Inside the Third Reich by Albert Speer
Created: Sat Mar 20 16:24:10 2010 | Last modified: Sat Mar 20 16:24:10 2010
Inside the Third Reich is an interesting book for a couple of reasons. The first of course, is the personality of the author himself - a former Nazi who actually got away with his life in the Nuremberg trials being sentenced to 20 years in prison for organizing forced labour in the armaments industry during period of World War II. The other reason is the fact that he had personal contact with most of the other top Nazi leaders in the Third Reich and was probably one of Hitler's closest associates before the War started. Albert Speer is a remarkable and intelligent man and this book clearly shows the clarity of his mind and his remorse and repentance in being involved in one of modern history's most savage and barbaric regimes. As a result the reader gets a very clear account of his unparalleled insights into what motivated him to rise to the top of the Third Reich and how his personal relationship with Hitler developed over the years.
The book is roughly divided into two portions. The period before the War started and the period during the War itself. However, this book is far from being a history book. This is understandable since this is meant to be an autobiographical work, but readers who expect detailed coverage of all aspects of Hitler's personal history will be sorely disappointed. Notable events in Hitler's life before the 1930s are missing as also events like the Night of Long Knives, the Reichstag fire and the beerhouse bomb. Of course, this book covers some aspects of the War, but in reality it concentrates mostly on Speer's own fascination of his "Fuehrer" and his relationships with the other top Nazi leaders including Goebbels, Goering, Bormann and Himmler.
Speer admits to his own guilt throughout the book about his role in Nazi Germany, but is almost evasive in referring to some of the darker aspects of the regime which he served so faithfully almost till the end. In particular, he does not go in depth into the role of the SS and the dreaded Gestapo (although they do get mentioned in several places) and of course the horrible concentration camps where millions of human beings were brutally and clinically mass-murdered. Also missing in this book is a real flavour of the life of the common man under such an oppressive totalitarian regime. Being a Minister in such a setup, this is only to be expected. Where he does excel is in analysing and describing the mindset that prevailed in the top hierarchy. Of the machinations, political schemings and the atmosphere of denial and isolation in which these men moved, particularly in the last years of the War. The author also gives deep insights into how Adolf Hitler manipulated his closest associates into remaining loyal and in turn, how his closest followers tried to desperately remain in his favour all of which add interest and depth to this book.
This book is a very easy read. Written in fairly informal style, the book is probably one of a kind on the subject. However, be aware that this is not a historical book and has large portions of non-political content - notably Speer's fascination for architecture and his ambitious projects to develop Germany's cities during Hitler's rule (all of which came to naught at the start of the War). For those new to the subject of Nazi Germany and World War II, I would recommend Shirer's "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich". That book complements this one perfectly and you will have a broader idea of the historical nature of events which occurred during the author's lifetime.
All in all, an excellent book in spite of its incomplete coverage of major historical events. I would rate it 4 out of 5 simply because of the author's personal insights into the top hierarchy of the Third Reich which, to this day, remain unique and unparalleled.