Bundesarchiv Bild 146II-277, Albert Speer

Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer[1] (German: [ˈʃpeːɐ̯] ( listen); March 19th, 1905 – September 1st, 1981) was a German architect who was, for most of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for Nazi Germany. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office. As "the Nazi who said sorry",[b] he accepted moral responsibility at the Nuremberg trials and in his memoirs for complicity in crimes of the Nazi regime, while insisting he had been ignorant of the Holocaust.

Speer joined the Nazi Party in 1931, launching himself 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 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.

In February 1942, Hitler appointed Speer Minister of Armaments and War Production. He was fêted at the time, and long afterwards, for performing an "armaments miracle" in which German war production dramatically increased; this "miracle", however, was brought to a halt by the summer of 1943 by, among other factors, the first sustained Allied bombing of 1943.

After the war, he was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the Nazi regime, principally for the use of forced labor. Despite repeated attempts to gain early release, he served his full sentence, most of it at Spandau Prison in West Berlin. Following his release in 1966, Speer published two bestselling autobiographical works, Inside the Third Reich and Spandau: The Secret Diaries, detailing his 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 following a stroke on September 1st, 1981 while on a visit to London.

Career summary

  • Joined NSDAP: March 1st, 1931
  • Party Number: 474,481

Nazi Party positions

  • Member, National Socialist Motor Corps: 1931
  • Commissioner for the Artistic and Technical Presentation of Party Rallies and Demonstrations: 1933
  • Department Chief, German Labor Front: 1934
  • Chief, NSDAP Directorate for Technical Matters: 1942
    • From 1934 to 1939, Speer was often referred to as "First Architect of the Reich", however this was mainly a title given to him by Hitler and not an actual political position within the Nazi Party or German government.

Government positions

  • General Building Inspector for the Reich Capital: 1937
  • Reich Minister for Weapons, Munitions, and Armaments: 1942

In 1943, under his authority as Reich Minister of Armaments, Speer also became the Director of Organisation Todt. The standard uniform Speer wore during the later half of World War II was an insignia-less Nazi Party brown jacket, with an "Org Todt" armband.

Political ranks

  • Mitglied: 1931
  • Amtsleiter der Reichsleitung (later replaced by Einsatzleiter; equivalent to Lieutenant or Second Lieutenant): 1934
  • Hauptamtsleiter der Reichsleitung (later replaced by Haupteinsatzleiter; equivalent to Captain): 1935
  • Dienstleiter (no equivalent, but senior to Colonel) : 1939
  • Hauptdienstleiter (no equivalent, but senior to Colonel): 1941
  • Befehlsleiter (equivalent to Generalmajor or Brigadier-General): 1942
  • Oberbefehlsleiter (equivalent to Generalleutnant or Major-General): 1944

Awards and decorations

  • Golden Party Badge
  • Golden Hitler Youth Badge (with Oak Leaves)
  • Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross
  • NSDAP Long Service Award (Silver – 15 Years)
  • Honour Chevron for the Old Guard

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