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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 III: The ‘gentleman Nazi’ through the eyes of others


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Part III:   The ‘gentleman Nazi’ through the eyes of others

A very English irony: Hugh Trevor Roper’s contribution to the making of the Speer legend

On 8th January 1954, Albert Speer, inmate number five of the Spandau prisoner, sent detailed instructions from his cell to his friend Rudolph Wolters about the future of the manuscript of his memoirs which he was writing. Speer requested his friend that in the event of a possible posthumous publication, an unedited copy of the draft memoirs should be sent to a German university of Wolters’ choice.811

Along with this reasonable wish, Speer made a rather unusual request: to send another copy to Professor Trevor Roper, Christ Church College, Oxford, because, ‘Trevor Roper was the first to shed some positive lights on my person, for which I am grateful. Perhaps he will also agree to write an introduction.’812 These lines, meant to be secret, are of great significance: they indicate that the celebrated British historian Hugh Trevor Roper made the first scholarly contribution to the making of the legend that Albert Speer was a ‘gentleman Nazi.’ By the time Speer wrote the above mentioned lines Trevor Roper’s book ‘The last days of Hitler’ (1947) had achieved a cult status among academic historians as well as lay readers.

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