In yesterday’s article I posed the question, why was Albert Speer, the Minister of Armaments and War Production and loyal ally of Hitler, only given 20 years prison time?
As Stephen J. Sniegoski simply puts it, “Nuremberg standards were not applied equally to the defendants.” and, “By Nuremberg standards Speer deserved execution.”.
To illustrate this inequality I will give a brief story of Rudolf Hess. Hess was Deputy to the Fuhrer and also a loyal ally of Hitler. In 1941 he flew solo to Scotland in a desperate attempt to negotiate for peace. It is not known for sure whether Hitler knew about Hess’ flight in advance, but that does not affect the outcome. The outcome being that instead of being given safe passage back Germany as a parliamentary agent conveying terms of truce he was instead imprisoned by England until he was handed over to the American authorities for the Nuremberg trials. There he was sentenced to life in maximum security prison. This is only the tip of the iceberg of the injustices brought upon Hess. Click here for a deeper dive into his story (where you will learn why Hess most likely did not kill himself).
In his article, Albert Speer and the ‘Holocaust’, Mark Weber states: “Albert Speer may ultimately be best remembered as the only high German wartime official to be “rehabilitated” during his lifetime and even profit handsomely from his once-powerful position. The one-time Hitler confidant and Reich Armaments Minister escaped the hangman’s noose at Nuremberg by adopting an unusual defense strategy. While maintaining that he personally knew nothing of a Jewish extermination program during the war, he nevertheless declared himself guilty for having worked diligently for a regime he belatedly considered evil.”
Hess, on the other hand, did not concede to the Allies accusations to evil doing and he did not betray Hitler. At the end of his closing statement at the Nuremberg trials he eloquently said: “The statements which my council made in my name before the High Tribunal I permitted to be made for the sake of the future judgment of my people and of history. That is the only thing which matters to me. I do not defend myself against accusers to whom I deny the right to bring charges against me and my fellow-countrymen. I will not discuss accusations which concern things which are purely German matters and therefore of no concern to foreigners. I raise no protest against statements which are aimed at attacking my honor, the honor of the German people. I consider such slanderous attacks by the enemy as a proof of honor. I was permitted to work for many years of my life under the greatest son whom my people has brought forth in its thousand-year history. Even if I could, I would not want to erase this period of time from my existence. I am happy to know that I have done my duty as a German, as a National Socialist, as a loyal follower of my Führer. I do not regret anything. If I were to begin all over again, I would act just as I have acted, even if I knew that in the end I should meet a fiery death at the stake. No matter what human beings may do, I shall some day stand before the judgment seat of the Eternal. I shall answer to Him and I know He will judge me innocent.”
Speer’s closing statement was characterized by disdain for Hitler, his dictatorship and dictatorships in general: “Mr. President, may it please the Tribunal: Hitler and the collapse of his system have brought a time of tremendous suffering upon the German people. The useless continuation of this war and the unnecessary destruction make the work of reconstruction more difficult. Privation and misery have come to the German people. After this Trial, the German people will despise and condemn Hitler as the proven author of its misfortune. But the world will learn from these happenings not only to hate dictatorship as a form of government, but to fear it. Hitler’s dictatorship differed in one fundamental point from all its predecessors in history. His was the first dictatorship in the present period of modern technical development, a dictatorship which made complete use of all technical means in a perfect manner for the domination of its own nation. Through technical devices such as radio and loudspeaker 80 million people were deprived of independent thought. It was thereby possible to subject them to the will of one man. The telephone, teletype and radio made it possible, for instance, for orders from the highest sources to be transmitted directly to the lowest-ranking units, where, because of the high authority, they were carried out without criticism. Another result was that numerous offices and headquarters were directly attached to the supreme leadership, from which they received their sinister orders directly. Also, one of the results was a far reaching supervision of the citizen of the state and the maintenance of a high degree of secrecy for criminal events.”
In the book Albert Speer : The End of a Myth, by Matthias Schmidt, we learn of a letter Speer wrote to the chief American prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson. Although Speer’s true intentions for sending the letter can only be speculated it does illustrate his willingness to cooperate with his captors.
After his prison sentence Speer went on to write successful memoirs and he appeared on many television programs. This certainly wouldn’t be the fate of a man that remained loyal to Hitler.
Sleeping dogs would not be allowed to lie, however. After Speer’s death he was no longer a useful tool of the narrative and he could no longer defend himself or make any statements or retractions. In 2015 the book Speer: Hitler’s Architect, by Martin Kitchen, hit the scene. About this book Jonathan Meades in the London Review of Books said: “Speer: Hitler’s Architect is not a biography. It is a 200,000-word charge sheet. Kitchen is steely, dogged and attentive to the small print. He shows Speer no mercy, nailing his every exculpatory ruse and demonstrating time and again how provisional the notion of truth was to him. This was a man who persistently invented and reinvented his past.” He added “This was…a game of his devising in which he toyed with a series of mostly awed apologists, interlocutors, historians, biographers, journalists, psychologists and groupies – who always lost.” Wikipedia liberally uses this book as a reference.
In the end the notion of a good Nazi had to be destroyed.
Does this mean that Speer had fooled the Allies during the Nuremberg trials? Doubtful. The prosecutors did not need to worry themselves with whether or not Speer was lying. His actions benefited the Allies at the time.
The case of Albert Speer demonstrates both the problematic nature of witness testimony and the illegitimacy of the Nuremberg trials.