On January 20, 1942, Nazi leaders held a conference in Wannsee, Germany, a suburb of Berlin. The Wannsee Conference clarified the process and implementation of the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”—the genocide of Europe’s Jewish population.
 
Genocide was already under way. In Nazi-controlled nations from Netherlands to Norway, Ukraine to France, Jews were restricted from holding jobs, owning businesses, marrying non-Jews, and attending school. Thousands of Jews had been killed, forced from their homes, or deported to concentration camps in Mauthausen, Austria, and Auschwitz and Majdanek, Poland. The nation of Estonia, for example, was already “Judenfrei,” or free of Jews, by the time the Wannsee Conference began.
 
The “Final Solution” itself—the Holocaust—had been outlined six months earlier by Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the Nazi paramilitary organization known as the SS. In Himmler’s Final Solution, the Jewish population of Europe and what was then the Soviet Union (including Russia and Central Asia) would be deported to work camps in the remote Russian region of Siberia. The large-scale deportation would take place after the war, which the Nazis thought would end with their conquest of Europe and the Soviet Union within a year.
 
In late 1941, however, the Nazi plan for the Final Solution had to be radically altered. First, the Soviet Army began a ferocious resistance to the Nazi invasion. Second, the United States entered the war when Germany’s Axis partner, the Empire of Japan, attacked the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. These powerful enemies made a quick Nazi victory impossible. Local Nazi leaders also came under pressure from citizens displaced by Allied bombing—deporting Jews would create space for these refugees.
 
At the Wannsee Conference, SS bureaucrats altered the Final Solution. Jews in Nazi-occupied regions would be immediately deported to concentration camps in Poland. At the conference, SS leader Adolf Eichmann prepared a preliminary list of the Jewish populations in Europe—he calculated the murder of 11 million people. By the time World War II ended three years later, six million Jews had been killed.
alter
Verb

to change.

Axis
Noun

alliance of countries that opposed the Allies during World War II. The Axis was led by Germany, Italy, and Japan.

bureaucracy
Noun

process with many procedures and rules.

concentration camp
Noun

enclosed, guarded area where political prisoners are kept. Concentration camps are most associated with Nazi work and extermination camps during World War II.

conference
Noun

meeting for discussion.

conquest
Noun

victory.

deport
Verb

to send away from a country or region.

displace
Verb

to remove or force to evacuate.

ferocious
Adjective

fierce or savage.

fleet
Noun

group of ships, usually organized for military purposes.

genocide
Noun

intentional mass murder of a specific religious, cultural, or ethnic group.

Holocaust
Noun

(1933-1945) attempted genocide of the Jews of Europe, led by Nazi Germany. Also called the Shoah and the Final Solution.

implement
Verb

to carry out plans.

invasion
Noun

an attack or move to take possession.

Jewish
Adjective

having to do with the religion or culture of people tracing their ancestry to the ancient Middle East and the spiritual leaders Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

murder
Verb

to kill a person.

Noun

political unit made of people who share a common territory.

Nazi
noun, adjective

(1919-1945) (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) having to do with the National Socialist German Workers' Party.

paramilitary
Noun

civilian organization that operates with a military-like structure or supports a military organization.

population
Noun

total number of people or organisms in a particular area.

preliminary
Adjective

beginning or leading up to.

radically
Adverb

completely or extremely.

refugee
Noun

person who flees their home, usually due to natural disaster or political upheaval.

Noun

any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

resistance
Noun

the act of opposing something.

restrict
Verb

to limit.

Siberia
Noun

region of land stretching across Russia from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

Soviet Union
Noun

(1922-1991) large northern Eurasian nation that had a communist government. Also called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR.

suburb
Noun

geographic area, mostly residential, just outside the borders of an urban area.

victory
Noun

success or triumph.

World War II
Noun

(1939-1945) armed conflict between the Allies (represented by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) and the Axis (represented by Germany, Italy, and Japan.)

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