Final Solution

Final Solution

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The Final Solution was Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

's plan and execution of the systematic genocide
Genocide
Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group", though what constitutes enough of a "part" to qualify as genocide has been subject to much debate by legal scholars...

 of European Jews
History of the Jews in Europe
Judaism in Europe has a long history, beginning with the conquest of the Eastern Mediterranean by Pompey in 63 BCE, thus beginning the History of the Jews in the Roman Empire, though likely Alexandrian Jews had migrated to Rome slightly before Pompey's conquest of the East.The pre-World War...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, resulting in the most deadly phase of the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

. Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

 was the chief architect of the plan, and the German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 termed it "the final solution of the Jewish question" .

Mass killings of about one million Jews occurred before the plans of the Final Solution were fully implemented in 1942, but it was only with the decision to eradicate the entire Jewish population that the extermination camps were built and industrialized mass slaughter of Jews began in earnest. This decision to systematically kill the Jews of Europe was made either by the time of or at the Wannsee Conference
Wannsee Conference
The Wannsee Conference was a meeting of senior officials of the Nazi German regime, held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on 20 January 1942. The purpose of the conference was to inform administrative leaders of Departments responsible for various policies relating to Jews, that Reinhard Heydrich...

, which took place in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, in the Wannsee Villa on January 20, 1942, very shortly after the Babi Yar
Babi Yar
Babi Yar is a ravine in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and a site of a series of massacres carried out by the Nazis during their campaign against the Soviet Union. The most notorious and the best documented of these massacres took place on September 29–30, 1941, wherein 33,771 Jews were killed in a...

 massacre was carried out with impunity. The conference was chaired by Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

. He was acting under the authority given to him by Reichsmarschall
Reichsmarschall
Reichsmarschall literally in ; was the highest rank in the armed forces of Nazi Germany during World War II after the position of Supreme Commander held by Adolf Hitler....

Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

 in a letter dated July 31, 1941. Göring instructed Heydrich to devise "...the solution of the Jewish problem..." During the conference, there was a discussion held by the group of German Nazi officials how best to handle the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question
Jewish Question
The Jewish question encompasses the issues and resolutions surrounding the historically unequal civil, legal and national statuses between minority Ashkenazi Jews and non-Jews, particularly in Europe. The first issues discussed and debated by societies, politicians and writers in western and...

". A surviving copy of the minutes of this meeting was found by the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 in 1947, too late to serve as evidence during the first Nuremberg Trials
Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany....

.

By the summer of 1942, Operation Reinhard
Operation Reinhard
Operation Reinhard was the code name given to the Nazi plan to murder Polish Jews in the General Government, and marked the most deadly phase of the Holocaust, the use of extermination camps...

 began the systematic extermination of the Jews, although hundreds of thousands already had been killed by death squads and in mass pogrom
Pogrom
A pogrom is a form of violent riot, a mob attack directed against a minority group, and characterized by killings and destruction of their homes and properties, businesses, and religious centres...

s. In Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

's speech
Posen speech
The Posen speeches were two secret speeches made by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler on October 4 and 6, 1943 in the town hall of Posen , in Nazi occupied Poland. The recordings are the first known documents in which a high-ranking member of the Nazi government spoke of the on-going extermination...

 at the Posen Conference
Posen Conference
The Posen Conference was a meeting attended by Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, high ranking German Nazi Party officials and Gauleiters on October 6, 1943 in the city of Posen in Reichsgau Posen...

 of October 6, 1943, Himmler, for the first time, clearly elucidated to all assembled leaders of the Reich that the "Final Solution" meant that "all Jews would be killed".

Historiographic debate about the decision


Prior to the beginning of World War II, during a speech given on January 30, 1939 (the sixth anniversary of his accession to power), Hitler foretold the coming Holocaust of European Jewry when he said:

Today I will once more be a prophet: If the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!


Christian Gerlach
Christian Gerlach
Hans Christian Gerlach is professor of Modern History at the University of Bern. Gerlach is also Associate Editor of the Journal of Genocide Research and author of multiple books dealing with the Hunger Plan, Holocaust and genocide...

 has argued for a different timeframe, suggesting the decision was made by Hitler on December 12, 1941, when he addressed a meeting of the Nazi Party (the Reichsleiter) and of regional party leaders (the Gauleiter). In his diary entry of December 13, 1941, the day after Hitler’s private speech, Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. As one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates and most devout followers, he was known for his zealous oratory and anti-Semitism...

 wrote:

Regarding the Jewish Question, the Führer is determined to clear the table. He warned the Jews that if they were to cause another world war, it would lead to their own destruction. Those were not empty words. Now the world war has come. The destruction of the Jews must be its necessary consequence. We cannot be sentimental about it. It is not for us to feel sympathy for the Jews. We should have sympathy rather with our own German people. If the German people have to sacrifice 160,000 victims in yet another campaign in the east, then those responsible for this bloody conflict will have to pay for it with their lives.


Echoing his above statements along with the January 30, 1939 speech by Hitler, in an article written in 1943 entitled "The War and the Jews", he wrote:

None of the Führers prophetic words has come so inevitably true as his prediction that if Jewry succeeded in provoking a second world war, the result would be not the destruction of the Aryan race, but rather the wiping out of the Jewish race. This process is of vast importance, and will have unforeseeable consequences that will require time. But it can no longer be halted. It must only be guided in the right direction.


After this decision, plans were made to put the Final Solution into effect. For example, on December 16, 1941, at a meeting of the officials of the General Government
General Government
The General Government was an area of Second Republic of Poland under Nazi German rule during World War II; designated as a separate region of the Third Reich between 1939–1945...

, Hans Frank
Hans Frank
Hans Michael Frank was a German lawyer who worked for the Nazi party during the 1920s and 1930s and later became a high-ranking official in Nazi Germany...

 referred to Hitler's speech as he described the coming annihilation of the Jews:
As for the Jews, well, I can tell you quite frankly that one way or another we have to put an end to them. The Führer once put it this way: if the combined forces of Judaism should again succeed in unleashing a world war, that would mean the end of the Jews in Europe. ...I urge you: Stand together with me ... on this idea at least: Save your sympathy for the German people alone. Don't waste it on anyone else in the world, ... I would therefore be guided by the basic expectation that they are going to disappear. They have to be gotten rid of. At present I am involved in discussions aimed at having them moved away to the east. In January there is going to be an important meeting in Berlin to discuss this question. I am going to send State Secretary Dr. Buhler to this meeting. It is scheduled to take place in the offices of the RSHA in the presence of Obergruppenführer
Obergruppenführer
Obergruppenführer was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was first created in 1932 as a rank of the SA and until 1942 it was the highest SS rank inferior only to Reichsführer-SS...

Heydrich. Whatever its outcome, a great Jewish emigration will commence. But what is going to happen to these Jews? Do you imagine there will be settlement villages for them in the Ostland? In Berlin we were told: Why are you making all this trouble for us? There is nothing we can do with them here in the Ostland or in the Reich Commissariat. Liquidate them yourselves! ... Here are 3.5 million Jews that we can't shoot, we can't poison. But there are some things we can do, and one way or another these measures will successfully lead to a liquidation. They are related to the measures under discussion with the Reich.... Where and how this will all take place will be a matter for offices that we will have to establish and operate here. I will report to you on their operation at the appropriate time.


Journalist Ron Rosenbaum
Ron Rosenbaum
-Life and career:Rosenbaum was born into a Jewish family in New York City, New York and grew up in Bay Shore, New York. He graduated from Yale University in 1968 and won a Carnegie Fellowship to attend Yale's graduate program in English Literature, though he dropped out after taking one course...

, in his book Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil
Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil
Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil is a 1998 book by journalist Ron Rosenbaum which tells of Rosenbaum's struggles with the "exceptionalist" character of Adolf Hitler's personality and impact on the world or, worse from his point of view, his struggle with the possibility...

, found that the phrase "final solution" had been used much earlier. An investigative report by the Münchener Post, a socialist newspaper that was an early opponent of Hitler, found as early as 1931 Nazi Party and SA
Sturmabteilung
The Sturmabteilung functioned as a paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party . It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s...

 documents using the phrase as part of a description of plans for what became the Nuremberg Laws
Nuremberg Laws
The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 were antisemitic laws in Nazi Germany introduced at the annual Nuremberg Rally of the Nazi Party. After the takeover of power in 1933 by Hitler, Nazism became an official ideology incorporating scientific racism and antisemitism...

 and a suggestion that "for the final solution of the Jewish question it is proposed to use the Jews in Germany for slave labor or for cultivation of the German swamps administered by a special SS division."

Prelude: Holocaust in Lithuania and GG Galicia


Several scholars have noted that the Final Solution and the Holocaust began in Lithuania after the German invasion. Dina Porat
Dina Porat
Dina Porat is a professor at Tel Aviv University. She is head of the Chaim Rosenberg School for Jewish Studies and of the Stephen Roth Institute and holds the Alfred P. Slaner Chair for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism. She is also a member of the Yad Vashem Scientific Advisory...

 wrote: "The Final Solution - the systematic overall physical extermination of Jewish communities one after the other - began in Lithuania." Konrad Kweit wrote: "Lithuanian Jews were among the first victims of the Holocaust [...] The Germans carried out the mass executions [...] signaling the beginning of the "Final Solution."

Holocaust in General Government (GG) Galicia


Others like Dr. Samuel Drix (Witness to Annihilation), Jochaim Schoenfeld (Holocaust Memoirs), and several survivors of the Janowska Camp
Janowska concentration camp
Janowska was a Nazi German labor, transit and concentration camp established September 1941 in occupied Poland on the outskirts of Lwów...

 who were interviewed in the film, "Janovska: The Janovska Camp at Lvov," among other witnesses have argued equally as convincingly that the Final Solution began in Lwów
Lviv
Lviv is a city in western Ukraine. The city is regarded as one of the main cultural centres of today's Ukraine and historically has also been a major Polish and Jewish cultural center, as Poles and Jews were the two main ethnicities of the city until the outbreak of World War II and the following...

 (Lemberg) during that same week. Statements and memoirs of these survivors highlight the point that when Ukrainian
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 civilians and ad hoc
Ad hoc
Ad hoc is a Latin phrase meaning "for this". It generally signifies a solution designed for a specific problem or task, non-generalizable, and not intended to be able to be adapted to other purposes. Compare A priori....

or auxiliary militias crossed the line that previously the Germans would not breach — the murdering of women and children rather than only male Jews — the "Final Solution" was in fact begun. It is asserted by witnesses that this happened both prior to and during the pogroms associated with the "Prison Massacre." The question of whether there was some coordination between the Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

n and Ukrainian militias remains (i.e. collaborating for a joint assault in Kovno
Kaunas
Kaunas is the second-largest city in Lithuania and has historically been a leading centre of Lithuanian economic, academic, and cultural life. Kaunas was the biggest city and the center of a powiat in Trakai Voivodeship of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania since 1413. During Russian Empire occupation...

, Wilno
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

, and Lwów). Still the issue of precisely when the first concerted effort at annihilation of all Jews began in the last weeks of June, 1941 during Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 is difficult to determine with certainty, despite the assertion of Dina Porat that the Lithuanian Jews rather than the Galician Jews had the dubious distinction of being the first victims of the Final Solution. See generally The Lemberg Mosaic Jakob Weiss (New York: Alderbrook Press, 2011)

Heydrich's letter


The relevant text is a handwritten cover letter, by Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich , also known as The Hangman, was a high-ranking German Nazi official.He was SS-Obergruppenführer and General der Polizei, chief of the Reich Main Security Office and Stellvertretender Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia...

 to Martin Luther
Martin Luther (diplomat)
Martin Franz Julius Luther was an early member of the Nazi Party. He served as an advisor to Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, first in the Dienststelle Ribbentrop , and later in the Auswärtiges Amt as a diplomat when von Ribbentrop replaced Konstantin von Neurath...

 of the Foreign Office, dated February 26, 1942, forwarding the minutes
Minutes
Minutes, also known as protocols, are the instant written record of a meeting or hearing. They typically describe the events of the meeting, starting with a list of attendees, a statement of the issues considered by the participants, and related responses or decisions for the issues.Minutes may be...

 of the Wannsee Conference
Wannsee Conference
The Wannsee Conference was a meeting of senior officials of the Nazi German regime, held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on 20 January 1942. The purpose of the conference was to inform administrative leaders of Departments responsible for various policies relating to Jews, that Reinhard Heydrich...

. In the opening sentence Heydrich explicitly uses the expression, "the final solution to the Jewish question". The following is a translation of the letter from German to English:

Dear Fellow Party Member [Parteigenosse] Luther!


Enclosed I am sending you the minutes of the proceedings that took place on January 20, 1942.


Since the basic position regarding the practical execution of the final solution of the Jewish question has fortunately been established by now, and since there is a full agreement on the part of all agencies involved. I would like to ask you at the request of the Reich Marshal to make one of your specialist officials available for the necessary discussion of details in connection with the completion of the draft that shows the organizational, technical and material prerequisites bearing on the actual starting point of the projected solutions.


I want to schedule the first discussion along these lines for 10:30 a.m. on March 6, 1942 at 116 Kurfürstenstrasse, Berlin. I therefore ask you that for this purpose your specialist official contact my functionary in charge there, SS-Obersturmbannführer Eichmann.


Further reading

  • Browning, Christopher R. The Origins of the Final Solution, William Heinemann, London, 2004.
  • Gerald Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution, University of California Press
    University of California Press
    University of California Press, also known as UC Press, is a publishing house associated with the University of California that engages in academic publishing. It was founded in 1893 to publish books and papers for the faculty of the University of California, established 25 years earlier in 1868...

    , Berkeley, 1984.
  • Dr. Richard Breitman, The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and The Final Solution, Alfred A. Knopf Inc., New York, 1991. ISBN 0-394-56841-9
  • Christian Gerlach. The Wannsee Conference, the Fate of German Jews, and Hitler's decision in principle to exterminate all European Jews, The Journal of Modern History. Chicago: December 1998.Vol.70, Iss. 4; pg. 759, 54 pgs.
  • Schultheis, Herbert / Wahler, Isaac E.: Bilder und Akten der Gestapo Wuerzburg ueber die Judendeportationen 1941–1943. Bad Neustadt a. d. Saale 1988. ISBN 978-3-9800482-7-9 (German-English Edition)
  • Longerich, Peter. The Unwritten Order — Hitler's Role in The Final Solution, Tempus Publishing Limited, Stroud, 2003.
  • Baumslag, Naomi. Murderous Medicine — Nazi Doctors, Human Experimentation, and Typhus, Praeger Publishers, (an imprint of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.), 2005. ISBN 0-275-98312-9
  • Website of the House of the Wannsee Conference (Protocols)

External links


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