government has appointed a commissioner for Jewish affairs", Heydrich said, but in fact the deportation of Romanian Jews was slow and inefficient despite the high degree of popular antisemitism. "In order to settle the question in Hungary," Heydrich said, "it will soon be necessary to force an adviser for Jewish questions onto the Hungarian government". The Hungarian regime of Miklós Horthy continued to resist German interference in its Jewish policy until 1944, when Horthy was overthrown (by Nazi intervention) and 500,000 Hungarian Jews sent to their deaths by Eichmann.

Heydrich spoke for nearly an hour. Then followed about thirty minutes of questions and comments, followed by some less formal conversation. Luther from the Foreign Office urged caution in Scandinavia and other "Nordic" countries where public opinion was not hostile to the small Jewish populations and would react badly to unpleasant scenes. Hofmann and Stuckart pointed out the legalistic and administrative difficulties over mixed marriages, arguing for compulsory dissolution of marriages to prevent legal disputes and for the wider use of sterilisation as an alternative to deportation. Neumann from the Four Year Plan argued for the exemption of Jews who were working in industries vital to the war effort and for whom no replacements were available. Heydrich (keen not to offend Neumann's boss Hermann Göring) assured him that these Jews would not be "evacuated". There were questions about the Mischlings and those in mixed marriages, but the details of these complex questions were put off until a later meeting.

Finally, Bühler of the General Government in occupied Poland stated that "the General Government would welcome it if the final solution of this problem could be begun in the General Government, since on the one hand transportation does not play such a large role here nor would problems of labor supply hamper this action. Jews must be removed from the territory of the General Government as quickly as possible, since it is especially here that the Jew as an epidemic carrier represents an extreme danger and on the other hand is causing permanent chaos in the economic structure of the country through continued black market dealings."

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In academia, proceedings are the collection of academic papers published in the context of an academic conference. They are usually distributed as printed volumes or in electronic form either before the conference opens or after it has closed. Proceedings contain the contributions made by researchers at the conference. They are the written record of the work that is presented to fellow researchers.

The collection of papers is organized by one or more persons, who form the editorial team. The quality of the papers is typically ensured by having external people read the papers before they are accepted in the proceedings. This process is called reviewing. Depending on the level of the conference, this process including making revisions can take up to a year. The editors decide about the composition of the proceedings, the order of the papers, and produce the preface and possibly other pieces of text. Although most changes in papers occur on basis of consensus between editors and authors, editors can also single-handedly make changes in papers.

Since the collection of papers comes from individual researchers, the character of proceedings is distinctly different from a textbook. Each paper typically is quite isolated from the other papers in the proceedings. Mostly there is no general argument leading from one contribution to the next. In some cases, the set of contributions is so coherent and high-quality, that the editors of the proceedings may decide to further develop the proceedings into a textbook (this may even be a goal at the outset of the conference).

Proceedings are published in-house, by the organizing institution of the conference, or via an academic publisher. For example, the Lecture Notes in Computer Science by Springer take much of their input from proceedings. Increasingly, proceedings are published in electronic format via the internet or on CD.

In the sciences, the quality of publications in conference proceedings is usually not as high as that of international scientific journals. It should be noted, however, that a number of full-fledged academic journals unconnected to particular conferences also use the word "proceedings" as part of their name, for example, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA.

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