The Good Nazi: The Life and Lies of Albert Speer

Overview

This is the real story of Albert Speer, manipulator of history and architect of his own legend. On the stand at the Nuremberg war-crimes trials, Albert Speer was alone among the accused in showing anything like remorse: he denied any direct knowledge of Hitler's Final Solution yet accepted his share of the guilt as an unwitting collaborator. But was he really what he claimed to be? In this hard-hitting biography, Dan van der Vat reveals Speer as a sham and an opportunist, a "good Nazi" of another sort: a ...

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Overview

This is the real story of Albert Speer, manipulator of history and architect of his own legend. On the stand at the Nuremberg war-crimes trials, Albert Speer was alone among the accused in showing anything like remorse: he denied any direct knowledge of Hitler's Final Solution yet accepted his share of the guilt as an unwitting collaborator. But was he really what he claimed to be? In this hard-hitting biography, Dan van der Vat reveals Speer as a sham and an opportunist, a "good Nazi" of another sort: a dedicated party servant who, promoted from his role as Hitler's architect to minister of wartime production, also became the Nazis' principal exploiter of forced labor. The first biography to be written free of Speer's personal influence, this is the fullest, most incriminating portrait yet of a ruthless, masterly actor who deceived the world in the role of a lifetime. A PUBLISHERS WEEKLY Best Book of the Year!

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The best biography yet on the self-described 'second man in the Reich.'" Kirkus Reviews

"A well-written and skeptical account." The New York Times

"The last word on Albert Speer." - John Kenneth Galbraith

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Speer, a young architect seeking work, proposed to Hitler a night rally that would be geared to suggest infinite space by employing a backdrop of 10-story flags and a wall of 150 searchlight beams. When Hitler's construction genius, Fritz Todt, died in an airplane crash in 1942, Speer, already a Hitler favorite, became via crafty accretion of powers the economic czar of Germany, controlling the colossal construction and industrial empires. Speer, who remained with Hitler to the last days, was tried for war crimes, found guilty of using slave labor and sentenced to 20 years at Spandau. A plea of contrition and a claim that he was unaware, as an apolitical technocrat, of the grisly enormities of the Nazi regime saved him from being executed to write his bestselling Inside the Third Reich and Spandau: The Secret Diaries. In his 60s, he was rich and famous, and lived a seemingly contented life, dying in 1981 at age 76. Gitta Sereny's famous biography, Albert SpeerHis Battle with Truth, based on interviews with her compelling subject, humanized Speer though charged him with indifference to Nazi excesses. Van der Vat, a Dutch-born English journalist, rejects the workaholic, nonparty pose as a sham and sees the self-serving memoirs and concocted diaries as incompatible with Speer's "intimate knowledge of the core of the Nazi regime." Not a repentant sinner to Van der Vat, Speer is a professional thug and trickster with no claim "to a share of the moral high ground" onto which he tried to pen himself. Van der Vat's well-documented book is so convincing it imparts a hollow ring to Speer's self-serving apologias. Photos. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
The best biography yet on the self-described "second man in the Reich."

Albert Speer has long occupied a singular niche in history: that of the Good Nazi, a decent and civilized man whose first love was architecture and who wished nothing more than to rebuild Germany from the misery of WW I and the worldwide depression of the 1930s. He skillfully cultivated this image until his death in 1981. Speer willingly conceded a general responsibility for his role in the Reich, and even admitted in the '70s that he had some inkling of what was happening to the Jews, but he never admitted personal responsibility for the Holocaust or the war. Naval historian van der Vat begins with a vexing question: If Speer was Hitler's right-hand man, how could he possibly claim ignorance of the genocide that was (in the words of the author) "the driving force" of the regime? Considering Speer's responsibilities heading the ministry of armaments during the war—one highly dependent on slave labor—his claims of ignorance are hard to believe. Yet many did believe him. Biographer Gitta Sereny, in Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth (1995), seems to accept his remorse as genuine, and she finds her subject sympathetic. No less an authority than Simon Wiesenthal also believed Speer. The highly respected German biographer of Hitler, Joachim Fest, and the social psychologist Erich Fromm concurred. Van der Vat is, thankfully, immune to Speer's charms, even after having interviewed the Nazi in 1976. Beginning with a serious study of Speer as architect, van der Vat proceeds to examine his role as minister of armaments. In that capacity, Speer was personaly responsible for the evacuation of 75,000 German Jews as forced labor. Also important is that Speer now emerges as partially responsible—along with Goebbels—for the "spectacles" of the Reich. Writing with irony and intelligence, van der Vat forces us to confront Speer anew.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395652435
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/28/1997
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Dan Van Der Vat's earliest memories are of the Nazi occupation of his native Holland. He worked in Germany for years as chief correspondent for the London Times and has written several works of the Anglo-German naval history. He currently resides in Eel Pie Island, Twickenham, England.

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