- The Political Diary of Alfred Rosenberg and the Onset of the Holocaust ed. by Jürgen Matthäus and Frank Bajohr
Under the auspices of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Jürgen Matthäus and Frank Bajohr have produced the most complete version yet of the diary of Alfred Rosenberg, one of Adolf Hitler’s closest associates. After lengthy efforts to recover the diary from the estate of Robert Kempner, a German-Jewish emigré who participated in the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, it has appeared in German, English, Spanish, French, and Polish, with other editions yet to come. The editors suggest that additional diary entries may yet be discovered. Still, in their view what we have now challenges previous scholarly assessments that—despite Rosenberg’s execution for war crimes—emphasized his marginality. The diary and supporting documents that the editors provide (excerpts from Rosenberg’s publications and correspondence) suggest that Rosenberg’s place in the Third Reich was more important than previously acknowledged.
Rosenberg’s contributions began during the Nazi movement’s earliest days in Munich. An embittered Baltic German refugee and a prolific writer and journalist, Rosenberg attributed the Bolshevik and the German revolutions to the Jews, the same obsession that underpinned Hitler’s world view. Rosenberg’s Traces of the Jew through the Ages (1920) and The Myth of the Twentieth Century (1930) posited a life-and-death struggle between the “Aryan” and Jewish “races” in which Germany’s future and Europe’s demanded the global enemy’s annihilation. In the late twenties, Rosenberg become the Nazi Party’s principal international affairs authority, allowing him to challenge Jewish “influence” directly, especially that which the Nazis identified with the Soviet Union. He became the first to advocate a German-British rapprochement to check “Jewish Bolshevism,” a principle that Hitler adopted in his unpublished “Second Book” and pursued from the Nazi takeover up to the conclusion of the Nazi-Soviet Pact.
Most important, Rosenberg assumed considerable executive powers following the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. In addition to forming the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), the most successful Nazi effort to plunder Jewish cultural and personal property, Rosenberg became chief of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories, the civil administration directing the “pacification” and exploitation of [End Page 532] lands designated as future German Lebensraum. The programs Rosenberg oversaw in the Baltics, Belorussia, and the Ukraine became his most lethal contribution, bringing together central and local decisions that radicalized German violence against civilian populations and accelerated in particular the extermination of the Jews.
Rosenberg’s fealty to the Führer repeatedly shines through in his diary, be it in his gratitude for the latter’s birthday gift in 1938 (“a finer recognition of my nineteen-year struggle at the side of the Führer was unimaginable”; p. 133) to his dismay at the Hitler-Stalin Pact (which he attributed to Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop’s hostility to Anglo-German rapprochement; pp. 156–57). Personality and policy clashes abound in Rosenberg’s notes, from his resentment of Goebbels’s encroachments on his political fiefdoms, to his jurisdictional battles with Himmler in the East. Despite the in-fighting, all leaders adhered to Nazism’s central goals of Lebensraum and the elimination of “world Jewry.” Although Rosenberg at times criticized the gratuitous brutality of the occupation, his assent to Nazism’s core objectives—indeed, he helped define them—outweighed the occasional reservation.
Rosenberg’s interactions with Himmler clarify the above point. In his entry of April 20, 1941, as the planning for Barbarossa developed, Rosenberg complained of Himmler’s demand that the SS remain independent of Rosenberg’s proposed civil administration, which would limit Rosenberg to an “advisory” role. “I have not worked on a problem for 20 years in order to ‘advise’ Herr Himmler, who has not had...