Berlin, Germany—On the outskirts of this great city is a resort community known as Wannsee. This place has a large beautiful lake and serves as a summer playground for those who can afford it.
When the Allies invaded Germany a curious transcript was found in the personal effects of a man named Martin Luther. Luther had been imprisoned in a concentration camp but he had been the Under Secretary of the Reich Foreign Ministry.
This transcript was a Nazi secret document that was supposed to have been read and immediately destroyed. Luther violated the order and preserved it instead. That document shed a spotlight on a two-hour, January 20, 1942 meeting where 15 assembled high-ranking Nazis settled the Jewish Question. The question was answered with a plan to exterminate every Jew within their reach.
The meeting was held in a sumptuous and grand Wannsee villa that exists today as a War Crimes Museum. Visitors can stand and walk on the same floors as the panelists did where the Holocaust was planned.
In addition to the transcript there is the supporting testimony of Adolph Eichmann who was instrumental in setting the meeting up. That testimony came in Israel after Eichmann was kidnapped in Argentina and brought before a court to answer for Crimes against Humanity. We know for sure exactly what took place at Wannsee.
The panel of 15 included seven trained lawyers. Presumably that was to make sure that Reich Law and the Nuremberg Laws making Jews, persona non grata were followed.
The Chairman of the Panel was the notorious SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich. Heydrich was Hitler’s number one Hatchet Man. He had special powers of persuasion backed by his ability to exercise deadly discipline on anyone attending. Crossing Heydrich was a really bad idea.
Yet two of the panel members, Wilhelm Stutkart and Martin Luthur balked at the outrageous plan exercising nearly tombstone courage. Others suggested the less horrifying solution such as mass sterilization of Jews. Other panelists were simply intimidated into cooperating with the murders of millions of men women and children.
Some panelists complained that the German war effort was dependent upon the Jews they already conscripted for labor. Killing their workers would certainly have an adverse impact on armament production. That compelling argument fell on deaf ears.
By the time lunch was over these Nazis had their Top Secret marching orders.
Jews and Gypsies were efficiently transported far from Germany on rail lines to special state of the art death camps for mass extermination and cremation. Words like resettled and evacuated replaced kidnapped and murdered in the new Nazi lexicon.
HBO re-created the Wannsee Conference in a accurate dramatic film shot at the actual villa with actors Kenneth Branagh and Stanley Tucci. The film is excellent.
After my visit to the Wannsee Museum I had a wonderful lunch nearby but our conversation was much lighter than that dark one in 1942. Here is some video from my visit there last week. Following further below is the trailer for the movie Conspiracy filmed on location at the Wannsee villa.
More photos can be seen here: