‘Inside the Third Reich: memoirs’ is a semi-autographic text of the memoirs of Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s chief architect and the Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich from 1942 to 1945. Published in 1970, it was considered to be a reliable and useful guide into the inner workings of the Nazi dictatorship. Speer’s memoirs offered a new understanding of Hitler and his government written by a figure immensely close to him politically and personally. Historian Barbara Miller Lane noted in 1973 that Speer’s memoirs, “has renewed public interest in this…” (Hitler’s fondness for architecture) “…and other aspects of the Nazi regime”.[1] A particular aspect of usefulness is Speer’s discussion concerning the structure and bureaucracy of the Nazi regime. However, ‘Inside the Third Reich’ is also controversial due to Speer’s significant lack of discussion concerning Nazi atrocities, particularly the Holocaust, and his degree of knowledge or involvement with them. This debate generated major doubts concerning the validity of some of Speer’s statements and claims in his text.[2] In addition with his various contradictions evident in his work, historians like Felix Gilbert also noted how Speer’s writing revealed surprisingly little regarding the mechanics of the Nazi dictatorship, and that it was more a “self-analysis” and a further projection of his ‘innocent’ persona.[3] The detailing of his relationship and opinion of Adolf Hitler, in addition with the extent of Speer’s role in the Nazi atrocities, together with his honesty concerning those atrocities, generated substantial doubt over the reliability of Speer’s work being used as an accurate guide to the inner workings of the Nazi regime. When the aforementioned points are considered, an evaluation into how reliable and useful Albert Speer’s memoirs are as a guide to the inner Nazi system are difficult to properly ascertain. It serves as a useful source as it provides a unique perspective being written by a high-ranking Nazi and a major member of Hitler’s inner circle. However, the legitimacy of the Speer personality and his memoirs is highly questionable, in turn casting severe doubt over the reliability of Speer’s text as a guide to the inner workings of the Nazi dictatorship.

 

Albert Speer’s memoirs are indeed useful when used in the analysis of the structure and the bureaucracy of the National Socialist government. It is deemed useful as Speer was significantly close to Hitler both politically and personally, thus he knew intimate detail into how the Nazi Party was structured. ‘Inside the Third Reich’ was therefore thoroughly useful for historians in the study of the Nazi party inner political workings and organisation. Speer noted that the bureaucracy of National Socialist Germany was a continuation of that of the Weimar Republic, but with the government structure shaped like a pyramid, the unfailing leader at the apex.[4] Hitler ruled his party and his nation through the policy ‘Führerprinzip’ (leader principle). This was an ideology that interprets organisations as a hierarchy of leaders, who demand obedience from their subordinates, and answer only to their superiors.[5] Being the apex of German society itself, Adolf Hitler saw himself as law itself, as he stated after the Röhm Putsch (or Night of the Long Knives) of July 1934, “in this hour, I was responsible for the fate of the German nation and was therefore the supreme judge of the German people”![6] It was expected that those within the party as throughout Germany would “work towards the Führer”, so that Hitler would not have to be present in the daily running of the state.[7] According to Speer, this caused the Nazi Party to be run effectively by Party officials, known as ‘Gauleiters,’ competing for attention and power, and seeking to gain the Führer’s favour. Speer’s useful insight also showed that Hitler enacted his leadership style in order to fuel his own ego. He would give contradictory commands to his subordinates and placed them in situations where their obligations and orders would clash. This would foster distrust, infighting and generate competition between his subordinates furthering his own absolute power.[8] Thus, according to Speer, by encouraging infighting through contradictory orders and actions would “finally wipe out the quarrel and any question of Hitler’s authority”.[9] These insights presented by Albert Speer are particularly useful in the ‘intentionalist’ and ‘structuralist’ historical debate concerning the structure of the Nazi dictatorship. ‘Intentionalists’ believe that Hitler engineered this hierarchical system in order to fully secure the loyalty of his supporters and to render any conspiracy as impossible. However, ‘structuralists’ state that the system evolved independent of Hitler’s influence, labelling him a weak dictator and more of a figurehead. Speer’s text highlights elements of both arguments. He depicted Hitler as “reckless and frivolous” and that “Amateurishness was one of his dominant traits”.[10] However, his intentional giving of contradictory orders causing infighting and competition in order to further his own power, casts Hitler as systematic and intelligent in contracting the party structure. German historian Hans Mommsen noted that the “administrative anarchy of the Third Reich… was partly instigated by Hitler and partly tolerated passively by him as it developed”.[11] Mommsen effectively stated Speer’s observations between Hitler and his party, that of initiating a process of administrative anarchy, and letting it develop on its own accord, with Hitler remaining the head of state until the very end. Being close to Hitler politically and personally provided Speer with an inside perspective on how the Nazi dictatorship ran, and the issues associated with that. When this is considered, Speer’s text is useful and reliable in analysing how the Nazi party functioned. It is considered reliable Speer’s points concerning how the party was run were supported by many historians post 1970. Speer’s iconic text has been used heavily in historical discussion, especially in the ‘intentionalist’ and ‘structuralist’ historical debate.

 

Albert Speer’s depicted relationship with Adolf Hitler is a key component of his memoirs, and an important point of discussion for historians. However, questions surrounding the validity of Speer’s description of this relationship have arisen. These concerns primarily centre on the motives to Speer’s public, documented shaming of the Nazi Party and Hitler since his capture. Canadian-born American economist and diplomat John Galbraith, noted in 1945 that Speer’s eager confession and Nazi shaming was a “well developed strategy of self vindication and survival”.[12]  Speer noted that he found it difficult to maintain their relationship after Hitler appointed him as Minister for Armaments and War Production in 1942. He found Hitler’s control over the German military effort to be misdirected and domineering. In the last months of the Third Reich, Speer noted that, “I had hated him at times, fought him, lied to him, and deceived him…”[13] He noted how Hitler influenced and manipulated people, “one seldom recognises the devil when he is putting his hand on your shoulder”.[14] As mentioned previously, Speer also found Hitler “reckless and frivolous,” sociopathic and megalomaniacal.[15] However, historians have scrutinised Speer’s claimed relationship with Hitler, Robert Hughes noted in a BBC documentary entitled, ‘Visions of Space,’ that their relationship was an, “epic of narcissism with the young Speer cast as Hitler’s unfulfilled other self”.[16] Certainly, Hitler’s appreciation for Speer and his architectural work was profound, as historian Richard Overy noted, Hitler regarded Speer as his ‘personal protégé,’ and that they spent a lot of time together discussing art and design. Speer was treated uniquely in comparison to Hitler’s other subordinates.[17] It is this friendly relationship based through a mutual appreciation of art and design that is controversial to historians. It is controversial due to what Speer wrote and said concerning Hitler at the Nuremburg Trials in 1945/46 and in ‘Inside the Third Reich’. As noted by John Galbraith, Speer was often accused of appeasing the Allies by confessing and shaming the Nazi Party in order to survive. This accusation supplies significant doubt over the reliability of Speer’s statements concerning his relationship with Hitler. The most startling claim by Speer that he told the Nuremberg trials was that he planned to assassinate Hitler by introducing tabun poison gas into Hitler’s bunker in Berlin 1945.[18] He also documents his thoughts and plans to assassinate the Führer in his memoirs.[19] Speer’s claim met with immediate scepticism, namely Hermann Göring who stated, “That damn fool Speer! Did you see the way he completely humiliated himself in the courtroom today…To think that a German can act that vile in order to prolong his lousy life…Assassinate Hitler! Ha! God in heaven! I could have sunk into the ground”![20] The lack of evidence of there ever being a plot by Speer to assassinate Hitler places severe doubt over the validity of Speer’s claimed relationship with Hitler. This is especially pertinent when contrasted against their relationship when Speer was Hitler’s architect, of which was a firm friendship. Despite claiming to, “hate and despise” Hitler in the Reich’s last moments, Speer remained loyal to the Führer.[21] These inconsistencies between Nuremberg and his book, in addition with inconsistencies within his text itself, in relation to his relationship with Hitler, illustrate Speer in an unreliable manner. Critics of Speer stated that he merely stated negative qualities concerning Hitler in order to maintain his own survival. However, as he was personally close with Hitler as a friend as Speer has also confessed, historians have also deliberated that he must have known more than he admitted concerning Nazi atrocities.[22] The relationship between Speer and Hitler in general, casts significant doubt over the reliability of his work concerning the Nazi regime.

 

Most of the controversy surrounding Albert Speer concerns his role and knowledge in the atrocities committed by the Third Reich. This concern also casts immense scepticism regarding the reliability of Speer’s text. Following the Nuremberg Trials, Speer was coined “the Nazi who said sorry”, as he was the only defendant to show remorse and accepted moral responsibility for the inhumane crimes of the Nazi regime.[23] However, Speer maintained that he did not know of the Nazi persecution and attempted extermination of the Jews and other groups while in power. Albert Speer was quoted by his biographer Gritta Sereny that, “I can say that I suspected…that something appalling was happening with the Jews”.[24] Within his memoirs, Speer maintained his innocence concerning the Holocaust.  He also expressed further guilt, as seen with an interaction he had with his friend and ‘Gauleiter of Lower Silesia’ (a region over Poland and East Germany,) Karl Hanke in mid-1944, “my friend Karle Hanke the Gauleiter of Lower Silesia, came to see me… he seemed confused and spoke falteringly, with many breaks. He advised me never to accept an invitation to inspect a concentration camp in Upper Silesia. Never, under any circumstances. He had seen something there which he was not permitted to describe and moreover could not describe”.[25] Speer then stated that he came to realise post-war that what Hanke was referring to was the Auschwitz concentration camp. Speer wrote that he blamed himself for not inquiring into Hanke’s warning, thus that he felt “responsible for Auschwitz in a wholly personal sense”.[26] However, despite Speer’s claims, many historians believe that he indeed knew about the persecution of Jews and the Final Solution. Some state that due to the close relationship between Speer and Hitler it is doubtful that he never heard about the Final Solution.[27] However, much of the controversy over the reliability of Speer’s claimed lack of knowledge centres around his presence at the Posen Conference on 6 October 1943. At Posen, Heinrich Himmler gave a speech clearly detailing the nature of the Final Solution; he declared, “The grave decision had to be taken to cause this people to vanish from the earth”…[28] In his memoirs Speer made no reference to Himmler’s speech at the Posen Conference, although historians like Jon E. Lewis noted in 2012 that Speer was present at the conference, as Himmler mentioned Speer in his addresses. For example in discussion of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising: “This entire ghetto was producing fur coats, dresses, and the like. Whenever we tried to get at it in the past we were told: Stop! Armaments factory! Of course, this has nothing to do with Party Comrade Speer. It wasn’t your doing. It is this portion of alleged armaments factories that Party Comrade Speer and I intend to clear out in the next few weeks”.[29] In response to the accusations made against Speer that he must have heard Himmler’s speech concerning the extermination of the Jews, Speer stated through Joachim Fest’s text that he had left Posen at midday to journey to Hitler’s headquarters in Rastenburg, thus missing Himmler’s Final Solution address.[30] Critics of Speer state his memoirs are a further continuation of the lies Speer told at Nuremberg in order to survive and maintain his good name.[31] Thus, his memoirs are not a reliable source of information due to his work embodying a furthering of the inaccuracies Speer told at Nuremberg. In 2007 British journalist Kate Connolly reported that a letter reportedly written by Speer dated 23rd December 1971 to Belgian resistance fighter widow Hélène Jeanty that he was indeed present for Himmler’s Final Solution speech at Posen. It read, “There is no doubt – I was present as Himmler announced on October 6 1943 that all Jews would be killed”.[32] The controversy surrounding the historical argument concerning Speer’s knowledge of the Holocaust damages the reliability of his memoirs, as they represent the continuation of the ‘Speer mythology’.[33]

 

The usefulness and reliability of ‘Inside the Third Reich: memoirs’ to historians is controversial. At his text’s publication in 1970, Speer offered a new understanding into the inner workings of the Nazi regime. This was primarily due to Speer’s position within the Nazi party. Of use to historians were Speer’s depictions of intimate details concerning personalities, relationships, and other interactions between senior party ministers. His memoirs are also deemed useful by historians in the analysis of the structure and bureaucracy of the Nazi dictatorship, especially concerning the role of Hitler within the party. As a former top-ranking Nazi party member, Speer’s personal accounts are useful for historians in the study of the inner workings of the Nazi regime. However, ‘Inside the Third Reich’ and its author have also suffered significant criticism from historians regarding its reliability. The detailing of a negative relationship with Hitler, in addition with Speer’s claimed denial of knowledge about the Holocaust, generated substantial doubt over the trustworthiness of Speer and the information within his 1970 text. Historians like Dan Van der Vat stated that Speer accepted responsibility for the Nazi atrocities and shamed his former colleagues at the Nuremberg Trials and in his memoirs in order “for the preservation of Albert Speer”.[34] The controversy surrounding Albert Speer and his memoirs severely damaged the reliability of his text being used as a guide into the inner working of the Nazi regime. However, despite this, Speer’s work is still useful for historians as a primary source into the inner workings of the Nazi dictatorship. This is due to it being written by a top-ranking party member and Hitler’s political and personal friend. Essentially, aspects of Albert Speer’s 1970 text entitled ‘Inside the Third Reich: memoirs’ are useful for historians in the study of the inner workings of the Third Reich. However, its reliability is highly controversial in regards to Speer and other aspects of his memoirs.

 

 

 

Bibliography:

 

Primary Sources:

 

Connolly, Kate. ‘Letter proves Speer knew of Holocaust plan.’  The Guardian. 2007, written as a note in Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich at War: How the Nazis Led Germany from Conquest to Disaster. Penguin UK. 2012. 924

 

Himmler, Heinrich. 1943. ‘”Extermination”- Himmler’s Posen Speech.’ Jewish Virtual Library. The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. 2014. Available at: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/HimmlerPosen.html [Accessed 12 October.)

 

Lewis, Jon E. Voices from the Holocaust. Constable & Robinson. London. 2012. 187

 

Sager, Alexander & Winkler, Heinrich A. Germany: The Long Road West. 1933-1990. Oxford University Press. 2007. 37

 

Schmidt, Matthias. Albert Speer: The End of a Myth. Collier Books. 1986. 161

 

Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich: memoirs. tr. Richard & Clara Winston; indrod. By Eugene Davidson. Orion Books, London. 1970.

 

Tague, James E. The Last Field Marshal. Xlibris Corporation. 2011. 89

 

Secondary Sources:

 

Davidson, Martin. Albert Speer: The Nazi Who Said Sorry. London: British Broadcasting Company. 1996

 

Fest, Joachim. Speer: The Final Verdict. Harcourt, New York. 2001.

 

Gilbert, Felix. ‘The Dynamics of Nazi Totalitarianism.’ Social Research. Vol. 39. No. 1. 1972. 191-203

 

Howell, K. Albert Speer. Dunmore Books. Sydney. 2000.

 

Hughes, Robert. Visions of Space. London: British Broadcasting Company. 2003.

 

Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: A Biography. W. W. Norton & Company. New York. 2008.

 

Lane, Barbara M. ‘Review of Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs, by Albert Speer’. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. Scholarship, Research, and Creative Work at Bryn Mawr College. vol. 32. 1973. 341

 

Mommsen, Hans. ‘Hitler’s Position in the Nazi System’, in idem, From Weimar to Auschwitz, Princton NJ. 1991. 170

 

Overy, Richard. ‘Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth by Gitta Sereny.’ London Review of Books. London. Vol. 17. No. 18. 1995. 6

 

Tooze, Adam. The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy. London, New York. 2006. 577.

 

Van der Vat, Dan. The Good Nazi: the life and lies of Albert Speer. Houghton Mifflin. London. 1998.

 

 

 

[1] Lane, Barbara M. ‘Review of Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs, by Albert Speer’. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. Scholarship, Research, and Creative Work at Bryn Mawr College. vol. 32. 1973. 341

 

[2] Howell, K. Albert Speer. Dunmore Books. Sydney. 2000. 86

 

[3] Gilbert, Felix. ‘The Dynamics of Nazi Totalitarianism.’ Social Research. Vol. 39. No. 1. 1972. 191-203

 

[4] Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich: memoirs. tr. Richard & Clara Winston; indrod. By Eugene Davidson. Orion Books, London. 1970. 189-203

 

[5] Kershaw, Ian. Hitler: A Biography. W. W. Norton & Company. New York. 2008. 170

 

[6] Sager, Alexander & Winkler, Heinrich A. Germany: The Long Road West. 1933-1990. Oxford University Press. 2007. 37

 

[7] Kershaw, 2008: 320-321

 

[8] Speer 1970: 397-399

 

[9] Speer, 1970: 398

 

[10]Speer, 1970:  197 & 230

 

[11] Mommsen, Hans. ‘Hitler’s Position in the Nazi System’, in idem, From Weimar to Auschwitz, Princton NJ. 1991. 170

[12] Howell, 2000: 86

 

[13] Speer 1970: 480

 

[14] Tague, James E. The Last Field Marshal. Xlibris Corporation. 2011. 89

 

[15] Speer 1970: 197

 

[16] Hughes, Robert. Visions of Space. London: British Broadcasting Company. 2003.

 

[17] Overy, Richard. ‘Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth by Gitta Sereny.’ London Review of Books. London. Vol. 17. No. 18. 1995. 6

[18] Fest, Joachim. Speer: The Final Verdict. Harcourt, New York. 2001. 293-297

 

[19] Speer, 1970: 430-431

 

[20] Schmidt, Matthias. Albert Speer: The End of a Myth. Collier Books. 1986. 161

 

[21] Speer 1970, 455

 

[22] Speer 1970: 515 Quote, “If Hitler had had any friends I certainly would have been one of them”.

[23] Davidson, Martin. Albert Speer: The Nazi Who Said Sorry. London: British Broadcasting Company. 1996

 

[24] Van der Vat, Dan. The Good Nazi: the life and lies of Albert Speer. Houghton Mifflin. London. 1998. 365.

 

[25] Speer, 1970: 375-376

 

[26] Speer, 1970: 376

 

[27] Howell, 2000: 91

 

[28] Himmler, Heinrich. 1943. ‘”Extermination”- Himmler’s Posen Speech.’ Jewish Virtual Library. The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. 2014. Available at: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/HimmlerPosen.html [Accessed 12 October.)

 

[29] Lewis, Jon E. Voices from the Holocaust. Constable & Robinson. London. 2012. 187

 

[30] Fest, 2001: 185-187

 

[31] Van der Vat, 1998: 190

 

[32] Connolly, Kate. ‘Letter proves Speer knew of Holocaust plan.’  The Guardian. 2007, written as a note in Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich at War: How the Nazis Led Germany from Conquest to Disaster. Penguin UK. 2012. 924

 

[33] Tooze, Adam. The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy. London, New York. 2006. 577.

 

[34] Van der Vat, 1998: 190

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