|“||A new large-scale war will end with the destruction of human culture and civilization. Therefore, this this trial must contribute toward preventing such degenerate wars in the future, and toward establishing rules whereby human beings can live together.||„|
|~ Speer at the Nuremberg Trials.|
Albert Speer (March 19th, 1905 – September 1st, 1981) was a German architect who was, for most of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for Nazi Party. Speer was Adolf Hitler’s chief architect before assuming ministerial office. As "the Nazi who said sorry",[b] he accepted moral responsibility at the Nuremberg trials and in his memoirs for complicity in crimes of the Nazi regime, while insisting he had been ignorant of the Holocaust.
Speer was born in Mannheim, into an upper-middle-class family. He was the second of three sons of Luise Máthilde Wilhelmine (Hommel) and Albert Friedrich Speer. In 1918, the family leased their Mannheim residence and moved to a home they had in Heidelberg. Henry T. King, deputy prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials who later wrote a book about Speer said, "Love and warmth were lacking in the household of Speer's youth." His brothers, Ernst and Hermann, bullied him throughout his childhood. Speer was active in sports, taking up skiing and mountaineering. He followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and studied architecture.
Speer began his architectural studies at the University of Karlsruhe instead of a more highly acclaimed institution because the hyperinflation crisis of 1923 limited his parents' income. In 1924 when the crisis had abated, he transferred to the "much more reputable" Technical University of Munich. In 1925 he transferred again, this time to the Technical University of Berlin where he studied under Heinrich Tessenow, whom Speer greatly admired.
After passing his exams in 1927, Speer became Tessenow's assistant, a high honor for a man of 22. As such, Speer taught some of his classes while continuing his own postgraduate studies. In Munich Speer began a close friendship, ultimately spanning over 50 years, with Rudolf Wolters, who also studied under Tessenow.
In mid-1922, Speer began courting Margarete (Margret) Weber (1905–1987), the daughter of a successful craftsman who employed 50 workers. The relationship was frowned upon by Speer's class-conscious mother, who felt the Webers were socially inferior. Despite this opposition, the two married in Berlin on August 28, 1928; seven years elapsed before Margarete was invited to stay at her in-laws' home. The couple would have six children together, but Albert Speer grew increasingly distant from his family after 1933. He remained so even after his release from imprisonment in 1966, despite their efforts to forge closer bonds.
Speer joined the Nazi Party in 1931, launching himself on a political and governmental career which lasted fourteen years. His architectural skills made him increasingly prominent within the Party and he became a member of Hitler's inner circle. Hitler instructed him to design and construct structures including the Reich Chancellery and the Zeppelinfeld stadium in Nuremberg where Party rallies were held. Speer also made plans to reconstruct Berlin on a grand scale, with huge buildings, wide boulevards, and a reorganized transportation system.
In February 1942, Hitler appointed Speer Minister of Armaments and War Production. He was fêted at the time, and long afterwards, for performing an "armaments miracle" in which German war production dramatically increased; this "miracle", however, was brought to a halt by the summer of 1943 by, among other factors, the first sustained Allied bombing of 1943.
After the war, he was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the Nazi regime, principally for the use of forced labor. Despite repeated attempts to gain early release, he served his full sentence, most of it at Spandau Prison in West Berlin. Following his release in 1966, Speer published two bestselling autobiographical works, Inside the Third Reich and Spandau: The Secret Diaries, detailing his close personal relationship with Hitler, and providing readers and historians with a unique perspective on the workings of the Nazi regime. He later wrote a third book, Infiltration, about the Schutzstaffel. Speer died following a stroke on September 1st, 1981 while on a visit to London.
- Joined NSDAP: March 1st, 1931
- Party Number: 474,481
Nazi Party positions
- Member, National Socialist Motor Corps: 1931
- Commissioner for the Artistic and Technical Presentation of Party Rallies and Demonstrations: 1933
- Department Chief, German Labor Front: 1934
- Chief, NSDAP Directorate for Technical Matters: 1942
- From 1934 to 1939, Speer was often referred to as "First Architect of the Reich", however this was mainly a title given to him by Hitler and not an actual political position within the Nazi Party or German government.
- General Building Inspector for the Reich Capital: 1937
- Reich Minister for Weapons, Munitions, and Armaments: 1942
In 1943, under his authority as Reich Minister of Armaments, Speer also became the Director of Organisation Todt. The standard uniform Speer wore during the later half of World War II was an insignia-less Nazi Party brown jacket, with an "Org Todt" armband.
- Mitglied: 1931
- Amtsleiter der Reichsleitung (later replaced by Einsatzleiter; equivalent to Lieutenant or Second Lieutenant): 1934
- Hauptamtsleiter der Reichsleitung (later replaced by Haupteinsatzleiter; equivalent to Captain): 1935
- Dienstleiter (no equivalent, but senior to Colonel) : 1939
- Hauptdienstleiter (no equivalent, but senior to Colonel): 1941
- Befehlsleiter (equivalent to Generalmajor or Brigadier-General): 1942
- Oberbefehlsleiter (equivalent to Generalleutnant or Major-General): 1944
Awards and decorations
- Golden Party Badge
- Golden Hitler Youth Badge (with Oak Leaves)
- Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross
- NSDAP Long Service Award (Silver – 15 Years)
- Honour Chevron for the Old Guard