If you are close to my age (b. 1954), it is unlikely you have never heard of Albert Speer. The so-called Good Nazi was the only one of Hitler's inner circle (Himmler, Goring, Goebbels, Bormann) to survive the Nuremburg trials. He was arguably the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany during the last years of the war. He claimed that he only had a vague notion of the atrocities of the Reich. But he also took "responsibility" for all the terrible things he did not do.
Martin Kitchen is a SFU history instructor and his book puts paid to the Good Nazi myth. In fact, Speer was one of the worst war criminals in human history. He conned (my word) the judges at Nuremburg, Hitler, the German people, and the rest of civilization through the tried and true tactic of lying while telling the mark exactly what the desperately want to hear.
Near the start of the war, he was responsible for housing and de-Jewification of Berlin. He personally supervised the evictions of thousands of Jewish families to make way for Hitler's grand plans. He doled out the vacant apartments to Nazi officials and got rich doing so. He bought art through "legitimate" dealers who got the art from the evicted Jews.
In the mid-war period, he became Minister of Armaments and accumulated huge amounts of power. At one point he had millions of slave laborers in his charge. He was well aware of Himmler's "work them to death" policy. But through it all, he claimed, he only had a "sense" of the mistreatment they received. He also cooked the books which made him look like a armaments production miracle worker.
During the trial, he was incredibly lucky. The prosecution's task was daunting. The amount of paper to plow through was overwhelming. Had the prosecutor pressed him on several key points, t hey could have broken his defense. And throughout it all, and all alone, he said he was responsible and he was sorry, but like everyone else, he was taken in by Hitler. This was all rubbish.
The German people needed an out, and Speer was it. Ditto for civilization in general. Speer gave them one, namely that Hitler was the bad guy and he was taken in. If a smart, educated man like Speer could be taken in, how can we blame the German people, or people in general?
After the war, his history was catching up to him. Evidence of his lies, his clandestine sale of stolen Jewish art, and his culpability were possibly only a year away from becoming public before he croaked. He died rich.
Today, the Good Nazi myth is no more. In fact Speer was one of the worst. He should have been hung. The last person he conned before he died was himself. Bernie Madoff had nothing on him.
My only complaint about the book is that it was organized by Speer’s roles, and then by time. Thus, the reader finds himself bouncing around in time a lot. This material was familiar to me, but others might find this hard to follow.
Lee Moller is a life-long skeptic and atheist and the author of The God Con.