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Exhibition upgrade at Berlin villa where Holocaust was planned

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Berlin (AFP)

The Berlin villa which hosted the 1942 Wannsee Conference, at which top Nazi officials finalised plans for the Holocaust, will on Sunday launch a new permanent exhibition aimed at attracting more visitors.

The House of the Wannsee Conference has been open as a memorial since 1992, but organisers hope the revamped exhibition will increase awareness of how Adolf Eichmann and fellow Nazis planned the extermination of Europe's Jews.

At a press conference on Thursday, museum director Hans-Christian Jasch said the new exhibition aimed "to attract a wider audience", in particular among pupils at Berlin schools.

"Until now, the average duration of a visit has been 30 minutes... We are aiming for visitors to stay between 60 and 90 minutes," he added.

The previous exhibition, which was largely text-based, has been reworked entirely to become more didactic and interactive, Jasch said.

Museum directors also underlined the importance of efforts to increase Holocaust awareness against a backdrop of recent "discussions over anti-Semitism and racism" in Germany, he said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Hungarian Holocaust survivor Eva Fahidi will attend Sunday's unveiling ceremony.

Located on the shores of the Wannsee lake just southwest of the German capital, the lavish villa was the site of a notorious meeting of 15 high-ranking Nazi officials on January 20, 1942.

Led by security chief Reinhard Heydrich and recorded by fellow SS officer Eichmann, the meeting formalised the technical, administrative and economic details of what was dubbed "the final solution to the Jewish question".

At his trial in Jerusalem in 1961, Eichmann told the court that the participants had been served "by butlers with cognac and other drinks" as they plotted the genocide.

The Nazis killed six million Jews in the Holocaust -- more than a third of the world's Jewish population at the time.

Jews from all over Europe were systematically deported from mid-1942 to six death camps: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka.

The opening of the new exhibition at Wannsee has been timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camps.

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