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The Final Solution

Read the text of the minutes of the Wannsee Conference. This was a meeting held on the 20th January 1942 at a villa in a Berlin suburb which decided on the way in which Jews were to be dealt with across the Nazi occupied countries. The text refers to the Final Solution. How does this mark a change in the proposed treatment of Jews?

Until 1941 Jews had been used for forced labour in camps or taken from the ghettos in forced labour details. The camps from this time onwards, however, developed a more sinister character - they became death camps, converted for the ultimate destruction of the Jewish population of Europe.

Before 1942 up to one million Jews had been murdered. After the Wannsee Conference and until the end of the war another five million were exterminated. The words “the Final Solution” were carefully chosen in order to carefully cover the fact that what was actually being talked about was murder.

Listen to these extracts from our interview with Holocaust survivor Eva Neumann to find out about her experience of arriving at the concentration camp at Auschwitz, and how she finally left.

Extract 1:

Arrival at Auschwitz (Transcript)

Extract 2:

Leaving Auschwitz (Transcript)

Transcript Header

In view of the dangers of emigration in war-time, and the possibilities in the East, the Reichsführer 55 and Chief of the German Police (Himmler) has forbidden the emigration of Jews.

Emigration has now been replaced by evacuation of the Jews to the East, as a further possible solution, with the appropriate prior authorization of the Führer. However, this operation should be regarded only as a provisional option; but it is already supplying practical experience of great significance in view of the coming final solution of the Jewish question.

The Jews are to be utilized for work in the East in an expedient manner in the course of the final solution. In large (labour) columns, with the sexes separated, Jews capable of work will be moved into those areas as they build roads, during which a large proportion will no doubt drop out through natural reduction. The remnant that eventually remains will require suitable treatment; because it will without doubt represent the most (physically) resistant part, it consists of a natural selection that could, on its release, become the germ-cell of a new Jewish revival (witness the experience of history).

Europe is to be combed through from West to East in the course of the practical implementation of the final solution. ... The evacuated Jews will first be taken, group by group, to so-called transit ghettos, in order to be transported to the east

Extract 1:

"...we were in this cattle car and the situation started to be very very bleak. It was horrendous, terrible, there’s no words and when we got there, they separated us, my mother and my brothers were on the right, I went on the left, and at the time my father also went to the left which was for living and for killing. And I was very very very very shocked and I can’t even find the speech, very bewildered, I didn’t know what was happening to me, I’d never been separated from my mother and I was 15. Today 15 is an adult but those days, you know 70 years ago, 15 was a child, a real child. I don’t even know, frightened, bewildered, miserable, you know, a feeling that I’d never experienced before."



Extract 2:

"...we kind of knew that the people working in the crematorium or near the crematorium could not get out of there because they wouldn’t let us get out of there because they don’t want witnesses. It just happened that we were evacuated earlier than they could dispose of us and that was nine months after I worked there and then one day they said anybody who is fit to walk should stand here and anyone who can’t should stay in the barracks, we didn’t know why, those who were lucky enough to stay, the Russians came in January and they were freed in January. And I had to walk, we had to walk, a lot of us, very few stayed alive, it was called a death march, we started walking from camp to camp to camp and each camp rejected us because it was too full. On the way, every minute somebody else was shot. If you slowed down the German guards shot them because they didn’t want to be held back, they were as afraid as we were."