(Jan. 14, 2022) This week, 80 years ago, the Director of the Reich Main Security Office, S.S. Obergruppenführer (senior group leader, equal to a 3-star general in U.S. Army) Reinhard Heydrich, chaired a conference in a luxurious villa in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee.
On July 31, 1941, Reichsmarshal Hermann Göring had authorized Heydrich to prepare and submit a plan for a “Total Solution of the Jewish Question.” Enclosing a copy of the Reichsmarshal’s letter, Heydrich sent invitations to representatives of the Interior, Justice and Propaganda Ministries, the Four-Year Plan, and the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories.
Attending the Conference were: SS Gruppenführer Otto Hofmann, head of the SS Race and Settlement Main Office; SS Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller, Chief of the Gestapo; SS Oberführer, Dr. Karl Eberhard Schöngarth, Commander of the Security Police in the General Government (that part of Poland that was not annexed to Germany); SS Oberführer Dr. Gerhard Klopfer, State Secretary of the Nazi Party Chancellery and assistant to Martin Bormann, head of the Party Chancellery; SS Obersturmbannführer, Adolf Eichman, who was Recording Secretary and Heydrich’s liason with the others; SS Sturmbannführer Dr. Rudolf Lange, head of security for Latvia; Drs. Georg Leibbrandt and Alfred Meyer, deputy to Hans Frank, Governor General of the General Government of Poland, representing the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories; Dr. Roland Freisler, representing the Reich Ministry of Justice; SS Brigadeführer, Dr. Wilhelm Stuckart, from the Reich Interior Ministry; SS Oberführer Erich Neumann, representing the Office of the Plenipotentiary for the Four-Year Plan; State Secretary Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger, representing the Reich Chancellery; and Martin Luther from the Reich Foreign Ministry.
At the conference, Heydrich announced that, “Under proper guidance, in the course of the final solution, the Jews are to be allocated for appropriate labor in the East. Able-bodied Jews, separated according to sex, will be taken in large work columns to these areas for work on roads, in the course of which action doubtless a large portion will be eliminated by natural causes.
The possible final remnant will, since it will undoubtedly consist of the most resistant portion, have to be treated accordingly, because it is a product of natural selection and would, if released, act as a seed of a new Jewish revival.”
Eichmann kept the minutes, which were reviewed and edited by Heydrich. Copies were sent to all participants, but only one survived the war, and that was not found until 1947 by Robert Kempner, the U.S. prosecutor at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Once unanimity was reached as to “The Final Solution to the Jewish Problem,” the meeting was adjourned. It had only lasted about 90 minutes.
In 2001, HBO televised the movie “Conspiracy.” Kenneth Branagh won an Emmy for his chilling portrayal of Heydrich. Stanley Tucci won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Eichmann. Dr. Stuckart was portrayed by Colin Firth. The film portrays the 90 minutes at the Wannsee Villa in chilling detail. Drs. Schöngarth, Klopfer, Lange, Leibbrandt, Meyer, Bühler, Friesler were all lawyers and some were judges. The honorific of “doctor” is given to lawyers in many countries, including Germany.
Of those who survived the war, Hofmann was charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, convicted in 1948 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. On April 7, 1954, he was pardoned and released from Landsberg Prison and died in 1982.
Dr. Schöngarth was tried by a British Military Court for murdering a downed Allied pilot and convicted on Feb. 11, 1946 and sentenced to die by hanging. The sentence was executed on May 16, 1946 at Hamelin Prison, Hamelin, Germany.
After the war, Adolf Eichmann fled to Argentina, where he was captured by an Israeli team on May 11, 1960 and spirited out of the country to Israel where he was tried and convicted on 15 counts of crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes against the Jewish people, and membership in a criminal organization.
He was sentenced to die by hanging on Dec. 15, 1961. His sentence was executed on June 1, 1962. Several TV movies were made of this, including: “The House on Garibaldi Street,” starring Nick Mancuso and Martin Balsam as two of the Israeli captors; “The Man Who Captured Eichmann,” with Robert Duvall as Eichmann; and “Operation Finale,” starring Ben Kingsley as Eichmann.
Dr. Lange was killed during the Battle of Poznań, in Poland.
Dr. Leibbrandt was incarcerated from the end of the war to May 1949. Although charged in 1950, the case was dismissed in August, and he was released from custody. He died in Bonn, West Germany, on June 16, 1982.
Dr. Bühler was tried by the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland, convicted and sentenced to die on July 10, 1948, which sentence was executed on the Aug. 22, at Montelupich Prison in Kraków.
Dr. Freisler, who was appointed President of the People’s Court, in August 1942, was killed while conducting court in Berlin on Feb. 3, 1945, in a bombing attack by the United States Army Air Forces. He had presided over the “trials” of some of those accused of participating in the July 20 plot to kill Hitler, most notably Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben.
Dr. Stuckart was killed in an automobile collision on Nov. 15, 1953. Neumann and Kritzinger were never charged because of poor health. The former died on March 23, 1951, and the latter in 1947. Dr. Klopfer was never brought to justice, and, after the war, resumed his law practice, dying in 1987. Luther died May 13, 1945. Gestapo chief Müller was last seen on May 1, 1945. Alfred Meyer committed suicide on April 11, 1945.
Next week: Rommel Counter-Attacks
Mr. Wimbrow writes from Ocean City, Maryland, where he practices law representing those persons accused of criminal and traffic offenses, and those persons who have suffered a personal injury through no fault of their own. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.