Albert Speer: Hitler’s Willing Architect

March 2 2016

Unlike his fellow defendants at the Nuremberg trials, Albert Speer—the Third Reich’s chief architect and, from 1942, the man in charge of munitions and infrastructure—admitted wrongdoing while insisting he was unaware of what was really happening to the Jews. As a result, he got off with a twenty-year sentence, during which he penned a series of memoirs and made a reputation for himself as “the good Nazi.” Michael J. Lewis, reviewing Martin Kitchen’s new biography of Speer, assesses his culpability in the Final Solution (he signed off on the construction of the crematoria at Auschwitz, and managed an extensive empire of slave laborers) as well as his significance as an architect:

Speer found an ideal patron in Hitler, who had a keen understanding of the potential of architecture as an instrument of power, and how to wield it effectively and imaginatively. . . . An artist may work for a tyrant, even a tyrant astride a mountain of skulls, without discrediting the art. Sergei Eisenstein and Dmitri Shostakovich both served Stalin, whose death toll exceeded Hitler’s, and yet their works are monuments of 20th-century art. . . .

But somehow one senses that Speer falls in a different category, that one cannot excuse the opportunism of the artist in order to appreciate the integrity of the art. Kitchen briefly mentions without comment one telling fact, which is that as an architecture student Speer occasionally paid poorer students to prepare his drawings. The practice is not unknown, but it is not what one expects from a truly architectural mind, from someone who lives and thinks architecture, and who exults in the making of form. Kitchen suggests that Speer’s cleverest design ideas, such as the Luftwaffe searchlights illuminating the Nuremberg Rally grounds, came from his assistants. . . .

[W]hat makes Speer in the end so repellent, and all the more so because of his courtly good looks and air of easy urbanity . . . is that he does not even have the excuse of the opportunist, that he made political compromises in order to practice his art. Stripped of the murderous politics, in which his complicity is now beyond all doubt, there is precious little art left.

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Read more at New Criterion

More about: Adolf Hitler, Architecture, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Nazism, Nuremberg Trials

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism