Speer had a well-planned defence strategy from the very beginning, perhaps even before he was arrested. All his actions after capture were calculated towards mitigating his sentence, as Speer knew that as a cabinet minister, he was unlikely to receive leniency from the Allies unless he was able to ‘win them over’ in some way.
Despite the Germans’ almost obsessive recording of detail, many of the most incriminating documents were being destroyed by various departments, including members of Speer’s ministry. Speer had the foresight to save some documents and deposit them in a bank vault at Hamburg, later using them during his trial and for his defence. “They helped to save his life” (Van Der Vat 1997, 247-8).
Speer was also aided by friends and acquaintances, who, no doubt charmed by him much the way he was charmed by Hitler, often left no stone unturned to help him. Annemarie Kempf, his loyal secretary for years, went to considerable personal trouble to smuggle documents back and forth to his attorney to help in Speer’s defence. Rudolf Wolters, a fellow architect and subordinate of Speer, took charge of hiding Speer's documents, commandeered whatever help Speer needed, looked after Speer’s family to the extent of neglecting his own and even spearheaded the campaign to acquit Speer whilst he was in Spandau Prison. The sway that Albert Speer held over those close to him is uncannily similar to the power that Hitler had over those loyal to him, and perhaps led them similarly to ignore Speer’s underlying character.
There are several aspects to Speer’s self-preservation strategy: (1) he was determined to show that he was simply a technocrat, not responsible for the policies of the Nazi administration; (2) he showed his willingness to cooperate with the Allies by feeding them information; (3) he emphasized his opposition to Hitler’s scorched-earth policy as well as his attempt to assassinate him; (4) he denied knowledge of the crimes against the Jews; and (5) he set himself apart from the other prisoners in terms of personality and degree of guilt. Some of these aspects were highlighted in the previous section, and the others are discussed below.
Speer: Efficient Technocrat or Ruthless Nazi?
Dr. Hans Flaschner, Speer’s defence attorney, represented Speer as an artist plunged into political life, almost against his wishes; promised by Hitler that he could return to architecture after the war (Fest 1999, 287-88). Flaschner, in responding to the charges against Speer, skilfully disposed of the first one. He asked Speer whether he had ever taken part in planning or preparing for an aggressive war. Speer’s response made it clear that proving count one of the indictment against Speer would be difficult, as he had been an active architect until 1942, and to the extent that his buildings took material and human resources away from the war effort, he actually hindered the preparations for war (IMT 1945).
By emphasizing his role as Hitler’s architect and focusing on his achievements in increasing production and efficiency, Speer tried to establish his technical and administrative credentials, and claim that he had no role in policy-making. He also claimed that he had little or no knowledge of crimes perpetrated by the Nazi government, because he simply focused on production.
During the trial it emerged however, that Speer’s endless demands for workers from Fritz Sauckel (General Plenipotentiary for Labour Deployment) undoubtedly led, at least indirectly, to increasing the numbers of slave labour to be brought into Germany to Speer’s factories. Speer did admit to knowingly using forced labour and threatening slackers with being thrown into concentration camps (Taylor 1992, 397). He justified the latter by saying that he had heard that the Allies were distributing pamphlets to the labourers on how to shirk work. Nonetheless, he refused responsibility on this matter. “Speer's position was such that he was not directly concerned with the cruelty in the administration of the slave labour programme, although he was aware of its existence.” (IMT 1945) Speer stated at the trial: “I had no influence on the method by which workers were recruited. If the workers were being brought to Germany against their will that means, as I see it, that they were obliged by law to work for Germany. Whether the laws were justified or not, that was a matter I did not check at the time. Besides, this was no concern of mine” (IMT 1945). These statements of Speer serve to demonstrate his arrogance and unconcern for others, except to the extent that they interfered with his work. Not only do these statements show that he was guilty by omission at least, his calm acceptance of the use of slave labour went against his own determination to paint himself in a good light, as "a university professor...with charm and apparent integrity" as Neave described him.
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