Adolf Rosenberger was a successful businessman who mainly raced Mercedes and Benz cars in the 1920s. His successes and records included wins at Avus, Stuttgart Solitude in 1924 and 1925, the Kasseler Herkules Hillclimb and the Klausenpassrennen. In 1931 he founded the Porsche GmbH together with Ferdinand Porsche and Dr. Anton Piech.
Adolf Rosenberger was born in Pforzheim, the son of Simon Rosenberger, a businessman who operated among other things the cinema in the Zerrenerstraße.
He was a successful businessman who took up motor sports in 1923-24, chiefly driving Mercedes and Benz cars. He was especially successful in hillclimbs. At 23 Rosenberger was already ranked among the most successful European racing drivers competing in the most powerful racing and sports cars of the time including the 1925 Benz Tropfenrennwagen Typ RH, the legendary Mercedes S Type and the 240 BHP Grand Prix Mercedes.
His successes and records included wins at Avus, Stuttgart Solitude in 1924 and 1925, the Kasseler Herkules Hillclimb and at one of the toughest hillclimbs of all, the Klausenpassrennen.
On 11 July 1926 the first German Grand prix was run at AVUS. Bad weather and the poor track surface let to many retirements and accidents. Already in practice one passenger, as at that time a front seat passenger was still required by the regulations, was killed in an accident on the south curve. During the race Rosenberger's Mercedes went off the track at the exit of the north curve and crashed into the marshal’s hut. While Rosenberger and his passenger survived, two students working as timekeepers in the hut and a painter died. The race was won buy a relatively unknown Mercedes salesman, Rudolf Caracciola. Only 17 of the 46 starters finished the race. AVUS lost its Grand Prix rights after the accident.
In 1931 he founded the Porsche GmbH together with Ferdinand Porsche and Dr. Anton Piech and was until summer 1935 the commercial director. Later was part of the collaboration that became Auto Union. The concept of a car with a centrally/rear-mounted engine was actually attributed to him. These cars achieved spectacular victories and countless speed records over the coming years.
Rosenberger sold his interests in the company to Hans von Veyder-Malberg in January 1933, but stayed on with the Porsche bureau working abroad, mainly in France. He remained in Pforzheim until 1935 when in September he was detained for 'Rassenschande' or Racial Crimes. He was sent to the Pforzheimer remand centre and then to the concentration camp Kislau. Four days later Hans Baron Veyder-Malberg intervened on his behalf. With Rosenberger paying for his own lawyer (750 RM), he was released. Contemporary accounts credit Ferry Porsche with intervening but this was more Porsche and "Herbert Quint" propaganda.
Anyway with his release came the proviso that he had to leave Germany immediately. He went to England as he had there some commercial interests and he knew a doctor who lived in London because after the weeks in prison he needed treatment for very bad eczema on both his hands and his arms. He emigrated to France and in 1939 to the US. Under his new name, Alan Arthur Robert, he succeeded in starting a new life in California, becoming a citizen in 1943.
He lived in Los Angeles and let a fairly simple life. In 1950 he married Anne Metzger, a former secretary of Porsche`s bureau in Stuttgart who, together with her first husband, had herself emigrated in 1939.
In 1946 Rosenberger tried to return to Germany. He found all his family’s possessions destroyed or taken away, his father died in 1942 while also in exile. He lodged a number of lawsuits against Porsche KG and the state for compensation that went on for twelve years. His suit against Porsche was for 200,000 German Marks. The Compensation Chamber of the regional court of Stuttgart suggested a settlement, which eventually both sides agreed to in September 1950. Rosenberger alias Robert was to receive either a VW Beetle and 50,000 Marks or a Porsche car. Without any great satisfaction he went back to California where he lived until his death in 1968.
In 1982 his widow donated his personal assets to his hometown of Pforzheim where they are preserved in the town archive.
With thanks to Martin Walter for his help and additions.