- Alfred Rosenberg
Audio|Alfred Rosenberg.ogg|Alfred Rosenberg (12 January 1893ndash 16 October 1946) was an early and intellectually influential member of the
Nazi Party. Rosenberg was first introduced to Adolf Hitlerby Dietrich Eckart; he later held several important posts in the Nazi government. He is considered one of the main authors of key Nazi ideological creeds, including its racial theory, persecution of the Jews, " Lebensraum", abrogation of the Treaty of Versailles, and opposition to "degenerate" modern art. He is also known for his rejection of Christianity. [cite journal
title=Inventing ‘Paganists’: a Close Reading of Richard Steigmann-Gall's the Holy Reich
Journal of Contemporary History
volume = Vol. 42
issue = No. 1
quote = ] He also played an important role in the development of
Positive Christianity.cite web
publisher=Jewish Virtual Library (American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise)
accessdate=2008-05-07] At Nuremberg he was tried, sentenced to death and executed by hanging as a war criminal.
Rosenberg was born in Reval (today's
Tallinn, in Estonia, then part of the Russian Empire) to a family of Baltic Germans. His father was a wealthy merchant from Latvia, his mother from Estonia. In spite of the Jewish-sounding surname there seem to be no Jews among his ancestors. Rosenberg studied architectureat the Riga Polytechnical Instituteand engineeringat Moscow Highest Technical School,cite web
title=В поисках тайны Ленина
accessdate=2008-05-07] completing his Ph.D. studies in 1917. Buildings that he designed in this period still stand in the central part of Tallinn. During the
Russian Revolution of 1917, he supported the counter-revolutionaries and, following their failure, Rosenberg emigrated to Germany in 1918 along with Max Scheubner-Richterwho was something of a mentor to Rosenberg and his ideology. He arrived in Munichand contributed to Dietrich Eckart's publication, the " Völkischer Beobachter" ("People's Observer"). By this time, he was both an antisemite, influenced by Houston Stewart Chamberlain's book " The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century" (one of the key proto-Nazi books of racial theory) and an anti-bolshevist as a result of his family's exile. [cite book
title=The Coming of the Third Reich
id=ISBN 0-141-00975-6 ]
Rosenberg was one of the earliest members of the German Workers Party (later the National Socialist German Workers Party, better known as the NSDAP or the Nazi Party), joining in January 1919; Hitler did not join until October 1919. Rosenberg had also been a member of the
Thule Society, with Eckart. Rosenberg became editor of the " Völkischer Beobachter", the Nazi party newspaper, in 1921.
In 1923 after the failed
Beer Hall Putschand Hitler's subsequent imprisonment, Hitler appointed Rosenberg as a leader of the Nazi movement, a position he held until Hitler was released. Hitler remarked privately in later years that his choice of Rosenberg was strategic, based on Rosenberg's weak personality and lack of self-motivation. Hitler did not want the temporary leader of the Nazis to be overly popular or hungry for power, because a person with either of the two qualities might not want to cede the party leadership after Hitler's release.
In 1929, Rosenberg founded the
Militant League for German Culture. He later formed the "Institute for the Study of the Jewish Question", dedicated to identifying and attacking Jewish influence in German culture and to recording the history of Judaism from an antisemitic perspective. He became a Reichstag Deputy in 1930 and published his book on racial theory " The Myth of the Twentieth Century" ("Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts") which deals with key issues in the national socialist ideology, such as the Jewish question. It was intended as a sequel to Houston Stewart Chamberlain's above-cited book. Despite selling more than a million copies by 1945, its influence within Nazism is doubtful. It is often said to have been a book that was officially venerated within Nazism, but that few actually read beyond the first chapter or even found comprehensible. [cite book |last=Goldensohn |first=Leon | authorlink = Leon Goldensohn | coauthors = Gellately, Robert (ed) |title=The Nuremberg Interviews |publisher= Alfred A. Knopf|date= 2004 |location=New York |pages=pp. xvii, 73-75, 108-109, 200, 284 |id=ISBN 0-375-41469-X] Hitler called it "stuff nobody can understand" [cite book |last=Speer |first=Albert | authorlink = Albert Speer |title=Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs by Albert Speer. Translated by Richard and Clara Winston |publisher=Macmillan |date= 1970 |location=New York |pages=p. 115] and disapproved of its pseudo-religious tone. [cite book
title=The Coming of the Third Reich
id=ISBN 0-141-00975-6 ]
Rosenberg's attitude towards Soviet Bolshevism obviuously had some influence on Hitler. He convinced Hitler of the Communist threat and the supposed fragility of the Soviet political structure. "Jewish-Bolshevism" was accepted as a target for Nazism during the early 1920s. [cite book
title=The Coming of the Third Reich
id=ISBN 0-141-00975-6 ]
Rosenberg was named leader of the Nazi Party's foreign political office in 1933 but he played little practical part in the role. His visit to Britain in that year was designed to reassure the British that the Nazis would not be a threat, and to encourage links between the new regime and the British Empire. It was a notable failure. When Rosenberg laid a wreath bearing a
swastikaat the tomb of the unknown soldier, a British war veteran threw it into the Thames. [ [http://18.104.22.168/time/magazine/article/0,9171,802196-2,00.html Time Magazine, 1941] ] In January 1934 he was deputized by Hitler with responsibility for the spiritual and philosophical education of the Party and all related organizations.
Rosenberg was also the Nazi Party's chief racial theorist, in charge of building a human racial ladder that justified Hitler's policies. Rosenberg built on the works of
Arthur de Gobineau, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, and Madison Grant, as well as the beliefs of Hitler. Rosenberg, lacking any knowledge of anthropologyFact|date=September 2008, did not possess the scientific resources which Grant and others had had at their disposal, and thus chose to base his racial theories on philosophical ideas rather than scientific research. Rosenberg considered blacks as well as Jews to be at the very bottom of the ladder. At the very top stood the white or "Aryan" race. Rosenberg promoted the Nordic theorywhich considered Nordic peoplesto be the master race, superior to all others, including other Aryans. This master race included the Scandinavians (including Finns), Estonians, Baltic nations, Germans, Dutch (including the Flemish people of Belgium), and the British Isles. The Berbersfrom North Africa were also considered as belonging to the Aryan race. ["The Berbers, among whom even today one finds light skins and blue eyes, do not go back to the Vandal invasions of the fifth century A.D., but to the prehistoric Atlantic Nordic human wave. The Kabyle huntsmen, for example, are to no small degree still wholly Nordic", Alfred Rosenberg, " The Myth of the Twentieth Century", 1930]
Rosenberg would reshape Nazi racial policy throughout the years, but it would always consist of White Supremacism, extreme German nationalism, and harsh anti-Semitism. Rosenberg was also an outspoken opponent of both male and female homosexuality, notably in his pamphlet "Der Sumpf" ("The Swamp"), viewing homosexuality (particularly lesbianism) as a hindrance to the expansion of the Nordic population.
Rosenberg's attitude towards the
Slavs of Eastern Europe was more uncertain. Many Nazis, including Hitler himself, considered Slavs to be part of an inferior race to be subjugated, but Rosenberg suggested that they were also Aryans who could be integrated into the German Reich.
Rosenberg argued for a new "religion of the blood," based on the supposed innate promptings of the Nordic soul to defend its noble character against racial and cultural degeneration. He believed that this had been embodied in early Indo-European religions, notably ancient European (Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, Roman)
paganism, Zoroastrianismand Vedic Hinduism. Unlike Himmler, he had less attachment to Buddhism.Fact|date=February 2007 Following the ideas of Chamberlain, he condemned what he called "negative Christianity," the orthodox beliefs of Protestant and Catholic churches, arguing instead for a so-called "positive" Christianity based on Chamberlain's claim that Jesus was a member of a Nordic enclave resident in ancient Galileewho struggled against Judaism. For Rosenberg religious doctrinewas not important, what mattered was that a belief should serve the interests of the Nordic race, connecting the individual to his racial nature. Rosenberg stated that "The general ideas of the Roman and of the Protestant churches are negative Christianity and do not, therefore, accord with our (German) soul." [cite news
title=Churchmen to Hitler
In 1940 Rosenberg was made head of the "Hohe Schule" (literally "high school"), the Centre of National Socialist Ideological and Educational Research. He created a "Special Task Force for Music" ("Sonderstab Musik") to collect the best
musical instruments and scores for use in a university to be built in Hitler's hometown of Linz, Austria. The orders given the "Sonderstab Musik" were to loot all forms of Jewish property in Germany and of those found in any country taken over by the German army and any musical instruments or scores were to be immediately shipped to BerlinFact|date=September 2008.
Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories
Following the invasion of the USSR, Rosenberg was appointed head of the
Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories("Reichsministerium für die besetzten Ostgebiete"). Alfred Meyerwas his deputy and represented him at the Wannsee Conference. Another official of the Ministry, Georg Leibbrandt, also attended the conference, at Rosenberg's request.
Rosenberg had presented Hitler with his plan for the organization of the conquered Eastern territories, suggesting the establishment of new administrative districts, to replace the previously
Soviet-controlled territories with new Reichskommissariats. These would be:
* "Ostland" (
Baltic countriesand Belarus),
* "Ukraine" (
Ukraineand nearest territories),
* "Kaukasus" (Caucasia area),
* "Moskau" (
Moscowmetropolitan area and the rest of nearest Russian European areas)
Such suggestions were intended to encourage non-
Russian nationalism and to promote German interests for the benefit of future Aryan generations, in accord with geopolitical " Lebensraumim Osten" plans. They would provide a buffer against Soviet expansion in preparation for the total eradication of Communismand Bolshevismby decisive pre-emptive military action.
Following these plans, when
Wehrmachtforces invaded Soviet-controlled territory, they immediately implemented the first of the proposed Reichskomissariats of Ostland and Ukraine, under the leadership of Hinrich Lohseand Erich Kochrespectively. The organization of these administrative territories led to conflict between Rosenberg and the SSover the treatment of Slavsunder German occupation. Rosenberg was appalled at the displacement, enslavement, and sometimes genocide of non-Jews in occupied Eastern countries. As Nazi Germany's chief racial theorist, Rosenberg considered Slavs, though lesser than Germans, to be Aryan. Rosenberg often complained to Hitler and Himmler about the treatment of non-Jewish occupied peoples.Fact|date=September 2008 He made no complaints about the murders of Jews. At the Nuremberg Trialshe claimed to be ignorant of the Holocaust, despite the fact that Leibbrandt and Meyer were present at the Wannsee conferenceFact|date=September 2008.
Wartime propaganda efforts
Because the invasion of the
Soviet Unionwas essentially a war of conquest and extermination, German propagandaefforts designed to win over Russian opinion were patchy and inconsistent. Alfred Rosenberg was one of the few in the Nazi hierarchy who advocated a policy designed to encourage anti-Communist opinion.
Amongst other things, Rosenberg issued a series of posters announcing the end of the Soviet collective farms ("
kolkhoz"). He also issued an Agrarian Law in February 1942, annulling all Soviet legislation on farming, restoring family farms for those willing to collaborate with the occupiers. But decollectivisation conflicted with the wider demands of wartime food production, and Hermann Göringdemanded that the collective farms be retained, save for a change of name. Hitler himself denounced the redistribution of land as "stupid". [Leonid Grenkevich, "The Soviet Partisan Movement, 1941-1945: A Critical Historiographical Analysis", Routledge, New York (1999), pp. 169-171.]
There were also numerous German armed forces ("
Wehrmacht") posters asking for assistance in the "Bandenkrieg," the war against the Soviet partisans, though, once again, German policy had the effect of adding to their problems. Posters for "volunteer" labour, with inscriptions like "Come work with us to shorten the war", hid the appalling realities faced by Russian workers in Germany. Many people joined the partisans rather than risk being sent to an unknown fate in the west.
Another of Rosenberg's initiatives, the "Free Caucasus" campaign, was rather more successful, attracting various nationalities into the so-called Eastern Legion ("
Ostlegionen"), though in the end this made little difference.
Trial and execution
Rosenberg was captured by Allied troops at the end of the war. He was tried at Nuremberg and found guilty of
conspiracy to commit crimes against peace; planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression; war crimes; and crimes against humanity. [ [http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/proc/judrosen.htm The Avalon Project : Judgment : Rosenberg ] ] He was sentenced to deathand executed with other condemned co-defendants at Nuremberg on the morning of 16 October 1946. [ [http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10007070 International Military Tribunal: the Defendants ] ] Throughout the trial, it was agreed that Rosenberg had a very decisive role in shaping Nazi philosophy and ideology; such examples include: his book, "Myth of the Twentieth Century", which was published in 1930, where he incited hatred against "Liberal Imperialism" and "Bolshevik Marxism"; furthering the influence of the " Lebensraum" idea in Germany during the war; facilitating the persecution of Christian Churches and the Jews in general; and opposition to the Versailles Treaty during the war. [ [http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide/Rosenberg.htm Alfred Rosenberg Nuremberg Charges ] ]
Howard K. Smith, who covered the executions for the International News Service, Rosenberg was the only condemned man, who when asked at the gallows if he had any last statement to make, replied with only one word: "No".
Hermann Göringwere born on the same day (12 January 1893), and had Göring not committed suicide the night before his planned execution, they would also have died the same day.
Nazi Policy and Rosenberg's Views
Hitler was a leader oriented towards practical politics, whereas, for Rosenberg, religion and philosophy were key.
Rosenberg's influence in the Nazi Party is controversial. He was perceived as lacking the charisma and political skills of the other Nazi leaders, and was somewhat isolated. In some of his speeches Hitler appeared to be close to Rosenberg's views: rejecting traditional Christianity as a religion based on Jewish culture, preferring an ethnically and culturally pure "Race" whose destiny was supposed to be assigned to the German people by "Providence". In others, he adhered to the Nazi Party line, which advocated a "positive Christianity".
After Hitler's assumption of power he moved to reassure the Protestant and Catholic churches that the party was not intending to reinstitute
Germanic paganism. He placed himself in the position of being the man to save Christianity from utter destruction at the hands of the atheistic Communists of the Soviet Union. [cite book
title=The "Hitler Myth": Image and Reality in the Third Reich
Oxford University Press
pages= pp. 109
oclc = 47063365
quote = Hitler’s evident ability to simulate, even to potentially critical Church leaders, an image of a leader keen to uphold and protect Christianity was crucial to the mediation of such an image to the church-going public by influential members of both major denominations. It was the reason why church-going Christians, so often encouraged by their ‘opinion-leaders’ in the Church hierarchies, were frequently able to exclude Hitler from their condemnation of the anti-Christian Party radicals, continuing to see in him the last hope of protecting Christianity from Bolshevism.] This was especially true immediately before and after the elections of 1932; Hitler wanted to appear non-threatening to major Christian faiths and consolidate his power. Further, Hitler felt that Catholic-Protestant infighting had been a major factor in weakening the German state and allowing its dominance by foreign powers.
Some Nazi leaders, such as
Martin Bormann, were anti-Christian and sympathetic to Rosenberg. [Stiegmann-Gall, Richard, The Holy Reich, CUP, pp.243-5] Once in power, however, Hitler and most Nazi leaders sought to unify the Christian denominations in favor of "positive Christianity." They privately complained about Rosenberg's radical, openly anti-Christian views and did not support small neo-pagan groups, supported by the latter, seeking parity with Christianity. However, Goebbels and Hitler both agreed that after the " Endsieg" (Final Victory) the Reich Church should be pressed into evolving into a German social evolutionist organisation proclaiming the cult of race, blood and battle, instead of Redemption and the Ten Commandmentsof Moses, which they deemed outdated and "Jewish." [HÜRTEN, H. "`Endlösung` für den Katholizismus? Das nationalsozialistische Regime und seine Zukunftspläne gegenüber der Kirche", in: "Stimmen der Zeit", 203 (1985) p. 534-546]
While Rosenberg knew that he had powerful enemies in Goering, Himmler, and Goebbels, he believed that he still maintained favor with Hitler to the end according to his autobiography which he wrote shortly before his execution.Fact|date=November 2007
Lieutenant-Colonel W.H. Dunn wrote a medical and psychiatric report on him in prison to evaluate him as a suicide risk:
He gave the impression of clinging to his own theories in a fanatical and unyielding fashion and to have been little influenced by the unfolding during the trial of the cruelty and crimes of the party. (Cecil, p.219)
Summarizing the unresolved conflict between the personal views of Rosenberg and the pragmatism of the Nazi elite:
The ruthless pursuit of Nazi aims turned out to mean not, as Rosenberg had hoped, the permeation of German life with the new ideology; it meant concentration of the combined resources of party and state on total war. (Cecil, p.160)
Rosenberg was married twice. He married his first wife,
Hilda Leesmann, an ethnic Estonian, in 1915; after eight years of marriage, they divorced in 1923. He married his second wife, Hedwig Kramer, in 1925; the marriage lasted until his death. He and Kramer had two children; a son, who died in infancy, and a daughter, Irene; who was born in 1930. His daughter has refused contact with anyone seeking information about her father.
Myth of the Twentieth Century"
* [http://www.archive.org/details/NoneRosenbergMemoirs Rosenbergs 1946 memoirs, at archive.org]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/HohensteichenVelagProtestantischeRompilgerTheProtestantRomePilgrim "Der Protestantische Rompilger" at archive.org. In German.]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/AndieDunkelmaennerunsererZeit_0 "An die Dunkelmänner unserer Zeit" at archive.org. In German.]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/TraditionundGegenwartRedenundAufsaetze19361940 "Tradition und Gegenwart - Reden und Aufsätze 1936-1940" at archive.org. In German.]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/DieProtokollederWeisenvonZionunddiejuedischeWeltpolitik "Die Protokolle der Weisen von Zion und die jüdische Weltpolitik" at archive.org. In German.]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/UnmoralinTalmud "Unmoral in Talmud" at archive.org. In German. ]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/WesenGrundsaetzeundZielederNSDAPDasProgrammderBewegung "Wesen, Grundsätze und Ziele der NSDAP - Das Programm der Bewegung" at archive.org. In German.]
*United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - [http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10007123 Alfred Rosenberg]
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