Despite Albert Speer’s claims, as Minister of Armaments, it is inevitable that Albert Speer was aware of the use and abuse of forced labour and the appalling conditions of inmates at concentration camps and I find it hard to believe anything contrary. As Gitta Sereny suggests, Speer knew a lot more than what he led on, he knew what he was inevitably going to find out. Although Speer states in, Inside the Third Reich, “I did not investigate, I did not want to know”, this position of knowledge places him with direct personal responsibility for the use and abuse of forced labourers. Speer's success as Armaments Minister can largely be attributed to the use of forced labour and the exploitation of foreign workers and prisoners of war. Responsibility of attaining munitions workers was Speer’s deputy, Fritz Sauckel. Speer gave Sauckel an estimate of the total number of workers needed and where they would be placed. He knew when he made his demand that they would be supplied foreign labourers serving under compulsion and admits he was aware that the labour Sauckel had recruited “came against their wish” in the 1946, Nuremberg Trials. Agreeing with prosecutors, he had no interest in the illegal side of things, but the manpower, while this may be the case, he was still well aware of the illegal means by which the manpower was being attained and treated, placing him personally responsible. Conditions of concentration camps varied greatly among the camps and from one period to another. Early on, conditions were ‘tolerable’, further on, mortality rates rose due to maltreatment, the kind of work assigned to inmates, working conditions and hours, physical exertion, undernourishment and overcrowding. The camps were often dark, filthy, unsanitary and smelly with little oxygen and inmates were fed rations and had little or no choice in their daily actions.
As many historians have pointed out, Speer visits the Mauthausen Camp near Linz in March 1943. Historian, Gitta Sereny...
Bibliography: Mason, KJ & Fielden, P, 2010, Republic to Reich, Third edition, Cengage Learning Australia, Melbourne, Victoria
Albert Speer – 1905 – 1981, 03 June 2013, http://hsc.csu.edu.au/modern_history/personalities/speer/3277/significance.htm
Nuremberg Day 160 Speer (Jackson Cross) , 21st June 1946 , YouTube video, RobertHJacksonCenter, uploaded 4th Nov, 2008, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRgDIBUqbkM
Camp Dora, 16th Oct 2011, YouTube video, Rhianna Milburn, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naVx05POitM
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