Albert Speer was one of the few repulsive cast of characters sitting in the dock at the Nuremberg Trial who was regarded with any degree of sympathy by those who were there. He was superficially more appealing than the others and his apparent disillusionment with Hitler and his denouncement of Nazi ideology went down well with the court and without doubt helped keep him from joining the fate of his fellow defendants on the scaffold. Many people thought at the time and since that he was lucky not to have been hanged. His later testimony when he became quite a celebrity in the western media and his admission towards the end of his life shows that he knew more than he let on at Nuremberg tends to support this view. He clearly had more knowledge of and involvement in what was happening regarding the use of slave labour and the extermination of the Jews than he admitted when he was questioned at Nuremberg in 1946 and when he wrote Inside the Third Reich in 1970.
Allowing for his bouts of selective amnesia his book is nevertheless a fascinating account of someone who was very close to Hitler and at times you get the impression that he greatly admired his Fuhrer and Hitler had a high regard for Speer and viewed him as a mixture of the architect he never was and the son he never had. Speer was obviously a very intelligent man who was greatly in awe of Hitler and was carried away by the huge amount of power that his association with Hitler gave him. He was smart enough not ask too many questions during the war and looked the other way when it suited him but when Germany faced defeat his admiration for his Fuhrer dried up. He was also smart enough to know how to appeal to the judges at Nuremberg and thus avoid the hangman. His book, written by one of the few surviving members of Hitler's court, is fascinating but the nature of Speer's character always leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.
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