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The Making of a Gentleman Nazi

Albert Speer’s Politics of History in the Federal Republic of Germany


Baijayanti Roy

At the Nuremberg Trial and through his bestselling books, Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect and minister, could successfully project an image of himself as the «gentleman Nazi». Using hitherto unexplored archival sources, this book looks at those aspects of his career that Speer retrospectively manipulated (e.g. his resistance to Hitler’s Nero order), to construct this image. The evolution of the «Speer myth», analysed here, shows how West Germany’s politics influenced Speer’s narrative, as well as the impact that his image had on Federal Republic’s efforts to cope with its past. This book also examines the role of historians and public intellectuals in and outside Germany in reinforcing the Speer myth – the British historian Hugh Trevor Roper and the Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal among others.

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Part I: The background


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Part 1:  The background

A.   Speer and the West German politics of memory

The creation of Albert Speer’s post war image as ‘the gentleman Nazi’ was greatly influenced by the socio-political trends that developed in the newly formed Federal Republic of Germany. In many ways, the different stations of formation of the ‘Speer legend’ (particularly his memorial writings) reflected the ongoing process in which the West German state dealt with the legal and moral burdens which it inherited from the Third Reich.

In his turn, Speer contributed to the ‘politics of the past’ of the Federal Republic by influencing the ‘collective memory’ of the West German society through his autobiographical writings and his role as a living witness of history.46 There was thus a symbiotic relationship between the construction of the ‘Speer myth’ and the socio-political transformations that occurred in West Germany over three decades after the war.

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