Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Wannsee Villa’

A year ago I took one of the most transformative journeys of my life, with 24 fellow educators, to study the Holocaust and the Jewish resistance to it, in Washington, DC, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Poland. I kept an extensive diary and took tons of photographs. And contrary to many assumptions, it was a journey that led to profound understandings about life, not death.  For the next several days, I have decided to go back and retrace my steps and try to process what unfolded for me. Not weighty tomes, but maybe a picture and a note from the diary.

**********************************************************************

“Einsatzkommando 12b of  Einsatzgruppe D kills Jewish women and children in a pit, Dubossary,  Moldova/Transnistria, 14 Sept. 1941.” Imperial War Museum.

“Einsatzkommando 12b of Einsatzgruppe D kills Jewish women and children in a pit, Dubossary, Moldova/Transnistria, 14 Sept. 1941.” Imperial War Museum.

A photograph for you to see. I tend to stay away from displaying more graphic images on this blog, but a year ago on this day I was confronted with it, and many others, at the Wannsee Villa outside of Berlin, where the intentionality of the planning of the Holocaust hits you square in the face, as the photograph on the wall above does.

And it is worth noting the date. Eleven weeks after the start of Operation Barbarossa. You see, now that the Soviet Union has been invaded, there are millions more Jews in the path of the genocidal war machine. The Holocaust here was carried out by soldiers with bullets. Entire villages and districts. Over 1.5 million victims. The dirty work gets done, but given the headaches and the bottlenecks, “there has to be a better way”.

Wannsee Villa, July 6, 2013.

Wannsee Villa, July 6, 2013.

Which brings us to this lovely site. At the Villa outside of Berlin, on 20 January 1942, 15 German military and government heads meet for a day to discuss the Jewish problem in euphemisms. As scholars have noted, the Wannsee Conference was not called to decide the fate of European Jews, but to clarify all points regarding their demise.

From the USHMM: “The “Final Solution” was the code name for the systematic, deliberate, physical annihilation of the European Jews. At some still undetermined time in 1941, Hitler authorized this European-wide scheme for mass murder.”

 

The display where the "table" around which discussions were held at the villa.

The display where the “table” around which discussions were held at the villa.

“At the time of the Wannsee Conference, most participants were already aware that the National Socialist regime had engaged in mass murder of Jews and other civilians in the German-occupied areas of the Soviet Union and in Serbia. Some had learned of the actions of the Einsatzgruppen and other police and military units, which were already slaughtering tens of thousands of Jews in the German-occupied Soviet Union. Others were aware that units of the German Army and the SS and police were killing Jews in Serbia. None of the officials present at the meeting objected to the Final Solution policy that SS General Reinhard Heydrich announced.”

A number's man, Heydrich was.

A number’s man, Heydrich was.

“Heydrich indicated that approximately 11,000,000 Jews in Europe would fall under the provisions of the “Final Solution.” In this figure, he included not only Jews residing in Axis-controlled Europe, but also the Jewish populations of the United Kingdom, and the neutral nations (Switzerland, Ireland, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, and European Turkey).

Heydrich announced that “during the course of the Final Solution, the Jews will be deployed under appropriate supervision at a suitable form of labor deployment in the East. In large labor columns, separated by gender, able-bodied Jews will be brought to those regions to build roads, whereby a large number will doubtlessly be lost through natural reduction. Any final remnant that survives will doubtless consist of the elements most capable of resistance. They must be dealt with appropriately, since, representing the fruit of natural selection, they are to be regarded as the core of a new Jewish revival.” (my emphasis)

Nice place to plan and coordinate mass murder of millions.

Nice place to plan and coordinate mass murder of millions.

For a good short essay on the conference, click here. For the actual meeting minutes, click here.

Now we are off to Track 17 in Berlin, to be followed by a visit to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Read Full Post »