Memo for the controversial bloggers, part IIIb: Ausrottung and back to Rosenberg, with a cameo by Julius Streicher

Just like Vernichtung, Ausrottung has a long history of non-homicidal use. In the Luther Bible translation of Genesis 17.14, it is commanded that the uncircumcised be ausgerottet, with the meaning that they be removed from the people, or exiled. In 1816, an author going by the name of Fürchtegott Leberecht Christlieb considered Ob wir die Juden ausrotten sollen (whether we should ausrotten the Jews) – a question which he answered in the negative. He stated that an Ausrottung could be achieved in either of two ways. The first, harder way was to round up the Jews and kill them all – a possibility which he expressed with the highly explicit verbs niederschießen, totschlagen, and ersaufen. The second, milder way was to round up the Jews, take them to the border, drive them across it and force back any who dared to return.[59] In short, his milder form of Ausrottung was simply forcible expulsion. While Christlieb rejected even this milder form of Ausrottung, dwelling on the suffering it would cause, he understood that Ausrottung does not imply killing, and that expulsion is a form of Ausrottung.

Nor was it only authors who, like Christlieb, opposed harsh measures against the Jews that understood Ausrottung as including expulsion. Writers who opposed the Jews in the strongest of terms also distinguished between Ausrottung and killing. For example, Hartwig von Hundt-Radowsky, author of Judenspiegel, whose final chapter Betrachtungen über Verbesserung, Ausrottung und Vertreibung der Juden ultimately advises (despite its aggressive rhetoric) against killing the Jews, lays out a plan whereby Napoleon Bonaparte should return from Saint Helena, become King of the Jews, and lead them (armed with 1000 canons and transported to Palestine) in war against the Turks, in which campaign with any luck they would be vertilgt, although plainly Hundt-Radowsky did not envision the realization of this hope, as he set out observations on and plans for Napoleon’s future Jewish Reich.[60] Despite his strongly anti-Jewish position, Hundt-Radowsky used the word Ausrottung in a sense that did not imply killing.[61] One can also find Ausrottung used non-homicidally in late 19th century authors critical of the Jews.[62] Ausmerzung, also used by Rosenberg, found similar usage.[63] Jewish organizations spoke of Ausrottung already in the 1930s, just as they spoke of Vernichtung. This can be seen in the book Der Gelbe Fleck, whose subtitle spoke of the Ausrottung of 500,000 German Jews,[64] and in the words attributed to a 1936 speech of Julius Streicher.[65] Compounds with Ausrottung can also take a range of meanings . For example, in Mein Kampf Hitler mentions that the SA was accused by political opponents of waging an Ausrottungskrieg against the “peaceful workers”.[66] Clearly this did not mean that the SA was accused of having started killing off all the German workers. It does, however, show how easily words like Ausrottung can be used when employing a language of conflict. Such language was part and parcel of typical NSDAP rhetoric, likely having its source partly in the party’s origins in street politics, as well as the long tradition of usages of words like Vernichtung and Ausrottung already alluded to. Given the usages listed above, it’s easy to see why the US Government official Landreth M. Harrison understood that Ausrottung need not mean killing, and believed that Jewish reports of mass gassing could have derived from their mistranslations of such words.[67]

Returning to Alfred Rosenberg, whose words offered Harrison an opportunity to theorize about Hitler’s supposed decision to kill all the Jews, we know that while Rosenberg was quite ready to discuss the reality of anti-Jewish measures, he was unaware of an extermination in the sense in which Harrison believes it occurred. In a postwar interrogation, he stated that

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.[68]

During the IMT, Rosenberg maintained this position and – with reference to the very document on which Harrison grounded his belief in an extermination decision – made a creditable attempt to explain “the various meanings ‘Ausrottung’ may have in the German language”, though his sincere explanation made little impact in the face of the deliberate thickheadedness of his interlocutor.[69] Nor was Rosenberg the only defendant at the IMT to address this question. Julius Streicher also explained at the IMT that the interpretation of Vernichtung and Ausrottung depends on the context, and that the words do not necessarily mean killing.[70]

Rosenberg’s diary, rediscovered in 2013, fully confirms his postwar statements. As the holocaust establishment was forced to admit, the diary contains no reference whatsoever to a German plan or practice of killing off all the Jews.[71] Rosenberg did not hesitate to record a meeting concerned with specific killings of Jews by the Lithuanians,[72] and also felt free to allude to his frustration at opposition to the euthanasia program from the Churches.[73] Despite this openness, he says nothing about the supposed extermination of the Jews. Furthermore, Rosenberg mentions a proposal that would have put Ukrainians on the same level as Jews and Gypsies.[74] According to the interpretations of holocaust controversies, this means that there was a German proposal to exterminate the Ukrainians. Does Harrison believe that such a proposal existed, and if not how does he explain this diary entry?


[59] Fürchtegott Leberecht Christlieb (pseud?), Warum versagt ihr den Juden das Bürgerrecht, in: Ueber das Judenthum und die Juden: Drei Abhandlungen, in: Heinrich Luden (ed). Nemesis: Zeitschrift für Politik und Geschichte. Vol. 8, No. 1, Weimar, 1816, here p. 64.
[60] Hartwig von Hundt-Radowsky, Judenspiegel: Ein Schand- und Sittengemälde alter und neuer Zeit, 1819, p. 146. There is a strong element of humor in Hundt-Radowsky’s plans, though this has been missed by most scholarly commentators.
[61] This has been acknowledged even by Paul Lawrence Rose, who writes from a position of intense Jewish partisanship. See that author’s Revolutionary Antisemitism in Germany from Kant to Wagner, 1990, p. 33, fn. 25.
[62] Christoph Cobet, Der Wordschatz des Antisemitismus in der Bismarckzeit, Wilhelm Fink Verlag, München, 1973, p. 213. In a footnote, Cobet correctly explains that the use of Ausrottung in the quoted excerpt does not mean killing.
[63] Christoph Cobet, Der Wordschatz des Antisemitismus in der Bismarckzeit, Wilhelm Fink Verlag, München, 1973, p. 212. In a footnote, Cobet notes the agricultural origins of the word, and observes that it has a long history of being applied to humans.
[64] Der Gelbe Fleck: Die Ausrottung von 500,000 deutschen Juden, Editions du Carrefour, 1936. Authorship or editorship of this work is often credited to Lion Feuchtwanger. In fact, he merely wrote a one-page foreword from whose text it is clear that he had no such role. In his foreword he stated that the persecution of the Jews, which he characterized as the systematic Vernichtung of half a million ‘highly civilized Europeans’, was certainly less atrocious than other things that were happening in Germany. Neither the reference to Ausrottung in the title, nor the Vernichtung in Feuchtwanger’s foreword, referred to the killing of all these Jews.
[65] Dokumentensammlung über die Entrechtung, Ächtung und Vernichtung der Juden in Deutschland seit der Regierung Adolf Hitler, 1936, p. 23.
[66] Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Munich, 1936, p. 616.
[67] Records of the War Refugee Board, 1944-1945. Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum. Box 64: Jews in Europe (1), July-August 1944.
[68] Rosenberg interrogation, 5.11.45, US Government microfilm publication M1270, roll 17.
[69] Rosenberg testimony, 17.4.46, IMT Vol. XI, pp. 554.
[70] IMT, Vol. XII, pp. 357-378.
[71] Richard A. Widmann, No Smoking Gun, No Silver Bullets: The Real News of Rosenberg’s Diary, Inconvenient History, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2014.
[72] Rosenberg diary, 3.7.42.
[73] Rosenberg diary, 14.12.41.
[74] Rosenberg diary, 9.10.42.

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2 Responses to Memo for the controversial bloggers, part IIIb: Ausrottung and back to Rosenberg, with a cameo by Julius Streicher

  1. Pingback: A little more on Ausrottung | Holocaust History Channel

  2. Pingback: Ausrottung yet again | Holocaust History Channel

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