Albert Speer

Inside the Third Reich

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Inside the Third Reich Summary

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Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs is the 1969 memoir of Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s principal architect and, subsequently, Minister of Armaments from 1942-1945. The memoir is considered one of the most telling and privileged accounts of the inner workings of the Nazi regime in Germany during World War II. At the same time, Speer strays from candidly acknowledging the atrocities that the regime carried out; the book is thus considered both an example of implicit Holocaust denialism as well as a narrative window into the machinations of the Nazis. Some scholars point out that the book reveals Speer’s inner struggle with his actions, both during the war and during his twenty-year prison term after the Nuremberg Trials.

Inside the Third Reich begins with Speer’s account of his childhood and his first encounters with Hitler. Born in 1905, Speer grew up in a rather apolitical family that experienced few social or economic difficulties. He developed a love for design that later informed his choice to study architecture. He first saw Hitler when he spoke to the faculty and student body of Berlin University. Speer found Hitler’s words magnetic, particularly his assertions that communism could be reigned in, and that it was possible for Germany’s economy to recover—propositions that were considered impossible by many Germans at the time. In 1931, Speer joined the National Socialist Party, or NSDAP, primarily because of its association with Hitler. Speer recalls the charisma of the Party’s notable figures, including Joseph Goebbels, who would go on to become the Nazis’ chief propagandist. Speer understood some of Hitler’s evil ideas early on, but tolerated them, even indirectly espoused them, because he thought the benefits of his rise would outweigh the costs.

At the beginning of World War II, Speer was appointed by Hitler as his Armaments Minister. During this time, Speer developed his distinct persona and rhetoric that included a call for “industrial self-responsibility.” His philosophy’s resonances with individualistic thinking did not bode well with many other Nazi officers, who preached ideologies of sameness, anti-intellectualism, and strict utilitarianism. He and his rival, Hermann Goering, briefly teamed up to thwart the efforts of three other officers, Martin Bormann, Hans Lammers, and Wilhelm Keitel, who were trying to inculcate Hitler with ideologies he considered even more dangerous than those of the Nazis’ core platform.

Meanwhile, Speer excelled at refining Germany’s production of weapons of war and other armaments, helping to soften the blow of Allied bombings. He worked to undermine Hitler when Hitler ordered the removal of Germany’s infrastructure; as a result, Hitler nearly had him killed but stated that he did not because of their old friendship. Despite Hitler’s atrocities, Speer remained fundamentally loyal to him, even visiting him at his Berlin bunker at the end of the war where Hitler later committed suicide.

Speer was brought to justice at the Nuremberg Trial, during which he acknowledged his role in war crimes and genocide. The speech he gave at the end of the trial warned his audience that technological evolution, placed in the hands of a powerful few, would endanger humanity. He then served twenty years in Spandau Prison. His official charge was for subjugating prisoners in his factories while serving as Minister.

Between 1946 and 1966, in Spandau Prison, he wrote thousands of pages of memoirs of the war and his life before Hitler. He augmented these documents with artifacts from the Federal Archive, with the assistance of several German editors and publishers. The two decades of prison forced Speer to reflect on whether his actions were morally right. Though he does not fully condemn or acknowledge the extent of his actions and those of the Nazi Party as a whole, Inside the Third Reich is a repentant summary of one man’s contributions to the worst atrocity ever committed.