Born: 19 March 1905 in Mannheim, Baden, Germany.
Died: 1 September 1981 in London, United Kingdom.
Minister of Armaments and War Production 8 February 1942 to 23 May 1945
Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer was born on 19 March 1905 in Mannheim, Baden, Germany and became a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Albert Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office. As the National Socialist who said sorry, Albert Speer accepted responsibility at the Nuremberg trials and in his memoirs for crimes of the National Socialist regime. His level of involvement in the persecution of the Jews and his level of knowledge of the Holocaust remain matters of dispute.
Albert Speer joined the National Socialist Party in 1931, launching him on a political and governmental career which lasted fourteen years. His architectural skills made him increasingly prominent within the Party and Albert Speer became a member of Adolf Hitler's inner circle. Adolf Hitler commanded him to design and construct a number of structures, including the Reich Chancellery and the Zeppelinfeld stadium in Nuremberg where Party rallies were held. Albert Speer also made plans to reconstruct Berlin on a grand scale, with huge buildings, wide boulevards, and a reorganised transportation system.
As Adolf Hitler's Minister of Armaments and War Production, Albert Speer was so successful that Germany's war production continued to increase despite massive and devastating Allied bombing. After the war, Albert Speer was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the National Socialist regime, principally for the use of forced labor. Albert Speer served his full sentence, most of it at Spandau Prison in West Berlin.
Following his release from Spandau in 1966, Albert Speer published two bestselling autobiographical works, Inside the Third Reich and Spandau: The Secret Diaries, detailing his often close personal relationship with Adolf Hitler, and providing readers and historians with a unique perspective on the workings of the National Socialist regime. He later wrote a third book, Infiltration, about the SS. Albert Speer died of natural causes in 1981 while on a visit to London, England.
Albert Speer was born in Mannheim, into a wealthy middle class family. Albert Speer was the second of three sons of Albert and Luise Speer. In 1918, the family moved permanently to their summer home, Schloss-Wolfsbrunnenweg, in Heidelberg. According to Henry T. King, deputy prosecutor at Nürnberg who later wrote a book about Albert Speer, Love and warmth were lacking in the household of Albert Speer's youth. Albert Speer was active in sports, taking up skiing and mountaineering. Albert Speer's Heidelberg school offered rugby football, unusual for Germany, and Albert Speer was a participant. Albert Speer wanted to become a mathematician, but his father said if Albert Speer chose this occupation he would lead a life without money, without a position, and without a future. Instead, Albert Speer followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and studied architecture.
Albert 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, Albert Speer transferred to the much more reputable Technical University of Munich. In 1925 Albert Speer transferred again, this time to the Technical University of Berlin where Albert Speer studied under Heinrich Tessenow, whom Albert Speer greatly admired. After passing his exams in 1927, Albert Speer became Tessenow's assistant, a high honour for a man of 22. As such, Albert Speer taught some of Tessenow's classes while continuing his own postgraduate studies. In Munich, and continuing in Berlin, Albert Speer began a close friendship, ultimately spanning over 50 years, with Rudolf Wolters, who also studied under Tessenow.
In the middle of 1922, Albert Speer began courting Margarete (Margret) Weber 1905 to 1987. The relationship was frowned upon by Albert Speer's class conscious mother, who felt that the Webers were socially inferior Weber's father was a successful craftsman who employed 50 workers. Despite this opposition, the two married in Berlin on 28 August 1928 seven years were to elapse before Margarete Speer was invited to stay at her in-laws' home.
National Socialist architect
Albert Speer stated he was apolitical when he was a young man, and that Albert Speer attended a Berlin National Socialist rally in December 1930 at the urging of some of his students. Albert Speer was surprised to find Adolf Hitler dressed in a neat blue suit, rather than the brown uniform seen on National Socialist Party posters, and was greatly impressed, not only with Adolf Hitler's proposals, but also with the man himself. Several weeks later Albert Speer attended another rally: this one was presided over by Joseph Goebbels. Albert Speer was disturbed by the way Joseph Goebbels whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Despite this unease, Albert Speer could not shake the impression Adolf Hitler had made on him. On 1 March 1931, Albert Speer applied to join the National Socialist Party and became member number 474,481.
Albert Speer's first National Socialist Party position was as head of the Party's motorist association for the Berlin suburb of Wannsee Albert Speer was the only National Socialist in the town with a car. Albert Speer reported to the Party's leader for the West End of Berlin, Karl Hanke, who hired Albert Speer without fee to redecorate a villa he had just rented. Karl Hanke was enthusiastic about the resulting work.
In 1931, Albert Speer surrendered his position as Tessenow's assistant because of pay cuts and moved to Mannheim, hoping to use his father's connections to get commissions. Albert Speer had little success, and his father gave him a job as manager of the elder Albert Speer's properties. In July 1932, the Albert Speers visited Berlin to help out the Party prior to the Reichstag elections. While they were there, Karl Hanke recommended the young architect to Joseph Goebbels to help renovate the Party's Berlin headquarters. Albert Speer, who had been about to leave with his wife for a vacation in East Prussia, agreed to do the work. When the commission was completed, Albert Speer returned to Mannheim and remained there as Adolf Hitler took office in January 1933.
After the National Socialists took control, Karl Hanke recalled Albert Speer to Berlin. Joseph Goebbels, the new Propaganda Minister, commissioned Albert Speer to renovate his Ministry's building on Wilhelmplatz. Albert Speer also designed the 1933 May Day commemoration in Berlin. In Inside the Third Reich, he wrote that, on seeing the original design for the Berlin rally on Karl Hanke's desk, Albert Speer remarked that the site would resemble a Schützenfest a rifle club meet. Karl Hanke, now Joseph Goebbels' State Secretary, challenged him to create a better design. As Albert Speer learned later, Adolf Hitler was enthusiastic about Albert Speer's design which used giant flags, though Joseph Goebbels took credit for it. Tessenow was dismissive: Do you think you have created something? It's showy, that's all.
The organisers of the 1933 Nürnberg National Socialist Party rally asked Albert Speer to submit designs for the rally, bringing him into contact with Adolf Hitler for the first time. Neither the organisers nor Rudolf Hess were willing to decide whether to approve the plans, and Rudolf Hess sent Albert Speer to Adolf Hitler's Munich apartment to seek his approval. When Albert Speer entered, the new Chancellor was busy cleaning a pistol, which he briefly laid aside to cast a short, interested glance at the plans, approving them without even looking at the young architect. This work won Albert Speer his first national post, as National Socialist Party Commissioner for the Artistic and Technical Presentation of Party Rallies and Demonstrations.
Albert Speer's next major assignment was as liaison to the Berlin building trades for Paul Troost's renovation of the Chancellery. As Chancellor, Adolf Hitler had a residence in the building and came by every day to be briefed by Albert Speer and the building supervisor on the progress of the renovations. After one of these briefings, Adolf Hitler invited Albert Speer to lunch, to the architect's great excitement. Adolf Hitler evinced considerable interest in Albert Speer during the luncheon, and later told Albert Speer that he had been looking for a young architect capable of carrying out his architectural dreams for the new Germany. Albert Speer quickly became part of Adolf Hitler's inner circle Albert Speer was expected to call on Adolf Hitler in the morning for a walk or chat, to provide consultation on architectural matters, and to discuss Adolf Hitler's ideas. Most days Albert Speer was invited to dinner.
The two men found much in common: Adolf Hitler spoke of Albert Speer as a kindred spirit for whom he had always maintained the warmest human feelings. The young, ambitious architect was dazzled by his rapid rise and close proximity to Adolf Hitler, which guaranteed him a flood of commissions from the government and from the highest ranks of the Party. Albert Speer testified at Nuremberg, I belonged to a circle which consisted of other artists and his personal staff. If Adolf Hitler had had any friends at all, I certainly would have been one of his close friends.
When Paul Troost died on 21 January 1934, Albert Speer effectively replaced him as the Party's chief architect. Adolf Hitler appointed Albert Speer as head of the Chief Office for Construction, which placed him nominally on Rudolf Hess staff.
One of Albert Speer's first commissions after Paul Troost's death was the Zeppelinfeld stadiumathe Nürnberg parade grounds seen in Leni Riefenstahl's propaganda masterpiece Triumph of the Will. This huge work was capable of holding 340,000 people. The tribune was influenced by the Pergamon Altar in Anatolia, but was magnified to an enormous scale. Albert Speer insisted that as many events as possible be held at night, both to give greater prominence to his lighting effects and to hide the individual National Socialists, many of whom were overweight. Albert Speer surrounded the site with 130 anti-aircraft searchlights. This created the effect of a cathedral of light or, as it was called by British Ambassador Sir Neville Henderson, a cathedral of ice. Albert Speer described this as his most beautiful work, and as the only one that stood the test of time.
Nürnberg was to be the site of many more official National Socialist buildings, most of which were never built for example, the German Stadium would have accommodated 400,000 spectators, while an even larger rally ground would have held half a million National Socialists. While planning these structures, Albert Speer invented the concept of ruin value: that major buildings should be constructed in such a way that they would leave aesthetically pleasing ruins for thousands of years into the future. Such ruins would be a testament to the greatness of the Third Reich, just as ancient Greek or Roman ruins were symbols of the greatness of those civilisations Adolf Hitler enthusiastically embraced this concept, and ordered that all the Reich's important buildings be constructed in accord with it.
Albert Speer could not avoid seeing the brutal excesses of the National Socialist regime. Shortly after Adolf Hitler consolidated power in the Night of the Long Knives, Adolf Hitler ordered Albert Speer to take workmen and go to the building housing the offices of Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen to begin its conversion into a security headquarters, even though it was still occupied by Franz von Papen officials. Albert Speer and his group entered the building, to be confronted with a pool of blood, apparently from the body of Herbert von Bose, Franz von Papen secretary, who had been killed there. Albert Speer related that the sight had no effect on him, other than to cause him to avoid that room.
When Adolf Hitler deprecated Werner March's design for the Olympic Stadium for the 1936 Summer Olympics as too modern, Albert Speer modified the plans by adding a stone exterior. Albert Speer designed the German Pavilion for the 1937 international exposition in Paris. The German and Russian pavilion sites were opposite each other. On learning through a clandestine look at the Russian plans that the Russian design included two colossal figures seemingly about to overrun the German site, Albert Speer modified his design to include a cubic mass which would check their advance, with a huge eagle on top looking down on the Russian figures. Both pavilions were awarded gold medals for their designs. Albert Speer would also receive, from Adolf Hitler Youth Leader and later fellow Spandau prisoner Baldur von Schirach, the Golden Adolf Hitler Youth honour Badge with oak leaves.
In 1937, Adolf Hitler appointed Albert Speer as General Building Inspector for the Reich Capital with the rank of Undersecretary of state in the Reich government. The position carried with it extraordinary powers over the Berlin city government and made Albert Speer answerable to Adolf Hitler alone. It also made Albert Speer a member of the Reichstag, though the body by then had little effective power. Adolf Hitler ordered Albert Speer to make plans to rebuild Berlin. The plans centred on a 3 mile long grand boulevard running from north to south, which Albert Speer called the Prachtstrasse, or Street of Magnificence Albert Speer also referred to it as the North South Axis. At the north end of the boulevard, Albert Speer planned to build the Volkshalle, a huge assembly hall with a dome which would have been over 210 m high, with floor space for 180,000 people. At the southern end of the avenue would be a huge triumphal arch it would be almost 120 m high, and able to fit the Arc de Triomphe inside its opening. The outbreak of World War II in 1939 led to the postponement, and eventual abandonment, of these plans. Part of the land for the boulevard was to be obtained by consolidating Berlin's railway system. Albert Speer hired Rudolf Wolters as part of his design team, with special responsibility for the Prachtstrasse. When Speer's father saw the model for the new Berlin, he said to his son, You've all gone completely insane.
Marble Gallery of the New Reich Chancellery In January 1938, Adolf Hitler asked Albert Speer to build a new Reich Chancellery on the same site as the existing structure, and said he needed it for urgent foreign policy reasons no later than his next New Year's reception for diplomats on 10 January 1939. This was a huge undertaking, especially since the existing Chancellery was in full operation. After consultation with his assistants, Albert Speer agreed. Although the site could not be cleared until April, Albert Speer was successful in building the large, impressive structure in nine months. The structure included the Marble Gallery: at 146 metres long, almost twice as long as the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles. Albert Speer employed thousands of workers in two shifts. Adolf Hitler, who had remained away from the project, was overwhelmed when Albert Speer turned it over, fully furnished, two days early. In appreciation for the architect's work on the Chancellery, Adolf Hitler awarded Albert Speer the National Socialist Golden Party Badge. Tessenow was less impressed, suggesting to Albert Speer that he should have taken nine years over the project. The second Chancellery was damaged by the Battle of Berlin in 1945 and was eventually dismantled by the Russians, its stone used for a war memorial.
During the Chancellery project, the pogrom of Kristallnacht took place. Albert Speer would make no mention of it in the first draft of Inside the Third Reich, and it was only on the urgent advice of his publisher that Albert Speer added a mention of seeing the ruins of the Central Synagogue in Berlin from his car.
Albert Speer was under significant psychological pressure during this period of his life. Albert Speer would later remember:
Soon after Adolf Hitler had given me the first large architectural commissions, I began to suffer from anxiety in long tunnels, in aeroplanes, or in small rooms. My heart would begin to race, I would become breathless, the diaphragm would seem to grow heavy, and I would get the impression that my blood pressure was rising tremendously Anxiety amidst all my freedom and power!
Albert Speer supported the German invasion of Poland and subsequent war, though Albert Speer recognized that it would lead to the postponement, at the least, of his architectural dreams. In his later years, Albert Speer, talking with his biographer to be Gitta Sereny, explained how Albert Speer felt in 1939, Of course I was perfectly aware that Adolf Hitler sought world domination At that time I asked for nothing better. That was the whole point of my buildings. They would have looked grotesque if Adolf Hitler had sat still in Germany. All I wanted was for this great man to dominate the globe.
Albert Speer placed his department at the disposal of the Wehrmacht. When Adolf Hitler remonstrated, and said it was not for Albert Speer to decide how his workers should be used, Albert Speer simply ignored him. Among Albert Speer's innovations were quick reaction squads to construct roads or clear away debris before long, these units would be used to clear bomb sites. As the war progressed, initially to great German success, Albert Speer continued preliminary work on the Berlin and Nürnberg plans, at Adolf Hitler's insistence, but failed to convince him of the need to suspend peacetime construction projects. Albert Speer also oversaw the construction of buildings for the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe, and developed a considerable organisation to deal with this work.
In 1940, Joseph Stalin proposed that Albert Speer pay a visit to Moscow. Joseph Stalin had been particularly impressed by Albert Speer's work in Paris, and wished to meet the Architect of the Reich. Adolf Hitler, alternating between amusement and anger, did not allow Albert Speer to go, fearing that Joseph Stalin would put Albert Speer in a rat hole until a new Moscow arose. When Germany invaded the Russia in 1941, Albert Speer came to doubt, despite Adolf Hitler's reassurances, that his projects for Berlin would ever be completed.
Minister of Armaments
On 8 February 1942, Minister of Armaments Fritz Todt died in a plane crash shortly after taking off from Adolf Hitler's eastern headquarters at Rastenburg. Albert Speer, who had arrived in Rastenburg the previous evening, had accepted Fritz Todt's offer to fly with him to Berlin, but had cancelled some hours before takeoff Albert Speer stated in his memoirs that the cancellation was because of exhaustion from travel and a late night meeting with Adolf Hitler. Later that day, Adolf Hitler appointed Albert Speer as Fritz Todt's successor to all of his posts. In Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer recounts his meeting with Adolf Hitler and his reluctance to take ministerial office, only doing so because Adolf Hitler commanded it. Albert Speer also states that Hermann Göring raced to Adolf Hitler's headquarters on hearing of Fritz Todt's death, hoping to claim Fritz Todt's powers. Adolf Hitler instead presented Hermann Göring with the fait accompli of Albert Speer's appointment.
At the time of Albert Speer's accession to the office, the German economy, unlike the British one, was not fully geared for war production. Consumer goods were still being produced at nearly as high a level as during peacetime. No fewer than five Supreme Authorities had jurisdiction over armament production one of which, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, had declared in November 1941 that conditions did not permit an increase in armament production. Few women were employed in the factories, which were running only one shift. One evening soon after his appointment, Albert Speer went to visit a Berlin armament factory Albert Speer found no one on the premises.
Albert Speer overcame these difficulties by centralising power over the war economy in himself. Factories were given autonomy, or as Albert Speer put it, self responsibility, and each factory concentrated on a single product. Backed by Adolf Hitler's strong support the dictator stated, Albert Speer, I'll sign anything that comes from you, Albert Speer divided the armament field according to weapon system, with experts rather than civil servants overseeing each department. No department head could be older than 55 anyone older being susceptible to routine and arrogance and no deputy older than 40. Over these departments was a central planning committee headed by Albert Speer, which took increasing responsibility for war production, and as time went by, for the German economy itself. According to the minutes of a conference at Wehrmacht High Command in March 1942, It is only Albert Speer's word that counts nowadays. Albert Speer can interfere in all departments. Already Albert Speer overrides all departments On the whole, Albert Speer's attitude is to the point. Joseph Goebbels would note in his diary in June 1943, Albert Speer is still tops with the Führer. Albert Speer is truly a genius with organisation Albert Speer was so successful in his position that by late 1943, Albert Speer was widely regarded among the National Socialist elite as a possible successor to Adolf Hitler.
While Albert Speer had tremendous power, Albert Speer was of course subordinate to Adolf Hitler. National Socialist officials sometimes went around Albert Speer by seeking direct orders from the dictator. When Albert Speer ordered peacetime building work suspended, the Gauleiters National Socialist Party district leaders obtained an exemption for their pet projects. When Albert Speer sought the appointment of Karl Hanke as a labor czar to optimise the use of German labor, Adolf Hitler, under the influence of Martin Bormann, instead appointed Fritz Sauckel. Rather than increasing female labor and taking other steps to better organise German labor, as Albert Speer flavoured, Fritz Sauckel advocated importing labor from the occupied nations and did so, obtaining workers for among other things Albert Speer's armament factories, using the most brutal methods.
On 10 December 1943, Albert Speer visited the underground Mittelwerk V-2 rocket factory that used concentration camp labor. Shocked by the conditions there 5.7 percent of the work force died that month, and to ensure the workers were in good enough shape to perform the labor, Albert Speer ordered improved conditions for the workers and the construction of the above ground Dora camp. In spite of these changes, half of the workers at Mittelwerk eventually died. Albert Speer later commented, he conditions for these prisoners were in fact barbarous, and a sense of profound involvement and personal guilt seizes me whenever I think of them.
By 1943, the Allies had gained air superiority over Germany, and bombings of German cities and industry had become commonplace. However, the Allies in their strategic bombing campaign did not concentrate on industry, and Albert Speer, with his improvisational skill, was able to overcome bombing losses. In spite of these losses, German production of tanks more than doubled in 1943, production of planes increased by 80 percent, and production time for Kriegsmarine's U-boats was reduced from one year to two months. Production would continue to increase until the second half of 1944, by which time enough equipment to supply 270 army divisions was being produced although the Wehrmacht had only 150 divisions in the field.
In January 1944, Albert Speer fell ill with complications from an inflamed knee, and was away from the office for three months. During his absence, his political rivals mainly Hermann Göring, and Martin Bormann, attempted to have some of his powers permanently transferred to them. According to Albert Speer, SS chief Heinrich Himmler tried to have him physically isolated by having Heinrich Himmler's personal physician Karl Gebhardt treat him, though his care did not improve his health. Albert Speer's wife and friends managed to have his case transferred to his friend Dr. Karl Brandt, and Albert Speer slowly recovered. In April, Albert Speer's rivals for power succeeded in having him deprived of responsibility for construction, and Albert Speer promptly sent Adolf Hitler a bitter letter, concluding with an offer of his resignation. Judging Albert Speer indispensable to the war effort, Field Marshal Erhard Milch persuaded Adolf Hitler to try to get his minister to reconsider. Adolf Hitler sent Erhard Milch to Albert Speer with a message not addressing the dispute but instead stating that he still regarded Albert Speer as highly as ever. According to Erhard Milch, upon hearing the message, Albert Speer burst out, The Führer can kiss my ass! After a lengthy argument, Erhard Milch persuaded Albert Speer to withdraw his offer of resignation, on the condition his powers were restored. On 23 April 1944, Albert Speer went to see Adolf Hitler who agreed that everything will stay as it was, Albert Speer will remain the head of all German construction.According to Albert Speer, while he was successful in this debate, Adolf Hitler had also won, because he wanted and needed me back in his corner, and he got me.
Albert Speer's name was included on the list of members of a post Adolf Hitler government drawn up by the conspirators behind the July 1944 assassination plot to kill Adolf Hitler. The list had a question mark and the annotation to be won over by his name, which likely saved him from the extensive purges that followed the scheme's failure.
By February 1945, Albert Speer, who had long concluded that the war was lost, was working to supply areas about to be occupied with food and materials to get them through the hard times ahead. On 19 March 1945, Adolf Hitler issued his Nero Decree, ordering a scorched earth policy in both Germany and the occupied territories. Adolf Hitler's order, by its terms, deprived Albert Speer of any power to interfere with the decree, and Albert Speer went to confront Adolf Hitler, telling him the war was lost. Adolf Hitler gave Albert Speer 24 hours to reconsider his position, and when the two met the following day, Albert Speer answered, I stand unconditionally behind you. However, Albert Speer demanded the exclusive power to implement the Nero Decree, and Adolf Hitler signed an order to that effect. Using this order, Albert Speer worked to persuade generals and Gauleiters to evade the Nero Decree and avoid needless sacrifice of personnel and destruction of industry that would be needed after the war.
Albert Speer managed to reach a relatively safe area near Hamburg as the National Socialist regime finally collapsed, but decided on a final, risky visit to Berlin to see Adolf Hitler one more time. Albert Speer stated at Nuremberg, I felt that it was my duty not to run away like a coward, but to stand up to him again. Albert Speer visited the Führerbunker on 22 April. Adolf Hitler seemed calm and somewhat distracted, and the two had a long, disjointed conversation in which the dictator defended his actions and informed Albert Speer of his intent to commit suicide and have his body burned. In the published edition of Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer relates that he confessed to Adolf Hitler that he had defied the Nero Decree, but then assured Adolf Hitler of his personal loyalty, bringing tears to the dictator's eyes. Albert Speer biographer Gitta Sereny argued, Psychologically, it is possible that this is the way Albert Speer remembered the occasion, because it was how he would have liked to behave, and the way he would have liked Adolf Hitler to react. But the fact is that none of it happened our witness to this is Albert Speer himself. Gitta Sereny goes on to note that Albert Speer's original draft of his memoirs lacks the confession and Adolf Hitler's tearful reaction, and contains an explicit denial that any confession or emotional exchange took place, as had been alleged in a French magazine article.
The following morning, Albert Speer left the Führerbunker, with Adolf Hitler curtly bidding him farewell. Albert Speer toured the damaged Chancellery one last time before leaving Berlin to return to Hamburg. On 29 April, the day before committing suicide, Adolf Hitler dictated a final political testament which dropped Albert Speer from the successor government. Albert Speer was to be replaced by his own subordinate, Karl-Otto Saur.
After Adolf Hitler's death, Albert Speer offered his services to the so-called Flensburg Government, headed by Adolf Hitler's successor, Karl Dönitz, and took a significant role in that short lived regime. On 15 May the Americans arrived and asked Albert Speer if he would be willing to provide information on the effects of the air war. Albert Speer agreed, and over the next several days, provided information on a broad range of subjects. On 23 May two weeks after the surrender of German troops, the Allies arrested the members of the Flensburg Government and brought National Socialist Germany to a formal end.
Albert Speer was taken to several internment centres for National Socialist officials and interrogated. In September 1945, Albert Speer was told that he would be tried for war crimes, and several days later, Albert Speer was taken to Nuremberg and incarcerated there. Albert Speer was indicted on all four possible counts: first, participating in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of crime against peace, second, planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace, third, war crimes, and lastly, crimes against humanity.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, the chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg, alleged, Albert Speer joined in planning and executing the program to dragoon prisoners of war and foreign workers into German war industries, which waxed in output while the workers waned in starvation. Albert Speer's attorney, Dr. Hans Flächsner, presented Albert Speer as an artist thrust into political life, who had always remained a nonideological and who had been promised by Adolf Hitler that he could return to architecture after the war. During his testimony, Albert Speer accepted responsibility for the National Socialist regime's actions:
In political life, there is a responsibility for a man's own sector. For that he is of course fully responsible. But beyond that there is a collective responsibility when he has been one of the leaders. Who else is to be held responsible for the course of events, if not the closest associates around the Chief of State?
An observer at the trial, journalist and author William L. Shirer, wrote that, compared to his codefendants, Albert Speer made the most straightforward impression of all and during the long trial spoke honestly and with no attempt to shirk his responsibility and his guilt. Albert Speer also testified that Albert Speer had planned to kill Adolf Hitler in early 1945 by dropping a canister of poison gas into the bunker's air intake. Albert Speer said his efforts were frustrated by a high wall that had been built around the air intake. Albert Speer stated his motive was despair at realising that Adolf Hitler intended to take the German people down with him. Albert Speer's supposed assassination plan subsequently met with some scepticism, with Albert Speer's architectural rival Hermann Giesler sneering, the second most powerful man in the state did not have a ladder.
Albert Speer was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, though Albert Speer was acquitted on the other two counts. On 1 October 1946, Albert Speer was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. While three of the eight judges two Russian and one American initially advocated the death penalty for Albert Speer, the other judges did not, and a compromise sentence was reached after two days' discussion and some rather bitter horse trading.
The court's judgement stated that
In the closing stages of the war Albert Speer was one of the few men who had the courage to tell Adolf Hitler that the war was lost and to take steps to prevent the senseless destruction of production facilities, both in occupied territories and in Germany. Albert Speer carried out his opposition to Adolf Hitler's scorched earth program by deliberately sabotaging it at considerable personal risk.
Twelve of the defendants were sentenced to death including Martin Bormann, in absentia and three acquitted only seven of the defendants were sentenced to imprisonment. They remained in the cells at Nuremberg as the Allies debated where, and under what conditions, they should be incarcerated.
On 18 July 1947, Albert Speer and his six fellow prisoners, all former high officials of the National Socialist regime, were flown from Nuremberg to Berlin under heavy guard. The prisoners were taken to Spandau Prison in the British Sector of what would become West Berlin, where they would be designated by number, with Albert Speer given Number Five. Initially, the prisoners were kept in solitary confinement for all but half an hour a day, and were not permitted to address each other or their guards. As time passed, the strict regimen was relaxed, especially during the three months in four that the three Western powers were in control the four occupying powers took overall control on a monthly rotation. Albert Speer considered himself an outcast among his fellow prisoners for his acceptance of responsibility at Nuremberg.
Albert Speer made a deliberate effort to make as productive a use of his time as possible. Albert Speer wrote, I am obsessed with the idea of using this time of confinement for writing a book of major importance That could mean transforming prison cell into scholar's den. The prisoners were forbidden to write memoirs, and mail was severely limited and censored. However, as a result of an offer from a sympathetic orderly, Albert Speer was able to have his writings, which eventually amounted to 20,000 sheets, sent to Rudolf Wolters. By 1954, Albert Speer had completed his memoirs, which became the basis of Inside the Third Reich, and which Rudolf Wolters arranged to have transcribed onto 1,100 typewritten pages. Albert Speer was also able to send letters and financial instructions, and to obtain writing paper and letters from the outside. His many letters to his children, all secretly transmitted, eventually formed the basis for Spandau: The Secret Diaries.
With the draft memoir complete and clandestinely transmitted, Albert Speer sought a new project. Albert Speer found one while taking his daily exercise, walking in circles around the prison yard. Measuring the path's distance carefully, Albert Speer set out to walk the distance from Berlin to Heidelberg. Albert Speer then expanded his idea into a worldwide journey, visualising the places he was travelling through while walking the path around the prison yard. Albert Speer ordered guidebooks and other materials about the nations through which he imagined he was passing, so as to envisage as accurate a picture as possible. Meticulously calculating every meter travelled, and mapping distances to the real world geography, he began in northern Germany, passed through Asia by a southern route before entering Siberia, then crossed the Bering Strait and continued southwards, finally ending his sentence 35 kilometres south of Guadalajara, Mexico.
Albert Speer devoted much of his time and energy to reading. Though the prisoners brought some books with them in their personal property, Spandau Prison had no library so books were sent from Spandau's municipal library. From 1952 the prisoners were also able to order books from the Berlin central library in Wilmersdorf. Albert Speer was a voracious reader and he completed well over 500 books in the first three years at Spandau alone. Albert Speer read classic novels, travelogues, books on ancient Egypt, and biographies of such figures as Lucas Cranach, Friedrich Preller, and Genghis Khan. Albert Speer took to the prison garden for enjoyment and work, at first to do something constructive while afflicted with writer's block. Albert Speer was allowed to build an ambitious garden, transforming what he initially described as a wilderness into what the American commander at Spandau described as Albert Speer's Garden of Eden.
Albert Speer's supporters maintained a continual call for his release. Among those who pledged support for Albert Speer's sentence to be commuted were Charles de Gaulle, U.S. diplomat George Ball, former U.S. High Commissioner John J. McCloy, and former Nuremberg prosecutor Hartley Shawcross. Willy Karl Brandt was a strong advocate of Albert Speer's, supporting his release, sending flowers to his daughter on the day of his release, and putting an end to the denazification proceedings against Albert Speer, which could have caused his property to be confiscated. A reduced sentence required the consent of all four of the occupying powers, and the Russians adamantly opposed any such proposal. Albert Speer served his full sentence, and was released on 1 October 1966.
Release and later life
Albert Speer's release from prison was a worldwide media event, as reporters and photographers crowded both the street outside Spandau and the lobby of the Berlin hotel where Albert Speer spent his first hours of freedom in over 20 years. Albert Speer said little, reserving most comments for a major interview published in Der Spiegel in November 1966, in which Albert Speer again took personal responsibility for crimes of the National Socialist regime. Abandoning plans to return to architecture two proposed partners died shortly before his release, Albert Speer revised his Spandau writings into two autobiographical books, and later researched and published a third work, about Heinrich Himmler and the SS. His books, most notably Inside the Third Reich n German, Erinnerungen, or Reminiscences and Spandau: The Secret Diaries, provide a unique and personal look into the personalities of the National Socialist era, and have become much valued by historians. Albert Speer was aided in shaping the works by Joachim Fest and Wolf Jobst Siedler from the publishing house Ullstein. Albert Speer found himself unable to re-establish his relationship with his children, even with his son Albert, who had also become an architect. According to Albert Speer's daughter Hilde, One by one my sister and brothers gave up. There was no communication.
Following the publication of his bestselling books, Albert Speer donated a considerable amount of money to Jewish charities. According to Siedler, these donations were as high as 80% of his royalties. Albert Speer kept the donations anonymous, both for fear of rejection, and for fear of being called a hypocrite.
As early as 1953, when Rudolf Wolters strongly objected to Albert Speer referring to Adolf Hitler in the memoirs draft as a criminal, Albert Speer had predicted that were the writings to be published, Albert Speer would lose a good many friends This came to pass, as following the publication of Inside the Third Reich, close friends, such as Rudolf Wolters and sculptor Arno Breker, distanced themselves from him. Hans Baur, Adolf Hitler's personal pilot, suggested, Albert Speer must have taken leave of his senses. Rudolf Wolters wondered that Albert Speer did not now walk through life in a hair shirt, distributing his fortune among the victims of National Socialism, forswear all the vanities and pleasures of life and live on locusts and wild honey.
Albert Speer made himself widely available to historians and other enquirers. Albert Speer did an extensive, in depth interview for the June 1971 issue of Playboy magazine, in which Albert Speer stated, If I didn't see it, then it was because I didn't want to see it. In October 1973, Albert Speer made his first trip to Britain, flying to London under an assumed name to be interviewed on the BBC Midweek programme by Ludovic Kennedy. Upon arrival, Albert Speer was detained for almost eight hours at Heathrow Airport when British immigration authorities discovered his true identity. The Home Secretary, Robert Carr, allowed Albert Speer into the country for 48 hours. While in London eight years later to participate in the BBC Newsnight programme, Albert Speer suffered a stroke and died on 1 September 1981. Albert Speer had formed a relationship with a German born Englishwoman, and was with her at the time of his death.
Even to the end of his life, Albert Speer continued to question his actions under Adolf Hitler. In his final book, Infiltration, Albert Speer asks, What would have happened if Adolf Hitler had asked me to make decisions that required the utmost hardness? How far would I have gone? If I had occupied a different position, to what extent would I have ordered atrocities if Adolf Hitler had told me to do so? Albert Speer leaves the questions unanswered.
Legacy and controversy
The view of Albert Speer as an unpolitical miracle man is challenged by Yale historian Adam Tooze. In his 2006 book, The Wages of Destruction, Adam Tooze, following Gitta Sereny, argues that Albert Speer's ideological commitment to the National Socialist cause was greater than Albert Speer claimed. Adam Tooze further contends that an insufficiently challenged Albert Speer mythology partly fostered by Albert Speer himself through politically motivated, tendentious use of statistics and other propaganda had led many historians to assign Albert Speer far more credit for the increases in armaments production than was warranted and give insufficient consideration to the highly political function of the so-called armaments miracle.
Little remains of Albert Speer's personal architectural works, other than the plans and photographs. No buildings designed by Albert Speer in the National Socialist era remain in Berlin a double row of lampposts along the Strasse des 17. Juni designed by Albert Speer still stands. The tribune of the Zeppelinfeld stadium in Nuremberg, though partly demolished, may also be seen. Albert Speer's work may also be seen in London, where Albert Speer redesigned the interior of the German Embassy to the United Kingdom, then located at 79 Carlton House Terrace. Since 1967, it has served as the offices of the Royal Society. His work there, stripped of its National Socialist fixtures and partially covered by carpets, survives in part.
Another legacy was the Arbeitsstab Wiederaufbau zerstörter Städte Working group on Reconstruction of destroyed cities, authorised by Albert Speer in 1943 to rebuild bombed German cities to make them more liveable in the age of the automobile. Headed by Rudolf Wolters, the working group took a possible military defeat into their calculations. The Arbeitsstab's recommendations served as the basis of the post war redevelopment plans in many cities, and Arbeitsstab members became prominent in the rebuilding.
As General Building Inspector, Albert Speer was responsible for the Central Department for Resettlement. From 1939 onward, the Department used the Nuremberg Laws to evict Jewish tenants of non-Jewish landlords in Berlin, to make way for non-Jewish tenants displaced by redevelopment or bombing. Eventually, 75,000 Jews were displaced by these measures. Albert Speer was aware of these activities, and inquired as to their progress. At least one original memo from Albert Speer so inquiring still exists, as does the Chronicle of the Department's activities, kept by Rudolf Wolters.
Following his release from Spandau, Albert Speer presented to the German Federal Archives an edited version of the Chronicle, stripped by Rudolf Wolters of any mention of the Jews. When David Irving discovered discrepancies between the edited Chronicle and other documents, Rudolf Wolters explained the situation to Albert Speer, who responded by suggesting to Rudolf Wolters that the relevant pages of the original Chronicle should cease to exist. Rudolf Wolters did not destroy the Chronicle, and, as his friendship with Albert Speer deteriorated, allowed access to the original Chronicle to doctoral student Matthias Schmidt who, after obtaining his doctorate, developed his thesis into a book, Albert Speer, The End of a Myth. Albert Speer considered Rudolf Wolters' actions to be a betrayal and a stab in the back. The original Chronicle reached the Archives in 1983, after both Albert Speer and Rudolf Wolters had died.
Albert Speer maintained at Nuremberg and in his memoirs that he had no knowledge of the Holocaust. In Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer wrote that in the middle of 1944, he was told by Karl Hanke by then Gauleiter of Lower Silesia that the minister should never accept an invitation to inspect a concentration camp in neigbouring Upper Silesia, as he had seen something there which he was not permitted to describe and moreover could not describe Albert Speer later concluded that Karl Hanke must have been speaking of Auschwitz, and blamed himself for not inquiring further of Karl Hanke or seeking information from Heinrich Himmler or Adolf Hitler.
These seconds when Karl Hanke told Albert Speer this, and Albert Speer did not inquire were uppermost in my mind when I stated to the international court at the Nuremberg Trial that, as an important member of the leadership of the Reich, I had to share the total responsibility for all that had happened. For from that moment on I was inescapably contaminated morally from fear of discovering something which might have made me turn from my course, I had closed my eyes Because I failed at that time, I still feel, to this day, responsible for Auschwitz in a wholly personal sense.
Much of the controversy over Albert Speer's knowledge of the Holocaust has centred on his presence at the Posen Conference on 6 October 1943, at which Heinrich Himmler gave a speech detailing the ongoing Holocaust to National Socialist leaders. Heinrich Himmler said, The grave decision had to be taken to cause this people to vanish from the earth In the lands we occupy, the Jewish question will be dealt with by the end of the year. Albert Speer is mentioned several times in the speech, and Heinrich Himmler seems to address him directly. In Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer mentions his own address to the officials which took place earlier in the day but does not mention Heinrich Himmler's speech.
In 1971, American historian Erich Goldhagen published an article arguing that Albert Speer was present for Heinrich Himmler's speech. According to Fest in his biography of Albert Speer, Goldhagen's accusation certainly would have been more convincing had he not placed supposed incriminating statements linking Albert Speer with the Holocaust in quotation marks, attributed to Heinrich Himmler, which were in fact invented by Goldhagen. In response, after considerable research in the German Federal Archives in Koblenz, Albert Speer said he had left Posen around noon long before Heinrich Himmler's speech in order to journey to Adolf Hitler's headquarters at Rastenburg. In Inside the Third Reich, published before the Goldhagen article, Albert Speer recalled that on the evening after the conference, many National Socialist officials were so drunk that they needed help boarding the special train which was to take them to a meeting with Adolf Hitler. One of his biographers, Dan van der Vat, suggests this necessarily implies Albert Speer must have still been present at Posen then, and must have heard Heinrich Himmler's speech. In response to Goldhagen's article, Albert Speer had alleged that in writing Inside the Third Reich, he erred in reporting an incident that happened at another conference at Posen a year later, as happening in 1943.
In 2005, The Daily Telegraph reported that documents had surfaced indicating that Albert Speer had approved the allocation of materials for the expansion of Auschwitz after two of his assistants toured the facility on a day when almost a thousand Jews were murdered. The documents supposedly bore annotations in Albert Speer's own handwriting. Albert Speer biographer Gitta Sereny stated that, due to his workload, Albert Speer would not have been personally aware of such activities.
The debate over Albert Speer's knowledge of, or complicity in, the Holocaust made him a symbol for people who were involved with the National Socialist regime yet did not have or claimed not to have had an active part in the regime's atrocities. As film director Heinrich Breloer remarked, Albert Speer created a market for people who said, 'Believe me, I didn't know anything about the Holocaust. Just look at the Führer's friend, he didn't know about it either.
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