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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Oct. 20, 1995, V3, #190
All the News the Big Guys Missed
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The Truth About Albert Speer
By Paul Francuch (VOA-Chicago)
Albert Speer -- Hitler's "architect" and a powerful leader
of the Third Reich -- escaped the gallows following the Nuremberg
Trials but spent 20 years in Spandau prison after accepting guilt
for his enormous crimes.
But Speer's stated knowledge of what murderous events happened when
under the hand of Adolph Hitler remained vague -- purposefully
vague, argues British journalist Gitta Sereny in her new book
"Albert Speer--His Battle with Truth," published in the U.S. by
Alfred A. Knopf. Sereny recently talked about her psychological
probing of Speer during an interview in Chicago.
Sereny spent 12 years after Speer died in 1981 talking with those
who knew him personally -- this after a series of probing
interviews, telephone conversations and letters with Speer himself
during the final few years of his life. It was a project, says
Sereny, which Speer initiated after reading works by the respected
"And I didn't like him (laughs). I looked at him on TV and I
thought, 'No this man is really ... just too smooth for me. And
all these mea culpas I didn't believe. (And) there were so many
interesting people in the world to see, to talk with. I just
didn't want to see him."
After a series of calls and letters, Sereny accepted an invitation
to visit Speer at his home in Heidelberg. She told him that she
would control the interviews, which went on for three weeks,
sometimes 12 hours or more each day. She confronted him with
evidence. She became friendly ... But remained critical.
"When I went to see him -- according to my method, in line with
my method -- I told him immediately how I felt about him. I
always tell people, particularly if they are controversial
personalities, what I feel about them. In Speer's case, I told him
that I had always found him too 'smooth.' I just found him too
sure of himself. And I did not believe him."
In a process which seems somewhat like journalistic psychoanalysis,
Sereny gradually dredged from Speer memories which he cleverly
tried to hide. Eventually, she says, Speer revealed knowledge of
Nazi murders against millions of Russian and Polish civilians. She
is also convinced he knew much earlier than he previously admitted
of what came to be called the "Final Solution" to exterminate the
"I tried throughout these conversations with Speer to get him to
tell the truth, to admit what he had never admitted, which was
that he had always known or had known for many years about
Hitler's horrors. I'm not only speaking about the extermination
of the Jews, but I'm speaking of other horrors which the Nazis
committed -- you know, millions of murders of civilians in the
East, which nobody ever speaks of, but they're extremely important
in the whole context of the thing."
But while he knew more than he had ever publicly revealed, Sereny
believes there were some Nazi crimes against humanity that he
probably did not know about, nor certainly was directly involved
"Not involved, of course, directly. He was never directly involved
in anything. He gave orders from his desk in Berlin. But still, he
travelled to these places. He saw things happening. The murder of
the Jews in gas chambers he had absolutely nothing to do with --
literally. And I think that his knowledge there, really, was quite
late and partial. I would in fact say ... It is quite possible
that he never knew until (the) Nuremberg (trials) about the gas
Sereny spends considerable time in her lengthy book examining the
close and complicated relationship Speer had with Hitler -- one
which bordered on platonic love. She says Speer was one of many
who succumbed to Hitler's messianic charms -- something even Sereny
admits she felt as a young schoolgirl in Vienna, when she attended
a Nazi rally where Hitler spoke.
"I found myself screaming 'Sieg Heil', and then looking at myself
in horror -- What am I doing? What is it that emanated from him?"
It was charisma that grew into evil seduction. Sereny says an
important message she hopes her book will convey is that charisma
in a politician should always be viewed as a potential danger.
"Charisma is an incredibly dangerous quality in statesmen, in
politicians. And we need to be very, very careful of it."
Before he died, Speer told Sereny her next book should be about
charisma. Not about anyone's in particular, he said. Just the
power itself. "Learn to understand charisma," he told her. "Learn
to understand it."
Syria Admits a Few Palestinian Refugees
By Laurie Kassman (VOA-Cairo)
The majority of some 650 Palestinians stranded aboard a car ferry
off the Cyprus coast has now been allowed to go to Syria. Syria is
now sending a ship to bring them home. The group of mostly women
and children is among several thousand Palestinians kicked out of
Libya in the past month as part of Col. Muammar Gadhafi's
opposition to the Palestinian-Israeli peace agreements.
After hours of negotiations, Syria agreed to accept those
Palestinians on board the vessel who hold Syrian identity papers.
Syrian officials in Cyprus told reporters there that more than 500
of the 650 passengers would be eligible. Many of the other
refugees hold Jordanian documents and are waiting to see if or when
they would be allowed to get off the boat and travel to Jordan.
The ship has been anchored off the coast of Cyprus since Syria
refused it docking rights on Tuesday. Libya expelled the group last
Friday as part of two-month-old campaign to kick out 30,000
Palestinians, many of them long-time residents. Several hundred
others remain stranded along the Egyptian-Libyan border in a
makeshift camp until their fate is decided.
Gadhafi says it proves that the Palestinian-Israeli peace accord is
a fraud because it does not provide a homeland for Palestinians.
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