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80 years ago, Nazi command met to discuss 'Final Solution'

On Jan. 20, 1942, high-ranking Nazi officials gathered at a villa in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee to plan the systematic destruction of European Jewry.

Am Großen Wannsee villa, where Nazi command gathered to discuss the Final Solution | File photo: Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, Jan. 20, will mark the 80th anniversary of the infamous Wannsee Conference in which senior Nazi officials gathered at a villa in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee to plan the systematic destruction of European Jewry, known as the Final Solution to the Jewish question.

The building, known as the Am Großen Wannsee villa, was built in 1915 by pharmaceutical manufacturer Ernst Marlier and purchased by industrialist Friedrich Minoux in 1921. In 1940, it was acquired by the Nazi regime to be used as a holiday destination for SS members.


The luxurious villa was inaugurated in the fall of 1941, with officials highlighting its spacious and heated rooms and halls, a music and billiard room, a balcony overlooking the Großer Wannsee lake, and food, wine, beer and tobacco products available in plenty.


Within its walls, 15 senior Nazi officials – among them notorious Holocaust perpetrators Reinhard Heydrich and Adolf Eichmann – gathered to implement the Final Solution.


By then, the mass extermination of Jews was already underway in the territories of the Soviet Union and the Baltic states, which were occupied by Germany in Operation Barbarossa that began in June 1941.


One copy of the Wannsee Conference minutes, prepared by Eichmann, survived World War II and was discovered accidentally in 1947.


Although the term "Final Solution" only appears in it once, it is clear the Nazis set out to destroy all those on their "elimination list," which were 11 million Jews in England, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Denmark, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, and France.


Eventually, of the 15 who participated in the conference, four were never prosecuted, five were tried and three were executed, including Eichmann. Two others were released from prison shortly after. The rest died during or soon after the war due to various reasons.


After the war, the Wannsee villa was used by Russian and American soldiers. Later, it was turned into an education center of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, and eventually, a leisure site for high-schoolers.


The long struggle to turn the building into a memorial sight finally bore fruit in the early 1990s. Then-German President Richard von Weizsäcker, whose father was a senior official in the Nazi Foreign Ministry, did not attend the ceremony, and neither did then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl.


Today, the villa is a memorial site and learning center, visited by thousands of attendees and students regularly.

 

This article was originally posted on the Israel Hayom website and can be accessed here.

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