The idea that some individuals exploit events and circumstances in order to benefit themselves is most apparent through the evaluation and significance of Albert Speer??™s life and career. This is most notably seen, through the rise and prominence of Adolf Hitler and this friendship that evolves, Speer??™s approach to the Nuremberg War Trial, his denial of events with little evidence (at the time of the trial) that contradicted this and his resistance to the scorched earth policy.
It is widely agreed that Hitler??™s and Speer??™s common love of art and architecture meant that they were particularly close during the Third Reich. According to Ian Kershaw, Hitler??™s reasons for friendship with Speer may actually have gone further: ???Hitler perhaps found in the handsome, burningly ambitious, talented and successful architect an unconsciously idealised self-image??¦???. It is evident that Hitler??™s rise to power and the relationship that is formed between him and Speer, allowed Speer into the ???inner circle??? and aids to Speer??™s success. This is reinforced through the appointment of the First Architect of the Third Reich. After the outbreak of World War II, there was little call for Speer??™s talents as an architect or a builder. Hitler overlooked the fact that Speer had no experience with weaponry or munitions and saw only his well-proven organisational ability which is evident in Speer??™s appointment of Minister for Armaments and Munitions and director of the Organization Todt. A major criticism of Speer??™s work in this field comes from Dan van der Vat. He sees the Rechenschaftsbericht as a deliberate attempt by Speer to secure a favourable judgement from history and historians, particularly as he knew that there would be few other sources of such detailed information. This appointment reinforces the concept that Hitler??™s and Speer??™s relationship aided Speer in his success and role to the Nazi regime, even after the outbreak of World War II.
Secondly, Speer??™s approach to the Nuremberg War Trial was unique, which evidently, was used in his advantage. He refused to use the argument, as the others did, that he was just following orders. Speer??™s frankness and openness at the trial, as well as his composure and obvious intellect, stood him apart from the others. As a result, the image that emerged was that of an apolitical technocrat. Through this, it is obvious that Speer used the circumstance to portray himself as the ???good??? Nazi who said sorry, while also claiming to be ignorant of the Final Solution. This idea is further reinforced through the historian Joachim Fest who maintained that Speer played no role in the evacuation of Jews from Berlin since this responsibility had been given to Goebbel. Rather than condemning Speer, Fest saw him as a representative figure for the German nation swept up by Hitler??™s charisma.
Lastly, Speer did not fail to mention that he became actively disobedient to Hitler, resisting the scorched earth policy and increasingly withdrawing from running the Armaments Ministry. The judges believed that this had been a serious act of resistance and had been personally dangerous for Speer to practice. The disagreement between historians on this matter is over Speer??™s motivation. Gitta Sereny believes that Speer was genuinely concerned about the welfare of Germany and showed considerable courage in resisting Hitler??™s orders. However, others, van der Vat included, believe that Speer was acting cynically, with an eye to the future once Germany had been defeated. An example of this is the reported discussions Speer had with Dieter Stahl about planning to kill Hitler. In his memoirs, Speer wrote that in 1945 he became closer to Stahl ?????¦ I began discreetly asking about the new poison gas and whether he could obtain it???. If this is true, Speer had made the ultimate break from Hitler. However, in discussing the scheme with Stahl, Speer knew that he would have ???evidence??? to use in his defence at any future war trial.
Through the evaluation of Albert Speer??™s life and career it is evident that while some individuals are swept along by events, others use events to their advantage. This is most prominently seen through the rise and prominence of Adolf Hitler and this friendship that evolves, Speer??™s approach to the Nuremberg War Trial, his denial of events with little evidence (at the time of the trial) that contradicted this and his resistance to the scorched earth policy.