Alfred Rosenberg didn’t believe in gas vans

by Der Stürmer


On November 5, 1945, just over a fortnight before the International Military Tribunal commenced, Alfred Rosenberg was interrogated at Nuremberg by the Soviet Major General Alexandrov. They had the following exchange:

ALEXANDROV: How about the mass extermination of thousands of innocent people, for instance, Jews in the Ghettoes of Warsaw and other cities. Did you hear about such things; did you hear about the gas vans?

ROSENBERG: I have heard about them but I don’t believe it.

ALEXANDROV: But it is a fact. We have documents which prove that all this was done. We also have people that are still alive who witnessed these atrocities. There is no question but that these things are true. How do you feel about them?

ROSENBERG: I would assume that in such a gigantic struggle there would be many victims but I still don’t believe this part where you allege to prove that deliberate mass extermination was practiced in this manner. I did, of course, know that in connection with our struggle there were many executions. I did not know anything about mass extermination to the extent and in the manner as you say.

ALEXANDROV: We could prove all this to you.

ROSENBERG: When we marched into Riga I was told that there had been a torture chamber of your MKVD.

ALEXANDROV: That is not true, but we have at our disposal documents of the German Police which show that the most bestial measures were applied against the people in the East.

ROSENBERG: Did you, General, ever see a report on Winnitza? It deals with a great number of executions. This matter was investigated by experts from neutral countries; thousands of dead Ukranians [sic] were found and many of those were identified by their relatives.

ALEXANDROV: Who killed them?

ROSENBERG: The Soviet Police.

ALEXANDROV:  The German authorities always tried to make the German crimes appear as though they were Soviet crimes. I have here another order in which the Fuehrer gave the following instructions. In this directive the Fuehrer approves of the most cruel methods, including the killing of children if used to cover the partisans. In such cases German officers and non—commissioned officers should be permitted to open fire against such women and children and should not have to be afraid of subsequent punishment. Such instructions were issued by the Fuehrer. I am going to tell you now what Jodl’s reply was in that conference. “There is no question that our troops may do whatever they wish; if necessary, they may hang people by their feet or cut them in four.” What do you think of these things?

ROSENBERG: I must say that setting afire houses with women and children in them–that was what partisans did many times in their fight against us–it is nothing extraordinary.

ALEXANDROV: We are not talking about partisans; the partisans were active in the German rear–but here you were in control–the German Government was controlling these territorities?

ROSENBERG: Where we were in control no such incidents happened, but such things did happen where the partisans were active.

Interrogation of Alfred Rosenberg, conducted by Major General Alexandrov, Nuremberg, Nov 5, 1945, pp. 16-18.

In an earlier interrogation, on September 22, 1945, future Nuremberg prosecutor Colonel John Amen had asked Rosenberg whether Germans who had worked in the concentration camps were justified in claiming they were merely following orders when carrying-out Hitler’s inhumane orders, when they had known his orders were unlawful. Rosenberg replied:

I think that such orders for inhuman conduct in concentration camps could not ever have been given, […] My personal opinion is that such inhuman things ought not and could not have been ordered.

Interrogation of Alfred Rosenberg, conducted by Thomas S. Hinkel and John Amen, Nuremberg, 1100-1200, Sept. 22, 1945, p. 7.

Later the same day, Rosenberg claimed that he’d heard that “some Jews” had been shot by the German police in the occupied territories; that he knew nothing nor had put no effort into discovering what went on in Himmler’s concentration camps, and had the following exchange with American Colonel Thomas S. Hinkel:

HINKEL: You knew it was Himmler’s policy to exterminate the Jews, didn’t you?

ROSENBERG: In this shape or manner, I did not believe it until the end.

HINKEL: You had been informed of that, had you not?

ROSENBERG: No; I was not.

HINKEL: Everybody else seems to have known it. Why didn’t you know about it?

ROSENBERG: I learned about it the first time by the radio which mentioned and cited speeches of Jews abroad.

HINKEL: Didn’t you receive the Hitler order, wherein Himmler was appointed the person in charge of Jewish affairs?

ROSENBERG: No; I haven’t seen it, but I have been told of it.

HINKEL: And when were you told about it?

ROSENBERG: In the ’30s.

HINKEL: You knew what Himmler’s policy was towards the Jews?

ROSENBERG: Well, those things must hove become rather acute during the war because before the war such things didn’t happen. Himmler only mentioned once that he had to drive away the Jews from Dusseldorf, and that they were in a camp where in about a fortnight they set up a cabaret.

Interrogation of Alfred Rosenberg, conducted by Thomas S. Hinkel, Nuremberg, 1415-1800, Sept. 22, 1945, p. 24.

Rosenberg denied he’d had knowledge of the alleged plan to kill all of Europe’s Jews throughout the Nuremberg trial:

DR. HAENSEL: Do you know that the SS, as far as the Jews were concerned, followed secret aims and objectives, others than those that were published officially?

ROSENBERG: That I learned here.

DR. HAENSEL: You do not know that from your own knowledge?


IMT, vol. 11, p. 528.