The Wannsee Conference in 1942 and the National Socialist living space dystopia

Wolf, Gerhard (2015) The Wannsee Conference in 1942 and the National Socialist living space dystopia. Journal of Genocide Research, 17 (2). pp. 153-175. ISSN 1462-3528

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Abstract

The Wannsee Conference is still largely understood as the ‘echo’ of an earlier decision to annihilate European Jewry. This article questions this assumption on three grounds. First, it does not fully acknowledge that it did not call for a systematic and immediate mass murder of all Jews. Secondly, it mistakenly concludes that because the conference targeted only Jews, it also emerged from within the narrower confines of the regime’s anti-Jewish policies. Thirdly, and as a consequence, this assumption represents a retrospective reading of the conference that straightens the ‘twists’ that even at this late point in time still characterized the ‘road to Auschwitz’. This article offers a different interpretation. Situating the Wannsee Conference in the broader context of Nazi Germanization policies, the article will show how Heydrich’s actions at Wannsee can be better understood as a response to early failures in Germanizing annexed Poland and the settlement fantasies coming out of the SS apparatus after the invasion of the Soviet Union. While the Wannsee Conference undoubtedly was an attempt by the SS to consolidate its control over anti- Jewish policies, it was also a way for Heydrich to reclaim lost influence in the broader field of Nazi population policies by aligning the treatment of ‘enemy populations’ with the grander vision of a ‘German East’. This Nazi dystopia not only called for destroying Jewish existence in Europe, but demanded that even the way in which Jews were killed would serve the Nazi cause. For this reason, this article argues for understanding the minutes of the meeting literally. Having learned the lessons from previous failures, while at the same time under pressure to support the megalomaniacal settlement plans, Heydrich actually meant what he said when he dictated the protocol condemning Jews not to their immediate death but to annihilation through labour.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DD History of Germany > DD084 History > DD121 By period > DD175 Modern, 1519- > DD201 19th-20th centuries > DD233 Revolution and Republic, 1918- > DD253 Hitler, 1933-1945. National Socialism > DD256 Period of World War II, 1939-1945
Depositing User: Gerhard Wolf
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2015 09:50
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2015 09:51
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/43317
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