Saturday, July 27, 2013

USSBS Tries to Grill Speer on Berlin Jews, Breaks for Lunch

“Experts and planners simply did not appreciate that the social and economic life of a large city will survive even when its physical structure is severely damaged. Life has a way of going on. Housing proved to be a highly elastic resource; bombed-out families doubled up with relatives and friends or were re-accommodated in factory dormitories or barracks or even schools. Transportation is much less elastic, but even there much can be done; non-essential travel can be restricted, sight-seeing busses diverted into the regular transit system, empty cabs filled and people can turn to bicycles.”

“I don’t mind telling you I was surprised myself how quickly everything was back up and running after bombings. Factories were relocated, machinery got shifted to intact buildings. Workers were put on second shifts where previously there had only been one. Everyone kept working and morale stayed high.”

Ken Galbraith held up his left hand while he continued scribbling furiously with his right. “Professor Speer, when you talk about housing being unexpectedly elastic, I’m wondering, can you tell us the degree to which the apartments and homes of people sent to concentration camps enabled this shifting?”

“That’s an interesting question,” allowed Speer. “I am sure it must have had some positive effect, but I do not have any information on this issue. Perhaps you should pose this question to Transport Minister Dorpmuller.”

But Galbraith wasn’t satisfied. “But weren’t you in charge of the forced deportations of the Berlin Jews?”

Speer frowned. “I think what you are referring to is that just before the war, as General Architectural Inspector for the City of Berlin, I did give orders for the forced evacuation of several Berlin neighborhoods, or approximately twenty thousand apartments which would be demolished to make way for the planned Grand Avenue and the urban structures which would be built along it. It is true that these did involve numerous Jewish-owned flats, but they also included even more flats that were occupied by non-Jews. And while I did give the orders for the demolition of these neighborhoods, the evacuations themselves were carried out by the Goebbels ministry.”

“Aren’t we getting a little off-topic here, Ken?” said Paul Nitze.

After that they broke for lunch.
(Excerpt from Germania, Simon & Schuster 2008)

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