See his memoirs (tr. 1949) and his Selected Writings, ed. by R. Pois (1970); R. Cecil, The Myth of the Master Race: Alfred Rosenberg and Nazi Ideology (1972).
(born Jan. 12, 1893, Reval, Estonia—died Oct. 16, 1946, Nürnberg, Ger.) German Nazi ideologue. As editor of the Nazi Party newspaper from 1921, he drew on the ideas of the English racist Houston Stewart Chamberlain for his books espousing German racial purity and anti-Semitism, which reinforced Adolf Hitler's own extreme prejudices. In World War II he oversaw the transport of stolen art into Germany and was a government official in the occupied eastern territories. After the war he was tried at the Nürnberg trials and hanged as a war criminal.
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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 Putsch and 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. Hitler called it "stuff nobody can understand and disapproved of its pseudo-religious tone.
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.
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 swastika at the tomb of the unknown soldier, 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.
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 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:
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 "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 Reichskomissariats 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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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 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 Commandments of Moses, which they deemed outdated and "Jewish.
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.
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)