Inside the Third Reich
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Cover of the first edition
|Translator||Richard and Clara Winston|
|1970, 1995 & 2003|
Inside the Third Reich (German: Erinnerungen, "Memories") is a memoir written by Albert Speer, the Nazi Minister of Armaments from 1942 to 1945, serving as Adolf Hitler's main architect before this period. It is considered to be one of the most detailed descriptions of the inner workings and leadership of Nazi Germany but is controversial because of Speer's lack of discussion of Nazi atrocities and questions regarding his degree of awareness or involvement with them. First published in 1969, it appeared in English translation in 1970.
At the Nuremberg Trials, Speer was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his use of prisoners in the armaments factories while Minister of Armaments. From 1946 to 1966, while serving the sentence in Spandau Prison, he penned more than 2,000 manuscript pages of personal memoirs. His first draft was written from March 1953 to 26 Dec. 1954. After his release on 1 Oct, 1966, he used Federal Archive documents to rework the material into his autobiography. He was aided editorially by Wolf Jobst Siedler, Ullstein and Propylaen, and Joachim Fest.:506,699–701
The manuscript led to two books: first Erinnerungen ("Recollections") (Propyläen/Ullstein, 1969), which was translated into English and published by Macmillan in 1970 as Inside the Third Reich; then as Spandauer Tagebücher ("Spandau Diaries") (Propyläen/Ullstein, 1975), which was translated into English and published by Macmillan in 1976 as Spandau: The Secret Diaries.
Inside the Third Reich begins with Speer's childhood, before becoming Heinrich Tessenow's assistant at the Technical University of Berlin. Speer first heard Hitler speak during an address to the combined students and faculty of Berlin University and his institute. Speer states he became hopeful when Hitler explained how communism could be checked and Germany could recover economically. Speer joined the National Socialist Party in Jan. 1931. Speer states, "I was not choosing the NSDAP, but becoming a follower of Hitler, whose magnetic force had reached out to me the first time I saw him and had not, thereafter, released me."
Owning a car, Speer joined the National Socialist Motor Corps and became head of the Wannsee Section. He was then tasked with redecorating District Headquarters for the West End (Kreisleitung West) in Grunewald followed by the Berlin District Headquarters, and then Joseph Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda. However, it was Speer's work on Goebbels' ministerial house, accomplished in two months time, his decorations for the night rally on 1 May at Tempelhof Field, and the July 1933 Party Rally at Zeppelin Field, which first drew the attention of Hitler. While assisting Paul Troost in refurnishing the Chancellor's residence in Berlin, Hitler invited Speer to dinner, sitting Speer by his side. Hitler had picked the 28 year old Speer as the young architect who could carry on with his building plans "far into the future.":52–66
Speer's first major architectural commission came in 1934 when he designed permanent bleachers at Zeppelin Field. Based on the Pergamon Altar, this and other building projects were intended to transmit Hitler's power to future generations. Speer stated, "Hitler now counted me as a member of his intimate circle." Speer was then expected to wear a party uniform, and appointed Abteilungsleiter (NSDAP) on Hess' and Goebbels' staffs. Speer states his "cathedral of light" at Zeppelin Field was the "first luminescent architecture of this type," and his "most beautiful architectural concept...the only one which has survived the passage of time." Speer's Nuremberg plans were awarded the Grand Prix at the 1937 Paris World's Fair, and he received a gold medal for his design of the German pavilion.:96–100,112,130
On 30 Jan. 1937, Speer was commissioned Generalbauinspektor, and made responsible for implementing Hitler's architectural plans for Berlin. In Jan. 1938, Hitler gave Speer the task of building the new German Chancellery. In Speer's words, it was to be "an architectural stage set of imperial majesty." However, Hitler's favorite architectural project with Speer was their plans for rebuilding Berlin, the Welthauptstadt Germania.:119–129,157,195–210
In 1942, Hitler appointed Speer as the new Minister of Armaments and Munitions, following the death of Fritz Todt in a plane crash. This included responsibility for construction assignments such as the Organization Todt. Under Speer, German arms production improved. Speer adopted "industrial self-responsibility" as advocated by Walther Rathenau. Under Speer, "a given plant concentrated on producing only one item, but did so in maximum quantity." He also put contractual guarantees in place to ensure production was maintained at high efficiencies. Despite continued allied bombing, German armaments production continued to increase under Speer's plan as predicted by Rathenau, "doubling production without increasing equipment or labor costs." The average index figure for armaments production went from a value of 98 in 1941 to a peak of 322 in July 1944. Speer goes on to state that he "applied the methods of democratic economic leadership," while the allies "moved in the opposite direction." In particular. he claims the Americans introduced "an authoritarian stiffening into their industrial structure..." Through delegated responsibilities and committees, Speer "allowed arguments and counterarguments to be stated before they made a decision." Yet, armaments production never exceeded what Germany achieved during the First World War, Speer states, because of "excessive bureaucratization, which I fought in vain." Yet, Speer notes, "...our ability to produce more and more in spite of the air raids must have been one of the reasons that Hitler did not really take the air battle over Germany seriously.":274–280,292–296,299,409
On 2 Sept. 1943, Speer was named Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production.:378
On 18 Jan. 1944, Speer's knee pain and lack of strength landed him in Hohenlychen Sanatorium under the care of Dr. Karl Gebhardt, an intimate friend of Himmler. Speer's situation became critical, leading to Dr. Karl Brandt replacing Gebhardt with Dr. Friedrich Koch. Speer suspects Himmler of wanting Speer isolated in the hospital for as long as possible if not outright dead. Speer finally left the hospital on 17 March. During this time, far removed from Hitler, Speer states, "I was no longer counted as Hitler's favorite minister and one of his possible successors - a few whispered words by Bormann and a few weeks of illness had put me out of the running." During his illness and recovery, Bormann, Himmler and Goering conspired to undermine Hitler's confidence in Speer. Speer offered to resign, but reconsidered when Walter Rohland begged him on 20 April 1944 to remain at his post. Speer states he had "a sense of responsibility toward the country and the people to save as much as possible of our industrial potential, so that the nation could survive the period after a lost war." Speer returned to work in Berlin on 8 May 1944.:440–450,452–459,468
By Sept. 1944, Speer was disillusioned with the war, the Nazi Party and Hitler himself. Yet, at his trial, Speer states, "If Hitler had had any friends, I would certainly would have been one of his close friends." Despite being one of the few people to stay close to Hitler until the end, he "undercut" Hitler's planned scorched earth policy, the Nero Decree, to prevent the complete destruction of Germany and occupied territories.:537–543,564,577,580–584,595–600,608–612,624–627,687–690
For a time in Feb.-March 1945, Speer formulated a plan to eliminate Hitler, Bormann, Goebbels and Ley. The plan involved the injection of poison gas into the Chancellery ventilation system. However, the plans never progressed, according to Speer, due to difficulties in procuring a suitable gas, the posting of armed SS guards on the Chancellery roofs with searchlights, and the addition of ten foot ventilation chimneys. Though Speer said he "had lived thoughtlessly among murders", it was passages in Mein Kampf, which inspired Speer to consider murdering Hitler. However, Speer confesses, "I could never have confronted Hitler pistol in hand. Face to face, his magnetic power over me was too great up to the very last day.":574–577
Speer describes his last couple of visits with Hitler in April 1945. Hitler's hand shook, making it difficult to write legibly. Speer states Hitler's "limbs trembled; he walked stooped, with dragging footsteps." As for Hitler's final plans, "I've given orders that I be cremated. Fraulein Braun wants to depart this life with me, and I'll shoot Blondi beforehand. Believe me, Speer, it is easy for me to end my life. A brief moment and I'm freed of everything, liberated from this painful existence.":587,629,640
The main body of the book effectively ends when Speer, by this point having joined Karl Dönitz's government seated in Schleswig-Holstein, receives news of Hitler's death. That is followed by an epilogue dealing with the end of the war in Europe and the resulting Nuremberg Trials in which Speer is sentenced to a 20-year prison term for his actions during the war.:651,674,696
Description of Nazi hierarchy
Speer described the personalities of many Nazi officials, including Joseph Goebbels, Göring, Himmler, Rudolf Hess, Martin Bormann, and, of course, Hitler himself. Goering, Goebbels, Bormann and Himmler were masters of "methodical deceit". As for Hitler, Speer observed that he described "difficult situations in which he himself had been involved and in which some fortunate turn of events had again and again saved him. The lesson was: You must never give up." Speer went on to quote Hitler as telling him privately after the Remilitarization of the Rhineland, "We will create a great empire. All of the Germanic peoples will be included in it. It will begin in Norway and extend to northern Italy. I myself must carry this out." In the presence of Eva Braun, Hitler would say, "A highly intelligent man should take a primitive and stupid woman....I could never marry. Besides, the chances are slim for someone like me to have a capable son." As for Bormann, Speer states, "Even among so many ruthless men, he stood out by his brutality and coarseness.":55,71,78–79,83,105,115–116,138,188
Hitler tolerated a "good many love affairs" in his entourage, according to Speer, and "Goebbels, too, had many love affairs." This included one with Lida Baarova, which prompted Magda Goebbels to eventually seek a divorce so she could marry Karl Hanke. Hitler, however, prevented this for raison d' etat.:214,218–220
Referring to Goering, Speer stated, "Whenever he did anything, he usually created total confusion, since he never took the trouble to work through the problems but made his decisions on the basis of impulsive inspirations. Goering "went about increasing his art collection during the war by any means whatsoever." At Karinhall, Goering displayed "valuable paintings hung one above the other in three and four tiers," and had a "collection of diamonds and other precious stones, obviously worth hundreds of thousands of marks." When Speer visited Goering at his Obersalzberg summer house, Speer said he was astonished by Goering's "lacquered fingernails and obviously rouged face," but not his "oversized ruby brooch on his green velvet dressing gown," as Goering "scooped a handful of unset gems from his pocket and playfully let them glide through his fingers." Goering assured Hitler that "no enemy plane will enter Germany." Additionally, "For although at the start Goering had pushed the Four Year Plan with great energy, by 1942 he was generally regarded as sluggish and distinctly averse to work." Though Speer was "Chief Representative for Armaments within the Four-Year Plan", "thanks to Goering's lethargy," Speer was able to "work freely and unhampered.":225,255–256,262,289–291,358
Speer stated "Himmler had a reputation for ruthless, icy consistency. No one dares quarrel with him seriously." This in spite of Himmler's "beliefs about an original Germanic race, a brand of elitism, and an assortment of health-food notions.":183,448
Speer described Hitler as amateurish and self-taught, "Without any sense of the complexities of any great task, he boldly assumed one function after another." His "ignorance of the rules of the game and his layman's delight in decision making" brought his early military successes, but then his ignorance became an incompetence. "The tendency to wild decisions had long been his forte; now it speeded his downfall." "Hitler's memory for figures was the terror of his entourage," yet "he felt uncertain when he was confronting an out-and-out technical expert." Furthermore, Speer described Hitler as someone who "contained a multitude of selves, from a person deeply aware of his responsibilities all the way to a ruthless mankind-hating nihilist." Speer states that Hitler's German Shepherd Blondi was "the only living creature at headquarters who aroused any flicker of human feeling in Hitler." Yet, Speer states Hitler had "magnetic power which he could still radiate with virtually undiminished force," and "Hitler continued to prove his instinct for handling people...":249,320–322,409–412,462,464
Hitler's routine at Obersalzberg included appearing at 11 a.m. for summaries and reports from Bormann followed by a prolonged afternoon dinner. This was followed by a walk to the teahouse, where Hitler would start endless monologues, occasionally falling asleep in the midst of one. At 6 p.m., after a two-hour teatime, everyone would make their way back to the Berghof for supper. The entourage then retired to the salon where they would watch a movie (as Hitler did in Berlin), followed by a gathering around the fireplace. Usually the movies were the same ones shown in the movie houses, though frequently foreign films were shown, "including those that were withheld from the German public." During the war, records would be played instead of a movie. By 2 a.m. Braun and Hitler would retire, while the remaining guests drank champagne and cognac. Speer called it a "constant waste of time.":71,139–144
Hitler's Berlin routine was similar, according to Speer. Hitler "rose late in the morning... but from the subsequent dinner on he more or less wasted time until the early hours of the evening." In the memoirs, Speer openly wondered when exactly Hitler ever found time to do anything important, "When, I would often ask myself, did he really work?" Speer thought Hitler had an "artistic temperament", "squandering his working time." At these dinners, Hitler told his guests "My father often dealt me hard blows. Moreover, I think that was necessary and helped me.":185,191–195
According to Speer, in the spring of 1942, he "urged that the war must be ended in the shortest possible time; if not, Germany will lose the war. We must win it by the end of October, before the Russian winter begins, or we have lost it once and for all." The decisive point came "with the encirclement of the Sixth Army in Stalingrad, the annihilation of the Africa Corps, the successful Allied land operations in North Africa, and the first massive air raids on German cities." However, by the autumn of 1942, "the permanent war was beginning." During that 1942 offensive, Hitler argued with Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Jodl, and Franz Halder, and relations were so strained that Speer states Hitler "refused to shake hands with them or to dine with them at the common table...the close relations that Hitler had with his military associates were shattered for good." Speer states that Hitler's "subjugation of the generals" meant that "it became almost impossible to oppose Hitler on important questions." Keitel became a "servile flatterer", and Hitler sought his advice, in Speer's words, as one who "saw the situation more optimistically and delusively than he himself.":300–301,333,338–339
Likewise, Speer painted an extremely unflattering portrait of the Nazi government. Because of Hitler's indecision and his belief that struggle led to strength, the government was never properly coordinated. Different bureaus or individuals were sometimes assigned to the same task and Hitler refused to clarify jurisdictions. Speer quotes Hitler as saying, "That way, the stronger one does the job." Additionally, Speer states, "After only nine years of rule the leadership was so corrupt that even in the critical phase of the war it could not cut back on its luxurious style of living. I was outraged that the leaders continued to exempt themselves from any of the sacrifices they expected of the people; that they recklessly expended lives and property; that they pursued their sordid intrigues; showing themselves as totally unethical even toward each other.":291,295,303,467–468
By the Autumn of 1943, Speer states that Hitler had changed, instead of "flurries of activity, with spells of indolence in between," Hitler took on an enormous daily workload. Hitler's "overwork and isolation", caused him to be "permanently caustic and irritable." After the loss at Stalingrad, the surrender of a quarter million soldiers in Tunisia, the bombing of German cities, and the withdrawal of U-boats from the Atlantic, Hitler showed more "disappointment, dejection, and increased forced optimism," yet still "displayed confidence in ultimate victory." Speer states, Hitler sometimes "could realize the hopelessness of a situation, but he could not be shaken in his expectation that at the last moment Fate would suddenly turn the tide in his favor.":399–405,483
On 24 Jan. 1945, in Hitler's daily situation conference, Speer states that Hitler proclaimed, "In the future anyone who tells anyone else that the war is lost will be treated as a traitor, with all the consequences for him and his family. I will take action without regard to rank and prestige.":566–567
After meeting with Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber in 1936, Hitler confided in Speer,
"There are two possibilities for me: To win through with all my plans, or to fail. If I win, I shall be one of the greatest men in history. If I fail, I shall be condemned, despised, and damned.":157
Starting in April 1942, Speer became aware of the potential of German nuclear research in developing, in his words, "a weapon which could annihilate whole cities." Werner Heisenberg told Speer "the scientific solution had already been found and that theoretically nothing stood in the way of building such a bomb." Yet development and production would take at least two years. This led to the development of Germany's first cyclotron. By the autumn of 1942 however, the estimated period for developing a weapon had increased to three to four years, much too long to affect the war. Instead, development turned to a "uranium motor", for use in the navy's submarines. Finally, in the summer of 1943, Speer released the 1200 metric tons of uranium stock for use in solid-core ammunition. Speer states that even if Germany concentrated all of its resources, it would have been 1947 before they could have had an atom bomb.:314–320
Speer describes the Me 262 project, flying wing jet planes, a remote-controlled flying bomb, a rocket plane, a rocket missile based on infrared homing, designs for a four-motored jet bomber with the range to strike New York, and a torpedo based on sonar. In his words, "an excess of projects in development." Speers laments the misuse of some weapons by Hitler. For instance, the use of the Me 262 as a bomber instead of as a fighter as it was originally designed. He also cites the use of the V-2 as a terror weapon, rather than continued development of the ground-to-air defensive Waterfall rocket. In Speer's words, "I think that this rocket, in conjunction with the jet fighters, would have beaten back the Western Allies' air offensive against our industry from the spring of 1944 on.":488–498,569
By the autumn of 1944, Speer describes "last-ditch efforts" in weapons, which included a "single-motored jet fighter", "one-man submarines", "suicide squad piloting manned rocket planes". Most ominously, Speer describes the manufacture of poison gases such as mustard gas and tabun. Hitler, Speer states, "had always rejected gas warfare; but now hinted at a situation conference in headquarters that the use of gas might stop the advance of the Soviet troops. When no one at the situation conference spoke up in agreement, Hitler did not return to the subject.":552–554
Holocaust and Slave Labor
Speer compared his work on behalf of the Nazis to that of a man who made a deal with the Devil. Speers states, "After years of frustrated efforts...I would have sold my soul like Faust...I had found my Mephistopheles.:65–66
Speer's involvement with concentration camp prisoners as a work force came about when Hitler agreed to Himmler's proposal they be used for the secret V-2 project. Speer's joint undertaking with the SS leadership resulted in the creation of Mittelwerk (Central Works) for underground production of the V-2. Speer recognized, in his words, "the inhuman conditions in this inhuman factory." He goes on to say, "the sanitary conditions were inadequate, disease rampant; the prisoners were quartered right there in the damp caves, and as a result the mortality among them was extraordinarily high." Speer's own medical supervisor "described the hygienic conditions at the Central Works in the blackest colors," and the people working in these caves "were obviously wasting away.":498–505
Speer goes on to admit that "the sight of suffering people influenced only my emotions, but not my conduct." Speer's own friend Karl Hanke even advised Speer never to inspect a concentration camp, referring to Auschwitz, Karl himself visibly upset after his own visit. Speer admits, "I did not investigate-for I did not want to know what was happening there." He goes on to say that at the Nuremberg Trial he stated he "...had to share the total responsibility for all that had happened," and that he "...was inescapably contaminated morally..." Finally, Speer states, "Because I failed at the time, I still feel, to this day, responsible for Auschwitz in a wholly personal sense.":506–507
Regarding Hitler's relationship with the army, Speer states, "Invariably, Hitler ordered the bends in the front to be held at all costs, and just as invariably the Soviet forces would overrun the position after a few days or weeks. Then there followed new rages, mingled with fresh denunciations of the officers and, frequently, complaints against the German soldiers...A good many of the officers who came in for these tongue-lashings later joined the July 20, 1944, conspiracy against Hitler." After the failed bombing, Hitler's suspicion initially fell on a member of Speer's Todt Organization, when it was revealed the bombing occurred in the Speer Barracks, while the Todt Organization reinforced the Hitler bunker. That suspicion was finally resolved when it was revealed the conspirators' organization plan included a notation that Speer was not to be asked until after the coup. Nevertheless, Speer was forced to hold a loyalty meeting at his Ministry. There he delivered a speech which ended with Sieg Heil, for the first time in his life, but later refused to watch a film covering the execution of the conspirators. Speer does fault the conspirators for not controlling the radio station, or preventing Goebbels from telephoning Hitler. However, Speer did conclude at the time that "a putsch in the present state of affairs as an utter disaster.":416-417,515-517,522-523527-528,531
This section's factual accuracy is disputed. (September 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
The book was made into a television film of the same title in 1982 starring Rutger Hauer as Speer, originally broadcast on network television by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). The film departs significantly from the memoirs, most notably in how it portrays Speer's perception of Nazi atrocities. In his memoirs, Speer mentions the growing persecution of Jews during the 1930s. He then goes on to say that there was no way that he could have known what was happening to the Jews. However, one did not need any secret knowledge of the exact details of government programs to know that Jews were being beaten and expropriated and were disappearing from German society. The film recognizes this contradiction; for example, it portrays Speer's reaction, or, to be specific, lack of reaction, to Kristallnacht.
- Speer, Albert (1970). Inside the Third Reich. New York and Toronto: Macmillan. LCCN 70119132. (Translated from the German by Richard and Clara Winston.) Originally published in German as Erinnerungen [Recollections], Propyläen/Ullstein, 1969. Republished in paperback in 1997 by Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0-684-82949-4.
- Persico, Joseph (1995). : Infamy on Trial. New York: Penguin Books Reprint Edition. ISBN 0-14-016622-X.
- O'Donnell, James (2001). The Bunker (Reprint ed.). New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80958-3.
- Sereny, Gitta (1995). Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-330-34697-0.
- Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich (Online ebook ed.). Internet Archive.