11 January 2006


Tonight I watched a fascinating, horrifying film -- Conspiracy. It's the story of the Wannsee conference in 1942. At Wannsee a group of Nazis, in less than two hours, decided what to do with their "Jewish problem." It's a dramatic interpretation, but is based on the one remaining copy of the meeting transcript (found in 1947).

I can't find words to explain the cold efficiency with which they worked. Here are some scenes from the movie to illustrate:
  • Several times, the Jews were referred to as a 'storage problem.'
  • The morality was not questioned but there were fierce debates about applying the spirit of the Nuremberg laws.
  • Representatives from eastern Europe jockeyed for position to have their Jews 'cleared out' before any more were sent east.
  • One of the reasons why shooting was ruled out, and the gas chambers embraced, was because it was demoralizing for the soldiers to shoot women and children.
In the movie commentary, Kenneth Branagh said that the role of Reinhard Heydrik was the most disturbing role he's ever played. Heydrik later became infamous as the "butcher of Prague."

To add to the horror, you learn what happened to all of the Wannsee participants. Many were brought before the Nuremberg tribunal but received small sentences or were released because of lack of evidence.

Wikipedia has a good overview about the conference and participants. It also includes a link to the meeting transcript in English.

There is also a German film, Wannseekonferenz. (In German with English subtitles.) Both Wannseekonferenz and Conspiracy are available at many libraries.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Shooting women and children was demoralizing, but shooting men was . . . a sunny kind of chore?? Going to my happy place to recover now. . ..