Newest Review: ... sensitive issues and this is what makes the book absolutely amazing. It delv ... more
A Grey Path Indeed
Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth - Gitta Sereny
Member Name: Hunting_Bears
Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth - Gitta Sereny
Date: 11/09/02, updated on 11/09/02 (635 review reads)
Advantages: wondefully written
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.
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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