Albert Speer was born to an affluent Mannheim family in 1905. Like his father and grandfather before him, Speer studied architecture, however on graduating he remained at university as a lecturer. As a young man, Speer lacked much interest in politics but by 1930 he had become fascinated by the rising Nazi Party, particularly its leader Adolf Hitler. Speer eventually joined the NSDAP in March 1931. A series of architectural commissions, completed for high-ranking Nazis, brought Speer to the attention of Berlin. By 1933 he was completing blueprints for Joseph Goebbels and suggesting design and pageantry ideas for the party’s Nuremberg rallies.
Speer’s work soon brought him to the attention of Hitler and they formed a serendipitous connection. The Nazi leader was not only obsessed with how the ‘new Germany’ would function, he also had a clear vision of how it would look. In particular, Hitler imagined a re-built Nazi capital filled with vast temples and clean lines, not unlike ancient Rome. The Fuhrer believed Speer understood and shared this vision, so the young architect was trusted to give it definite form. In 1934 Speer became the NSDAP’s chief architect and his relationship with Hitler blossomed into friendship. During the mid-1930s Speer designed and implemented a series of building projects for the Nazi regime – from the Nuremberg parade grounds to the construction of a new Reich Chancellery building in Berlin, the latter project completed in less than a year.
The onset of war produced a change in role. In 1942 Speer was given responsibility for armaments production; the reforms he implemented led to rapid increases in output. Speer did not enjoy a good relationship with Goering, Himmler or Bormann; the three of whom were jealous both of Speer’s closeness to Hitler and his ministerial powers over production. Towards the end of the war, Hitler issued Speer with orders to raze Berlin and the rest of Germany, before it fell into Soviet hands; Speer risked his life by ignoring this order. After the war, Speer was arrested and put on trial at Nuremberg. One of the few high-ranking Nazis to express regret and remorse for German atrocities, Speer was consequently saved from the gallows. Instead, he was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in Spandau alongside Rudolf Hess and other Nazi leaders. He served his full sentence and was released in October 1966.
1. Albert Speer was a young architect and academic who became fascinated with Hitler and the NSDAP around 1930.
2. Speer joined the party in 1931 and came to Hitler’s attention after completing some architectural work for Nazi leaders.
3. Hitler met regularly with Speer to outline his architectural vision for the future Germany, and the two men became friends.
4. Speer became the NSDAP’s chief architect and began a series of grandiose design and building projects for the party.
5. After the outbreak of World War II, Speer was also put in charge of boosting armaments production, a mission he carried out with considerable success.
This page was written by Jennifer Llewellyn, Jim Southey and Steve Thompson. To reference this page, use the following citation:
J. Llewellyn et al, “Albert Speer”, Alpha History, accessed [today’s date], https://alphahistory.com/nazigermany/albert-speer/.