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Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth Paperback – October 29, 1996

4.6 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Gitta Sereny's biography meticulously re-creates for the reader the professional, emotional, and psychological life of Albert Speer, Hitler's architect and later his Minister of Armaments. Throughout the 12-year history of the Third Reich, Speer remained one of Hitler's most trusted confidants and one of the most powerful political leaders of the Nazi party. Researched and written over an eight year period, Albert Speer weaves together information from innumerable personal interviews with Speer, his family, close friends, and professional colleagues, the author's own solid grasp of German history, and critical readings of Speer's own writings, including various drafts of his memoirs, Inside the Third Reich, first published in 1969.

Throughout, Sereny consciously avoids the pitfall of many Speer biographers, who seek to either blame or exculpate Speer for the Nazi's atrocities. Instead, she succeeds in helping the reader understand a "morally extinguished" man and place into context "all the crimes against humanity which Hitler initiated, which continue to threaten us today, and of which Speer, who was in many ways a man of excellence, sadly enough made himself a part." Well over 700 pages, Albert Speer is not a quick read, but superbly written and meticulously researched, it is a pleasure to read, providing unprecedented insight into one of the most complex figures in modern German history. --Bertina Loeffler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Based on extensive firsthand interviews, this biography of the late Nazi Speer probes the nature of good and evil.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 29, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679768122
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679768128
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #532,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Gita Sereny's "Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth" is well-written meticulously researched opus on the colorful life, memorable tribulations and profound ethical conflicts of the formed Minister of Armament and Productions, beloved architect and one of the only real friends Adolf Hitler ever had. "You are Hitler's unrequited love" somebody comments to Speer and the emotional connection between the monster and his servant was profound, complex and infinitely important to both parties. In Speer Hitler found realization of his artistic and romantic dreams, his only sense of real creation outside of the realm of politics and organization, non-threatening acceptance by the men of superior social upbringing based not on fear but on the profound unity of artistic mission. For Speer, Hitler of course brought the position of power, influence and the oracle of truth, possibility of realization of himself for which any architect would've been prepared for a Faustian bargain.
From 1932 to 1944 Speer served Hitler with his heart and his soul. After the crisis in his personal life, illness and realization of the war being lost, came a time for Speer to gradually realize that he was serving and evil man. As always in the relationship, this was colored in profoundly personal terms, and due to his calling and upbringing matched into romantic showdown (I am referring to Speer's famous confession in the bunker on the eve of the demise of the Third Reich, which the author implies might not even had happened.) At Nuremberg, Speer was the only defendant who accepted a principle of collective responsibility unconditionally, versed however in smart and carefully terms which might've saved his neck in the long term. There we see the beginning of the personal struggle with guilt and a difficult road to truth.
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Format: Paperback
In the course of his interviews with Gitta Sereny, Albert Speer remarked that had she been a prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, he would have hanged.
How many biographers have had the opportunity to actively challenge their subjects' veracity? Not content to leave even the (seemingly) most minute details to chance, Sereny conducted exhaustive archival research and background interviews with Speer's family, friends, former associates, and enemies. This allows her to face Speer on equal footing -- and thus reveals new insights on the most enigmatic of Hitler's ministers.
While the central theme of the book revolves around the question of what Speer knew about the Final Solution, and when he knew about it, the story of how one man could be almost wholly seduced by evil is also investigated. The reader will learn that Speer, unloved as a child, came under Hitler's influence in the way that many young men with lacunas in their souls will come to misidentify membership in a collective enterprise with their own self-worth.
In fact, if, as William Manchester said, Speer's 'Inside the Third Reich' "takes us through the looking-glass," then Sereny's book represents the adventures in Wonderland itself. The history of Hitler's Germany is seen from the unique context of the Hitler-Speer relationship. Far from relying on one-dimensional oversimplification, though, Sereny explores just how masterfully the Nazi hierarchy came to power and prosecuted a war -- proving once again that evil is not always overt and monstrous, but subtle and palliative.
Was Speer a dissembler? Was he sincere in his attempt to atone for his particpation in an evil regime? I will leave the reader to his own conclusions.
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Format: Hardcover
I have never seen an author come close to Sereny in her ability to portray and accept the complexity of human nature, which she does with this Albert Speer book to the nth degree; it is a work of art.

This book is never dry and never didactic. Unlike like some historians, Ms. Sereny never forgets that at the root of her story lie human beings, and righfully they should be at the center of any story of human history. She always relates it back to the human being.

I find Publisher's Weekly's assertion that she was his apologist to be laughable; she never, ever lets him off the hook. One feels that she is a very moral human being.

This 700+ page book is never dull. The portrait she etches of Albert Speer and the people of his time is indelible; I doubt you will ever forget it. And if you live with your books the way I do you will find yourself thinking about your own morality when you are through.

I read her "Marybelle" book a few years ago and was bowled over by it; it is as fine a book as the Speer book though much smaller. In this country where we are having a field day charging and sentencing children as adults it is a necessity to read.

Let me end this by saying Gitta Sereny is of the caliber of Hannah Arendt, though the better writer!
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Format: Paperback
While it is intriguing to speculate whether Speer knew or did not know about the extermination of the Jews, that is only the smallest part of this vast work of scholarship. Gitta Sereny came to the conclusion that Speer was neither moral nor immoral, but rather "morally extinguished". That is a somewhat ambiguous term, but from what I read in Speer's books and from what Sereny reveals in this one, I take it to mean something fairly simple: Speer was aware of people being imprisoned and killed, but really didn't pay much attention because he was too busy with his career.
He noticed Jews being lined up at the Berlin train station to be taken somewhere; he didn't have the inclination or the time to find out why or where. He noticed that his boss had started a war; he was too busy to wonder whether the war was justified--he was an architect and any number of projects had to be attended to. His boss ordered him to assume leadership of armaments production for the war; refusing the order was not an option. He discovered that armaments production was accomplished largely by slaves, who died in great numbers at their work. Perhaps he heard of work areas where very little work was done and very, very large numbers of people died, of causes unrelated to work. Perhaps he did not. Sereny's book is largely a probe into whether he knew about the extermination camps or not.
Of his repentance after the war there can be little doubt. He quarrels in Spandau with the other Nazis over whether they did anything wrong. He is mocked by one of his closest former Nazi friends for his "public mea culpas". He speaks with a chaplain in Spandau about his desire to make himself a "different man".
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