by Cathy Resmer
Sitting at the Blue Star Cafe in Winooski, doing some reading/working. It's my semi-regular Sunday routine, one of the only times during the week when I can actually sit and think for a little while uninterrupted by work or emails or little boys going "vrooom, car!"
So this past week, I've been reading Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer's memoirs of Nazi Germany. Speer was an architect who fell under Hitler's spell in the early 1930s. He ended up becoming Hitler's personal architect, and later became Germany's Minister for Armaments during the Second World War. He's a controversial figure. He seemed like a smart, mostly sane guy who was seduced by the power of the dark side. Escaped being sentenced to death at Nuremberg in part because he claimed to have no knowledge of the Holocaust. Hence the controversy.
Anyhow, I've had a copy of this book lying around for many years, and have never read it. But then last week was looking for a new book and decided it was time. I'm about halfway through now. So far the book has focused mostly on Hitler and Speer's elaborate architectural plans. But now Speer's just been appointed to his government post, and he's writing more about the management of the war.
Throughout the book, I've been struck several times by how much the political intrigues in Hitler's inner circle echo situations I've experienced in my own professional and civic life over the years. I've also noted several passages that seem to speak to current events. Here's one example, from the beginning of Chapter 16, "Sins of Omission":
"It remains one of the oddities of this war that Hitler demanded far less from his people than Churchill or Roosevelt did from their respective nations. The discrepency between the total mobilization of labor forces in democratic England and the casual treatment of this question in authoritarian Germany is proof of the regime's anxiety not to risk any shift in the popular mood. The German leaders were not disposed to make sacrifices themselves or to ask sacrifices of the people. They tried to keep the morale of the people in the best possible state by concessions...
Whereas Churchill promised his people only blood, sweat and tears, all we heard during the various phases and various crises of the war was Hitler's slogan: 'The final victory is certain.' This was a confession of political weakness. It betrayed great concern over a loss of popularity which might develop into an insurrectionary mood."
I know, Hitler and Nazi comparisons are so tired, but I couldn't resist pointing this out. I'm still haunted by the Iraq War vets I talked with a couple weeks ago. There's still a war going on. It's costing us hundreds of billions of dollars a day, not to mention the mounting human cost. Does anyone even notice? I can't help but wonder.