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Speer, Albert (1905-1981)
Hitler's architect, German Minister of Armaments from 1942-1945
Entering Hitler's Inner Circle
In January 1931, Speer joined the National Socialist party. Shortly after the Nazis' rise to power, he was awarded his first large party contracts: redesigning Joseph Goebbels's official residence, and planning the May 1 celebrations in Berlin. His work attracted Hitler's attention and he personally gave Speer assignments. While working together, the two developed close ties of friendship. Hitler admitted Speer to his inner circle, opened up intoxicating new fields of action for him, and in the course of time allowed him a measure of freedom that no other member of Hitler's entourage ever enjoyed. Speer, in turn, gave Hitler outstanding service and complete loyalty.
In 1934, Speer succeeded Paul Ludwig Troost, who had died early that year, as Hitler's architect. He was given two tasks to perform: to draw up a plan for Berlin, and to create a permanent installation for party conventions and party pageantry in Nuremberg. On both of these projects, Hitler and Speer jointly developed megalomaniac building plans. In 1937, Speer was officially appointed inspector general of construction of the Reich's capital. This meant, among other things, that his department took charge of the apartments from which Berlin Jews were evicted in 1939. After deportations of Berlin's Jews to the East began in the fall of 1941, Speer's office had more apartments to allocate. Minister of Armaments. When Fritz Todt was killed in an air accident in February 1942, Speer was appointed to succeed him as minister of armaments; in September 1943, he was named minister of armaments and war production. In this capacity he was able, by using millions of forced labourers, to raise armaments production to a remarkable degree, at the very time that Allied air attacks were growing in intensity. Hitler's backing also helped Speer in his struggles with old-time party members and in the jungle of ill-defined spheres of authority that characterised the Nazi elite.
Speer's Relationship with Hitler Deteriorates
Toward the end of the war, Speer's relations with Hitler deteriorated, but it was only in the final weeks that a real change took place. In violation of an explicit order by Hitler, Speer did not permit the destruction of industry and essential installations in the areas of Germany that were about to fall into Allied hands. He later claimed that he also planned Hitler's assassination, but it is unlikely that he really meant to carry it out. T he Nuremberg Trial. After the war, Speer was put on trial for war crimes by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, charged with employing forced labourers and concentration camp prisoners. Unusual in the trial was his admission of responsibility for the actions of the Nazi regime, including actions of which he claimed he had had no knowledge. He was found guilty on two counts - war crimes, and crimes against humanity - and was sentenced to twenty years' imprisonment.
Following his release, Speer published his memoirs, "Inside the Third Reich"(1970), which gained a great deal of attention. Many scholars dealing with the Nazi era have accepted the authenticity of this self-portrait. Some, like Hugh R. Trevor-Roper, have seen in Speer, the man who ignored the political implications of the regime and served it with absolute loyalty, "the real criminal of the Nazi regime." Others believe he was far more involved in the regime's actions than he admitted.
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