"Today is a great day in German history. Denmark and Norway are occupied." Alfred Rosenberg.

"Today is a great day in German history. Denmark and Norway are occupied." Alfred Rosenberg.

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The diaries: Quisling sealed Denmark's WWII fate

Alfred Rosenberg, the leading Nazi ideologue, kept a diary. The diary, which had been lost for years, has been found and published by the Holocaust Museum in Washington. The 425 pages of a handwritten diary provide a unique insight into decisive historical events. As the first newspaper in the world, Politiken has studied the Rosenberg manuscripts.

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By Peter Wivel, Europe Correspondent, Brussels.

The decision to occupy Denmark was taken at a meeting in Berlin on December 17, 1939 – three and a half months after World War II broke out and almost four months before German troops invaded the country on April 9, 1940. A series of personal meetings between Norway’s Fascist politician Vidkun Quisling and Adolf Hitler led to the decision.

Quisling was adamant that Hitler should deny Britain access to the northern Norwegian town of Narvik, and thus be able to control a Norway rich in raw materials. Quisling himself planned to lead a political coup and open Norway up for German naval bases.

The Quisling-Hitler meetings were arranged by Alfred Rosenberg, the German Nazi party’s chief ideologue and one of Hitler’s closest personal advisers. For the first time ever, Rosenberg’s diary was made public this week by the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. As the first newspaper, Politiken is able to publish central parts of the diaries for its readers.

In the diaries, Rosenberg says that Quisling also handed Hitler a memorandum in which he made it clear that the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland – all of which were part of the Danish realm at the time – were of extreme strategic importance for Germany, and that Denmark should be part of the northern German offensive that Quisling was demanding.

Hitler objected on several occasions, saying that his wish was for the Nordic countries to remain neutral. His objections, however, did not convince his guest. Rosenberg’s diary describes the exchange as follows:

Hitler: “State Counsellor Quisling. In asking me for help, you must be aware that England will declare war on you.”

Quisling: “Yes, I know and expect it to affect Norwegian trade for a time,” the diary says, adding that Quisling went on to say: “Chancellor. Do I understand that you are willing to help us?” - whereupon Hitler replied:”Yes, I am”.

Quisling understood the repercussions of his request. There was no greater supporter of his mission than Rosenberg, who was represented at the meetings by his right hand man Hans-Wilhelm Schmidt. Rosenberg was unable to take part in the meetings as he had sprained his foot. He did, however, host Quisling at his Berlin home after the meetings.

Rosenberg the ideologue dreamt of creating a Germanic racial community between the German and Nordic peoples. “I feel that there is a destiny here,” Rosenberg writes following Quisling’s meeting with Hitler.

“We shook hands and planned to see each other again when the operation was successful and Quisling is Norway’s prime minister,” he adds in his diary.

A pure racist
Alfred Rosenberg was a key person in the invasions of Denmark and Norway. Since Hitler’s takeover in 1933, he had been in charge of the Nazi Party’s Foreign Policy Office and had been given special responsibility for Scandinavia.

A racist through and through, Rosenberg felt a special affinity with the Nordic countries and considered us to be closely related to the German people. He told Hitler that he hoped “the Scandinavians will soon clean themselves of the democratic mire and emerge as a core people of the old Germanic type”.

On February 19, 1940 Rosenberg writes that Hitler’s wish for Nordic neutrality has failed. On April 9, 1940, when Germany occupied Denmark and began its war against Norway, he writes:

“Today is a great day in German history. Denmark and Norway are occupied. I congratulate the Führer on an event that I have also been instrumental in preparing”; to which Hitler replies: “Just as Bismarck’s Reich appeared in 1866, the Great German Reich will be the result of today”. Rosenberg believed that the occupation of Norway would decide the war, as it pointed to Great Britain like a gun barrel.

The Rosenberg diaries from 1936 to 1944 were referred to, with parts of them read aloud, during the 1945-1946 Nuremberg War Crime Trials against senior members of the Nazi regime, including Rosenberg.

But this is the first time that the complete work has been published and made available for study. Equally, the account of Quisling’s meetings with Hitler have not previously been available according to History Professor Hans Frederik Dahl, the author of the international standard work on Vidkun Quisling.

The invasion of Denmark and Norway come as a great relief to Rosenberg, who a year previously had experienced the darkest day of his life. On August 24, 1939 Hitler and the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin signed a non-aggression pact. The pact between Nazism and Communism marked the preface to World War II.

“That embrace is more than just embarrassing,” Rosenberg says, summoning up all of his courage in his diary. “I have a feeling that in some way this Moscow pact will take its revenge on National Socialism.”

Rosenberg grew up as part of the German minority in Russia. He hated the Russians, he hated Catholics and in particular he hated Jews. Anti-Semitism was imbued in him from an early age in the nationalist circles of St. Petersburg prior to the 1917 revolution, an upbringing that marked the German autodidact’s view of the world. Russia had been stunned by violent pogroms against the Jews.


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Rosenberg felt that the German races, in an alliance with the ‘diluted’ but nonetheless related peoples of the East, naturally belonged together and had the same goals – to master all of Europe – if not even more than that.

Such were the thoughts, coupled with Rosenberg’s Russian origins, that made him the obvious choice for the job that the Führer gave him on March 28, 1940. It was here that the secret plan for the invasion of the Soviet Union began to take shape.

Rosenberg was to be minister for the occupied Eastern areas and head of racist indoctrination and ethnic cleansing. “Rosenberg, your hour of greatness has arrived,” he quotes Hitler as saying in his diary.

“A definitive day in history”
Rosenberg could hardly believe his good luck. Sorrow turned to happiness. Hitler has put the destiny of millions of people in his hand, he writes. “Never mind that other millions will curse carrying out what is necessary. It matters not, as long as these actions can bless the Greater Germany that will come”.

Rosenberg adds: “For centuries to come, the German people will be free of the monstrous pressure of 170 million. Today, that is one of the biggest political tasks”. When the invasion of the Soviet Union began on June 22, 1941, Rosenberg calls it “a definitive day in history”. He was certainly right there.

The invasion saw the beginning of first part of the holocaust. Einsatzgruppen or task forces murdered 1½ million of a total of 6 million Jews who paid for Rosenberg’s racial theories with their lives. The four years of war in the Soviet Union alone cost upwards of 25 million people their lives.

But neither the genocide of Jews, nor the vast massacres of the Russian population and soldiers, are mentioned at all in the diaries.

With his extensively promulgated anti-Semitism and general racial ideology as a senior figure in the Nazi hierarchy, Rosenberg was able to lend formidable political and administrative power to the practical execution of the genocide in the East. His monumental silence in his diaries betrays the fact that he fully recognised his responsibility for one of history’s worst atrocities.

Instead, he speaks surreptitiously of the ‘harsh implementation’ of the project, or that “German blood” using every means creates a new “independence”. The inverted commas here are Rosenberg’s own , suggesting that the Eastern Europeans and Russians will never be independent again.

When, contrary to expectations, Russia resists on September 12, 1941, Rosenberg promises that “Germany will let Central Europe’s Jews pay the price”. “The laws of history are harsh,” he adds.

But the war does not go as Hitler and Rosenberg had wanted. He used the opportunity of the defeat at Stalingrad in January 1943 to put forward pathetic views about German courage, as destructive allied bombardments of German cities, and particularly Berlin, increasingly dominate his attention. Finally he is bombed out of his own home in Dahlem, south of the centre of Berlin.

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During a dinner with Hitler, the two discuss lighter issues. The Führer is happy with the fact that his purchases of French 18th century art are well-protected in a mine – although the damp could be a problem.

Rosenberg also concludes that it is the others that have failed. If the armed forces and the SS had just followed his orders and collected the “Caucasian” races in the southern Soviet Union under German leadership, Germany would not have suffered Stalingrad. He is sure that the course of history would have been different.

Adolf Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945. Alfred Rosenberg’s Norwegian friend Vidkun Quisling was executed by firing squad at Akershus in Oslo on October 24, 1945. Rosenberg himself was hanged as a war criminal in Nuremburg on October 16, 1946.

Translated by Julian Isherwood



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