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Alfred Rosenberg
(12 January 1893 16 October 1946) was an early and intellectually influential member of the Nazi Party. Rosenberg was first introduced to Adolf Hitler by 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, having played an important role in the development of Positive Christianity, which he intended to be transitional to a new Nazi faith. At Nurembergmarker he was tried, sentenced to death and executed by hanging as a war criminal.

Early career

Alfred Rosenberg around 1935
Rosenberg was born in Reval (today's Tallinnmarker, in Estoniamarker, then part of the Russian Empiremarker) to a family of Baltic Germans. It was claimed in the 1930s by Tallinn archivist J. Rajandi that his family had Estonian origins. His father was a wealthy merchant from Latviamarker, his mother from Estoniamarker. Rosenberg studied architecture at the Riga Polytechnical Institute and engineering at Moscow Highest Technical Schoolmarker,completing his Ph.D. studies in 1917. 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-Richter who was something of a mentor to Rosenberg and his ideology. He arrived in Munichmarker and contributed to Dietrich Eckart's publication, the Völkischer Beobachter (People's Observer). By this time, he was both an anti-Semite, 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.

Rosenberg was one of the earliest members of the German Workers Party (later the National Socialist German Workers Party, better known as the Nazi Party), joining in January 1919; Adolf 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 Putschmarker, Hitler — who had been imprisoned for treason — 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, whom he regarded as weak and lazy, was strategic; 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. Hitler called it "stuff nobody can understand" and disapproved of its pseudo-religious tone.

Rosenberg's attitude towards Soviet Bolshevism obviously 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.

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 Britainmarker 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 swastika at the tomb of the unknown soldiermarker, a British war veteran threw it into the Thames. In January 1934 he was deputized by Hitler with responsibility for the spiritual and philosophical education of the Party and all related organizations.

Racial theories

Rosenberg was also the Nazi Party's chief racial theorist, in charge of building a human racial ladder that justified Hitler's genocidal policies. Rosenberg built on the works of Arthur de Gobineau, Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Madison Grant, as well as the beliefs of Hitler. 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 theory which considered Germans to be the "master race", superior to all others, including other Aryans: the Nordic and the Indo-Iranians.

Rosenberg reshaped Nazi racial policy throughout the years, but it always consisted of white supremacy, extreme German nationalism and rabid anti-Semitism. Rosenberg was also an outspoken opponent of homosexuality, notably in his pamphlet "Der Sumpf" ("The Swamp"), having viewed 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 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 Third Reich.

Religious theories

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, Zoroastrianism and Vedic Hinduism. Unlike Heinrich Himmler, he had less attachment to Buddhism. Following Chamberlain's ideas, 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 Galilee who struggled against Judaism. For Rosenberg religious doctrine was 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."

Wartime activities

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 Linzmarker, Austriamarker. 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 Berlinmarker.

Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories

Following the invasion of the USSRmarker, Rosenberg was appointed head of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories (Reichsministerium für die besetzten Ostgebiete). Alfred Meyer served as his deputy and represented him at the Wannsee Conferencemarker. 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 Sovietmarker-controlled territories with new Reichskommissariats. These would be:

Such suggestions were intended to encourage non-Russianmarker nationalism and to promote Germanmarker interests for the benefit of future Aryan generations, in accord with geopolitical "Lebensraum im Osten" plans. They would provide a buffer against Soviet expansion in preparation for the total eradication of Communism and Bolshevism by decisive pre-emptive military action.

Following these plans, when Wehrmacht forces invaded Soviet-controlled territory, they immediately implemented the first of the proposed Reichskommissariats of Ostland and Ukrainemarker, under the leadership of Hinrich Lohse and Erich Koch, respectively. The organization of these administrative territories led to conflict between Rosenberg and the SSmarker over the treatment of Slavs under 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. According to Kevin P. Spicer, while most Nazis intended direct German control and exploitation of Slavic peoples, Rosenberg "envisioned a system of Slavic satellite states under German suzerainty." He made no complaints about the murders of Jews, however. At the Nuremberg Trialsmarker he claimed to be ignorant of the Holocaust, despite the fact that Leibbrandt and Meyer were present at the Wannsee conferencemarker.

Wartime propaganda efforts

Because the invasion of the Soviet Unionmarker to impose the New Order was essentially a war of conquest and extermination, German propaganda efforts 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 Göring demanded that the collective farms be retained, save for a change of name. Hitler himself denounced the redistribution of land as "stupid".

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

Alfred Rosenberg after his hanging
Rosenberg was captured by Allied troops at the end of the war. He was tried at Nurembergmarker and found guilty of conspiracy to commit crimes against peace; planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression; war crimes; and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to death and executed with other condemned co-defendants at Nuremberg on the morning of 16 October 1946. 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.

According to 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".

Rosenberg and Hermann Göring were 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 Unionmarker. 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. 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; they also did not support small neo-pagan groups that were seeking parity with Christianity, which Rosenberg encouraged. 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 Commandments of Moses, which they deemed outdated and "Jewish."

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.

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.

Family life

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.

See also


  1. Jüri Remmelgas. Kolm kuuske. Tallinn 2004, p. 50
  2. Time Magazine, 1941
  4. Kevin P. Spicer, Antisemitism, Christian ambivalence, and the Holocaust, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, Indiana University Press, 2007, p.308
  6. Leonid Grenkevich, The Soviet Partisan Movement, 1941-1945: A Critical Historiographical Analysis, Routledge, New York (1999), pp. 169-171.
  7. The Avalon Project : Judgment : Rosenberg
  8. International Military Tribunal: the Defendants
  9. Alfred Rosenberg Nuremberg Charges
  10. Stiegmann-Gall, Richard, The Holy Reich, CUP, pp.243-5
  11. HÜRTEN, H. `Endlösung` für den Katholizismus? Das nationalsozialistische Regime und seine Zukunftspläne gegenüber der Kirche, in: Stimmen der Zeit, 203 (1985) p. 534-546
  12. Cecil, p.219
  13. Cecil, p.160

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