Driven By Blind Ambition
“At the Nuremberg trials Speer is in many ways the most interesting of the surviving Nazi leaders. Whereas most of his fellow prisoners are unmitigated thugs, Speer, by contrast, is a charming, cultivated and intelligent man. It was these qualities, combined with a conscience that subordinated everything to ambition that made him one of the most dangerous of all Nazis”. (Galbraith and Ball 1945, 57) It is clear that the overarching quality of Speer that emerges is his ignorance of any obstacle in his path that stood between him and what he wanted, making him in many ways "one of the most dangerous" and even more guilty than some of his colleagues.
In his early years in the Nazi party, Speer was never consciously power-hungry, neither did he seem to care about politics. In 1925, in his letters to Margaret, then his fiancé, and later his wife, Speer seemed singularly unconcerned with Hitler and his political activities (Van Der Vat 1997, 32). “He presents himself at this stage of his life as completely apolitical, concentrating on the job at hand and taking little interest in the wider world. This of course dovetails neatly with his self-image as presented at Nuremberg and in his books: the man who was always too busy to be anything but an apolitical and, yes, even amoral, technocrat” (Van Der Vat 1997, 32). I suspect that it is only as Speer began to see his future in the Nazi party as something other than architecture, that he started to take steps to increase his influence. Speer was an opportunist, he never cared for politics beyond what it could do for him. I believe that his early experiences, including his father’s disdain for his abilities as an architect, made him yearn to prove himself, and what better way than to become Hitler’s right-hand man, and maybe even his successor.
Captain Klein summed up the question that anyone who has studied Albert Speer has asked himself or herself, the question about why he did not leave once he understood the true nature of Hitler’s regime. He said to Speer, “[y]ou are telling us that you knew years ago that the war was lost for Germany…And yet you stayed, not only stayed, but worked, planned with and supported them to the hilt. How can you explain it? How can you justify it? How can you stand living with yourself?” (Sereny 1995, 553) Speer’s response to this was: “[y]ou cannot understand. You simply cannot understand what it is to live in a dictatorship…Nor…have you any concept of the charisma of a man such as Hitler” (Sereny 1995, 553). Speer said of Hitler to Sereny: “If one was close to him, there were ways of changing his mind, but it had to be done subtly” (Sereny 1995, 371). Perhaps Speer was caught in a trap, where he had Hitler’s ear and was able to influence him to a small degree, but saw himself as more powerful than he really was. Even in this delusion his blind ambition shines through; his belief that he was one of the few who could influence the leader of the Reich.
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