The Builder of Light

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The Builder of Light

Post by Papa_Schicklegruber on Tue May 16, 2017 2:50 pm



Albert Speer was a German architect who was, for most of World War II, Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production for Nazi Germany. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office.

Speer is said to have prolonged the war for at least a year, with the consequent death of hundreds of thousands and widespread ruin. It also gave the Nazis more time to pursue their mass murder of Jews, Russians, Gypsies and others deemed not fit to live.

Albert Speer studied at the technical schools in Karlsruhe, Munich, and Berlin, and acquired an architectural license in 1927. After hearing Hitler speak at a Berlin rally in late 1930, he enthusiastically joined the Nazi Party January 1931 and so impressed the Führer by his efficiency and talent that, soon after Hitler became chancellor, Speer became his personal architect. 

He was rewarded with many important commissions, including the design of the parade grounds, searchlights, and banners of the spectacular Nürnberg party congress of 1934, filmed by Leni Riefenstahl in Triumph of the Will.

A highly efficient organizer, Speer became 1942 minister for armaments, succeeding the engineer Fritz Todt. In 1943 he also took over part of Hermann Goering's responsibilities as planner of the German war economy. From Todt, Speer inherited the Organisation Todt, an organization using forced labor for the construction of strategic roads and defenses. Under Albert Speer's direction, economic production reached its peak in 1944, despite Allied bombardment. In the last months of the war Speer did much to thwart Hitler's scorched-earth policy, which would have devastated Germany. 
 
Speer was jailed in 1946 for 20 years in the post-war Nuremberg trials. After his release he wrote his memoirs, grew wealthy, and until his death in 1981 worked hard at being a penitent, presenting himself as someone who should have known what was being done, but did not know. Albert Speer offered himself as the scapegoat for Germany's collective guilt.
On the stand at Nuremberg Albert Speer stood out among the accused as the one "good Nazi." A dedicated servant of the party who, as Hitler's minister of wartime production, was the Nazis' principle exploiter of forced labor. 

Gitta Sereny's biography meticulously re-creates for the reader the professional, emotional, and psychological life of Albert Speer, Hitler's architect and later his Minister of Armaments. Throughout the 12-year history of the Third Reich, Speer remained one of Hitler's most trusted confidants and one of the most powerful political leaders of the Nazi party.

Researched and written over an eight year period, Albert Speer weaves together information from innumerable personal interviews with Speer, his family, close friends, and professional colleagues, the author's own solid grasp of German history, and critical readings of Speer's own writings, including various drafts of his memoirs, Inside the Third Reich, first published in 1969.

Throughout, Sereny consciously avoids the pitfall of many Speer biographers, who seek to either blame or exculpate Speer for the Nazi's atrocities. Instead, she succeeds in helping the reader understand a "morally extinguished" man and place into context "all the crimes against humanity which Hitler initiated, which continue to threaten us today, and of which Speer, who was in many ways a man of excellence, sadly enough made himself a part." Well over 700 pages, Albert Speer is not a quick read, but superbly written and meticulously researched, it is a pleasure to read, providing unprecedented insight into one of the most complex figures in modern German history.
 
Dan van der Vat, a Dutch-born British journalist, makes an effective case in The Good Nazi, a well-written and skeptical account, that while the slippery (Albert) Speer knew for years about the so called atrocities, he was able to pretend that he only "suspected ... that something appalling was happening" to Europe's Jews. As a result, he was one of only two top- ranking Nazis to escape the hangman, drawing a 20-year prison sentence instead.
 
On the stand at Nuremberg, Albert Speer, the self-described "second man in the Reich," denied any direct knowledge of the Final Solution. But was he really the innocent functionary he claimed to be? And was he sincere in accepting his share of the Nazis' "collective guilt"? This hard-hitting biography says no--that Speer's avowals of ignorance and repentance were a self-serving sham.
 
From 1946 to 1966, while serving the prison sentence handed down from the Nuremburg War Crimes tribunal, Albert Speer penned 1,200 manuscript pages of personal memoirs. Titled Erinnerungen ("Recollections") upon their 1969 publication in German, Speer's critically acclaimed personal history was translated into English and published one year later as Inside the Third Reich. Long after their initial publication, Speer's memoir continues to provide one of the most detailed and fascinating portrayals of life within Hitler's inner circles, the rise and fall of the third German empire, and of Hitler himself.

Speer chronicles his entire life, but the majority of Inside the Third Reich focuses on the years between 1933 and 1945, when Speer figured prominently in Hitler's government and the German war effort as Inspector General of Buildings for the Renovation of the Federal Capital and later as Minister of Arms and Munitions. Speer's recollections of both duties foreground the impossibility of reconciling Hitler's idealistic, imperialistic ambitions with both architectural and military reality. Throughout, Inside the Third Reich remains true to its author's intentions. With compelling insight, Speer reveals many of the dreams that led to his achievements.
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