“Between 1936 and 1944, one Nazi mastermind kept a secret journal detailing his life in the corridors of power.”
ALFRED ROSENBERG was a true believer.
Remembered as the “chief philosopher” of the Third Reich, the Estonian-born National Socialist was member of Adolf Hitler’s early inner circle and helped author some of the party’s most notorious policies. Rosenberg’s fingerprints are on everything from the movement’s notions of Aryan supremacy and the concept of Lebensraum or “Living Space” to its pathological hatred of Jews.
And as Hitler rose to power, so too did Rosenberg.
Following the 1933 Nazi take-over of Germany, the 36-year-old intellectual helped run Germany’s foreign ministry and eventually headed up the Reich’s department of ideological education, an agency that would be known as the “Rosenberg Office”. Later, he became chief administrator of Germany’s occupied territories in the Soviet Union. As a Reichsleiter or “national leader”, he was equal in rank with such regime luminaries as Martin Bormann, Joseph Goebbels, Rudolf Hess and Heinrich Himmler.
A prolific writer, Rosenberg was editor of the official Nazi party newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, and would go on to produce 13 books. His best-selling Myth of the Twentieth Century sold a staggering 1 million copies and eventually became the most popular publication in the Third Reich after Hitler’s own Mein Kampf. In it, the self-described “pagan” railed against everything from Jews and Bolshevism to Christianity and Liberal Democracy.
The Devil’s Diary
Interestingly, Rosenberg penned another book, although this one was not for publication.
Between 1936 and 1944, the Nazi mastermind kept a secret journal detailing his life in the corridors of power. In addition to chronicling his political machinations, the book’s 425 hand-written pages contain glimpses into Rosenberg’s twisted racial hatreds, his views on the the conduct of the war and his petty rivalries with party insiders. He even recounts his frequent one-on-one meetings with his infamous boss.
One of only three diaries known to have been kept by top Nazi officials (the others were from Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels and Hans Frank, the governor-general of occupied Poland), Rosenberg’s ramblings was a veritable treasure-trove of evidence for the Allied prosecutors at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.
Lost and Found
While excerpts of Rosenberg’s log were read into the record during the famous proceedings, the original pages mysteriously vanished after the author went to the gallows in 1946. Amazingly, they turned up in Lewiston, N.Y. in late 2013.
A new book by New York Times bestselling author Robert K. Wittman and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Kinney entitled The Devil’s Diary charts the long search to track down the lost journal, as well as the remarkable story of how it was finally recovered.
Today, the property of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., Rosenberg’s writings are free to view online. In the meantime, the publishers of The Devil’s Diary have compiled excerpts from the memoirs that reveal the dark inner thoughts of one of the Third Reich’s most eccentric minds. Here is a selection:
While Rosenberg often denounced Europe’s Jews in his published works, he ranted and raved against them in private as well. In a section from 1936, he writes:
“Again and again, I am swept up in a rage when I think about what these parasitic people have done to Germany. But at least I have one gratification: to have done my bit in the exposure of this treachery.”
The theme continues in another entry:
“We will and can no longer endure to see the greasy fingers of Jewish high finance meddle once again in the interests of Germany or other peoples of Europe.”
And some of his passages have ominous implications:
“We are unanimously convinced that the Jewish question will only be resolved for Europe when there is no longer a Jew on the continent and when the consequences of Jewish influence are eliminated intellectually and culturally.”
Rosenberg’s religious hatreds extended to Christianity as well, which he roundly condemned for its connection with Judaism. A devotee of Nordic paganism, he once recorded a discussion with Hitler in which both he and the Fuhrer mused: “The time has arrived for the Christian poison to face its end.”
Rosenberg relished his appointment to the position as administrator of occupied Soviet territory. He viewed the post as a means to eradicate what he saw as the intolerable ideology of Marxism.
“Twenty years of anti-Bolshevist work will now have their political, world-historical consequence. [The fate of] millions… will be placed in my hands. What does it matter if millions of others will curse the enforcement of this necessity, if only a future great Germany blesses these deeds in the future!”
On Great Britain…
Even as many in early-wartime Germany hoped to cow Britain to the peace table, Rosenberg sought to see the U.K. obliterated.
“If England survives this intact, she will once again mobilize Russia against us. If Churchill wants to destroy Germany along with removing ‘Hitlerism’, then we must bring about the downfall of Great Britain.”
On his Third Reich colleagues…
Rosenberg’s hostility wasn’t confined to the enemies of the Nazi state; he frequently confided his dislike for a number of fellow party elites.
For example, Rosenberg dismissed Goebbels as a light-weight.
“[He’s] a man who plays a minister,” he wrote, adding that the regime’s loathsome chief spin doctor relies on “fairy tales and lying propaganda and vaudeville performances” to seduce the German people.
According to Rosenberg, Germany’s top diplomat, Joachim von Ribbentrop, was a “joke of world history” who was hopeless on the international stage.
“It was so fantastic, so far outside the realm of political possibilities, that we were speechless at first,” Rosenberg confided after learning of Hess’ flight to Scotland. “[He] had been living in an unreal world. This otherworldly fantasy… will someday be the basis for a future playwright’s historical tragicomedy.”
On the plundering of Europe’s art treasures…
As one of the Third Reich’s pre-eminent culture warriors, Rosenberg headed up a five-year campaign to confiscate the artistic artifacts of Europe. Despite commanding what he described as a “laughably small” unit, his Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) managed to make off with 1.4 million railroad cars worth of treasures from the continent’s museums, galleries and private collections.
“It is amazing the valuables from all over Europe have been secured here. The most precious works of literature, manuscripts by Diderot, letters by Verdi, Rossini, Napoleon III, etc. And of course, all the inflammatory Jewish and Jesuit literature against us.”
On the war itself…
Rosenberg never yielded in his conviction that the war was forced upon an unwilling Germany and that the real aggressors were the Jews. He writes as much here in a March, 1942 entry:
“We know that many thousands have now recognized the true initiator of the Second World War, that particularly in England and the United States there are many men and women who have comprehended the full calamity. They have seen that from the blood of the sacrificed American and British soldiers, the Jews have made millions of transactions in their stock exchanges. We are convinced that the eyes of these peoples will one day be opened, and that they will shake of the yoke of this tyranny.”
(With files from Harper Collins)