Have you ever had a book that sat on your shelf for years and years and you always wanted to read it, but just never seemed to get around to it?
Well -- I had one. And finally got around to it.
Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth, by Gitta Sereny.
In all honesty, it was a fellow blogger that got me to dust this thing off.
And sadly, I forget who you are, so if you are reading this, please remind me in the comment section. You listed it as one of your favourite reads of all time. And now I would have to add it as one of mine, also.
So, thank you.
This is a big heavy book. If it were a household cleaner, it would have as a sub-title: Industrial Strength! It took me a while to get through it, but not because of lack of interest. It's the story of Albert Speer, sometimes referred to as "the good Nazi". He began his career as an architect in Germany, landing, while yet an amateur, a few key commissions from Hitler. From the get-go a special relationship developed between them -- and years later, Hitler appointed him as Minister of Armaments. Speer, having no political aspirations at the time, was as shocked as anyone else around him to be thrust into the very highest ranks of Nazism. As it turns out, no one was better suited for the job. Speer's organizational brilliance was boundless. He succeeded beyond even Adolf's wildest dreams.
But little did he know of Adolf's wildest dreams!
As Germany moved eastward into Russia and suffered staggering defeats, it became obvious [to Speer and many others] that Hitler's goals would never be realized. And as we all know now, and some knew then, Hitler's dreams were nightmares, in reality.
This book is about how much Speer was privy to the nightmares. What did he really know about Hitler's goal of eradication of the Jewish race? What did he know of Treblinka and Sobibor -- of Auschwitz -- of so many other places involved in a horror that staggers the imagination?
Toward the end, as Hitler himself came to reluctantly accept the fact that Germany would not prevail, he adopted a policy of "scorched earth", in which he would seek to destroy Germany itself. It is impossible to summarize in a review the scope of this book, but suffice it to say, Speer, along with many others, had to come to a place of deciding whether they were for "Germany" or for "Hitler."
Speer chose Germany, and the German people, over his former idol, the Fuhrer.
He then began to deliberately countermand Hitler's own orders of self-destruction.
But history's greatest question remains. What did Speer know of what was going on when it came to the extermination of the Jews? What did Speer know of the horrors experienced by the millions upon millions of slave workers that were essentially under his command?
In the postwar Nuremberg Trials, Speer was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, while his direct subordinate Fritz Sauckel was sentenced to death. Did Speer manipulate his way around a death sentence? Or was he, as he for so long claimed to be, truly completely unaware of what manner of atrocities were being committed?
This is what this book explores, and it is truly fascinating. It is based on meticulous research and the author's private interviews with damn near everyone that never shot themselves, hanged themselves, or bit into the cyanide capsule before she could get to them.
She definitely [and definitively] got to Speer. That much is sure.
It is an amazing -- worthwhile book. Dust it off if it's sitting around your place, bowing the shelf down amid less worthy books on either side of it.