Monday, April 17, 2006

Late last night I finished watching Conspiracy, a dramatic recreation of the Wannsee Conference ( January 20th 1942; the link refers to a website in both English and Dutch, with links to short biographies of most of the participants ). I also am reading a book by Mark Roseman about that infamous conference, which I purchased together with the DVD. The movie is quite impressive. It is not known what exactly happened at the conference, the exact discussions were not written down, but the overall atmosphere seems to be reproduced in a realistic - or at least a credible - way. Even the fact that the actors speak English and not German, normally an annoying detail in WW-II movies, is not really distracting here. The script is based on the only remaining copy of the conference's protocol ( the one sent to Martin Luther of the Foreign Ministry, nr. 16 out of 30 copies ), but of course details were added: what was served, what people were wearing, the small talk among the participants etc. When I heard the words Wannsee Conference I used to think about bureaucrats, cold detailed discussions that led to - or gave some sort of official, pseudo-legal stamp of approval for the continuation and intensification of an already ongoing- mass murder. I never thought about the 'practical' details that must have been a part of that 'bloody Tuesday' in Berlin: snacks and lunch for the participants, cards with their names being written, their drivers passing the time outside, etc. Notice, when you look at the list of officials who attended the conference, that more than half of them were Herr Doktor, that many of them had studied law, that all of them seem to come from 'good', 'normal', often (upper)middle-class families, and that only few of them were convicted and truly punished for the part they played in the Holocaust. PS: On the memorial and educational site of the House of the Wannsee Conference you can see some of the original documents related to the meeting. Notice that the "discussion, followed by a breakfast" was originally planned for December 9th 1941.

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