Albert Speer was the architect who served Adolf Hitler with
devotion and efficiency, starting with his enthusiastic crafting of
Nazi rallies and going on to become the organisational genius
whose efforts are credited - if that is the word to use - with
keeping the German war machine functioning under the
onslaught of the Allied blockade and bombardment.
Albert Speer is said to have prolonged the war for at least a year, with the consequent death of hundreds of thousands and
widespread ruin. It also gave the Nazis more time to pursue
their mass murder of Jews, Russians, Gypsies and others
deemed not fit to live.
Albert Speer studied at the technical schools in Karlsruhe, Munich, and Berlin, and acquired an architectural license in
1927. After hearing Hitler speak at a Berlin rally in late 1930, he
enthusiastically joined the Nazi Party January 1931 and so
impressed the Führer by his efficiency and talent that, soon
after Hitler became chancellor, Speer became his personal architect.
He was rewarded with many important commissions, including
the design of the parade grounds, searchlights, and banners of
the spectacular Nürnberg party congress of 1934, filmed by
Leni Riefenstahl in Triumph of the Will.
A highly efficient organizer, Speer became 1942 minister for armaments, succeeding the engineer Fritz
Todt. In 1943 he
also took over part of Hermann Goering's responsibilities as
planner of the German war economy. From Todt, Speer
inherited the Organisation Todt, an organization using forced
labor for the construction of strategic roads and defenses.
Under Albert Speer's direction, economic production reached
its peak in 1944, despite Allied bombardment. In the last
months of the war Speer did much to thwart Hitler's
scorched-earth policy, which would have devastated Germany.
Speer was jailed in 1946 for 20 years in the post-war
Nuremberg trials. After his release he wrote his memoirs, grew wealthy, and until his death in 1981 worked hard at being a
penitent, presenting himself as someone who should have
known what was being done, but did not know. Albert Speer
offered himself as the scapegoat for Germany's collective guilt.
On the stand at Nuremberg Albert Speer stood out among the
accused as the one "good Nazi." A dedicated servant of the
party who, as Hitler's minister of wartime production, was the
Nazis' principle exploiter of forced labor.