The historical site

Villa Marlier

Villa and garden were constructed in 1914-15 for the businessman Ernst Marlier (1875 - 1948) according to the designs of the architect Paul O. A. Baumgarten. In 1921 Marlier sold the estate to Friedrich Minoux (1877 - 1945) who had made his fortune as director-general of the Hugo Stinnes trust.

In 1923, the year of severe crisis (inflation, French occupation of the Ruhr area, Hitler-Putsch in Munich), Minoux offered the army high command his cooperation as secretary to establish a cabinet with dictatorial authority. Conspiratorial meetings with like-minded individuals were held in his Wannsee villa.

These political ambitions failed because in November 1923 the high command of the German army abandoned their putsch plans against the Weimar Republic. Talks between Minoux and Free corps and Nazi leaders came to no conclusion.

Purchase for the SS Security Service (SD), 1940

 After Minoux had left the Stinnes trust he started a wholesale coal business in Berlin. In the years 1924 to 1938, as board member of the Berlin gasworks, he had embezzled at least 12 million Reich marks from the gasworks along with two accomplices.

He was arrested for this in May 1940. During his custody he sold villa and estate for the market price of 1.95 million Reich marks to the SS-Foundation “Nordhav”, which handled real estate business for the SS Security Service (SD). In September 1939 the SD merged with the Security Police (Criminal Police and Secret State Police, called “Gestapo”) to form the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA). Leaders of the SD and the Security Police were now the new patrons of the villa.

Guesthouse of Security Police and SD, 1941-1945

 The guesthouse of the Security Police and Security Service (SD) in Minoux’s former villa opened in October 1941. Among the guests were high ranking SS-Officers, commanders of the “Special Task Forces” [Einsatzkommandos] or secret service men of allied countries. The Head of the Domestic SD, SS-Gruppenführer Otto Ohlendorf, moved his headquarters to the villa in October 1944. Here his colleagues discussed with representatives of other departments questions related to “Volkstumspolitik” as well as long-range plans of the German Resistance on the reform of German administration.

August Bebel Institute of the SPD, 1947-1952, and school hostel, 1952-1988

At the end of the war the building was used by the Red Army and later on by the US Army. For a while it stood empty and almost all the furnishings were plundered. In 1947, the August Bebel Institute of the Berlin Social Democratic Party moved into the building. From 1952 on, the site was used as a school hostel for classes from the Neukölln district of Berlin. 1988 saw the conversion and historical reconstruction of villa and garden in order to set up a memorial site.

Joseph Wulf’s Initiative and the Inauguration of the Memorial Site, 1965-1992

The historian Joseph Wulf, a Jewish resistance fighter and survivor of Auschwitz, published the first comprehensive documentations on the NS regime available in Germany. In 1965 he strongly suggested to establish a documentation center in the villa. Wulf gained worldwide prominent supporters, but the Berlin Senate was not prepared to make the building available. In 1974, Wulf committed suicide. In the 1980s, his ideas were taken up again.

The House of the Wannsee Conference Memorial and Educational Site was finally opened in January 1992 on the 50th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference.