Sample DP History IAs: Did Albert Speer Know About The Holocaust?


Internal Assessment in History


Did Albert Speer have knowledge of the Holocaust?


Candidate Number: 000823-0018


Centre Number: 0823


Supervisor: D. Heath


Word Count:  1982


Examination Session: May 2016

A.    Plan of Investigations 

Did Albert Speer have knowledge of the Holocaust? The main body of investigation will focus on sources like Speer’s personal memoirs, Inside the Third Reich, in which there is no account of the Holocaust, together with the Nuremberg Trials, which both speak for Speer’s lack of knowledge. On the other hand Heinrich Himmler’s Posen Speech explaining the intention of the Nazi regime regarding the Holocaust and Speer’s1971 writings to Hélène Jeanty account for his knowledge of the Holocaust. Although Speer disclosed that the Posen speech wasn’t familiar to him at the point of the Holocaust, in his writings to Jeanty he admitted to being at said Posen speech. An article by Erich Goldhagen, which was the first historical account of open critique on Speer’s statement about the Posen Speech, will be used as a source to give insight into how his statements can be questioned and declared for false. Similarly a psychological account of Albert Speer through Gitta Sereny’s Albert Speer: His battle with truth will help to give a deeper insight into Speer’s character. This will be important as it gives an answer to why Speer would lie about the holocaust and if he even had the potential to know. An analysis of these documents as well as the summary of evidence will be used to formulate a conclusion stating whether Albert Speer was, or was not, aware of the Holocaust. 

Words: 232

B.    Summary of Evidence 

Albert Speer was a German architect and later Minister of Armaments and War Productions of the Third Reich.   In 1930 Speer heard his first speech by Adolf Hitler and showed interest in politics and in Hitler’s visions for a future Germany.    He later joined the NSDAP  and the SA with his first construction contracts. After the takeover by national socialists, Hitler was impressed by Speer’s works and appointed him with the construction of the Reichskanzlei. Speer quickly became one of Hitler’s closest confidents and architects.  In 1942, Speer was appointed Minister of Armaments and War Productions and put in charge of Germany’s entire war economy.  Speer, together with Fritz Sauckel, was also responsible for Nazi foreign labour policies that dealt with enslavement and mass deportation. This would later make a strong case against Speer’s status as the “Good Nazi”.  During the 1945 Nuremberg trials, Speer was indicted on war crimes and crimes against humanity.  It was then that Speer gained his controversial image, as he was amongst the only ones to be sentenced to twenty year imprisonment with “no attempt to shirk his responsibility or guilt”  while twelve of his co-defendants were sentenced to death by hanging.  The controversy that arose from these trials was concerning Speer’s claim that he had no knowledge of specific motives of the holocaust. 

There are arguments suggesting that Speer did have knowledge to some extent about the Holocaust. One very important piece of evidence is Heinrich Himmler’s Posen Speech, in which Himmler clearly states the “duty” of the German nation to exterminate the Jews.  Speer, however, insisted on the fact that he left the conference before Himmler made his speech  and knew nothing of the Holocaust. Erich Goldhagen discusses this fact and openly accuses Speer of lying about his attendance.  In her book His battle with truth, Gitta Sereny points out that there was an encounter between Speer and the ‘Gauleiter’ (regional leaders) and is convinced that “[t]here is simply no way Speer can have failed to know about Himmler's speech, whether or not he actually sat through it.” Most importantly, new evidence in form of letters composed by Speer about said speech caused new turmoil around the controversy in 2007. In those letters Speer ‘admits’ to being present at Himmler’s speech, and thus having knowledge of the holocaust.   However, the letters were never officially published and could therefore not be evaluated publicly. At the Nuremberg trials, Speer was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity. This sentence was most likely influenced by his claim to not have any knowledge of the holocaust , as other defendants got sentenced to death for similar crimes.  It was because of this difference in judgment during Speer’s trial that special attention was brought to the Speer Controversy. 

Words: 465

C.     Evaluation of Sources 

Source A: Gitta Sereny “Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth” 

Including interviews with Speer's family, associates and with former Nazi officials, plus eight years of archival research, Gitta Sereny released a “meticulously researched”  psychological analysis and biography of Speer published in 1996. With the purpose to portray Speer’s character as a whole and to give insight on his thinking and doing, this source offers great values as it touches on all aspects of Speer's life - childhood, love life, upbringing, social, 20 years in prison and 15 years as a writer, researcher and apologist for his own past. Throughout, Sereny consciously avoids the pitfall of many Speer biographers, who seek to either blame or exculpate Speer for the Nazis’ atrocities. Instead, she succeeds in helping the reader understand a "morally extinguished" man and places him into context.    Sereny also often compares multiple drafts and cross-references her work with other sources, resulting in a credible and seemingly truthful account of history. However, too often Sereny takes Speer's calculated, self-serving evaluations at face value and is not questioning this enough.  As the author said herself, she "found a great deal to like" in former Nazi Albert Speer, which makes bias very prominent.

Source B: Erich Goldhagen “Albert Speer, Himmler and the Secrecy of the Final Solution” 

After Goldhagen started dealing with the Posen Speeches and Heinrich Himmler, he was amongst the first to note that Himmler addressed Albert Speer, who must have been personally sitting in the audience. He then published an article in October 1971 in the Jewish-magazine Midstream accusing Speer of lying during the Nuremberg Trials and later as he claimed to be at partial fault for the holocaust but did not have any personal knowledge about it.  The purpose of this document is to criticize Speer and discover the truth surrounding the Speer controversy; therefore this article presents the reader with clear biases, which Goldhagen uses to persuade. The article was written many years after the actual Nuremberg Trials, making it possible for Goldhagen to analyse the situation from a broader timeframe, which proves to be valuable as a strong emotional bias after the trials are no issue. Goldhagen uses first hand sources and evidence to make a clear case that is difficult to argue with, making it a piece that is often referred to in many important literary works and proving the value of this article.  However Midstream is an opinion magazine, which focuses on political, social and religious topics related to Jewish communities and thus aims to give a Jewish viewpoint and thus doesn’t necessarily acknowledge Speer’s German perspective. 

Words: 432 

D.     Analysis 

One important aspect to consider when looking at the Speer Controversy is that Albert Speer together with Fritz Sauckel is held responsible for the “Slave Labour Program”  during Nazi Germany. Elements of the Nazi foreign labour policy consisted of mass deportation and mass enslavement. This was deliberately a policy of underfeeding and overworking foreign labourers, of subjecting them to every form of degradation and brutality . Speer as Reichsminister for Armaments and Munitions, together with Todt, Director of the Organization and member of the Central Planning Board, actively participated in the planning and execution of the program. In an interrogation on 18 October 1945 , Speer confessed to knowingly enforce labour on foreign workers who came to Germany involuntarily. With a record of involvement in slave labour and knowledge of Nazi brutality, one is left to question the liability and mental mindset of a man like Speer, thus giving a strong bias towards his involvement as well as knowledge in the holocaust. 

Today the thesis that Speer did have knowledge of the holocaust is more commonly accepted, simply due to the number of evidence speaking for that same thesis. As Goldhagen pointed out in his article, it is highly unlikely that Speer had no further knowledge of the mass extermination after the Posen Speeches, in which Himmler states that Speer “can do nothing about it [the extinction of the Jews]” . Speer’s knowledge is also said to be proven, as he must have been present at the Posen Speeches since he held a speech himself the very same day.   His role in the Nazi regime, his high position and close relationship with Hitler himself make a strong and highly convincing case for the knowledge of the architect. 

On the other side of the debate is Sereny’s thesis. She reached conclusions that significantly differed from her predecessors.  She is suggesting that it is mostly Speer’s character that hinders him from “seeing things he doesn’t want to see”.  Considering that Speer couldn’t have had detailed knowledge simply due to the fact of his ignorant yet soft nature, is further supported by Gitta Sereny arguing that by 1941, Speer knew Jews were being deported but had no idea they were going to their deaths, nor any idea of Hitler's plans to exterminate European Jewry. However one has to consider that Sereny only accounts for Speer’s unknowingness up to the late 1943s. She believes that by then Speer was aware of the almost-completed genocide even though he continued to work for Hitler, for whom he had an "unspoken love".  With this Sereny considers Speer’s Holocaust knowledge to be more subconscious and to be supressed at later times and even disregarded as untrue as he was blinded by his ambition. 

With the thesis made by Sereny, it is important to consider her own credibility in the field. This is undermined by her reputation to “humanise monsters”, which she did in works previous to Speer.  Here she was set on explaining the influences that shape a criminal. Such preexisting biases towards her work lead to the question if Sereny was systematically trying to excuse Speer’s thinking, as she dis before, leading to a mostly biased and not necessarily truthful account. To gain further insight into Speer’s case, one can also consider the interrogations and transcripts from the Nuremberg Trials. During Speer’s cross-examination, he for instance stated, “I knew that the National Socialist Party was anti-Semitic, and I knew that the Jews were being evacuated from Germany”.

Even in a statement after serving his sentence, Speer declared that “I for my person, have in the Nuremberg Trial, confessed to the collective responsibility and I am also maintaining this today still. I still see my main guilt in my having approved of the persecution of the Jews and of the murder of millions of them."  His actions during the trials reflect on his nature described by Sereny and thus account for his unknowingness, or at least unwillingness to know about the mass extermination at the time it was enforced. 

Words: 671

E.    Conclusion 

In conclusion, it is clear that there are two important perspectives to the debate. There is the consideration of all ethical and personal characteristics and seeing that it is Speer’s personality in which the key to the extent of his knowledge lies. Here we come to the result that it was impossible for the man himself to have known and accepted the holocaust, thus saying he had no active knowledge to what was going on in the Third Reich. On the other side we have the activities in the Third Reich in combination with Speer’s role in it and it is clear that he had to have at least some certain knowledge of the holocaust and understanding of the ‘Final Solution’, as there would be no other way for the system to function. Considering both perspectives leads to the conclusion that Speer did have knowledge of the holocaust due to his position in the Reich, but due to his personality traits it is likely that he disregarded much of what was going on and subconsciously suppressed knowledge to save himself from guilt. 

Words: 182 

Overall word count: 1982


F.    List of Sources


Bower, Tom. "The Woman Who Tried to Humanise Monsters." Daily Mail. N.p., 20 June 2012. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.

Conolly, Kate. “Letter Proves Speer Knew of Holocaust Plan.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 13 Mar. 2007. Web. 15. Dec. 2014

Fest, Joachim C. Albert Speer: Conversations with Hitler's Architect. Cambridge,     UK: Polity, 2007. Print.

Fest, Joachim C. Speer: The Final Verdict. New York: Harcourt, 2001. Print.

Goldhagen, Erich. "Albert Speer, Himmler and the Secrecy of the Final Solution." Midstream (1971): 43-50. Web.

Grzebyk, Patrycja. Criminal Responsibility for the Crime of Aggression. N.p.: Routledge, 2013. Print.

Himmler, Heinrich. " Ansprache vor neuen SS-Fuehrern im Generalgouvernement ." Posen Conference. Poland, Poznan. 6 Oct. 1943. Speech.

Hughes, Judith M. The Holocaust and the Revival of Psychological History. N.p.: Cambridge UP, 2014. Print.

Jones, David H. Moral Responsibility in the Holocaust: A Study in the Ethics of Character. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999. Print.

Loeffler, Bertina. "Books and Knowledge." Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth Specialties War Gitta Sereny Knopf 1st Edition. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.

"Midstream." The Canadian Jewish Chronicle (1955): 9. Web.

Nazi Conspiracy and Agression: Office of United States Chief of Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1946. Print.

Overy,Richard. “Didn’t He Do So Well?” Rev. of Albert SPeer:His Battle with Truth. London Review of Books 21 Dec. 1995: 6. Print

Reif, Adelbert. Albert Speer - Kontroversen Um Ein Deutsches Phänomen. Munich: Bernard&Greafe Verlag, 1985. Print.

Samaan, A. E. From a "race of Masters" to a "master Race": 1948 to 1848 / Written by A.E Samaan. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2013. Print.

Sereny, Gitta. Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth. New York: Knopf, 1995. Print.

Shirer, William Lawrence. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. N.p.: n.p., 1960. Print.

Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich. London: Sphere, 1979. Print.

Suzman, Arthur, and Denis Diamond. Six Million Did Die: The Truth Shall Prevail. 2nd ed. N.p.: South African Jewish Board of Deputies, 1978. Print.

Taylor, Blaine. Hitler's Engineers: Fritz Todt and Albert Speer: Master Builders of the Third Reich. Philadelphia: Casemate, 2010. Print.

Tusa, Ann, and John Tusa. The Nuremberg Trials. London: Macmillan, 1983. Print.

Vat, Dan Van Der, and Albert Speer. The Good Nazi: The Life and Lies of Albert Speer. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. Print.

Example 2

Did Albert Speer Know About The Holocaust?

Plan of Investigation

This investigation shall look at whether the judgement made during the 1945-46 Nuremberg Trials that Albert Speer did not know of the final solution and therefore was not judged to be guilty of charges of mass murder was correct. This investigation shall compare Speer’s own defence of himself, most notably within Gitta Sereny’s biography, with the accusations made by Dan Van der Vat. Additionally; this investigation shall examine Speer’s own memoirs and book, as well as Himmler’s speech at Posen in the original German so as to further support the claims made by both biographers. Finally, this essay shall look at the opinions of some notable historians in regards to further supporting or criticising the claims made by Speer’s biographers.

Summary Of Evidence

Albert Speer was a German architect and a prominent member within the Nazi party. Having joined the party in 1931, [1] he came to Hitler’s attention due to his plans for the 1934 Nuremberg Rally [2] and quickly rose to prominence both nationally and internationally, not least for his work at the Berlin Olympics. [3] [4] Speer also began to gather political power, becoming head of armaments by 1942 [5] and, by 1943, had sufficient power so as to be considered by many in the Nazi elite as a possible successor to Hitler himself. [6] After the war, during the Nuremberg trials, Speer was among the most willing to co-operate with the investigators and the only one to show signs of regret regarding his actions during the war, as was noted by the famous American journalist William Shirer at the time. [7] Speer’s defence was built on the idea that Speer was an artist thrown into politics, [8] who nevertheless maintained a moral distance from the deepest controversies of the Nazi regime. Most notably, Speer absolutely denied all knowledge of the systematic genocide of the Jewish people, the Holocaust. [9] In his own book, Inside the Third Reich, Speer describes how Gauleiter Hanke advised Speer to avoid all concentration camps in northern Silesia. [10] Speer accepts blame for not investigating further, alluding to a “moral contamination”

from that moment onwards, [11] however he denies all knowledge of the specific motives of the Holocaust. The main source, then, for the controversy of whether or not Speer knew of the Holocaust lies in his attendance of the 1943 Posen conference. [12] At this party conference, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS police force, gave a speech effectively announcing the terms of the final solution, stating that the decision had been made to “cause this people [the Jews] to vanish from this earth”. [13] Albert Speer was most certainly at this conference, giving a speech himself the same day, [14] yet he omits any mention of Himmler’s speech in his own memoirs or book. In 1971, the historian Erich Goldhagen published an article arguing that Speer was indeed present for this speech of Himmler’s and thus must have been aware of the terms of the final solution. [15] Central to his evidence was Himmler’s speech itself, which appeared to directly address Speer himself. [16] Other biographers of Speer have examined notes and anecdotes made in his memoirs that seem to indicate that Speer must have been present at Himmler’s speech. [17] Speer himself would later address these accusations, stating that he had left the conference at noon, well before Himmler gave his speech. This has been ‘confirmed’ by eyewitnesses since. [18] The controversy was recently reignited once again in 2007, as the Guardian published letters supposedly written by Speer to a former resistance leader that stated that Speer was, without a doubt, present when Himmler announced the terms of the final solution. [19] When Speer himself was tried at Nuremberg in 1945; he was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against of humanity (due to his usage of slave labour in factories during the war). [20] Nevertheless, the fact that, unlike many of his fellow defendants who were hanged, Speer supposedly repented for his sins on the basis that he had no knowledge of the holocaust lent him the moniker of the ‘Good Nazi’. [21] Hence, this controversy of whether Speer knew about the holocaust lends itself special significance.

Evaluation of Sources

Gitta Sereny’s book, “Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth”, is a biography of the man published in 1996, although Sereny had been working on the book for many years previously. Much of the material is sourced from various interviews with Speer himself, as well as the other interviews that she conducted with friends and family of Speer. Sereny also sourced a large amount of material from Speer’s letters and memoirs that he had written during this time in prison. The result of this is the most comprehensive collection of material detailing Speer’s life in existence, making the book undoubtedly valuable simply due to the level of insight into Speer personally that it can achieve due to these rare interviews and heavy research. The purpose of the book, however, is less clear. In many ways it differs from a traditional objective historical account. The book is not laid out in a chronological fashion, instead jumping about confusingly between different periods. There is also an obvious lack of footnotes, somewhat surprising considering the wealth of archival research that has been poured into the book. Indeed, herein lies the central weakness of Sereny’s book: it reads not like an impartial account, but as an argumentative piece that, due to the emotional connections that it tries to forge, fails to convince entirely regarding the validity of the reasoning and absence of personal bias.

Dan van der Vat’s book, “The Good Nazi: The Life and Lies of Albert Speer”, was written around the same time as Sereny’s own biography of Speer and thus used a similar collection of archival evidence that she used, albeit without the interviews that added such personal depth to Sereny’s work. In that sense, van der Vat’s work is of lesser value, as, due to its origins, it fails to have nearly as much convincing evidence or depth of personal research to back up its claims. On the other hand, unlike Sereny’s attempt at emotionally profiling Albert Speer, van der Vat bases his analysis almost entirely within rational fact. Thus, to some extent, the purpose of his book is primarily to rationally analyse Speer’s guilt, meaning that it is potentially of value as it is less prone to bias. Unfortunately, the title already shows that van der Vat’s view certainly isn’t unbiased, as indeed he himself is trying to prove that Speer’s testimony at Nurnberg regarding his life was a lie. Unfortunately, this merely results in van der Vat regurgitating, albeit in skilful prose and structure, the various arguments already made against Speer and, in conclusion, fails to introduce any new ideas to the overall debate. Thus, in comparison to Sereny, van der Vat’s work is of lesser value, as it fails to compete both in the origins of it’s research and its overall purpose, as unlike Sereny, van der Vat merely reiterates arguments that have previously been made and thus fails to convince further than previously regarding Speer’s knowledge of the holocaust.


Speer’s activities within the Nazi Reich would always be ambiguous, mainly due to the bureaucratic chaos that defined the Nazi state. [22] Many ministers were antagonistic towards to each other in their hunger for power to such an extent that communications between ministries, politicians and departments varied from the manipulated to the untrue to non-existent. [23] The job of unravelling this mess of a communication and information network was always going to be complex and it is this context of complexity that has characterised the debate regarding Speer’s knowledge, both at Nurnberg and in the years since. The issue always has been in verifying the claims Speer has stated, made extremely arduous due to the bureaucratic intricacy within the historical context of research.

The previously analysed biographies by Gitta Sereny and Dan van der Vat particularly characterise this debate. Van der Vat tries to execute a rational analysis of the evidence presented on this case in an attempt to prove Speer’s posthumous guilt, but due to the circuitous nature of this evidence only succeeds in presenting the approximations of guilt that his predecessors (such as Goldhagen) had also reached. Although a lot of his evidence is convincing, his failure to provide a definitive answer is merely representative of the ambiguous nature of the debate itself. Gitta Sereny tries to psychologically profile Speer as an alternative approach. This leads her to a number of interesting conclusions that differ markedly from those of her predecessors, however the debate regarding Speer’s guilt remains as open as previously. Both sources provide alternative approaches, yet they also both fail to comprehensibly cover the debate.

The approach most favoured by the modern historical perspectives is that Speer lied at Nurnberg and had some fair knowledge of the Holocaust. The basis for this argument lies in his attendance of the Posen conference. Van der Vat argues that the fact that Himmler in his speech regarding the Final Solution repeatedly would reference Speer, even apparently addressing him directly would point towards the fact that he was present in the room at the time and thus must have heard Himmler’s plans to exterminate Judaism. [15] Additionally, Speer’s own rather sketchy account of these events point towards the fact that the Posen conference was a weakness in his case that he wished to avoid. Speer would initially omit mentioning Posen, then made a number of excuses of why he hadn’t been there for Himmler’s speech including that he had left over, or that he had been absent altogether and was referencing a different Posen conference. This confusion of defence seems to point towards the fact that Speer was primarily trying to avoid the question altogether, pointing towards his guilt regarding the circumstances. An additional point of contention was, as pointed out by Mattius Schmidt, that Speer frequented the city of Dnepropetrovsk multiple times following a brutal massacre of some 30,000 Jews in 1942. The massacre was widely known throughout the region, so it would seem unlikely that in his frequent visits there, Speer would have not heard about these events. All of throws into question Speer’s assertion at Nurnberg that he had had no knowledge of the holocaust prior to the end of the War. Indeed, this evidence points towards van der Vat’s conclusion that it was nearly impossible for Speer not to have known about the Holocaust and that he had merely lied in his post-war accounts so as to avoid capital punishment. Indeed, the most overwhelming evidence for this, a series of letters made public in 2007, state, in Speer’s writing, the he had undoubtedly been present at Himmler’s speech at Posen, seemingly absolutely confirming Speer’s guilt. [19]

These letters may, however, be misleading. We do not know of the context in which these letters were written, nor whether they are even authentic. It may be that Speer was alluding to some other speech, or that the letters had been changed so as to prove Speer’s guilt. He may even have purposefully lied to the person he had been corresponding with so as to achieve some end or other. It is notable that many great historical minds, including Shirer and Bullock, have bought into Speer’s defence. This may be due to the fact that his defence had been based on psychological foundations. The argument goes that Speer had been blinded by his ambitions as an aspiring technocrat and thus had been blinkered to Hitler’s evils. There is some evidence to back this up. Speer, young, wealthy and intellectual, hardly fits into the mould of his fellow Nazi leaders of embittered war veterans in the shadow of Hitler himself.  Sereny also describes his apparent utter joy at the rate of promotion he was receiving. [24] It isn’t hard to imagine that he may have been willing to turn a blind eye to events around him due to the success he was experiencing. It is of note that all of the evidence presented against him merely imply that he knew of the Holocaust, but never actually shows him acting as a willing agent for it. Following Sereny’s argument, it is very easy to believe that although Speers had some superficial knowledge of the Holocaust, but was never directly involved with it, limiting his knowledge of events to such an extent where he had hugely limited influence. In this sense, Speer is guiltier of non-action than actual perpetration. Thus, a psychological analysis of Speer, as conducted at the Nurnberg trials and by Sereny, lends great weight to Speer’s defence and the notion that he had essentially no knowledge of the Holocaust itself.


In conclusion, we see that there are two distinct views within this debate. An obvious weakness within the view that Speer’s defence was justified is that it fails to definitively address the accusations of Speer’s attendance at Posen and presence in Dnepropetrovsk. Thus, it has hard to form any conclusion other than that Speer must have at least known about the Holocaust, although the extent of this knowledge is much more debatable. Indeed, it seems somewhat unreasonable to portray Speer as a perpetrator, so this essay must conclude that although Speer had lied about his total lack of knowledge regarding the extermination of Judaism, his defence as someone morally removed from the Nazi atrocities remains somewhat justifiable, as his knowledge of the Ginal Solution points more towards an acknowledgement of events he, in Himmler’s words, “can do nothing about” [13] rather than an actual influential knowledge of events at hand.


[1] Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970. 15-17. Print.

[2] Sereny, Gitta. Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth. New York: Knopf, 1995. 100-01. Print.

[3] Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970. 81. Print.

[4] Angolia, John R. For Führer and Fatherland: Political & Civil Awards of the Third Reich. San Jose, CA: R. James Bender Pub., 1978. 194. Print.

[5] Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970. 193-196. Print.

[6] Sereny, Gitta. Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth. New York: Knopf, 1995. 376-77. Print.

[7] Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1990. 1142-143. Print.

[8] Fest, Joachim C. Albert Speer: Conversations with Hitler's Architect. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2007. 287-88. Print.

[9] Brechtken, Magnus. Life Writing and Political Memoir = Lebenszeugnisse Und Politische Memoiren. Göttingen: V&R Unipress, 2012. 36-37. Print.

[10] Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970. 375-76. Print.

[11] Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970. 376. Print.

[12] Vat, Dan Van Der, and Albert Speer. The Good Nazi: The Life and Lies of Albert Speer. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997. 167-68. Print.

[13] Himmler, Heinrich. " Speech to Reichsleiters and Gauleiters." Posen Conference. Poland, Poznan. 6 Oct. 1943. Speech.

[14] Fest, Joachim C. "Translator's Notes." Albert Speer: Conversations with Hitler's Architect. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2007. 209. Print.

[15] Goldhagen, Erich. "Albert Speer, Himmler and the Secrecy of the Final Solution." Midstream (1971): 43-50. Print.

[16] Vat, Dan Van Der, and Albert Speer. The Good Nazi: The Life and Lies of Albert Speer. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 168. Print.

[17] Ramen, Fred. Albert Speer: Hitler's Architect. New York: Rosen, 2001. Print.

[18] Fest, Joachim C. Speer: The Final Verdict. New York: Harcourt, 2001. 186. Print.

[19] Connolly, Kate. "Letter Proves Speer Knew of Holocaust Plan." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 13 Mar. 2007. Web. 13 Sept. 2014.

[20] "Nuremberg Day 218 Judgments." YouTube. YouTube, 2 Mar. 2009. Web. 13 Sept. 2014.

[21] Albert Speer: The Nazi Who Said Sorry. Dir. Martin Davidson. Perf. Albert Speer and Andrew Sachs. British Broadcasting Corporation, 1996. Television.

[22] Kershaw, Ian, and Moshe Lewin. "The Contradictions of Continuous Revolution." Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorships in Comparison. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1997. 139. Print.

[23] Lee, Stephen J. "How Effective Was the Nazi Political System?" Hitler and Nazi Germany. 2nd ed. Abingdon: Routledge, 2013. 120. Print.

[24] Sereny, Gitta. Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth. New York: Knopf, 1995. 718-19. Print.

The Historical Investigation: The Controversies of former Nazi Officer Albert Speer
Was Albert Speer guilty of knowing about the Holocaust Plan?
IBIS Personal Code: gpz111
[Word Count: 2,196]

Section 1: Identification and Evaluation of Sources
Explanation and Justification
This study will investigate the question “Was Albert Speer guilty of knowing about the Holocaust Plan?”, further exploring the truth or lies behind the former Nazi Officer’s reputation of being the ‘good Nazi’.
Source A
[October 4th 1943 poznan, Poland, Posen Speech by Heinrich Himmler]1
This source is particularly relevant to the investigation as these recordings are one of the first known documents in which former Reichsführer der Schutzstaffel under the NSDAP at a secret meeting of SS officers spoke about the extermination plans of Jewish people in Nazi Germany. This source is utilized to demonstrate how German government officials, including Speer, not only knew about but also initiated the planning of the Holocaust. Also reveals Speer’s tendency to lie about his connection to the Nazi ‘inner circle’ and is significant in regard to the reasons of his prosecution. Originating from times of major military setbacks in Germany, Himmler gave speeches towards Nazi political and military leadership aiming to privately express his concerns2. Overall, 33 Obergruppenführers, 51 Gruppenführers and 8 Brigadeführers of the Reich were present3, suggesting reliability of the speech due to its extensive audience members. Being armaments minister between 1942 – 19454, Speer was guaranteed to witness the speech in 1943, as a crucial member of the entire SS leadership cadre, who were also present. During the Trials Speer’s claim being absent, was used as a significant lie, which he relied on to assert his innocence. Limitations of the speech include that the majority of it revolves around the increasingly precarious situation on the Eastern front specifically discussing weaknesses of Germany’s allies. Approximately two minutes of the three-hour speech concerns extermination plans against Jews. Furthermore, Himmler often did not prepare most of his speeches beforehand and often used handwritten notes instead. As a result, recordings of the speech were typed up by SS-Untersturmführer Werner Alfred Wenn5, who corrected grammatical errors and supplemented missing words. Although Himmler claimed that it was not edited, the written speech was only authorized by Himmler after adding handwritten corrections. It was not until the 23rd day of the hearing of the Nürnberg Trials when the copyedited version was examined6.
Additionally, Gottlob Berger, a senior Nazi Official denied the voice of the Posen Speech was Himmler, only at the Trials when it was replayed, he continued with uncertainty that, “it might be Himmler”7. Due to lack of quality of the live recording, to this day there are limitations in reliability of what Himmler originally quoted, creating uncertainty surrounding the authenticity of the documents.
Source B
[“Albert Speer: His Battle with truth”, Gitta Sereny, inside account of the Third Reich]8

In her words, Speer was not only Hitler’s architect, but the Führers closest friend, describing their friendship as an “unhappy love”. This biography is especially relevant as Sereny knew Speer intimately in his final years, writing from the perspective of a journalist revealing content worth hundreds of interviews and simultaneously writing from an inside perspective unravelling the threads of his personality.
The values in content lie in the detail of the work. Sereny knew Speer for four years before his death and spent time with him at home. Through interviewing many others who have been intimately involved or victimized by the Party, she deepened her knowledge behind Nazi official’s attitudes. There is value in their companionship, Speer gave Sereny a number of unpublished manuscripts and personal correspondence for her use, after his passing she obtained access to many of his papers. Sereny has an extensively unique and humane approach when understanding Speer’s story. Due to her sympathy, Sereny writes in an emotional style, writing about “the genius that made [Speer] indispensable to the German war machine, the conscience that drove him to repent, and the emotional wounds that made him susceptible to Hitler's lethal magnetism”9, she writes compassionately over her fascination with Speer which often is less factual. Values in origin is that it supplies hindsight on Speers actions after the prosecution. Limitations include her subjectivity of the biography, as her personal connection influences her understanding of Speers innocence. This bias is supported by the purpose of the biography, which ultimately exposes Hitler’s madness and not to claim Speers guilt.

Section 2: Investigation

As the Reich minister of Armaments and War production, Speer was convicted guilty at the Nürnberg Trials, for his participation in many Nazi war crimes including participation of Jewish extermination in Nazi Germany. Speer was one of the few defendants, who took partial responsibility for many war crimes committed during WWII, though still denied explicit knowledge of the Holocaust. Joining the NSDAP in January 1931, he aimed for a short-lasting
governmental career in politics, which lasted fourteen years10. Due to his former training as an architect he soon built a close friendship with Hitler. Speer became one of the 24 “major war criminals” arrested and charged with the crimes of the Nazi regime at the Trials in October 1946. Over the years Speer managed to carefully construct an image of himself as a man who deeply regretted having failed to discover the horrific crimes of the Third Reich. A sympathetic view, by British historian Gitta Sereny, insists upon his manipulation by the Party, as Speer claims in her biography, “I am ashamed of [Hitler] now ... but at the same time I found him
deeply exciting”11, contrasting to Hugh Trevor-Roper’s pessimistic approach that the Trials were “a vast system of bestial Nordic nonsense”12. 
Overall Speers guilt is questioned on whether he was lying upon accounts of his knowledge or innocent in speaking the truth. Speer was guilty of knowing about the Holocaust plans, partook in the war crimes and mass genocide himself, and lied about knowing so at the Trials. Due to the suspicious behaviours of many ‘senior politicians’, Speer was believed to have an insight on the outcome of his Trial. Party leaders closest to Hitler were Heinrich Himmler, head of the Schutzstaffel and Joseph Goebbels head of propaganda, had committed suicide rather than faced capture and Trial13. As Speers Trials were not until much later during the prosecution process, this gave him insight that lying about the truth was the only way out of a death penalty, pressuring to hold back on the truth. Speer took his myth-making and lies to mass media with his ‘cunning apologies’ reproduced countless times in post-war Germany. Well known German journalists Joachim Fest and Magnus Brechtken, became co-creators and authors supporting these built up lies14, as Speer bribed them in order to sustain the image of the ‘good Nazi’, remaining decades after Speers prison release. Speer never lost ‘his love’ to Hitler and was fully committed to Nazi victory on all accounts15. He joined the Doenitz's Flensburg government, which was the short-lived regime that Hitler authorized in his name days before his death. Whilst still in the NSDAP, he had skillfully maneuvered himself through the ranks of the regime in order to grow his career as fast as possible. He became responsible for the central Department for Resettlement that evicted Jewish tenants from their homes in Berlin, before being appointed Reich minister in February of 1942. In 1944 he established the ‘Jägerstab’ task force16 to increase production in fighter aircrafts for the war, this was a further instrumental step for the Nazis in the exploitation of slave labor for the benefit of the German War effort17. Being manipulated as an ‘apolitical technocrat’ in carrying out Hitlers orders was ‘absolutely absurd’. Despite his failures in sabotaging lies against other Party members, these have been consistently uncoherent over time18. In 1945 Speer stated he had attempted to assassinate Hitler by pouring poison gas into his underground bunker, yet in Speers ‘Spandau Diaries’, the idea was fabricated after recalling Hitlers panic when traveling one day and fumes came through the car air ventilation, implicating additional details for the false statement. Speer sought to portray himself as an opponent of Hitler’s leadership. He falsely claimed realizing that the war was lost at an early stage, and thereafter worked to preserve the resources needed for the civilian population's survival. Over the year’s photographs19 emerge depicting a close relationship between Speer, Hitler and Goebbels, as they joyfully spend time together observing scientific tests at Pennemünde Army Research Centre20, in August 1943. In reality, he had sought to prolong the war until further resistance was impossible, thus contributing to the large number of deaths and the extensive destruction Germany suffered in the conflict's final months21. Additionally, in 1971, a letter written to Hélène Jeanty, the widow of Belgian resistance leader22, Speer admitted to attending the Posen Speech, unveiling extermination plans. Speers insistence of leaving the meeting early, missing information about Holocaust plans, spared him his execution. Overall Speer succeeded in fabricating many lies surrounding his life in order to maintain a ‘good Nazi’ standard.
Contrarily, Speer can arguably be portrayed as innocent, completely unaware of the Holocaust plan. Immediately after being convicted at the Trials he posed as an efficient, insightful and helpful technocrat23, voluntarily providing detailed information on German weapons, war strategy and economic performance. Just before the Trials had commenced, he sent a four-page letter to Robert H. Jackson, Chief United States Prosecutor, in which he spoke on his honesty in being a “source of intelligence and technical information”24 since the beginning of the tribunals. In an interview Speer speaks on his relations to Jackson, “if [Hitler] finds the solution to the puzzle, he has found the solution to [build up] the third Reich”25, he continues admitting his influences on the Nazi Party but refrains from reiterating what exact ‘solutions’ he is giving Hitler26. This suggests Hitler’s control over his loyalty, demonstrating honesty about other crimes within the Party, suggesting his general integrity, “I am not concerned with jurisdiction of the court as [Rudolph] Hess or others are. History will show the Trials to be necessary”27. Unlike other convicted Nazi officials, he was held separately and transferred to Nürnberg only in late October directly before the Trials. Due to his charm he managed to easily impress his captors and other interrogators, he was not suspected to be sentenced as a major war criminal. This suggests his reputation was already upheld before the Trials had proceeded, otherwise he would not yet have considered impressing the judges in order to benefit from his lies. Despite the prior reservations on his innocence made by his defence lawyer, Speer decided that his best defence was to admit his share of collective responsibility, knowing he would still be convicted guilty. During the Trials he distanced himself from Hitler and those who chose not to stand their ground. During a clash with Hermann Goering, a powerful military leader, many war officials sided with him. For the rest of the Trial period the cohort of prisoners divided into small groups rather than presenting a united front, suggesting that Speer stood out from the rest of the officials proving no possible group strategy for lying during prosecutions. Overall, he openly talked with the prosecutors and judges28 and his discontent against the other Party members suggests his disinterest to lie on their behalf. In conclusion, there is no doubt that Speer benefited from his general willingness to confess responsibility of many of the atrocious war crimes committed by the Nazi party. However, the extent to which he manipulated his story to win empathy and distance from the regime, prove he was ultimately guilty of knowing about the Holocaust Plan. However, even after serving 20 years in Spandau prison, he has a respectable reputation as the apologizing Nazi who, unlike many other political men of the time, repented his crimes. 
Overall, even when disregarding his lies, Speer was still wrongfully a significant war administrator and guilty of acting as a key component in politics which brought war to Europe, costing the lives of over 50 million people29.
Section 3: Reflection 
This investigation has encouraged me to explore the role of ethics and face personal challenges to me as a German historian touching on a subject sensitive to my own heritage. Especially because I found that Speer offered himself as the scapegoat30 for Germany’s collective guilt, he dramatized the difficulties of German conscience and the people’s ability to come to terms with Nazism in post-war Germany31. 
The Trials have often been critiqued and considered the most significant yet debatable events to conclude WWII. To me they seem partially faulty and in many aspects a negation of principals of justice, further causing questions to arise around the nature of justice surrounding the Trials. In regard to Speer this can especially be debated through the case of Fritz Sauckel32 who, working directly under Speers command, was hanged whilst Speer got away with a 20- year prison sentence. When interpreting the Trials in a modern context, during the late 1980’s justice laws such as the ‘Kronzeugenregelung’33 have been initiated in attempt to restore people’s sense of morality in Trials such as these. For example, a criminal turns state’s evidence by admitting guilt and testifying as a witness for the state against their associates, often in exchange for leniency in sentencing or even immunity from prosecution. However, because the collective guilt of the past to this day is still heavily engrained in German culture, re-evaluating cases like Speer’s provides an opportunity to forgive and move on.

Bibliography (MLA)
"Albert Speer." 22 May 2015. Web. 18 Sep. 2019. <>
"Albert Speer”" n.d. Web. 18 Sep. 2019.
"Anwesende SS-Generäle bei der "Posener Rede"" (in German). 3sat. 2 November 2001.
Brelor, Heinrich. “Albert Speer: The Nazi Who Said Sorry.” YouTube, YouTube, 2004, <>
Charles E. Wyzanski. "Nuremberg: A Fair Trial? A Dangerous Precedent." The Atlantic. 1 Apr. 1946. Web. 18 Sep. 2019. < dangerous-precedent/306492/.>
Cooper, Robert W. (2011) [1947]. The Nuremberg Trial.
Christoph Werkmeister. "§ 46b StGB: Die neue Kronzeugenregelung im
Strafrecht." - Online-Zeitschrift für Jurastudium, Staatsexamen und Referendariat. 1 Sept. 2009. Web. 12 Apr. 2020. <>
David Pryce-Jones. "Albert Speer: the good Nazi?." Sep 2002, n.d. Web. 18 Sep. 2019. <>
Deutsche Bundes Bibliothek. "Errichtung, Aufgaben und Tätigkeit des Jägerstabs.- Anordnung Speers vom 1.3.1944 und Erlass Görings vom 4.3.1944 über die Bildung des Jägerstabs beim RMRuK und RLM - Archivportal-D." n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2020. <https://www.archivportal TCPCPPZYYN6XJ7T>
Encyclopedia Britannica. "Albert Speer | Biography, Architecture, Books, & Facts." Encyclopedia Britannica. 15 Jan. 2020. Web. 12 Feb. 2020. <>
Encyclopedia Britannica. "Fritz Sauckel | German Nazi politician." Encyclopedia Britannica. n.d. 12 Apr. 2019. <>
Frenzel, Eike. “Operation Pastorius: Hitler's Unfulfilled Dream of a New York”, 16 Sep. 2010.
ONLINE, 16 Sept. 2010, < pastorius-hitler-s-unfulfilled-dream-of-a-new-york-in-flames-a-716753- 2.html.>
Goldensohn, Leon, and Robert Gellately. The Nuremberg Interviews. CNIB, 2005.
Guardian Staff. "Without Albert Speer, the war might have ended in 1943. Millions of Jews might have escaped the Final Solution. Yet some still see him as a victim." The Guardian. 3 Mar. 1999. Web. 18 Sep. 2019. <>
Himmler, Heinrich. “Heinrich Himmler's Speech at Poznan (Posen).” (extract) YouTube, YouTube, 18 Dec. 2013,
Hoffmann, Heinrich. Fritz-Todt-Ring für Reichsminister Speer. Germany, BUNDESARCHIV. May. 4. 1943
Hubmann, Hanns. Tests at Pennemünde Army Reaserach Centre. Pennemünde Army Reaserach Centre, Germany, BUNDESARCHIV. Aug. 1943.
Kate Connolly. "Letter proves Speer knew of Holocaust plan." the Guardian. 13 Mar. 2007. Web. 18 Sep. 2019.
Overy, Professor Richard. “History - World Wars: Nuremberg: Nazis On Trial.” BBC, BBC, 17 Feb. 2011,
Posen Speeches, Band 4 (Verhandlungsniederschriften) 13 wiki/Posen_speeches.html. December 1945.
Robert H. Jackson Center. “Phil Donahue (2006) on Albert Speer and Robert H.
Jackson.” YouTube, YouTube, 30 Jan. 2018, < DWob6CMy34.>
Romuald Karmakar. "Agents of Liberation." (mediating the perpetrators speech. Romuald Karmakar: the Himmler Project (2000).
Schmidt, Matthias. Albert Speer: the End of a Myth. Collier Books, 1986.
Sereny, Gitta. Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth. Macmillan, 1995.
Speer, Albert. The Spandau Diaries. Phoenix, 2000.
Schwendemann, Heinrich. Wolfgang Dietsche: Hitlers Schloß. Die 'Führerresidenz' in Posen, Berlin 2003.
The Avalon Project. "The Avalon Project: Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Vol. 22 - Saturday, 31 August 1946." Government Printing Office, n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2020. <>
Tooze, J. Adam. Ökonomie Der Zerstörung: Die Geschichte Der Wirtschaft Im Nationalsozialismus. Pantheon, 2008.
Was Albert Speer guilty of knowing about the Holocaust Plan?
Trevor-Roper, Hugh. The Last Days of Hitler. Macmillan, 1947.
Trommer, Isabell. Rechtfertigung Und Entlastung: Albert Speer in Der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Campus Verlag, 2016.
Twentieth Century Atlas. "Twentieth Century Atlas - Death Tolls." 16 Nov. 2018. Web. 12 Feb. 2020. <>
Ulrich Herbert, Hitler's Foreign Workers: Enforced Foreign Labour in Germany under
the Third Reich (1997).
Vilar, Esther. Speer. Pinter & Martin, 2000.