Destination: Death

Thursday 20 January 2022 marked the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, where 15 senior members of the Nazi Party and German government officials met to discuss the practicalities of implementing the infamous ‘Final Solution’.

To acknowledge this harrowing anniversary, Lady Esther Gilbert prepared a series of readings from Sir Martin’s works, centring around the Conference and its significance in theNazis’ planned annihilation of Europe’s Jewish populations. Lady Esther began with excerpts from Never Again: A History of the Holocaust, Gilbert’s masterful The Second World War: A Complete History – in which Hitler is explicitly shown to use the term ‘extermination’, and The Holocaust: The Human Tragedy, where we heard about the numbers of victims the Nazis envisioned.

Lady Esther then read from Auschwitz and the Allies, before moving onto Final Journey, in which Gilbert discusses the bureaucratic logistics of moving millions of people across Europe, and, finally, Holocaust Journey. This final book explores a personal journey, made by Sir Martin and a group of his students from London, to visit sites that were key to Jewish history, before and during the Second World War. Lady Esther read to us, most fittingly, the section on the group’s visit to the Wannsee Villa. 

The readings ended with a series of maps – another of Sir Martin’s specialities – and a moving excerpt from the film The Rescuers. The clip showed Sir Martin in the Villa, discussing the men who had formulated the deplorable ‘Final Solution’.

Lady Esther’s engaging presentation was followed by an active discussion with the audience, in which people shared their own experiences of visiting the Villa and their reflections on the Wannsee Conference. We were honoured to have the survivor Mr Berl Schor close the event with some photographs of his stop at the Villa and his and his son’s powerful decision to use this space, once so destructive for the fate of Europe’s Jews, to celebrate personal survival and that of the Jewish people by praying Mincha, the afternoon prayer.

Lady Esther’s readings can be found on our YouTube channel: