The Development of the “Final Solution”

The “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”
was the Nazi operation to murder every single Jew that they could find and that they get
their hands on, including everything Jewish that they could find and destroy. Historians to this day are not sure of an exact date when Hitler and the Nazi regime
decided to embark on the Final Solution. In fact, for years, for decades, historians were
divided into two schools of thought, that called themselves the Intentionalists and
the Functionalists. The Intentionalists argue that it was always
the intention of Hitler and the Nazi regime to murder the Jews, and it was built into
the Nazi regime, based on Nazi ideology. Whereas the functionalists argue [that] they reached
the conclusion that they needed to kill the Jews only at some point deep into
World War II. Now, one of the issues that prevented the
resolution of this debate, was the fact that there is no known Hitler order – neither written,
nor a verbal command – that has been recorded anywhere, that can tell us when Hitler reached
that decision, although it is clear that it was a Hitler decision. Two central documents illustrate the debate. On January 25th, 1939, the foreign ministry
wrote a memorandum, and in that memorandum it is very clear that the policy was emigration.
All the Jews of the third Reich should leave Germany. Five days later, in his infamous speech before the Reichstag, the German parliament, Hitler
seems to contradict what the foreign ministry had just written, where he threatens that
if there will be a war – the war that we know he’s already planning – then this will bring
about not the victory of Jewry, but as he says, the extermination of the Jewish race
in Europe. And in these two documents, we have an encapsulation
of those decades of debate between the Intentionalists and the Functionalists. Nazi policies towards the Jews in the prewar period were aimed at the total removal of
Jews from German society, and ultimately their removal from Germany and the Third Reich entirely.
The Nazis embarked on economic measures against the Jews, massive violence against Jews, destroying
stores, and homes, and so on. They embarked on measures that socially separated the Jews
from society. They passed laws that took away the Jews’ rights and citizenship in society,
ultimately aiming to get them all out. With the outbreak of the war, their policies
now addressed all the Jews of Europe. And ultimately, this coalesced into the Final
Solution to the Jewish Question. With the German invasion of Poland on September
the 1st, 1939, we see clear evidence that Nazi Germany was now potentially genocidal.
They immediately embarked on the murder of tens of thousands of people inside of Poland,
among them many thousands of Jews. They embarked on separating the Jews from Polish society
in the most radical way. Mass arrests, separation physically, taking away all of their economic
potential, rounding them up for forced labor, massive relocations of populations on the
scale of hundreds of thousands of people. The Nazis began to concentrate Jews in many
places into ghettos, as stepping stones towards another policy, and they were looking for
some sort of territorial solution to the Jewish question. Where could they send these millions of Jews now under their rule? They considered a reservation
in the area of Lublin. They considered sending all the Jews to the Island of Madagascar.
Madagascar – where at that time 25,000 people were living; that was the infrastructure,
and they were going to send millions. The consequences were clear. Tens of thousands had already died. Many more would die. But this was not yet the Final
Solution to the Jewish Question. The systematic murder of the Jews began with
the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Operation Barbarossa. Following
literally on the heels of the invading German army, four special units of the S.S and police,
mobile task forces called in German “Einsatzgruppen” entered the fray, spread out from north to
south, and began systematically shooting Jews into mass graves. By the end of the summer,
tens of thousands of Jews had been shot. Thus, by the fall of 1941, we have many tens of
thousands of men, German, Austrian and local, who are involved in the killing of the Jews
of the Soviet Union. We find, during the course of 1941, that an
atmosphere of murder – a genocidal atmosphere – had developed in Germany, both at the center
of policy making in Berlin, and among the men who were actually carrying out the murder
in the Soviet Union. Looking at the development of The Final Solution,
we need to ask where and when do we see evidence that the murder spread beyond the Soviet Union,
and we find several tracks. First of all, allies of Germany: Romania and Croatia. Romania, for example, by the end of the murder operation, had murdered on its own between 300,000 and
400,000 Jews, both Romanian Jews and Jews in Ukraine, and with such brutality that even
the murderers of Einsatzgruppe D complained to Berlin about the Romanians’ bloodthirsty
murder. The Ustaše regime in Croatia identified enemies: Serbs, Jews, and the Roma – or “Gypsies,”
as they’re popularly known – and murder, without German intervention, began in the
summer of 1941. Parallel to the murder that began in Romania
and Croatia in the summer of 1941, we need to also ask ourselves, where do we see evidence
in Germany, among German leaders or men in the field, of development towards a final
solution? And there were parallel tracks: One of those tracks begins in Lublin with
the S.S. and police commander Odilo Globocnik. We know that he created a think tank of intellectuals
and his staff members by the end of the summer of 1941, who began planning, and they reached
an idea that suggested to Globocnik that within Poland, if you want to kill Jews, what you
need to do is not have the murderers chase after the victims, but bring the victims to
the murderers, and kill them in a sealed, top-secret installation. What method would
they use? This he borrowed from the euthanasia project, the T4 operation in Germany, where
he learned from them and from officers that came from there to Lublin to meet with him,
that gas chambers, using carbon monoxide exhaust from an engine, would be an efficient, “clean,”
cheap way to kill the Jews. We also know that a special unit of the S.S. was created in
order to plan an alternate method of murder that would operate alongside the mass shootings.
And what they began to look into under the command of S.S Colonel Walter Rauff, was gas
vehicles, gas vans that would asphyxiate the Jews as the vehicle would drive around.
We know that on September 3rd of 1941, the first experimental gassing at Auschwitz took
place, where several hundred soviet prisoners of war were murdered using Zyklon B gas, which
became the method of murder at Auschwitz. We also know that within Germany, discussions
began, to deport the Jews of the third Reich from Germany and Austria to the East. The
East meant the Soviet Union, although the first group that was sent out in October of
1941 was actually sent to the ghetto in Lodz; the rest were sent towards Riga, and Minsk,
and other places in the Soviet Union. In Berlin, in July 1941, S.S General Reinhard
Heydrich, Himmler’s most important deputy in dealing with Jewish policy, approached
Hermann Goering, who was at that time the second most powerful man in Germany, and asked
him for authorization to follow through with all the ideas they had in Germany regarding
the Jews. On January 20th, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich convened
a meeting of government officials and S.S and police officials in Wannsee, a suburb
of Berlin, to discuss the coordination of the “Final Solution.” This meeting followed
months of research; the approval, first by Goering and then by Hitler, of the feasibility
study that Heydrich and his men had prepared; and the beginning of the construction of the
death camps of Belzec and Chelmno that had begun around November the 1st of 1941. Following
Wannsee, more camps were constructed, such as Sobibor and Treblinka; deportations began
to Chelmno in December of 1941; deportations began to the other camps in March of 1942;
and by the end of 1942, Jews from all over Europe had been brought to the camps, parallel
to the shooting murders in the Soviet Union. By the end of 1942, some four million Jews
had already been murdered. Thus, to sum up the development of the “Final
Solution,” we see that during the course of the war, and particularly following the German
invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, Nazi Germany developed and perfected
its genocidal capabilities, which culminated in a continent-wide operation that destroyed
Jewish communities in their entirety, and by the end of the war, had murdered some six
million Jews.

Bernard Jenkins


  1. This item seems to be very well researched. The subject matter is quite important and haunting. This subject is something that should be taught to future generations. It makes one think about the people who lost their lives, and how other people could have done this.

  2. Hello Yad Vaschem , many a times I come across the question about the photogtaph at 0.36-0.38seconds whether any research is made about the woman clutching her baby and the personnel is shooting her at back about who was she where it is photographed etc. Pl throw some light thanq

  3. We can't seem to learn that people are all the same and that
    we are to blame for our own problems. The morale of this story is to
    not kill people because you don't like them.

  4. To be completely honest no one should hate any ethnic groups if you do hate an ethnic group you are evil what happened here is an example of how cruel people can be and how hitler was the biggest psychopath he couldn’t run a country so he blames is on the Jews.

  5. Determine that this will Never Happen Again! Once we see something happening
    we must be Wise enough to Stop it!

  6. I always have tears in my eyes while listening about the Shoah. Lots of love from Poland <3

  7. As long as man kind is drunk with the thirst for power and greed atrocities such as this will continue in our history

  8. I found this video very well presented and clear. I must add that I agree with Colby Williams (see below) when stating that genocide still happens. The French say "plus jamais ça" but what did the Islamic state do? And why aren't we talking about setting up an international tribunal to judge the crimes committed by this barbaric organisation. Who will be the next "jews" and who will be the next "nazis"?

  9. Why did he hate the Jewish people so much what did they ever do to him

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