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The Wannsee Conference and the Final Solution: A Reconsideration Paperback – July 1, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0312422349 ISBN-10: 0312422342 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312422342
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312422349
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,142,452 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although the publisher promises a "groundbreaking investigation," little if any new light is shed on the overture to the Holocaust by English historian Roseman (A Past in Hiding). The notorious 1942 meeting, in a villa in a posh Berlin suburb overlooking Lake Wannsee, reviewed, rather than approved, the "final solution of the Jewish question." Assent was a given. Heinrich Himmler's chief deputy, Reinhard Heydrich, chaired and dominated the conference, which dealt in coded euphemisms with the genocide already underway in occupied Poland and Russia. The protocol, or minutes, printed here as an appendix the most valuable part of this small book makes clear in a single sentence who bore authoritative responsibility: "Instead of emigration, the Fhrer has now given his approval for a new kind of solution, the evacuation of the Jews to the East." All 15 participants understood what "evacuation" meant, says Roseman. Working Jews to death would not eliminate "the most resistant elements" in the "final remnant," Heydrich coldly told those present, for by "natural selection" these would "form the germ cell of a new Jewish revival." That line more than any other, Roseman feels, mandated the murders without exception. Beyond that, he wanders, page after page and often repetitiously, through the bureaucratic Nazi pseudo-legal arguments about how many Jewish grandparents made one a Jew and how to deal with mixed marriages. Even the absolutist Himmler complained, "We tie our hands with all these stupid definitions." As ultimate Nazi racial policy, the Wannsee minutes, despite chilling ambiguities, were a "rhetorical canopy" behind which Roseman sees Hitler's "licensing." (May 7)Forecast: Because the Wannsee conference has attained iconic status since the protocol was discovered in 1947, a book with Wannsee as its focus may draw many curious readers beyond history specialists.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In January 1942 a group of top Nazi officials met in a villa on the shore of Lake Wannsee, near Berlin, for the purpose of planning the "final solution" of the "Jewish question." This Wannsee Conference and the document emanating from it, the Wannsee Protocol, are usually regarded as the moment when German policy toward the Jews departed irretrievably from systematic persecution and deportation and turned toward a deliberate policy of genocide. Holocaust deniers and others sometimes contend that, because Hitler was not present at this meeting and because the genocidal nature of the Final Solution was not spelled out explicitly, somehow this means that there was no deliberate policy from the top of genocide against the Jews. In this short, well-reasoned book, Roseman (contemporary history, Univ. of Southampton; A Past in Hiding: Memory and Survival in Nazi Germany) presents a very clear exposition of the reasons behind the Wannsee meeting, what happened there, and its significance in the destruction of the Jews of Europe. Roseman's is the first thorough treatment in English devoted solely to this pivotal event. It should be in all four-year academic and larger public libraries. Libraries may also want to consider a chilling video reenactment, Heinz Schirk's The Wannsee Conference. Barbara Walden, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Werner Cohn on May 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
On the surface, this short, brilliant study deals primarily with the notorious Wannsee Conference of January 1942, at which top Nazi officials decided on crucial modalities of the Holocaust.
But below the surface, the book does much more. The greatest of its many virtues is that it brings us up to date on the the most recent scholarship concerning the whole of the Nazi persecution of Jews, including the historical roots of the policy. But the devil, as always, is in the details. Roseman gives them to us: who did what and when and how. It is the details that tell us how the previously unthinkable -- the cold-blooded murder of six million Jews -- was accomplished by the highly educated elite of the Nazi state.
In the past historians have argued about the precise personal responsibility of Hitler. Some have insisted that this responsibility was overwhelming, others have held that the main motive force came from the workings of the Nazi bureaucracy. Roseman shows that the most recent findings give credence to both factors: without Hitler's very personal involvement, there would have been no Holocaust; nor could it have been carried out without the enthusiastic complicity of hundreds of major Nazi officials.
It is in the nature of this kind of book that it will perhaps be of greatest interest to those who have already read other, more general works, for instance Wistrich's equally brilliant but more introductory "Hitler and the Holocaust." Nevertheless, Roseman's volume can be recommended even to beginners in this area.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting, thoughtful, and well written essay on the dynamics of the Holocaust. Roseman's preoccupation is with inferring the processes by which the Nazis ultimately reached the decision to exterminate the Jews of Europe, as opposed to removing Jews from Germany. To a considerable extent, this essay is about historiography as much as the events themselves because there has been considerable debate on this issue among historians of the Holocaust. Roseman analyzes and summarizes a good deal of recent scholarship. He discusses explicitly the role of the notorious Wannsee conference but this is not a detailed discussion of that event, which would be impossible given the scanty documentation available, but uses the Wannsee conference as a hook for his general discussion of the decisions to proceed with extermination. Roseman makes a number of important points. There was no plan for extermination of Jews prior to the War. The Nazis initially wanted to remove Jews from Germany but expulsion seems to have been the preferred method. Several factors seems to have propelled the Nazi decision makers along their murderous path. There is no question that Hitler himself came to prefer extermination. The War itself acted as a radicalizing element. Competition among different sectors of the Nazi state was common and there seems to have been a race to see who could achieve murder the fastest. Finally, Roseman is careful to point out the importance of ideology in the motivations of all the major actors. This was not a group of simple functionaries executing orders blindly. Racist ideologies permeated the Civil Service. An important aspect that Roseman may be overlooking in his discussion of the radicalizing effects of the war is the sense of triumphalism that infected the Nazis.Read more ›
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a readable, thoughtful monograph on the origins and historical significance of the Wannsee conference, the notorious January 1942 meeting where Nazi officials finalized plans to exterminate European Jewry. Noting that the decision on genocide was probably taken by Hitler in late 1941, author Roseman concludes that Wannsee's real purpose was to assert Reinhard Heydrich's control over Jewish policy and to sort out bureaucratic disagreements about the treatment of half-Jews and Jews married to German gentiles. Roseman writes well, has a full command of the secondary literature, and understands the nuances and grotesqueries of bureaucratic politics (I'm a career State Department official). Highly recommended for readers interested in World War II or the Holocaust.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Buenoslibros.es on July 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is more a book on historiography than on history. It tries to put in chronological order the different steps that were taken that lead to the Final Solution: the extermination of European Jewry, decision that seems to have been taken in Wannsee.

It gets entangled in the effort, and therefore never moves on with the Conference, which is what made me by this book in the first place. If there are no documents to exactly know what was the purpose of the conference, and what were the personal stands of the people gathered there on the issue, we should have been warned in the title.

Discussing over dates and the proper chronology of decisions regarding the Holocaust seems to me like discussing security measures when the thiefs are already in the building. Who cares? The author never gets there, I mean, to the Conference. It was aggravating.
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