Speer: Hitler’s Architect
By Martin Kitchen
Published by Yale University.
Distributed in Australia by Footprint Books
RRP $54.95 in hardcover
Albert Speer has been the source of much controversy since being the only major figure from Hitler’s hierarchy to escape the death penalty at the Nuremberg trials. In this new biography, Martin Kitchen seeks to uncover the real Albert Speer as opposed to the one he presented at the trials.
Initially the principal architect and town planner for Adolf Hitler (the new Reich Chancellery being his crowning achievement), he came to prominence when appointed Minister for Ammunition & Armaments in the Third Reich.
In this new post, he was tasked with lifting production after authorities had severely underestimated the impact of Operation Barbarossa. So despite the worsening situation in Russia, in December 1941 weapons production was 30% less than the previous year. Under his stewardship, output certainly increased, but as his critics point out, it was on the back of concentration camp inmates.
Not that Speer ever admitted to the use of such labour. His defence at Nuremberg was cleverly delivered. While accepting ‘overall responsibility’ for the crimes of the Nazi regime, he articulated a clear distinction between that and ‘fully responsible’. He maintained he could not be held accountable for actions taken within other ministries. He also maintained he was unaware of the ‘appalling mistreatment of the hundreds of thousands of unfortunates who worked for him’. However Kitchen provides compelling evidence to suggest Speer was lying.
Adam Tooze, Director of the European Institute at Columbia, has written an excellent and detailed review of this book for The Wall Street Journal (23 Dec 2015) – click on this link to read his full review.
This book is readily available in Australia and New Zealand, either through a local bookshop or direct from Footprint Books (www.footprint.com.au)