Translations and Definitions [70 Years After Nuremberg]

Nuremberg Palace

During his April 17th cross-examination of the “evasive laying rogue” Alfred Rosenberg, Thomas Dodd spent a considerable amount of time asking Rosenberg to confirm his involvement in policies, speeches and actions undertaken and enforced by the German government as administered and overseen by the Nazi leaders currently on trial.[p. 287, 4/17/1946] In his cross-examination, Dodd attempted to decisively illustrate clarify Rosenberg’s role as the “Nazi Party’s chief racial theorist” who “oversaw the construction of a human racial “ladder” that justified Hitler’s racial and ethnic policies” [, accessed 4/26/2016].

Cross-examination of Rosenberg

Rosenberg’s attempts to redirect questions and respond at length but not to the question asked gave only prompted the President of the Tribunal to instruct him “you cannot in crossexamination go into long explanations. You must answer the question ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and explain, if you must explain, shortly. You have been explaining this document for a long time.” [, accessed 4/26/2016] Rosenberg’s facility with language and their meanings, and the lengths to which he would go to evade responsibility, was further evidenced by his exchange with Tom Dodd regarding translations of documents found in his files:

MR. DODD: Well then, perhaps we can help you on that. I will ask you be shown Document 1517-PS. It becomes Exhibit USA-824.
[Document 1517-PS was submitted to the defendant.]
Now, this is also a memorandum of yours written by you about a discussion you had with Hitler on the 14th of December 1941, and it is quite clear from the first paragraph that you and Hitler were discussing a speech which you were to deliver in the Sportpalast in Berlin, and if you will look at the second paragraph, you will find these words:

“I remarked on the Jewish question that the comments about the New York Jews must perhaps be changed somewhat after the conclusion (of matters ~ the East). I took the standpoint not to speak of the extermination (Ausrottung) of Jewry. The Fuehrer affirmed this view and said that they had laid the burden of war on us and that they had brought the destruction; it is no wonder if the results would strike them first.”

Now, you have indicated that you have some difficulty with the meaning of that word, and I am going to ask you about the word “Ausrottung.” I am going to ask that you be shown-you are familiar with the standard German-English dictionary, Cassell’s, I suppose, are you? Do you know this word, ever heard of it?


MR. DODD: This is something you will be interested in. Will you look up and read out to the Tribunal what the definition of “Ausrottung” is?

ROSENBERG: I do not need a foreign dictionary in order to explain the various meanings “Ausrottung” may have in the German language. One can exterminate an idea, an economic system, a social order, and as a final consequence, also a group of human beings, certainly. Those are the many possibilities which are contained in that word. For that I do not need an English-German dictionary. Translations from German into English are so often wrong-and just as in that last document you have submitted to me, I heard again the translation of “Herrenrasse.” In the document itself “Herrenrasse” is not even mentioned; however, there is the term “ein falsches Herrenmenschentum” (a false master mankind). Apparently everything is translated here in another sense.

MR. DODD: All right, I am not interested in that. Let us stay on this term of “Ausrottung.” I take it then that you agree it does mean to “wipe out” or to “kill off,” as it is understood, and that you did use the term in speaking to Hitler.

ROSENBERG: Here I heard again a different translation, which again used new German words, so I cannot determine what you wanted to express in English.

MR. DODD: Are you very serious in pressing this apparent inability of yours to agree with me about this ward or are you trying to kill time? Don’t you know that there are plenty of people in this courtroom who speak German and who agree that that word does mean to “wipe out,” to “extirpate?”

ROSENBERG: It means “to overcome” on one side and then it is to be used not with respect to individuals but rather to juridical entities, to certain historical traditions. On the other side this word has been used with respect to the German people and we have also not believed that in consequence thereof 60 millions of Germans would be shot.

MR. DODD: I want to remind you that this speech of yours in which you use the term “Ausrottung” was made about 6 months after Himmler told Hoess, whom you heard on this witness stand, to start exterminating the Jews. That is a fact, is it not?

ROSENBERG: No, that is not correct, for Adolf Hitler said in his declaration before the Reichstag: Should a new world war be started by these attacks of the emigrants and their backers, then as a consequence there would be an extermination and an extirpation. That has been understood as a result and as a political threat. Apparently, a similar political threat was also used by me before the war against America broke out. And, when the war had already broken out, I have apparently said that, since it has come to this, there is no use to speak of it at all.

MR. DODD: Well, actually, the Jews were being exterminated in the Eastern Occupied Territories at that time and thereafter, weren’t they?

ROSENBERG: Then, may I perhaps ray something about the use of the words here? We are speaking here of extermination of Jewry; there is also still a difference between “Jewry” and “the Jews.”

MR. DODD: I asked you if it was not a fact that at that time and later on Jews were being exterminated in the Occupied Eastern Territories which were under your ministry? Will you answer that ‘yes” or “no”?

ROSENBERG: Yes. I quoted a document on that yesterday. [, accessed 4/26/2016]

Prosecution of Rosenberg

Every question Dodd posed regarding Rosenberg’s role in the “Jewish Question”, compulsory (forced) labor, and the health and well-being of those in the labor camps, adequate food and humane treatment was met with similar equivocation, prevarication and words that responded but not to the questions.  In spite of Rosenberg’s lengthy passages, Dodd finished his cross-examination in approximately two hours, an accomplishment with which he was very pleased. He was less pleased with the cross-examination conducted by the Russians immediately following, “they have no sense of timing or restraint–or of the real purposes of the practice.” [p. 287, 4/17/2016]

Film recordings of Alfred Rosenberg at the Trial are available on YouTube.
–Owen Doremus and Betsy Pittman

[Owen Doremus, a junior at Edwin O. Smith High School, is supporting this blog series with research and writing as part of an independent study.]

The majority of the letters from Tom Dodd to his wife Grace have been published and can be found in Letters from Nuremberg, My father’s narrative of a quest for justice. Senator Christopher J. Dodd with Lary Bloom. New York: Crown Publishing, 2007.

Images available in Thomas J. Dodd Papers.

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