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The smartest Nazi

Book Briefly Noted, Title Spandau: The Secret Diaries, Author Albert Speer, Rating 4.0,

Spandau: The Secret Diaries

Albert Speer

Briefly Noted



Albert Speer, Hitler’s personal architect and Reich Armaments Minister, kept a diary while he was in Spandau prison following his conviction at the post-war Nuremberg trials. Published under the title Spandau: The Secret Diaries, These diaries provide a fascinating, hooded glimpse of the ‘smartest man’ in the Nazi leadership.  At least, smart enough to evade the death penalty at the Nuremberg Trials.

At the Nuremberg trials, Speer cultivated the appearance of being the only Nazi leader to be conscience-stricken over the systematic murder of Jews, Gypsies and Slavs by Germany. Yet Speer ran the war effort to produce arms and munitions, using millions of slave laborers who were chronically abused, overworked and starved to death, workers supplied via the vast concentration camp system. Yet Speer denied any direct knowledge of the Holocaust in the face of this!

German records show that Speer was present in 1943 in Poznan when Himmler gave his Endlosung (Final Solution) speech; Speer claimed that he had left before Himmler gave the speech. Well after his death, letters he wrote surfaced in which he admitted that he had indeed heard the speech. His claims regarding no knowledge of the Holocaust are clearly untenable. In other examples, Speer inspected the Mauthausen concentration camp in 1943, including the notorious quarry; records showing Speer’s involvement in the construction of the Auschwitz death camp have been found in old Soviet archives; there is documented evidence showing that Speer was directly responsible for evicting 5,000 Jewish families in Berlin so that he and other Nazi functionaries could take their homes.

Speer necessarily spent his twenty years at Spandau prison, outside Berlin, in relative isolation (the handful of other Nazi leaders who joined him there saw him as a traitor to the cause, and he appeared to see them as intellectually inferior. The diary reveals the sometimes inventive ways he survived the experience, and gives some insight into how a mass murderer of high intellect could admit to some culpability in the conduct of the war, yet evade and rationalize his knowledge of and participation in enslavement and mass murder of millions of civilians.

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