Within two hours the senior officials seem to casually discuss the most practical way of eliminating the Jewish race and conclude with the final policy solution. The film is based on the Wannsee protocol or the minutes the document which is authored by Adolf Eichmann and the document was found 1947 by Robert Kemper. The film is dramatized for entertainment purposes, meaning that it is not fully accurate because the creators tended to take certain liberties in making the film. Although at the end it is stated that the film ‘is based on a true story, with some scenes, events, and characters created or changed for dramatic purposes’.
The issue still remains that most people tend to take films at face value, and do not bother doing further research about the topic at hand also the ending credits to do make that much of a difference to those people. The film as a historical source faces some limitations because it runs for ninety minutes when focusing on issue as deep as the origins of the final solutions, ninety minutes is not enough time to go into depth.
The film would have been more valuable as a historical source if it had involved itself more in the debate of the origins of the final solution.
However, film makers have a different duty from Historians their purpose is to entertain and not educate. The strongest limitation is the dialogue which is actually quiet misleading, because Pierson dramatizes it for entertainment purpose and it is mostly fictional.
Eichmann stated in his testimony in 1962 that the last twenty minutes of the meeting were words like extermination and liquidation were used was removed from the official summary and summed in one sentence. Pierson and Mandel fail to analyse the document that the film is based on ‘minutes’ rather it summaries and add on fictional scenes for entertainment.
For example in film Kritzinger protests against the idea of extermination because Hitler had promised him that this would not become a state policy. We also see another fictional scene where Heydrick pressures other senior officials Kritzinger and Stuckart to support him during the meeting there evidences suggests that he did not need to pressure them because he was powerful. During the first part of the meeting the senior officials discuss various solutions to the Jewish question, sterilisation of those with Jewish blood is discussed, and here the division between the politicians and the military can be seen.
In the second part of the meeting the atmosphere becomes more serious when Heydrick suggests gas chambers and the rest of the men find out that S. S have already begun building extermination camps. The film should have clarified that Jews were already being murdered on an organised scale, Pierson slightly neglected that point. Film makers’ face the same problems Historians face when using the Wannsee protocol document, it is very open to interpretation when translated into English.
Holocaust deniers have used the document to argue that Hitler had no involvement in the planning or implementing the final solution. Furthermore, Holocaust denier David Irving has argued the Wannsee conference was about immigration of the Jews, when testify during his trial he pointed that words such ‘killing’ or extermination of the Jews were not used in the conference. However in the film words like kill or exterminate were used, which is another inaccuracy because in the actual document killing euphemism are used instead.
However Eichmann did confirm in his 1962 trail that after the meeting had ended the men became less restrained and freely discussed killing methods however this was deleted the official summary and replaced with one sentence. The film overplays the role of the Wannsee conference; Gerlach argues that the meeting occurred not to discuss the fate of Jews in Europe but for Heydrick to seek support from other senior officials.
The conference was originally schedule for the 9th of December but happened on the 20th of January giving Heydrick time to prepare the new task based Hitler’s ‘basic decision’. Unlike other Historical source the film industry seem to have shallow research which it tends to exaggerate, this is one of the issues with this film. For this film to be an adequate historical source it should have not put so much emphasis on the conference and also focused to the prior events. Also the film does not address Hitler’s role in the final solution, most historical sources on this topic have done so, and Hitler’s role is one most controversial aspects of this topic.
The relevance of the conference is widely debated amongst scholars, with conventional Historian arguing that the murdering of Jews had begun at the latest in December 1941 long before the conference. When focusing on the origins of the final solution the film gives an inaccurate perspective because although it mentions that the extermination camps were being built it fails to mention a mobile version of the gas chamber was already in use. In June 1941 the Soviet Union territory that was under Germany saw Jewish men of military age being executed by special mobile forces.
On the 8th December an SS command unit used gas vans to kill Jews from neighbouring districts of Wartherland, clearly the preparations of the final solution began before the Wannsee conference. Clearly the final solution was already in place before the conference so there is no need place too much emphasis on it like Pierson. In conclusion, overall this a good film however if it is used as a historical source it should not be taken at face value. It is very good in delving into the bizarre Nazi psychology and behaviour and sophisticatedly highlights how their belief of the Nazi ideology had led them to dehumanise the Jews.