Reichsminister Albert Speer

Reichsminister Albert Speer (19 March 1905 – 1 September 1981) photographed by Walter Frentz in 1942.

Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer, 19 March 1905 – 1 September 1981, was a German architect and the final Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler’s chief architect before assuming ministerial office.

Speer joined the Nazi Party in 1931, launching him on a political and governmental career which lasted fourteen years. His architectural skills made him increasingly prominent within the Party and he became a member of Hitler’s inner circle. Hitler instructed him to design and construct a number of structures, including the Reich Chancellery and the Zeppelinfeld stadium in Nuremberg where Party rallies were held. Speer also made plans to reconstruct Berlin on a grand scale, with huge buildings, wide boulevards, and a reorganized transportation system.

Signature.

In February 1942, Hitler appointed Speer Minister of Armaments and War Production. Under his leadership, Germany’s war production continued to increase despite the considerable Allied bombing. After the war, he was tried at Nuremberg by the false and illegal Allied courts and sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the Nazi regime, principally for the use of forced labor. He served his full sentence, most of it at Spandau Prison in West Berlin.

Following his release from Spandau in 1966, Speer published two bestselling autobiographical works, Inside the Third Reich and Spandau: The Secret Diaries, detailing his often close personal relationship with Hitler, and providing readers and historians with a unique perspective on the workings of the Nazi regime. He later wrote a third book, Infiltration, about the SS. Speer died of natural causes in 1981 while on a visit to London.

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Albert Speer.

Early Years and Personal Life

Speer was born in Mannheim, into an upper-middle-class family. He was the second of three sons of Luise Máthilde Wilhelmine (Hommel) and Albert Friedrich Speer. In 1918, the family leased their Mannheim residence and moved to a home they had in Heidelberg. Henry T. King, a deputy prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials who later wrote a book about Speer said, “Love and warmth were lacking in the household of Speer’s youth.” His brothers, Ernst and Hermann, bullied him throughout his childhood. Speer was active in sports, taking up skiing and mountaineering. He followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and studied architecture.

Speer began his architectural studies at the University of Karlsruhe instead of a more highly acclaimed institution because the hyperinflation crisis of 1923 limited his parents’ income. In 1924 when the crisis had abated, he transferred to the much more reputable Technical University of Munich. In 1925, he transferred again, this time to the Technical University of Berlin where he studied under Heinrich Tessenow, whom Speer greatly admired. After passing his exams in 1927, Speer became Tessenow’s assistant, a high honor for a man of 22. As such, Speer taught some of his classes while continuing his own postgraduate studies. In Munich Speer began a close friendship, ultimately spanning over 50 years, with Rudolf Wolters, who also studied under Tessenow.

In mid-1922, Speer began courting Margarete (Margret) Weber, 1905–1987, the daughter of a successful craftsman who employed 50 workers. The relationship was frowned upon by Speer’s class-conscious mother, who felt the Webers were socially inferior. Despite this opposition, the two married in Berlin on August 28, 1928; seven years elapsed before Margarete was invited to stay at her in-laws’ home. The couple would have six children together, but Albert Speer grew increasingly distant from his family after 1933. He remained so even after his release from imprisonment in 1966, despite their efforts to forge closer bonds.

Speer shows Hitler a project at Obersalzberg.

Party Architect and Government Functionary

Joining the Nazis 1931–1934

In January 1931, Speer applied for Nazi Party membership, and on March 1, 1931, he became member number 474,481. In 1931, with stipends shrinking amid the Depression, Speer surrendered his position as Tessenow’s assistant and moved to Mannheim, hoping to make a living as an architect. Unsuccessful, his father gave him a part-time job as manager of his properties. In July 1932, the Speers visited Berlin to help out the Party before the Reichstag elections. While they were there, his friend, Nazi Party official Karl Hanke recommended the young architect to Joseph Goebbels to help renovate the Party’s Berlin headquarters. When the commission was completed, Speer returned to Mannheim and remained there as Hitler took office in January 1933.

The organizers of the 1933 Nuremberg Rally asked Speer to submit designs for the rally, bringing him into contact with Hitler for the first time. Neither the organizers nor Rudolf Hess was willing to decide whether to approve the plans, and Hess sent Speer to Hitler’s Munich apartment to seek his approval. This work won Speer his first national post, as Nazi Party Commissioner for the Artistic and Technical Presentation of Party Rallies and Demonstrations.

Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Albert Speer, 1905-1981.

Shortly after Hitler came into power, he began to make plans to rebuild the chancellery. At the end of 1933, he contracted Paul Troost to renovate the entire building. Hitler appointed Speer, whose work for Goebbels had impressed him, to manage the building site for Troost. As Chancellor, Hitler had a residence in the building and came by every day to be briefed by Speer and the building supervisor on the progress of the renovations. After one of these briefings, Hitler invited Speer to lunch, to the architect’s great excitement. Speer quickly became part of Hitler’s inner circle; he was expected to call on him in the morning for a walk or chat, to provide consultation on architectural matters, and to discuss Hitler’s ideas. Most days he was invited to dinner.

In the English version of his memoirs, Speer says that his political commitment merely consisted of paying his monthly dues. He assumed his German readers would not be so gullible and told them the Nazi Party offered a new mission. He was more forthright in an interview with William Hamsher in which he said he joined the party in order to save Germany from Communism. After the war, he claimed to have had little interest in politics at all and had joined almost by chance. Like many of those in power in the Third Reich, he was not an ideologue, although he was an avowed anti-Semite. The historian Magnus Brechtken discussing Speer said he did not give anti-Jewish public speeches and that his anti-Semitism can best be understood through his actions which were anti-Semitic. Brechtken added that throughout his life Speer’s central motives were to gain power, rule and acquire wealth.

The Cathedral of Light above the Zeppelintribune.

Nazi Architect 1934–1937

When Troost died on January 21, 1934, Speer effectively replaced him as the Party’s chief architect. Hitler appointed Speer as head of the Chief Office for Construction, which placed him nominally on Hess’s staff.

One of Speer’s first commissions after Troost’s death was the Zeppelinfeld stadium in Nuremberg. It was used for Nazi propaganda rallies and can be seen in Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda film Triumph of the Will. The building was able to hold 340,000 people. Speer insisted that as many events as possible be held at night, both to give greater prominence to his lighting effects and to hide the overweight Nazis. Nuremberg was the site of many official Nazi buildings. Many more buildings were planned. If built, the German Stadium would have accommodated 400,000 spectators. Speer modified Werner March’s design for the Olympic Stadium being built for the 1936 Summer Olympics. He added a stone exterior that pleased Hitler. Speer designed the German Pavilion for the 1937 international exposition in Paris.

Hitler in Paris in 1940 with Speer (left), and sculptor Arno Breker.

Berlin’s General Building Inspector 1937–1942

In 1937, Hitler appointed Speer as General Building Inspector for the Reich Capital. This carried with it the rank of undersecretary of state in the Reich government and gave him extraordinary powers over the Berlin city government. It also made Speer a member of the Reichstag, though the body by then had little effective power. Hitler ordered Speer to develop plans to rebuild Berlin. These centered on a three-mile-long grand boulevard running from north to south, which Speer called the Prachtstrasse, or Street of Magnificence; he also referred to it as the North-South Axis. At the northern end of the boulevard, Speer planned to build the Volkshalle, a huge domed assembly hall over 700 feet (210 m) high, with floor space for 180,000 people. At the southern end of the avenue, a great triumphal arch, almost 400 feet (120 m) high and able to fit the Arc de Triomphe inside its opening, was planned. The existing Berlin railroad termini were to be dismantled, and two large new stations built. Speer hired Wolters as part of his design team, with special responsibility for the Prachtstrasse. The outbreak of World War II in 1939 led to the postponement, and later the abandonment, of these plans.

General Building Inspector (GBI) Albert Speer.

Plans to build a new Reich Chancellery had been underway since 1934. The land had been purchased by the end of 1934 and starting in March 1936 the first buildings were demolished to create space at Voßstraße. Speer was involved virtually from the beginning. In the aftermath of the Night of the Long Knives, he had been commissioned to renovate the Borsig Palace on the corner of Voßstraße and Wilhelmstraße as headquarters of the Sturmabteilung (SA). He completed the preliminary work for the new chancellery by May 1936. In June 1936, he charged a personal honorarium of 30,000 Reichsmark and estimated the Chancellery would be completed within three to four years. Detailed plans were completed in July 1937 and the first shell of the new chancellery was complete on January 1, 1938. On January 27, 1938, Speer received plenipotentiary powers from Hitler to finish the new chancellery by January 1, 1939. For propaganda, Hitler claimed during the topping-out ceremony on August 2, 1938, that he had ordered Speer to complete the new chancellery that year. Shortages of labor meant the construction workers had to work in ten-to-twelve-hour shifts. The Schutzstaffel (SS) built two concentration camps in 1938 and used the inmates to quarry stone for its construction. A brick factory was built near the Oranienburg concentration camp at Speer’s behest. The chancellery was completed in early January 1939. The building itself was hailed by Hitler as the crowning glory of the greater German political empire.

As Germany started World War II in Europe, Speer instituted quick-reaction squads to construct roads or clear away debris; before long, these units would be used to clear bomb sites. Speer used forced labor on these projects, in addition to regular German workers. Construction stopped on the Berlin and Nüremberg plans at the outbreak of war. Though stockpiling of materials and other work continued, this slowed to a halt as more resources were needed for the armament industry. Speer’s offices undertook building work for each branch of the military, and for the SS, using slave labor. Speer’s building work made him among the wealthiest of the Nazi elite.

Speer wearing Organisation Todt armband and Heer General Eduard Dietl at Rovaniemi Airport in Finland, December 1943.

Minister of Armaments

Appointment and Increasing Power

On February 8, 1942, Minister of Armaments Fritz Todt died in a plane crash shortly after taking off from Hitler’s eastern headquarters at Rastenburg. Speer arrived there the previous evening and accepted Todt’s offer to fly with him to Berlin. Speer canceled some hours before take-off because the previous night he had been up late in a meeting with Hitler. Hitler appointed Speer in Todt’s place. The choice was not surprising. Speer was loyal to Hitler, and his experience building prisoner of war camps and other structures for the military qualified him for the job. Hitler also appointed Speer as head of the Organisation Todt, a massive, government-controlled construction company. Characteristically Hitler did not give Speer any clear remit; he was left to fight his contemporaries in the regime for power and control. He proved to be ambitious, unrelenting and ruthless. Speer set out to gain control not just of armaments production in the army, but in the whole armed forces. It did not immediately dawn on his political rivals that his calls for rationalization and reorganization were hiding his desire to sideline them and take control.

Speer was given credit at the time, and in the post-war era, for performing an armaments miracle in which German war production dramatically increased. This miracle was brought to a halt in the summer of 1943 by, among other factors, the first sustained Allied bombing. Other factors probably contributed to the increase more than Speer himself. Germany’s armaments production had already begun to result in increases under his predecessor, Todt. Naval armaments were not under Speer’s supervision until October 1943, nor the Luftwaffe’s armaments until June of the following year. Yet each showed comparable increases in production despite not being under Speer’s control. Another factor that produced the boom in ammunition was the policy of allocating more coal to the steel industry. Production of every type of weapon peaked in June and July 1944, but there was now a severe shortage of fuel. In September 1944, the Romanian oil fields came into the range of bombers from the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). Oil production became so low any possibility of offensive action became impossible and weaponry lay idle.

Albert Speer at the Day of the German Railroad Worker, December 1944.

As Minister of Armaments Speer was responsible for supplying weapons to the army. With Hitler’s full agreement, he decided to prioritize tank production, and he was given unrivaled power to ensure success. Hitler was closely involved with the design of the tanks but kept changing his mind about the specifications. This delayed the program, and Speer was unable to remedy the situation. In consequence, despite tank production having the highest priority relatively little of the armaments budget was spent on it. This led to a significant German Army failure at the Battle of Prokhorovka, a major turning point on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Red Army.

Speer realized that with six million workers drafted into the armed forces there was a labor shortage in the war economy, and not enough workers for his factories. In response, Hitler appointed Fritz Sauckel as a manpower dictator to obtain new workers. Speer and Sauckel cooperated closely to meet Speer’s labor demands. Hitler gave Sauckel a free hand to obtain labor, something that delighted Speer, who had requested 1,000,000 voluntary laborers to meet the need for armament workers. Sauckel had whole villages in France, Holland, and Belgium forcibly rounded up and shipped to Speer’s factories. Sauckel obtained new workers often using the most brutal methods. In occupied areas of the Soviet Union, that had been subject to partisan action, civilian men and women were rounded up en masse and sent to work forcibly in Germany. By April 1943, Sauckel had supplied 1,568,801 voluntary laborers, forced laborers, prisoners of war, and concentration camp prisoners to Speer for use in his armaments factories. It was for the mistreatment of these people that Speer was principally convicted at the illegal Nuremberg Trials.

The last remaining arch of Weingut I, Speer’s Fighter Staff underground transfer project.

Consolidation of Arms Production

Following his appointment as Minister of Armaments, Speer was in control of armaments production solely for the Army. He coveted control of the production of armaments for the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine. He set about extending his power and influence with unexpected ambition. His close relationship with Hitler provided him with political protection, and he was able to outwit and outmaneuver his rivals in the regime. Hitler’s cabinet was dismayed at his tactics, but regardless he was able to accumulate new responsibilities and more power. By July 1943, he had gained control of armaments production for the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine. In August 1943, he took control of most of the Ministry of Economics to become in Admiral Dönitz’s words Europe’s economic dictator. His formal title was changed to Reich Minister for Armaments and War Production. He had become one of the most powerful people in Nazi Germany.

Speer and his hand-picked director of submarine construction Otto Merker believed that the shipbuilding industry was being held back by outdated methods, and revolutionary new approaches imposed by outsiders would dramatically improve output. This belief proved incorrect, and Speer and Merker’s attempt to build the Kriegsmarine’s new generation of submarines, the Type XXI and Type XXIII, as prefabricated sections at different facilities rather than at single dockyards contributed to the failure of this strategically important program. The designs were rushed into production, and the completed submarines were crippled by manufacturing flaws which resulted from the way they had been constructed. While dozens of submarines were built, few ever entered service.

Speer during a visit to a munitions factory in May 1944.

In December 1943 Speer visited Organisation Todt workers in Lapland, while there he seriously damaged his knee and was incapacitated for several months. He was under the dubious care of Professor Karl Gebhardt at a medical clinic called Hohenlychen where patients mysteriously failed to survive. In mid-January of 1944, Speer had a lung embolism and fell seriously ill. Concerned about retaining power, he did not appoint a deputy and continued to direct work of the Armaments Ministry from his bedside. Speer’s illness coincided with the Allied Big Week, a series of bombing raids on the German aircraft factories that were a devastating blow to aircraft production. His political rivals used the opportunity to undermine his authority and damage his reputation with Hitler. He lost Hitler’s unconditional support and began to lose power.

In response to the Allied Big Week, Adolf Hitler authorized the creation of a Fighter Staff committee. Its aim was to ensure the preservation and growth of fighter aircraft production. The task force was established by the March 1, 1944, order of Speer, with support from Erhard Milch of the Reich Aviation Ministry. Production of German fighter aircraft more than doubled between 1943 and 1944. The growth, however, consisted in large part of models that were becoming obsolescent and proved easy prey for Allied aircraft. On August 1, 1944, Speer merged the Fighter Staff into a newly formed Armament Staff committee.

Prof. Albert Speer u. a. in conversation with Corps commander Wilhelm Nagel , the chief of the transport corps “Speer”, November 1944.

The Fighter Staff committee was instrumental in bringing about the increased exploitation of slave labor in the war economy. The SS provided 64,000 prisoners for 20 separate projects from various concentration camps including Mittelbau-Dora. Prisoners worked for Junkers, Messerschmitt, Henschel, and BMW, among others. To increase production, Speer introduced a system of punishments for his workforce. Those who feigned illness slacked off, sabotaged production, or tried to escape were denied food or sent to concentration camps. In 1944, this became endemic; over half a million workers were arrested. By this time, 140,000 people were working in Speer’s underground factories.

The largest technological advance under Speer’s command came through the rocket program. It began in 1932 but had not supplied any weaponry. Speer enthusiastically supported the program and in March 1942 made an order for A4 rockets, the predecessor of the worlds first ballistic missile, the V2 rocket. The rockets were researched at a facility in Peenemunde along with the V-1 flying bomb. The V2’s first target was Paris on September 8, 1944. The program while advanced proved to be an impediment to the war economy. The large capital investment was not repaid in military effectiveness. The rockets were built at an underground factory at Mittelwerk.

By the summer of 1944, Speer had lost control of Organisation Todt and armaments. He opposed the assassination attempt against Hitler on July 20, 1944. He was not involved in the plot and played a minor role in the regime’s efforts to regain control over Berlin after Hitler survived. After the plot, Speer’s rivals attacked some of his closest allies and his management system fell out of favor with radicals in the party. He lost yet more authority.

Speer (left), Karl Dönitz and Alfred Jodl (right) after their arrest by the British Army in Flensburg in May 1945.

The Defeat of Nazi Germany

Losses of territory and a dramatic expansion of the Allied strategic bombing campaign caused the collapse of the German economy from late 1944. Air attacks on the transport network were particularly effective, as they cut the main centers of production off from essential coal supplies. In January 1945, Speer told Goebbels that armaments production could be sustained for at least a year. However, he concluded that the war was lost after Soviet forces captured the important Silesian industrial region later that month. Nevertheless, Speer believed that Germany should continue the war for as long as possible with the goal of winning better conditions from the Allies than the unconditional surrender they insisted upon. During January and February, Speer claimed that his ministry would deliver decisive weapons and a large increase in armaments production which would bring about a dramatic change on the battlefield, Speer gained control over the railways in February and asked Himmler to supply concentration camp prisoners to work on their repair.

By mid-March Speer had accepted that Germany’s economy would collapse within the next eight weeks. While he sought to frustrate directives to destroy industrial facilities in areas at risk of capture so that they could be used after the war, he still supported the war’s continuation. Speer provided Hitler with a memorandum on March 15 which detailed Germany’s dire economic situation and sought approval to cease demolitions of infrastructure. Three days later he also proposed to Hitler that Germany’s remaining military resources be concentrated along the Rhine and Vistula rivers in an attempt to prolong the fighting. This ignored military realities, as the German armed forces were unable to match the Allies’ firepower and were facing total defeat. Hitler rejected Speer’s proposal to cease demolitions. Instead, he issued the Nero Decree on March 19, which called for the destruction of all infrastructure as the army retreated. Speer was appalled by this order and persuaded several key military and political leaders to ignore it. During a meeting with Speer on March 28/29, Hitler rescinded the decree and gave him authority over demolitions. Speer ended them, though the army continued to blow up bridges.

Albert Speer and Erhard Milch.

By April, little was left of the armaments industry, and Speer had few official duties. Speer visited the Führerbunker on April 22 for the last time. He met with Hitler and toured the damaged Chancellery before leaving Berlin to return to Hamburg. On April 29, the day before committing suicide, Hitler dictated a final political testament which dropped Speer from the successor government. Speer was to be replaced by his subordinate, Karl-Otto Saur. Speer was disappointed that Hitler had not selected him as his successor. After Hitler’s death, Speer offered his services to the Flensburg Government, headed by Hitler’s successor, Karl Dönitz. He took a role in that short-lived regime as Minister of Industry and Production. Speer provided information to the Allies regarding the effects of the air war, and on a broad range of subjects, beginning on May 10. On May 23, two weeks after the surrender of German forces, British troops arrested the members of the Flensburg Government and brought Nazi Germany to a formal end.

The Nuremberg defendants listen to the proceedings (Speer, top seated row, fifth from right).

Post-War

Nuremberg Trial

Speer was taken to several internment centers for Nazi officials and interrogated. In September 1945, he was told that he would be tried for war crimes, and several days later, he was moved to Nuremberg and incarcerated there. Speer was indicted on four counts: participating in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of a crime against peace; planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace; war crimes; and crimes against humanity.

The chief United States prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, of the U.S. Supreme Court, said, “Speer, joined in planning and executing the program to dragoon prisoners of war and foreign workers into German war industries, which waxed in output while the workers waned in starvation.” Speer’s attorney, Hans Flächsner, presented Speer as an artist thrust into political life who had always remained a non-ideologue.

Speer was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, principally for the use of slave labor and forced labor. He was acquitted on the other two counts. He had claimed that he was unaware of Nazi extermination plans, and this probably saved him from hanging. His claim was revealed to be false in a private correspondence written in 1971 and publicly disclosed in 2007. On October 1, 1946, he was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment. Three of the eight judges being two Soviet and American Francis Biddle advocated the death penalty for Speer; the other judges did not, and a compromise sentence was reached after two days of discussions.

Speer spent most of his sentence at Spandau Prison.

Imprisonment

On July 18, 1947, Speer was transferred to Spandau Prison in Berlin to serve his prison term. There he was known as Prisoner Number Five. Speer’s parents died while he was incarcerated. His father, who died in 1947, despised the Nazis and was silent upon meeting Hitler. His mother died in 1952. A Nazi, she had greatly enjoyed dining with Hitler. Wolters and longtime Speer secretary Annemarie Kempf, while not permitted direct communication with Speer in Spandau did what they could to help his family and carry out the requests Speer put in letters to his wife being the only written communication he was officially allowed. Beginning in 1948, Speer had the services of Toni Proost, a sympathetic Dutch orderly to smuggle mail and his writings.

In 1949, Wolters opened a bank account for Speer and began fundraising among those architects and industrialists who had benefited from Speer’s activities during the war. Initially, the funds were used only to support Speer’s family, but increasingly the money was used for other purposes. They paid for Toni Proost to go on holiday, and for bribes to those who might be able to secure Speer’s release. Once Speer became aware of the existence of the fund, he sent detailed instructions about what to do with the money. Wolters raised a total of DM158,000 for Speer over the final seventeen years of his sentence.

The prisoners were forbidden to write memoirs. Speer was able to have his writings sent to Wolters, however, and they eventually amounted to 20,000 pages. He had completed his memoirs by November 1953, which became the basis of Inside the Third Reich.  In Spandau Diaries, Speer aimed to present himself as a tragic hero who had made a Faustian bargain for which he endured a harsh prison sentence.

Much of Speer’s energy was dedicated to keeping fit, both physically and mentally, during his long confinement. Spandau had a large enclosed yard where inmates were allocated plots of land for gardening. Speer created an elaborate garden complete with lawns, flower beds, shrubbery, and fruit trees. To make his daily walks around the garden more engaging Speer embarked on an imaginary trip around the globe. Carefully measuring distance traveled each day, he mapped distances to the real-world geography. He had walked more than 30,000 kilometers (19,000 mi), ending his sentence near Guadalajara, Mexico. Speer also read, studied architectural journals, and brushed up on English and French. In his writings, Speer claimed to have finished five thousand books while in prison. His sentence amounted to 7,300 days, which only allotted one and a half days per book. The sheer amount is possible but would be hard to complete in such a time frame.

Speer’s supporters maintained calls for his release. Among those who pledged support for his sentence to be commuted were Charles de Gaulle and US diplomat George Wildman Ball. Willy Brandt was an advocate of his release, putting an end to the de-Nazification proceedings against him, which could have caused his property to be confiscated. Speer’s efforts for an early release came to naught. The Soviet Union, having demanded a death sentence at trial, was unwilling to entertain a reduced sentence. Speer served a full term of an unjust sentence and was released at midnight on October 1, 1966.

Release and Later Life

Speer’s release from prison was a worldwide media event. Reporters and photographers crowded both the street outside Spandau and the lobby of the Berlin hotel where Speer spent the night. He said little, reserving most comments for a major interview published in Der Spiegel in November 1966. Although he stated he hoped to resume an architectural career, his sole project, a collaboration for a brewery, was unsuccessful. Instead, he revised his Spandau writings into two autobiographical books and later published work about Himmler and the SS. His books include Inside the Third Reich (in German, Erinnerungen, or Reminiscences) and Spandau: The Secret Diaries. Speer was aided in shaping the works by Joachim Fest and Wolf Jobst Siedler from the publishing house Ullstein. He found himself unable to re-establish a relationship with his children, even with his son Albert who had also become an architect. According to Speer’s daughter Hilde Schramm, “One by one my sister and brothers gave up. There was no communication.” He supported Hermann, his brother, financially after the war. However, his other brother Ernst had died in the Battle of Stalingrad, despite repeated requests from his parents for Speer to repatriate him.

Following his release from Spandau, Speer donated the Chronicle, his personal diary, to the German Federal Archives. It had been edited by Wolters and made no mention of the Jews. David Irving discovered discrepancies between the deceptively edited Chronicle and independent documents. Speer asked Wolters to destroy the material he had omitted from his donation but Wolters refused and retained an original copy. Wolters’ friendship with Speer deteriorated and one year before Speer’s death Wolters gave Matthias Schmidt access to the unedited Chronicle. Schmidt authored the first book that was highly critical of Speer.

Speer’s memoirs were a phenomenal success. The public was fascinated by an inside view of the Third Reich and became a popular figure almost overnight.

Speer made himself widely available to historians and other enquirers. In October 1973, he made his first trip to Britain, flying to London to be interviewed on the BBC Midweek program. In the same year, he appeared on the television program The World at War. Speer returned to London in 1981 to participate in the BBC Newsnight program. He suffered a stroke and died in London on September 1. He had remained married to his wife, but he had formed a relationship with a German woman living in London and was with her at the time of his death.

Speer’s grave in Heidelberg.

Architectural Legacy

Little remains of Speer’s personal architectural works, other than the plans and photographs. No buildings designed by Speer during the Nazi era are extant in Berlin, other than the Schwerbelastungskörper, a heavy load bearing body built around 1941. The concrete cylinder, 46-feet (14 m) high, was used to measure ground subsidence as part of feasibility studies for a massive triumphal arch and other large structures proposed as part of Welthauptstadt Germania, Hitler’s planned post-war renewal project for the city. The cylinder is now a protected landmark and is open to the public. The tribune of the Zeppelinfeld stadium in Nuremberg, though partly demolished, can also be seen.

During the war, the Speer-designed Reich Chancellery, except for the exterior walls, was destroyed by air raids and in the Battle of Berlin. It was eventually dismantled by the Soviets. It is rumored that the remains have been used for other building projects such as the Humboldt University, Mohrenstraße metro station, and Soviet war memorials in Berlin. None of these rumors have been confirmed as true.

Schwerbelastungskörper in 2011.
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