Albert Speer: Apolitical Technocrat or Skilled Manipulator? Albert Speer was, arguably, the most complicated personality in the prominent Nazi officials. He began his career after joining the Nazi party as an architect; and his friendship with Hitler propelled his promotion to Reich Minister for Armaments and War Production. When Germany lost the war, Speer was one of the few Nazi officials to evade the death sentence. There are two historical viewpoints as to the role of Speer. The first is that Speer was merely a technocrat, with no political views- and this view is created by Speer in his post-war writings, as well as historian Joachim Fest. The second viewpoint, which is more widely believed than the first, is that Speer was a clever man who manipulated the Nazi party, the Nuremburg War Crimes prosecutors and also the world through his books after Spandau. Historians Matthias Schmidt, Dan Van Der Vat and Gitta Sereny all provide historical evidence to support this thesis. Yet the speculation all comes down the ultimate question: Did Speer manipulate those around him to avoid the death sentence at the Nuremburg trials? After thorough research and much analysis, the answer is yes. At the Nuremburg War Crimes trials, Speer manipulated his prosecutors by putting forward a strategic defence. His defence was this: Speer accepted collective responsibility for Nazi war crimes and crimes against humanity, while simultaneously claiming to have had no knowledge of these atrocities or their details. American economist John Galbraith, who was present at the Nuremburg trials, said “Speer’s confession was part of his well-developed strategy of self-vindication and survival”1. Also, historian Wesley Yang writes that Speer “seduced the Allies with his looks, charm and clever strategy”2. Speer was primarily accused of utilising slave labour in his munitions factories. He distanced himself from his advisor, and the ‘official’ recruiter of the slave labour force, Fritz Sauckel. Sauckel became the scapegoat, and their relationship became very futile. As a result, Speer was sentenced to twenty years in prison, a comparatively light sentence. Film director Martin Davidson conveys in his documentary that “Speer gave the judges what they wanted most, penitence”3. But where did this manipulative nature originate? Speer joined the Nazi party in 1931, and began to be commissioned architectural projects within the party. Prior to joining, Speer was persuaded to attend an address by Hitler, which he did, and he was deeply impressed by Hitler’s appearance and speech. He writes in his memoirs that he felt that “it was time for something to be done about the state of Germany”4, which shows that he entertained political views from the very start. Speer had a very strong work ethic, which became known after he completed many architectural projects in limited time. His first contact with Hitler came when he viewed the plans for the Nuremburg Rally ground. They displeased him, and he wrote “the design outraged both my revolutionary and my architectural feelings”5. He drew up some grandiose plans, and in trying to get them approved, he was sent to Hitler’s office. Their friendship began from that meeting. Speer was promoted Architect of the Reich after the death of Paul Troost, a position he welcomed in view of increasing his own influence and power. When Speer was appointed the Architect of the Reich, he began to manipulate those around him to achieve what he needed. Although Speer didn’t join the Nazi party for its ideals and policies (in fact he never read Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’), he very quickly adapted to the Nazi ideologies and incorporated them into his architecture. Speer developed the idea of ‘ruin value’, impressing the Fuhrer with his drawings of what the buildings would look like in many years to come. His theory of ‘Ruin Value’ conveys to historians Speer’s adaptation of the ideal that the Reich would last for a thousand years. Historian Benh...
Bibliography: Galbraith, J. Interrogation of Albert Speer. Life Magazine. 1945 http://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=22722
Sereny, G, Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth. Picador, London, 1995.
Frappell, S. Merritt, A. O’Brien, c. Ritter, L. HSC Modern History. Macmillian, Melbourne, 2003.
Van Der Vat, D. The Good Nazi- The Life and Lies of Albert Speer. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 1997.
Wise, M. Did Hitler’s Architect Know the Plan? 22 September, 1995. http://www.michaelzwise.com/articleDisplay.php?article_id=13
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