Lot Details
SPEER (ALBERT)
Series of nearly 100 letters signed, to Ninette Hélène Jeanty Raven, a few typed but nearly all autograph, the first three in German and English, the remainder in French; together with many of her letters - interspersed with 'Cogitations' - to him (which he returned to her, see below), a photograph of him as a young man, a set of snapshots of Speer datestamped June 1975, his death announcement with a covering note by his widow Margret, etc., Speer's letters upwards of 250 pages, some 4to but mostly 8vo on paper headed with his name, Heidelberg and elsewhere, 8 May 1971 to 16 August 1981

Footnotes

  • "THERE IS NO DOUBT: I WAS PRESENT WHEN HIMMLER ANNOUNCED ON 6 OCTOBER 1943 THAT ALL JEWS WOULD BE KILLED": SPEER CONFESSES THAT HE MUST HAVE KNOWN OF THE FINAL SOLUTION.

    Hélène (Ninette) Jeanty was a former worker in the Belgian resistance whose first husband had been shot by the Nazis, of which she writes in La Peine de Vivre (1952). In 1956 she had married the twice-widowed Charles Earle Raven (1885-1964) who, apart from being Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, Master of Christ's and Regius Professor of Divinity, is perhaps best known today as the biographer of John Ray. Canon Raven was an ardent pacifist, and with his third wife lived partly in Cambridge and partly in Brussels, dedicating themselves "to a mission of reconciliation between students of different races" (ODNB): in one of her letters, she tells Speer that "I have written a book, and as it tells of my husband, I have never kept a penny for myself but with the money I invite destitute students to stay at my expense".

    The often febrile tone of Jeanty's correspondence with Speer is set by the latter's letter of 23 December 1971, written soon after their first meeting. Here Speer acknowledges that he must indeed have been present at the Posen Conference of 6 October 1943 (at which Himmler explicitly announced the Final Solution with the words 'I also want to refer here very frankly to a very difficult matter. We can now very openly talk about this among ourselves, and yet we will never discuss this publicly... I am now referring to the evacuation of the Jews, to the extermination of the Jewish people'). Speer tells Jeanty that this is going to be a very difficult letter, one of the most serious of his life. After assuring her that he has just read with enormous emotion her La Peine de Vivre, and that during the days he was reading it she continued to speak to him, and that their two days together were so good for him that he felt better, stronger and calmer, he then tells her that he received some news just before her departure that upset him deeply. For some time he held out hopes that this news would not be true. He asked the Federal Archives in Koblenz to check it for him. But there can be no doubt: he was present when Hitler announced on 6 October 1943 that all Jews would be killed. He immediately asked his lawyer to pass on this news to the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes at Ludwigsburg. The director assured him that this was included in his twenty years [sentence at Spandau]. Now he is more upset than ever because she has been fraternising with someone who in truth is only an impostor. Who will now believe him? Does he stand accused of suppressing the truth that would have been easier to put in his book [Inside the Third Reich], as Baldur von Schirach had? But, between the lines, his book does indeed contain the truth throughout; and he wonders for how many years this has been working away in his subconscious. Nevertheless, during these days, it was her book that alone gave him help and support - her book, and her eyes, which have wept so often over pain and poverty. He was, he tells her, overwhelmed again when he read her letter yesterday; a letter which was so good and friendly. He said two things to himself: that he does not deserve her goodness, her grace; and that he clings to a sentence she wrote - 'I shall not abandon you. Trust me'. Could she be an angel from another world, sent to help him? For it cannot be by chance that she has come to see him at this particular moment in his life.

    The news which so upset Speer was Erich Goldhaven's article 'Albert Speer, Himmler and the Final Solution', published in Midstream that October. Speer was later to tell Gitta Sereny that for these two days he really thought he had gone out of his mind (see Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth, 1995, pp.389-96, for a full discussion of this episode and the Posen claims). Speer subsequently maintained that, although he had been present at the beginning of the conference, he had left for a meeting with Hitler before Himmler made his speech. There can be little doubt that had his presence at Posnan been known to the prosecution, he would not have escaped the death sentence at Nuremberg.

    It is clear that Jeanty came to invest even more in their relationship than did Speer, and that, on his part, he had no desire that it should develop into anything more physical than profound friendship. He was also aware that she might have had a wider project in hand, and this prompted him to return her letters. On 21 October 1974 he explains why he has taken this step. He has tried to analyse her, as she has him, and the result has been that he adores and loves her. But this is not quite the same, he feels, as making an analysis and drawing up notes afterwards, as she does, in order to write a book at a later date. Over the years, she has sent him her notes and analysis of him, seeking his comment on them. This he feels is useless. After a year, he began to suspect that she was making a study of him. So, putting himself entirely in her hands, he returned her letters, without asking her to return his. This he feels was a generous act on his part. But perhaps it is not one she appreciates. Nevertheless, he knows what enthusiasm goes into writing a book, so does not blame her, for anything at all.

    But while Speer kept his distance, their friendship was by no means broken off, and Jeanty remained a valued guest of Speer and his wife Margret. His last letter to her is dated 16 August 1981, just a fortnight before his death on 1 September. In it he announces that he has received the first copy of his latest book [Infiltration: How Heinrich Himmler Schemed to Build an SS Industrial Empire], a publisher's brainchild which had caused him considerable trouble (in an earlier letter, he had grumbled that forced labour was his profession). He promises to send her a copy at once, and hopes that when she has read it, she will understand why he feels he has grounds for complaint. But, he tells her, he is feeling the advance of age, with its lack of energy, its desire for peace and quiet. Would living in a void, he wonders, be so bad after all? He finally subscribes himself to his dear friend; and in a postscript tells her that he often thinks of her and feels sure that his thoughts reach her.

Saleroom notices

  • As will be clear from the context, Speer's letter about the Poznan Conference refers to Himmler rather than Hitler.
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