Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Exposed at Last: Speer the Architect of Lies; as Proof Linking Him to the Death Camps Is Revealed, How Did the Nazi Who Died in London Making Love to His British Mistress Deceive So Many for So Long?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Exposed at Last: Speer the Architect of Lies; as Proof Linking Him to the Death Camps Is Revealed, How Did the Nazi Who Died in London Making Love to His British Mistress Deceive So Many for So Long?

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRISTOPHER HUDSON

ALBERT SPEER was the one that got away. As the minister in charge of all industrial and arms production during the last three years of the Second World War, he was effectively the second most powerful man in Germany after Adolf Hitler himself.

As Hitler's personal architect, his massive concrete constructions gave reality to the Fuehrer's dream of a Reich that would last 1,000 years. Yet, at the Nuremberg trials, he was the only top Nazi to escape the death penalty, getting a 20-year sentence in Spandau prison instead.

Speer wasn't the only member of Hitler's circle to claim he had no knowledge of Auschwitz or the fate of the Jews. He was treated leniently because he was utterly plausible, he showed repentance and he could prove that he had disobeyed Hitler's final orders to destroy all the industrial installations in Germany.

As it was, some of the Nuremberg prosecutors, including Lord Shawcross, were astonished that Speer escaped the death sentence.

Had they known then the damning evidence which has just emerged after 60 years, Speer would have been taken out and hanged.

All the circumstantial evidence seemed to point to Speer having knowledge of the Final Solution.

In June 1941 he was responsible for commandeering the homes of thousands of Jews in the western suburbs of Berlin; they were subsequently deported. The following year, he visited a Ukrainian city conquered by the German army in which, just four months earlier, the entire population of 30,000 Jews had been slaughtered. Most incriminating of all, Speer attended a speech given by the SS leader Heinrich Himmler in October 1943 in which Himmler spoke openly about "the extermination of the Jews".

But there was no proof. Himmler was always careful never to mention gas chambers. Speer might have supposed that the SS leader was talking about executions, as he told the journalist Gitta Sereny.

Some years ago I reviewed Sereny's masterful book on Speer and his battle with truth. She interviewed him for three weeks, 12 hours a day, and followed this up with 12 years' further research, pursuing the twists and turns of his logic in an effort to make him confront the extent of his culpability - and at the end of it even she could not make this sinisterly charming, brilliantly analytical man admit that he had any direct knowledge of the gas chambers.

Now we know better. By 1942, Speer understood exactly what was going on. A German documentary this week reveals the existence of hitherto unseen documents which torpedo the myth of Speer as a devoted family man and visionary architect who was helplessly swept into Hitler's entourage.

According to Heinrich Breloer, its director, the documents were only recently located in the Moscow archives by Susanne Willems, a Berlin historian.

They describe a "Prof Speer special programme" to expand the death camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. "The documents clearly refer to the upgrading of Auschwitz from a slave labour camp to a centre of mass extermination", claims Frau Willems, and "specifically call its expansion a 'special programme' led by Speer".

THE report, which is covered with Speer's handwritten notes, was compiled after Speer sent two of his architects to study conditions in the Reich's concentration camps in May 1942. At Auschwitz they were received by the camp commandant, the revolting Rudolf Hoess, who briefed them "on the building and the purpose of the entire concentration camp facility", adding that the purpose was to lead towards "the resolution of the Jewish question", or Sonderbehandlung, which was a Nazi euphemism for the Holocaust. It seems inconceivable that Speer's architects would not have reported these details back to him. The headings of their report, shown briefly in the film, include Sonderbehandlung along with "Mortuaries" and " Crematoria".

By the summer of 1942, Auschwitz would be receiving transports of Jews from all over Europe. …

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