by Ron Gaudio
Albert Speer was a talented, young architect in Germany when he caught the attention of a charismatic politician named Adolph Hitler. The star-struck Speer was drafted to be a part of Hitler’s inner circle. Hitler, once an aspiring architect himself, greatly admired Speer’s ability. When Hitler came to power, Speer was put to work building the structures that represented the Third Reich such as the Reich Chancellery. To Speer, this was a dream come true. His parents tried to warn him about this new, charismatic leader, but they didn’t understand that opportunities like this present themselves only once in a lifetime.
When the war started, Speer realized that sometimes war is necessary to protect the welfare and honor of a country. He thought about the recent threats to the Germany, both internal and external. Hitler’s political enemies burned the Reichstag. The Polish army destroyed a German radio station on the border. (Of course, we now know that both of these events were false flag operations perpetrated by Hitler himself.)
When the war intensified, Hitler pulled Speer off of architecture and put him in charge of armaments and munitions. This was an area that he had little experience, but he would do anything for his Fuhrer. After all, Hitler had the safety and security of the Heimatland (translated “homeland”) in mind. It also made sense to round up those undesirables — Jews and others — who were a threat to the liberties of the German nation. It was appropriate for them to be put in work camps so that they could contribute to the German cause. Speer was in charge of this forced labor. There were rumors, of course, that terrible atrocities were occurring there, but Speer had no time to verify these and besides, one should not believe every rumor, especially in time of war.
One day, while Speer was at headquarters, a friend and fellow officer, Karl Hanke, came to visit him. Speer’s account was as follows,
“ …sitting in the green leather easy chair in my office, he seemed confused and spoke falteringly, with many breaks. He advised me never to accept an invitation to inspect a concentration camp in Upper Silesia (Auschwitz). Never under any circumstances. He had seen something there which he was not permitted to describe and moreover could not describe.”
Speer went on, “…I did not query him…I did not investigate- for I did not want to know what was happening there.”
Several years later, Speer found himself on trial at Nuremberg. Some historians think that Speer knew much more than he let on and that he devised this ignorance story to protect himself from the death penalty. We probably will never know the truth. Speer served 20 years at Spandau prison, and was released in 1966. He lived off royalties from his book, Inside the Third Reich, which a sympathetic guard smuggled out of prison page by page. He died in 1981.
Let’s give Speer the benefit of the doubt and assume his story is true and that he chose to remain in ignorance of the Nazi atrocities. Did his willful denial exonerate him from his responsibility to do what was right? Nuremberg said no. Yet, today, many Americans think that willfully remaining ignorant exonerates them from the responsibility to stand against tyranny. There are rumors of CIA black sites (secret prisons), extraordinary rendition, and torture. Throughout the world “terrorists” are held without trial, tortured and even killed for the sake of the security of the “homeland.”
In 2006, presidential adviser, John Yoo, said that the President had the legal authority to torture the child of a suspect, including crushing the child’s testicles, to extract information. Major General Antonio Taguba, in his Army Report investigating Abu Ghraib, confirmed that unreleased photos showed rapes of women and children. And then there is the well known water boarding, a technique borrowed from the Spanish Inquisition. These same policies begun by Bush are now continuing under Obama.
Nothing has changed.
The government’s policy of mistreatment and torture is reinforced by propaganda, especially in popular media; consider the television series 24 and the main character Jack Bauer.
Americans don’t seem to care when the abuse involves people in other countries. Yet all that is changing. A 2003 federal appeals court ruling stated that American citizens can be deemed as “enemy combatants” and imprisoned indefinitely, without trial, all for the sake of national security. Thousands of Americans have been put on no-fly lists without a hearing. The Department of Homeland Security and the MIAC report has labeled gun owners, Christians, conservatives, home-schoolers, and Ron Paul supporters as potential terrorists. This is a typical pattern. The government marginalizes certain groups and then eventually rounds them up.
Then the tyranny spreads to the rest of society.
Unless we wake up and put a stop to this, the government will continue to encroach upon liberties and freedoms of the American people. We will end up living in a totalitarian police state. If we pretend that these problems don’t exist, then it will only get worse. If we are awake to these matters, then we must try to wake others up.
Speer tried to solve the problem by looking the other way. Denial is a common human defense mechanism. But, history shows us that denial does not work. As he reflected back, Speer stated, “Those seconds (when Hanke informed Speer, and Speer did not inquire) were uppermost in my mind when I stated to the international court at the Nuremberg Trial that as an important member of the leadership of the Reich, I had to share the total responsibility for all that has happened. For from that moment on, I was inescapably contaminated morally; from fear of discovering something which might have made me turn my course, I had closed my eyes.”
“One seldom recognizes the devil when he is putting his hand on your shoulder.”
Below is a list of helpful resources: