Although this probably isn’t forgotten by historians and WWII aficionados, I think that at large it is forgotten by most others and especially the younger generations.
Although his name would indicate a Jewish origin it was never proven he was from Jewish descend.
Alfred Ernst Rosenberg ( 12 January 1893 – 16 October 1946) was a Baltic German theorist and an influential ideologue 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 National Socialist 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 known for his rejection of and hatred for Christianity,having played an important role in the development of German Nationalist Positive Christianity.At Nuremberg he was sentenced to death and executed by hanging for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Born in Reval, Russia (today, Tallinn, Estonia), to an Estonian mother and Baltic German father, Rosenberg studied architecture in Riga and Moscow before fleeing revolution-torn Russia in 1918 for Germany. Already a committed anti-Bolshevik and anti-Semite, he became heavily involved in the post-World War I ultra-nationalist scene in Munich. In early 1919 he became an early member of the Nazi Party’s predecessor organization, the German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or DAP). Gaining renown as the author of antisemitic tracts, he quickly made the acquaintance of Dietrich Eckart, one of the early, influential promoters of Adolf Hitler. In an article published in Eckart’s own journal, Auf gut Deutsch (In Plain German), Rosenberg made clear a key component of his ideology: the equation of Jews with Bolshevism and communist revolution (“Judeo-Bolshevism”). At Eckart’s encouragement, Rosenberg joined the fledgling Nazi Party and began writing for its flagship newspaper, Völkischer Beobachter. He became the newspaper’s senior editor in 1923.
Antisemitic diatribes featured prominently in Rosenberg’s writings. His efforts helped spread The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Germany and denounce the Weimar Republic as an aberration born from defeat and manipulated by “Jewish traitors.”
On November 9, 1923, Rosenberg participated in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, which resulted in Hitler’s arrest.
Tasked by Hitler as interim leader of the Nazi Party, Rosenberg struggled to prevent the Nazi movement’s disintegration. After Hitler’s release, Rosenberg returned to journalism and began his chief work, The Myth of the Twentieth Century (Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts), published in 1930.
Though neither officially translated into another language nor endorsed by Hitler as the authoritative expression of Nazi ideology, the book sold approximately one million copies by the late war years and boosted Rosenberg’s standing as Party ideologue
As the Nazi Party’s chief racial theorist, Rosenberg oversaw the construction of a human racial “ladder” that justified Hitler’s racial and ethnic policies. Rosenberg built on the works of Arthur de Gobineau, Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Madison Grant, as well as on the beliefs of Hitler. He placed Blacks and Jews at the very bottom of the ladder, while at the very top stood the white “Aryan” race. Rosenberg promoted the Nordic theory which regarded Nordics as the “master race”,superior to all others, including to other Aryans (Indo-Europeans).
Rosenberg reshaped Nazi racial policy over the years, but it always consisted of Aryan supremacy, extreme German nationalism and rabid antisemitism. Rosenberg also outspokenly opposed homosexuality – notably in his pamphlet “Der Sumpf” (“The Swamp”, 1927) – he viewed homosexuality (particularly lesbianism) as a hindrance to the expansion of the Nordic population.
Rosenberg’s attitude towards Slavs was flexible and depended on the particular nation involved. As a result of the ideology of “Drang nach Osten” Rosenberg saw his mission as the conquest and colonization of the Slavic East In Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts Rosenberg describes Russian Slavs as being overwhelmed by bolshevism. Regarding Ukrainians, he favoured setting up a buffer state to ease pressure on the German eastern frontier, while agreeing with the notion of the exploitation of Russia for the benefit of Germany
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, Greek, Roman) paganism, Zoroastrianism, and Vedic Hinduism.
He rejected Christianity for its universality, for its doctrine of original sin (at least for Germans whom he declared on one occasion were born noble), and for its teachings on the immortality of the soul.Indeed, absorbing Christianity enfeebled a people.[Publicly, Rosenberg affected to deplore Christianity’s degeneration owing to Jewish influence.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 an Indo-European, Nordic enclave resident in ancient Galilee who struggled against Judaism.Significantly, in his work explicating the Nazi intellectual belief system, The Myth of the Twentieth Century, Rosenberg cryptically alludes to and lauds the anti-Judaic arch-heretic Marcion and the Manichaean-inspired, “Aryo-Iranian” Cathari, as being the more authentic interpreters of Christianity versus historically dominant Judaeo-Christianity; moreover these ancient, externally Christian metaphysical forms were more “organically compatible with the Nordic sense of the spiritual and the Nordic ‘blood-soul’.” For Rosenberg, the anti-intellectual intellectual, religious doctrine was inseparable,from serving 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.” His support for Luther as a great German figure was always ambivalent.
In January 1934 Hitler had appointed Rosenberg as the cultural and educational leader of the Reich. The Sanctum Officium in Rome recommended that Rosenberg’s Myth of the Twentieth Century be put on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (list of books forbidden by the Catholic Church) for scorning and rejecting “all dogmas of the Catholic Church, indeed the very fundamentals of the Christian religion” During World War II Rosenberg outlined the future envisioned by the Hitler government for religion in Germany, with a thirty-point program for the future of the German churches. Among its articles:
- the National Reich Church of Germany would claim exclusive control over all churches
- publication of the Bible would cease
- crucifixes, Bibles and saints were to be removed from altars
- Mein Kampf would be placed on altars as “to the German nation and therefore to God the most sacred book”
- the Christian Cross would be removed from all churches and replaced with the swastika.
Compared to other members of the Nazi elite like Hermann Göring, Joachim von Ribbentrop, or Joseph Goebbels, Rosenberg before the war lacked the executive authority that came with a cabinet portfolio. His burning ambition for higher office was undermined by his frequent squabbles with competitors, his inability to forge alliances, and his reputation as an inept administrator. A stepping-stone towards greater political power came in 1938 when Hitler approved Rosenberg’s idea for a new, fully Nazified university system (Hohe Schule) that would ground the Party’s and the nation’s future elite in racist ideology.
In 1940 Rosenberg was made head of the Hohe Schule (literally “high school”, but the German phrase refers to a college), the Centre of National Socialist Ideological and Educational Research, out of which the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg developed for the purpose of looting art and cultural goods.
The ERR were especially active in Paris in looting art stolen from famous Jewish families such as the Rothschilds and that of Paul Rosenberg. Hermann Goering used the ERR to collect art for his own personal gratification. 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 home town of Linz, Austria. The orders given theSonderstab 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 Berin.
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 Meyer served as 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 countries and Belarus),
- Ukraine (Ukraine and nearest territories),
- Kaukasus (Caucasus area),
- Moskau (Moscow metropolitan area and the rest of nearest Russian European areas)
Although Rosenberg regarded all the Soviet peoples as subhumans for their communist beliefs,such suggestions were intended to encourage certain non-Russian nationalism and to promote German 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 Ukraine, under the leadership of Hinrich Lohse and Erich Koch, respectively. The organization of these administrative territories led to conflict between Rosenberg and the SS over the treatment of Slavs under German occupation. 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.He proposed creation of buffer satellite states made out of Greater Finland, Baltica, Ukraine, Caucasus
In a 1941 conference speaking about the Jewish Question, he said:
Some six million Jews still live in the East, and this question can only be solved by a biological extermination of the whole of Jewry in Europe. The Jewish Question will only be solved for Germany when the last Jew has left German territory, and for Europe when not a single Jew stands on the European continent as far as the Urals… And to this end it is necessary to force them beyond the Urals or otherwise bring about their eradication.
He made no complaints about the murders of Jews. At the Nuremberg Trials he claimed to be ignorant of the Holocaust, despite the fact that Leibbrandt and Meyer were present at the Wannsee conference.
Since the invasion of the Soviet Union intended to impose the New Order, it was essentially a war of conquest. German propaganda efforts designed to win over Russian opinion were, at best, patchy and inconsistent. Alfred Rosenberg was one of the few in the Nazi hierarchy who advocated a policy designed to encourage anti-Communist opinion among the population of the occupied territories. His interest here was mainly in the non-Russian areas such as the Ukraine and the Baltic States; however, supporters of the Russian Liberation Army were somewhat able to win him over.
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 de-collectivisation 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 numerous German armed forces 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 in the outcome of the war on the Eastern Front.
Rosenberg was arrested at the end of the war. Rosenberg was captured by Allied troops at the end of the war in Flensburg-Mürwik. He was tried at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, and found guilty on all four counts of the indictment for conspiracy to commit aggressive warfare, crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
The final judgment against him named him one of the principal planners of the invasions of Norway and the Soviet Union. It also held him directly responsible for the systematic plunder of the occupied countries of Europe, as well as the brutal conditions in Eastern Europe.[During his trial he wrote his memoirs, which were published posthumously and with analytical commentary by Serge Lang and Ernst von Schenck.
He was sentenced to death and executed with other condemned co-defendants at Nuremberg on the morning of 16 October 1946. His body, as those of the other nine executed men and the corpse of Hermann Göring, was cremated at Ostfriedhof (Munich) and the ashes were scattered in the river Isar.
Throughout the trial, it was agreed that Rosenberg had a decisive role in shaping Nazi philosophy and ideology. 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 particular; and opposition to the Versailles Treaty.
According to Joseph Kingsbury-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”
Hitler was a leader oriented towards practical politics, whereas, for Rosenberg, religion and philosophy were key and culturally he was the most influential within the party.Several accounts of the time before the Nazi ascension to power, indeed, speak of Hitler as being a mouthpiece for Rosenberg’s views, and he clearly exerted a great deal of intellectual influence.
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 re-institute Germanic paganism. He placed himself in the position of being the man to save Positive Christianity from utter destruction at the hands of the atheistic anti-theist Communists of the Soviet Union.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, Hitler and most Nazi leaders sought to unify the Christian denominations in favor of “positive Christianity”. Hitler privately condemned mystical and pseudo-religious interests as “nonsense”. However, he and Goebbels 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.
Heinrich Himmler’s views were among the closest to Rosenberg’s, and their estrangement was perhaps created by Himmler’s abilities to put into action what Rosenberg had only written. Also, while Rosenberg thought Christianity should be allowed to die out, Himmler actively set out to create countering pagan rituals.
Rosenberg was married twice: to Hilda Leesmann, an ethnic Estonian, in 1915 (divorced in 1923), and to Hedwig Kramer in 1925,with whom he was married until his execution. 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.
The question remains was he influenced by Hitler or did he influence Hitler?