Albert Speer in the Federal Republic

Dealing with the German Past

Speer in photo flashes at his release, 1966. Picture credit: Deutsches Historisches Museum

Extended through January 6, 2018

When war criminal Albert Speer was released from Berlin's Spandau Prison on October 1, 1966, more than a thousand bystanders had gathered and dozens of microphones and cameras from all over the world were trained on him. This was the beginning of his "second career" as an apparently chastened eyewitness of National Socialism.

During the Nazi era, Speer was the chief architect of the Reich, responsible for major projects like the Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg and the redesign of Berlin. He was a member of Hitler's closest circle, appointed Armaments Minister in 1942. In 1946, at the Nuremberg Trials, the Allies sentenced him to twenty years' imprisonment. After his release, Speer was able to publicize his own legend, conceived at war's end and further refined, in numerous interviews and publications: he claimed to have known nothing of the Nazis' crimes, that he had been seduced by Hitler's aura into becoming involved, without actively participating, in the war and the Holocaust.

The exhibition at the Documentation Center, prepared with support from the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich and Berlin, examines the Speer legend, together with how the Germans have dealt with their past. At the heart of the exhibition is the question of why Speer's tales resonated for such a long time, and with so many people, in the Federal Republic – even today, and even though research refuted much of his story long ago. By way of his constantly repeated biographical narrative and pretense of authenticity, Speer was able to generate a kind of feedback loop of confirmation for his stories. With uncritical willingness, historians, journalists, and also the German public embraced the memory manipulation of this "good Nazi" – not least of all because he offered exculpation for those who had been committed to National Socialism themselves.

Catalog "Albert Speer in the Federal Republic"
The catalog is on sale at the ticket counter at the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds, or you can order it directly from the publisher:

Please note that the publisher's website is available only in German.


Free with admission