The Wannsee Conference
January 18, 2006 5:13 PM   Subscribe

The conference at Wannsee occurred on January 20, 1942.
The Holocaust had been going on for at least one year; the camp at Dachau had been in operation for several years. The Final Solution was already underway. At issue at Wannsee, in the relaxed and distinctively upper middle-class atmosphere of that SS guest-house for the fifteen highly placed Nazis was the best strategy for genocide. Less than one year after the conference a little girl who had been hiding in Holland is sent to the Bergen camp in northern Germany. She spends more than six years looking for four perfect pebbles
posted by Smedleyman (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Minutes from Wannsee.

I think the movie Conspiracy is pretty interesting as well.

"Kritzinger: But... the annihilation of these people! The Fuhrer has denied this to me, personally!

Heydrich: And he will continue to do so."

And Marion Blumenthal Lazan eventually found her four perfect pebbles.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:16 PM on January 18, 2006

Great writeup, Smedly. Thanx.
posted by huskerdont at 5:40 PM on January 18, 2006

I was just reading, I don't know where, that in the early 20th century the eugenics movement was supported by a many prominent statesmen and personalities who were quite vocal about the need to limit the reproduction of undesirables such as Jews, imbeciles, homosexuals etc. The Nazis were, all would agree, extremely efficient in carrying out the practical ends of this philosophy. After the war ended the proponents of eugenics quietly melted away...
posted by Turtles all the way down at 6:13 PM on January 18, 2006

After the war ended the proponents of eugenics quietly melted away...

Or moved to Alberta.
posted by at 6:22 PM on January 18, 2006

What really upsets me is that most of the attendees who survived the war went unpunished, leading comfortable lives as "good citizens", respected by their communities.
posted by orthogonality at 6:41 PM on January 18, 2006

Funny you mention Canada, Tommy Douglas, the hero of Canadian Healthcare was a big fan of sterilizing the mentally handicapped, the "morally deficient" and other "subnormals". He also seemed to have quietly dropped these beliefs after the war.
posted by loquax at 7:16 PM on January 18, 2006

Conspiracy is great. I've been to the Wannsee house; it's like walking into the movie. (I believe they filmed exteriors there and interiors on a set.) It's a pretty house in a nioce suburban neighborhood, but there's a bad feeling to that house.

The WikiPedia page on the conference has a list of the attendees, with links to their individual pages.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:23 PM on January 18, 2006

Great post! Thanks!

After the war ended the proponents of eugenics quietly melted away...

Or did they..?
posted by brundlefly at 8:03 PM on January 18, 2006

Really well written, well linked post. Thank you.
posted by dejah420 at 9:01 PM on January 18, 2006

Briton Sir Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, coined the term "eugenics" in 1883, and the American Eugenics Movement was influential from the 1890s well into the 1930s:
Eugenic ideology was deeply embedded in American popular culture during the 1920s and 1930s. For example, on a Saturday night, high school students might go to the cinema to see The Black Stork — a film that supported eugenic sterilization. In church on Sunday, they might listen to a sermon selected for an award by the American Eugenics Society — learning that human improvement required marriages of society's "best" with the "best."
The Nazis gratefully borrowed the concept and ran away with it:
American eugenic crusades proliferated into a worldwide campaign, and in the 1920s came to the attention of Adolf Hitler. Under the Nazis, American eugenic principles were applied without restraint, careening out of control into the Reich's infamous genocide.
Disavowal (wags might call it repackaging) by American eugenicists didn't occur until after WWII started and it became clear how far Germany had gone.
posted by cenoxo at 9:08 PM on January 18, 2006

They got eugenics from us, we got lethal injection from them. Fair trade.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:44 AM on January 19, 2006

Nice post. I've seen a million references to the Wannsee Protocols, but never sat down and read the minutes before. Not pleasant.
posted by COBRA! at 6:44 AM on January 19, 2006

Excellent post. It's true that the Nazis were actually able to model some of their eugenics laws on laws on the books in the US (like in CA). Eugenics really hurt biological psychiatry in this country, because many prominent psychiatrists were also eugenicists, and they thought that a strong "mental hygiene" program could do wonders to reduce the amount of mental illness in our country.
posted by OmieWise at 8:10 AM on January 19, 2006

"Conspiracy" really was chilling. If I recall correctly, it was based directly on a surviving copy of the meeting minutes.

For a modern day parallel, go here . (Interesting commentary on that blog post is here.)
posted by lexalexander at 8:59 AM on January 19, 2006

"Excellent post. It's true that the Nazis were actually able to model some of their eugenics laws on laws on the books in the US (like in CA)" - the connections are actually much tighter and more direct.
posted by troutfishing at 4:40 PM on January 20, 2006

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