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Albert Speer - Gitta Sereny

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Author: Gitta Sereny / Format: Paperback / Genre: Politics / Subcategory: Political Ideologies / Category: Fascism & Nazism /Title: Albert Speer / ISBN 13: 9780330346979 / ISBN 10: 0330346979 / 800 Pages / Book is published 1998-12-31 by Random House USA Inc / Alternative title: Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth / Alternative ISBN 10: 0679768122

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      11.09.2002 18:39
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      Albert Speer's life story is probably the most unique in 20th Century history. Here was a man who was deeply intelligent and very talented. He was a highly gifted architect who just so happened to Adolph Hitler's closest friend. Albert Speer stumbled into the Third Reich after he was commissioned by Hitler to rebuild Germany in the 1930's. After Fritz Todt died in 1941 Hitler made Albert Speer the Reich Armaments Minister. Albert Speer became obsessed with power and became the second most powerful man in the Third Reich. Albert Speer was not a monster or megalomaniac like Hitler but a complex person who was in part guilty by association but also completely oblivious (or so he said) to Hitler's treatment of various groups during the Second World War. The major charge against Albert Speer is using slave labour, the biggest question of all though is whether he knew about the mass murder of the Jews, mentally ill, Poles, Christians, homosexuals and gypsies. Speer's close friend Karl Brandt was head of the Euthanasia programme the Reich set up (the only problem with this programme was that the people they murdered were not ill or dying, they were subhuman in the eyes of the Reich and therefore exterminated). At the Nuremberg trials at the end of WW2 Speer was horrified to learn that Karl Brandt was a murderer and took part in grotesque medical experiments on concentration camp inmates. This show's that Speer could be oblivious to the horrors of the Reich and yet the men that perpetrated these vile acts he considered friends. Albert Speer's story is a fascinating real life tale. Gitta Sereny wrote the book over a twenty-year period and researched for twelve years. The book features interviews with Speer himself and people that knew him. Gitta Sereny does not let up or give Speer an easy time when dealing with sensitive issues and this is what makes the book absolutely amazing. It delv
      es into the very core of Speer's contradictions, complexities and true feelings on his remarkable life. The book is written like a very long article with interviews interspersed with historical contexts and information. Gitta Sereny first became aware of Albert Speer when she was able to sit in during the Nuremberg War trials. She noticed Speer because he was very young compared to the rest of the Nazi ministers and also admitted his guilt. Gitta Sereny has had a life long fascination with Nazi Germany (I too am fascinated with Nazi Germany). She has written books on this subject including "Into the Darkness", "Reminisces and Reflections" and "Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth". She was born in Vienna in the 1920's and lives in London. Albert Speer was born in 1906 in Mannheim Germany. He born into a rich middle class family and like his father after university he became an architect. During the 1930's he heard a speech made by Adolph Hitler that made the none political Speer join the Nazi Party. Albert Speer's stature as an architect grew which brought him to the attention of wannabe architect Adolph Hitler who commissioned Speer to design the Nuremberg rallies. Speer's use of light is absolutely stunning and the mise en scene captured in Leni Refienstahl's "The Triumph of the Will" shows what a brilliant designer Speer was. Lots of Nazi imagery was created by Speer; "The Cathedral of Light". The giant eagles in front of the huge nazi banners. Speer and Hitler became very close friends and this lead to Speer being given the post of Armaments Minister in 1941 after Fritz Todt died in a plane crash (that Speer should also have been on). Speer saw through Hitler around 1944 when Speer plotted to assassinate him and delibrately disobeyed Hitler's "Scorched Earth" Policy which would lead to the destruction of Germany. Durin
      g the Nuremberg trials Speer admitted guilt on all counts and was luckily sentenced to twenty years in prison. In prison Speer wrote his memoirs that offer a detailed account of life in the Third Reich but lacked emotion and Speer was dealing with his own demons. George Calasis who was Speer's priest in Nuremberg called Speer "The most guilt ridden man I have ever met". Speer died in 1980. I highly recommend this book because of the author's unwillingness to back down on any subject. She was very calculating in her interviews with Speer. Whenever he gets uncomfortable with a question she describes his discomfort or a remark he makes. She never backs down especially when dealing with the question of Jews and did he know or not? Speer was told in 1944 not to visit Auchwitz because a fellow minister had visited and came back emotionally wrecked. Another great thing about this book is that she makes the people human and not the goosestepping idiots seen in Spielberg films or western propaganda. Josef Goebbels was a cold intellectual who lacked any real emotion but loved the cinema. Hitler was a shy racist who had big ideas for Germany, Herman Goring was a pompous fool who loved dressing up and hunting. Rudolph Hess was a weird pessimistic man who abandoned Hitler and flew to Scotland to try and end the war with England. Heinrich Himmler was an almost schizophrenic man who behaved in an erratic manner. Sereny treats the main ministers as real people and not puppets. Speer tells Sereny that "Heil Hitler!" was rarely used as a greeting but reserved for rallies, most thought it was a ridiculous thing to do anyway. Gitta Sereny grew to like Albert Speer and they even became friends. She refuses to believe that he was totally ignorant of the Jews and other group's fates. There is a picture of Speer talking to inmates at Mauthausen. He was also head of the GBI. The GBI threw Jews out of their hou
      ses and gave them to German citizens. He was a contradiction but also a human being caught in the machine of Hitler's Reich. He knew the bad things he had done and faced them as much as he could. Speer was a Nazi but was not guilty of anti-Semitism (many of his university chums were Jews and along with Leni Refienstahl both were accused of being anti-Jewish, when they never agreed with this element of the Nazi idealogy. The most damning thing about Speer is that he appeared indifferent and uncaring. This has to do with his personality, he was not a warm and caring person but a workaholic and loved the power and fame of his position). Speer's story is like "Faust" he sold his soul to the devil, Speer was a guilty man and was haunted by his mistakes and his own complicity in the Nazi regime. It's easy to hate Speer and the Nazi's but it takes a lot more to understand why these things happened. Personally I think Albert Speer was a remarkable man with a remarkable life. Gitta Sereny's book explores and destroys the modern pre-conception of the Nazi's and puts it into a context of ordinary men committing extraordinary crimes against humanity. Many of these men committed suicide or were hanged but Speer lived until old age where he could learn about himself and his role in the most horrific period in 20th Century history. He could come to terms with his own moral failures, Gitta Sereny's book is a masterpiece

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        08.09.2001 18:36

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        Wadey to Minor, Minor does a maradonna turn around Ingle, through to Woods, he dummies it past Horgan, but wait Wadey comes in with a flying tackle, amazing. Woods gets up and lands a right hook but Wadey nuts him and he falls down. The ball is then played out wide to Booooothy who controls it well on the chest before smashing a 70 yard shot past Bender in goal. 1-0. But Wadey brushes herself down, does 50 kick ups and scores a great goal. 1-1. Boothy is v mad, but Wadey picks the ball up and throws a computer at her before swinging a long pass out wide to Swaby, back to Gould, what a goal!!!! Thomas stranded on the goaline, it finishes 2-1

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        08.09.2001 18:33
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        Gitta Sereny has created a masterpiece of great significance in this work and the unique access she had to a man who was at the centre of Hitler's regime. She has a tough and inquistorial style which pushed Speer hard to face questions which quite obviously haunted the man in later life. Sereny is thourough in the examination of the detail of Speer's life and uncompromising in the her appraisal and questioning of his actions. It is fascinating to read Speer's retrospective viewpoints, which leave us with the sense of a man who struggled to comprehend the enormity of the events to which he had been so close. This is a gripping work from begining to end which will provide a valuable historical resource for the futre.

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          24.02.2001 20:08
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          Gitta Sereny certainly likes to pick controversial subjects to write about. Following her books about child murderer Mary Bell and death camp commandant Franz Stagl comes her biography of Albert Speer, the Third Reich’s Minister of Armaments, Hitler’s personal architect and probably his closest friend. The book starts, as it should, at the Nuremberg trials where Speer was the only defendant to admit his guilt and where he was sentenced to 20 years for war crimes. And where Gitta Sereny, then a young Hungararian nurse, was present as an observer and first became aware of Speer. Some time after his release from Spandau she interviewed him extensively, eventually producing this detailed, mainly chronological account of Speer’s life. Speer, was always unique in the Nazi elite in that he was recognizably human: young, intelligent, educated, lacking (as far as the evidence goes) any racist views; a talented architect rather than a politician or thug. And yet he happily devoted himself to the Third Reich and his technical brilliance was vital to its propaganda machine and supporting its war effort (his production improvements were personally responsible for prolonging the war by up to a year.) This book clearly portrays Speer’s growing corruption- of architectural designs for a new Berlin shifting with depressing inevitability into plans for munitions factories and, crucially, the use of slave labour. A contradictory, elusive character like Speer is both a biographer's dream and nightmare and Sereny goes someway to unraveling the enigma, even if she doesn’t manage to quite answer the central question of why he followed Hitler so zealously and for so long (his doubts only seemed to have surfaced right at the end.) It’s apparent how, decades later, Speer was still totally unresolved, both proud and ashamed of his Nazi past. And one of Sereny’s more profound conclusions is how much he was a mystery e
          ven to himself: hence the book’s subtitle. I finished this book still unsure what Speer was, but whatever you think of the man this biography is a remarkable piece of work. Despite the frequently grim subject matter it’s a compelling, absorbing account of a long, strange life. As a writer Sereny is thorough and non-judgmental and often offers interesting insights into the biographer’s art- the delicate negotiations involved in interviewing a subject. The only flaw was that she sometimes seems too sympathetic to Speer (as Sereny herself recognizes) and I wished she’d have called him more on the evasions in his answers. Though her approach is quite disingenuous too. She draws many startling revelations out of Speer that a more hostile questioner might not have received- notably his creepy friendship with Hitler. Ultimately the book and Speer’s reputation itself pivots on the controversial issue of whether he knew about the Holocaust. Despite his claims of ignorance it seems impossible one of the most powerful men in the Third Reich could have been totally unaware of the Final Solution. Although the question is really unknowable (the answer lying only between Speer and his conscience) Sereny concludes with the most likely though, in its own way, shocking truth: that Speer understood something was happening but deliberately avoided finding out what because it would have made him too uncomfortable. A key moment is when one of Speer’s friends warns him never to go to Auschwitz, that "unspeakable" things were being done there. And Speer fails to queation his friend about what he'd seen: "I did not want to know". The real achievement of this book is making you think about what you’d have done if you were living in Nazi Germany. Into all that that is horrific and unimaginable there is some disturbingly recognizable psychology. How many people do, on a much smaller scale, wha
          t Speer did: acted pragmatically, lied to themselves, thought that the end justified the means? Speer’s story is a cautionary reminder of where such thinking eventually leads. (To Spandau jail for Speer, to concentration camps for millions of more unfortunate others.) And Gitta Sereny’s biography stands as a fitting document of such a fascinating and regretful life.

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          Albert Speer, one of Hitler's henchman, spent twenty years in Spandau prison coming to terms with his acts and culpability fo the war crimes. This biography details that life, based on access to Speer himself as well as friends, family and papers.