Arthur Rosenberg

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Arthur Rosenberg (1889–1943) was a German Marxist historian and writer.


Early years[edit]

Arthur Rosenberg was born into a German Jewish middle-class family in Berlin on 19 December 1889. He excelled at the Askanisches Gymnasium before studying at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin with Otto Hirschfeld and Eduard Meyer.

Rosenberg established himself as an expert in Roman constitutional history and held a PhD in ancient history and archeology.[1]

In 1914, Rosenberg proved to be a conformist representative of the German academy, believing in the "ideas of 1914," and signing nationalist petitions. He then was drafted into the army, working for the Kriegspresseamt, the public relations office of the army.

Political career[edit]

After Germany's defeat in 1918 and his demobilization from the army, Rosenberg joined the new Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD).[2] He went on to join the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in 1920.[2]

Rosenberg emerged as an important theoretician for the dissident left wing of the KPD in their ongoing factional struggle with the party leadership headed by Heinrich Brandler and August Thalheimer.[1] He was regarded as one of the top leaders of the party left in the city of Berlin and was an advocate of the theory that the KPD should pursue a revolutionary offensive against the Weimar state.[2]

The left wing gained control of the KPD in April 1924 and Rosenberg was elected a member of the governing Central Committee of the party as well as a delegate to the 5th World Congress of the Comintern and a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) that same year.[1]

When further factionalism swept the German Communist Party, Rosenberg maintained an ultra-left wing line as part of a factional group that included Werner Scholem, Iwan Katz, and Karl Korsch.[3] This group fell into disfavor in Moscow from June 1925, however.[1] In electing a new Central Committee the German party was invited by ECCI "to have no fear of drawing into the work the best elements from former groups not belonging to the Left" — an effort to further undercut Rosenberg's factional group.[3]

Despite the criticism, Rosenberg was named a delegate to the 6th Enlarged Plenum of the CI in February 1926, at which he participated.[1]

Expulsions of the left wing of the KPD followed in 1927, but Rosenberg was not himself one of those subject to such treatment.[1] Nevertheless, he quit the KPD in April 1927, moving from the political realm to the field of scholarship.[1] He taught at the University of Berlin and served as the head of an organization called the League of Rights of Man.[2]

Years of exile[edit]

When the Nazis came to power in 1933 Rosenberg was dismissed from his university post due to his Jewish ethnicity.[2] Rosenberg emigrated first to Switzerland before moving on to the United Kingdom.

From 1934 to 1937 Rosenberg taught history at the University of Liverpool.[2] He proceeded to the United States in 1937 to take a professorship at Brooklyn College, where he taught and wrote until the end of his life.[2]

Death and legacy[edit]

Arthur Rosenberg died 7 February 1943 in New York City.

In the 1960s, his books came to more widespread attention among German historians.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Branko Lazitch with Milorad M. Drachkovitch (eds.), Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern. Revised Edition. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1986; pp. 401-402.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Pavel Broiué, The German Revolution, 1917-1923. John Archer, trans. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2006; pp. 982-983.
  3. ^ a b E.H. Carr, A History of Soviet Russia (Volume 7): Socialism in One Country, 1924-1926: Volume 3, Part 1. London: Macmillan, 1964; pg. 322.


  • Imperial Germany: The Birth of the German Republic, 1871–1918. Oxford University Press (1931), translation by Ian Morrow (*1896), original: Die Entstehung der deutschen Republik, Berlin, 1930
  • A History of Bolshevism: From Marx to the First Five Years' Plan. (1932)
  • Fascism as a Mass Movement. (1934)
  • A History of the German Republic, 1918-1930. (1936)
  • Democracy and Socialism: A Contribution to the Political History of the Past 150 Years. (1938)

Further reading[edit]

  • Mario Kessler, Arthur Rosenberg (2003)
  • Francis L. Carsten, Arthur Rosenberg: Ancient Historian into Leading Communist, Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 8, No. 1. (Jan., 1973), pp. 63–75.

External links[edit]