Hitler had promised 'the annihilation of all Jews in Europe', now the Nazi's made detailed plans for how this would be achieved.

On the 20th January 1942 a group of leading Nazis met at an elegant villa in the prosperous Berlin suburb of Wannsee and finalised the plans for the mass murder of all the Jews in Europe.

The organised murder of Jews by the Einsatzgruppen shooting squads had been under way since the invasion of Russia. Estonia – ‘Estland’ was already listed as being ‘judenfrei’ or free of Jews. Tens of thousands of Jews were dying every week from starvation in the ghettos of Poland and the East.

All the infrastructure needed to proceed even more quickly were in place, or could be rapidly expanded from existing systems. Experiments had already taken place with Zyklon B at Auschwitz, and the gas vans at Chelmno had begun operation in late 1941. The deportation of Jews from Germany and from other European countries to the ‘transit ghettoes’ had been under way for some time. The mechanisms for mass murder were ready.

The short meeting of almost two hours was therefore less about actual planning than to consolidate matters and to secure the personal commitment of all the attendees. The minutes of the meeting were very matter of fact:

In the course of the practical execution of the final solution, Europe will be combed through from west to east. Germany proper, including the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, will have to be handled first due to the housing problem and additional social and political necessities.

The evacuated Jews will first be sent, group by group, to so-called transit ghettos, from which they will be transported to the East.

SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich went on to say that an important prerequisite for the evacuation as such is the exact definition of the persons involved.

It is not intended to evacuate Jews over 65 years old, but to send them to an old-age ghetto – Theresienstadt is being considered for this purpose.

In addition to these age groups – of the approximately 280,000 Jews in Germany proper and Austria on 31 October 1941, approximately 30% are over 65 years old – severely wounded veterans and Jews with war decorations (Iron Cross I) will be accepted in the old-age ghettos. With this expedient solution, in one fell swoop many interventions will be prevented.

The beginning of the individual larger evacuation actions will largely depend on military developments. Regarding the handling of the final solution in those European countries occupied and influenced by us, it was proposed that the appropriate expert of the Foreign Office discuss the matter with the responsible official of the Security Police and SD.

For the full text and much more see the Wannsee Memorial.

SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich organised the meeting at Wannsee and used it to overcome bureaucratic obstacles to the 'Final Solution''.

After the war Adolf Eichmann, who played a lead role in the practical organisation of the deportations, told his trial about Heydrich’s satisfaction at overcoming all the bureaucratic obstacles to the ‘Final Solution’:

I remember that at the end of this Wannsee Conference Heydrich, Muller and my humble self settled down comfortably by the fireplace and that then for the first time I saw Heydrich smoke a cigar or a cigarette, and I was thinking: today Heydrich is smoking, something l have not seen before. And he drinks cognac – since I had not seen Heydrich take any alcoholic drink in years _ _ . And after this Wannsee Conference we were sitting together peacefully, and not in order to talk shop, but in order to relax after the long hours of strain.

See The Villa, The Lake, The Meeting: Wannsee and the Final Solution





The final journey from ghetto to death camp

19th January 1942: The final journey from ghetto to death camp – Jews from the Lodz Ghetto begin to be sent to Chelmno death ‘camp’

It was said: they were to go to Polish villages to work the land. But this was only rumor. The only thing the ghetto knew and saw was the expulsion every day of 700 to 800 Jews from their huts and holes and rooms. The police entered the apartments of those who were being deported. Not infrequently they found starved children, old people frozen to death. Fear had seized the ghetto.




Australians ambush Japanese at the Muar River

18th January 1942: Resistance to the Japanese invasion of Malaya – Australian ambush Japanese at the Muar River

The leading tank was level with the foremost anti-tank gun when the gun sergeant (Thornton) gave a notable exhibition of courage and coolness. Turning his back on the other tanks, he fired high-explosive shells into the first three as they went down the road. When the other tanks entered the battalion perimeter they came under fire of the rear gun also. All were disabled. Although he was wounded in the engagement, Thornton prepared his gun for further action, and soon three more tanks approached the position.




U-Boats move to the U.S. east coast

Fired stern torpedo. Target angle 90°, distance 750 meters. Running time 57 seconds. A very heavy detonation, strong, dark black smoke plume. Hit bridge. The steamer sinks immediately. As the smoke from the detonation cleared, only the masts were still visible above the water, and shortly thereafter sank. Water depth of 45 meters. I depart at maximum speed eastwards because the day is dawning and I need some more water under our keel during the day.




Churchill returns to Britain by air

I thought perhaps I had done a rash thing that there were too many eggs in one basket. I had always regarded an Atlantic flight with awe. But the die was cast. Still, I must admit that if at breakfast, or even before luncheon, they had come to me to report that the weather had changed and we must go by sea, I should have easily reconciled myself to a voyage in the splendid ship which had come all this way to fetch us.




Australians take on Japanese in Malaya

Under this hell of fire we at once dived flat on the ground, as it didn’t seem possible for any human being to escape the blazing fury. A barbed wire fence near us was ringing backwards and forwards from the bullets. But our skipper sang out, “On you feet men; we must take their position.” I, like all the others, expected a bullet at any period, but I had only one thing in mind – to reach the trees and kill every Jap I saw.




“Five aircraft failed to return”

She heard a loud popping sound of a throttled back aero engine at low altitude and rushed outside to see the plane pass low to the south, with flames apparently coming from the rear. Seconds later the plane hit the ground and there was a flash and explosion. The source of the fire is unknown, but possibly an uncontrollable fire in the port Vulture engine would have given the same appearance to a ground observer.




Daylight raid on Lowestoft kills 63

One of the worst raids on Lowestoft took place on the afternoon of 13 January 1942 the day before we were to return to school after the Christmas holiday. Some of our pupils were having tea in a café when four explosive bombs were dropped on the main shopping centre. Three of our pupils were killed including a friend from my class. It was a sad beginning to the term.




‘Conspicious gallantry’ in desperate battles on Bataan

Enemy snipers in trees and foxholes had stopped a counterattack to regain part of position. In hand-to-hand fighting which followed, 2d Lt. Nininger repeatedly forced his way to and into the hostile position. Though exposed to heavy enemy fire, he continued to attack with rifle and hand grenades and succeeded in destroying several enemy groups in foxholes and enemy snipers.




Long range U Boat hunters over the Atlantic

Fg. Off Peter Cundy the Liberator took off at 04.10 hours for a lengthy patrol over the Bay of Biscay. At 15.20 hours, when about 100 miles off the north-west tip of Spain, the crew saw a Heinkel Hel 15 floatplane below and beneath them. Cundy banked to allow his rear and side gunners to open fire, at a distance of 200-600 yd. They scored numerous hits but the enemy aircraft disappeared in a rain squall.