On 11 December 1941, Germany declared war on the USA. Although Hitler took this decision, he blamed the expansion of the war on America, which he believed was controlled by Jews. Over the next few days, he held meetings with other senior Nazis in which he reminded them of his ‘prophecy’ of 30 January 1939 that “world war” (i.e. war with the USA) would lead to “the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe”. Hans Frank, the Nazi leader of the General Government region of occupied Poland, reported back to his colleagues on his meetings with Hitler in Berlin.

An end must be put to the Jews – I want to say this quite openly – one way or another. The Führer once said the words: if united Jewry once again succeeds in unleashing a world war, then the peoples who have been hounded into this war will not be the only victims, but then the Jew in Europe will also have found his end… I must also say as an old National Socialist: if the Jewish clan were to survive the war in Europe, whilst we sacrifice the best of our blood for the preservation of Europe, then this war will only have been a partial success…

But what should happen to the Jews? Do you believe that they will be accommodated in settlements in Ostland? In Berlin we were told: why make all this trouble; we cannot do anything with them in Ostland or the Reichskommissariat [occupied regions of the USSR] either, liquidate them yourselves! Gentlemen, I must ask you to arm yourselves against any thoughts of compassion. We must annihilate the Jews, wherever we find them and whenever it is possible in order to preserve the entire structure of the Reich here.

It is clear that by late 1941 Hitler and other leading Nazis had taken the key decisions which would lead to the attempt to murder all of Europe’s Jews.

Photo: Hans Frank; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Lena Fishman Fagen

Speech: Werner Präg & Wolfgang Jacobmeyer (eds.), Das Diensttagebuch des deutschen Generalgouverneurs in Polen 1939-1945 (DVA, 1975)