Albert Speer was the architect of the Third Reich, designing – amongst other projects – the infamous Reich Chancellery and the Nuremberg Rally Site. Part of that Rally Site was the ‘Cathedral of Light’ in the photo above. This employed a groundbreaking use of light and shade, creating an awe-inspiring effect on anyone watching the Nazi spectacles. Speer was undoubtedly a fantastic architect, albeit the architect of a tyrannical regime.
Subsequent to his years as architect for Hitler, Speer was promoted to Minister of Armaments for most of the Second World War. From 1942 to April 1945, Speer knowingly and willingly used millions of forced labourers, including those from concentration camps, to fuel the Nazi War-Machine. This adherence to Nazi ideology and degradation of millions of forced labourers was what sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment at the Nuremberg Trials.
Speer’s years in prison is where his book: Spandau: The Secret Diaries begins. The book is collated from a selection of over 25,000 clandestine notes Speer sent to the outside world. This element of secrecy about his writing makes for an exciting read, as if we too are a part of this profanation. Speer had to hide his writings in his underwear, then, through the aid of a prison guard, send his writings to friends and family.
The captivating aspect of this book is the psychological journey which Speer goes through. You are on this 20 year voyage with him over 450 pages, and you really build up a rapport with the man in turmoil. Speer is struggling with guilt, boredom, frustration and finally fear of what the angry world will think of a Nazi after he is freed. This psychological struggle is fascinating, and reveals a distinctly human aspect to Speer which biographies and historical essays neglect. Speer was a human with human sentience, and it is easy to forget that, simply denouncing him as a monster.
In seeing such real aspects of Speer in the book, one does empathise with Speer and his plight. It sounds unfathomable to even begin to imagine that one could do this with an anti-Semite who helped elongate the War, causing millions of innocent deaths, but it is the case.
Speer was truly repentant about his evil deeds, a young man captivated by Hitler and intoxicated by Hitler’s adoration. Speer was brainwashed, a man who threw his life away as a result of Hitler’s indoctrination. Speer wasted his life and millions of others for Hitler and the Nazis, and Speer takes full responsibility for this.
However, there is still an attraction to Hitler. Speer is a man psychologically torn. Part of him realises the disgusting wrong-doings of Hitler, yet there is another aspect of his psyche that adores Hitler, proclaiming Hitler as one of the greatest men to ever live. This contrast is pitiful, as Speer, 20 years after Hitler’s death, is still a pawn under Hitler’s control.
All in all I would highly recommend this book. If you enjoy History, Psychology, Art, Architecture, Politics, or just a great story, then this book will definitely suit you. Spandau: The Secret Diaries is one of my all-time favourite reads, I hope it can be for you too.
Spandau: The Secret Diaries can be bought here at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00RWM48FW/ref=olp_product_details?_encoding=UTF8&me=