- Paperback: 672 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reissue edition (April 1, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0684829495
- ISBN-13: 978-0684829494
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.5 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 229 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Inside the Third Reich Reissue Edition
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From 1946 to 1966, while serving the prison sentence handed down from the Nuremburg War Crimes tribunal, Albert Speer penned 1,200 manuscript pages of personal memoirs. Titled Erinnerungen ("Recollections") upon their 1969 publication in German, Speer's critically acclaimed personal history was translated into English and published one year later as Inside the Third Reich. Long after their initial publication, Speer's memoir continues to provide one of the most detailed and fascinating portrayals of life within Hitler's inner circles, the rise and fall of the third German empire, and of Hitler himself.
Speer chronicles his entire life, but the majority of Inside the Third Reich focuses on the years between 1933 and 1945, when Speer figured prominently in Hitler's government and the German war effort as Inspector General of Buildings for the Renovation of the Federal Capital and later as Minister of Arms and Munitions. Speer's recollections of both duties foreground the impossibility of reconciling Hitler's idealistic, imperialistic ambitions with both architectural and military reality. Throughout, Inside the Third Reich remains true to its author's intentions. With compelling insight, Speer reveals many of the "premises which almost inevitably led to the disasters" of the Third Reich as well as "what comes from one man's holding unrestricted power in his hands." -- Bertina Loeffler
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Speer’s memoirs begin by taking us on his journey from young architect to his initial contact with Hitler in 1933. Hitler’s plans for aggression. Of course, Speer was trying to distance himself from any connection to Hitler’s war-mongering, although it is implausible that he was unaware of it before September 1939. I also find it odd how Speer barely mentions his wife or children or other relatives throughout 500 pages of text; they are only mentioned in passing, but many minor Nazi party functionaries get paragraph after paragraph. Speer’s mother joined the Nazi party, but it gets but brief mention. I also thought that Speer was an established architect when he first met Hitler but in fact, he really was a novice straight out of school with virtually no paid work to his credit. Speer does point out that Hitler was genuinely popular with much of the German populace because he delivered on his early promises about the economy. The author readily admits that he fell under Hitler’s spell and became a willing follower; Hitler reciprocated by praising Speer’s rather pedestrian style and giving him various ad hoc tasks to fulfil. Speer’s only complaint in the 1930s was that the Nazis didn’t always pay him for his work but when he saw the wreckage inflicted by Kristallnacht, all he could say was that “the smashed panes of shops offended my middle class sense of order.” Speer wasn’t blind to Nazi excesses; he was a moral idiot, like so many of Hitler’s followers.
Moving into the war years, Speer makes interesting observations about Hitler’s unwillingness to put off the reconstruction of Berlin even after the war in Russia had begun. Instead, scarce resources and labor were diverted away from war production for these prestige projects, which highlights that dictatorships are not necessarily more efficient at war-making. This wastage continued until December 1941, when the defeat at Moscow finally forced some scaling-back of civilian construction programs. By this point, Speer began making a name for himself as a hard-working improviser by helping to restore the railroads in occupied Soviet territory. Indeed, he positioned himself so well that Hitler made him Minister of Armaments in 1942. Speer, in fact, was very astute about working his way upward in the Nazi hierarchy in order to gain more power and prestige for himself – just like the other Nazis were doing.
Speer does have some useful things to say about the German war effort. He says that air defense took significant resources away from production devoted to ground weaponry, but faults the Allies for not repeating attacks on damaged industrial facilities. He also notes the total mismanagement of labor resources and he points the finger at Nazi party officials for refusing to cooperate with releasing people to work in war industries. He also apportions a large share of blame to Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring, who had his fingers in everybody’s pie; Speer describes Goering as very intelligent but lazy and he managed to screw up every project that he touched. The role of the SS and Gestapo is also addressed, and it is amazing to hear that the rocket scientist Werner von Braun was arrested by the SS in 1944 for making remarks about civilian use of space. Speer’s conclusion is that the German war effort was mis-managed from the start due to personal agendas and empire-building within the Nazi hierarchy. Of course, Speer omits how any of his personal agendas and empire-building may have contributed to this mess, as well.
Speer’s rationale is weird at times, particularly when he refers to Hitler’s “magnetic power” over him and another times he claimed that Hitler “paralyzed him psychically” which of course is intended to absolve Speer of personal responsibility – he had no choice. Yet other Germans could see Hitler’s evil and were not paralyzed – why was Speer different? He lamely refers to a half-baked attempt to assassinate Hitler in 1945, but says it failed due to altered security measures. It’s clear that this non-effort, which nobody else could corroborate, was inserted to belatedly cast Speer into the ranks of those who opposed Hitler. This of course is nonsense, since Speer loyally hung in with Hitler to the end, as if he had some kind of man-crush on him; in reality, he was always looking for crumbs from Hitler’s table – praise or new authorities. Ultimately, Speer was a talented conniver who put his own ambition first and Hitler was his venue for achieving his dreams. Speer lamely concludes that, “for twelve years, I had lived thoughtlessly among murderers,” as if he was merely a house-guest.
This particular purchase was due to a desire to have a hard-back copy (larger size than the old paperback of years ago) and I am looking forward to working my way through the book once more (it has been so many years since I last read it that I suspect that at least portions will seem new).
Some have debated whether or not Albert Speer should have hanged. Did Speer paint himself as a saint in this book? We can speculate one way or the other forever as to the guilt of the man. Honestly his eternal fate rests between him and the Almighty. I feel that his story shows how far a normal person can get sucked into something because of their blind ambition.
I just wish I would have been made to read this in school instead of Harry Potter and the Catcher in the Rye. Teachers take note!