The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Herr Speer, did others advise Hitler in the same way that
you yourself did?

A. Guderian, the Chief of Staff of the Army, reported
through Ribbentrop at that time to Hitler that the war was
lost. Hitler then told Guderian and myself at the beginning
of February that pessimistic statements of the nature of
those contained in my memorandum, or the step I had taken in
regard to the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs, would in
future be considered as high treason and punished
accordingly. In addition, some days later, in a situation
report, he forbade his other close collaborators to make any
statements about the hopelessness of the situation, and
warned us that anyone who disobeyed would be shot without
regard for position or rank and his family would be
arrested.

The statements which Guderian and I made to Hitler about the
hopelessness of the war situation had precisely the opposite
effect to that which we desired. Early in February, a few
days before the beginning of the Yalta Conference, Hitler
sent for his Press expert and instructed him in my presence
to announce in the entire German Press, and in the most
uncompromising terms, the intention of Germany not to
capitulate. He declared at the same time that he was doing
this so that the German people would in no case receive any
offer from the enemy. The language used would have to be so
strong that statesmen of the hostile nations would lose all
hope of driving a wedge between himself and the German
people.

At the same time Hitler once again proclaimed to the German
people the slogan "Victory or Collapse." All these events
took place at a time when it should have been clear to him
and every intelligent member of his circle that the only
thing that could happen was collapse.

At a meeting of Gauleiter in the summer of 1944 Hitler had
already stated - and Schirach is my witness for this - that
if the German people had to be defeated in the struggle it
must have been too weak, it had failed to stand its trial
before history and was destined only to collapse. Now, in
the hopeless situation existing in January and February,
1945, Hitler made remarks which showed that these earlier
statements had not been mere flowers of rhetoric. During
this period he attributed the outcome of the war in an
increasing degree to the failure of the German people; but
he never blamed himself. He criticized severely this alleged
failure of our people, who made so many brave sacrifices in
this war.

                                                   [Page 32]

Q. General Jodl has already testified before the Tribunal
that both Hitler and his co-workers saw quite clearly the
hopelessness of the military and economic situation.

Was no unified action taken by some of Hitler's closer
advisers in this hopeless situation to demand the
termination of war?

A. No. No unified action was taken by the leading men in
Hitler's circle. A step like this was quite impossible, for
these men considered themselves either as pure specialists,
or else as people whose job it was to receive orders, or
merely resigned themselves to the situation. No one took
over the leadership in this situation for the purpose of
bringing about at least a discussion with Hitler on the
possibility of avoiding further sacrifices. And of course,
there was an influential group which tried, with all the
means at its disposal, to intensify the struggle.

That group consisted of Goebbels, Bormann, Ley, Fegelein and
Burgdorf. This group was also behind the move to induce
Hitler to withdraw from the Geneva Convention. At the
beginning of February, Dr. Goebbels handed to Hitler a very
sharp memorandum demanding our withdrawal from the Geneva
Convention. Hitler had already agreed to this proposal, as
Naumann, who was State Secretary to Goebbels had told me.
This step meant that the struggle was to be carried on with
all available means and without regard for international
agreements. This was the sense of the memorandum addressed
by Goebbels, to Hitler.

It must be said that this intention of Hitler and Goebbels
failed on account of the unanimous resistance offered by the
military leaders, as Naumann told me later.

Q. Herr Speer, the witness Stahl said in his written
interrogatory that, about the middle of February, 1945, you
had demanded from him a supply of the new poison gas in
order to assassinate Hitler, Bormann and Goebbels, Why did
you intend to do this then?

A. I thought there was no other way out. In my despair I
wanted to take this step as it had been obvious to me since
the beginning of February that Hitler intended to go on with
the war at all costs, ruthlessly and without consideration
for the German people. It was obvious to me that in the loss
of the war he connected his own fate with that of the German
people, and that in his own end he saw the end of the German
people as well. It was also obvious that the war was lost so
completely that even unconditional surrender would have to
be accepted.

Q. Did you mean to carry through this assassination yourself
and why did it fail?

A. I do not wish to testify to the details here. I could
only carry it through personally because, since 20th July,
only an intimate circle had access to Hitler. I met with
various technical difficulties ....

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal would like to hear the
particulars, but will hear them after the adjournment.

(A recess was taken.)

BY DR. FLAECHSNER:

Q. Herr Speer, will you tell the Tribunal what circumstances
hindered you in your undertaking?

A. I am most unwilling to describe the details, because
there is always something repellent about such matters. I do
it only because it is the Tribunal's wish.

Q. Please do.

A. In those days, Hitler, according to the military
situation, often had conversations in his shelter with Ley,
Goebbels, and Bormann, who were particularly close to him
then because they supported and co-operated in his radical
course of action.

Since the 20th of July, it was no longer possible even for
Hitler's closest associates to enter his shelter without
their pockets and briefcases being examined by the SS for
explosives. As an architect, I knew this shelter intimately.
It had an air-conditioning plant similar to the one
installed in this courtroom.

                                                   [Page 33]

It was not difficult to introduce the gas into the
ventilator of the air-conditioning plant, which was in the
garden of the Reich Chancellery. It was then bound to
disperse through the entire shelter in a very short time.
Thereupon, in the middle of February, 1945, I sent to Stahl,
the head of my department for munitions, with whom I had
particularly intimate relations, since I had worked in close
co-operation with him during the war years. I frankly told
him of my intention, as his testimony shows. I asked him to
procure some of the new poison gas for me from the munitions
production. He inquired of one of his associates,
Lieut.-Col. Soyka, of the Army Ordnance Branch, as to how to
get hold of this poison gas; it turned out that this new
poison gas was only effective when made to explode, as a
high temperature was necessary to render it effective. I am
not sure whether I am going too much into detail.

An explosion was not possible, however, as this
air-conditioning plant was made of thin sheets of tin, which
would have been torn to pieces by the explosion. Thereupon,
I had conferences with Hanschel, the chief  engineer of the
Chancellery, starting in the middle of March, 1945, and I
managed to arrange that the anti-gas filter should no longer
be switched on continuously. In this way I would have been
able to use the ordinary type of gas. Naturally, Hanschel
had no knowledge of the purpose for which I was conducting
the talks with him. When the time came, I inspected the
ventilator in the garden of the Chancellery, along with
Hanschel, and there I discovered that on Hitler's personal
order this ventilator had recently been surrounded by a
chimney four metres high. That can still be ascertained
today. Due to this it was no longer possible to carry out my
plan.

Q. I shall now come to another problem. Herr Speer, you have
heard the testimony of the witnesses Riecke and Milch in
this courtroom, and they have testified as to your
activities, after the middle of February, 1945, to secure
the food position. What have you yourself to say in regard
to your work in that direction?

A. I can say quite briefly that the system of preferential
food supplies which I finally put into effect was arranged
at the time for the purpose of planned re-conversion from
war to peace. This was at the expense of armaments, which I
personally represented. The tremendous number of measures
which we introduced would be too extensive to describe here.
All of the relevant decrees are still available. It was a
system of arranging, contrary to the official policy, that
shortly before their occupation by the enemy, large towns
should be sufficiently supplied with food; and of arranging
that, despite the catastrophe in transportation, the 1945
crops should be ensured by sending seed in good time, which
was a burning problem just then. Had the seeds arrived a few
weeks late, then the crops would have been extremely bad.
These measures had, of course, a direct disadvantageous
effect on armament production. We were only able to maintain
production of armaments through stock reserves until the
middle of March, after which there was no armament
production worth mentioning. This was owing to the fact that
we only had 20 to 30 per cent of the transport capacity at
our disposal which I mainly used for the transport of food.
Therefore, transport of armaments was, practically speaking,
out of the question.

Q. Was it possible to carry out such measures, which were
openly against the official war plans of "Resistance to the
Last," on a large scale? Were there any people at all who
were prepared to approve such measures as you suggested, and
to put them into practice?

A. All these measures were not so difficult and they were
not so dangerous as one might perhaps imagine, because in
those days - after January, 1945 - any reasonable measure
could be carried out in Germany against the official policy.
Any reasonable man welcomed such measures and was satisfied
if anyone would assume responsibility for them. All of these
conferences took place amongst a large circle of
specialists. Every one of these participants knew the
meaning of these orders, without explanations being given.
During those days I also had close contacts with reference
to other similar measures with the Secretary of State of the
Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Food, the Ministry of
Propaganda,

                                                   [Page 34]

and later, even with the State Secretary of the Party
Chancellery, that is, Bormann himself. They were all old
Party members, and in spite of that, they did their duty to
the nation at that time differently from the way in which
many leading men in the Party were doing it. I kept them
currently informed, in spite of Hitler's prohibition, of the
developments in the military situation, and in that manner
there was much that we could do jointly to stop the insane
orders of those days.

Q. In which sectors did you see a danger for the greater
mass of the German people through the continuation of the
war?

A. In the middle of March 1945, the enemy troops were once
more on the move. It was absolutely clear by then that quite
soon those territories which had not yet been occupied would
be occupied. That included the territories of Polish Upper
Silesia and others outside the borders of the old Reich. The
ordered destruction of all bridges during retreat was
actually the greatest danger because a bridge blown up by
engineers is much more difficult to repair than a bridge
which has been destroyed by an air attack. A planned
destruction of bridges amounts to the destruction of the
entire life of a modern State. In addition, beginning with
the end of January, radical circles in the Party were making
demands for the destruction of industry, and it was also
Hitler's opinion that this should be so. In February, 1945,
therefore, I stopped production and delivery of the
so-called industrial dynamiting materials. The intention was
that the stocks of explosives in the mines and in private
possession should be diminished. As a witness of mine has
testified, these orders were actually carried out. In the
middle of March, Guderian and I tried once more to stop the
ordered destruction of bridges or to reduce it to a minimum.
A suggested order for the stoppage was submitted to Hitler,
which he refused bluntly, and demanded, on the contrary,
intensified orders for the destruction of bridges.
Simultaneously, on the 18th of March, 1945, he had eight
officers shot because they had failed to do their duty in
connection with the destruction of a bridge. He announced
this fact in the Armed Forces Bulletin so that it should
serve as a warning for future cases. Thus it was extremely
difficult to disobey orders for the destruction of bridges.
In spite of this, I sent a new memorandum to Hitler on the
18th of March, 1945, the contents of which were very clear
and in which I did not allow him any further excuses for the
measures he had planned. The memorandum was brought to the
attention of several of his associates.

DR. FLAECHSNER: The Tribunal will find extracts from that
memorandum on Page 69 of the English text of the Document
Book.

BY DR. FLAECHSNER:

Q. Will you continue, please?

A. I shall quote something more from that memorandum on Page
69, Mr. President:

  "The enemy air force has concentrated further on traffic
  installations. Economic transportation has thereby been
  considerably reduced. In four to eight weeks, the final
  collapse of German economy must therefore be expected
  with certainty. After that collapse, the war cannot even
  be continued militarily. We at the head have the duty to
  help the nation in the difficult times which must be
  expected. In this connection, we must soberly, and
  without regard for our fate, ask ourselves the question
  as to how this can be done even in the more remote
  future. If the enemy wishes to destroy the nation and the
  basis of its existence, then he must do the job himself.
  We must do everything to maintain, even if perhaps in a
  most primitive manner, a basis of existence for the
  nation to the last."

Then there, follow a few of my demands, and I shall
summarize them briefly. I quote:

                                                   [Page 35]

  "It must be guaranteed that, if the battle advances
  farther into the territory of the Reich, nobody has the
  right to destroy industrial plants, coal mines, electric
  plants, and other supply facilities, or traffic
  facilities and inland shipping routes, etc. The blowing
  up of bridges to the extent which has been planned would
  mean that traffic facilities would be more thoroughly
  destroyed than the air attacks of the last weeks have
  been able to achieve. Their destruction means the removal
  of any further possibility for existence of the German
  nation."

Then, I shall quote briefly from the end of the memorandum:

  "We have no right, at this stage of the war, to carry out
  destructions on our part which might affect the life of
  the nation. If the enemies wish to destroy this nation,
  which has fought with unique bravery, then this
  historical shame shall rest exclusively upon them. We
  have the obligation of leaving to the nation all
  possibilities which, in the more remote future, might be
  able to insure for it a new reconstruction."

This expressed clearly enough something which Hitler would
have to know in any case, because there was not the need for
much economic insight to realize the results of such
destruction for the future of the nation.

On the occasion of the handing over of the memorandum,
Hitler knew of the contents since I had discussed it with
some of his associates. Therefore, his statements are
typical of his attitude towards this basic question.

I would not have uttered the severe accusation which I have
made here by saying that he wanted to draw Germany into the
abyss with him, if I had not confirmed his statements in
that respect in the letter of 29th March, 1945.

THE PRESIDENT: Are you meaning May or March?

THE WITNESS: March, 1945, Mr. President.

DR. FLAECHSNER: Mr. President, you will find this document
on Page 75 of the English text of the Document Book, and it
is Page 72 in the French text. I submit it as Exhibit 24. It
is Speer's letter to Hitler, dated the 29th of March, 1945.

BY DR. FLAECHSNER:

Q. Will you continue, please?

THE PRESIDENT: Ought you not to read this letter?

DR. FLAECHSNER: The defendant wants to read it himself.

BY DR. FLAECHSNER:

Q. Will you read it?

A. I quote:

  "When on 18th March I transmitted my letter to you, I was
  of the firm conviction that the conclusions which I had
  drawn from the present situation for the maintenance of
  our national power would find your unconditional
  approval, because you yourself had once determined that
  it was the task of the Government to preserve a nation
  from a heroic end if the war should be lost. However,
  during the evening you made declarations to me, the tenor
  of which, unless I misunderstood you, was clearly as
  follows: If the war is lost, the nation will also perish.
  This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take
  into consideration the basic requirements of the people
  for continuing a most primitive existence. On the
  contrary, it would be wiser to destroy these things
  ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the
  weaker one and the future belongs solely to the stronger
  Eastern nation. Besides, those who remain after the
  battle are only the inferior ones; for the good ones have
  fallen."

I go on to quote:

  "After these words I was profoundly shaken, and when on
  the next day I read the order for destruction, and
  shortly after that the strict order of evacuation, I saw
  in this the first steps towards the realization of these
  intentions."

                                                   [Page 36]


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