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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 II: The evolution of Speer’s memorial discourse


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Part II:  The evolution of Speer’s memorial discourse

Justice tempered by mercy? Nuremberg Trial and the genesis of the ‘Speer myth’

The International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg in 1945 was the first institutional step taken by the Allies to come to terms with National Socialism. The Trial gave rise to questions of political, moral and metaphysical guilt which came to form a part of (West) German identity after 1945.301 Post-war German official institutions, particularly in the western half, had to take official notice of the culpability of the Third Reich as well as the corresponding issue of guilt. However, most ordinary Germans, struggling to cope with day to day problems after the devastations of war, saw themselves as victims – both of the Nazis and of the Allies. Repentance or atonement did not enter their thoughts at the time.

Therefore Nuremberg Trial was branded by many Germans as ‘victors’ justice.’ At the same time, a large section of the West German society blamed the leading Nazis, Hitler most of the all, for the catastrophe that they found themselves in. This explains why Franz von Papen, Hans Fritzsche and Hjalmar Schacht, the three defendants who were cleared of all charges, faced the anger of their countrymen who demanded their punishment upon their release.

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