Albert Speer

German architect, Minister of Armaments and War Production for Nazi Germany (1905–1981)

Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer (March 19, 1905September 1, 1981) served as the Minister of Armaments and War Production in Nazi Germany during most of World War II. A close ally of Adolf Hitler, he was convicted at the Nuremberg trials and sentenced to 20 years in prison. An architect by training, Speer joined the Nazi Party in 1931. 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 Nazi party rally grounds in Nuremberg.

In the burning and devastated cities, we daily experienced the direct impact of war. It spurred us to do our utmost...the bombing and the hardships that resulted from them did not weaken the morale of the populace.


  • A new large-scale war will end with the destruction of human culture and civilization. Therefore, this trial must contribute toward preventing such degenerate wars in the future, and toward establishing rules whereby human beings can live together.
    • Nuremberg trials, (31 August 1945)
  • I felt this coming. I tried unsuccessfully to assassinate Hitler in 1945. I am not concerned with jurisdiction of the court as Hess or others are. History will show the trials to be necessary.
  • The sacrifices which were made on both sides after January 1945 were without sense. The dead of this period will be the accusers of the man responsible for the continuation of that fight, Adolf Hitler, just as much as the destroyed cities, destroyed in that last phase, who had lost tremendous cultural values and tremendous numbers of dwellings.... The German people” he said” remained faithful to Adolf Hitler until the end. He has betrayed them knowingly. He has tried to throw them into the abyss...
    • As quoted by chief prosecutor Robert H. Jackson in the closing summation of the prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials (26 July 1946)
  • The tremendous danger, however, contained in this totalitarian system only became abundantly clear at the moment when we were approaching the end. It was then that one could see what the meaning of the principle was, namely, that every order should be carried out without any criticism. Everything . . . you have seen in the way of orders which were carried out without any consideration, did after all turn out to be mistakes . . . This system let me put it like this to the end of the system it had become clear what tremendous dangers are contained in any such system, as such quite apart from Hitler's principle. The combination of Hitler and this system, then, brought about this tremendous catastrophe to this world.
    • As quoted by chief prosecutor Robert H. Jackson in the closing summation of the prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials (26 July 1946)
  • 20 years. Well … that's fair enough. They couldn't have given me a lighter sentence, considering the facts, and I can't complain. I said the sentences must be severe, and I admitted my share of the guilt, so it would be ridiculous if I complained about the punishment.
    • To Dr. G.M. Gilbert, after receiving his sentence. Quoted in Nuremberg Diary by G.M. Gilbert (1995)
  • Hitler's dictatorship differed in one fundamental point from all its predecessors in history. His was the first dictatorship in the present period of technical development, a dictatorship which made complete use of all technical means for the domination of its own country. Through technical means like the radio and the loud-speaker, eighty million people were deprived of independent thought. It was thereby possible to subject them to the will of one man.
Twenty years. Well...that's fair enough. They couldn't have given me a lighter sentence, considering the facts, and I can't complain. I said the sentences must be severe, and I admitted my share of the guilt, so it would be ridiculous if I complained about the punishment.
  • The Nuremberg Trial stands for me still today as an attempt to break through to a better world. Still today I acknowledge as generally correct the reasons of my sentence by the International Military Tribunal. Moreover, I still today consider as just that I assume the responsibility and thus the guilt for everything that was perpetrated by way of, generally speaking, crime, after my joining the Hitler Government on the 8th February 1942. Not the individual mistakes, grave as they may be, are burdening my conscience, but my having acted in the leadership. Therefore, I for my person, have in the Nuremberg Trial, confessed to the collective responsibility and I am also maintaining this today still. I still see my main guilt in my having approved of the persecution of the Jews and of the murder of millions of them.
  • Hatred of the Jews was Hitler's motor and central point perhaps even the very element which motivated him. The German people, the German greatness, the Empire, they all meant nothing to him in the last analysis. For this reason, he wished in the final sentence of his testament, to fixate us Germans, even after the apocalyptic downfall in a miserable hatred of the Jews...When speaking of the victims of the bomb raids, particularly after the massive attacks on Hamburg in Summer 1943, he again and again reiterated that he would avenge these victims on the Jews; just as if the air-terror against the civilian population actually suited him in that it furnished him with a belated substitute motivation for a crime decided upon long ago and emanating from quite different layers of his personality. Just as if he wanted to justify his own mass murders with these remarks.
    • Testimony of Albert Speer, Munich (15 June 1977)
  • So long as Hitler had temperamental outbursts of hate, there was yet hope for a change towards more moderate directions. Therefore, it was the resoluteness and coldness which made his outbreaks against the Jews so convincing. In other areas when he announced horrifying decisions in a cold and quiet voice, those around him, and I myself knew that things had now become serious. And with just this cold superiority he declared also, when we occasionally had lunch together, that he was set to destroy the Jews in Europe.
    • Testimony of Albert Speer, Munich (15 June 1977)

Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs (1970)

  • The young district leader chose Bauhaus wallpapers at my suggestion, although I had hinted that these were "Communist" wallpapers. He waved that warning aside with a grand gesture: "We will take the best of everything, even from the Communists." In saying this he was expressing what Hitler and his staff had already been doing for years: picking up anything that promised success without regard for ideology…
    • p. 22
  • The danger that hung over Moscow in the winter of 1941 struck [Hitler] as similar to his present predicament. In a brief access of confidence, he might remark with a jesting tone of voice that it would be best, after victory over Russia, to entrust the administration of the country to Stalin, under German hegemony, of course, since he was the best imaginable man to handle the Russians. In general he regarded Stalin as a kind of colleague. When Stalin's son was taken prisoner it was out of this respect, perhaps, that Hitler ordered him to be given especially good treatment.
    • p. 306
  • In contrast to the ultimate realization that he was dealing with a formidable enemy in the east, Hitler clung to the end to his preconceived opinion that the troops of the Western countries were poor fighting material. Even the Allied successes in Africa and Italy could not shake his belief that these soldiers would run away at the first serious onslaught. He was convinced that these soldiers would run away from the first serious onslaught. He was convinced that democracy enfeebled a nation. As late as the summer of 1944 he held to his theory that all the ground that had been lost in the West would be quickly reconquered. His opinions on the Western statesmen had a similar bias. He considered Churchill, as he often stated during the situation conferences, an incompetent, alcoholic demagogue. And he asserted in all seriousness that Roosevelt was not a victim of infantile paralysis but of syphilitic paralysis and was therefore mentally unsound. These opinions, too, were indications, of his flight from reality in the last years of his life.
    • pp. 306-307
  • Basically, I exploited the phenomenon of the technician’s often blind devotion to his task. Because of what seems to be the moral neutrality of technology, these people were without any scruples about their activities. The more technical the world imposed on us by the war, the more dangerous was this indifference of the technician to the direct consequences of his anonymous activities.
    • p. 310
  • Even the last scintillating assembly of the leaders of the Reich could scarcely distract me from my cares. That was the gala celebration of Goering's birthday on January 12, 1944, which he held at Karinhall. We all came with expensive presents, such as Goering expected: cigars from Holland, gold bars from the Balkans, valuable paintings and sculptures. Goering had let me know that he would like to have a marble bust of Hitler, more than life size, by Breker. The overladen gift table had been set up in the big library. Goering displayed it to his guests and spread out on it the building plans his architect had prepared for his birthday. Goering's palace-like residence was to be more than doubled in size. At the magnificently set table in the luxurious dining room flunkies in white livery served a somewhat austere meal, in keeping with the conditions of the time. Funk, as he did every year, delivered the birthday speech at the banquet. He lauded Goering's abilities, qualities, and dignities and offered the toast to him as "one of the greatest Germans." Funk's extravagant words contrasted grotesquely with the actual situation. The whole thing was a ghostly celebration taking place against a background of collapse and ruin.
    • p. 322
  • Actually, a kind of state socialism seemed to be gaining more and more ground, furthered by many of the [Nazi] party functionaries. They had already managed to have all plants owned by the state distributed among the various party districts and subordinated to their own district enterprises... Our very system of industrial direction in the interests of war production could easily become the framework for a state-socialist economic order. The result was that our organization, the more efficient it became, was itself providing the party leaders with the instruments for the doom of private enterprise.
    • p. 359
  • In the burning and devastated cities, we daily experienced the direct impact of war. It spurred us to do our utmost...the bombing and the hardships that resulted from them did not weaken the morale of the populace.
    • p. 363
  • At a situation conference early in February the maps showed the catastrophic picture of innumerable breakthroughs and encirclements. I drew Doenitz aside: "Something must be done, you know." Doenitz replied with unwonted curtness: "I am here only to represent the navy. The rest is none of my business. The Fuehrer must know what he is doing."
    • p. 427
  • Around the middle of February, I called on Goering one evening in Karinhall. I had discovered from studying the military map that he had concentrated his parachute division around his hunting estate. For a long time he had been made the scapegoat for all the failures of the Luftwaffe. At the situation conferences Hitler habitually denounced him in the most violent and insulting language before the assembled officers. He must have been even nastier in the scenes he had with Goering privately. Often, waiting in the anteroom, I could hear Hitler shouting at him. That evening in Karinhall, I established a certain intimacy with Goering for the first and only time. Goering had an excellent Rotschild-Lafite served at the fireplace and ordered the servant not to disturb us. Candidly, I described my disappointment with Hitler. Just as candidly, Goering replied that he well understood me and that he often felt much the same. However, he said, it was easier for me, since I had joined Hitler a great deal later and could free myself from him all the sooner. He, Goering, had much closer ties with Hitler; many years of common experiences and struggles had bound them together- and he could no longer break loose.
    • p. 426
  • At this time a high-ranking SS leader hinted to me that Himmler was preparing decisive steps. In February 1945, the Reichsführer-SS had assumed command of the Vistula Army Group, but he was no better than his successor at stopping the Russian advance. Hitler was now berating him also. Thus what personal prestige Himmler had retained was used up by a few weeks of commanding frontline troops. Nevertheless, everyone still feared Himmler, and I felt distinctly shaky one day on learning that Himmler was coming to see me about something that evening. This, incidentally, was the only time he ever called on me. My nervousness grew when Theodor Hupfauer, the new chief of our Central Office- with whom I had several times spoken rather candidly- told me in some trepidation that Gestapo chief Kaltenbrunner would be calling on him at the same hour. Before Himmler entered, by adjutant whispered to me: "He's alone." My office was without window panes; we no longer bothered replacing them since they were blasted out by bombs every few days. A wretched candle stood at the center of the table; the electricity was out again. Wrapped in our coats, we sat facing one another. Himmler talked about minor matters, asked about pointless details, and finally made the witless observation: "When the course is downhill there's always a floor to the valley, and once it is reached, Herr Speer, the ascent begins again." Since I expressed neither agreement nor disagreement with this proverbial wisdom and remained virtually monosyllabic throughout the conversation, he soon took his leave. I never found out what he wanted of it, or why Kaltenbrunner called on Hupfauer at the same time. Perhaps t hey had heard about my critical attitude and were seeking allies; perhaps they merely wanted to sound us out.
    • pp. 427-428
  • At Mondorf and Nuremberg, Goering had undergone a systematic withdrawal cure which had ended his drug addiction. Ever since, he was in better form than I had ever seen him. He displayed remarkable energy and became the most formidable personality among the defendants. I thought it a great pity that he had not been up to this level before the outbreak of the war and in critical situations during the war. He would have been the only person whose authority and popularity Hitler would have had to reckon with. Actually, he had been one of the few sensible enough to foresee the doom that awaited us. But having thrown away his chance to save the country while that was still possible, it was absurd and truly criminal for him to use his regained powers to hoodwink his own people. His whole policy was one of deception. Once, in the prison yard something was said about Jewish survivors in Hungary. Goering remarked coldly: "So, there are still some there? I thought we had knocked off all of them. Somebody slipped up again." I was stunned.
    • p. 512

Quotes about Speer

  • Hitler, as it were, came from nowhere- the returning primal being, as the historian Otto Hinze has remarked. The likes of him will always crop up again. Speer, on the other hand, was, by origin and upbringing, the product of a long process of civilization. He came from a respected home with strict values, and had furthermore received his training from a teacher who endeavored to communicate to his students not only professional knowledge, but also standards that would withstand all the temptations of the age. Speer far more than Hitler makes us realize how fragile these precautions are, and how the ground on which we all stand is always threatened.
  • The destructive will came from Hitler. But he would not have achieved any of his objectives without the helpers, of which Speer is but one example.
    • Joachim Fest Speer: The Final Verdict (2001), p. 356
  • Speer preserved a sensitive heart through all the horrors of the closing years of the Third Reich. He was a good comrade, with an open character and an intelligent, natural manner. Originally an independent architect, he became Minister after Todt's early death. He disliked bureaucratic methods and attempted to act according to a healthy understanding of human nature. We worked together without friction and always did our best to give one another such assistance as lay within our power, which is surely the obvious and sensible way to behave. But of how many prominent men in the Third Reich could it be said that they pursued this obvious and sensible course? Speer always retained his objectivity. I never saw him become exaggeratedly excited. He managed to calm down his occasionally highly temperamental colleagues, and when inter-departmental strife arose he always did his best to pacify both parties. Speer possessed sufficient courage to speak his mind to Hitler. At an early stage he explained to him clearly and fully why the war could no longer be won and why it must therefore be ended. This brought Hitler's anger down upon him.
  • Speer is generally recognized as the most able of Hitler's subordinates and the most interesting, in that he retained throughout his membership a clear-sighted understanding of its essentially Byzantine character.
    • John Keegan (editor), Who's Who in World War II (1995), p. 145
  • An architect by profession, Speer knew little about industrial production, but he had a flexible and brilliant mind, great energy and an exceptional talent for improvisation. As the Führer's personal architect, Speer had directed the construction of most of the Nazi Party buildings at Nuremberg, Munich and elsewhere, and since his relationship with Hitler had been that of one artist to another, he had gained a most favored standing. It appears that he alone of the leading Nazis was given freedom to speak frankly, a freedom which he had the courage to exercise.
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