Speer, one of Hitler's closest associates, testified at the Nuremberg
"If Hitler had any friends at all, I certainly would have been one of
his close friends .."
overwhelmed his protègè with demonstrations of trust and favor shown to
no other paladin.
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.
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 "decent Nazi."