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The memoirs of Hitler's elites
thesisposted on 2017-02-16, 04:14 authored by Lyons, Linden
In the post-war period many political and military leaders from Hitler's dictatorship wrote their memoirs. In this thesis I examine the memoirs of four figures: the generals Erich von Manstein (Lost Victories, 1955) and Heinz Guderian (Panzer Leader, 1951 ), the diplomat Ernst von Weizsacker (Memoirs, 1950), and the architect and minister for armaments Albert Speer (Inside the Third Reich, 1969). All these men were senior military or political experts who served during, and benefited from, the Nazi era. I advance three lines of arguments regarding the nature of the memoirs of these four men. First, they dissociated themselves from Hitler and criminality by remembering themselves as apolitical professionals. They dealt with their past by creating narratives wherein they were absorbed by their jobs, and were therefore unaware of, and uninvolved in, crimes. Second, all of my memoirists were in some way influenced by the Nuremberg trials. Manstein, Guderian, and Weizsacker defended the institutions they represented. Manstein and Guderian reworked Nuremberg by portraying an army waging a 'clean' rather than criminal war, while Weizsacker depicted the foreign office pursuing peace instead of supporting anti-Semitism and warlike expansion. Speer's memoirs were shaped by his defence at Nuremberg, where he created a depiction of two selves in order to avoid execution. Third, the post-war context informed what these memoirists wrote about the Nazi period and the Second World War. In particular, the Cold War environment permitted the continuation of anti-communism, but significant engagement with antiSemitism and the Holocaust was absent from their memoirs. Instead, my memoirists chose to portray Germans suffering from a war for which they were not responsible, reflecting the tendency of many Germans in the post-war period to view themselves as victims rather than as perpetrators.