The Good Nazi: The Life and Lies of Albert Speer

Dan Van der Vat, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $30 (416p) ISBN 978-0-395-65243-5
Speer, a young architect seeking work, proposed to Hitler a night rally that would be geared to suggest infinite space by employing a backdrop of 10-story flags and a wall of 150 searchlight beams. When Hitler's construction genius, Fritz Todt, died in an airplane crash in 1942, Speer, already a Hitler favorite, became via crafty accretion of powers the economic czar of Germany, controlling the colossal construction and industrial empires. Speer, who remained with Hitler to the last days, was tried for war crimes, found guilty of using slave labor and sentenced to 20 years at Spandau. A plea of contrition and a claim that he was unaware, as an apolitical technocrat, of the grisly enormities of the Nazi regime saved him from being executed to write his bestselling Inside the Third Reich and Spandau: The Secret Diaries. In his 60s, he was rich and famous, and lived a seemingly contented life, dying in 1981 at age 76. Gitta Sereny's famous biography, Albert Speer--His Battle with Truth, based on interviews with her compelling subject, humanized Speer though charged him with indifference to Nazi excesses. Van der Vat, a Dutch-born English journalist, rejects the workaholic, nonparty pose as a sham and sees the self-serving memoirs and concocted diaries as incompatible with Speer's ""intimate knowledge of the core of the Nazi regime."" Not a repentant sinner to Van der Vat, Speer is a professional thug and trickster with no claim ""to a share of the moral high ground"" onto which he tried to pen himself. Van der Vat's well-documented book is so convincing it imparts a hollow ring to Speer's self-serving apologias. Photos. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 406 pages - 978-0-297-81721-5
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