provided by and © FPP Website 1998
documents collected by David Irving for
his libel action against Hungarian born
Gitta Sereny is this article which she
wrote upon the death of Hitler's former
armaments minister Albert Speer, whom
he dismissed in disgrace in 1945, and
about whom Sereny would later publish a
book, Albert Speer. His Struggle with
September 3, 1981
(Börsenblatt): Speer, Irving,
dine together at Frankfurt Book Fair October
Albert Speer I knew
A personal assessment by
of Hitler's armaments
minister, who died in London this week
AT THE END of 1977, quite out of
the blue, I received a letter from Albert
Speer. A few weeks earlier The Sunday
Times had published an analysis by Lewis
Chester and myself of David Irving's
claim that it was not Hitler but his minions --
Himmler, Heydrich and others -- who had
ordered the extermination of the Jews. Hitler,
Irving had claimed in his book Hitler's
War, knew nothing about
it, at the very least until October
In his letter Speer expressed his appreciation
of the manner in which we had approached the
subject. It was ludicrous, he wrote, for anyone to
claim that this could have been anyone's idea but
Hitler's. As for Hitler not knowing about it: "To
make such a claim," he said, "shows a profound
ignorance of the nature of Hitler's Germany, in
which nothing of any magnitude happened, or could
conceivably happen, without his knowledge."
He had also read a book I had written; Erich
Fromm, he said, had lent it to him. It had
moved him, cost him sleep, he told me, and he would
like one day to talk about it.
Until then I had never really thought of trying
to meet Speer. His first two books, The Third
Reich and Spandau Diaries, were so
revealing, and he had been interviewed so often,
that it had always seemed to me enough had been
It was his voice, I think, that most intrigued
me when I telephoned him to thank him for his
letter. In English (which he had taught himself in
Spandau), I would realise later, he sounded
arbitrary, sharp and assertive. In German he was
hesitant, questioning and almost too unfailingly
warm. I had not suspected him of having a sense of
humour, and I had not imagined him as being sad.
Nor had I understood from anything I had read that
he was a man consumed by a need not to teach, or to
tell, but to understand: the time he had lived, the
things he had done and, above all, the things he
had left undone.
From then on we talked quite often on the
telephone. I sent him articles I thought would
interest him, he recommended books I should read.
And I read, also, through the vast file of cuttings
about him, many of them vehemently hostile, in a
number of newspaper libraries.
We had still not met when I finally asked him,
months after his first letter, whether he would be
willing to talk to me at length, for the purpose of
I went to stay with him and Margaret, his wife,
for 11 days, first in the Heidelberg villa that has
belonged to the family for generations, and then in
the old farmhouse in the south German mountains
which they bought -- and he, to some extent rebuilt
-- in 1976.
My stay with Speer -- and we had remained in
touch ever since and were planning on collaborating
on a book later this year -- was, in many ways a
Not so much with him, for as I rightly guessed,
he asked nothing better than to cooperate in a
search for self-knowledge.
battle was, for me, to hold on to detachment, faced
with his persuasive charm. For him, it was
threefold. First, to divest himself of the curious
kind of glibness to which he had become accustomed
over 12 years of continuous publicity. Secondly, to
speak about himself, not as the public man but a
private person -- it was anathema to him to discuss
his private life. Thirdly -- and most important --
the battle was to avoid -- until the right moment
-- the subject that was always uppermost in his
mind: the murder of the Jews.
During the 11 days of dialogue, of 14 hours
daily -- I discovered a man not so much of great
complexity as of astonishing contrasts.
Frentz): Albert Speer (from Hitler's
He was also an intensely lonely man. During his
20 years in Spandau, he spoke to others, but
remained alone, working, studying and thinking.
Since Spandau, he had been single-minded in his
concentration on work.
I had been at his house several days when he
knocked at my door just as I had gone to bed.
I opened the door and he held out a foot-thick
manuscript. "Just glance at it," he said "and tell
me what you think could be done with it."
When he was in VIP detention a British
intelligence officer suggested that he should jot
down his impressions of the men around Hitler.
What he gave me were 28 profiles, every one of
them, with some editing, potentially a small
masterwork. These, each re-evaluated by Speer 36
years on, would have been the book we were going to
do this autumn.
He was very arrogant about some of his
achievements, but not at all about his "standing"
or his fame. He was very humble about his artistic
talents and about the animosity he aroused in so
many people. He was also philosophical and even
humorous about the lies and misinterpretations.
(Thus he never claimed that he did not. know about
the concentration camps. The knowledge he denied
was of genocide). And he was not involved in a plot
against Hitler's life. "I thought of it once, very
briefly and too late ", be told me. "And although I
asked a friend some technical questions, in the end
I could. never have done it."
He was quite sure about his expertise over the
technical aspects of Hitler's Germany. He was quite
uncertain, and intensely curious, about everything
psychological and motivational which triggered and
supported the events he was so disastrously
I have heard many times before -- and already
repeated since he died -- that his confession of
guilt at Nuremberg and his continuing mea culpa
since were calculating, opportunistic, a result of
intelligence and planning rather than of morality
Albert Speer loved Hitler, but not in a physical
sense and in the same way Hitler returned that
love. It was that over-whelming love, I think, that
blinded Speer from the full realisation of all that
was happening around him. His was the genius that
organised Hitler's war machine. Whatever arguments
may rage about his talents as an architect, or even
about the unique way in which he served his 20-year
sentence in Spandau, overriding them all will be
the one about the man himself: was he true or
He was both. During the Hitler period he was, I
think, deeply false. Even now, after long talks
about his guilt, which he felt to such an
overwhelming degree, I am still not certain how
much he knew and how much he deliberately hid from
himself or how much his psyche simply rejected as
unaccept-able. His repentance, however, was, I came
to believe, completely genuine. For 36 years, it
was his life. © Times
Newspapers Ltd, 1981