On January 20, 1942, a decision was made that would affect millions of Jews in Germany and the area surrounding it.
The Nazi’s had begun the secret killings of Jews but had not yet finalized an actual plan, so they devised the Wannsee Conference, a meeting of German delegates in order to come up with a way to annihilate the Jews completely. In attendance to the meeting were two of the most powerful Germans of the Holocaust: Reinhard Heydrich and Adolf Eichmann. Together they would present Hitler’s Final Solution to the delegates at the conference and gain the support needed to start the mass genocide of the Jewish race. Reinhard Heydrich was raised in a wealthy family in Halle, Germany. As a kid he was bullied for “his very high pitched voice and his devout Catholicism in the mostly Protestant town,” (The History Place). He was 16 during WWI, too young to flight, so he joined the Freikorps, a Anti-Semitic group who openly confronted communists. He believed strongly in the supremacy of the German race which led him to become a powerful figure in WWII.
Heydrich quickly gained power as he rose through the ranks in the Nazi regimen. “SS General Reinhard Heydrich was chief of: The Security Service of the Reichsfuhrer…
The German Secret State Police…The German Security Police…The Reich Security Main Office,” (Reinhard Heydrich: In Depth).
With all this power, he was held to high standards at the Wannsee Conference. Being sent by Hitler himself, he explained the Final Solution to his comrades and gained their favor. During the war, he was assigned as Acting Reich Protector of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. While in power he had “sentenced 342 people to death and turned 1,289 ‘over to the Gestapo’,” (Reinhard Heydrich: In Depth).
Because of all the blood on his hands, he gained multiple nicknames including “The Hangman” and “The Blond Beast”. With all this power, his arrogance got the best of him. Driving through Holesovice, without thinking about those who wanted him dead, he was ambushed and sent to the hospital where he died on May 29, 1942, only a few months after the Conference was held.With Heydrich at the Conference was Adolf Eichmann.
During his youth, his family moved to Linz, Austria. While there, he went to school but did not finish his education. “In the uncertain economic times in the 1920s, he drifted from job to job as a day laborer, an office worker, and as a traveling salesman for Vacuum Oil Company AG,” (Adolf Eichmann). During his travels, he met Ernst Kaltenbrunner, who helped him decide to join the Nazi Party and the SS. After going through months of military training, Eichmann became a vital part to the creation of the Final Solution. “He drew up the idea of deportation of Jews into ghettos, and went about concentrating Jews into isolated areas with murderous efficiency,” (Geller, Doron). Being so involved with the solution, Heydrich asked Eichmann to accompany him to the conference. Once the decision was made to go through with the plan, Eichmann had a new assignment.
“Eichmann was appointed to coordinate the identification, assembly, and transportation of millions of Jews from occupied Europe to the Nazi death camps,” (History.com Staff). Because of this, millions of Jewish deaths can be attributed to him. After escaping capture from US forces in 1942, he fled to Argentina under a new identity. It would not be until 1960 that he would be captured and put to death on May 31, 1962.Before their deaths, both attended the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942. The pair played a key role in the creation of the Final Solution and were tasked to present the information to the delegates.
Eichmann prepared the information for the event and Heydrich presented it. During the meeting he stated, “Jews will be brought to those regions to build roads, whereby a large number will doubtlessly be lost through natural reduction. Any final remnant that survives will doubtless consist of the elements most capable of resistance. They must be dealt with appropriately,” (Wannsee Conference and the “Final Solution”). This statement, recorded by Eichmann in the minutes of the meeting, is describing the deportation of the Jews to labor camps where they will be worked to death. The only argument that was made against this proposal was on the grounds of the time it would take and not the millions of lives it would destroy.
Though other ideas were given, such as mass sterilization or deportation to Madagascar, at the conclusion of the meeting, the decision was made to go through with Heydrich and Eichmann’s notion.It is hard to believe that two people could hold so much power. When Reinhard Heydrich and Adolf Eichmann reported to the officials at the Wannsee Conference, they convinced a group of 15 high ranking Germans to deport and exterminate millions of Jews. Not only did they present the idea, but they also helped fulfill it. Heydrich turned thousands of Jews in to the Gestapo, and Eichmann was in charge of deporting the Jews to death camps. Together they made a deadly team that would be remembered for years to come.