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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd July to 15th July 1946

One Hundred and Seventy-Fifth Day: Wednesday, 10th July, 1946
(Part 4 of 5)

[Page 267]

DR. THOMA, Continued:

If one goes to the trouble of looking through the book Myth of the 20th Century, then one sees immediately that though there is some philosophising in the National Socialist way, it would be, however, pure fiction to affirm that there is any dogmatic formulation of a feasible programme in this book or that it is a foundation for the activities of the responsible leaders of the German Reich in this World War. Another mistake of National Socialism was perhaps the boundless unification and simplification: people were made uniform; thinking was made uniform; only one uniform type of German was left. There was also alleged to be only one National Socialist way of thinking, and only one National Socialist ideology. But, in spite of this, as we see today, the leaders were frequently of different opinions in essential questions. I will recall the question of the policy in the East. Here too, there seems to be danger of accepting this way of thinking, of observing everything through the spectacles of uniformity and of saying: One idea, one philosophy, one responsibility, one crime, one punishment. Such a simplification, apart from its primitive nature, would surely also be a great injustice toward the defendant Rosenberg.

Finally, when one hears how the prosecution attacks "German Christianity", the "heathen blood myth", making much of Rosenberg's expression "the Nordic blood is the mystery which has superseded and overpowered the old sacraments," one may close one's eyes for a moment and picture oneself at a session of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages, where they are about to sentence Rosenberg to the stake as a heretic. Yet nothing can be farther from the Tribunal's mind than to harbour thoughts of intolerance, since here, in spite of all attempts by some of the Prosecutors, it is not ideologies but crimes which are being examined.

In the defendant Rosenberg's case, we are examining whether by his teachings he wilfully prepared and instigated crimes. The prosecution has produced arguments to prove this, but has not succeeded, and I can prove the opposite merely by pointing out Rosenberg's activities in the East. Had he been the bearer and apostle of a criminal idea, he would have had an opportunity, such as no criminal has ever had yet in world history, to indulge in criminal activities. I have stated explicitly that in his case it was just the opposite. So when the bearer and apostle of an idea himself has the greatest of opportunities and yet behaves morally, then his teachings cannot be criminal and immoral either. Above all, he cannot then be punished as a criminal on the basis of his teachings. What criminally degenerate persons practised as alleged National Socialism cannot be laid to the charge of Rosenberg. Moreover, Rosenberg's speeches in three volumes,

[Page 268]

which express what he taught in the course of eight years, bear witness to the honourable nature of his endeavours.

Thus, if we give up the false conception of uniformity: One party, one philosophy, one ideology, one crime - we shall have to, in view of the indisputable fact that Rosenberg himself never pursued a policy of extermination, destruction and enslavement in the East - we shall have to admit that the facts of the terrible central executive orders and of Rosenberg's philosophy are not identical, and on these grounds alone the conclusions of the prosecution are invalid.

Karl Marx teaches that historical events and political- social reality are conditioned by the mere casual play of materialistic forces. Whether Marx in addition acknowledges the independent influence of man and ideas on history is at least doubtful. On the other hand, Rosenberg stresses emphatically the influence and the necessity of the highest ideas on the history of peoples. But Rosenberg does not overlook the fact that every event in history is the result of a totality of acting forces. The will, the passions and the intelligence of the people involved work together to form an historical process which cannot be calculated in human terms. It has already been pointed out that, just as little as Voltaire's and Rousseau's ideas can be recognized as the causes of the French Revolution and the slogans of "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity" be taken as the cause of the Jacobin terror, as little as one can say that Mirabeau and Sieze had wanted or plotted such a blood bath, so little can one ascribe to Rosenberg the moral or even criminal guilt for what National Socialism became during its development through the decades. In other words, I believe it is as unjust as it is unhistorical to ascribe today, in retrospect, the negative aspects of National Socialism which were connected with the terrible collapse to a plan which had been desired from the beginning, a plan which was also embodied in Rosenberg's ideas.

Therefore, in considering Rosenberg's work, the mistake of a standardisation which does not correspond to reality is added to the further mistake of mechanisation; there is neither a mechanical man nor mechanical history. And, finally, the construction of the Indictment is also an absolutely negative one; it views the defendant from the standpoint of political polemics, and is influenced by the excitement of people in these most exciting times. I must briefly take exception to this distortion of the defendant's mental traits.

The spiritual state of the period after the First World War, and even of the preceding period which gave birth to the defendant's ideas, are known to all of us only too well: the revolutionary effect upon man of the technical age, his hunger and thirst for a new spirit and a new soul; liberty was the slogan, and a "new beginning" the impulse which directed the will of youth. Its longing and enthusiasm were aimed at nature. The thoughts and wishes of this generation were led into political paths by the contrast between rich and poor, which youth considered unjust and sought to bridge through Socialism and the fellowship of the people. In Germany, the development along political lines was given further impetus by the national misfortune of 1918-1919, and the Treaty of Versailles, which was likewise felt to be unjust. The idea of building German history through the union of Nationalism and Socialism glowed unconsciously in the hearts of millions as the undisputed, tremendous success of National Socialism proves. The psychic foundation was the desire for external and internal self-assertion, and love for one's fellow countrymen and for people in general, who had already had to suffer so much torment and misery in history.

The desire for self-expression and love for one's own people together with the whole system of National Socialist ideas then developed in an inexplicable manner into a furious conflagration. The most primitive considerations of common sense were eliminated just as in a delirium; in complete delusion everything was risked and everything was lost.

The questions of conscience which are put to Rosenberg time and time again are whether he could have done more for what he thought and upheld as just and worthy, where he neglected essential things, where he fell short of requirements,

[Page 269]

what negative symptoms, in so far as he had knowledge of them, he should have paid more attention to. Can such questions, which every person asks when he is crushed by disaster, be considered as evidence for his objective guilt? I do not think so. On 17th January, 1946, the French Chief Prosecutor, M. de Menthon, stated the following which I quote:
"We are, in fact, faced by systematic criminality, which derives directly and of necessity from a monstrous doctrine put into practice with deliberate intent by the masters of Nazi Germany. From National Socialist doctrines there arises directly the immediate preparation of crimes against peace."
To refute this assertion I must briefly present this doctrine. I have classified the National. Socialist ideology - in full accord with scientific opinions - under the so- called New Romanticism. This tendency of the time, which was rooted. in fate and the necessities of history, had traversed the whole civilised world since the turn of the century as a reaction against rationalism and the technical age. It differs from the old romanticism in that it adopts the naturalistic and biological consideration of man and history.

It is borne up by a confident faith in the value and meaning of life and the. whole of reality. It does not glorify feeling and the intellect, but the innermost workings of man - his heart, will, and faith. This philosophy receives its National Socialist stamp through the emphasis which is placed upon the mysterious importance of peoples and races for all human experience and activity. It is in the people, in the common possession of blood, history, and culture that we find the real roots of strength. Only by participating in the movements of a people and its, strength does the individual serve himself and his generation.

Rosenberg's scientific contribution to the racial ideology consists in his description of the rise and fall of great historical figures, who sprang from races and peoples and who set up definite standards in all spheres: language, custom, art, religion, philosophy and politics. According to Rosenberg, the efforts of the twentieth century to establish a form for itself are a struggle for the independence of the human personality. In Rosenberg's opinion, its essence is the consciousness of honour. The myth of national honour is at the same time the myth of blood and race, which produce and support honour in its highest form. Therefore, the struggle for honour in its highest form is also a spiritual struggle with other systems and their maximum values. Thus, intuition stands against intuition, will against will.

Rosenberg expresses this thought in the following manner (Myth of the 20th Century, Introduction, Pages 1 and 2):

"History and the task of the future no longer mean a struggle between classes, no longer a struggle between Church dogma and dogma, but the dispute between blood and blood, race and race people and people. And this means: A struggle between psychic value and psychic value."
Consequently, Rosenberg had, in any case, no ideas of genocide as Raphael Lemkin expounds in Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, Page 81, where he ends the above quotation after the words "race and race, people and people", but he believed in a struggle between psychic value and psychic value, in other words, spiritual controversy.

I mention this spiritual current in order to explain the peculiar fact in National Socialism that political considerations born of the intellect often gave way before the pathos of will and faith. In Rosenberg's case this danger did not appear so. much since in making everything revolve around the "soil", i.e., the Fatherland, and its history and peasantry as the force from which springs the essence of a race, he remains in the sphere of life's realities. Perhaps unaware of it himself; he was, nevertheless borne upwards by this current.

The question arises as to what effects this ideology had, on political life.

It is clear that the emphasis on will and faith gave special weight to political demands. After the Treaty of Versailles, the political demands of Germany were aimed at recovering freedom and equality among the peoples for her great but fettered power. This had been the objective of German statesmen, even,

[Page 270]

before Hitler. The other great powers had certain misgivings about recognising Germany again as a great power. Rosenberg fought to do away with these misgivings. His weapon was his pen. The Tribunal has allowed me to present in evidence a group of excerpts from Rosenberg's speeches and writings. I submitted it in my Document Book 1, Volume 2. In view of the quantity of material and of my intention to submit only the most important matter, I depend on the Tribunal being familiar with my document book.

In the first place, I wish to call attention to the effect which these works had on German youth. I may recall the witness von Schirach's testimony. I repeat verbally;

"At conventions of youth-leaders at which he spoke once a year, Rosenberg chiefly chose educational, character- building subjects. I remember, for instance, that he spoke on loneliness and comradeship, personality and honour and so forth. At these conventions of leaders, he did not deliver any speeches against Jews. As far as I remember, he did not touch on the religious problem of youth either, in any case not to the best of my memory. Mostly I heard him talk on such subjects as I have just mentioned above."
The attitude of youth was actually better than before the taking over of power. Idleness, the root of all evil, had ceased and had been replaced by work, the fulfilment of duty, the aiming at ideals, patriotism and the will to get ahead. It was a fatality here, too, that through Hitler's policy these values were used in the wrong manner.

The charges by the prosecution that Rosenberg was the advocate of a conspiracy against peace, of racial hatred, for the elimination of human rights, of tyranny, a rule of horror, violence, and illegality, of a wild nationalism and militarism, of a German master race, I could already refute by pointing to the excerpts from the Myth of the 20th Century which the prosecution itself has submitted as evidence for the truth of its assertions. In reply to this, in order to refute this assertion by the prosecution, I want to point in particular to the following facts:

To prove Rosenberg's honest struggle for the peaceful existence of nations side by side, I wish to refer to his speech in Rome in November, 1932, before the Royal Academy of Rome (printed in Blood and Honour, Document Book I, Page 150). In his speech in Rome, Rosenberg pointed to the fateful significance of the four great powers and proclaimed - I quote his words:

"Therefore he who strives in earnest to create a Europe which shall be an organic unit with a pronounced multiplicity of form and not merely a crude summation, must acknowledge the four great nationalisms as given to us by fate and must, therefore, seek to give fulfilment to the force radiating from their core. The destruction of one of these centres by any power would not result in a 'Europe', but would bring about chaos in which the other centres of culture would also have to perish. In reverse, it is only the triumph of the radiations in those directions where the four great forces do not come into conflict with each other which would result in the most dynamic force of creative being and organic peace, not an explosive forced situation such as prevails today; but it would then guarantee the small nations more security than appears possible today in the struggle against elementary force."
To this line of thought, Rosenberg, as chief of the Foreign Office of the Party, remained faithful. Unfortunately, he could only work for it through his words, No witness could confirm in this courtroom that Rosenberg had any influence on actual foreign policy; whether it was directed by Neurath, Ribbentrop, Goering or Hitler himself. Neither in the Austrian, nor in the Czech, nor in the Polish nor in the Russian case has his name been mentioned in connection with the charge of participation in aggressive wars. Everywhere he was confronted, with accomplished facts. In the war against the Soviet Union, he received his orders only when the war against Russia had already been declared to be an acute possibility lie did not stir up the Norwegian campaign, but passed on personal information in accordance with his duty.

[Page 271]

Now, as regards Rosenberg's speeches and writings on the problems of general foreign policy, he advocated the Anschluss of the Austrians who had been forcibly excluded from the Reich as a demand born of the right to self- determination which had been proclaimed by the Allies themselves. The revision of Versailles was a postulate of justice against a violation of the treaty of 11th November, 1918. To advocate a German Wehrmacht was; in view of the non- disarmament of the other powers, a defence of the solemnly promised equality of rights.

I shall now take up the charge of racial hatred.

Rosenberg's opinions in regard to the race question were the result of racial research of international scientists. Rosenberg repeatedly asserts (I refer again to the opinion stated in Document Book I, Volume 2) that the purpose of his racial political demands was not contempt of race, but respect for it.

"The leading moral idea of an approach to world history based on the laws of heredity belongs to our times and to our generation, being in full accord with the true spirit of the modern eugenics movement in regard to patriotism, i.e., the upholding and expansion of the spiritually, morally, intellectually and physically best hereditary forces for our Fatherland: only in this way can we preserve our institutions for all future times."
These words embody the main theme of his demands, though their originator was not Rosenberg, but Henry Fairfield Osborn, Professor at Columbia University, who wrote them about the work of his colleague in science, Madis Grant: The Decline of the Great Race. This research led long before the existence of the Third Reich to eugenic legislation in other countries, in particular to the American immigration law of 26th May, 1924, which was aimed at a strong reduction of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe while favouring those from the north and west of Europe.

I think I do not have to say that I am not hereby defending the murders of those mentally ill in Germany as an alleged eugenic measure, etc. With this measure, too, Rosenberg did not have the slightest connection.

For Rosenberg it was a question of the spiritual strengthening and consolidation of the German nation, indeed of the Aryan race. He would like to have his ideology considered in that light, above all his Myth of the 20th Century. His preaching of the significance of race in history did not call - I stress it again - for race contempt, but for consideration and respect of the race, and demanded the acknowledgement of the racial idea only by the German people, and not by other nations. He considered the Aryan nations as the leading ones in history. And if in doing so he underestimated the significance of other races, as for instance tile Semitic ones, he, in his praise of Aryan races, did not think of the German nation alone, but of the European nations in general. I refer to his speech in Rome of November, 1932.

I am keeping within the limits of historical truth in pointing to the fact that anti-Judaism is not an invention of National Socialism. For thousands of years the Jewish question has been the minority problem of the world. It has an irrational character which can be understood to some extent only with regard to the Bible. Rosenberg was a convinced anti-Semite, who in writing and speech gave expression to his conventions and their cause. I have already emphasized that even such different personalities as von Papen, von Neurath and Raeder still are of the opinion that the predominance of the Jewish element in the entire public life had reached such proportions that a change had to come in this respect. The concrete result of that predominance and the fact that the Jews in Germany, when attacked, knew how to repay in kind, sharpened the anti- Semitic fight before the accession to power.

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