?

Log in

No account? Create an account
The Titfield Thunderbolt Hue and Cry Whisky Galore The Man in The White Suit Previous Previous Next Next
The Devil's Architect - The Titfield Thunderbolt
Heisenberg might have stayed here
qatsi
qatsi
The Devil's Architect
This week BBC Four has been showing Speer and Hitler: The Devil's Architect. I know various people have complained that the new Doctor Who is too short; in contrast, at 3 90-minute installments on consecutive evenings, this was perhaps too long. What is it about the Germans? (I am thinking of The Ring and Heimat as other magnissimi opi).

It was an interesting montage of dramatisation, cut with footage from the war and the Nuremberg trials, and interspersed with interviews mainly with Speer's children. One concludes that Speer was either an extremely proficient liar (a possibility which can't be ruled out), or a man who had genuine remorse and accepted some responsibility for the atrocities of the Holocaust. One the one hand, he can be portrayed as nothing more evil than an intelligent and ambitious technocrat, who was a willing participant in mutual seduction with Hitler over the architectural plans for a New Berlin, and had the misfortune to be at Hitler's side when his armaments minister died in an air accident and was subsequently appointed as his successor. On the other, it's inconceivable that he did not know that the German munitions were being produced by slave labour, and he had more than a hand in the design of Auschwitz. It was interesting that his children were sometimes consistent in their answers to the interviewer, and sometimes differed, particularly in how much Speer knew of the Final Solution. An interesting contrast to Downfall, though nothing to contradict it.

Tags:

9 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
(Deleted comment)
qatsi From: qatsi Date: May 19th, 2005 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Downfall

Yes, I thought it was very good (though it's not a film you can really say you enjoyed) and would highly recommend it. It correlated very well with Antony Beevor's book Berlin: The Downfall 1945 (though that book has a broader scope, focusing on the Russian advance from the East from January 1945, whereas Downfall, the film, focuses only on the assault on Berlin from mid-April). I was really surprised that it was on at the local multiplex, rather than having to wait for it to come round in an "arts" cinema, given that it is in German with English subtitles, but I suppose it probably got a general release because of our British obsession with the War. See here for a review.
sorenr From: sorenr Date: May 19th, 2005 05:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Speer is an interesting character; I've always been fascinated by his (and Hitler's, obviously) megalomaniac and almost grotesque plans for Berlin, and besides his architecture there are so many other aspects. I'd say 3x90 minutes about that man would be perfectly allright by me...

Speer undoubtedly thought of himself as a great architect at a par with, say, Schinkel, and his architecture, both the plans and what was actually built, like the Nürnberg parade grounds and so on, certainly seem to embody that desire to become one of the immortals. But how anybody can see the gracious, humanist architecture of the Weimar Republic (Bauhaus, of course...) and yet turn to an almost brutal, fascistoid neo-classicism, is beyond me.
qatsi From: qatsi Date: May 19th, 2005 07:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
You are right of course about the length - I couldn't really identify what I would cut - it's just that it has been a real effort to devote that much time in one week to the subject.

After I had written the original post, the BBC repeated the Speer programme from the Reputations series (this is generally an up-market version of celebrity sleaze - if you have a reputation, they'll tarnish it; if not, well they'll find one for you). Ironically, they observed that so little of Speer's work actually remains. In particular, they visited a certain lorry park in (I think) Nürnberg ...
altariel From: altariel Date: May 19th, 2005 06:55 am (UTC) (Link)
One concludes that Speer was either an extremely proficient liar (a possibility which can't be ruled out), or a man who had genuine remorse and accepted some responsibility for the atrocities of the Holocaust.

I wonder if it's both at once. My impression is that Speer was very good at not knowing about things that would implicate him, which implies a lot of lying to himself.

(Was Gitta Sereny interviewed? I would have watched all 3 parts just to see her.)
qatsi From: qatsi Date: May 19th, 2005 07:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
My impression is that Speer was very good at not knowing about things that would implicate him, which implies a lot of lying to himself.

Yes, since I wrote the original post BBC Four re-screened the Reputations programme on Speer, which clarified a few things for me (and did feature copious interviews with Gitta Sereny). This programme's thesis was that Speer's feeling of guilt was so great that he could not bear to admit anything more, even to himself. Their conclusions (which seemed reasonable) were that it remained an open question as to whether he was at the conference session in 1943 when Himmler announced the Final Solution, but that even if not, it was inconceivable that he would not later hear of it.

No Sereny interviews in the main feature, just the Speer children, Leni Riefenstahl, and a couple of camp survivors whose names I did not commit to memory.
altariel From: altariel Date: May 20th, 2005 09:44 am (UTC) (Link)
You may have read it already, but Sereny's biography of Speer is outstanding.
qatsi From: qatsi Date: May 20th, 2005 05:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, I haven't; but thanks for the recommendation.
From: ex_kharin447 Date: May 19th, 2005 10:26 am (UTC) (Link)
http://www.spikemagazine.com/0201gittasereny.php

"By Sereny's estimation, Speer's organisation of the German war machine prolonged the war's misery by at least one year. That he was not hanged after the Nuremberg trials was partly chance, and partly because, although he was indirectly responsible for millions of deaths - those of slave workers and war casualties - he played no part in the Nazis' extermination policies."
qatsi From: qatsi Date: May 19th, 2005 08:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the link; the Reputations programme suggested that the Russians strongly favoured the death penalty for Speer, but the Western Allies felt his strong performance in the witness box, distancing himself from the other Nuremberg defendants and acknowledging the atrocities that had taken place (and his bourgeois middle-class background) were more useful in assisting the German recovery. Somewhat ironic that the Allies would consider Speer almost as a spiritual leader for the German people, as Speer feared Hitler would appoint him as his successor (Dönitz blamed Speer for his subsequent appointment).
9 comments or Leave a comment