Final Solution

The term “final solution” (German: Endlösung – end/terminal/final solution) within the context of what National Socialists called the “Jewish Question” first appeared in a letter written on 24 June 1940 by Reinhardt Heydrich, head of Germany’s Department of Homeland Security (Reichssicherheits­hauptamt), to Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Minister of Foreign Affairs. In this letter, Heydrich asserted that, after conquering Poland with its three million Jews, the Jewish problem could no longer be solved “by emigration,” as was done so far. Now, “a territorial final solution” was required, which implied that some territory was to be put aside for the Jews as a kind of homeland or reservation. (For more, see the entry on Reinhardt Heydrich.)

The quantitative challenge got exacerbated after Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Many more million Jews living in the Soviet Union were expected to be soon under German control. For that reason, Hermann Göring expanded Heydrich’s role in a letter dated 31 July 1941. Reinhardt Heydrich’s task now encompassed all of Germany’s area of influence in Europe. Heydrich was to submit a draft plan to implement this final solution of the Jewish question. In this document, Göring used the terms Gesamtlösung (total or comprehensive solution) and Endlösung (end or final solution) synonymously. (See the entry on Hermann Göring for more details.)

The orthodoxy insists that the term “final solution” ultimately meant the total physical extermination of Europe’s Jews. The two documents mentioned here prove this to be untrue. A long string of documents created after these two documents also point to the fact that “final solution” did not refer to any physical extermination, but to a program of ruthless ethnic cleansing by deporting the Jews to some territory reserved for them.

Furthermore, many other documents addressing the question of what to do with the inmates in Germany’s various camps confirm that no policy of physical extermination was in place.

For more information on this, see the table presented here with its references, as well as the entries on the Nisko Plan, on Madagascar, and on resettlement.

The Final Solution: Facts and Fiction
Documented Fact Undocumented Claim

25 Jan. 1942: Heinrich Himmler writes to Richard Glücks that the camps must prepare to accommodate up to 150,000 Jews; large-scale economic tasks would be assigned to them.

20 Jan. 1942: The total extermination of all Jews in the German sphere of influence is organized at the Wannsee Conference.*

30 April 1942: Oswald Pohl writes to Heinrich Himmler that the main purpose of all camps would now be the use of inmate labor.

Feb. 1942: Beginning of mass gassings at Auschwitz-Birkenau. March 1942: Beginning of mass gassings at Belzec. May 1942: Beginning of mass gassings at Sobibór.

21 Aug. 1942: Martin Luther writes that the number of transported Jews would be inadequate to cover the shortage of labor, so that the German government asked the Slovakian government to supply 20,000 Slovakian Jews for labor.

23 July 1942: Beginning of mass gassings at Treblinka. August 1942: Beginning of gassings at Majdanek.

28 Dec. 1942: Richard Glücks writes to all camp commandants that Himmler has ordered to reduce death rates in all camps by all means. The inmates have to receive better food.

End of 1942: Six “extermination” camps are active.

27 April 1943: Richard Glücks writes to all camp commandants that Himmler has ordered all inmates physically unfit for work – even cripples, TBC patients and bedridden patients – to be kept alive and, whenever possible, assigned to do light work. “Bedridden prisoners should be assigned work that they can perform in bed.”

March-June 1943: the new Birkenau crematoria become operational; mass extermination of Jews unfit for labor unfolds inside them.

26 Oct. 1943: Circular letter by Oswald Pohl to all camp commandants: All measures of the commanders must focus on the health and productivity of the inmates.

3 Nov. 1943: Some 42,000 Jewish factory workers are shot in Majdanek and several of its satellite camps. (Operation “Harvest Festival”)

11 May 1944: Hitler orders the deployment of 200,000 Jews in the construction of fighter airplanes.

16 May 1944: Beginning of mass murder of several hundred thousand Jews from Hungary at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

* This claim is not confirmed by the protocol of this conference.

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