80th Anniversary of the Wannsee Conference

On 20 January 1942,  the Wannsee Conference took place in a secluded villa in a suburb of Berlin. It was convened when word reached Berlin that some of the killing squads operating in the eastern territories were finding their task of murdering Jews and other people through face-to-face killing ‘upsetting’.  They asked head office to find a more efficient way of killing, one that would be less ‘cumbersome’ and create less ‘residue’.

Fifteen senior Nazis and German government officials had been summoned by Reinhard Heydrich of the Reich Security Head Office and Head of German Secret Police. He was seeking endorsement to carry out Hitler’s plans to annihilate the Jewish people of Europe. Eichmann circulated a list to the delegates which showed the number of Jews living in each European country who the Nazis intended to annihilate.  Ireland appears on that list with 4,000 Jews.

The inclusion of Ireland in the Wannsee list is significant for the Irish Jewish community today, of which I am a member. It is understood that the list was drawn from records available at the time.   Had the Nazis defeated the Allies, there is no doubt they would have reached Ireland and the vast majority of Irish Jews would have been murdered. My parents were married in Dublin just three years after the Wannsee conference, 400 relatives and friends attended their wedding. If the Nazis had succeeded in their plans and won the Second World War,  my parents as well as my grandparents, aunts uncles and cousins would have been caught up in the Nazi terror. Their children and grandchildren –  the very same people who are currently living members of the Irish Jewish community today, would probably not exist.

The Holocaust is not so distant from us in time, it took place less than a lifetime ago! As social media extends its tentacles into all aspects of our daily lives, we are confronting an upsurge in antisemitism, Holocaust denial and distortion of the Holocaust.  Hate speech and ‘misinformation’ are universally prevalent.  People continue to be discriminated against because of their ethnicity, cultural and religious identities or their sexual orientation.  My generation is aware of the dangers of these prejudices and where they can lead. It is up to all of us to educate our children to speak out against these dangers.

Lynn Jackson, founding Trustee, Holocaust Education Trust Ireland

The national Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration takes place in person and online on Sunday 30 January 2022 from 5 – 7 pm in the Mansion House, Dublin.  E: info@hetireland.org