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Joachim Fest, 79; Wrote a Praised Biography of Hitler, Edited Speer's `Inside the Third Reich'

September 13, 2006|From the Associated Press

BERLIN — Joachim Fest, a journalist and historian who wrote one of the best-regarded biographies of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, has died. He was 79.

Fest, who worked closely with Hitler's architect Albert Speer on his memoirs, died Monday at his home in Kronberg of unspecified causes, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported Tuesday. Fest worked at the newspaper for two decades before leaving in 1993.

"Joachim Fest was one of the greatest journalists and publishers of our age," literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki told Der Spiegel Online. "His book on Hitler was without a doubt one of the most important books on the subject."

Fest gained close insight into the inner workings of Hitler's Third Reich through working with Speer, the Fuhrer's favorite architect, who became minister of armaments and was instrumental in keeping the Nazi war machine going until the end.

Speer was sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Nuremberg tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

After Speer's release from Berlin's Spandau Prison in 1966, Fest worked with him as the general editor of his controversial memoirs published in 1970, "Inside the Third Reich" and later, in 1976, "Spandau: The Secret Diaries."

Fest's biographical portrait "Hitler" was published in English in 1974, the year after its German release.

Other works included "Inside Hitler's Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich," which was the basis for the acclaimed 2004 film "Downfall," "The Face of the Third Reich: Portraits of the Nazi Leadership," and "Speer: The Final Verdict."

In recent weeks, Fest was extremely critical of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gunter Grass, who admitted in August that he had served in the Waffen-SS during World War II after years of keeping it quiet.

Fest said Grass had seriously damaged his credibility as a moral authority in Germany.

Born in Berlin on Dec. 8, 1926, Fest was the son of a teacher who lost his job over his opposition to the Nazi regime.

Fest was drafted into the German army on July 1, 1944.

Captured by Allied forces in the battle for the Remagen bridge, he was held in an American prisoner of war camp.

After the war he studied law, literature and journalism. He worked as a reporter in radio, and television and on newspapers and magazines.

In addition to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, where he was responsible for the culture section, he worked with several other respected German media outlets, including Der Spiegel magazine, and Norddeutscher Rundfunk television.

There was no immediate word on survivors or funeral plans.

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