Speer Albert - Inside the Third Reich

Author : Speer Albert
Title : Inside the Third Reich Memoirs by Albert Speer
Year : 1970

Link download : Speer_Albert_-_Inside_the_Third_Reich.zip

Introduction. THE UNRESOLVED QUESTIONS OF THE PERIOD OF NATIONAL SOCIALISM REMAIN with US. The enormity of the crimes committed, the huge scale of victory and defeat are subjects of continuous exploration and analysis. How could one of the chief centers of the civilized world have become a torture chamber for millions of people, a country ruled by criminals so effectively that it conquered most of Europe, moving out toward other continents, planting its swastika standards from Norway to the Caucasus and Africa before it was brought down at the cost of some thirty million lives? What had happened to the nation of thinkers and poets, the "good" Germans that the nineteenth century knew? And how did intelligent, well-intentioned, educated, principled people like Albert Speer become so caught up in the movement, so captivated by Hitler's magnetism that they could accept everything-the secret police, the concentration camps, the nonsensical rhetoric of Aryan heroism and anti-Semitism, the slaughter of the Fuehrer's wars-and devote all their resources to keeping this regime in power? In these memoirs of the man who was very likely the most gifted member of the government hierarchy we have some of the answers to these riddles and as complete a view as we are ever likely to get of the inside of the Nazi state. When he joined the Party in 1931, Speer had never given much thought to politics. He came from an upper-middle-class family, one of the most prominent in Mannheim, supported in high style by the father's flourishing architectural practice and involved mainly in the cultural and socialli£e of the city. Speer's father did read the liberal Frankfurter Zeitung, an unusual paper for a conservative architect to have in his home, but he utterly rejected the Nazis because he believed them to be more socialist than nationalist. The family suffered financial reverses during the inflation in 1923 but always lived well in a burgerlicher comfort enjoyed by very few people in post-World War I Germany. Albert Speer was not one of the disoriented, rejected millions who were out of a job and a place in society; he joined the National Socialist Party because his faint interest in politics was roused more than it had ever been before when he heard Hitler give a speech in 1931. Most young men brought up like Speer did not care much for Hitler and his street fighters in 1931; Hitler's strength went up and down with the numbers of unemployed. Left-wing Berlin, where Speer heard Hitler speak, gave Hitler only 22.5 percent of the vote in the last free election held in November 1932, and even after the Reichstag fire, when almost 44.0 percent of the rest of Germany voted for Hitler, the National Socialists got only 31.3 percent of the Berlin vote. So Speer made his own decisions in his own way. Like a good many other people he was looking for a new, powerful doctrine to clear up his own thinking. He had dabbled in philosophical ideas; had read Spengler and become depressed by him; had heard the prophecies of doom from the post-World War I intellectuals and seen them borne out in the confusion and hopelessness of the cities; and now he was rejecting much of what he had been brought up to believe in because none of it seemed to have any relevance to the chaos around him. The speech Speer heard was made for university and technical students and faculties. Like every skillful politician, Hitler pitched his style to his audience. He wore a sober blue suit instead of his street fighter's brown shirt and spoke earnestly, in a relatively low key, of a revitalized Germany. To Speer, his conviction seemed to be an antidote to Spengler's pessimism and at the same time fulfillment of his prophecy of the Imperator to come. These were the good tidings, it seemed, the complete answer to the threat of Communism and the political futility of the Weimar governments. In a time when nothing in the democratic process seemed to work, Hitler's words sounded a loud call to many young men who by 1931 were convinced of the necessity for bold, new remedies for Germany's deep troubles .. The succession of patched-up coalition governments that governed neither long nor well and could find no answers at all to Germany's economic depression, social unrest, and military powerlessness had to be replaced by a man and a party with new solutions, by a leader who knew the meaning of strength and law and order. The antiSemitism of the Nazis could be condoned or ignored as merely a passing "children's disease" if one liked the rest of their program. As Machiavelli once wrote, political misjudgments and wrong turns are like tuberculosis, hard to detect and easy to cure in the beginning and easy to diagnose and very hard to cure at the end. But it was not the Party as a political instrument that appealed to Speer. What drew him was the personality of the Fuehrer, the scale of the blueprints for recovery, and later the wonderful opportunity to design buildings. It was through Hitler and the Party that Speer could realize his youthful architectural ambitions and acquire new ones beyond anything he had imagined. He tried not to see any of the barbarities committed by the National Socialist Party or the state although, as he tells us, the broken panes of the Jewish shops vandalized during the Kristallnacht lay shattered in front of him. But what he was able to accomplish in his profession and later in his key government posts so dazzled his vision that he could shut his eyes to almost everything, no matter hoW' repulsive, that might disturb his purposes. What he wanted to do was to design and build and to work for a new order. Here the means were abundantly at hand if he did not look too closely at the price being paid for them. Speer has had a long time to ask himself questions about his role in the Third Reich. At Nuremberg he was sentenced to twenty years for crimes against humanity and for war crimes; he served this sentence to the last hour. Some of these years he used to write these memoirs. They were intended for his children, but perhaps even more for himself. They had to be written clandestinely, often on scraps of paper or sheets tom from rolls used by the prison painters, and hidden behind a book Speer pretended to be reading as he lay on his cot. They were smuggled out of Spandau by one of the prison staff, a Dutchman who had himself been a slave laborer. Speer, as the reader will discover, is not given to facile self-exculpation. When in defeat he finally came face to face with himself, with the bitter knowledge of what manner of man and what kind of state he had helped survive, he was as unrelenting toward himself as toward his collaborators. He told the court at Nuremberg, knowing that he risked his life when he said it, that as a member of Hitler's government he took full responsibility for the crimes committed, for the slave labor in the factories under his authority, for his collaboration with the SS when it provided concentration camp prisoners for his production lines, and his conspicuous role in a regime that killed-although with no direct help from him-six million Jews. He had been accused on all four counts of the Nuremberg indictment: of having plotted to wage aggressive war, of participating in it, and of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. He fully accepted what lay behind the charges-the accusation that was mainly an echo of his own conscience-that he had served all too well as Minister of Armaments and War Production in a criminal state. The court found him not guilty on the first two counts. With regard to the other charges, a majority (the Russians voted for death) took note of extenuating circumstances, on the evidence that Speer had tried to provide his workers with adequate food and housing, to make their lot as endurable and their work as efficient as possible. The court also noted that he had openly opposed Hitler (and indeed had planned to kill him when he saw that the Fuehrer was ready to destroy Germany only to gain a little more time for himself); and, too, Speer had had the uncommon courage to protest Hitler's mistaken identification of his own fate with that of the country to a Fuehrer who had many a man executed for uttering merely defeatist sentiments. The court, especially the Russians on it, knew from experience as well as from the evidence before them how much Speer had accomplished for the Reich. He had kept Germany armed against a world of enemies both inside and outside its boundaries. Far more than Goering, he had become the second man in the Reich; one English newspaper had even written, toward the end of the war, that he was more important to the German war effort than Hitler himself. There is truth in this statement. By the time of Stalingrad, Hitler's mystique was fading and his decisions becoming more and more bizarre; it was Speer who kept the war machine running in high gear and increasingly productive until 1945. Only when the cities lay in ruins and at Hitler's orders the last factories were to be blown up did Speer come to suspect what many of his compatriots like Goerdeler, Witzleben, and Rudolf Pechel had long known: that a Hitlerian victory would have worse consequences for Germany than any defeat. In prison Speer set himself the task of finding out why it had taken him so long to see the error in the way he had chosen. He put himself through a long and careful self-analysis, a process that prison was ideally suited to further. He could read almost any nonpolitical books he chose; so he turned to psychology, philosophy, and metaphysics, the kind of books, he says, he never in the world would have read or thought he had had the time to read when he was in civil life. And he could look inward, ask himself questions as he went over the days of his life, questions that a man sometimes asks during or after major crises but that seldom can be thoroughly investigated amid the intense preoccupations of making a career in the contemporary world. Speer was unhampered by the demands of such a life; he had gnawing problems, to be sure-the well-being of his family and the appalling state of the country he had helped to keep at war and thus had helped destroy-but his main preoccupation was to try to explain himself to himself. He could do this best by writing it all down. In what he said he had nothing to lose. He was condemned and sentenced; he had acknowledged his guilt; now it was his job to understand what he had done and why. So the reader of these memoirs is fortunate: he will be told, as far as the author is capable of telling him, precisely why Speer acted as he did. Thus this chronicle of National Socialist Germany seen from within also becomes a seH-revealing account of one of the most able men who served it. Inwardness is especially unusual in a technician. A man like Speer, working with blueprints, ordering vast projects, is likely to exhaust himseH in manipulation, in transforming the outer world, in carrying out production goals with all the means at hand. His was not introspective work, but in Spandau Speer had to turn not to others to carry out his planning, but only, day after day and night after night, to himseH. It was a rare opportunity and he took full advantage of it. He could do it the more readily because he was convinced the court had acted justly in his case; he had much the same interest as the prosecution in finding out what had happened. This objectivity has stayed with him. One of the suggestions made to him in connection with the publication of this book in England was that he meet the former chief British prosecutor, Lord Shawcross (at the time of the trial, Sir Hartley Shawcross), on the BBC to discuss the Nuremberg case. Speer said he would be pleased to meet with the British or American or any other prosecutor; he bears no rancor against the people who helped put him in prison for twenty years, and he has no objection to meeting anyone who has a serious interest in the history in which he played such a conspicuous role. When he returned to Heidelberg after his twenty-one-year absence he did the simple, ordinary things a man might do who must start all over again. He went back to the summer house above the Neckar where he had lived as a child; and because when he was a boy he had had a St. Bernard dog, he got himseH another one, to help him return to the beginnings again, to bridge the long exile. He planned to resume his architectural practice, although on a very small scale this time. Men take disaster in very different ways. Admiral Doenitz, for example, will not discuss Spandau. He says he has put it away in a trunk and doesn't want to talk about it. Speer on the other hand talks easily about his imprisonment-more than easily: with serenity. ...

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