Inside the Third Reich  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Inside the Third Reich is a memoir written by Albert Speer, the Nazi Minister of Armaments from 1942 to 1945, serving as Hitler's main architect before this period. It is considered to be one of the most detailed descriptions of the workings and leaders of Nazi Germany but is controversial because of Speer's paucity of discussion of Nazi atrocities and his degree of involvement with them (or his degree of awareness of them).

Contents

Creation

At the Nuremberg Trials, Speer was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his use of slave labor while Minister of Armaments. From 1946 to 1966, while serving the sentence in Spandau Prison, he penned 1,200 manuscript pages of personal memoirs. Because he was not allowed to write such memoirs while in prison, he smuggled these notes out, and returned to them after his release. He was aided by Joachim Fest. The manuscript led to two books: first Erinnerungen ("Recollections") (Propyläen, 1969), which was translated into English and published by Macmillan in 1970 as Inside the Third Reich; then Spandauer Tagebücher ("Spandau Diaries") (Propyläen, 1975), which was translated into English and published by Macmillan in 1976 as Spandau: The Secret Diaries.

Contents

Part One
  1. Origins and Youth
  2. Profession and Vocation
  3. Junction
  4. My Catalyst
  5. Architectural Megalomania
  6. The Greatest Assignment
  7. Obersalzberg
  8. The New Chancellery
  9. A Day in the Chancellery
  10. Our Empire Style
  11. The Globe
  12. The Descent Begins
  13. Excess
    Part Two
  14. Start in my New Office
  15. Organized Improvisation
  16. Sins of Omission
  17. Commander in Chief Hitler
  18. Intrigues
  19. Second Man in the State
  20. Bombs
  21. Hitler in the Autumn of 1943
  22. Downhill
    Part Three
  23. Illness
  24. The War Thrice Lost
  25. Blunders, Secret Weapons, and the SS
  26. Operation Valkyrie
  27. The Wave from the West
  28. The Plunge
  29. Doom
  30. Hitler's Ultimatum
  31. The Thirteenth Hour
  32. Annihilation
    Epilogue
  33. Stations of Imprisonment
  34. Nuremberg
  35. Conclusions

Overview

Inside the Third Reich is written in a semi-autobiographical style. While Speer begins with his childhood, he spends most of the memoirs describing his work in the Nazi hierarchy.

Speer, by his account, entered the Nazi hierarchy by an unusual chain of events. He said that he first joined after attending a rally, at the behest of some of his students, at which Hitler spoke. Early on Speer was used mainly as a driver due to his being the only member with a car in the Wassen area. As an architect commissioned by the party, he achieved an excellent turnaround time on a building project, which attracted attention from senior leaders. Because Adolf Hitler saw himself as both an architect and artist, he warmed to Speer and gradually brought him into his inner circle.

Due to his relative closeness to Hitler, Speer found himself in an enviable but precarious position. He later remarked, "I would have been Hitler's best friend… if Hitler had been capable of having friends."

His duties until 1942 were occupied exclusively by architectural work, mainly large works that Hitler planned but would never build. Then, after the Minister of Armaments, Fritz Todt, died in a plane crash, Hitler unexpectedly tapped Speer for the position. Although Speer claimed he protested this appointment due to his lack of experience, he took it.

Under Speer, German arms production improved greatly. Prior to his appointment, the economy was run by Hermann Göring. However, Göring had fallen out of favor. After a power struggle, Speer managed to get most of the economy under his control. (Some aspects of it had fallen under the control of Heinrich Himmler's secret police, and remained so until the collapse of government.)

Speer introduced economic reforms that the United States and Great Britain had implemented long before—namely, the full mobilization of factories for war purposes and the use of female workers. However, although more arms were produced, by the time Speer accomplished this, the war was already lost. Many people among the Western allies believed that the dictatorship in Germany gave that country's wartime economy frightening advantages by creating great efficiencies throughout the economy (in comparison to the cacophony of forces that shaped the production possibilities curve in democracies). Speer took pains in his memoirs to argue that this theory was not supported by the facts. In fact, he felt that in some ways the democracies ended up with better efficiencies in production than Germany did. He judged that the pathological secrecy and corruption within a dictatorial system more than canceled out the theoretical benefits of greater centralization.

By the end of the war, Speer was disillusioned by the war, by the Nazis, and with Hitler himself. Despite being one of the few people to stay close to Hitler until the end, he sabotaged Hitler's scorched earth policy to prevent the complete destruction of Germany.

The memoirs effectively end with the end of the war and death of Hitler.

Significance

Speer was one of the highest-ranking Nazi officials to survive both the war and the Nuremberg trials. He was also, even during World War II, described by both sides as one of the few highly intelligent people in the Nazi hierarchy. Because of these factors, Inside the Third Reich has become the definitive work on the inner workings of Nazi Germany.

Due to his position, Speer was able to describe the personalities of many Nazi officials, including Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf Hess, Martin Bormann and, of course, Adolf Hitler himself.

Description of the Nazi hierarchy

Speer's memoirs revolutionized the study of Nazi Germany. Despite the popular vision of the country as a monolithic, totalitarian state that ran smoothly at first, Speer revealed that the country was actually sharply divided by overlapping responsibilities, court politics, and incompetent leaders. Most surprisingly, he portrayed Hitler not as an intelligent, decisive leader, but rather as a lazy, artistically tempered bohemian who worked in spurts.

Speer's personal insights into Nazi leaders themselves are nothing short of remarkable, especially since many other Nazis and their families chose him as a neutral confidant. Speer described how Joseph Goebbels' wife, Magda, complained about her husband's infidelity, and how she in turn had had an affair with one of Speer's old friends, Karl Hanke. Personally meeting with Göring in his estate, Speer wrote how the by-then overweight Luftwaffe marshal spent his days hunting, eating, and quite literally playing with stolen jewels as if they were toys.

According to Speer, even during the mid-1930s, after he attained dictatorial powers, Hitler had extremely unstable work habits that included staying up very late (typically until 5 or 6AM) and then sleeping until about noon, spending hours upon hours at meals and tea parties, and wasting both his time and that of colleagues with movies and long, boring monologues. He was incapable of normal office work. In the memoirs, Speer openly wondered when exactly Hitler ever found time to do anything important. On his personal life, Speer remarked that Eva Braun had told him, in the middle of 1943, that Hitler was too busy, too immersed, and too tired to have sex with her.

Listening to the Führer, Speer concluded that Hitler was incapable of growth, either emotional or intellectual. Because Hitler could charm people (including Speer himself), Speer also believed Hitler was a sociopath and megalomaniac. Even in 1945, when Germany's armed forces were all but destroyed, Speer could not convince Hitler to admit defeat, or even to go on the defensive.

According to Speer, Germany's position in the war went into decline during the siege of Stalingrad, when Hitler, faced with defeat, tried to hide himself from reality. In Hitler's reticence, Speer claimed that Hitler's personal secretary, Martin Bormann, took advantage of the vacuum and controlled all information going to Hitler in a bid to gain power for himself.

Likewise, Speer painted an extremely unflattering portrait of the Nazi government. Because of Hitler's indecisiveness—and his belief that struggle led to strength—the government was never properly coordinated. Different ministries were often assigned to the same task and Hitler refused to clarify jurisdictions. As a result, for anything to get done, ministers often had to engage in court politics. Speer himself had to ally with Goebbels and other ministers to counter Göring's incompetent economic leadership. Also, commentators on the memoirs have pronounced it likely that Speer himself came close to being assassinated by Himmler after he unwittingly put himself in the care of an SS doctor.

Controversy about the Holocaust and slave labor

In the book, as at the Nuremberg Trials, Speer denied any knowledge of the Holocaust. While he does admit to his knowledge of slave labor used in his ministry, Speer claimed that he tried to improve the slave laborers' condition, and that he preferred not to use such labor.

Even his editorial aide, Joachim Fest, noted in later editions of Inside the Third Reich that much of what Speer wrote disagreed with his testimony at Nuremberg. Most notably, Speer originally made up excuses as to why he stayed with Hitler until the end, but in his memoirs, admitted he did so out of personal loyalty.

In the book, Speer claimed to have contemplated Hitler's assassination in early 1945 to end the war. However, aside from an affidavit from one of his friends, Dieter Stahl, there is no evidence to substantiate this. In fact, in the late 1990s, examination of Royal Air Force photographs of Hitler's bunker near the end of the war directly contradicts Speer's claims.

Moreover, Speer consented to numerous interviews after his release from prison, and many of the things said in these interviews once again disagreed with both his court testimony and memoirs. Template:Fact

Supporters of Speer, such as Fest, claim Speer felt personal guilt about the Nazi genocide, and that he spent his remaining years trying to justify both to himself and the public why he had let himself be deceived. Before his death, Speer compared his work on behalf of the Nazis to that of a man who made a deal with the devil.

Speer's detractors argue that his omissions and denials were based on his efforts to avoid execution at Nuremberg. Many accounts of the trial depict Speer as a crafty and intelligent defendant who pulled any string he could in his defense. Moreover, other Nuremberg defendants in positions similar to Speer's were hanged, most notably Fritz Sauckel, who actually worked under Speer's orders. His claim to have tried to kill Hitler is usually cited as one of the main reasons he was spared the noose.

While arguments over Speer's guilt are ongoing, Inside the Third Reich is used by historians on all sides as a primary source on the inner workings of the Nazis. Speer's supporters have sardonically noted that even historians who claim Speer is untrustworthy nonetheless incorporate the memoirs into their work.




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