On January 20, 1942, 15 high-ranking Nazi Party and German government officials gathered at a villa in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee to discuss the implementation of what they called the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question." The "Final Solution" was the code name for the systematic, deliberate, physical annihilation of the European Jews. At some point in 1941, Adolf Hitler authorized this plan for mass murder. SS General Reinhard Heydrich convened the Wannsee Conference (1) to inform the participants and secure their support for the implementation of the “Final Solution,” and (2) to disclose that Hitler himself had tasked Heydrich and the Reich Security Main Office with coordinating the operation. The men at the table did not deliberate whether such a plan should be undertaken, but instead discussed its implementation.
At the time of the Wannsee Conference, most participants were already aware that the Nazi regime had engaged in mass murder of Jews and other civilians in the German-occupied areas of the Soviet Union and in Serbia. None of the officials objected to the Final Solution policy that Heydrich announced. Not present at the meeting were representatives of the German Armed Forces or the Reich Railroads. The SS and police had already negotiated agreements with the German Army High Command on the murder of civilians, including Soviet Jews, in the spring of 1941, prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union. In late September 1941, Hitler had authorized the Reich Railroads to transport German, Austrian, and Czech Jews to locations in occupied Poland and the occupied Soviet Union, where German authorities would kill the overwhelming majority of them.
Heydrich indicated that approximately 11,000,000 Jews in Europe would fall under the provisions of the "Final Solution." In this figure, he included not only Jews residing in Axis-controlled Europe, but also the Jewish populations of the United Kingdom, and the neutral nations (Switzerland, Ireland, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, and European Turkey). Despite the euphemisms which appeared in the protocols of the meeting, the aim of the Wannsee Conference was clear to its participants: to coordinate a policy aimed at the total annihilation of the European Jews.