The Wannsee Conference

The Wannsee ConferenceToday, the Holocaust is regarded as the horrifying atrocity that it was. Only a few fringe groups of people believe that it didn't happen, and practically everyone recognizes that it was a terrible moment in time that should never have occurred. But as well-known as it is now, it was a massive secret even when it was occurring. The Nazis managed to keep their overall plans hidden up to the moment that Allied forces began to uncover the truth. While executions and murders were no doubt taking place prior to it, the Wannsee Conference is the moment when the Holocaust was taken into its final, terrible stages.
Essentially, the Wannsee Conference was the meeting in which the policies of the Final Solution were discussed with high-ranking Nazi officials. It was held on the 20th of January in 1942, and set into motion the full range of horrors that the Nazis would unleash on their prisoners.
During this meeting, a few key points were discussed. Things like immigration, the deportation of Jews to Labor camps, the use of Old People's Ghettos, Sterilization, and eventually the systematic execution of Jews were all topics that were touched on. The meeting itself took only ninety minutes, and most agree that few new or unknown points were even mentioned. Already, camps were being transformed from labor camps into extermination camps, and mass extermination of Jews had already begun in Poland and the Soviet Union.
The specifics of just what exactly was said during the meeting are still largely unknown, but most agree that a long speech was made by Reinhardt Heydrich followed by very few questions or discussions on the practicality of the Final Solution. This is largely because the plans were already underway, and the purpose of the conference is often thought to have been Heydrich simply asserting his authority over others in attendance.
Still, no matter the specifics of the meeting, there is little doubt that this conference was the final step taken before the massive Nazi extermination machine was put into motion. Whether a mere formality or an outright planning session during which the Final Solution was officially put into motion, after the Wannsee Conference the killing of Jews throughout Nazi occupied Europe intensified. Over the next few years, millions would die at the hands of the Nazis. Several movies were made focusing on this conference, but none can portray the evil that sprang from the discussions held during its short ninety minute span. 

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Photo credit: PAVDW / / CC BY