Colin Ross

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Dr. phil. Colin Ross

Colin Ross (also Roß; b. 4 June 1885 in Vienna, Austria-Hungary; d. 29 April 1945 in Urfeld am Walchensee, Gemeinde Kochel am See, Germany) was a German officer, traveler and writer of Scottish decent. He authored fifteen books on his travels throughout the world and successfully utilized almost all media channels during the interwar period. Ross devoted himself to National Socialism shortly after Hitler became Reichskanzler.


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Caricature of Colin Roß, in K. Gl. Mit dem Kurbelkasten um die Erde. Berliner Morgenpost. Nr. 4, 4 January 1925.jpg
Colin Ross with his children
Ralph Ross, 1938

After school and Abitur, Colin completed his military service as a one-year volunteer (Einjährig-Freiwilliger) in the Bavarian field artillery. He studied at the Technical University of Berlin and Munich Technical University mechanical engineering and metallurgy, as well as in Munich Economics, History and geopolitics under Professor Karl Haushofer. The dissertation that earned Ross his doctorate in 1910 (in Heidelberg) was entitled "The production conditions of the seaworks and their development«. Lisa Ross received her PhD a year later by Gothein about "The Female Servants in England" (Die weiblichen Dienstboten in England), a work which appeared in the "Archive for Social Science and Social Policy" in the same year.

After completing his studies, Ross worked for the »Illustrated Technical Dictionaries in 6 languages« from the Oldenbourg publishing house and with »Venator« gave the Volume »Eisenhüttenkunde« and a small volume of essays »Im Banne des irons«. In 1911, Oskar von Miller, the founder of the German Museum, brought him into his engineering office and employed him as a secretary. He first visited the US in 1912 for the German Museum (Deutsches Museum).

Colin Ross (1885-1945), a Vienna-born German of Scottish descent, was one of the most popular travel writers in Germany and Austria. Now virtually forgotten, Ross rose to national and international fame during the interwar years with a stream of books that he published through the then leading publisher of travel literature, Brockhaus; translations in many languages also made his name abroad. The books were partly based on the journalistic reports of his travels that appeared in many newspapers published by the Ullstein company in Germany and Austria. He enlarged his popularity by the six films he made to accompany these books, most of them produced and/or distributed by Germany’s leading film company, Ufa. Finally, he also lectured frequently, both at home and abroad. An engineer by training, Colin Ross quickly turned to journalism, making a name for himself by his unique, firsthand reports of the First Balkan War. After World War I he and his family emigrated to Argentina, where he tried his luck as a correspondent. From there, he traveled through South America; out of this sojourn came his first major travel book, published in 1922. Between then and the early 1940s he crossed every continent but Antarctica. Ross was an astute traveler, having his travels financed by arrangements with newspapers and magazines, and by sponsorships with camera and stock manufacturers, tourist offices and railroad companies.[1]

At the beginning of 1914 he reported on the revolution in Mexico. In the First World War he did military service as an officer of the Imperial German Army (Leutnant der Reserve of the 7. Bayerisches Feldartillerie-Regiment, since 1915 Oberleutnant), was badly wounded at the storm of the Volhynian village of Mylsk and worked from 1916 as an employee of the "Military Office of the Foreign Office" (Sektion I der Abteilung I), which was responsible for propaganda. The "Militärische Stelle des Auswärtigen Amtes" (MAA), was later renamed "Auslandsabteilung der Obersten Heeresleitung" (OHLA).

In the November Revolution in 1918 Ross was a member of the Executive Council of the Workers 'and Soldiers' Council in Greater Berlin. In 1919 he emigrated to South America, but returned to Germany in 1921. Ross made extensive trips around the world and reported about it in his books. He described the peoples of Black Africa as "vegetating low races". Only the natural resources and resources seemed to him interesting for Europe. The fate of Africa should be determined exclusively by Europe. In the foreword "The Continent Without a Past" in his book The Awakening Sphinx (1927) he questioned whether the peoples of Africa, apart from Egypt, had ever had their own culture and political structures and were ever able to reach them. On pages 66 to 71 he describes dancing Bushman women in the chapter "The Bastard":

“The Bushmen are certainly not a beautiful race of people […] The age of the women was completely indeterminable. In any case, they all resembled hideous witches, with their dirty yellow skin, repulsive depressed faces, and sagging, sagging breasts. Only one fell entirely outside of this general ugliness. […] 'She is a bastard,' said the Bur, 'her father was a white man.' […] The bastard sat in the midst of this wretched people. [...] All the dirt and all the depravity could not destroy its beauty. [...] This beautiful half-breed girl still carried in her the secret and the urge of her noble white blood, the part of which would have rightly lifted her far beyond this sphere of misery and miserable [...] If you were to take her out of this world."

On the other hand, Colin Ross wrote in his 1929 book Die Welt auf der Waage on pages 102-103:

“Certainly a car, a rifle, a gramophone, an airplane can arouse surprise and astonishment when it is shown for the first time, but the 'savage' is generally not as stunned as it is portrayed in the travelogues. At least not, or at least not always, the belief in the superiority of the white man results. Certainly, one may acknowledge one's power and bow to it, but inwardly one knows that as a human being, as one who is connected with the actual effective forces, with the deity, one is in no way inferior to the white man. It is a fact that is difficult to deny that a number of colored peoples have abilities and mental powers which are insufficiently explained by hypnosis and autosuggestion. You don't have to go as far as the Indian fakirs."

During the 1930s Ross gave lectures in America on the successes of National Socialist Germany. Many of these lectures were attended by German American Bund members. He was a close friend of Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach and Henriette von Schirach. Together they shaped the ideological and formal structure of the Hitler Youth during the early years. Ross was the author of several travelogues and was an informal advisor to the German Foreign Ministry during the war. Ross was aware of the tremendous influence of the Jews upon the Roosevelt Administration and their control of the mass media in America. In 1934 Ross visited American Indian tribes attempting to understand the Indian languages. From September to November 1936, he went to Spain – together with Edwin Erich Dwinger – as a correspondent and eyewitness to the Spanish Civil War war on Franco's side for the "Münchener Neuesten Nachrichten".

Ross had been invited on 15 March 1940 for lunch at Hitler's Round Table in the Reich Chancellery in company of Legation Counselor Walter Hewel, Joachim von Ribbentrop's liaison with Hitler. There he made the acquaintance of Joseph Goebbels, who wrote in his diary entry: "A very likeable man." To make himself useful, he reported to the Wehrmacht and got his old rank as first lieutenant to train recruits over the summer 1940. Goebbels now planned to take over Ross as America specialist in his Ministry. Ross, however, already had employment by this time and was not available for Goebbels' ministry. On 20 September 1940, the State Department officially declared Ross to be a “Nazi agent” although he did not become a NSDAP party member until October 1941.[2] Since 1941, Ross was in Berlin, lived in the Hotel Adlon and worked for the Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt). On 18 July 1941 Colin Ross submitted an application to join the NSDAP, which was accepted on 1 October 1941.

The new connection to the Foreign Office gave the Rosses an opportunity a last long journey to distant countries. On behalf of the office, the one Liaison office at the German Armistice Commission in Wiesbaden entertained, he should the French colonies and protectorates of Morocco, Algeria and touring Tunisia. Ross and his wife first traveled to France in October 1941. On the program was an audience with Marshal Pétain, President of the Vichy State. From the south of France, Ross crossed to Casablanca to stay until April of the stay in North Africa the following year. Meanwhile he had heared about the declaration of war against the USA on 11 December 1941, so that has now occurred, what he feared most.

As in 1943 the successor to Dieckhoff in the management of the "America Committee" was due, von Ribbentrop originally planned the former Consul General in New York Heinrich Borchers, who was stuck in Chile up to this point. Borchers fell ill and, after his recovery, found his seat occupied: Colin Ross was now in charge of the department. On 15 March 1943, six weeks after the capitulation of the 6th Army in Stalingrad, he lectured in Salzburg in front of the "Gauschulungsamt". On 27 July 1943, two months after the surrender of the army of Erwin Rommel in Tunis, two weeks after the Allied invasion of Sicily and a few days after after the Badoglio putsch in Italy, Ross sent a memorandum to the Secretary of State Steengracht, the content of which basically boiled down to the question of how National Socialism was to be saved from an impending defeat in the war. A few months before the assassination attempt on 20 July 1944, Ross received a visit from Carl Goerdeler, who wanted to win him for the overthrow and the time afterwards.

On 25 April 1944, an air raid on Munich took place, during which Ross' apartment in the Königinstraße was badly damaged. On the same day, the Ross couple went to Urfeld am Walchensee, where they lived in a small wooden house, which belonged to Henriette von Schirach's brother. The Schirachs themselves lived in the larger house »Aspenstein« in Kochel. Shortly before the capture of Vienna by the Red Army in March 1945, Ross, now a member of the Volkssturm (Volkssturm-Abteilung Walchendorf, headquarters in the Pension "Schwaigerhof"), reported to Baldur von Schirach, wanting to to seek death in battle, but von Schirach told him to stay put.


At the end of WWII and the advance of the Red Army, Ross and his wife committed suicide. Ross had taken care of everything: Farewell letters and small gifts for friends and helpers at the funeral, his will, instructions for the funeral, two canvas sleeping bags to replace the coffins and a wax candle. On the same day, three soldiers from Schneider's company dug a grave between the trees behind the house. Present were a sister of Mrs. Ross, the daughter Renate, who now worked as a slaughterhouse director in nearby Penzberg, and some neighbors including the Werner Heisenberg and his wife. Everything happened in great haste since the American tanks were expected in Urfeld any minute. At the eulogy, Leutnant Schneider reads from the last letter written by Colin Ross:

"He did not want to survive the demise of Germany and the new idea. His wife, companion on so many paths, also wanted to accompany him on this one."[3]
In German: „Wir scheiden freiwillig aus dem Leben. Nicht aus Furcht und nicht aus Feigheit. Wir sind keine 'Kriegsverbrecher'. Wir haben keine Verfolgung und keine Verhandlung zu fürchten. Wir haben alles getan, was in unserer Macht stand diesen Krieg zu verhindern, bzw. nach seinem Ausbruch durch einen Kompromißfrieden zu beenden. Seit dem Frühling 1934 habe ich, Colin Ross, immer wieder versucht, in rückhaltlos offenen mündlichen und schriftlichen Darlegungen den

Führer, seinen Stellvertreter, Reichsaußenminister und Reichsmarschall vor der Deutschland drohenden weltpolitischen Gefahr zu warnen und Wege aufzuzeigen, sie zu vermeiden. Alle Bemühungen scheiterten und ich sah keine Möglichkeit mehr die Katastrophe zu verhindern. Da ich an einer schweren Arthrose erkrankte, meldete ich mich vergeblich bei der Wehrmacht. So zog ich mich aus dem politischen Leben zurück. Und ich gehe ganz aus dem Leben, weil ich die Niederlage Deutschlands und vor allem den Zusammenbruch einer Idee, an die ich glaubte, weder überleben kann noch will. Wir wissen, daß diese Idee, für welche Millionen gläubig und reinen Herzens in den Tod gingen, unter ihnen unser einziger Sohn, eines Tages aus schicksalhafter Verfehlung und Verstrickung durch unendliches Leid geläutert wiedererstehen wird als die große Idee der Epoche. Aber wir würden diesen Wiederaufstieg unter keinen Umständen erleben, noch könnten wir dazu irgend etwas beitragen [...].“

Henriette von Schirach granted her dead friend Colin Ross - next to her Memoirs – a penultimate favor, sinking Ross' huge collection of tin soldiers in the Walchensee. According to information from Renate Ross, the destruction of Colin Ross' Munich Apartment burned most of his papers, so that a larger estate no longer exists.


A remarkable family background that can be seen as indicative would interpret if there were any basis other than that for the like biographical convention would be: The first ancestor with clear contours a Scottish Ship's doctor, who settled in the extraterritorial British trading post in the 18th century settled in Hamburg and married a local baker's daughter. He brought the Traditional first name "Colin" with and a family relationship to that famous polar explorer John Ross, which was probably more extensive than that Travel writers would later like to make believe because of the decorative effect wanted to. The next Colin Ross managed the "Altekoppel" estate in Holstein. He had three sons. Charles Ross (1816-1858) settled in Copenhagen and Munich Train landscape painters and traveled to Greece and Italy to some extent dangerous paths threatened by gangs of robbers, as the accompanying patron explains and collector Graf Schack remembered. As a fervent Schleswig-Holstein patriot he took part in several battles of the war against the Danes in 1848. His Antiquity landscape painting had great success, also internationally. Of the Archaeologist Ludwig Ross (1806-1859) lived in Greece from 1832 to study the to study Greek antiquity on the spot, what was the situation at the time an adventure in the country and a great exception among his peers meant. After 1843, due to the revolt against the Wittelsbachs on the Greek royal throne, and the ban of foreigners from the civil service, Ross took a professorship in Halle (German Empire) on.

Gustav Ross (1818-1861) settled in Altona near Hamburg as a doctor. He too became discoverer: the island of Sylt, which he visited in 1857 and 1858. For bathing in the sea, the attributing healing properties, he found the island ideal. He had one son, Friedrich (1850-1918), who became an engineer and around the moved to Vienna at the turn of the century. The mayor there, Karl Lueger, had started a large-scale infrastructure improvement program in the gigantic city of Vienna started; while the existing private companies should energy supply can be replaced by municipal companies. Friedrich Ross work contributed significantly to the construction of the first municipal power station (1901/2). His son Colin, who later became a writer, was born in Vienna in 1885, his brother Fritz in 1889.


During his studies he met the banker's daughter Lisa Peter (1889-1945) in Karlsruhe. She had previously completed studies in London and Cambridge, then studied economics at the Technical University in Karlsruhe and the Universities of Munich and Heidelberg studied. She worked in the chemistry laboratories of the respective universities. They married in July 1911. They had two children, Renate (1915-2004), Veterinarian in the Warthegau in WWII, and Ralph (b. 3 July 1923 in Berlin), an extraordinarily intelligent and handsome boy.

Ralph Colin Ross

His son was Ralph Colin Ross, who authored a book From Chicago to Chungking. Ralph Ross, member of the Hitler Youth, volunteered to fight against Bolshevism on the Easten Front as a artillery gunner for the Wehrmacht during WWII and was killed in Russia on 10 July 1941 in weather related accident by lighting strike near Starokonstantinow.[4] According to author George Bailey:

"Their son Ralph had been killed in a freak accident on the Eastern front. He was sunning himself on a raft in the middle of a Russian lake with two comrades. A solitary cloud was in the sky, directly overhead. The cloud discharged a bolt of lightning that killed Ralph on the spot and left his comrades untouched."

Awards and decorations (excerpt)

Works (selection)

  • Die Produktionsbedingungen der Seewerke und ihre Entwicklung, 1910 (dissertation)
  • Das ABC der wissenschaftlichen Betriebsführung, 1917 (translation of Primer of the Scientific Management by Frank B. Gilbreth)
  • Amerika’s Hour of Decision
  • Unser Amerika (Our America) (1937)
  • Der Balkan Amerikas (1937)

Primary research material

California State University Library at Northridge (Oviatt Library-JEWISH FEDERATION COUNCIL OF GREATER LOS ANGELES’ COMMUNITY RELATIONS COMMITTEE COLLECTION, PART 2 ([1]); Boxes 92-09 (1938), 92-10 (1939), 92-11 (1940, 1942).

Further reading

External links


  1. About Colin Ross
  2. Vikings to U-Boats: the German experience in Newfoundland and Labrador, By Gerhard P. Bassler, page 189
  3. Diary for the period April 15th to May 15th 1945
  4. Hitler Youth Personal Account: Ralph Ross (Germany, 1923-41)