Wannsee House and the Holocaustby Steven Lehrer
This book traces that
Although Hitler’s extermination of the Jews was well underway by the end of 1941, it was at the Wannsee Conference of January 1942 that Reinhard Heydrich officially announced the Nazi’s infamous “final solution.” This conference was held at a luxurious villa, and both house and conference have a fascinating history.
This book traces that history from 1914the year that saw the foundations laid for both the house and the Holocaustto the present. Appendices provide a wealth of historical documents.
Steven Lehrer, a radiation therapist, has documented the history of the infamous site where the Third Reich officially implemented the Final Solution. His book is a companion piece to his forthcoming Hitler Sites (McFarland), which is a historical guide to 150 places in Germany, Austria and France associated with the life of Adolf Hitler.
Wannsee House traces the villa's background from its construction in 1914 by a prosperous Berlin merchant and its sale in 1921 to a right-wing industrialist to its purchase by Gestapo chief Reinhard Heydrich with plundered Jewish money as a vacation spa for Nazi security police. Ultimately, it was the location for the conference at which genocide was plotted.
''God will give him blood to drink!' was the curse of a man hanged for witchcraft that fell upon the inhabitants of Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of The Seven Gables,' Dr. Lehrer writes in his introduction. 'The Wannsee Villa bears a certain eerie resemblance to Hawthorne's fictional creation, its inhabitants cursed by the evil period of German history to which the house stood witness.'
The book, organized as a series of tightly written vignettes, emphasizes that the Wannsee Conference was not the administrative genesis of the Nazis' plans to annihilate European Jewry. Rather, it coordinated and consolidated what was already under way. 'By the time of the Wannsee Conference...the Einsatz groups, operating behind the army frontlines, had murdered more than half a million people. Thus there was no need of a decision at the conference to commit mass murder. The Wannsee Conference facilitated the killing.'
After World War II, the house became a center for political seminars, then a youth hostel. Fifty years later the building was inaugurated as a historical memorial. In its halls are photographs of Nazi persecution; one room is dedicated to Auschwitz.
The German decision to make the Wannsee house a shrine to victims is another part of the society's effort to remember its past. This book ensures that Wannsee will not be forgotten.
Hadassah Magazine Review
- McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
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Meet the Author
Steven Lehrer is an associate professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He lives in New York City.
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Although Hitler's extermination of the Jews was well under way by the end of 1941, it was at the Wannsee Conference, January 20, 1942, that Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Reich Security Service, officially announced the Nazi party's pursuit of Hitler's infamous 'final solution.' This conference was held at a luxurious villa known as the Wannsee House, and both the house and the conference have a complicated and fascinating history, which unfolded as economic and political events drew together wealthy German businessmen and powerful political figures in sometimes surprising ways. This book traces that history from 1914-the year that saw the foundations laid for both the house and the Holocaust-to the present. Appendices provide a wealth of historical documents including the Reich's rules 'defining' Jews, letters from Reich Security Service officials providing early documentary evidence of the Holocaust, and a transcript of Adolf Eichmann's 1961 court testimony regarding the Wannsee Conference.