Albert Speer

He turns up in Lex’s post, if only in a quote and by first name: Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s chief architect, first given the job to of turning Berlin into the ‘world capital’ Germania and later also Minister of Armaments after his predecessor’s mysterious death (possibly arranged by Hitler himself), had been the only major defendant at the Nuremberg War Criminal Tribunal to plead guilty for the Third Reich’s crimes. He admitted that he shared in the overall responsibility for what had been perpetrated by Nazi Germany, but denied knowledge of the Holocaust. At the time his knowledge or direct involvement couldn’t be proven, so the different verdicts of the American, British, French and Soviet judges saved him from going to the gallows as he would have deserved; he received a 20-year prison sentence, for supplying slave labor to the German armaments industry, instead.

I recently saw this documentary that supplied a lot of interesting information that I hadn’t previously been aware of. The most important part is that Albert Speer was the driving force behind the deportation of Jews out of Berlin at the earliest possible date, for he wanted their appartments for Berliners who had had to move because their houses had been destroyed during the construction work for Germania. The concentration camp Natzweiler was also specially constructed for Albert Speer; the prisoners were mostly members of the Dutch resistance movement and were forced to work in a quarry to supply marble, also for the planned world capital. If the prosecutors had been able to produce these facts during the trial Speer would have been hanged.

It also was interesting to know how much Hitler’s direct underlings were engaging in intrigues against each other. To be separated from him for any length of time meant to be in mortal danger, for Hitler was susceptible to whisperings about disloyal acts and even outright treason perpetrated by the absent person. Speer himself was relatively safe in this regard, for he had a special relationship with Hitler that bordered on friendship, but when he fell sick he was entrusted to SS Chief Heinrich Himmler’s personal physician, who promptly began to treat Speer to death. His condition worsened steadily, until he caught on to what was happening and escaped the good doctor’s care; soon afterwards he experienced a miraculously swift recovery.

Speer served his full sentence in Spandau Prison, run by the Allies. Had he been put in a German prison he undoubtedly would have been released at the earliest possible time. The German judges and prosecutors who came to office during the Nazi era would have seen to that; as it was they managed to drag their feet until the ’70s as far as less-well-known Nazi officials and SS officers and war criminals in general were concerned.

Despite his guilt, his memoirs based on carefully selective memory and his faux-sincere confession at the Nuremberg trial helped him to acquire his reputation as the ‘Good Nazi’. Not that all that many people wanted to know any better, both inside and outside of Germany. His aristocratic background and personal charm saw to that. It can’t be said with absolute certainty, but it seems that Speer wasn’t so much a Nazi as a opportunist without any scruples who was prepared to do anything that furthered his career.

4 thoughts on “Albert Speer”

  1. Speer was a smmooth character. He was able to insinuate himself into any environment and coopt the people he was dealing with and thrive. That is how he rose to the top of the Nazi hierarchy. That is how he was able to rehabilitate himself after he got out of prison and make money on his memoirs. Most of the Nazis were street thugs. Speer was a con man. Moreover, he was an architect and seemed to be an intellectual and that made him appealing. He spoke excellent English. I remember him on the old World at War TV show. Speer was a survivor. Not a nice man.

  2. I picked up Inside the Third Reich at a book sale last year. I’ve since heard commentary that the book gave a good inside story but have seen other things (such as this post) indicating that Speer wasn’t wholly truthful in his accounts. IYHO, is the book worth the time commitment anyhow?

  3. Yeah, the book is good. Just remember that Speer is telling the thing from his point of view, and not to take it as gospel. But as an insider’s account of the Nazi leadership, it is very interesting. Any memoir should be read critically, especially by a guy who barely dodged the hangman’s noose.

  4. ” Just remember that Speer is telling the thing from his point of view”

    Hehe .. one doesn’t need to.

    Speer attempts at self-directed doctor Phil style analysis are so transparent (not to mention boring ) that I pretty much ended up skipping these parts altogether.

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