The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
4th April to 15th April, 1946

One Hundred and Eighth Day: Monday, 15th April, 1946
(Part 9 of 10)

[DR. THOMA continues his direct examination of Alfred Rosenberg]

[Page 379]

Q. You mentioned Germany as your intellectual home. Will you tell the Tribunal through which studies and by which scientists you were influenced in favour of Germany?

A. In addition to my immediate artistic interest in architecture and painting, I had since childhood pursued historical and philosophical studies and thus, of course, I felt compelled to read Goethe, Herder and Fichte in order to develop intellectually along these lines. At the same time, I was influenced by the social ideas of Charles Dickens, Carlyle, and Emerson. I continued these studies at Riga, and, of course, I took up Kant and Schopenhauer, and, above all, I devoted myself to the study of the philosophy of India and similar schools of thought. Later, of course, I studied major European historians of the history of civilisation;

[Page 380]

Burckhardt and Rhode, Ranke and Treitschke, Mominsen and Schlieffen. Finally, in Munich, I started to study modern biology more closely.

Q. You frequently mentioned in the course of your speeches "the embodiment of the idea." Was this due to Goethe's influence?

A. Yes, it is a matter of course that the idea, to see the world as an embodiment, goes back to Goethe.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal, you see, wants you to confine yourself to your own philosophy and not to the origins of these philosophies, in so far as you are referring to philosophical subjects at all.


Q. How did you come to the N.S.D.A.P. and to Hitler in Munich?

A. In May, 1919, the publisher of the journal which I mentioned was visited by a man by the name of Anton Drexler, who introduced himself as the chairman of the newly founded German Labour Party. He stated that he advocated ideas similar to those expressed by this journal, and from that time I began to have connections with a very small group of that party, a group which had been formed in Munich. There, in the autumn of 1919, I also met Hitler.

Q. When did you join Hitler?

A. Well, at that time I had a serious conversation with Hitler, and on that occasion I noticed his broad view of the entire European situation. He said that, in his opinion, Europe was at that time going through a social and political crisis, such as had not been experienced since the fall of the ancient Roman Empire. He said that the seeds of unrest were to be found everywhere in this sphere and that he was personally striving to get a clear picture from the viewpoint of Germany's restoration to sound conditions. Thereupon, I listened to some of the first speeches by Hitler which were made at small meetings of forty and fifty people. I believed, above all, a soldier who had been at the front and who had done his duty silently for four and a half years had the right to speak now.

At the end of 1919, I entered the Party, not before Hitler, as it is contended here, but later. In this original Party I was assigned No. 625 as a member.

I did not participate in setting up the programme. However, I was present when this programme was read publicly and launched by Hitler on 24th February, 1920.

Q. Then you gave a justification of the Party programme and probably you wanted to solve the problems which arose from the social and political crisis. What did you consider was the solution of these problems?

A. In response to different inquiries regarding the twenty- five points of the programme I wrote a commentary at the end of 1922, which has been read to the Tribunal in fragments. Our entire attitude at the time may perhaps be stated briefly as follows:

The technical revolution of the nineteenth century had certain social and spiritual consequences. So-called rationalism and the demand that every activity be profitable (Rentabilitaet) dominated life and created the industrial countries and the metropolitian cities with all their backyards and their estrangement from nature and history.

At the turn of the century many people who were passionately interested in their homeland and its history turned against this one-sided movement. The revival of tradition, folk-song and folk-lore of the past originated with the youth movement of that time. The works of art, e.g. by Professor Schultze- Naumburg and by some poets, were a characteristic protest against this one-sided movement of the times, and it was along these lines that National Socialism attempted to gain a foothold; in full consciousness, though, that it was a modern movement, and not a movement of retrospection. We took ideas from the social movement of Stoecker and the national movement of Schoenerer in Austria without taking the entire movement as a model. I would like to add that the name "National Socialism," I believe, originated in the Sudetenland, and there the small German Labour

[Page 381]

Party was founded under the name of "National Socialist German Labour Party."

Perhaps I may be permitted to state the essential idea which guided us and the reason we called ourselves National Socialists. I believe many terrible things have been mentioned during these three months by the prosecution whilst presenting its case, but nothing has been said about National Socialism. We were, at the time, aware of the fact that there were two hostile camps in Germany and that in both camps millions of decent Germans were fighting each other politically. The problem facing us was the question of what was acceptable in both these camps from the viewpoint of national unity and what it was that prevented the reconciliation of these two camps. In short, at that time as well as later, we told the proletarian side, that even if the class-conflict had been and still was a factor in social and political life, nevertheless as an ideological basis and permanent device it would mean eternal disunity of the nation. Directing a movement of social appeasement or any kind of social conflict by an international centre, was the second decisive obstacle to settling the social conflicts. The call and the desire for social justice of labour as a whole was, however, justified, worthy and necessary. Concerning the bourgeoisie we believed we would be able to establish that, in some cases, the reactionary caste prejudice of privileged circles had worked to the detriment of the people. We considered that the representation of national interests should not be based on privileges of certain classes but, on the contrary, on a national basis; the demand for national unity and dignified representation on the part of the people was the right attitude. This resulted for Hitler in the device ...

THE PRESIDENT (interposing): Dr. Thoma, would you try to confine the witness to the charges which are against him? The charges against the defendants are not that they attempted to reconstruct Germany, but that they developed their form of reconstruction with a view to attacking races and nations outside the Reich.

DR. THOMA: But, in my opinion, we have to devote some time to Rosenberg's train of thought to determine the motives for his actions, but I will now ask him this:


Q. Did you realise that these questions of socialism and the question of labour and capital included some questions which were international questions rather than just national? And why did you fight against democracy, as a matter of international struggle?

MR. DODD: Mr. President, I think this is a continuation of the same line of examination, and I should like to say that no one in the prosecution has made any charge against this defendant for what he has thought. I think we are all, as a matter of principle, opposed to prosecuting any man for what he thinks. And I say with great respect that I feel very confident that is the attitude of this Tribunal. Therefore, we think it is entirely unnecessary to bring out whatever thoughts this defendant had on these subjects, or on any other, for that matter.

DR. THOMA: To my knowledge the defendant is also accused of fighting democracy, and that is why I believe I should put this question to him.

THE PRESIDENT: What is the question?

DR. THOMA: Why he was fighting democracy, why National Socialism and he himself fought against democracy.

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think that has got anything to do with this case. The only question is whether he used National Socialism for the purpose of conducting international offensives.

DR. THOMA: Mr, President, National Socialism as a concept must be resolved into its constituent parts. Since the prosecution maintains that National Socialism was a fight against democracy, a one-sided emphasis on nationalism and a one-sided emphasis on militarism, he must now have the opportunity to say why National Socialism supported militarism and whether that was actually the case.

[Page 382]

National Socialism must be analysed as a concept in order to determine its constituent parts.

THE PRESIDENT: What National Socialism was has already been shown to the Tribunal, and he is not disputing the fact that there was a Fuehrer principle introduced into Germany. There is no question about that, why it was introduced. If it was introduced for solely internal purposes there would be no charge in respect of that. The only charges are that National Socialism was used for the purpose of making aggressive war and perpetrating the other crimes of which we have heard.

DR. THOMA: To my knowledge the charge of waging a war of aggression was preferred because it was a war against democracy based on nationalism and militarism.

THE PRESIDENT (interposing): Democracy outside Germany, not in Germany.


Q. Then I would like to ask the defendant how he will answer the charge that National Socialism preached a master-race.

A. I know that this problem is one of the nuclear points of the Indictment, and I realise that at present, in view of the number of terrible incidents, conclusions are automatically drawn about the past and the reason for the origin of the so-called racial science (Rassenkunde). I believe, however, that it is of decisive importance in judging this problem to know exactly what we were concerned with.

I have never heard the word master-race (Herrenrasse) as often as in this courtroom. To my knowledge I did not mention or use it at all in my writings. I looked through my "Writings and Speeches" again and did not find this word. I spoke of a master-race as mentioned by Homer only once, and I found a quotation from a British author, who, in writing about the life of Lord Kitchener, said the Englishman who had conquered the world had proved himself as a creative superman (Herrenmensch). Then I found the word master-race (Herrenrasse) in a writing of the American ethnologist, Madison Grant, and of the French ethnologist, Lapouge.

I would like to admit, however, and not only to admit, but to emphasise that the word "superman" (Herrenmensch) came to my attention particularly during my activity as Minister in the East; and very unpleasantly when used by a number of leaders of the administration in the East. Perhaps when we come to the question of the East I may return to this subject in detail and state what position I took in regard to these utterances which came to my attention. In principle, however, I was convinced that ethnology was, after all, not an invention of the National Socialist movement but a biological discovery, which was the conclusion of 400 years of European research. The laws of heredity discovered in the 1860s, and rediscovered several decades later, enable us to gain a deeper insight into history than many other earlier theories.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Thoma, the defendant is going back now into the origins of the views which he held. Surely, all we have got to consider here is his statement in speeches and in documents and the use to which he put those statements, not as to whether they were 400 years old or anything of that sort.

DR. THOMA: The defendant just spoke about the racial problem, and I will take the opportunity to speak on the so- called Jewish problem as the final point for this question. I would like to ask the defendant the following question: How was it -

GENERAL RUDENKO: Mr. President, already my colleague, Mr. Dodd, pointed out that the prosecution has submitted to the defendants an accusation stating in concrete terms their crimes. I suppose that the most correct way of carrying on the interrogation of his client on the part of Dr. Thoma would be to pose concrete questions to the charges brought against the defendant. I don't suppose that the Tribunal intends to listen to a lecture on the racial theories, National Socialism or other theories.

DR. THOMA: Mr. President, I shall deal with the individual questions later but since the ideology and the philosophy of the Nazis have been called criminal here,

[Page 383]

I think he should be given some opportunity to state his views. Of course, it would be better and perhaps more appropriate, Herr Rosenberg, if you were a little more brief in some respects.


Q. Now I would like to ask the following question: You believed that the so-called Jewish problem in Europe could only be solved by removing the Jews from the European Continent. At that time you stated it was immaterial whether such a programme was realised in five, ten, or twenty years. It was, after all, merely a matter of transport facilities, and you, at the time, thought, it advisable to put this question before an international committee. How and why did you arrive at this opinion? I mean to say, how, in your opinion, would the departure of the last Jew from Europe solve the problem?

A. In order to comply with the wish of the Tribunal I do not want to give a lengthy exposition of my views as evolved from my study of history. I do not at all mean the study of anti-Semitic writings but of Jewish historians themselves.

It seemed to me that after an epoch of generous emancipation in the course of national movements of the nineteenth century, an essential part of the Jewish nation also remembered its own tradition and its own character and more and more consciously segregated itself from other nations. It was a problem which was being discussed at many international congresses, and in particular, Buber, who was one of the spiritual leaders of European Jewry, declared that the Jews should return to the soil of Asia, for only there could the roots of Jewish blood and of Jewish national character be found.

But my attitude in the political sphere to the Jewish question was due partly to my observations and experience of Jews in Russia and later to my experience of them in Germany, which especially seemed to confirm their strangeness. I could not quite understand how, at the time when the German soldiers returned, they were greeted by a Jewish university professor who said that the German soldiers had died on the field of dishonour. I could not understand that such lack of respect could go so far. If it had been a statement by one single individual, one could have said that the man was crazy, but in the course of fourteen years it became apparent that it was obviously the expression of a definitely different and hostile tendency.

Q. Herr Rosenberg, I believe we should also discuss the fact that opposition was partly due to the contradiction provoked by certain National Socialist newspaper articles.

A. The statements of the opposite side, as they appeared constantly during these fourteen years, had in part already appeared prior to the rise of the National Socialist movement. After all, the incidents of the "Rate-Republic" in Munich and in Hungary took place long before the National Socialist movement could gain influence.

Q. Herr Rosenberg, what do you have to say to the fact that in the First World War 12,000 Jewish soldiers died at the front?

A. Of course I was always conscious of the fact that many Jewish-German citizens were assimilated into the German environment and that in the course of this development many tragic individual cases appeared and that these, of course, deserved consideration. But, on the whole, this did not involve the entire social and political movement, especially since the leading papers of the so-called democratic parties recognised the increase of unemployment in Germany and suggested that Germans should emigrate to the French colonies, to the Argentine and to China. Prominent Jewish people and the chairman of the Democratic Party suggested three times quite openly that in view of the increase of unemployment Germans should be deported to Africa and Asia. After all, during those fourteen years as many Germans were expelled from Poland as there were Jews in Germany and the League of Nations took no effective steps against this violation of the pact in favour of the minorities.

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