Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught history, and has an MA in Islamic law/finance. He has since founded his own financial advice firm, Newton Analytical.
Life of Albert Speer
Before he became one of the few prominent Nazis to have a post-war career of mention, Albert Speer was born in 1905 to a well-off family. Despite initial desires to the contrary, he entered the family business of architecture, showing so much promise as to be allowed to teach the subject.
Indeed, it was Speer's students who first introduced him to the Nazi party, where a series of contracts soon gained him the attention of Hitler himself. The dictator, always one with an eye for what could gain the public's attention, became captivated by the young architect's designs.
Speer was drawn in by the immense attention shown by the charismatic leader. Soon, he was the architect for Hitler's vision of a new Germany. Drawing on classical examples, but with a decidedly Germanic twist, Speer was crucial in portraying the Reich as an empire worthy of a thousand-year reign.
During the war, Speer soon found his organizational talents under a very different use. As someone accustomed to organization on a mass scale, the architect soon found himself managing the logistics of the German war machine. In this capacity, Speer's subordinates used slave labor, often from concentration camps. Speer would later claim ignorance of such actions, and when put on trial at Nuremburg, he apologized profusely. Such action likely saved him from the gallows.
After a lengthy prison sentence, Speer began to write about his experiences in the Nazi inner circle. Much of the royalties of his writings went to causes meant to ameliorate the suffering caused by Nazi rule in Europe. He continued to take responsibility for the actions of the Nazi regime until his death in 1981.
Not surprisingly, few of Speer's buildings were built prior to World War II, and of those, even fewer survived. However, through archival footage, access to the detailed models and blueprints is possible, and much can be gleaned about Speer's style from those plans.
As an architect, Speer valued large buildings that harkened back to an Imperial Roman past, placing the new German Reich as the successor to the glories of Rome. In fact, Speer readily sought to use construction designs that would leave impressive ruins, knowing that the state would require new sources of propaganda in the proposed Nazi future.
Notable in this regard is the Parade Ground at Nuremburg, built to resemble a Roman forum. Massive, with room for hundreds of thousands of participants, it places the power of the Nazi party on full display, and when coupled with film, made for a particularly powerful moment.
This neo-imperial style extended to interiors as well. The Reich Chancellery, seat of Nazi power in Berlin, was built with the intent to out shadow the greatest palaces in France and Italy. Although the building was destroyed by the Russians upon their capture of the city, it would remain perhaps the most visceral example of Speer's achievements.
The Reich Chancellery was merely one piece in the plan that Speer had offered Hitler. Seeking to satisfy his master's desire for a new imperial capital, Speer planned to redesign Berlin as Welthauptstadt Germania, or 'World Capital Germany.' Modeled on ancient Rome, the new design would feature grand thoroughfares and even more monumental architecture than had been imagined up until that point.
While not a military leader, Albert Speer used his architectural and logistical genius to make Nazi Germany even more formidable during the Second World War. While his plans for a Welthauptstadt Germania never came to fruition, his Parade Ground at Nuremburg remains as a chilling reminder of the terror the world once faced, and a terror that Speer would spend the rest of his life apologizing for supporting.
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