by Albert Speer
Here is an overview/analysis of the book:
Speer joined with Adolf Hitler first as an architect. He started very low on the chain of architects for Hitler at first, but as time passed, it was made clear to Hitler that Speer was very good at what he did. Hitler had him draw more buildings and landscapes for the Third Reich. Speer worked very hard to please Hitler and his plans became increasingly excellent in the eyes of Hitler. Speer gained prestige and respect as Hitler accepted more and more drawings from him. When Hitler finally took control of Germany, Speer’s business boomed.
The grandiose plans the Führer had for the country kept Speer very busy. Eventually, Speer gained a promotion and was given his own crew of architects to work with. This promotion meant that Speer would now be working directly with Hitler ever more than before. Because of this, Speer soon found that the new Chancellor of Germany was quite fond of architecture and even thought of pursuing it as a profession early on in his life. Many meetings between the two resulted in a fascination of Hitler by Speer as being a great leader and commander. Speer idolized Hitler and continued with his orders of drawing up plans. As a result of Hitler’s interest in architecture, he critiqued Speer’s work and even drew up plans himself. He made demands at lengths and dimensions on the buildings that were to be built.
Speer soon was invited to Hitler’s getaways in the mountains. He was now a part of his entourage and observed many of the quirks and maniacal behaviors of Hitler. Hitler was a different man when he was not under the spotlight. He considered himself an expert on all topics, which became apparent later on in the war when confronted by experts in fields Hitler could only begin to understand. He would defy them and claim only his views were correct. This was ultimately another flaw in Hitler’s Reich. This, accumulated with countless other occurrences resulted in the untimely demise of the Third Reich.
As Speer’s influence grew, he became a powerful man. He became even more powerful when the Minister of Armaments died in a plane crash. Speer was called into Hitler’s office and told that he was to be his replacement. Speer at first protested on the grounds of his lack of knowledge in this department. Hitler said that was nonsense and told him to get on it right away.
Speer leaped right into his job and for the first few weeks learned how to run the arms industry. He was very good at his job for a number of reasons. Because of his architectural background, he is used to dealing with problems and fixing them immediately. Also, he was very ingenious in his ways of increasing production of war necessities. He constantly found obstruction by other members of the Reich, but he always found ways of producing more and more weapons. Some of his ideas increased production in astonishing numbers. Even when the war seemed hopeless and his factories and workshops were being destroyed and burnt; he always found ways of supplying most of the demand. He eventually realized it was a lost cause and half-heartedly did his job through the end of the war.
Speer thought very differently of Hitler before the war and after the war. Before the war, as I explained earlier, was an idolizing fascination of Hitler’s abilities. Hitler had an ability to make himself and others around him believe that he could do things that an outsider might deem as impossible. In most cases, the fact remained that it was just talk and nothing more. As the war progressed and it got worse for Germany, confidence in Hitler by all his adjutants and generals steadily declined to an ultimate severe lack of belief in anything that came out of his mouth. After the war, when Speer was doing time, he thought about his actions and mindset during his time with Hitler. What he found was that there was no reason to put that much confidence into one person. He says he thought that he made a horrible mistake in which cost him self-respect and resulted in his imprisonment. This may be a part of the book in which Speer was trying to save his own worthless carcass.
Speer was in constant contact with other members of the Third Reich. Among them being Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, Josef Göbbles, Rudolf Hess and countless others. They each contributed and defiled in their own ways. Some of them would cut down his power in any way they could just to increase their own stature in the eyes of Hitler. It was competitiveness in the utmost when power was threatened by the actions of others in Hitler’s immediate entourage. Sometimes Speer could go around certain opposition by going directly to Hitler, other times the opposition had gotten to Hitler first.
In general, Speer made it clear in his book that he was nothing like most of the convicted war criminals that he dealt with on a day-to-day basis. This is very debatable. This leads me to my next point, which is that of Speer’s sincerity and truthfulness in his writings. It is my belief that certain parts of the book are truer than others. I think that his pre-war activities are for the most part true. Most of the parts after his promotion to arms minister I find less than convincing.
Speer makes himself out to be an innocent bystander of the war. He never owns up to any real crimes that he was accused of. He claims to have none, then limited knowledge of the concentration camps during the war and even then, he says he was oblivious to the activities inside the camps. I personally believe that he was not being entirely truthful of this. As an unofficial member of Hitler’s entourage, I think that he would have been exposed to many chances to hear the truth of the matter if he was not told directly. I, of course, was not there so I cannot make anything but observations and guesses as to what might have happened.
The book was very interesting and informative on many levels. I was surprised on many occasions to find out what Hitler was really like. I did not know who Speer was before I read this book, and to anyone who doesn’t know who he was and what he contributed to the war cannot call themselves an expert on the inner workings of the Third Reich. They are just well informed hobbyists.