A talented architect as well as an opportunistic individual who pursued his goals, discarding obstacles despite the traumatic occurrences throughout his childhood. Albert Speer, a complex personality whilst obtaining acute intelligence leading him to rise in becoming one of the most powerful and prominent men in The Third Reich. Throughout his early architectural work, subsequent role as Armaments Minister in deportation and treatment of the Jews and also his relationship with Hitler, attained extreme growth within his architectural career. Joining the Nazi party on the 1st March 1931, an aspect of opportunity and luck contributed to Speer’s rise to prominence as Hitler’s own personal architect as the as the ‘First Architect of the Reich’ as he quickly proved his worth by his efficient and staging of Nazi events.
Although appearing from a wealthy upper-middle class family, Speer experienced a childhood interrupted by war. In juxtaposition to this, Speer had felt as if his family had never noticed his presence as well as feeling like a stranger within his own home. Despite his lack of attention he desired from his family, he felt an extensive amount of respect for his father leading him to follow in his footsteps just as Albert senior did to his father. In 1914 Germany declared war on France, Speer dreamt of the heroic soldiers at the front and felt great envy toward them even sharing their hardships at times by sleeping on the floor. Further on into his life, Speer found himself studying at the Institute of Technology in Berlin where he the graduated with his architectural license in 1928 and soon after at age twenty three became Tessenow’s assistant which set him in a secure position due to the extent of unemployment throughout post-war.
Speer joined the Nazi party in 1931 after attending rallies which influenced his decision initiating him to disregard the further policies that followed. Karl Hanke administered Speer his first opportunity to design Joseph Goebbels’ headquarters in Berlin, acquiring great approval for his work by Goebbels and Hitler proving to be a success. Commencing after his work for Goebbels, Speer was handed various possibilities due to his work ethic as well as his architectural designs in representation of the Nazis and their ideology. Due to his ability to deliver results on time he began to gain himself a reputation, in 1933, he was appointed the task to design the decorations of the following years Nuremberg Rally in which was a major success. He was also assigned to design what he called his ‘masterpiece’, The Cathedral of Light which became a main aesthetic feature of the Nazi rallies in Nuremberg starting 1933.
After Speer and Hitler found themselves having daily visits to the old Chancellor’s residence in regards of refurbishment, they began to develop a relationship. Several weeks passed and Hitler found himself inviting Speer out to lunch. Seated at Hitler’s side at the lunch table, Speer did not go unnoticed by the other lunch guests. The lunch contained of conversation in regards to Speer’s work as he had shared Hitler’s prime passion other than politics. Speer was developing a closing bond with Hitler raising his status within the party creating himself a direct path in eventually becoming the second most important man in Germany.
Prior to the outbreak of war, the commencement for work to be done in Berlin had began to take place. In preparation Speer had anticipated his work in January 1939 with the establishment of the main resettlement. The resettlement division appointed all tenants whose apartments were to be demolished new accommodation outside of the construction zone however, Jewish circumstances were that they had to be placed outside of Berlin. In August 1941, Speer gave a commandment for the clearance of 5000 Jewish apartments where after Goebbels would then have take over the resettlement. Despite the fact that 40% of Berlin’s Jews worked in the armaments industry as well as their significance to the war effort, Hitler was initially supporting Speer in the resistance of the deportation of the Jews although Goebbels further changed his mind informing Hitler that Berlin should be cleansed of all Jewish people. The concluding agreement of Berlin’s Jews began October 10th 1941 where they were under heavy guard to a railway station in which they were to flee to occupied eastern territories such as Poland, Latvia and Ukraine. This was the beginning of Speer’s involvement within the Nazi ideology for the removal of all Jewish people however is controversial whether Speer had insight to the final solution as well as knowing the final destination in which the trains would take them.
1942 the death of Fritz Todt due to a plane accident however, believed to be no accident. Theory emerged believing that Hitler had plotted the death of Todt due to his lack of belief in Hitler as well as his suspicion that Todt would flee Germany just as his previous deputy did creating a void within The Third Reich’s Armaments Minister. Hitler bestowed Speer the position considering his determined work ethic, focus on results as well as entrusting that Speer would never betray him. At his time as Armaments Minister Speer focused purely on his work increasing overall production by 60%, regardless of his improvements Germany had only just caught up to those of the first World War and were still well below the enemies war production. As Hitler’s personal architect and later as general building inspector for Berlin demonstrating Speer’s ability frequently that he was able to get things done.
During 1943 Speer was at the height of his power, at this time Himmler had also presented a speech explaining the ‘Final Solution’ and when it was to be carried out. He stated how “this has absolutely nothing to do with party-comrade Speer” however became a heated controversy as Speer claimed to have no insight or actions toward the execution of the Jews. He held authority to make change and upon inspection of Camp Dora, he immediately ordered construction of barracks and better, banned the execution of prisoners by the SS and also had better diets introduced to ensure prisoner performance in completing work tasks and to reduce the risk of loss of labour due to death but mentioned nothing about changing these conditions due to his humanitarian nature. Speer’s rise was rapid at this time and by 1944 he held responsibility for all of the German war economy with millions of workers under his authority.
The year of Speer’s fortieth birthday, Hitler took no responsibility for his military and political errors and informed Speer that if Germany were to lose the war then it would all be because the German race was weak and that they were doomed for destruction. Hitler issued the scorched earth decree ordering that all things valuable to the enemy post-war within the Reich be destroyed. This included telephone exchanges, bridges, factories, power stations, fuel depots, sewer systems and banks also any offices in which held extensive records of Germany. By this time Speer had considered the assassination of Hitler as their relationship seemed to be deteriorating in order to cease his plans however, Speer never executed on these arrangements. In the last few months of the war his only chance of obstructing Hitler’s scorched earth policy was to appeal directly to the Gauleiters which meant handing over his Armaments production to his deputy devoting his time and energy to saving the German industry. During the months of January and April 1945, Speer risked his life making multiple trips to battle zones attempting to obstruct Hitler’s policy.
Throughout the last few weeks of the war, Germany rapidly fell. Concentration camps were liberated by soviet soldiers triggering the SS to immediately flee as soldiers unfolded the horrific actions enforced by the Nazis. Following the German surrender, the allies captured majority of the Nazis in command separating them into political and technological members of the regime. Speer was the only Nazi Minister whom had been classified as a technical leader giving him some form of hope that he would be able to breakout of the condemnation for Nazi war crimes. All of the accused were to stand trial in Nuremberg at the palace of justice in which lead Speer to contemplate an act of suicide in order to face the crimes he tried so desperately to get out of.
In the course of his trial, Speer stated “the trial is necessary. There is a common responsibility for such horrible crimes, even in a totalitarian state” in light that he would be demonstrating a favourable impression of remorse to the judge. The Nuremberg trials were the time of absolute decline within Speer’s career being charged on all four counts however, made a perception that he had no knowledge of the conditions within the concentration camps as well as denying his awareness in regards to the Jewish solution. Considering Speer worked awfully close to Hitler, in commencement of his trial he has stated that “if Hitler had actually had friends, I would have certainly been one of his close friends” followed by Speer’s decline to having taken any part in the events of the Nazi war crimes leing his last words to the court “I should have known, but I didn’t”.
Acknowledging the catastrophe made upon the German people as well as the world, after being sentenced only twenty years imprisonment Speer took accountability for his contribution the the war however, also placing blame on Hitler stating that he was giving the commands in which Speer followed during his Nuremberg trial.
Despite having denied knowledge on the concentration camps as well as the ‘final solution’ implemented by Hitler, among the early years of Speer’s imprisonment life he showed great remorse and such a guilty conscience due to his partake in the war as well as such horrific crimes. In his diary written whilst in prison, he had specified how he had been caught up in Hitler’s regime and how he had turned such a blind eye to Hitler’s anti-semitic ideology. Among Speer’s release out of Spandau prison, national guilt blanketed Germany although Speer seemed to make the nation come to terms with the situation due to his lack of insight toward the war crimes.
Albert Speer’s prominence in history as a result of his role as Hitler’s architect, Minister of Armaments as well as his performance at the Nuremberg trials at the conclusion of WII. His personality and seemingly deceptive character resulted in him achieving an extensive amount of power and authority within The Third Reich, extending the duration of the war as well as increasing war production and pardoning the German nation from the guilt of the final solution. Therefore this proceeded to Albert Speer becoming commemorated as one of the most controversial and prominent figures in The Third Reich in addition to German history.