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.