Speer Knew Of The Holocaust

Ed Morrissey writes that a 1971 letter by Albert Speer ties him to the Holocaust. As Ed notes, that isn’t all that surprising: Speer had to know, as Germany’s concentration camp system supplied much of the slave labor that Speer, as armaments minister, worked to death to keep pumping out weapons and munitions (and here’s but one nightmarish example) in the last years of Nazi Germany:


Historians always looked at Speer’s claims of innocence about the Holocaust with some suspicion. William Shirer, whose Rise and Fall of the Third Reich remains the seminal work on Nazi Germany, wondered in his history how Speer could have remained ignorant of the death-camp system. Speer drew his workers from the same system, and demanded more and more as the war progressed. Any ignorance on their provenance or their fate had to either be willful or faked.

They also questioned his sentencing, even at the time of the Nuremberg trials. The men who supplied the forced labor to Speer had their necks stretched, while Speer essentially walked away from the ruins of Nazi Germany. Why? Speer made a calculated decision to defy Hermann Goering and admit all of the horrors of the Third Reich, expressing remorse and sorrow all along the way. Goering had rallied the rest of the defendants to assume a defiant tone, defending the Nazis and blaming the atrocities on everyone else. The tribunal allowed itself to be impressed by Speer’s no-nonsense admissions of the obvious and rewarded him with his life.

Now it appears that Speer was more calculating even than most thought. The letter makes clear that Speer knew exactly what the Nazis would do to the Jews, and cared so little that he helped them work prisoners to death. Essentially, Speer lived a lie for the last half of his life, aided and abetted by a credulous West that for some reason wanted to believe his strange protestations of innocence.


Of course, Speer would hardly be the last polished representative of a totalitarian regime with the blood of innocents on his hands that “a credulous West” was all too willing to forgive.

Speer owes almost a half century of additional life to that polished, seemingly cultured persona. But millions of innocent victims in Germany’s concentration camps died needlessly due to his organizational genius, which bought Nazi Germany time it wouldn’t have had otherwise.


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