A Holocaust scholar explores the fateful Nazi meeting that occurred on January 20, 1942 at a luxurious villa on the shores of the Wannsee River. There at the Wannsee Conference, a core group of Nazi leaders planned the "final solution" for the genocide of 11 million Jews in Europe, according to the single set of surviving meeting notes reviewed in this volume.
Although the book itself is relatively brief, the grisly subject and the density of its argument necessitate periodic breaks for air. Yet Mr. Longerich’s in-depth deconstruction yields unparalleled insight into the Nazi regime’s blood-soaked goals ... Mr. Longerich traces with clarity and precision Nazism’s monstrous progression from anti-Jewish ideology to the policy of mass murder that resulted in the annihilation of six million Jews ... indispensable.
A short but powerful addition to the Holocaust canon ... A small criticism of Wannsee: Longerich has written so extensively about the Holocaust (I counted 16 prior books), he seems to presume readers have as much knowledge as does he. Though he includes a list of abbreviations, some important items go unexplained. These include the Four Year Plan, a series of economic measures Hitler instituted in 1936, and the General Government, established to administer conquered Poland, Slovakia, and the Soviet Union. The Internet provides the missing information, but so, too, could have the author of this slim but important book.
The Wannsee conference was one point and part of this horrific German policy, and Longerich's monograph is very good in both detailing what happened there, and those involved, as well as placing it in the much larger context. The subject matter is, of course, deeply disturbing, but Longerich's presentation manages to be unemotional without being entirely detached. There are even bits of almost comic absurdity, from the discussion of how to treat 2nd-degree Mischlinge to the denials of those who had attended the conference about it after the war. Wannsee is a useful, thorough overview of small but significant slice of history, and should certainly be of interest to anyone who wants to learn more about the obscenity that was the Nazi effort at a 'final solution'. An extensive bibliography also guides readers to any additional details they might want to follow up on.