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Yad Vashem

The mass murder of the Jews began with the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. By the end of 1941 80% of Lithuanian Jewry had been murdered.     

by the beginning of 1943, most Jews in the western parts of Ukraine and Belorussia had been murdered.

Additionally, Romanians and Germans murdered 150,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews in the first months after the invasion of the Soviet Union.

In January 1942 a conference was held in Wannsee, a suburb of Berlin, in order to coordinate the implementation of the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”, the codename for the plan to murder all Jews within reach.

See also Videos and Films

Holocaust Research Project

On January 20, 1942, fifteen high-ranking Nazi party and German government leaders gathered for an important meeting.  

The meeting or conference (as it came to be known), was organized by Adolf Eichmann (SS-SturmbannfŸhrer), at the order of Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of the German State Police and of the SD ("Sicherheitsdienst", "Security Service of the SS").

The conference was held in a suburb of Berlin at a villa by a lake known as Wannsee. The goal of this conference was the debate of the so-called "Final Solution of the Jewish Question". Heydrich wanted to harmonize the organisation and implementation of that "Final Solution" with every office and administrative department that was to participate in it.

Fifteen people attended the conference  including high ranking party officials and SS- officers from the "Reichssicherheitshauptamt" (RSHA, "Central Security Office of the Reich"), as well as two representatives of the "Ministry of the Occupied Regions in the East", one representative of the Ministry for the Interior, one representative of the "Commissioner of the Four-Year-Plan", one representative of the Ministry for Justice, one representative of the Office of the "General Governor of the occupied Polish Regions", and one representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Heydrich opened the meeting with the announcement that Hermann Göring, the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, President of the Reichstag, Prime Minister of Prussia, and last but not least the designated second in command in the National Socialist hierarchy. Adolf Hitler had granted him an extensive degree of power which included the coordination of all anti-Jewish measures.

The purpose of the meeting was to outline the newly planned Final Solution would entail the rounding up of all Jews throughout Europe. They would be transported eastward and organized into labor gangs. Work and living conditions would be extremely harsh as to kill large numbers by natural reduction. Any survivors would be treated accordingly. Treated accordingly was euphemism for extermination.  

The final protocol of the Wannsee Conference never explicitly mentioned extermination, but within a few months after the meeting, the first gas chambers were installed in some of the extermination camps in Poland. These six camps, Belzec, Birkenau, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka were in operation in Poland.  

Responsibility for the entire project was placed in the hands of Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer-SS, and head of the Gestapo and the Waffen-SS.

The Wannsee Conference did not mark the beginning of the "Final Solution." The mobile killing squads were already slaughtering Jews in the occupied Soviet Union. Rather, the Wannsee Conference was the place where the "final solution" was formally revealed to non-Nazi leaders who would help arrange for Jews to be transported from all over German-occupied Europe to SS-operated "extermination" camps in Poland. Not one of the men present at Wannsee objected to the announced policy. Never before had a modern state committed itself to the murder of an entire people.

January 20, 1942
Holocaust Research Project

At the beginning of the discussion Chief of the Security Police and of the SD, SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich, reported that the Reich Marshal had appointed him delegate for the preparations for the final solution of the Jewish question in Europe and pointed out that this discussion had been called for the purpose of clarifying fundamental questions. The wish of the Reich Marshal to have a draft sent to him concerning organizational, factual and material interests in relation to the final solution of the Jewish question in Europe makes necessary an initial common action of all central offices immediately concerned with these questions in order to bring their general activities into line. The Reichsführer-SS and the Chief of the German Police (Chief of the Security Police and the SD) was entrusted with the official central handling of the final solution of the Jewish question without regard to geographic borders. The Chief of the Security Police and the SD then gave a short report of the struggle which has been carried on thus far against this enemy, the essential points being the following:

a) the expulsion of the Jews from every sphere of life of the German people,

b) the expulsion of the Jews from the living space of the German people.

In carrying out these efforts, an increased and planned acceleration of the emigration of the Jews from Reich territory was started, as the only possible present solution.

By order of the Reich Marshal, a Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration was set up in January 1939 and the Chief of the Security Police and SD was entrusted with the management. Its most important tasks were

a) to make all necessary arrangements for the preparation for an increased emigration of the Jews,

b) to direct the flow of emigration,

c) to speed the procedure of emigration in each individual case.

The aim of all this was to cleanse German living space of Jews in a legal manner.

All the offices realized the drawbacks of such enforced accelerated emigration. For the time being they had, however, tolerated it on account of the lack of other possible solutions of the problem.

The work concerned with emigration was, later on, not only a German problem, but also a problem with which the authorities of the countries to which the flow of emigrants was being directed would have to deal. Financial difficulties, such as the demand by various foreign governments for increasing sums of money to be presented at the time of the landing, the lack of shipping space, increasing restriction of entry permits, or the cancelling of such, increased extraordinarily the difficulties of emigration. In spite of these difficulties, 537,000 Jews were sent out of the country between the takeover of power and the deadline of 31 October 1941. Of these

approximately 360,000 were in Germany proper on 30 January 1933

approximately 147,000 were in Austria (Ostmark) on 15 March 1939

approximately 30,000 were in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia on 15 March 1939.

The Jews themselves, or their Jewish political organizations, financed the emigration. In order to avoid impoverished Jews' remaining behind, the principle was followed that wealthy Jews have to finance the emigration of poor Jews; this was arranged by imposing a suitable tax, i.e., an emigration tax, which was used for financial arrangements in connection with the emigration of poor Jews and was imposed according to income.

Apart from the necessary Reichsmark exchange, foreign currency had to presented at the time of landing. In order to save foreign exchange held by Germany, the foreign Jewish financial organizations were - with the help of Jewish organizations in Germany - made responsible for arranging an adequate amount of foreign currency. Up to 30 October 1941, these foreign Jews donated a total of around 9,500,000 dollars.

In the meantime the Reichsführer-SS and Chief of the German Police had prohibited emigration of Jews due to the dangers of an emigration in wartime and due to the possibilities of the East.


Another possible solution of the problem has now taken the place of emigration, i.e. the evacuation of the Jews to the East, provided that the Führer gives the appropriate approval in advance.

These actions are, however, only to be considered provisional, but practical experience is already being collected which is of the greatest importance in relation to the future final solution of the Jewish question.

Approximately 11 million Jews will be involved in the final solution of the European Jewish question, distributed as follows among the individual countries:

The number of Jews given here for foreign countries includes, however, only those Jews who still adhere to the Jewish faith, since some countries still do not have a definition of the term "Jew" according to racial principles.

The handling of the problem in the individual countries will meet with difficulties due to the attitude and outlook of the people there, especially in Hungary and Rumania. Thus, for example, even today the Jew can buy documents in Rumania that will officially prove his foreign citizenship.

The influence of the Jews in all walks of life in the USSR is well known. Approximately five million Jews live in the European part of the USSR, in the Asian part scarcely 1/4 million.

The breakdown of Jews residing in the European part of the USSR according to trades was approximately as follows:

Agriculture 9.1 %

Urban workers 14.8 %

In trade 20.0 %

Employed by the state 23.4 %

In private occupations such as medical profession, press, theater, etc. 32. 7%

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 a the seed of a new Jewish revival (see the experience of history.)

In the course of the practical execution of the final solution, Europe will be combed through from west to east. Germany proper, including the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, will have to be handled first due to the housing problem and additional social and political necessities.

The evacuated Jews will first be sent, group by group, to so-called transit ghettos, from which they will be transported to the East.

SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich went on to say that an important prerequisite for the evacuation as such is the exact definition of the persons involved.

It is not intended to evacuate Jews over 65 years old, but to send them to an old-age ghetto - Theresienstadt is being considered for this purpose.

In addition to these age groups - of the approximately 280,000 Jews in Germany proper and Austria on 31 October 1941, approximately 30% are over 65 years old - severely wounded veterans and Jews with war decorations (Iron Cross I) will be accepted in the old-age ghettos. With this expedient solution, in one fell swoop many interventions will be prevented.

The beginning of the individual larger evacuation actions will largely depend on military developments. Regarding the handling of the final solution in those European countries occupied and influenced by us, it was proposed that the appropriate expert of the Foreign Office discuss the matter with the responsible official of the Security Police and SD.

In Slovakia and Croatia the matter is no longer so difficult, since the most substantial problems in this respect have already been brought near a solution. In Rumania the government has in the meantime also appointed a commissioner for Jewish affairs. In order to settle the question in Hungary, it will soon be necessary to force an adviser for Jewish questions onto the Hungarian government.

With regard to taking up preparations for dealing with the problem in Italy, SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich considers it opportune to contact the chief of police with a view to these problems.

In occupied and unoccupied France, the registration of Jews for evacuation will in all probability proceed without great difficulty.

Under Secretary of State Luther calls attention in this matter to the fact that in some countries, such as the Scandinavian states, difficulties will arise if this problem is dealt with thoroughly and that it will therefore be advisable to defer actions in these countries. Besides, in view of the small numbers of Jews affected, this deferral will not cause any substantial limitation.

The Foreign Office sees no great difficulties for southeast and western Europe.

SS-Gruppenführer Hofmann plans to send an expert to Hungary from the Race and Settlement Main Office for general orientation at the time when the Chief of the Security Police and SD takes up the matter there. It was decided to assign this expert from the Race and Settlement Main Office, who will not work actively, as an assistant to the police attaché.


In the course of the final solution plans, the Nuremberg Laws should provide a certain foundation, in which a prerequisite for the absolute solution of the problem is also the solution to the problem of mixed marriages and persons of mixed blood.

The Chief of the Security Police and the SD discusses the following points, at first theoretically, in regard to a letter from the chief of the Reich chancellery:

(Editors Note:  The Nazis developed their own definition of ‘Who is a Jew ?’  
This was called the Mischling Test).

1) Treatment of Persons of Mixed Blood of the First Degree

Persons of mixed blood of the first degree will, as regards the final solution of the Jewish question, be treated as Jews.

From this treatment the following exceptions will be made:

a) Persons of mixed blood of the first degree married to persons of German blood if their marriage has resulted in children (persons of mixed blood of the second degree). These persons of mixed blood of the second degree are to be treated essentially as Germans.

b) Persons of mixed blood of the first degree, for whom the highest offices of the Party and State have already issued exemption permits in any sphere of life. Each individual case must be examined, and it is not ruled out that the decision may be made to the detriment of the person of mixed blood.

The prerequisite for any exemption must always be the personal merit of the person of mixed blood. (Not the merit of the parent or spouse of German blood.)

Persons of mixed blood of the first degree who are exempted from evacuation will be sterilized in order to prevent any offspring and to eliminate the problem of persons of mixed blood once and for all. Such sterilization will be voluntary. But it is required to remain in the Reich. The sterilized "person of mixed blood" is thereafter free of all restrictions to which he was previously subjected.

2) Treatment of Persons of Mixed Blood of the Second Degree

Persons of mixed blood of the second degree will be treated fundamentally as persons of German blood, with the exception of the following cases, in which the persons of mixed blood of the second degree will be considered as Jews:

a) The person of mixed blood of the second degree was born of a marriage in which both parents are persons of mixed blood.

b) The person of mixed blood of the second degree has a racially especially undesirable appearance that marks him outwardly as a Jew.

c) The person of mixed blood of the second degree has a particularly bad police and political record that shows that he feels and behaves like a Jew.

Also in these cases exemptions should not be made if the person of mixed blood of the second degree has married a person of German blood.

3) Marriages between Full Jews and Persons of German Blood.

Here it must be decided from case to case whether the Jewish partner will be evacuated or whether, with regard to the effects of such a step on the German relatives, [this mixed marriage] should be sent to an old-age ghetto.

4) Marriages between Persons of Mixed Blood of the First Degree and Persons of German Blood.

a) Without Children.

If no children have resulted from the marriage, the person of mixed blood of the first degree will be evacuated or sent to an old-age ghetto (same treatment as in the case of marriages between full Jews and persons of German blood, point 3.)

b) With Children.

If children have resulted from the marriage (persons of mixed blood of the second degree), they will, if they are to be treated as Jews, be evacuated or sent to a ghetto along with the parent of mixed blood of the first degree. If these children are to be treated as Germans (regular cases), they are exempted from evacuation as is therefore the parent of mixed blood of the first degree.

5) Marriages between Persons of Mixed Blood of the First Degree and Persons of Mixed Blood of the First Degree or Jews.

In these marriages (including the children) all members of the family will be treated as Jews and therefore be evacuated or sent to an old-age ghetto.

6) Marriages between Persons of Mixed Blood of the First Degree and Persons of Mixed Blood of the Second Degree.

In these marriages both partners will be evacuated or sent to an old-age ghetto without consideration of whether the marriage has produced children, since possible children will as a rule have stronger Jewish blood than the Jewish person of mixed blood of the second degree.

SS-Gruppenführer Hofmann advocates the opinion that sterilization will have to be widely used, since the person of mixed blood who is given the choice whether he will be evacuated or sterilized would rather undergo sterilization.

State Secretary Dr. Stuckart maintains that carrying out in practice of the just mentioned possibilities for solving the problem of mixed marriages and persons of mixed blood will create endless administrative work. In the second place, as the biological facts cannot be disregarded in any case, State Secretary Dr. Stuckart proposed proceeding to forced sterilization.

Furthermore, to simplify the problem of mixed marriages possibilities must be considered with the goal of the legislator saying something like: "These marriages have been dissolved."

With regard to the issue of the effect of the evacuation of Jews on the economy, State Secretary Neumann stated that Jews who are working in industries vital to the war effort, provided that no replacements are available, cannot be evacuated.

SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich indicated that these Jews would not be evacuated according to the rules he had approved for carrying out the evacuations then underway.

State Secretary Dr. Bühler 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 he is causing permanent chaos in the economic structure of the country through continued black market dealings. Moreover, of the approximately 2 1/2 million Jews concerned, the majority is unfit for work.

State Secretary Dr. Bühler stated further that the solution to the Jewish question in the General Government is the responsibility of the Chief of the Security Police and the SD and that his efforts would be supported by the officials of the General Government. He had only one request, to solve the Jewish question in this area as quickly as possible.

In conclusion the different types of possible solutions were discussed, during which discussion both Gauleiter Dr. Meyer and State Secretary Dr. Bühler took the position that certain preparatory activities for the final solution should be carried out immediately in the territories in question, in which process alarming the populace must be avoided.

The meeting was closed with the request of the Chief of the Security Police and the SD to the participants that they afford him appropriate support during the carrying out of the tasks involved in the solution.




House of the Wannsee Conference

Memorial and Educational Site

Country Number  A

Country Number  B

Germany proper 131,800

Austria 43,700

Eastern territories 420,000

General Government 2,284,000

Bialystok 400,000

Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia 74,200

Estonia - free of Jews -

Latvia 3,500

Lithuania 34,000

Belgium 43,000

Denmark 5,600

France / occupied territory 165,000

unoccupied territory 700,000

Greece 69,600

Netherlands 160,800

Norway 1,300

Bulgaria 48,000

England 330,000

Finland 2,300

Ireland 4,000

Italy including Sardinia 58,000

Albania 200

Croatia 40,000

Portugal 3,000

Rumania including Bessarabia 342,000

Sweden 8,000

Switzerland 18,000

Serbia 10,000

Slovakia 88,000

Spain 6,000

Turkey (European portion) 55,500

Hungary 742,800

USSR 5,000,000

Ukraine 2,994,684

White Russia

excluding Bialystok 446,484

TOTAL OVER 11,000,000

(From Wikipedia)


Job Title


Responsible To


SS-Obergruppenführer (Lieutenant-General)
Reinhard Heydrich

Chief of the RSHA

Deputy Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia

 Schutzstaffel (SS)

Reichsführer-SS (Reich Leader SS) Heinrich Himmler

SS-Gruppenführer (Major-General)
Otto Hofmann

Head of the SS Race and Settlement Main Office (RuSHA)  

Schutzstaffel (SS)

Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler

SS-Gruppenführer (Major-General) Heinrich Müller

Chief of Amt IV (Gestapo)

Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), Schutzstaffel

Chief of the RSHA SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich

SS-Oberführer (Senior Colonel)
Dr. Karl Eberhard Schöngarth

Commander of the SiPo and the SD in the General Government

SiPo and SD, RSHA, Schutzstaffel

Chief of the RSHA SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich

SS-Oberführer (Senior Colonel)
Dr. Gerhard Klopfer

Permanent Secretary

Nazi Party Chancellery

Chief of the Party Chancellery
Martin Bormann

SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel)
Adolf Eichmann

 Head of Referat IV B4 of the Gestapo Recording secretary

 Gestapo, RSHA, Schutzstaffel

Chief of Amt IV SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller

SS-Sturmbannführer (Major)
Dr. Rudolf Lange

 Commander of the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police; SiPo) and the SD for the General-District Latvia

Deputy of the Commander of the SiPo and the SD for the Reichskommissariat Ostland

Head of Einsatzkommando 2

SiPo and SD, RSHA, Schutzstaffel

 SS-Brigadeführer (Brigadier General) and Generalmajor der Polizei (Major-General of Police)
Dr. Franz Walter Stahlecker

Dr. Georg Leibbrandt

Reichsamtleiter (Reich Head Office)

Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories

Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories
Dr. Alfred Rosenberg

Dr. Alfred Meyer

(Regional Party Leader)

State Secretary and Deputy Reich Minister

Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories

Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories
Dr. Alfred Rosenberg

Dr. Josef Bühler

State Secretary

General Government
(Polish Occupation Authority)

Dr. Hans Frank

Dr. Roland Freisler

State Secretary

Reich Ministry of Justice

Reich Minister
of Justice
Dr. Franz Schlegelberger

SS-Brigadeführer (Brigadier General) Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart

State Secretary

Reich Interior Ministry

Reich Minister
of the Interior
Dr. Wilhelm Frick

SS-Oberführer (Senior Colonel)
Erich Neumann

State Secretary

Office of the Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan

Plenipotentiary of the Four Year Plan Hermann Göring

Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger

Permanent Secretary

Reich Chancellery

 Reich Minister and head of the Reich Chancellery
SS-Obergruppenführer Dr. Hans Lammers

Martin Luther

Under Secretary  

Reich Foreign Ministry

Ernst von Weizsäcker, State Secretary
to Reich
Foreign Minister
Joachim von Ribbentrop


The Beginning
of the Final Solution

Wansee Conference

The Minutes
from the
Wannsee Conference

at the
Wannsee Conference

Yad Vashem 2010 (14.49)
Dr. Havi Dreifuss of The Department of Jewish History, Tel-Aviv University, discusses the development of the Final Solution during the Holocaust. The lecture is part of the series "Insights and Perspectives from Holocaust Researchers and Historians."


In German w subtitles
TheHistoryTV  2014 (1.26.40)

Yad Vashem 2015 (11.45)
This video is part of the Holocaust Education Video Toolbox. For more videos and teaching aids, visit: