Haus of the Wannsee Conference

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Down at the biggest lake at Wannsee is a big house during the Second World War the house was owned by the SD or security force of the German leadership. The house was used as conference center and a guest house. On January 20 1942 the house was the location of one of the most infamous meetings during the Second World War. It houses the Wannsee Konferenze where high ranking members civil servants from many departments of the Nazi government were present to discuss Endlösung der Judenfrage or the final solution of the Jewish question. The participants in the conference were civil servants so they didn’t have the authority to make policy decision – hence the decision of starting the holocaust had been taking by others – the object of the discussion in the house was how to implement it in practice.

Most places in Berlin which is directly linked to the Nazi leader ship or Nazi organizations has been demolished like Hitler’s bunker and the Spandau Prison which used to house the Nazi leaders convicted to prison at the Nuremburg trial – hence it is a bit surprising the location of one of the most infamous meetings during the Nazi ruled has been allowed to be preserved. It survived because it was transformed into a memorial for the Holocaust and today you can go and visit the house for free to learn more about this dark part of the German history.

The house

The building is very pretty from the outside and it got a very good location right down at the lake so there is an amazing view from the balcony in front of the house. Inside the house there is a focus on the exhibition of the history of the Nazi Jewish law and the holocaust so there isn’t of furniture or other things of interest – hence a visit to the house is only interesting if you want to know a bit more of the history of the Jewish policy during Nazi rule from the Nuremberg racial laws to the holocaust.

Definition of a Jew according to the Nuremberg Laws

After the takeover of power in Germany in 1933 the Nazi government seemed to be content with reducing the number of Jews inside the German border by immigration to other countries. The number of Jews in Germany dropped rapidly from 1933 to 1939 cutting the number of Jews to about half.

Number of Jews in Germany

After the breakout of the war the plan of immigration were not really possible anymore. There were still plans to let the Europe Jews leave the continent and go to Madagascar. The Madagascar plan wasn’t realistic with the British Navy controlling the sea routes of the Atlantic Ocean so the plan was never effectuated. Visiting Madagascar last year I must say I find it very unrealistic the country would be able to support a sudden influx of 10 million people today and back in the 1940s such an inflow of people would undoubtly have resulted in mass starvation on the island.

Instead the plan was to deport Jews to the east in the area of the Soviet Union. This plan became unrealistic shortly before the conference due to the first successful Soviet counter offensive on the eastern front making a quick victory in the east unrealistic. Instead it was decided to deport Jews to other part of the German occupied countries far from the front line mainly in the area of Poland from where they would ultimately be send to extermination camps.

Room where the meeting took place

One special issue at the conference was the treatment of people of mixed origin living in Germany or who had been married to a person of German origin before the introduction of the Nuremberg Laws and having children with their partner. It was thought a deportation of these people would be met with some resistance from people of German origin so there would have to be an individual assessment of each person. Such rules didn’t apply to people of mixed Jewish and other heritage living outside Germany they would simply be sent to extermination camps without any assessment.

The participants at the conference

The conference took place under the leadership of Reinhard Heydrich who was the second in command of the SS after Himmler. The protocol of the meetings was made by Adolf Eichmann who was the responsible for the Jewish affairs office and thereby responsible for much of the practical organization of the deportation of Jews to the concentration camps. Several of the participants of the conference died during the war or the immediate aftermath of the war and some were eventually put on trial and convicted for crimes against humanity and other war crimes. But some of the participants of the conference were either never put on trial or acquitted during trials in the aftermath of the war. Eichmann fled to Argentina and was eventually kidnapped by Mossad and put on trial in Israel in 1961 and hanged in 1962.

You can reach the house by bus 114 from the S-bahn station in Wannsee and the stop is clearly marked on the board in the bus as the stop of the Haus der Wannsee Konferenze. If you visit the house you can easily combine it with a visit to the Flensburger Lion by walking out of the front gate of the house and turn right and then take the first small road to the right which will lead you right to the lion.

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