Alfred Rosenberg

Alfred Rosenberg : Nazi Germany

Alfred Rosenberg, the son of an Estonian mother and a Lithuanian father, was born in Tallinn, Russia (now Estonia), on 12th January, 1893. He studied architecture at the Riga Technical Institute where he joined a pro-German student group.

During the First World War he lived in Paris. Rosenberg supported the Whites during the Russian Revolution. Rosenberg later claimed that it was in Moscow in 1917 that he first saw a copy of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. According to Konrad Heiden: "A mysterious occurrence. Rosenberg himself has often told how the unknown suddenly stepped into the room, laid down the book, and silently departed. To Rosenberg it was a sign from heaven. Both the place and the hour were significant. Moscow, 1917.... The globe was afire. The Tsar's empire was crumbling. Perhaps there would never again be peace. Perhaps this book would tell him why. The demon, who had incited the nations against each other, had spoken. Perhaps he, Alfred Rosenberg, understood him better than others, for in his own soul he could feel more strongly than others the mesh woven by hatred and love between the nations. He came from the Tsar's Baltic, German provinces. He could scarcely say whether he was more Russian or more German. But today there were greater things concerning which he must achieve clarity.... Surely one of the most astounding, far-reaching, and bloody conspiracies of all time was bound to that hour. He who could read would go far."

After the Bolsheviks gained control of Russia Rosenberg moved to Germany where he settled with the large community of White Russians in Munich. In 1920 Rosenberg met Adolf Hitler in 1923 and according to Louis L. Snyder "Hitler was fascinated by the young man's seemingly vast fund of knowledge". Rosenberg joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) and in 1923 became editor of the party newspaper, Voelkischer Beobachter.

Rosenberg took part in the Beer Hall Putsch but fled when the fighting started. Before his arrest in 1923 Hitler had managed to send a pencilled note to Rosenberg. It read: "Dear Rosenberg, from now on you will lead the movement. As Rosenberg himself admits in his autobiography, Memoirs (1949), this was a surprising choice. Alan Bullock, the author of Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962), has pointed out: "Although at one time he had great influence on Hitler, Rosenberg was no man of action and had never been one of the small circle who led the conspiracy. As a leader he was ineffective, finding it difficult either to make up his mind or to assert his authority. It was precisely the lack of these qualities which attracted Hitler: Rosenberg as his deputy would represent no danger to his own position in the Party."

Ian Kershaw disagrees with this view. He argues in Hitler 1889-1936 (1998): "Distinctly lacking in leadership qualities, he was scarcely an obvious choice, and was as surprised as others were by Hitler's nomination. Possibly, as is usually surmised, it was precisely Rosenberg's lack of leadership ability that commended itself to Hitler. Certainly, a less likely rival to Hitler could scarcely be imagined. But this would presume that Hitler, in the traumatic aftermath of the failed putsch, was capable of lucid, machiavellian planning, that he anticipated what would happen and actually wanted and expected his movement to fall apart in his absence. A more likely explanation is that he made a hasty and ill-conceived decision, under pressure and in a depressed frame of mind, to entrust the party's affairs to a member of his Munich coterie whose loyalty was beyond question. Rosenberg was, in fact, one of the few leading figures in the Movement still available."

Rosenberg regularly visited Adolf Hitler in Landsberg Castle and it is claimed he helped write Mein Kampf. He also wrote several pamphlets that reflected his rabid anti-Semitism. He also believed in the existence of a Jewish conspiracy - that the Jews had a plan to destroy the Gentile world and then take it over through the power of an international super-government. This sort of plan had been described in detail in The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, that had been published in Russia in 1903.

It is believed that the man behind the forgery was Pyotr Ivanovich Rachkovsky, the head of the Paris section of Okhrana. It is argued he commissioned his agent, Matvei Golovinski, to produce the forgery. The plan was to present reformers in Russia, as part of a powerful global Jewish conspiracy and fomented anti-Semitism to deflect public attention from Russia's growing social problems. This was reinforced when several leaders of the 1905 Russian Revolution, such as Leon Trotsky, were Jews. Norman Cohn, the author of Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World-Conspiracy (1966) has argued that the book played an important role in persuading fascists to seek the massacre of the Jewish people.

In 1926 Rosenberg founded the German People's Publishing House, and published a monthly magazine called The World Struggle. 1929 Rosenberg established the Militant League for German Culture. The following year he was elected to the Reichstag. He hoped to become Germany's foreign minister but lost out to Joachim von Ribbentrop. Instead he was given the task of supervising ideological training and education in the NSDAP.

Rosenberg worked on The Myth of the Twentieth Century for eight years. It was published in 1930. The publisher called the author "an inspired and endowed seer" and praised the book as "a fountainhead of fundamental precepts in the field of human history, religion, and cultural philosophy, almost overwhelming in magnitude." Rosenberg book praised the "Nordic spirit" and the tried to explain the "corrupting influence of inferior races". Albert Speer described the book as "the standard text for party ideology" but heard Hitler say that it was a book "nobody can understand" that had been written by a man who "thinks in horribly complicated terms".

The publisher called the author "an inspired and endowed seerer" and praised the book as "a fountainhead of fundamental precepts in the field of human history, religion, and cultural philosophy, almost overwhelming in magnitude." William L. Shirer, the author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1964), has argued that although Rosenberg was promoted as the "intellectual leader" of the Nazi Party he was a man of "mediocre intelligence".

Alfred Rosenberg
Alfred Rosenberg

Louis L. Snyder has pointed out that according to Rosenberg: "The Germanic element of the Nordic race, Rosenberg wrote, brought order out of chaos to India, Persia, Greece, the Roman Emperor, France, England, and the United States. The highest value of the Nordicrace its honor, a special attribute of the German people. The spirit of the Nordic race is personified in the god Wotan: honor and heroism, the art of song, the protection of right, and the eternal striving for wisdom. Wotan's spirit could be found in such Nordicsas Luther, Dante, Frederick the Great, Bismarck, and Hitler."

William L. Shirer, the author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1964), has argued that although Rosenberg was promoted as the "intellectual leader" of the Nazi Party he was a man of "mediocre intelligence". he Myth of the Twentieth Century quickly became a best seller, second only to Mein Kampf. By December 1936, 50,000 copies had been sold. Rosenberg developed the slogan: "The Jewish question will be solved only when the last Jew has left Germany and the European continent".

Alfred Thoma later claimed that "Rosenberg was in no instance the instigator of a persecution of Jews, any more than he was one of the leaders and originators of the policy adopted by the Party and the Reich.... Rosenberg was certainly a convinced anti-Semite and expressed his conviction and the reasons for it both verbally and in writing. Anti-Semitism was for him a negative element, and his chief and most positive efforts were directed toward the proclamation of a new German intellectual attitude, and a new German culture. Because he found this endangered after 1918, he became an opponent of Jewry... however... the nature of Rosenberg's anti-Semitism was intellectual above all." Thoma pointed out that a the 1933 Nuremburg Party Rally he explicitly mentioned a "chivalrous Solution" of the Jewish question and that Rosenberg never used expressions like: "We must annihilate the Jews wherever we find them; we shall take measures that will insure success. We must abandon all feelings of sympathy."

After the initial success of Operation Barbarossa Rosenberg became minister for eastern territories. It has been argued by Laurence Rees, the author of The Nazis: A Warning from History (2005), that Rosenberg attempted to take a more moderate approach to the occupation of the Soviet Union. This was opposed by Adolf Hitler and Erich Koch, the Reich Commissioner for the Ukraine. "Rosenberg met Hitler on 16th July 1941 at the Fuhrer's headquarters in East Prussia, the Wolf's Lair, and voiced his view that the nationalist sentiments of the Ukrainians should be encouraged. Hitler did not object. At a later conference Hitler even hinted that the Ukraine might one day be considered independent within the German Empire. But these were simply words to keep the loyal but misguided Rosenberg happy. On 19 September Hitler revealed his true feelings to a more ideologically sympathetic Nazi. Notes survive of a meeting between Hitler and Erich Koch, the Nazi Gauleiter of East Prussia and recently appointed Reich Commissioner for the Ukraine." The notes of the meeting stated: "Both the Führer and the Reichskommissar Koch reject an independent Ukraine.... Besides, hardly anything will be left standing in Kiev (the capital). The Fuhrer's inclination to destroy Russia's large cities as a prerequisite for the permanence of our power in Russia will be further consolidated by the Reichskommissar's smashing of Ukrainian industry, in order to drive the proletariat back to the land.''

Alfred Rosenberg
Alfred Rosenberg

Rosenberg wanted to improve the education system in the Ukraine and build a university in Kiev. The Reich Commissioner for the Ukraine, Erich Koch disagreed and closed the schools saying, "Ukrainian children need no schools. What they have to learn will be taught them by their German masters.'' On 5th March 1943 Koch made a speech where he argued: "We are the Master Race and must govern hard but just... I will draw the very last out of this country. I did not come to spread bliss... The population must work, work, and work again... We definitely did not come here to give our manna. We have come here to create the basis for victory. We are a master race, which must remember that the lowliest German worker is racially and biologically a thousand times more valuable than the population here."

Dr Wilhelm Ter-Nedden worked under Rosenberg in Berlin: "You would not believe the kind of confusion there was... The administration melted away.... On these occasions I witnessed Koch tearing Rosenberg off a strip, in such a manner that I would have thrown him out! And Rosenberg put up with it." Ter-Nedden tells the story of at one lunch Koch ignored Rosenberg completely, only talking to the person next to him, until finally he leaned across the table and said loudly, "Is this as boring for you, Rosenberg, as it is for me?"

Aleksey Bris was twenty-years old student in the Ukraine when he offered to work as an interpreter for the Germans in 1942. One day he told Ernst Erich Haerter, the German commissar of Horokhiv, his local town, that one day he would like to continue his studies and become a doctor. The German commissar replied, echoing Koch: "We don't need you Ukrainians as doctors or engineers, we need you as people to tend the cows." According to Bris the Germans regarded themselves as "gods on the earth" and he decided to join the Ukrainian Nationalist Partisans (UPA).

Rosenberg was put under pressure from other senior members of the Nazi Party to treat the occupied people harshly. Martin Bormann wrote to him on 23rd July, 1942: "The Slavs are to work for us. In so far as we don't need them, they may die. Therefore compulsory vaccination and German health services are superfluous. The fertility of the Slavs is undesirable. They may use contraceptives or practise abortion - the more the better. Education is dangerous. It is enough if they can count up to 100.... Every educated person is a future enemy. Religion we leave to them as a means of diversion. As for food they won't get any more than is absolutely necessary. We are the masters. We come first."

On 5th March, 1943, Erich Koch made a speech where he argued: "We are the Master Race and must govern hard but just... I will draw the very last out of this country. I did not come to spread bliss... The population must work, work, and work again... We definitely did not come here to give our manna. We have come here to create the basis for victory. We are a master race, which must remember that the lowliest German worker is racially and biologically a thousand times more valuable than the population here."

Albert Speer argued that this approach increased resistance to the Nazi occupation: "I found one of the most famous churches of Kiev a heap of rubble. A Soviet powder magazine had blown up inside it, I was told. Later. I learned from Goebbels that the church had been blown up deliberately on orders of Erich Koch, Reich Commissioner for the Ukraine; the idea had been to destroy this symbol of Ukrainian national pride. Goebbels told the story with displeasure; he was horrified by the brutal course being pursued in occupied sectors of the Soviet Union. In fact the Ukraine at that time was still so peaceable that I could drive through the extensive forests without an escort. Half a year later, thanks to the twisted policy of the eastern commissioners, the whole area was infested with partisans."

According to his biographer, Louis L. Snyder: "In this post Rosenberg promoted the Germanization of Eastern peoples under brutal conditions, supervised slave labour, and arranged the extermination of Jews and responsible for rounding up quotas of workers and sending them to the Reich." During this period he plundered art and antiques owned by Jews living in Poland and the Soviet Union.

Rosenberg was captured by Allied troops at the end of the Second World War. He was accused of crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial. His defence counsel, Alfred Thoma, admitted that Rosenberg did use terms such as the "extermination of Jewry." However, he added: "Exaggerated expressions were always part of the National Socialist weapons of propaganda. A Hitler speech was hardly imaginable without insults to his internal or external political opponents, or without threats of extermination. Every one of Hitler's speeches was echoed a million times by Goebbels down to the last speaker of the Party in a small country inn. The same sentences and words which Hitler had used were repeated, and not only in all the political speeches, but in the German press as well, in all the editorials and essays, until, weeks or months later, a new speech was given which brought about a new echo of a similar kind. Rosenberg was no exception. He repeated, as everyone did... Apparently, like Hitler's other supporters, he gave as much or as little thought to the fact that in reality none of those phrases were clear but that they had a sinister double meaning and, while they might have meant real expulsion, they might also have implied the physical annihilation and murder of the Jews."

Alfred Rosenberg was found guilty and executed on 1st October, 1946. A journalist, Howard Kingsbury Smith, observed the execution: "Despite his avowed atheism he was accompanied by a Protestant chaplain who followed him to the gallows and stood beside him praying. Rosenberg looked at the chaplain once, expressionless. Ninety seconds after he was swinging from the end of a hangman's rope. His was the swiftest execution of the ten."

Primary Sources

(1) Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962)

Although at one time he had great influence on Hitler, Rosenberg was no man of action and had never been one of the small circle who led the conspiracy. As a leader he was ineffective, finding it difficult either to make up his mind or to assert his authority. It was precisely the lack of these qualities which attracted Hitler: Rosenberg as his deputy would represent no danger to his own position in the Party.

Rosenberg, who was not only an intellectual but respectable and prim as well, was soon on the worst terms with the rougher elements in the Party, notably the two rival Jew-baiters and lechers, Julius Streicher and Hermann Esser, who combined to attack every move made by Rosenberg, Gregor Strasser, Ludendorff, and Pohner, and accused them of undermining Hitler's position. These in turn retorted by demanding the others' expulsion from the Party and Hitler's repudiation of them. But Hitler declined to take sides: if pushed to decide, he preferred Streicher, Esser, and Amann, however disreputable, because they were loyal to him and dependent on him. Men like Strasser, with ten times the others' abilities, were for that very reason more inclined to follow an independent line.

Political issues of importance were involved in these personal quarrels. What was to be done now that the Party had been dissolved and Hitler was in prison? Hitler's answer, however camouflaged, was simple: Nothing. He had no wish to see the Party revive its fortunes without him. But Gregor Strasser, Rohm, and Rosenberg, supported by Ludendorff, were anxious to take part in the national and State elections of the spring of 1924. Hitler, who was not a German citizen, was automatically excluded, and had from the beginning attacked all parliamentary activity as worthless and dangerous to the independence of the movement. It was true that such tactics were now essential if the Party was to follow the path of legality, but Hitler was concerned with the threat to his personal position as leader of the Party if others were elected to the Reichstag while he remained outside.

(2) Konrad Heiden, Der Führer – Hitler's Rise to Power (1944)


A mysterious occurrence. Rosenberg himself has often told how the unknown suddenly stepped into the room, laid down the book, and silently departed. To Rosenberg it was a sign from heaven. Both the place and the hour were significant. Moscow, 1917. Far to the west, the German-Russian phase of the First World War was drawing to an end in crumbling trenches; in the streets of the capital the Russian Revolution was ebbing and flowing. Alfred Rosenberg, the son of a shoemaker, born in Reval (Tallinn) on the Baltic, was then twenty-four years old; he was of German descent, but, as an Estonian, he was a subject of the Russian Tsar. He had been raised in the German and Russian languages; he had first studied engineering and architecture at Riga, also on the Baltic; then, when the German army occupied Riga, he had fled. Now he was studying in Moscow.

The globe was afire. The Tsar's empire was crumbling. Perhaps there would never again be peace. Perhaps this book would tell him why. The demon, who had incited the nations against each other, had spoken. Perhaps he, Alfred Rosenberg, understood him better than others, for in his own soul he could feel more strongly than others the mesh woven by hatred and love between the nations. He came from the Tsar's Baltic, German provinces. He could scarcely say whether he was more Russian or more German. But today there were greater things concerning which he must achieve clarity. Here in Russia's holy city, in Russia's language, he had received a message. Judah, a book has brought forth thine innermost thoughts! He, the student, would close his eyes and believe it all his life, as firm as a rock. Was a new epoch of world history beginning in Moscow at that hour? Surely one of the most astounding, far-reaching, and bloody conspiracies of all time was bound to that hour. He who could read would go far.

"The nations", says the demon, "love and honour audacity in statesmen. Faced with an act of violence, they say: that was vile but clever! A scoundrel's trick, but wonderfully executed! With what insolence! Our leaders must move towards their goal with unparalleled boldness. Then we shall break all resistance in our path." The vision sends forth an icy chill and a breath of deadly truth.

The demon of world domination has spoken. He has proclaimed the great secret: the world can be dominated. Bowed with weariness, the peoples demand subjection. And those who resist will be tamed by terrible blows and sufferings. Modern society is charged with a magical current which in all men creates the same thoughts. The masses expect great things of their rulers. And for that reason, great things are easy.

This is the true sense of the secret writings which we today know as The Protocols of the Wise Men of Zion. Everything else in them develops from the basic idea that world domination is possible in our time: with sovereign contempt it is shown with what relative ease it can be achieved. Later, at third, fourth, and fifth hand, these profound thoughts were woven together with a figment of forgeries and purposeful lies which confused and obscured the whole document to the point of unintelligibility. But precisely in that condition it could be swallowed without understanding by millions of readers, and this gave it its great effect.

Today we are in a position to re-create the original content of the document. Its content is how to establish dictatorship with the help - and abuse - of democratic methods. The genesis of Caesarism is described. We are told that democracy, if carried to its extreme conclusion, provides the usurper with his best weapons. Furthermore, democracy in the international field actually offers a dictator, who has firmly entrenched himself in one country, the possibility of world domination. This is the true content of the famous Protocols.

(3) Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1889-1936 (1998)

Just before his arrest on 11 November 1923, Hitler had placed Alfred Rosenberg, editor of the Volkischer Beobachter, in charge of the banned party during his absence, to be supported by Esser, Streicher, and Amann. Like a number of leading Nazis (including Hef3, Scheubner-Richter, and Hitler himself), Rosenberg's origins did not lie within the boundaries of the German Reich. Born into a well-off bourgeois family in Reval (now Tallinn), Estonia, the introverted self-styled party "philosopher", dogmatic but dull, arrogant and cold, one of the least charismatic and least popular of Nazi leaders, united other party bigwigs only in their intense dislike of him. Distinctly lacking in leadership qualities, he was scarcely an obvious choice, and was as surprised as others were by Hitler's nomination. Possibly, as is usually surmised, it was precisely Rosenberg's lack of leadership ability that commended itself to Hitler. Certainly, a less likely rival to Hitler could scarcely be imagined. But this would presume that Hitler, in the traumatic aftermath of the failed putsch, was capable of lucid, machiavellian planning, that he anticipated what would happen and actually wanted and expected his movement to fall apart in his absence. A more likely explanation is that he made a hasty and ill-conceived decision, under pressure and in a depressed frame of mind, to entrust the party's affairs to a member of his Munich coterie whose loyalty was beyond question. Rosenberg was, in fact, one of the few leading figures in the Movement still available.

(4) Martin Bormann, letter to Alfred Rosenberg (23rd July, 1942)

The Slavs are to work for us. In so far as we don't need them, they may die. Therefore compulsory vaccination and German health services are superfluous. The fertility of the Slavs is undesirable. They may use contraceptives or practise abortion - the more the better. Education is dangerous. It is enough if they can count up to 100.... Every educated person is a future enemy. Religion we leave to them as a means of diversion. As for food they won't get any more than is absolutely necessary. We are the masters. We come first.

(5) Alfred Rosenberg, speech at a meeting of Reichskommissars (August, 1942)

It does no harm if one or another Commissar acts in a decent fashion once in a while to one or another Ukrainian. He should, however, not be comradely with them. But he can clap a man on the shoulder and give him good advice and buy them a bottle of schnapps. But he must not get drunk with them and keep his distance; that is essential for a proper master in the East.

A master is one for whom a man placed under him allows himself to be beaten to death. The population must realize there is no way out but to accept German leadership. The question for us is: What spares us most in German manpower and what brings us best to political success? We have the job not only of raising production in the occupied European territories, but of raising it considerably.

(6) Laurence Rees, The Nazis: A Warning from History (2005)

Rosenberg met Hitler on 16 July 1941 at the Fuhrer's headquarters in East Prussia, the Wolf's Lair, and voiced his view that the nationalist sentiments of the Ukrainians should be encouraged. Hitler did not object. At a later conference Hitler even hinted that the Ukraine might one day be considered independent within the German Empire. But these were simply words to keep the loyal but misguided Rosenberg happy. On 19 September Hitler revealed his true feelings to a more ideologically sympathetic Nazi. Notes survive of a meeting between Hitler and Erich Koch, the Nazi Gauleiter of East Prussia and recently appointed Reich Commissioner for the Ukraine. "Both the Fuhrer and the Reichskommissar Koch reject an independent Ukraine.. .Besides, hardly anything will be left standing in Kiev (the capital). The Fuhrer's inclination to destroy Russia's large cities as a prerequisite for the permanence of our power in Russia will be further consolidated by the Reichskommissar's smashing of Ukrainian industry, in order to drive the proletariat back to the land.''

What pleasure it must have given Hitler, in a meeting with a Nazi hardliner like Koch, to state that it was his "inclination to destroy Russia's large cities". Here he could be honest. With Rosenberg, technically Koch's superior in the Nazi hierarchy, for long periods he was more opaque. Such behaviour seems curious at first, since it was Hitler himself who appointed Rosenberg. But Hitler's behaviour is explicable, consistent as it is with the methods he generally used to control and manipulate the Nazi state.

In the first place, Nazi hierarchies were not what they seemed. Koch had a very large degree of autonomy in how he decided to run the Ukraine and he was able to report directly to Hitler, should he wish it, through the automatic access guaranteed by his other position as Gauleiter of East Prussia, so Rosenberg could be bypassed whenever necessary. Second, Hitler was always loyal to those, like Rosenberg, who had stuck by him in the times of "struggle" before the Nazis came to power - and here was a grand-sounding job as a reward for his loyalty. Third, the appointment of Rosenberg allowed Hitler to play off Koch against him if he wanted to.

In-fighting amongst leading Nazis preserved the Führer's role as the final arbiter within the system. Finally, Hitler disliked issuing written orders to the likes of Rosenberg and Koch, so the presence of this conflict between them allowed him "deniability" if anything went catastrophically wrong. As Hitler acknowledged when he spoke to the commanding generals of the German Army Groups in the summer of 1942, he was prepared to say whatever he felt any situation demanded: "Were it not for the psychological effect, I would go as far as I could; I would say, "Let's set up a fully independent Ukraine." I would say it without blinking and then not do it anyway. That I could do as a politician, but (since I must say it publicly) I can't tell every German soldier just as publicly: "It isn't true; what I've just said is only tactics."

(7) Alfred Thoma, speech (10th July, 1946)

Now I come to a new subject: Contrary to the assumption of the Prosecution, Rosenberg was in no instance the instigator of a persecution of Jews, any more than he was one of the leaders and originators of the policy adopted by the Party and the Reich, as the Prosecution claims.... Rosenberg was certainly a convinced anti-Semite and expressed his conviction and the reasons for it both verbally and in writing. However, in his case anti-Semitism was not the most outstanding, of his activities... Anti-Semitism was for him a negative element, and his chief and most positive efforts were directed toward the proclamation of a new German intellectual attitude, and a new German culture. Because he found this endangered after 1918, he became an opponent of Jewry. Even such different personalities as Von Papen, Von Neurath, and Raeder now confess to their belief that the penetration of the Jewish element into the whole of public life was so great that a change had to be brought about it strikes me as very important, however, that the nature of Rosenberg's anti-Semitism was intellectual above all. For example, at the Party Rally of 1933 he explicitly mentioned a "chivalrous Solution" of the Jewish question. We never heard Rosenberg use expressions like "We must annihilate the Jews wherever we find them; we shall take measures that will insure success. We must abandon all feelings of sympathy." The Prosecution itself quotes the following as an expression of the program Rosenberg set up for himself... "After the Jews have been ousted as a matter of course from all official positions, the Jewish question will find a decisive solution through the setting up of ghettos."

... It was not a mere question of chance that Rosenberg did not take part in the boycotting of Jews in 1933, that he was not called upon to work out the laws against the Jews in 1933, 1934, 1935, and so on (expatriation, prohibition of marriages, withdrawal of the right to vote, expulsion from all important positions and offices). Above all, he never took part in the action of 1938 against the Jews, nor in the destruction of synagogues, nor in anti-Semitic demonstrations. Neither was he the instigator in the background who sent out, or ordered, lesser people to commit certain actions. To be sure, Rosenberg was a true follower of Hitler, who took up Hitler's slogans and passed them on. For example, the motto, "The Jewish question will be solved only when the last Jew has left Germany and the European continent," and once the slogan of "Extermination of Jewry."

Exaggerated expressions were always part of the National Socialist weapons of propaganda. A Hitler speech was hardly imaginable without insults to his internal or external political opponents, or without threats of extermination. Every one of Hitler's speeches was echoed a million times by Goebbels down to the last speaker of the Party in a small country inn. The same sentences and words which Hitler had used were repeated, and not only in all the political speeches, but in the German press as well, in all the editorials and essays, until, weeks or months later, a new speech was given which brought about a new echo of a similar kind.

Rosenberg was no exception. He repeated, as everyone did, all of Hitler's slogans, including that of the "solution of the Jewish question," and once also that of the "extermination of Jewry." Apparently, like Hitler's other supporters, he gave as much or as little thought to the fact that in reality none of those phrases were clear but that they had a sinister double meaning and, while they might have meant real expulsion, they might also have implied the physical annihilation and murder of the Jews.

May I remind the Tribunal at this point that Rosenberg, during his testimony, made a reference to a speech of the British Prime Minister in the House of Commons in September 1943, in which speech it was stated that Prussian militarism and National Socialism had to be exterminated root and branch. No German interpreted that literally, and I believe no one interpreted it to mean that German soldiers and the National Socialism had to be exterminated physically.

Aside from the knowledge and will of the German people, and aside from the knowledge and will of the majority of the leadership of the Party - that is to say, known only to Bormann, Himmler, and Eichmann - there was hatched and carried out, from 1941 onward, a mass crime which surpassed all human concepts of reason and morality. The "Jewish question" was developed even further and brought to a so-called "final solution."

I believe I can say that Rosenberg never aimed, either openly or in secret, at the physical extermination of the Jews. His reserve and moderation were certainly no mere tactics. The slipping of anti-Semitism into crime took place without his knowledge or will. The fact in itself that he preached anti-Semitism justifies his punishment as the murderer of Jews as little as one could hold Rousseau and Mirabeau responsible for the subsequent horrors of the French Revolution.

(8) Michael R. Marrus, The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial 1945-46 (1997)

How much did the defendants know about the crimes against humanity, about the murders in the east, about the "final solution," the concentration camps, or Auschwitz? Goring remained a loyalist to the end: he himself did not know, he claimed; and probably neither did Hitler. He would not even allow that atrocities had occurred systematically; the most that he would concede was that there might have been "isolated cases" of liquidations." Kaltenbrunner, Heydrich's successor as head of the vast Main Office for Reich Security - the vast SS police apparatus - said he did not know of the final solution before 1943. "Immediately after receiving knowledge of this fact," he told the Tribunal, "I fought, just as I had done previously, not only against the final solution, but also against this type of treatment of the Jewish problem." What did he do? He "protested to Hitler and the next day to Himmler. I did not only draw their attention to my personal attitude and my completely different conception which I had brought over from Austria and to my humanitarian qualnns, but immediately from the first day, I concluded practically every one of my situation reports right to the very end by saying that there was no hostile power that would negotiate with a Reich which had burdened itself with this guilt." Chiefly thanks to his intervention, Kaitenbrunner ventured, the persecution of Jews ended in October 1944. At various points in the trial, other defendants protested that they had helped Jews at specific moments - among them Schacht, Ribbentrop, Yapen, Schirach, Seyss-Inquart, and Speer.

There was some contrition at Nuremberg, although few noteworthy instances. Hans Frank, once determined to rid the Generalgouvernement of Jews, handed over to the Americans his voluminous diary of the days when he ruled in Krakow and claimed in prison to have committed himself anew to Catholicism. "A thousand years will pass and still Germany's guilt will not have been erased," he told the court."' Walther Funk, president of the Reichsbank, accused of having received deposits of gold taken from the teeth of gassed Jewish victims, was singularly unimpressive-"a broken heap of flesh," wrote Norman Birkett in his diary, "half-asleep during most of the days, apathetic and listless, and raising blinking eyes to the bright lights installed in the Court for the benefit of the cinematograph operators." Testifying about his pretrial interrogation, in which he had broken into tears, Funk told his attorney that he had just been released from the hospital at the time.

(9) The journalist, Howard Kingsbury Smith, observed the execution of Alfred Rosenberg and nine other leaders of the Nazi Party on 1st October 1946.

Rosenberg was dull and sunken-cheeked as he looked around the court. His complexion was pasty-brown, but he did not appear nervous and walked with a steady step to and up the gallows.

Apart from giving his name and replying 'no' to a question as to whether he had anything to say, he did not utter a word. Despite his avowed atheism he was accompanied by a Protestant chaplain who followed him to the gallows and stood beside him praying.

Rosenberg looked at the chaplain once, expressionless. Ninety seconds after he was swinging from the end of a hangman's rope. His was the swiftest execution of the ten.