Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Rosenberg, Alfred (1893–1946)

German National Socialist Party publicist and leading Nazi racial theorist and "philosopher" of National Socialism. Born in Reval, Russia (today's Tallinn, Estonia), on 12 January 1893, Alfred Rosenberg came from a family that spoke German but may have been of Estonian extraction. He studied architecture at Riga Technical University, which moved to Moscow with the approach of German forces in World War I. He graduated in Moscow in 1918 and witnessed the early days of the Bolshevik Revolution. He soon emigrated to Paris, and at the end of the year, he settled in Munich. There, he joined the German Worker's Party, which became the National Socialist Party. Rosenberg became a German citizen in 1920 and gradually assumed the position of the party's chief ideologist. In 1923, he was the sole editor of the party daily, the Völkischer Beobachter (National Observer). He participated in the unsuccessful November 1923 Beer Hall Putsch and was Adolf Hitler's personal choice to serve as interim party leader while Hitler was in prison.

Rosenberg headed the new National Socialist Society for Culture and Learning (the Militant League for German Culture) from 1929 and was elected to the Reichstag (the national parliament) as a Nazi Party deputy from Hesse-Darmstadt in 1930. In that year, he also published his major work, The Myth of the Twentieth Century, which became the most popular party work after Hitler's Mein Kampf. A turgid, racial, pseudoscientific study, it claimed that the Germans represented a pure Nordic race destined to rule Europe. It also attacked Jews, Free Masons, the Catholic Church, and others.

Rosenberg held numerous party posts. After Hitler rose to power, he headed the foreign policy office of the National Socialist Party and was made Hitler's deputy for supervising the spiritual and ideological training of the Nazi Party. In January 1940, he was tasked with founding the so-called High School, which was to evolve into the postwar Central National Socialist University. One of the institutes within the High School was the Institute for Research of the Jewish Question, the libraries of which were filled with looted Jewish art. The Einsatzstab Rosenberg (Special Staff Rosenberg) and Rosenberg's special "furniture action" confiscated art, furniture, rugs, and even appliances from the homes of Jews and Free Masons.

The peak of Rosenberg's career came in 1941 when he was designated Reichsminister for the Occupied Eastern Territories. In this position, he opposed genocide of the Jews and expulsion of populations, believing it made more sense to utilize their support against the Soviet Union. Despite his party positions, Rosenberg never achieved the influence or recognition he believed he merited. He was disappointed when Joachim von Ribbentrop became foreign minister in 1938 and was upset with the August 1939 German-Soviet Non-aggression Pact, which he believed sacrificed ideology to political motives. He was an inept administrator: Joseph Goebbels referred to Rosenberg as "a monarch with neither country nor subjects" and spoke of his "ministry of chaos."

Frustrated by his lack of influence, Rosenberg attempted to resign in October 1944, but Hitler never answered his letter. Arrested at the end of the war, he at last achieved the notoriety to which he believed he was entitled when he was tried among the principal Nazi leaders at the Nuremberg proceedings. He remained unrepentant in his support of Hitler and a true believer in National Socialism, but he argued that some of Hitler's intentions had been subverted by more devious and bloodthirsty officials. Convicted on all four counts of war crimes, he was hanged at Nuremberg on 16 October 1946. His body was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Isar River.

Jon D. Berlin


Further Reading
Cecil, Robert. The Myth of the Master Race: Alfred Rosenberg and Nazi Ideology. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1972.; Davidson, Eugene. The Trial of the Germans: An Account of the Twenty-Two Defendants Before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. New York: Macmillan, 1966.; Fest, Joachim C. The Face of the Third Reich: Portraits of the Nazi Leadership. Trans. Michael Bullock. New York: Pantheon, 1970.; Snyder, Louis L. Hitler's Elite: Biographical Sketches of Nazis Who Shaped the Third Reich. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1989.
 

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