Option 21: Albert Speer 1905-1981 Principal focus: Through the study of Albert Speer, students gain an understanding of the role of this personality in a period of national or international history. Students learnt about: 1. Historical context * Rise of the Nazi party and the personal charisma of Adolf Hitler * Development of the Nazi state after 1933 * Nazi war effort to 1945 * Nuremberg War Crimes Trial 2. Background * Family background and education Introduction to Nazism and his reasons for joining the Nazi party 3. Rise to prominence * Early work for the Nazi party * Appointment as ‘First Architect of the Reich’ * The ‘Germania’ project and the new Reich Chancellery * Work as Armaments Minister 4. Significance and evaluation * Relationship with Hitler * Involvement with anti-Semitic activities in connection with the Germania project – the question of the ‘Jew-flats’ * Use and abuse of forced labour Knowledge of and links with the concentration camp system * Reaction to Hitler’s ‘scorched earth’ policy in 1945 * The significance of Speer’s work as Minister for Armaments and War Production to the overall German war effort * Evaluation: for example, the ‘Good Nazi’? 1. Historical Context Rise of the Nazi party * Signing of the armistice on 11 November, 1918 by German leaders. Germans believed the army had been “stabbed in the back” * June 1919, allied powers forced Germany to sign the Treaty of Versailles.
Had to accept the War Guilt Clause and accept responsibility for the war and the destruction it caused * Republic was faced with defeat, stab in the back legend, economic collapse and political violence * January 1923: occupation of the Ruhr, the economy collapse and hyperinflation meant the German currency had no value * Mid 1920’s: republic had recovered, a new currency was established, US loans led to an economic boom, Germany’s international status returned.
The depression caused economic and social catastrophe and Germany was being run by presidential decree * Hitler joined the German workers Party and became the leader by 1921, the party was renamed the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi) * November 1923 – the Beer Hall Putsch: Hitler received a 5 year prison sentence, he gained national attention and only served 9 months in prison where he wrote his autobiography “Mein Kampf”. * Once leaving prison, Hitler reorganised the Nazi party and in January 1933, a back room deal led to Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor The personal charisma of Adolf Hitler Unemployed saw him as the man to end the depression and who would restore economic prosperity * Germany’s middle class lost faith in the Republic and believed Hitler could restore Germany and stop them from falling into the ‘proletariat’ * Businessmen believed the Nazi party would control the unions and keep Communists out * Hitler had a personal magnetism: energetic, tension, anticipation, emotion, power and drama. Hitler understood propaganda and the need to keep it simple Development of the Nazi state after 1933 * By August 1934, Hitler’s power was absolute and gave the appearance of a totalitarian state. Germany had only one political party, led by a charismatic dictator, with control placed on all aspects of society and propaganda attempted to convince the population of the benefits of Nazi rule. The use of the Gestapo and concentration camps was to stop opposition * Gleischaltung: ‘co-ordination’. Can be seen through the Reichstag elections, the Enabling Act (23rd March), Banning of all political parties (14th July) and the Night of the Long Knives (30th June 1934) * As the war progressed, Nazi regime became increasingly radical with law and justice disappearing and the state interfering with the economy. Anti-Semitic easures became more extreme and many Jews had been dealt with Nazi war effort to 1945 1939 to 1942 * Limited rationing was introduced to conserve food and other supplies, the economy was functioning as it had during peacetime * Regime faced opposition when measures were introduced such as: increased working hours, cut overtime pay and holidays. These were overturned * No immediate switch to total war, no use of women in the industrial workforce and production of non essential products continued * Propaganda was promoted easily and up to 35% of German food supplies came from newly occupied territories 1942 to 1945 German propaganda became more harsh, with the Soviet war atrocities exaggerated to encourage greater German sacrifice * Goebbels called for the civilians to accept total war and the German Gestapo and SS faced no restrictions with law and justice disappearing completely * Nazi regime chaos revealed various centres of power sought to build up their individual empires. Gauleiters hoarded materials and the SS empire was developed by Himmler * Speer appointed as Minister of Armaments in February 1942, improved German war production and co-ordination Nuremberg War Crime Trials Reason for trials: seen as important to make the Germans realise the scale of destruction that had occurred, the atrocities committed by the Germans were part of official government policy, the idea that if it was shown that this behaviour would not go unpunished then such evil would not be repeated and the hope that International Justice would be a good sign for the future of the United Nations * 21 leading Nazis were put on trial Charged on four counts: conspiracy to commit crimes against peace, crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity * Run by legal representatives from the four main allied powers: the US, the Soviet Union, Britain and France * Trial opened on 20th November 1945 and verdicts were given October 1946 2. Background Family background and education * Born March 1905 in Mannheim Father was a successful architect who invested most of his money in land and property, Albert’s mother was independently wealthy and part of Mannheim’s social elite * Lived in a 14 room house, that had its own cook, butler, chauffeur, nanny and governess * Felt inferior to his brothers who bullied him, and felt that his parents had little time or love for him * Received his only affection from his governess, first childhood friend was the daughter of the concierge * At 6 years old he went to a private elementary school to maximise his grades and at 11 years old he moved into a selective school * As a child he was prone to dizziness and fainting spells, which later improved when he became involved in hiking, rowing, skiing and rugby * Met Margret Weber in 1922 at 17 and fell in love with her as they shared artistic pursuits and an attachment * His parents objected to his relationship with a person from the lower class * Married Margret Weber in 1928 without the knowledge of any parents, Speers parents did not invite Speer’s wife to the family home for seven years * Left school in 1923 and wanted to study mathematics however his father convinced him to become an architect * Studied at the Institute of Technology and transferred in 1924 to the Institute in Munich * 1926 Speer transferred to the Institute of Technology in Berlin and studied under Professor Tessenow, and became his assistant in 1928 Introduction to Nazism and his reasons for joining the Nazi party * Hitler appealed to Speer’s students as he offered hope to Germany, on the 4th December 1930 Speer’s students convinced him to attend a Nazi rally where Hitler was speaking * The meeting had over 5000 people and Speer was able to listen comfortably among other professors and lecturers * Speer was impressed by Hitler’s speech and attire, with Hitler’s aggressive confidence awakening Speer * Weeks later Speer attended an event at the Sportspalast where Goebbels was speaking, Goebbels spoke in a total opposite way to Hitler which left Speer less than impressed * The 1st of March, 1931 Albert Speer joined the Nazi party, member number 474 481. This led to Speer becoming a member of the Nazi motoring Corps and the ‘Fighting Group of German Architects and Engineers’ * Speer believed that Germany had only two choices either the communists or the Nazi Party. Speer was appalled by the idea of a communist takeover * Hitler had a hypnotic affect on Speer; Speer claimed he had joined a Hitler party. Speer believed Hitler was becoming more moderate with Hitler’s involvement in the campaign against the Young Plan comforted Speer. * Speer believed any rough spots within the party would be corrected 3. Rise to prominence Early work for the Nazi party Joining the party did not lead to Speers immediate involvement, at first his work was driving party members around to meetings and rallies * Karl Hanke gave Speer the job of redecorating the headquarters of a district branch of the Nazi Party in September 1930, which he designed a bright red vestibule and yellow office walls * In 1932 Speer resigned from the assistant professor of architecture as this career could not support his family * Hanke offered Speer the job of redecorating Goebbels Headquarters in July 1932, which involved repainting some walls and some minor alterations. Hitler inspected the finished results and was impressed * March 1933: Speer redecorated Goebbels new ministry building, Goebbels did not like Speer’s work and had it redecorated * Designed the Tempelhof Field Night Rally, Speer’s design included a raised platform with speakers looking down on the crowd and behind them three gigantic banners with the swastika and an imperial flag.
This was illuminated by searchlights that lit up the sky * Speer’s work had impressed the Nazi leaders and he was made the Commissioner for the Artistic and Technical Presentation of Party Rallies and Presentations * Speer designed the first party rally of 500,000 supporters in July 1933 with the proposal of a gigantic eagle towering over the field * In 1933 Speer was appointed Paul Troost’s assistant by Hitler for the job of refurnishing the chancellors residence, which Hitler took a personal interest in * Most impressive design was the 1934 Nuremberg Rally which became a Nazi icon with the cathedral of lights Appointment as ‘First Architect of the Reich’ Appointed Hitler’s architect in March 1934 when Paul Troost died * Hitler saw buildings as being a monument for future generations and a lasting symbol of his glory and greatness * 1934: responsible for building a permanent site for the Nuremberg rallies – Cathedral of lights * Nuremberg Stadium: held 400,000 people, large stadium hall for Hitler’s speeches and a field for military exercises. Cost: 3 billion marks. Showed Hitler the designs as ruins for the future * Hitler never interfered with Speer’s architectural decisions with Hitler treating Speer as an equal The ‘Germania’ project and the new Reich Chancellery * Rebuilding of the city of Berlin that would surpass the cities of Paris and Vienna.
Hitler’s plans included: a five kilometre central avenue, a triumphal arch that would dwarf that of Paris, the Fuhrer’s palace at the end of the avenue and dozens of major cultural buildings * At this time Speer also redesigned the plans of the 1936 Olympic stadium and designed the German Pavilion * Speer placed in charge of the project on the 30th January 1937, with the title “Inspector General of Construction for the Reich Capital” (GBI). Speer was given extensive power and became Hitler’s direct subordinate * January 1938 Speer given the job of designing and building the new Reich Chancellery to be completed by January 1939 * Speer had 8000 men working on the project, and finished the project 2 days early which impressed Hitler * The building impressed Hitler who awarded Speer the Gold Party badge , Hitler was delighted with his desk that had an inlay of a sword, half drawn from its sheath * During this period Hitler was concerned with his health and mortality and that did not believe he would stay in power for long Work as Armaments Minister The previous Armaments Minister, Fritz Todt, was killed in a plane crash after visiting Hitler in February 1942. Within a day he had appointed Speer as the new Armaments Minister, with Speer assuming all of Todt’s responsibilities. The appointment by Hitler ignored the fact that Speer had no experience in weapons/munitions, and only saw Speer’s organisational ability. * Speer, at 37 years of age, was the Nazi Minister for Armaments, and was directing the massive Organisation Todt; on top of this, he was responsible for all construction work in Germany and conquered lands. * Speer faced significant problems when he came to the position of Armaments Minister; he had to assume responsibility for war production and ad to solve three key issues: * The concept of Blitzkrieg collapsing: economy was not geared for a long term total war. Germany needed planning for a total war and military output was well below allied production levels * Overlapping responsibilities: responsibility for production was spread across many areas which let to inefficiency, duplication and reduced outputs * Shortage of labour: women were not being used for war work, Speer sought to use them and Bormann got Sauckel in charge of employment. Gauleiters wouldn’t let workers work outside of their regions. * Speer was extremely successful in rationalising the economy; he increased the production of guns by 27%, tanks by 25% and ammunition by 97%. 2 aircraft models being produced were reduced to 5, 151 truck models were reduced to 23 and 12 anti tank guns were reduced to 1 * Achieved success by: organising factories to produce one thing, groups and individuals were assigned to work on particular weapons and businesses were given more freedom 4. Significance and evaluation Relationship with Hitler * Throughout 1933, Speer and Hitler developed a close relationship. Speer became part of Hitler’s inner circle * Fest suggests that Hitler saw Speer as a version of himself * Speer said Hitler treated him as an equal and ‘if Hitler had had any friends, then he would have been one’ * Sereny argues that Speer’s failure to mention to Hitler existence of his wife and child was part of the emotions Speer was feeling.
Speer wanted nothing to jeopardise his relationship with Hitler * Fest states that Hitler’s leniency towards Speer’s disobedience can be explained by Hitler’s emotional dependence on Speer * From late 1943 a number of incidents suggested the Hitler and Speer relationship was deteriorating such as Hitler seeking armaments information from Karl Saur and Hitler getting angry when Speer suggested a meeting to work out the labour program * Speer’s illness at the start of 1944, removed Speer from the inner circle for a long period, breaking the close bond with Hitler * Hitler ordered a scorched earth policy in March 1945, which Speer opposed. Sereny suggests his reasons for doing so were out of concern for the German people and showed courage, whereas Van der Vat suggests that Speer had an eye on Germany for the future Involvement with anti-Semitic activities in connection with the Germania project – the question of the ‘Jew flats’ * Criticism is made of Speer concerning his work during his planning of the rebuilding of Berlin; Speer authorized the demolition of 50,000 flats in central Berlin, half of which were owned by Jews; these Jews were ‘resettled’. This supposed ‘resettlement’ in reality equated to the Jews being deported to concentration camps in Eastern Europe, and eventually to death camps such as Auschwitz. * Speer denied all knowledge of the deportations; in reality, Speer almost certainly knew where the Jews would end up, and he authorized their removal with this knowledge. Also lying about his knowledge at the Nuremberg trials * Speer claimed to ‘be overcome by an unbearable feeling of failure and inadequacy’ because he was blind to their fate as a result of burying himself in his work * * Use and abuse of forced labour * Much of the increase that came in the armaments production under Speer came from the exploitation of foreign workers and prisoners of war.
Speer shifted responsibility for the maltreatment of these workers onto his deputy, Fritz Sauckel. Nuremburg sentenced Sauckel to death, while giving Speer 20 years imprisonment. * Speer knew of the awful conditions the workers endured, and ignored reports of genocide/work conditions; this is perhaps his worst crime, as opposed to lying about the Holocaust. However, Speer managed to blame Sauckel for the conditions the workers endured, a crime which Sauckel was hung for. * At Nuremburg, Speer claimed that he did not know about the conditions the workers endured; this contradicts the fact that he visited the Dora Missile Factory, which housed workers in appalling conditions. 60,000 workers came to Dora, and only 30,000 survived.
Speer’s visit to Dora in December 1943 meant that there was no way Speer was unaware of the conditions of those in forced labour, and that he should have been held accountable. * Speer complained about the inefficiency of undernourishment (e. g. in Dora after his visit there), rather than the actual suffering that came with it; this showed the lack of empathy that Speer possessed, and how human suffering did not affect him. * Very significant as it shows the degree of knowledge that Speer held regarding the treatment of forced labour and what Nazi meant to the captured * * Knowledge of and links with the concentration camp system * Speer faced a shortage of labour when he came to the post of Nazi Minister for Armaments.
Most of the labour that Fritz Sauckel (Speer’s deputy) ‘recruited’ was from foreign countries; however, concentration inmates also provided labour. * It was alleged that Speer knew of Final Solution since Oct. 1943, when he attended a conference in Posen, in Poland. At this conference, Himmler spoke of ‘need’ to eradicate the Jews; Speer claimed at Nuremburg that he left the speech before this. While there is no concrete evidence of Speer being there at time of Himmler’s speech, is highly likely that he heard it then, or afterwards from friends who were there. * * * * Reaction to Hitler’s ‘scorched earth’ policy in 1945 * Despite advice from various significant figures in the N. P. including Speer, Hitler would not accept defeat. He ordered a ‘scorched earth policy’, which ordered the retreating German armies to destroy everything of value (e. g. factories, bridges, etc. ), which would leave nothing for the enemy. * Speer knew the German people would need these industries to survive after the war, and refused to obey Hitler’s orders. Speer travelled the country in late 1944, using his all his power to countermand Hitler’s policy. * Speer used his actions in disobeying Hitler to great effect at Nuremburg, which boosted his defence and helped to give him the image of the ‘Good Nazi’; is debated as to what Speer’s motives were in resisting Hitler’s orders; some (e. g.
Van der Vat) state that Speer knew he would be apprehended after the war, and his actions were all part of carefully formulated plan to cast himself in a good light. * * The significance of Speer’s work as Minister for Armaments and War Production to the overall German war effort * Speer’s leadership in the area of Armaments was significant as it enabled the German army to continue fighting until April of 1945; he completely turned the war economy around and drastically rose production output; this also had the effect of giving those in Germany hope and the belief that they could still win the war, although this was, in hindsight, extremely remote.
This had the result of frantic resistance, which only helped to prolong the war, put off the inevitable and kill thousands more people. * It has been agreed that Speer prolonged the war effort by 2 years * * Evaluation: for example, the ‘Good Nazi’? * Speer was tried on 4 counts: Conspiracy to commit crimes against peace, Crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and War crime * Speer put his approach to the trial as: “I found the position I felt I should take in the trial: to regard my own fate as insignificant, not to struggle for my own life, but to assume the responsibility in a general sense” * Speer presented himself as a non-political technocrat, with his actions being only to keep the German Armaments ministry working. Stated that the use of slave labour was none of his business and the conditions they were kept under were the fault of Sauckel, the SS, factory managers and the army. Speer acknowledged that he had limited control over factories and that Hitler was the cause of the continuation of war * Speer accept collective responsibility for the actions of the Nazi Party as Hitler was unable to and received 20 years imprisonment * Speer maintained his innocence for the rest of his life, always claiming that he had looked away, and not known about what was happening. However, the real story of Albert Speer began to emerge in the 1970s; he denied the claims brought against him that he knew of the Holocaust, but his credibility was slowly worn down.
By the time Speer died in 1981, it was widely regarded that he had lied at Nuremburg, and that he knew about the Holocaust when it was happening. * Historian’s perspectives * John Galbraith: many of Speer’s claims contain elements of fantasy and Speer’s confession was part of ‘his well developed strategy of self vindication and survival’ * Dan van der Vat: at Nuremberg Speer created a legend of himself by manipulating history. His presentation of himself as the Good Nazi was a lie designed to save his life and protect his reputation. Speer’s physical weaknesses, bullying brother and absence of love from parents turned him into an emotional cripple. Speer’s claim of repentance was a sham and he only escaped the death penalty as he was a good liar Matthias Schmidt: Speer was never a narrow technocrat, his rapid climb to the top and self image created at Nuremberg show that his one goal was to become a great historical figure. Speer was a master planner who was able to change his personality in order to manipulate any situation. His autobiography contained little truth and was the “most cunning apologia by any leading figure of the Third Reich” * Henry King: Speer failed to develop a set of ethical beliefs and he slipped into decision without a choice which crossed the line between good and evil. Speer fell under the magnetic control of Hitler whom he obeyed until the scorched earth policy. Speer faced conversion when he realised the actions of Hitler and he was a patriot who realised the importance of loyalty to the German people William Shirer: Speer told the truth at the Nuremberg trials and that he had admitted that he was partly guilty for the crimes of the Nazis. * Alan Bullock: Speer was one of the few good appointments Hitler made, Speer showed courage by preventing the destruction of the German industry in 1945. Speer was the apolitical technocrat who was detached from many of the decisions and events of the Third Reich * Joachim Fest: Speer was an intelligent man who was indifferent to political issues and attempted to avoid the world of politics. Regarded Speer as an educated outside among Hitler’s henchmen and he was not like the rest of them. Speer was the only Nazi leader who remained true to his beliefs and maintained his personal integrity throughout the Nazi era