The man known as Hitler’s architect and – for a while – “the good Nazi”, Albert Speer is a fascinating figure of the Third Reich. His life was closely linked with the rise and fall of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. However, despite his close proximity to the highest echelons of power during Hitler’s rule, he managed to escape the death penalty when he was on trial at Nuremberg after the War. For a while, he convinced the general public that he had been ignorant of the brutal aspects and atrocities of the Nazi regime. However, history and further inspection show the opposite.
Here are some top interesting facts about this complex figure of Nazi Germany.
Interesting Albert Speer Facts
1. Despite claiming otherwise, he was close to Hitler
After Albert Speer joined the Nazi party, he came to the attention of Joseph Goebbels for his profession as an architect. He was billed as someone who could help renovate the Nazi headquarters in Berlin and he did excellent work. In 1933, he was asked to submit plans for the Nurnberg rally and met with Hitler, who called him a “kindred spirit”.
2. He started off as architect and contributed to the Nazi vision of grandeur and superiority
Before the war, Speer worked a lot on designs which was about the idea of grandeur and superiority of the Nazi vision. He considered his greatest work to be the “Cathedral of Lights” above the Zeppelinfeld which held up to 340,000 people. The lighting came from 130 anti-aircraft searchlights and it was put together to add to the Nazi nighttime rallies.
3. He worked to one-up the Russians at the World Fair
In line with his devotion to showcasing the Nazi regime as superior, Speer worked on the German pavilion for the World Fair in 1937, held in Paris. Hitler had learned that the Russians had planned a large stone structure with two imposing figures for their display, and their pavilion was due to be opposite the German one. At Hitler’s request, Speer came up with an even taller structure upon which he placed a giant eagle gazing down at the Russian side. an interesting fact about Albert Speer.
4. Speer managed to build Hilter’s chancellery in 8 months
In January 1938, Hilter wanted a new chancellery building for the New Reich. This was commissioned to Speer who broke ground in April and had up to 8,000 workers on site at a time, working in two shifts. He then managed to finish the building two days early, in time for a New Year’s reception for foreign diplomats.
5. Despite his claims of innocence, he oversaw the eviction of Jews from Berlin
Not only during the building of the new chancellery, but also as General Building Inspector for Berlin, Albert Speer oversaw the eviction of many Jewish tenants from their homes. He claimed he was not anti-Semitic and had no ideological conviction, however, historians have argued that his anti-Semitism should be judged by his actions which clearly were anti-Semitic.
6. He impressed the Nuremberg trials tribunal
When he appeared before the war trials tribunal at Nuremberg, Speer initially claimed not to have any knowledge of the Holocaust. He was mainly found guilty of the use of slave labour, which was predominantly sourced in the labour camps during his grandiose architectural projects and later in his position of Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production. In the end, he managed to convince the tribunal to only convict him to 20 years’ imprisonment, a cray fact about Albert Speer.
7. He created the “Speer Myth”
Even after his imprisonment, Speer continued to deny he knew about, or contributed to, the Holocaust. He positioned himself as a technocrat with no political conviction and as if he ended up in the Nazi party by pure chance. It wasn’t until the 1980s when this image began to fall apart, as historians pointed out that his “armaments miracle” during the war was due to extensive use of labour camp prisoners.
Speer dedicated his later life after release from prison to building the “good Nazi” myth and made himself available to various media and historians to do so, an interesting fact about Albert Speer.
8. Speer disagreed with Hitler’s final decisions
Even though he was close to Hitler throughout the war, Speer didn’t agree with his Nero Decree in 1945, when it became apparent that the Nazis were losing the war. Hitler’s attitude was one of extreme scorched earth policy, destroying all the infrastructure as the army retreated. On the contrary, Speer wanted to safeguard industrial facilities which could be used after the war. He eventually convinced Hitler to rescind the decree and give him authority over demolitions. Speer stopped any demolition officially.
9. He had some high-profile supporters during his prison sentence
A number of people believed in Speer’s innocence and supported him while he was in prison. Among them, French President Charles de Gaulle and American diplomat George Wildman Ball supported efforts to have his sentence commuted, an interesting fact about Albert Speer.
However, his sentence was not changed and he was not released ahead of service full term.
10. He wrote his books in prison
Even though he was not allowed to write, he managed to smuggle his writings to his friend Rudolf Wolters while he was imprisoned at Spandau. His memoirs amounted to 20,000 pages and they became the basis of the book Inside the Third Reich. He also wrote The Spandau Diaries, where he presented himself as a tragic hero who was serving an unfair sentence for a “deal with the devil”. His books were extremely popular as people were fascinated by the insider’s account into the Reich.
Albert Speer was a fascinating figure who managed to create a myth around his implication in Nazi Germany and the war efforts. By claiming that he had no knowledge of the Holocaust and using his education and good manners to portray himself as a “good Nazi” who proved to be quite popular in the 1960s and 1970s. While we now know the truth, he died with a largely positive image in 1981.
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