Saturday, December 4, 2010
Inside the Third Reich
The MacMillan Company, 1970
Translated by Richard and Clara Winston
Summary: The memoirs of Hitler's chief architect, later Reich Armaments Minister, and the last Foreign Minister of the Reich.
Thoughts: I read this for class (we actually only had about 100 pages assigned but I ended up reading the whole thing so that I could count it as read). It moves fairly quickly and yet it does take a while to get through.
There are many interesting passages that talk about life as an important Nazi, that give insights in to Nazi decisions, that reflect Speer's shaping of history, but then there are the passages about architecture. If you have no interest in architecture, I highly recommend skimming!
It shows some of the reasons for becoming a Nazi: Hitler's charisma especially when he gave speeches (this is baffling to me but apparently that's how it happened; I just can't imagine him as charismatic. He's short, he doesn't smile, he has that ugly mustache, and he seems very petulant) and self-interest. Speer's career as architect really launched in his late twenties under the Nazis. The depression did not really allow for him to do anything and anyway he would have been too young and not established; but the Nazis gave him a chance.
The most important part is probably his description of the Reich and how it was run. First Hitler as a leader is indecisive and his refusal to listen to people who know what they're talking about in favor of those he's known longest frustrates Speer. At some points, I empathized too much with Speer so that I was thinking "this boss sucks; if he'd only listen to Speer, he might be able to win." Then I would catch myself and remember that Hitler is the boss and if he was more effective, who knows how many more people would have died? I'm not sure if the Nazis could have won or if the Allies definitely would have prevailed but it's not exactly something I want to contemplate.
He also places the blame on the leaders, including himself, and away from the German people; thus the atrocities of the Third Reich do not fall on the Germans but on a small section.
That includes knowledge of the Holocaust: he claims that the Nazi leaders were so isolated in their sectors that he did not really know although he could have found out. He closed his mind. Of course, the knowledge of the Holocaust was definitely available to the German people: in Hamburg, shipments of Jewish property arrived consistently even throughout the war. Where were the people going if they didn't need ANY of their possessions? [That was discussed in Frank Bajohr's Aryanization' in Hamburg]
Overall: Very illuminating for people interested in WWII history. Recommended.