Monday, June 9, 2008

Returned from the Depths...

Howdy, folks. Been a while. The month of May was utterly hellish--started with death, ended with disease, and there was more fun in between. But I have bounced back with a flourish, more or less.

I was going to do some serious downer blogging about my friend who died, and I just never could make myself do it. I had so many thoughts swirling around in my brain, and just couldn't quite get them to gel--it had to do with friendship and the nature thereof, and how you sort out a person's true self from all the crud that can accrue over years of substance abuse. Was the Paul I knew more the "real" Paul than the one that the other 200 people at his funeral had come to know over the last 20 years? How do you separate out his growth as a person from all the messed-up-shit that came from too much acid and heroin? I couldn't come to a satisfactory answer, and thinking about it just made me sad.

However, I'd been mulling over another post that I think turns out to be in some ways related. I've been reading Spandau, which is a diary account of life inside Spandau prison by Hitler's architect, Albert Speer. I've always been troubled by the question of how Hitler's Reich came about--how someone who (to modern American eyes) seems so un-charismatic, and so obviously on the brink of madness, could have persuaded an entire nation of people to embark upon a war of aggression against the entirety of Europe. Not every German who joined the National Socialists was made of pure evil (my mother's opinions of the German nation to the contrary.) So what are we to make of someone like Speer, who seems in so many ways to be an intelligent, thoughtful, and entirely normal man--and yet played a key part in the most monstrous genocidal act in history? Speer was the only one of Hitler's close associates to admit his culpability at Nuremburg, though he denied having had direct knowledge of the death camps. Of course that probably wasn't true--it's hard to imagine that he wouldn't have, and there's some evidence to the contrary. But what interests me more about Spandau is Speer's own musings--he had 20 years to think about it--on why he did what he did, and whether Speer-the-architect-of-the-Reich was the true Albert Speer. Was he a different person before he met Hitler? And did admitting guilt and taking punishment for the acts committed on Hitler's orders absolve him at all? It's interesting, and I've been thinking about it a lot. (Had plenty of time for thinking and reading while I was sick... bleh.) Anyway, hopefully back to a more regular posting schedule now--and hopefully less depressing posts!


Butterfly_Woman said...

I've heard that "only Nazi to say he's sorry" title handed out before. Kritzinger, director of the Reich Chancellery, also said he was sorry at Nuremburg, and he was acquitted. He said it in full knowledge of the final solution as well since he was at the Wannsee Conference.

/random Nazi info

The Wax Lion said...

I didn't know Kritzinger was acquitted. Speer was the only one from Hitler's "inner circle" who admitted culpability though--I think it was the first round of trials at Nuremberg, he was right there with Goring and Jodl et al. But I'm sure a lot of Nazis said "sorry" over the course of the trials and afterward. I think Speer just acquired the title because he was so high-profile to begin with.