Albert Speer – Escaping the Gallows written by Adrian Greaves and published by Pen & Sword Books – £19.99 – Hardback – Pages 160

At the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, Albert Speer, Hitler’s one-time number two, persuaded the judges that he ‘knew nothing’ of the Holocaust and related atrocities. Narrowly escaping execution, he was sentenced to twenty years in Spandau Prison, Berlin.

In 1961, the newly commissioned author, as the British Army Spandau Guard Commander, was befriended by Speer, who taught him German. Adrian Greaves’ record of his conversations with Speer over a three year period make for fascinating reading. While the top Nazi admitted to Greaves his secret part in war crimes, after his 1966 release he determinedly denied any wrongdoing and became an intriguing and popular figure at home and abroad. Following Speer’s death in 1981 evidence emerged of his complicity in Hitler’s and the Nazi’s atrocities.

In this uniquely revealing book the author skilfully blends his own personal experiences and relationship with Speer with a succinct history of the Nazi movement and the horrors of the 1930s and 1940s. In so doing new light is thrown on the character of one of the 20th century’s most notorious characters.

I was quite looking forward to this book, mainly because I have a fascination with leaders of the Nazi Party, and what makes them tick, their behaviour and the relationship between all of the men involved. Now this book does take us through German history and the formation of the Nazi Party, something Speer was a fanboy of from a early age. We learn from the book about various events that occurred in the build-up to the war, we also learn about meetings and conversations between the inner circle. But to be honest we didn’t really learn much more than we already knew, although there is the suggestion of a relationship between Braun and Speer, which I find is hard to believe personally. The reality is that this is a relatively small book at 160 pages, are you really going to learn much from a book this size, which having seen from one reviewer they seem to have fallen into this trap.

I found the book of interest and for the size of it, the book is good. I enjoyed the build-up in the first couple of chapters. I personally think that as Speer escaped being hanged, he played the trial judges like an agent/promoter would these days. He pleaded to be better than he was and falsely claimed he knew nothing about various events, which I find hard to believe, especially something like the ‘Night of the Long Knives’. There can be no way he never knew what that was about when he was so much in Hitler’s pocket. A very good book, but probably one that to get into the subject rather than someone who is a regular reader of German history. If you want to go more in depth, you’d go for a larger/more in depth book, although after all this time any ‘secret conversations’ would have been known by now.