January 20, 1942
Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Nazi gestapo, convenes a conference at a villa (shown in the photo) in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee at which plans are drawn up for the “Final Solution” of European Jewry. The minutes of the meeting disclose that the Nazis were shifting from a policy of immigration to one of deportation and resettlement of the Jews in the east where they would be imprisoned and put to work in labor camps. Heydrich believed that this solution would, “doubtlessly lead to the natural diminution of numbers at a considerable rate.” The Wannsee Conference would lead to the construction of a number of death and labor camps.
The Wannsee Conference was held at the height of British restrictions on Jewish immigration into Palestine which began with the 1939 White Paper. As a result of British policy and the refusal of other nations to accept Jewish refugees, the Final Solution was put into practice and led to the murder of six million Jews from across Europe.
In 2012, a special commemoration was held to mark the 70th anniversary of the Wannsee conference as part of International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the European Parliament in Brussels. Addressing 500 attendees at the event, EU President Martin Schulz, himself a German, remarked, “If you will allow me, it is normally not admissible that a representative of an institution speaks in such a moment about himself, but I ask for your understanding if I speak about me and my feelings. I am a German member of the European parliament. I am born after the Second World War. But as a German representative I feel that I have a very specific responsibility, because what happened, and what was decided at the so-called Wannsee Conference was decided in the name of the German people, and I am a representative of the German people. The German people of today are not guilty but responsible. Responsible to keep the memory and to never forget that what happened, happened in the name of our nation…Whatever is happening in the world today; anti-Semitism, action against the existence of the Jewish community, of the state of Israel or whatever, we are the first ones who have to defend our Jewish friends.”
Among the participants at the Wannsee Conference in 1942 was Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann would be captured and tried by Israel for his role in the Nazi extermination of European Jewry. He was executed for his crimes in 1962.