Thinking in homogenous regions if needed

The referenced typescript of a 1941 lecture at the Viennese popular education institution Urania and its press coverage give a telling example of Ross’s (self-)positioning in the ideological context of national socialism.

The typescript probably served as an outline of the lecture. It basically repeats Ross’s core ideas from the late 1920s and 1930s about the decline of universal ideas and the emergence of regional thinking as well as the outdatedness of political strategies based on the continental division of the globe. Ross first welcomes Roosevelt’s terminological innovation of replacing continents with spheres, yet objects to Roosevelt’s idea of the “Western hemisphere”. It assumes the existence of a homogenous part of the world, while, for Ross, it merely masks America’s imperialistic claims. Neither historical developments nor geographical determinants can suffice to conceive of the “Western hemisphere”, or Europe, Asia or Africa for that matter, as consistent entities. The first is ethnically heterogeneous and divided by the Panama Canal, the second and the third are separated by a mere small hill, the Ural, while the fourth contains two ethnicities, blacks and Arabs. Moreover, the constant movement of peoples in history makes any attempt at drawing borders futile. In an instance of his inclination to self-contradiction, however, Ross interprets Japan’s recent hegemonic claims as a welcome development. Japanese rule can establish “a new Asia” that covers the “ancient territory” that was shaped by the “Chinese, Buddhism and Confucianism” (this idea dominates his 1940 “world political” film Das neue Asien, too). Ross assumes here that these mixed forces paved the way for a new, “uniform” state now legitimately governed by Japan.

Judging from the official, detailed announcement in the periodical NS Gaudienst (for Vienna) prior to the lecture,1 the typescript must have been submitted to the censorship and press authorities in the form it has been preserved in Ross’s estate (now at Bayrisches Hauptstaatsarchiv).2 It is striking how little Ross cares about using Nazi idiom and arguments; only his anti-Americanism and the positive (but not exaggerated) assessment of Japan seem to be in line with Nazi ideology. Ross’s restraint could be explained by his general criticism of Hitler’s foreign politics and his sympathies for a more moderate ideological policy (represented by Baldur von Shirach, who had cooperated with Ross in organizing a Nazi youth camp in 1937 and, by the time of this lecture, was Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter in Vienna).3 However, the reviews facilitate a reading that puts these assumptions into perspective (see Mobilizing the correct terminology).

Katalin Teller

Colin Ross. Die geographische Neuordnung der Erde. Bayrisches Hauptstaatsarchiv NL Ross 8.

Topic: Propaganda
Case: Speaking engagements


1 See Anonymous. Colin Roß spricht wieder in Wien. NS Gaudienst Wien. 1941 Jan 18; [n.d.]. See Library.

2 And it seems to have served as a basis for the report in Neues Wiener Tagblatt. The journalist probably did not attend the lecture. See Anonymous. Die Neugliederung der Erde. Neues Wiener Tagblatt: 1941 Jan 24; 75 (24); 6. See Library.

3 Bodo-Michael Baumunk. Colin Ross. Ein deutscher Revolutionär und Reisender 1885-1942. [unpubl. ms.]. rev. edn. Berlin; 2015 [1999]; 6-7; 100-101; 122-123. See Library.

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