On 31st July, 1941, Hermann Göring issued orders to Reinhard Heydrich to submit a comprehensive plan for "a final solution of the Jewish question." The meeting to discuss the plan, the Wannsee Conference, was held on 20th January 1942. Heydrich chaired the meeting and also in attendance were fifteen leading Nazi bureaucrats, including Heinrich Muller, Adolf Eichmann and Roland Friesler.
The conference was opened by Heydrich, who declared that he was the plenipotentiary for the "final solution of the Jewish question. He then reviewed the emigration problem. Heydrich admitted that there had been a plan to deport all Jews to the island of Madagascar but this had been abandoned after Operation Barbarossa. After discussing the matter with Adolf Hitler it had been decided to evacuate all Jews to the east. The evacuees would be organized into huge labour columns. He added that a majority would "fall through natural diminution". The survivors of this march would be dangerous because they had shown that they were strong and could in the future "rebuild Jewish life". Therefore they would be "regarded as the germ cell of a new Jewish development" and should be "treated accordingly."
After this opening statement Adolf Eichmann gave the conference numbers of the Jews living in the occupied territories. This included Nazi occupied territories in Eastern Europe (3,215,500), Germany (131,800), Austria (43,700), France (865,000), Netherlands (160,800), Greece (69,600), Belgium (43,000), Denmark (5,600) and Norway (1,300). Eichmann also provided details of the Jews living in countries that the Nazis hoped to have control over during the next few years. This included the Soviet Union (5,000,000), Hungary (742,000), Britain (330,000), Romania (342,000), Turkey (55,000), Switzerland (18,000), Sweden (8,000), Spain (6,000), Portugal (3,000) and Finland (2,300).
At the end of the meeting the Wannsee Protocol was circulated in the ministries and SS offices about the Final Solution. It included the following: "As a further possibility of solving the question, the evacuation of the Jews to the east can now be substituted for emigration, after obtaining permission from the Führer to that effect. However, these actions are merely to be considered as alternative possibilities, even though they will permit us to make all those practical experiences which are of great importance for the future final solution of the Jewish question. The Jews should in the course of the Final Solution be taken in a suitable manner to the east for use as labor. In big labour gangs, separated by sex, the Jews capable of work will be brought to these areas for road building, in which task undoubtedly a large number will fall through natural diminution. The remnant that is finally able to survive all this - since this is undoubtedly the part with the strongest resistance - must be treated accordingly, since these people, representing a natural selection, are to be regarded as the germ cell of a new Jewish development, in case they should succeed and go free (as history has proved). In the course of the execution of the Final Solution, Europe will be combed from west to east."
From that date the extermination of the Jews became a systematically organized operation. It was decided to establish extermination camps in the east that had the capacity to kill large numbers including Belzec (15,000 a day), Sobibor (20,000), Treblinka (25,000) and Majdanek (25,000). It has been estimated that between 1942 and 1945 around 18 million were sent to extermination camps. Of these, historians have estimated that between five and eleven million were killed.