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The Making of a Gentleman Nazi

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

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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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Introduction

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Ever since he made his appearance as one of the major war criminals at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945, Albert Speer came across for many contemporary observers and historians as the only one among the National Socialist elite who was truthful about his role in the Third Reich. The architect and minister for armament of the Nazi state also distinguished himself from the other Nazi stalwarts through his acceptance of collective responsibility for the racial crimes committed under the regime, though he claimed to have had no part in them, a particularly impressive claim that could not be disproved at that time.

Speer was sentenced to twenty years of prison on the charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity relating primarily to his use of slave labour as the minister for armament. After the completion of his prison sentence he recounted and analysed the role he professed to have played in the Third Reich, through his two internationally successful books: Erinnerungen (1969, published as Inside the Third Reich in English) and Spandauer Tagebücher (1975, Spandau: The secret Diaries in English).1 His third book, Der Sklavenstaat, published shortly before his death 1981 (titled Infiltration in English) about his relationship with Himmler and his SS, was not so well received.

The international popularity of Speer’s first two memorial writings led him to appear countless times in the media. In all his public proclamations as in his books, Speer claimed that...

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