The Final Solution

Origins of the Final Solution

Hitler’s ideological goals were fixed before he came to power in 1933, but the original plan was not mass extermination. Kristallnacht opened the way for worse persecution, but it can be argued that without the outbreak of the Second World War there would not have been a Holocaust. When the war turned Eastwards it was clear that it was a war of racial annihilation. The Madagascar Plan was abandoned and it was clear that the number of Jews that had been sent to Poland was too much for the local governments to handle, and as this problem became more urgent, it was clear there needed to be a new plan in place.

Wannsee Conference

The Wannsee Conference took place on the 20 January 1942. It was not where the decision was made to exterminate Europe’s Jews, but it was more to inform senior bureaucrats of their roles in implementing the decisions. There were 15 top ranking officials at Wannsee but Hitler and Himmler were not in attendance. The situation after the conference showed that the purpose was to clarify what to do with the Jews. There was now no longer deportation to get them out of Germany, but to transport them to an organised camp system, which opened the way to coordinate and accelerate mass killings. More than half the Jews killed in the Holocaust were killed between January 1942 and 1943.

The Final Solution

When the war turned against Germany in 1942 it accelerated the mass killings of Jews, and given higher priority than military needs. Propaganda became even more hate filled than before. Each time Germany suffered a military defeat, the anti-Jewish action and propaganda increased. Jewish populations in France, Greece, Hungary, Slovakia and Italy were rounded up for deportation. By Summer 1944 it was clear that Germany faced defeat in the war but it did not cause an end to the final solution. When the Soviets and Allies were headed to Berlin, the Nazis rounded up the prisoners in death camps and forced them on a death march. Once Germany had surrendered and the camps were liberated the allies uncovered the full horror of what had been happening.

The Camp System

The death camps of 1942-45 are not the same as the concentration camps that were in action from 1933. Concentration camps were around in many of the main German cities, and housed political prisoners, from homosexuals, political opponents and church dissidents. Most Germans knew about the concentration camps and some even approved of them being used as punishment for social dissidents. The system of camps in operation in Eastern Europe after 1941 were on a much larger scale with a focus on extermination. They were built for the specific purpose of killing untermenschen. Such examples are Auschwitz-Birkenau and Chelmno.

Jewish Resistance

There was a large amount of resistance from Jews during the Holocaust. This ranged from protest, to partisans fighting in the forest. There were also a number of uprisings such as the Warsaw ghetto uprising where they tried to fight back, and the sonderkommando rebellion at Auschwitz. There was also small scale resistance such as continuing to pray when it was banned, trying to continue education and trying to smuggle out information to Western embassies to tell them what was happening.

Death Marches

The military defeat of the Third Reich did not end the suffering of the victims of the Holocaust. As German forces pulled back, the Nazis carried out a frantic programme of evacuations and forced marches. Camps were hurriedly closed down and the inmates were sent on long marches Westwards. People died on the marchest from the cold, starvation, malnutrition and were shot for not keeping up. If they survived the march to another camp they would often have to repeat the process.

Responsibility for the Holocaust

Responsibility for the Holocaust does not just sit with Hitler. Although it was his ideological plan, it involved much more than one man. Millions of individuals were involved from the decision making officials, to those that were involved in the deportations, persecution and killings. At one extreme it can be argued that the Holocaust was entirely the responsibility of Hitler, but that implied that he was an all power absolute dictator, but this is not the case. Therefore, however central Hitler’s role was he can’t have sole responsibility.

Who was not present at the Wannsee conference?
Your answer should include: Himmler / Hitler
What was the Wannsee conference for?
Your answer should include: Final Solution / Jewish Question
Explanation: To set out the roles in carrying out the final solution to the Jewish question.
Give an example of Jewish resistance?
Your answer should include: Warsaw Uprising / Partisans / Crematoria / Praying / Studying
Give an example of Jewish resistance?
Your answer should include: Warsaw Uprising / Partisans / Crematoria / Praying / Studying