He was one of Hitler’s architect. At a certain point even his favorite architect, in charge of rebuilding Berlin. The city was to be renamed Germania and it would be full of buildings that would dwarf any giant structured that had come before.
In 1941 Hitler puts him in charge of producing Germany’s weapons and ammunition. He had no previous experience and knew next to nothing about weapons, but he did have remarkable organisational talent.
After the disasters of the battle of Moscow (Operation Typhoon) and even after Stalingrad Germany manages to greatly increase its military production, even though the allies were launching a major bombing campaign against them.
Speer managed to convince the allies and Hitler that he was the one who had made this miracle possible, often with doctored statistics.
He deserves some praise for standing up to Hitler’s infamous Nerobefehl, namely the total self-immolation of Germany, one big inferno in which Hitler would draw a whole word with him.
At the same time he’s a very split figure. He did oppose this madness, but he also did all he could to protract the war and did anything in his power to try and make the allies lose.
After the war he’s arrested and brought to trial at Nuremburg.
He immediately starts to advice the allies on how to bomb the shit out of Japan, nazi-Germany’s allies and presents himself as a very charming, cordial, almost subservient gentleman.
As opposed to the other accused he accepts some blame for the crimes of nazi-Germany, but nothin specific. He deftly avoids incriminating himself with anything specific, but takes on the collective guilt of what went down. This impresses some of the judges, but some other judges – the minority- take him for the worst of the lot.
He’s lucky that – among other things – he can cover up his role in the crimes of the regime
– he’s overlooked when it comes to making Berlin judenrein (he helped kick out all the jews)
– he delivered the material to build concentration camps and even complained to Himmler that some of them were a bit too ‘luxurious’
– to build his weapons he relied on the labour of millions of slaves
– he managed to keep claiming that he had know nothing of the Final Solution. When some top nazis were informed about the intended destruction of Europe’s jewry at the infamous Wansee conference, he had just left before this vital bit of information was communicated. It’s highly unlikely that someone who at some point controlled a very large part of Europe’s economy didn’t know what was really happening to the jews
In the end he managed to portray himself as apolitical, someone who dutifully did his job, was spell-bound by the charisma of Hitler, without knowing much about what his politics entailed, essentially as a good guy who was just doing his job. The difference with the other accused being that he did admit that it was wrong to have served Hitler.
He got 20 years in prison, whereas some of his own subordinates were executed. It’s odd that he as the boss of those subordinates was somehow found to be less guilty….
That’s why I think he was a master manipulator.
After serving his time in prison, he became a… worldwide celebrity.
He went on to write bestsellers, fooled two of his most well-known biographers Gita Sereny and Joachim Fest into keeping up the fiction that he hadn’t known about all the evils, and even succeeded in selling off stolen art he had hidden right before the end of the war…
He died in London – of all places… A city that he tried all in his power to destroy – from a heart attack practically in the hands of his mistress, right before he was to be interviewed on television.
Not a bad end for the faithful and arduous servant of a mass murderer.
What makes his case psychologically interesting is how this man was somehow morally empty inside and found a father figure in Hitler, who gave him self-worth and an identity He latched on to Hitler, driven by fierce ambition, and then after the war was able to immediately betray Hitler, because he had in fact not really cared about any of Hitler’s plans or political ideas, all Albert Speer wanted was to feel important. Which he succeeded in doing, with or without Hitler.