'Destruction of the Jews' decided
12 December 1941: Hitler tells meeting of all leading Nazis that the time for implementing his 1939 "prophecy" has arrived
On the 12th December, one day after declaring war on the USA, Hitler called a meeting of leading Nazi officials. Around 50 senior party members attended an unusual private meeting in Hitler’s rooms within the Reich Chancellery. Here Hitler recalled his words from 30th January 1939 when he had publicly declared1:
If the world of international financial Jewry, both in and outside of Europe, should succeed in plunging the Nations into another world war, the result will not be the Bolshevization of the world and thus a victory for Judaism. The result will be the extermination of the Jewish race in Europe.
Now Hitler told them the time had come … it was now a true world war and the Jews would pay the consequences.
Until now action against the Jews had evolved in different countries in different ways. The ‘Holocaust by bullets’ ( as it is now known) - the organised mass murder by shooting of Jews in the occupied east - had been gathering pace since the invasion of Russia.
But that had been separate from the treatment of the millions of Jews in Poland, who had been forced into ghettoes where they were starved and maltreated but not the target of mass murder by shooting.
The Jews of Germany had only just begun to be deported to “the east” - but the official policy was not to kill them once they arrived, merely that they should suffer and starve in the ghettoes.
These distinctions now ended. Nazi policy was now “the extermination of the Jewish race in Europe.”
Hitler did not not sign an official order. The evidence for the decision comes from those who were there. And the context is clear - early 1942 saw the establishment of the first death ‘camps’, exclusively designed for the mass murder of Jews.
One of those attending was Goebbels who recorded in his diary2:
Regarding the Jewish question, the Fuhrer is determined to clear the table. He warned the Jews that if they were to cause another world war, it would lead to their own destruction. Those were not empty words.
‘Now the world war has come. The destruction of the Jews must be its necessary consequence.’
Now the world war has come. The destruction of the Jews must be its necessary consequence.
We cannot be sentimental about it. It is not for us to feel sympathy for the Jews.
We should have sympathy rather with our own German people. If the German people have to sacrifice 160,000 victims in yet another campaign in the east, then those responsible for this bloody conflict will have to pay for it with their lives.
Another echo of the meeting came in address by Hans Frank to officials of the General Government on December 163:
As for the Jews, well, I can tell you quite frankly that one way or another we have to put an end to them. The Fuhrer once put it this way: if the combined forces of Judaism should again succeed in unleashing a world war, that would mean the end of the Jews in Europe. . . . I urge you: Stand together with me . . . on this idea at least: Save your sympathy for the German people alone. Don’t waste it on anyone else in the world,
‘As far as the Jews are concerned, I would therefore be guided by the basic expectation that they are going to disappear. They have to be gotten rid of.’
As a veteran National Socialist I also have to say this: if the Jews in Europe should survive this war, . . . then the war would be only a partial success. As far as the Jews are concerned, I would therefore be guided by the basic expectation that they are going to disappear. They have to be gotten rid of.
At present I am involved in discussions aimed at having them moved away to the east. In January there is going to be an important meeting in Berlin to discuss this question. … Whatever its outcome, a great Jewish emigration will commence.
But what is going to happen to these Jews? Do you imagine there will be settlement villages for them in the Ostland? In Berlin we were told: Why are you making all this trouble for us? There is nothing we can do with them here in the Ostland or in the Reich Commissariat. Liquidate them yourselves! . . . For us too the Jews are incredibly destructive eaters. . . . Here are 3.5 million Jews that we can’t shoot, we can’t poison. But there are some things we can do, and one way or another these measures will successfully lead to a liquidation. They are related to the measures under discussion with the Reich. . . .
Goebbels, Diary, pt.2, vol.2, pp.498f. (entry for December 13, 1941)
Extracts from journal and office records of Hans Frank, Governor General of Poland, 1939-1944. http://nuremberg.law.harvard.edu/documents/3797-extracts-from-journal-and-office?q=*#p.41