Margot Friedlander was 100 years old a few weeks ago become. But she absolutely wanted to make this visit. To go to the place where 15 men decided to kill her. This murderous plan didn’t work out, not in her case. And the man who had instigated it was himself dead less than five months later: the war criminal Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reich Security Main Office and deputy Reich Protector in Bohemia and Moravia, who had invited to the Wannsee Conference on January 24, 1942, was soon killed by Czechoslovak resistance fighters shot.
However, against all odds, Margot Friedländer survived. Because at the conference the so-called “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” was regulated – i.e. the systematic murder of European Jews. According to a list given to conference attendees, the assassination plot targeted 11 million people. With six million of them, the horror came on.
Matti Geschonneck makes in his feature film The Wannsee Conference this “meeting followed by breakfast”, as it was called in the invitation, can be experienced directly. A reconstruction of reality with the means of fiction. Jörg Müllner’s 45-minute documentary The Wannsee Conference – The Documentation adds a clever classification to that. It is framed by the appearance of Margot Friedländer, who initially expresses her shock at the fact that 15 men sit down at a table to discuss how to organize the murder of millions of people and then grab salmon snacks and cognac.
Margot Friedländer calls for a new eyewitness
At the end of the documentary, Friedländer made a vehement appeal: since there were hardly any contemporary witnesses, those born later had to become contemporary witnesses. As a spectator, one is initially irritated, because how is that supposed to work? But then understand that listening and dealing with what was discussed eighty years ago is also a form of contemporary witnessing – of those generations that can still obtain first-hand information and pass this knowledge on.
Jörg Müllner follows four lines, cleverly interwoven so that the film does not lose its clarity. And in which he refers to the pointed classifications of more than half a dozen historians, including Gotz Aly, Robert Gerwarth and Barbara Schieb. The chronological line is about the constant escalation of the persecution of the Jews. Strategically, how the entire Reich administration was involved in the Holocaust. In an exemplary line, he describes the fate of Jewish Germans using the Chotzen family and in a biographical line, who the 15 participants in the Wannsee Conference were – what they stood for, what type of perpetrators they represent. Here the circle to the feature film closes again.
The Wannsee Conference – The Documentation, ZDF media library and ZDF, January 24, 2022, 10 p.m.