Albert Speer Outline Albert Speer’s Role within the Nazi regime Albert Speer’s Role in the Nazi Regime primarily was centred on a couple of areas, his work as the General Building Inspector (GBI), the chief architect of the Reich and his role as Armaments Minister. Speer’s ascendancy within the Nazi hierarchy has been described by Henry King as ‘vertical and ladder like, Speer was an intelligent, affluent and well educated man and there is no doubt that he made a remarkable progression through the ranks of the Nazi Party.
In less than ten years Albert Speer no longer was the humble architect but became the master of the German economy and production in Germany. In December 1930 Speer attended a Nazi rally after he had heard some of his students discussing the policies of the Nazi party, and was intrigued to learn more about Hitler. In attending the Nazi rally, Speer became fixated upon the extraordinary oratory skills of Hitler whom on the occasion dressed professionally in a suit. Speer applied for membership and was accepted on the 1st of March 1931.
This was two years before Hitler’s rise to the position of Chancellor and it reveals that Speer saw that Hitler was the right individual to take Germany back to its glory days and was not one of the countless Germans who joined after 1933. This is evident as Speer was given a party number which was 474481. Speer in his memoir ‘inside the third Reich’, gives reason to why he joined the Nazi Party which was the fear of communism, admiration for Hitler and the rejection of the Treaty of Versailles and what it had imposed upon the German people.
He joined several Nazi organisations including the NSKK (motoring corps), becoming head of his local sub-branch. In 1933 Karl Hanke a Nazi official was the first to make contact with Speer, whom asked Speer to redecorate a villa he recently started renting. Hanke was pleased with the resulting work recommended Speer to Goebbels to Ministry of Propaganda building in Berlin. Speer designed the 1933 May Day rally in Berlin after criticising the original design he saw on Karl Hanke’s desk, whom was now state secretary to the Minister for Propaganda. Speer stated that it would be a rifle meet, and Hanke responded in challenging
Speer to submit a new design. The new design as Speer later learned that his design pleased Hitler, whom adored the large party banners incorporated into the rally. Organisers of the Nuremburg party rally asked Speer to submit a design, Rudolf Hess and the other organisers were apprehensive in approving the design and asked Speer to go to Munich to get approval from Hitler. Hitler without taking a look at Speer instantly approved the design and this awarded Albert Speer his first Nazi post as Commissioner for the Artistic and Technical Presentation of Party Rallies and Demonstrations.
Albert Speer has maintained the perception that he was not anti-Semitic even though this was part of the core Nazi ideology. In his role as the General Building Inspector he was directly responsible for the evictions of Jews, whom he relocated to the east, the pretence given was for the flats to be available for non-Jews whose homes have been damaged by British air raids. Tens of thousands of flats were cleared by his order. It has been constantly argued by historians of whether Speer attended the meeting at Posen in where Himmler presented the Final Soulution and the need to eradicate all Jews from society.
Speer’s biographer, Dan van der Vat, acknowledges that Speer must have known of it and was probably there due to his high status amongst the Nazi Hierarchy. Speer became a workaholic who neglected his family due to the increasing strain his new duties involved such as the 1936 Berlin Olympics in redesigning the new stadium to fit the demands of Hitler and Germany’s pavilion in the Paris World Fair in 1937. By 1937, Speer became the leading architect for the third Reich, with the support of Hitler.
In 1937 he was appointed General Building Inspector, in this role Speer would oversee the redesigning of Berlin which would become the Reich capital known as Germania. To accomplish his needs Speer was given the highest German civil grade. Speer’s talent for organisation served him well as a public servant. When war the war broke out in 1939, Speer had amassed a plethora of building materials and trucks and a building staff of thousands of workers prepared to rebuild damage from British air raids. Furthermore Speer granted the use of the resources from his ministry towards the war effort.
In February 1942, Fritz Todt the minister for weaponry and munitions and civil engineer died in a plane crash. At 1:00pm on that same day Albert Speer was summoned to Hitler’s office that appointed Speer as Todt’s successor and assumed all of Todts offices. In this role Speer became responsible for German Construction and energy industries. Speer reorganised the munitions industry to make it more efficient, which resulted in production increasing exponentially to its peak in 1944 despite ongoing Allied air bombing.
His ministry gained the power to punish arms manufacturers or construction contractors who made false claims for labour, equipment or resources. His first move under this provision was to send two managers to a concentration camp (without trial) for using conscription-exempt workers as domestic servants. Within taking over from Todt, Speer in six months had increased the German output of ammunition, cannons and tanks. Speer stressed three areas innovation, flexibility and improvisation. Hitler was very pleased with Speer’s work, he granted Speer unusual levels of freedom, which allowed Speer to have free reign within the government.
In May 1942 he was appointed one of two co-dictators of transport. The railways became more efficient. A large number of labour forces were sent to the east, to build roads in order increase the efficiency of mobility in the East. Many of the labourers used in Speer’s various activities were slave-workers from concentration camps, workers conscripted from occupied countries or prisoners of war. For the purely practical reason that healthy workers work harder, Speer tried to ensure that his workers at least received an adequate diet. In January 1944 health problems put Speer into a clinic and long convalescence (until April 1944).
During this period of isolation and reflection he apparently became disenchanted with Hitler. By this time the war situation had become so bad for Germany that even Speer’s administrative talents and efficiency drives were unable to stem the tide of disasters. In mid-1944, when Hitler ordered his Minister of Armaments to stop producing fighter aircraft in order to increase anti-aircraft gun production, Speer ignored the Fuhrer’s orders for the first time. In November 1944 Speer admitted privately to Goebbels that it was unrealistic to believe in a
German victory. In January 1945 he publicly admitted that even the secret weapons, the V1 and V2 rocket bombs, would not save Germany. In February 1945 Speer apparently decided to remove Hitler by gassing him in his bunker. He justified his decision by a passage from Mein Kampf in which Hitler had argued that a leader who betrayed the interests of his own people should be removed. Speer claimed that he gave up on this project because he found the bunker roof heavily guarded by the SS and an inaccessible new three-metre high chimney for the bunker’s air vent.
Biographer Dan van der Vat is very sceptical about this and raises questions about whether Speer ever seriously intended to go through with it. He points out that the Speer knew the ventilation fitting of the bunker were designed so that any poison gas put in would run out again. Speer was defiant of Hitler and at any possible opportunity particularly when Hitler gave his Scorched Earth Policy. This was the total destruction of all infrastructure of Germany; Hitler became instable and believed the German people have betrayed him and that they deserve to perish.
Speer in his efforts managed to salvage thousands of bridges, roads, transportation, communication and power installations. Therefore the German people though defeated may be able to survive and rebuild post World War 2. Albert Speer in his role within the Nazi regime contributed to Germany’s capacity to wage war which resulted in further casualties caused. This coincides that due to Speer’s intervention in prolonging the conflict in resulted in more Jews being gassed in the death camps of Dachau, and Auschwitz.
Speer therefore played integral role within the Nazi regime, due to his extraordinary sills of organisation and efficiency. Assess the extent to which Albert Speer could be accused of being ‘the real criminal of the Nazi regime’ (Hugh Trevor Roper) Albert Speer has been labelled the good Nazi, from how he conducted himself at the Nuremburg trials in representing himself as remorseful for his actions within the regime. But Speer has maintained that he had no knowledge of the persecution of the Jews as well as the implementation of the final solution despite being within Hitler’s inner circle.
It is here that Speer can be distinguished to an extent that he is the real criminal of the Nazi regime. It reveals the conundrum that exists because of Speer’s denial of ever knowing of the genocide against the Jews despite being in a leading position within the Nazi regime. The relationship between Adolf Hitler and Albert Speer was one that represented devotion, loyalty and friendship. Speer was not in a political position which allowed Hitler to discuss things a lot more easily compared to discussions with Himmler, Goering and Goebbels.
Hitler conversed with Speer frequently with the Germania project, a project of which Hitler conceived in 1923 and written into his Mein Kampf. This relationship would propel Speer higher into Nazi hierarchy. Speer through his connection was able to secure the position of chief architect of the Reich and Armaments Minister on the recommendation of the Furher. Hitler was exceptionally pleased with Speers work and invited him to dinner. According to K. J Mason, “Speer’s relationship with Hitler opened up new opportunities for him, and he in turn gave Hitler outstanding service and total loyalty”.
Speer in his position saw as early in 1942 in a conversation with fritz Todt that Germany cannot win the war, and because of this Speer had ample opportunity to withdraw his support of Hitler due to the inevitable defeat that Germany would meet by the allies. However in light of the evidence Speer still gave his support to Hitler, and remained obedient and followed Hitler’s orders. In this role Speer would drag the conflict in Europe for a further three years resulting in further deaths and more Jews to be gassed in concentration camps.
Albert Speer in his position as the General Building Inspector contributed to the persecution of the Jews. As part of the Germania project in rebuilding Berlin, Speer’s committee evicted Jewish people living in flats and was told by his superiors that they were going to be relocated to the East. This alludes to the Jewish mass deportation to Nazi concentration/death camps situated in Poland. Speer in his memoir Inside the Third Reich, in response to his actions mentioned that he tried to locate these Jewish families of hom he evicted on where they were sent too, and quickly came to the conclusion that they were murdered. Speer made the remark ‘of the terrible things, I knew nothing’ and it fits with the character he assumed during the Nuremburg Trials as a man oblivious to the inner workings of the Nazi Regime. In his analysis of himself, Speer remarked that as an architect from 1933-1942 he was harmless and that he was working tirelessly for the third Reich in improving the Reich buildings and fulfilling Hitler’s dream project of Germania.
This however changes when in 1942 replaced Fritz Todt as armaments minister, in this role Speer became the ruthless operator who clawed and flattened his way to the top (Higgins). Furthermore this coincides with the polycratic structure of the Nazi government, as Speer could overrule other ministers such as Himmler in regards to the forced labour camps with the intervention of Hitler. The relationship between Speer and Hitler would ensure that Speer would continue to propel to the higher positions within the Nazi regime, on the backing of Hitler’s unwavering support to his favourite architect.
In Speer’s role as Armaments minister, he held a position of authority during a time (1942-45) when some of the extreme atrocities of the Nazi Regime where committed. This is evident with the Final Solution and the Warsaw Uprising took place during this time. Speer did not have experience in military affairs but did have a strong quality in that he was an efficient organiser and could maximise the total production in Germany which would translate into more arms reequip German soldiers and as well as replace broken tanks, planes and u boats.
He changes Speer implemented was changing Germany’s economy from the implementation of the four year plan headed by Hermann Goering, which curtailed the prices of foreign importations, fixing wages and prices; stock dividends were restricted to six per cent on book capital to an economy that became a total war economy in line with the countries of the United Kingdom and United States of America. Speer changed this by restructuring the economy into a total war economy which allowed it to focus its efforts primarily on armaments production and increase Germany’s ability to conduct war.
Historians have continuously debated on whether Albert Speer attended the meeting at Posen Conference in 1943; it has continued to be a major area of controversy surrounding Speer. Henrich Himmler along with the attendance of the Nazi ministers and high ranking gauliters heard the Himmler discuss the ending to the Jewish question. The answer was the final solution the systematic gassing and killing by any means necessary of the Jewish population. Speer has maintained that he left earlier and did not hear the final speech of Himmler whom outlined the nature of the final solution.
This claim has been verified by two individuals whom saw Speer leave earlier who were Erhard Milch and Walter Rohland, the latter doing so under oath at the Nuremburg Trials. At the trials, Speer told the prosecution that he had no knowledge of the final solution. Speer attended the conference and made an address in the morning regarding munitions and production a fact that has been verified by Belgian resistance widow Helene Jeanty whom Speer had correspondence with. In 1971 in a letter addressed to Helene, Speer wrote ‘There is no doubt I was present as Himmler announced on October 6 1943 that all Jews would be killed…
Who would believe me that I suppressed this, that it would have been easier to have written all of this in my memoirs’. Subsequently in assessing Speer as the real criminal of the Nazi regime, it is crucial to examine the methods of which Speer used to bolster production of arms. Speer to achieve this utilised prisoners of war and men from the concentration camps as a source of labour, but was forced to do this since Speer wanted to use women. Hitler fixed on Nazi ideology believed the place of women were in the home as mothers which led Speer to take the easier path by using slave labour.
Himmler had attempted to convert concentration camps into armaments factories to come under the jurisdiction of the SS, who were harsh in their treatment of prisoners would prove detrimental to the production of arms due to working conditions. Speer went to Hitler and insisted in gaining control of those camps from Himmler, to his own ministry on the premise that conditions of workers hold be improved. Speer enacted several measures that would see to the prisoners that adequate sanitation, nutrition and access to medical services was made available to prisoners in ‘Dora’, and the underground rocket production factory in the Harz Mountains.
But in essence this was not a demonstration by Speer to show he is compassion towards the well being of prisoners. The real motive behind this was to ensure that the workers were productive and in ensuing that productivity was high. In considering the idea of the real criminal of the Nazi regime, it is hard to look past the character of Albert Speer and how he conducted himself in the Nuremburg Trial. Speer survived the Nuremberg Trials, by appearing less culpable in the organisation and implementation of crimes against humanity than his fellow defendants.
He accepted collective responsibility for the atrocities committed by Hitler’s regime, but denied knowledge of the final solution until May 1945, after the German surrender. This differentiated Speer from the other Nazi elite, whom knew of the persecution against the Jews. Speer argued that when he joined the Nazi party in 1931, he did not research the aims of the party, of which anti Semitism had a crucial role in the policy making of the third Reich. He expressed guilt for his naivete and, in this extract from Inside the Third Reich and judges himself perhaps more harshly than Nuremberg:
Not to have tried to see through the whole mystification was already criminal For being in a position to know and nevertheless shunning knowledge creates direct responsibility for the consequences by entering Hitler’s party I had already, in essence, assumed a responsibility that led directly to the brutalities of forced labour, to the destruction of war and to the deaths of those millions of so-called undesirable stock to the crushing of justice and the elevation of evil I will never be free of that sin (Albert Speer) At the Nuremburg Trials, the majority of the Nazi’s pleaded that they were following the orders of Adolf Hitler.
Speer spoke at the Nuremberg trials of an attempt to assassinate Hitler, and his defiance of Hitler’s orders regarding the scorched earth policy. These statements had a profound effect on the prosecution and it gave a very favourable effect on Speer’s sentence, with the court recognising that they both involved considerable personal risk. If Speer had gone through with such a plot it would surely meant death, as Hitler saw Speer as his most trustworthy and loyal ally within the Nazi Party, and this was recognised by the tribunal.
Speer because of this differentiated himself, though he was guilty of his actions of using slave labour he was not sentenced to death like the majority of those tried at Nuremburg but sentenced to jail in Spandau Prison for twenty years. Despite his claims to be ignorant of the final solution, and thus innocent of crimes against humanity, historians question how a member of the inner circle, with a close relationship with Hitler. How could Speer with his position in the inner circle have been oblivious to the persecution of any non-Aryan race or culture?
This was not questioned during the Nuremburg Trials but is an area of controversy that surrounds Speer and his title of being the self proclaimed good Nazi. Evidence to support that other, inner circle members knew about the Final Solution and the persecutions committed by the Nazis. Hermann Goering during the Nuremburg Trials that despite not being involved with the concentrations camps like Speer was with the slave labour programs in the concentration camps throughout the war.
Goering knew of the persecution, so how Speer could have been possibly been oblivious to this during his involvement in the concentration camps is quite profound in itself. During his time in jail Speer wrote his memoirs, Inside the Third Reich and Spandau: The Secret Diaries. It was widely considered as reliable sources by historians in examining Nazi Germany within the perspective of a member of Hitler’s inner circle; however it has become an inaccurate source and an area of inconsistencies by Speer himself.
At the beginning of Speer’s memoir Inside the Third Reich found inconsistencies between his 1943 self titled biography in which Speer describes himself as’ one of those who fervently committed themselves to National Socialism’ and his 1969 memoirs where Speer claimed that he was allergic to any political commitments. It is possible to argue that Speer post Nuremburg has tried to cover his actions within the regime and remodel himself under the tile the good Nazi, and establish himself as an individual ignorant of the policies and politics of the Nazi regime.
Albert Speer in light of the criticism that has befallen him has revealed in his memoir that he is trying to rid himself of responsibility of crimes against humanity, by arguing that ‘he was allergic to political commitments’. This perspective on Speer is established by the historian Matthias Schmidt whom examined the role of which Speer played during the war and in the holocaust. In light of evidence against Speer, it becomes apparent of how he does not fit the title of the Good Nazi, as his actions alone prolonged the war which coincides with more Jews being transported to death camps and murdered.
Therefore Speer is the real criminal of the Nazi Regime and it is rightly justified by Speer’s own admission in the remark ‘By entering Hitler’s party, I had already assumed the responsibilities that led directly to the brutalities of forced labour to the destruction of war and to the deaths of the so called undesirable stock to the crushing justice and elevation of evil’. The prosecutors at the Nuremburg Trial and society itself were fooled by the cleaver, intellectual Nazi Albert Speer who is the real criminal of the Nazi regime.