The Wannsee Conference: A haunting and disturbingly timely film

The Wannsee Conference (2022). Directed by Mattie Geschonnek. Screenplay: Magnus Vattrodt and Paul Mommertz. Camera and editing: Dirk Grau

The participants of the Wannsee Conference (Image: ZDF/Julia Terjung)

To mark the 80th anniversary of the notorious Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942, at which leading Nazis and state ministers planned the annihilation of Europe’s Jewish population, the new film “The Wannsee Conference” by Matti Geschonnek has been on show since January 19 ZDF-Media library available. The film will be broadcast on ZDF on Monday, January 24th at 8:15 p.m.

Geschonnek’s film, shot at the original location, concentrates almost exclusively on the 90-minute session at the Villa am Wannsee near Berlin. Leading figures of the Nazi regime gathered here on a Saturday morning at the invitation of Reinhard Heydrich (Philipp Hochmair), the head of the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) of the SS, who was assigned the leadership role in the “Final Solution”, for a “meeting followed by breakfast”. On the agenda: “The Final Solution of the Jewish Question”.

Besides Heydrich, the participants were:

  • Adolf Eichmann (Johannes Allmayer), SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer and minute-taker of the meeting
  • Heinrich Müller (Jakob Diehl), SS group leader and chief of the Gestapo of the RSHA
  • Martin Luther (Simon Schwarz), Undersecretary of State in the Foreign Office
  • Josef Bühler (Sascha Nathan), State Secretary in the Office of the Governor General of occupied Poland, Hans Frank
  • Roland Freisler (Arnd Klawitter), State Secretary in the Reich Ministry of Justice and later President of the People’s Court (about a year later he should sentence the Scholl siblings to death in this position)
  • Gerhard Klopfer (Fabian Busch), Ministerial Director in the NSDAP Party Chancellery
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger (Thomas Loibl), Ministerial Director in the Reich Chancellery
  • Rudolf Lange (Frederic Linkeman), SS-Sturmbannführer and commander of the Security Police and SD in Latvia
  • Otto-Hofmann (Markus Schleinzer), Chief of the Race and Settlement Main Office of the SS
  • Georg Leibbrandt (Rafael Stachowiak) and Alfred Meyer (Peter Jordan), both from the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories
  • Erich Neumann (Matthias Bundschuh), State Secretary in the Office of the Commissioner for the Four-Year Plan
  • Karl Eberhard Schöngarth (Maximilian Brückner), Commander of the Security Police and SD in the General Government of Poland
  • Wilhelm Stuckart (Godehard Giese), co-author of the Nuremberg Race Laws and then State Secretary in the Reich Ministry of the Interior

At the beginning of the film we see the final minutes of the preparations for the meeting: the documents, including a list of 11 million Jews in Europe compiled by Eichmann, are pushed together on the table for each participant; Salmon bites, cognac and coffee are provided.

Reinhard Heydrich (Philipp Hochmair), Heinrich Müller (Jakob Diehl) and Adolf Eichmann (Johannes Allmayer) (Image: ZDF/Julia Terjung)

Heydrich, who withdrew to final preliminary talks first with Martin Luther, the Undersecretary of State at the Foreign Office, and then with SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Lange and Schöngarth and Gestapo chief Müller, said to Eichmann: “Entertain the gentlemen with stories from the East.”

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