Alfred Rosenberg was born on 12 January 1893 to ethnic-German parents in Reval (today’s Tallinn), Estonia. He went on to study architecture and engineering in Moscow, eventually earning a PhD in early 1918. Following the Russian and Bolshevist Revolutions of 1917 and 1918, he moved to Munich, Germany. In January 1919, eight months prior to Adolf Hitler, Rosenberg joined the small German Workers’ Party (DAP), which was the precursor to the NSDAP, or “Nazi” party. In 1920, Rosenberg published the first two of his many books: Immorality in the Talmud, and The Track of the Jew through the Ages.
By 1929, Rosenberg had established what would become the “Institute for the Study of the Jewish Question,” which analyzed negative Jewish influences in Germany and Europe. In 1930, he was appointed Reichstag Deputy; that was also the year that he published the first edition of his main work, The Myth of the 20th Century. When Hitler and the NSDAP assumed power in early 1933, Rosenberg was named head of the foreign political office. The next year, Hitler appointed him “cultural and educational leader” of the new Reich. By the end of the decade, Rosenberg was widely recognized as the chief ideologist of National Socialism. That being so, we will closely scrutinize the historical record he left behind.
Rosenberg voiced his opinion on how to handle the “Jewish question” on numerous occasions. During a press conference on 28 March 1941, Rosenberg stated that, for Europe, “the Jewish problem will only be solved when the last Jew has left the European continent.” Just four days later, on 2 April 1941, he wrote a memorandum in which he suggested to weaken Russian imperialism by way of “a complete destruction of the Bolshevik Jewish governmental administration,” among other things. In another memorandum of 29 April, he stated:
“The Jewish question requires a general treatment, the temporary provisional solution of which must be determined (compulsory labor for Jews, ghettoization, etc.)”
On 7 May of that year, when Rosenberg had been slated to become the head of the upcoming Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories, he wrote instructions for his future subordinate Reich commissars. In this document, he repeated this goal:
“The Jewish Question will undergo a decisive solution by the establishment of ghettos or labor columns.”
On 20 June 1941, two days before Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, Rosenberg mentioned during a meeting of leaders of the Party and the German armed forces that an area around Minsk, the capital of Belorussia, will be set aside as a reservation for “undesirables,” which probably referred primarily to Jews (Irving 1977, p. 271).
On 17 July 1941, some three weeks after Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, Rosenberg was appointed head of the Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories, covering the areas that were to be captured from the Soviets in 1941 and 1942. However, his ministry had no police authority, which Himmler reserved for himself. Further undermining his position was the fact that Rosenberg’s subordinates, Reich commissars Hinrich Lohse (for the northeastern territories) and Erich Koch (for Ukraine and Caucasus), were appointed by Hitler, and could not be dismissed by Rosenberg. Hence, these commissars insisted on reporting directly to Hitler rather than taking orders from Rosenberg.
As a result, Rosenberg had little direct impact on the German policy toward the Jews in the East, which was dominated by Himmler’s forces. Rosenberg’s moderate, conciliatory policies toward Russians, Ukrainians and other ethnic groups in the east were frequently undermined, especially by Koch. (On this, see his testimony and that of Hans Heinrich Lammers, Hitler’s head of the Reich Chancellery, during the IMT, Vol. 11, pp. 47, 118, 478-484, 491f., 504-508.)
Once in office, Rosenberg implemented the policy he had announced earlier with a decree on 16 August 1941 that subjected all Jews in the Eastern Territories between 14 and 60 years of age to forced labor. On 18 November 1941, Rosenberg held a press conference, during which he stated that the Jews in the East eventually will be either shoved “over the Ural Mountains” to Siberia, or else eradicated in some other way.
Parallel to Rosenberg’s effort to conscript Jews as forced laborers mainly in war industries, some of Himmler’s forces in the East had other ideas. Wild mass executions were reported, which Lohse promptly prohibited. Himmler’s Department for Homeland Security (Reichssicherheitshauptamt, RSHA) complained to Rosenberg’s office about this interference in SS and police matters. In reaction to this, and evidently clueless, Rosenberg’s office asked Lohse on 31 October what was going on.
Lohse responded on 15 November by writing that nothing in the existing orders and decrees points at killing off all Jews. Hence, executing them all, irrespective of their ability to work, seemed unjustifiable. He then asked whether the RSHA’s intervention “is to be taken as an order to the effect that all Jews in the East are to be liquidated?” The response by Rosenberg’s office to this question was non-committal, referring instead to some unknown oral communications.
However, the policy Rosenberg’s office pursued with respect to the Jews did not change. In fact, while the above exchange was going on between Rosenberg’s and Lohse’s office, other communications were exchanged between them. On 9 November, Lohse’s office urgently requested to suspend further transports with Jews, since the local camps “must be relocated much further east.” This referred to labor camps right behind the front, doing important road-construction work in logistical support of Germany’s advancing armies. On 13 November, Rosenberg’s office responded to Lohse’s telegram, agreeing that the Jews on these trains were “to be sent further East”; hence the camps in Riga and Minsk were only temporary measures.
This string of documents continued, including the Wannsee Protocol of early 1942, which also talks about sending the Jews East in labor columns doing road-construction work.
In the summer of 1942, with the evacuation of tens of thousands of Polish Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto in full swing, the receiving locations in the East were completely overwhelmed. In a desperate reaction to this, Wilhelm Kube, general commissar for Belorussia, complained to his superior Lohse on 31 July 1942 (and later also to Rosenberg directly), indicating that they had been executing tens of thousands of Jews in the area to prevent them from supporting the partisans. However, new transports of Jews were constantly arriving, making it impossible to pacify the region, evidently because these Jews ended up joining the partisans, too. Therefore, Kube threatened that they would henceforth execute all Jews arriving in unannounced transports, evidently rather than accommodating them. After some back and forth, Kube was made to shut up and accept and accommodate the incoming Jewish transports as “new residents” anyhow.
All this points to a general policy of deportation, resettlement and forced-labor deployment in the East, with a lot of interspersed massacres. Rosenberg must have been aware of the latter.
Rosenberg was apprehended after the war and put on trial at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal as a “major war criminal.” He was charged with ideologically preparing the German people for war and anti-Semitic measures, and with influencing foreign governments to become pro-National Socialist, among other things. In the context of the Holocaust, the various letters from his office and from Kube and Lohse mentioned earlier were introduced as evidence showing that he must have known that Jews were being massacred in the East, and that he agreed with these measures.
Reacting to these accusations, Rosenberg stated on 16 April 1946 (IMT, Vol. 11, p. 502):
“[R]egarding shootings of saboteurs and also shootings of Jews, pogroms by the local population in the Baltic States and in the Ukraine, I took as occurrences of this war. I heard that in Kiev a large number of Jews had been shot, but that the greater part of the Jews had left Kiev; and the sum of these reports showed me, it is true, terrible harshness, especially some reports from the prison camps.
But that there was an order for the individual annihilation of the entire Jewry, I could not assume; and if, in our polemics, the extermination of Jewry was also talked about, I must say that this word [extermination], of course, must make a frightful impression in view of the testimonies we think are available now. But under conditions prevailing then, it was not interpreted as an individual extermination, as an individual annihilation of millions of Jews. I must also say that even the British Prime Minister, in an official speech in the House of Commons on 23 or 26 September 1943, spoke of the extermination in root and branch of Prussianism and of National Socialism. I happened to read these words from this speech. However, I did not assume that in saying this he meant the shooting of all Prussian officers and National Socialists.”
Thus, he clearly distinguished between the “extermination” of a collective (Jewry) in terms of disbanding it, and the murder (“individual annihilation”) of a person or persons; the former does not entail the latter.
When cross-examined the next day, a lengthy exchange between him and U.S. Prosecutor Thomas Dodd ensued, during which Rosenberg again insisted that destroying a concept or ideology – Jewry – does not equate with murdering all Jews (ibid., pp. 553-556).
While admitting massacres in the east, Rosenberg kept insisting that wholesale systematic slaughter in extermination facilities specifically built for this purpose had been inconceivable to him (ibid., p. 515):
“[…W]hat has been testified to here the other day [by Rudolf Höss about Auschwitz on 15 April, one day earlier], I considered simply impossible and I would not have believed it even if Heinrich Himmler himself had related it to me. There are things which, even to me, appear beyond the humanly possible.”
In a “closing statement” written in Nuremberg on 31 August 1946, Rosenberg stated:
“The thought of a physical extermination of Slavs and Jews, i.e. the actual genocide, never crossed my mind, let alone that I propagated it in any way. I was of the opinion that the existing Jewish question had to be solved by creating minority rights, emigration or by settling the Jews in a national territory over a period of decades.”
Prolific as Rosenberg was, he put ink on paper even while imprisoned in Nuremberg. In a typescript he wrote, among other things:
“I did not consider a literal interpretation of the expression ‘annihilation’ or ‘extermination’ to be humanly possible. I took the shootings in the East, of which I had been informed, as a necessary measure in the suppression of communist resistance, and also as local violations without assuming a really deliberate Fuehrer order. Reports from the Moscow radio station I put aside as propaganda.”
Unsurprisingly, all this explanation came to naught in a trial that had a foregone conclusion. Rosenberg was found guilty, sentenced to death, and hanged in 1946. He was 53 years of age, and left behind a wife and young daughter.
Following his execution, the U.S. government took possession of many of Rosenberg’s personal items, including a series of some 400 individual sheets marked “handwritten diary notes,” covering the years 1934 to 1944. This “diary” remained filed away until 2012, when the US Holocaust Memorial Museum acquired the originals and made them public. Notably, the diary itself remains untranslated into English. One can review the hand-written originals online, or read commentary on them in English, but no full transcription in English (or any language) exists. This is almost certainly because these notes provide no substantiation for the conventional Holocaust story, and indeed have almost no reference to Jews at all. Undoubtedly, the Holocaust orthodoxy was sorely disappointed by the contents, and have sought to limit the damage to their own preferred view of events.