Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Albert Speer Meets the Americans at Glucksburg

A week or so after the surrender, Albert Speer was visited by a group of American economists, bankers, and Wall Street lawyers dressed in US Army uniform. They were the directors of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, or USSBS, who had come to ask Speer questions about the effectiveness of the American daylight precision bombing campaign on the German war economy. Speer, it turned out, was happy to answer their questions and the single meeting quickly turned into a ten-day, very collegial, "University of Bombing," with Professor Albert Speer presiding. The alcohol-fueled symposium took place outside of Flensburg at Schloss Glucksburg, where Speer was staying with his friend, dive-bomber ace, Werner Baumbach.

The following is an excerpt from my novel Germania, originally published in 2008 by Simon & Schuster, now newly available on Kindle (buy it here).

Albert Speer
He awoke late in the morning with a terrible hangover. Staggering through the hall down to the kitchens he debated whether he should call in sick or just show up the way he was, since it seemed that was the way everyone else was half the time.

As he was working his way through a cup of tea, he heard agitated footsteps running up the corridor toward him. He started to feel a sense of dread. It was the captain of the honor guard, which had been assigned to him for security.

“Herr Reichsminister, we have an emergency!”


“What is it?"

“The American Army is here, demanding to see you.”


“The Americans, your Excellency! There must be twenty of them. They’ve come in Jeeps.”

“In Jeeps? But what do they want? Are you sure they’re not looking for Himmler?”

“No, your Excellency. They say they want you. Reichsminister for War Production Albert Speer. Do you want my men to shoot at them?”

“No, absolutely not. Tell them to wait. I must get dressed first.”

He went back to his room and found his best gray suit. Then he selected a French tie and put it on. He took a glimpse in the mirror and thought to himself that he looked pretty good.

Schloss Glucksburg
The Americans were waiting for him in the courtyard. Twenty of them, just like the captain had said. They wore uniforms, but no helmets or guns.

Two very tall men stood together. One looked like a hawk, the other like an enormous owl. Next to them was a much shorter man who, by his sheer proximity to them, looked like a hedgehog.

“Good Morning, Herr Speer,” said the owl. “I hope you don’t mind us dropping in like this, but we were making everybody nervous at the Marineschule.” They grinned good-naturedly at Speer.

“We’ve flown in from Frankfurt this morning to interview you,” said the hawk. “Do you have some time to spare?”

John Kenneth Galbraith
“We should introduce ourselves,” said the hedgehog. He began pointing out the various army officers and sergeants and reciting their names though not their ranks. “This is George Sklarz, this is Burton Klein, Bob Gilchrist, Ernie Doyle, Walter Farley, Dan Watson.” He went on and on with the names. Speer tried to take it all in, but the names and faces were more than he could process, so he just nodded and smiled like the good host.

Finally the man pointed to his tall colleagues, “This is George Ball, this is Ken Galbraith and I’m Paul Nitze.”

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