Title: Inside the Third Reich
Subtitle: Memoirs by Albert Speer
Date: 1969

Title Page

Inside the Third Reich

MEMOIRS BY

ALBERT SPEER

Translated from the German

by RICHARD and CLARA WINSTON

Introduction by Eugene Davidson

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

Topics Covered

[The bullet point list simply represents topics covered in each chapter, not chapter headings.]

1. Origins and Youth

  • Youth

  • Life at home

  • Schooling

  • Inflation

  • Assistant to Tessenow

  • Marriage

2. Profession and Vocation

  • Offer from Afghanistan

  • Architect without commissions

  • Boating tours

  • The election of September 14, 1930

  • National Socialism and the Technical Institute

  • First Hitler rally

  • Goebbels in the Sportpalast

  • Joining the party

3. Junction

  • First party assignment in Berlin

  • Back in Mannheim

  • Hitler’s Berlin demonstration

  • Renovating the party headquarters and the Propaganda Ministry

  • Décor for the Party Rally, May 1933

  • My client Hitler

  • At home with Hitler

4. My Catalyst

  • Hitler’s guest

  • My client Goering

  • Traveling with Hitler

  • Hitler’s thought

  • Hitler’s views on art

  • The Old Fighters

  • At Obersalzberg Mountain walks with Eva Braun

  • Cheers and obsessions

  • Hitler the architect

5. Architectural Megalomania

  • The Roehm putsch

  • Papen expelled from his office

  • Hindenburg’s funeral

  • First major assignment

  • Theory of ruin value

  • Cathedral of light

  • Cornerstone layings

  • Plans for Nuremberg

  • Architecture of a Great Power

6. The Greatest Assignment

  • Plans for Berlin

  • Rivaling Vienna and Paris

  • Hitler and his architects

  • The German pavilion at the Paris World’s Fair

  • Neoclassicism in our times

  • Abortive travels in France

  • Neurath’s obstinacy

7. Obersalzberg

  • Bormann and Hitler

  • The day at Obersalzberg

  • Teatime talk

  • Hitler’s rage

  • Retirement in Linz

  • Hitler’s prediction

8. The New Chancellery

  • The assignment

  • Hitler’s illness

  • Morell

  • Events of 1938: Cabinet changes, Austria, Munich, November 9

  • A bad omen

  • Hacha in the new Chancellery

9. A Day in the Chancellery

  • Waiting

  • Hess the eccentric

  • The leadership’s “style”

  • The radicals, Bormann and Goebbels

  • Jokes for Hitler

  • Dull evenings

  • Hitler and music

10. Our Empire Style

  • “You’ve all gone completely crazy”

  • Laying out the grand avenue

  • Megalomania

  • Deadlines

  • Costs

  • Boom in architecture

  • Hitler’s sketches

  • Affairs in the Goebbels family

  • Incognito to Italy

  • Hitler’s fiftieth birthday

  • With the Wagner family in Bayreuth

  • Frau Goebbels

11. The Globe

  • Hitler’s power center

  • The biggest building in the world

  • A Reichstag for one hundred forty million people

  • Hitler’s palace

  • Fear of uprisings

  • Empire style

  • The globe

12. The Descent Begins

  • The Pact

  • Northern lights over Obersalzberg

  • “Blood”

  • War and peace parties

  • Hitler goes to war

  • At headquarters

  • Armistice

  • With Hitler in Paris

  • Wartime building program

13. Excess

  • Victory parades under the triumphal arch

  • Hess’s flight to England

  • Hitler and Goering as art collectors

  • War against the Soviet Union

  • The pencil line along the Urals

  • Captured weapons for the grand avenue

  • Trondheim and the East

  • My last art tour

  • Disaster in Russia

  • The second man

Part Two

14. Start in My New Office

  • Flight to Dnepropetrovsk

  • Visit to headquarters

  • Talks with Hitler and Todt

  • Death of Todt

  • Audience with Hitler

  • Appointment as Minister

  • Goering’s scene

  • First official acts

  • Obstacles overcome

  • The Cabinet Room

15. Organized Improvisation

  • The new organizational scheme

  • Goering’s threat to resign

  • Architect and technology

  • Industrial self-responsibility

  • Organization of the Ministry

  • Successes

16. Sins of Omission

  • The technological war

  • Efforts at full mobilization

  • Party opposition

  • More steel for the war

  • Transportation crisis

  • The muffed atom bomb

17. Commander in Chief Hitler

  • Armaments conferences with Hitler

  • My system

  • Hitler’s knowledge of technology

  • Demonstrating weapons

  • Visits in southern Russia

  • Ascent of Mount Elbrus

  • Hitler’s situation conferences

  • The Allied landing in North Africa

  • Goering and Stalingrad

18. Intrigues

  • Bormann

  • Cabinet meetings again

  • Need for austerity

  • Discussions with Goebbels

  • Alliances

  • Bormann’s system

  • Dealing with Goebbels, dealing with Goering

  • Fiasco

  • Himmler’s threat

19. Second Man in the State

  • Goebbels joins Bormann

  • Hitler reprimands Goebbels

  • No prisoners

  • Bridge to Asia

  • Guderian and Zeitzler agree

  • Minister of War Production

20. Bombs

  • The new front

  • Goering’s deceptions

  • The Ruhr dams

  • Pinpoint bombing strategy

  • The raids on Hamburg

  • Ball bearings

  • The enemy’s strategic mistake

  • The bombing of Berlin

  • Hitler’s mistakes Galland against Goering

  • The flight from reality

21. Hitler in the Autumn of 1943

  • The change in Hitler

  • His rigidity and exhaustion

  • Daily routine

  • Hitler and his dog

  • The Prince of Hesse

  • Mussolini freed and cheated

22. Downhill

  • Armaments work in occupied territories

  • Agreement with the French

  • Sauckel’s reaction

  • Speech to the Gauleiters

  • Hitler lies to his generals

  • Trip to Lapland

  • Infantry program

  • Trouble with Sauckel

  • Goering’s birthday

Part Three

23. Illness

  • Dangerous plots

  • Convalescence

  • The Fighter Aircraft Staff

  • Hitler’s emotion and new estrangement

  • Candidates for my office

  • Thoughts of resignation

  • Back at the Berghof

  • Hitler yields

  • Praise in The Observer

24. The War Thrice Lost

  • Return to work

  • Strategic bombing of fuel production

  • Memoranda

  • Rommel and coastal defense

  • The invasion of Normandy begins

  • Takeover of aircraft production

  • Hitler’s speech to the industrialists

25. Blunders, Secret Weapons, and the SS

  • Jet fighters as bombers

  • Peenemünde

  • Concentration camp prisoners in war industry

  • Himmler invades rocket research

  • Plans for SS economic expansion

  • Stealing workers

  • Auschwitz

26. Operation Valkyrie

  • Talks with the conspirators

  • The news reaches Goebbels

  • In the center of the counterstroke

  • Bendlerstrasse

  • Meeting with Fromm

  • Himmler calls on Goebbels

  • Kaltenbrunner’s visit

  • On the conspirators’ lists

  • Aftermath

  • Arrests

  • Films of the executions

27. The Wave from the West

  • Goebbels gains power

  • Hitler loses authority

  • Visits to the front

  • September 1944: military impotence

  • Hitler’s plans for destruction

  • Outwitting his arguments

  • Shortage of chromium

  • Declining production

  • Secret weapons and propaganda

28. The Plunge

  • Breakup of organization

  • Emergency program

  • The Ardennes offensive

  • Upper Silesia

  • “The war is lost”

  • Memorandum

  • Reaction to Yalta

  • Poison Gas for Hitler’s bunker

29. Doom

  • Anxiety over the postwar period

  • Countermeasures

  • Another memorandum

  • Hitler’s reply

  • Hitler’s death sentence upon industry

30. Hitler’s Ultimatum

  • The Ruhr threatened

  • Feverish travels

  • Sabotage of orders

  • Hitler’s twenty-four-hour ultimatum

  • An unread letter

  • Hitler yields again

31. The Thirteenth Hour

  • Radio speech

  • Finale of Gbtterddmmerung

  • Roosevelt’s death

  • Ley invents death rays

  • Eva Braun

  • Preparations for flight

  • Plans for suicide

  • Hitler’s last delusions

  • The “rebel speech”

  • Collaboration with Heinrici

  • Berlin will not be defended

32. Annihilation

  • Hitler’s condition

  • Fear and pity

  • Last birthday

  • Goering goes to Berchtesgaden

  • My flight

  • In the Hamburg radio bunker

  • Last visit to Hitler

  • Situation conference

  • Farewell to Magda Goebbels and Eva Braun

  • Last words with Hitler

  • Himmler and his notions

  • Doenitz

  • Tears

  • Responsibility

Epilogue

33. Stations of Imprisonment

  • Flensburg

  • Mondorf

  • Versailles

  • Kransberg

  • Nuremberg

34. Nuremberg

  • Interrogations

  • Collective responsibility

  • Cross examination

35. Conclusions

  • The judgment

  • The sentence

  • My own fate

  • Skepticism

Introduction

The unresolved questions of the period of national socialism remain with us. The enormity of the crimes committed, the huge scale of victory and defeat are subjects of continuous exploration and analysis. How could one of the chief centers of the civilized world have become a torture chamber for millions of people, a country ruled by criminals so effectively that it conquered most of Europe, moving out toward other continents, planting its swastika standards from Norway to the Caucasus and Africa before it was brought down at the cost of some thirty million lives? What had happened to the nation of thinkers and poets, the “good” Germans that the nineteenth century knew? And how did intelligent, well-intentioned, educated, principled people like Albert Speer become so caught up in the movement, so captivated by Hitler’s magnetism that they could accept everything—the secret police, the concentration camps, the nonsensical rhetoric of Aryan heroism and anti-Semitism, the slaughter of the Fuehrers wars—and devote all their resources to keeping this regime in power? In these memoirs of the man who was very likely the most gifted member of the government hierarchy we have some of the answers to these riddles and as complete a view as we are ever likely to get of the inside of the Nazi state.

When he joined the Party in 1931, Speer had never given much thought to politics. He came from an upper-middle-class family, one of the most prominent in Mannheim, supported in high style by the fathers flourishing architectural practice and involved mainly in the cultural and social life of the city. Speers father did read the liberal Frankfurter Zeitung, an unusual paper for a conservative architect to have in his home, but he utterly rejected the Nazis because he believed them to be more socialist than nationalist. The family suffered financial reverses during the inflation in 1923 but always lived well in a burgerlicher comfort enjoyed by very few people in post-World War I Germany.

Albert Speer was not one of the disoriented, rejected millions who were out of a job and a place in society; he joined the National Socialist Party because his faint interest in politics was roused more than it had ever been before when he heard Hitler give a speech in 1931. Most young men brought up like Speer did not care much for Hitler and his street fighters in 1931; Hiders strength went up and down with the numbers of unemployed. Left-wing Berlin, where Speer heard Hitler speak, gave Hitler only 22.5 percent of the vote in the last free election held in November 1932, and even after the Reichstag fire, when almost 44.0 percent of the rest of Germany voted for Hitler, the National Socialists got only 31.3 percent of the Berlin vote. So Speer made his own decisions in his own way. Like a good many other people he was looking for a new, powerful doctrine to clear up his own thinking. He had dabbled in philosophical ideas; had read Spengler and become depressed by him; had heard the prophecies of doom from the post-World War I intellectuals and seen them borne out in the confusion and hopelessness of the cities; and now he was rejecting much of what he had been brought up to believe in because none of it seemed to have any relevance to the chaos around him.

The speech Speer heard was made for university and technical students and faculties. Like every skillful politician, Hitler pitched his style to his audience. He wore a sober blue suit instead of his street fighters brown shirt and spoke earnestly, in a relatively low key, of a revitalized Germany. To Speer, his conviction seemed to be an antidote to Spenglers pessimism and at the same time fulfillment of his prophecy of the Imperator to come. These were the good tidings, it seemed, the complete answer to the threat of Communism and the political futility of the Weimar governments. In a time when nothing in the democratic process seemed to work, Hitler’s words sounded a loud call to many young men who by 1931 were convinced of the necessity for bold, new remedies for Germany’s deep troubles. The succession of patched-up coalition governments that governed neither long nor well and could find no answers at all to Germany’s economic depression, social unrest, and military powerlessness had to be replaced by a man and a party with new solutions, by a leader who knew the meaning of strength and law and order. The anti-Semitism of the Nazis could be condoned or ignored as merely a passing “children’s disease” if one liked the rest of their program. As Machiavelli once wrote, political misjudgments and wrong turns are like tuberculosis, hard to detect and easy to cure in the beginning and easy to diagnose and very hard to cure at the end.

But it was not the Party as a political instrument that appealed to Speer. What drew him was the personality of the Fuehrer, the scale of the blueprints for recovery, and later the wonderful opportunity to design buildings. It was through Hitler and the Party that Speer could realize his youthful architectural ambitions and acquire new ones beyond anything he had imagined. He tried not to see any of the barbarities committed by the National Socialist Party or the state although, as he tells us, the broken panes of the Jewish shops vandalized during the Kristallnacht lay shattered in front of him. But what he was able to accomplish in his profession and later in his key government posts so dazzled his vision that he could shut his eyes to almost everything, no matter how repulsive, that might disturb his purposes. What he wanted to do was to design and build and to work for a new order. Here the means were abundantly at hand if he did not look too closely at the price being paid for them.

Speer has had a long time to ask himself questions about his role in the Third Reich. At Nuremberg he was sentenced to twenty years for crimes against humanity and for war crimes; he served this sentence to the last hour. Some of these years he used to write these memoirs. They were intended for his children, but perhaps even more for himself. They had to be written clandestinely, often on scraps of paper or sheets tom from rolls used by the prison painters, and hidden behind a book Speer pretended to be reading as he lay on his cot. They were smuggled out of Spandau by one of the prison staff, a Dutchman who had himself been a slave laborer.

Speer, as the reader will discover, is not given to facile self-exculpation. When in defeat he finally came face to face with himself, with the bitter knowledge of what manner of man and what kind of state he had helped survive, he was as unrelenting toward himself as toward his collaborators. He told the court at Nuremberg, knowing that he risked his life when he said it, that as a member of Hitler’s government he took full responsibility for the crimes committed, for the slave labor in the factories under his authority, for his collaboration with the SS when it provided concentration camp prisoners for his production lines, and his conspicuous role in a regime that killed—although with no direct help from him—six million Jews. He had been accused on all four counts of the Nuremberg indictment: of having plotted to wage aggressive war, of participating in it, and of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. He fully accepted what lay behind the charges—the accusation that was mainly an echo of his own conscience—that he had served all too well as Minister of Armaments and War Production in a criminal state.

The court found him not guilty on the first two counts. With regard to the other charges, a majority (the Russians voted for death) took note of extenuating circumstances, on the evidence that Speer had tried to provide his workers with adequate food and housing, to make their lot as endurable and their work as efficient as possible. The court also noted that he had openly opposed Hitler (and indeed had planned to kill him when he saw that the Fuehrer was ready to destroy Germany only to gain a little more time for himself); and, too, Speer had had the uncommon courage to protest Hitler’s mistaken identification of his own fate with that of the country to a Fuehrer who had many a man executed for uttering merely defeatist sentiments.

The court, especially the Russians on it, knew from experience as well as from the evidence before them how much Speer had accomplished for the Reich. He had kept Germany armed against a world of enemies both inside and outside its boundaries. Far more than Goering, he had become the second man in the Reich; one English newspaper had even written, toward the end of the war, that he was more important to the German war effort than Hitler himself. There is truth in this statement. By the time of Stalingrad, Hitler’s mystique was fading and his decisions becoming more and more bizarre; it was Speer who kept the war machine running in high gear and increasingly productive until 1945. Only when the cities lay in ruins and at Hitler’s orders the last factories were to be blown up did Speer come to suspect what many of his compatriots like Goerdeler, Witzleben, and Rudolf Pechel had long known: that a Hitlerian victory would have worse consequences for Germany than any defeat.

In prison Speer set himself the task of finding out why it had taken him so long to see the error in the way he had chosen. He put himself through a long and careful self-analysis, a process that prison was ideally suited to further. He could read almost any nonpolitical books he chose; so he turned to psychology, philosophy, and metaphysics, the kind of books, he says, he never in the world would have read or thought he had had the time to read when he was in civil life. And he could look inward, ask himself questions as he went over the days of his life, questions that a man sometimes asks during or after major crises but that seldom can be thoroughly investigated amid the intense preoccupations of making a career in the contemporary world. Speer was unhampered by the demands of such a life; he had gnawing problems, to be sure—the wellbeing of his family and the appalling state of the country he had helped to keep at war and thus had helped destroy—but his main preoccupation was to try to explain himself to himself. He could do this best by writing it all down. In what he said he had nothing to lose. He was condemned and sentenced; he had acknowledged his guilt; now it was his job to understand what he had done and why. So the reader of these memoirs is fortunate: he will be told, as far as the author is capable of telling him, precisely why Speer acted as he did. Thus this chronicle of National Socialist Germany seen from within also becomes a self-revealing account of one of the most able men who served it.

Inwardness is especially unusual in a technician. A man like Speer, working with blueprints, ordering vast projects, is likely to exhaust himself in manipulation, in transforming the outer world, in carrying out production goals with all the means at hand. His was not introspective work, but in Spandau Speer had to turn not to others to carry out his planning, but only, day after day and night after night, to himself. It was a rare opportunity and he took full advantage of it. He could do it the more readily because he was convinced the court had acted justly in his case; he had much the same interest as the prosecution in finding out what had happened.

This objectivity has stayed with him. One of the suggestions made to him in connection with the publication of this book in England was that he meet the former chief British prosecutor, Lord Shawcross (at the time of the trial, Sir Hartley Shawcross), on the BBC to discuss the Nuremberg case. Speer said he would be pleased to meet with the British or American or any other prosecutor; he bears no rancor against the people who helped put him in prison for twenty years, and he has no objection to meeting anyone who has a serious interest in the history in which he played such a conspicuous role.

When he returned to Heidelberg after his twenty-one-year absence he did the simple, ordinary things a man might do who must start all over again. He went back to the summer house above the Neckar where he had lived as a child; and because when he was a boy he had had a St. Bernard dog, he got himself another one, to help him return to the beginnings again, to bridge the long exile. He planned to resume his architectural practice, although on a very small scale this time. Men take disaster in very different ways. Admiral Doenitz, for example, will not discuss Spandau. He says he has put it away in a trunk and doesn’t want to talk about it. Speer on the other hand talks easily about his imprisonment—more than easily: with serenity.

Of course, motives may remain unrevealed, whatever Speer’s earnest attempts to seek them out. It is unlikely that any man, despite his good intentions, can rid himself entirely of the need to see himself in a better light than his critics see him. Hans Frank, a codefendant of Speer’s, wrote his memoirs while awaiting execution; it was he who made the often quoted remark, “A thousand years shall pass and this guilt of Germany will not have been erased.” Although disgusted with himself, Frank could not avoid telling in his recollections how he had respected the law and had tried to get the Fuehrer to respect it too. In this and other ways he salvaged what he could from a career he now deplored. Albert Speer may not be entirely immune from this human failing, but he has no intention of covering up or decorating anything. He put his life on the line in the Nuremberg courtroom and he now meets his German and foreign critics with calm assurance, with sorrow for the irretrievable mistakes he made but the conviction that he has paid for them as far as he could and as far as his judges thought he should.

Some of his self-discoveries leave him still with ambivalent judgments. When he first met the Fuehrer, Speer writes, it was at a time in his career when, like Faust, he would have gladly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for a patron who would make use of his architectural services. And something resembling the Faustian pact was made. All his energies and abilities Speer eagerly placed at Hitler’s disposal, although he fought off everyone, including Hitler, who obstructed his single-minded drive to do his job. Speers early admiration for the Fuehrer slowly diminished as Hitler became increasingly capricious and unapproachable; when Hitler ordered everything blown up, Speer refused to obey him and was ready to kill him to prevent the orders from being carried out. Nevertheless, he made a flight to the bunker in Berlin under the guns of the Russian planes and troops a few days before Hitler’s suicide in order to say good-bye.

Speer has given us two versions of this flight. In an interview published in Der Spiegel just after he was released from Spandau he said he went to Berlin to attempt to persuade one of his close collaborators, Friedrich Lüschen, to leave the city. In these memoirs, however, the story is told somewhat differently. Speer writes that he did have Lüschens rescue in mind and also wanted to save Dr. Brandt, an old friend and Hitler’s personal physician, who had fallen into the hands of Himmler’s SS. In the last stages of his trip to Berlin Speer learned that Brandt was no longer in the city and he could not reach Lüschen, but he nevertheless decided to continue his journey. He knows now that he had to go to Berlin to say farewell to the man whom he owed so much and for whom he felt such deeply mixed emotions.

Speer always intends to be as ruthlessly honest in his self-portrait as he is in those he draws of others. He has written that even today he is glad that he said farewell to the wreck of a man who, when Speer departed, absent-mindedly gave him a limp hand to shake, without a word that spoke of their long association. What made him change his mind about the reasons for the flight? I suggest that the change is evidence of the continuing reevaluation of his reasons for acting as he did. It seems likely that during the interview in Der Spiegel he told reporters what readily came to mind and that only later, as he reexamined his present feelings in the context of these memoirs, did he see clearly why he had gone to Berlin and how even today he is not rid of the spell of the Fuehrer he served for so many crowded years. Speer has no prettified self-image to protect. His fellow prisoner, von Schirach, who was released from Spandau at the same time as Speer, may defend what he takes to be his own services to Germany, but Speer bears the full burden of his past and attempts to carry out his self-imposed obligation to come to grips with whatever he has done no matter what the cost to his self-esteem. So the true story emerges, as I think it has, as far as the author is able to remember and comprehend it, throughout these pages.

This careful self-scrutiny occurs too in connection with his part in the treatment of the Jews. Actually Speer played no role whatever in the Jew-baiting or in the exterminations. The exterminations were known to comparatively few people. Even those most concerned, the Jews in concentration camps, and incredibly, many of those within sight of the gas chambers, refused to believe the stories they heard.*

* Two recent publications have dealt with this astonishing incomprehension. One, The Destruction of the Dutch Jews, was witten by Jacob Presser, who was himself a concentration camp prisoner. The other is an article by Louis de Jong, director of the Dutch Institute of War Documentation; it is entitled “Die Niederlander und Auschwitz” and appeared in the January 1969 issue of the Vierteljahrshefte, published by the Institut fiir Zeitgeschichte in Munich.

The mass killings were beyond imagination—they sounded like clumsy propaganda; Speer, however, was in a position to find out about them. He tells us that one of his friends, Gauleiter Hanke, had visited Auschwitz and warned him in the summer of 1944 against making a similar visit. But the Minister of Armaments and War Production had no business that required him to be concerned with rumors of any death mills; his business was with the prisoners who could man his factories, so he never pursued the matter, never looked behind the terrible curtain Hanke had pointed out to him. He preferred not to know, to turn his face away, to concentrate on his own huge task. He believes this was a grievous failure, a sin of omission more inexcusable than any crime he may have committed.

It is for this reason that Speer did not resist his long prison term as did, for example, Admiral Doenitz. Doenitz always felt himself unjustly convicted; he has a large volume of letters from British and American naval officers sharing his view who wrote to him, on their own initiative, to protest the Nuremberg court’s verdict and his sentence of ten years. In Speers case too, non-Germans, including the three Western governors of the prison, had taken the view that he had been given an excessive sentence and had recommended a commutation, but the Russians who had voted to hang Speer held him to his full term. Speer has no complaint to make against the Russians or anyone else. He came to know the Russian guards well at Spandau; they exchanged stories about their children and families and no one ever mentioned the past. Speer was grateful for that; he knew his jailers had undoubtedly lost friends and relatives because he had kept the German war machine rolling and that they had good reason to be hostile. But they were not hostile; nor was the former slave laborer who befriended Speer in prison, because he thought Speer had seen to it, in the days of his forced labor, that he be tolerably treated.

It is Speers spirit of contrition, this complete acknowledgment of so much that went wrong, of so much that he feels was lacking in him in his days of power, as well as the perceptiveness of his observations, that makes this book such an unusual document. It tells us much of how history was made, and something too of the moral dilemma of a civilized man who had been given an enormous administrative assignment, that at first had seemed to him more a technological than a human problem. Much of what Speer tells us is related to an old story of hubris, of temptations of pride and position, and of the opportunity to create on a heroic scale. In the euphoria of history-making activity, unpleasant facts were ignored; they were no more than obstacles to the achievement of the grand design. But with the collapse of everything he had lived for and lived by, Speer came to judge himself more strictly than the Nuremberg court could judge him. It is in this long, painful struggle for self-enlightenment that we may see that whatever he lost when he made his pact with Adolf Hitler, it was not his soul.

Eugene Davidson

May 1970

Every autobiography is a dubious enterprise. For the underlying assumption is that a chair exists in which a man can sit down to contemplate his own life, to compare its phases, to survey its development, and to penetrate its meanings. Every man can and surely ought to take stock of himself. But he cannot survey himself even in the present moment, any more than in the whole of his past.

Karl Barth

Foreword

“I SUPPOSE you’ll be writing your memoirs now?” said one of the first Americans I met in Flensburg in May 1945. Since then twenty-four years have passed, of which I spent twenty-one in a prison cell. A long time.

Now I am publishing my memoirs. I have tried to describe the past as I experienced it. Many will think it distorted; many will find my perspective wrong. That may or may not be so: I have set forth what I experienced and the way I regard it today. In doing so I have tried not to falsify the past. My aim has been not to gloss over either what was fascinating or what was horrible about those years. Other participants will criticize me, but that is unavoidable. I have tried to be honest.

One of the purposes of these memoirs is to reveal some of the premises which almost inevitably led to the disasters in which that period culminated. I have sought to show what came of one man’s holding unrestricted power in his hands and also to clarify the nature of this man. In court at Nuremberg I said that if Hitler had had any friends, I would have been his friend. I owe to him the enthusiasms and the glory of my youth as well as belated horror and guilt.

In the description of Hitler as he showed himself to me and to others, a good many likable traits will appear. He may seem to be a man capable and devoted in many respects. But the more I wrote, the more I felt that these were only superficial traits.

For such impressions are countered by one unforgettable experience: the Nuremberg Trial. I shall never forget the account of a Jewish family going to their deaths: the husband with his wife and children on the way to die are before my eyes to this day.

In Nuremberg I was sentenced to twenty years imprisonment. The military tribunal may have been faulty in summing up history, but it attempted to apportion guilt. The penalty, however poorly such penalties measure historical responsibility, ended my civil existence. But that scene had already laid waste to my life. It has outlasted the verdict of the court.

January 11, 1969 Albert Speer

Part One

1. Origins and Youth

Some of my forefathers were swabians, some came from poor peasants of the Westerwald, others from Silesia and Westphalia. They belonged to the great mass of those who live quiet, unnotable lives. There was one exception: Hereditary Reich Marshal Count Friedrich Ferdinand zu Pappenheim1 (1702-93), who begot eight sons with my unmarried ancestress Humelin. He does not, however, seem to have worried much about their welfare.

Three generations later my grandfather Hermann Hommel, son of a poor forester in the Black Forest, had become by the end of his life sole owner of one of the largest machine-tool firms in Germany and of a precision-instrument factory. In spite of his wealth he lived modestly and treated his subordinates well. Hardworking himself, he knew how to let others work without interfering. A typical Black Forest brooder, he could sit for hours on a bench in the woods without wasting a word.

My other grandfather, Berthold Speer, became a prosperous architect in Dortmund about this same time. He designed many buildings in the neoclassical style of the period. Though he died young, he left enough to provide for the education of his four sons. The success of both my grandfathers was furthered by the rapid industrialization of Germany which began in the second half of the nineteenth century. But then, many persons who had started out from a better basis did not necessarily flourish.

My father’s mother, prematurely white-haired, inspired in me more respect than love in my boyhood. She was a serious woman, moored fast to simple notions about life and possessing an obstinate energy. She dominated everyone around her.

I came into the world in Mannheim at noon on Sunday, March 19, 1905. The thunder of a spring storm drowned out the bells of nearby Christ Church, as my mother often used to tell me.

In 1892, at the age of twenty-nine, my father had established his own architectural firm. He had since become one of the busiest architects in Mannheim, then a booming industrial town. He had acquired a considerable fortune by the time he married the daughter of a prosperous Mainz businessman in 1900.

The upper-middle-class style of our apartment in one of his Mannheim houses was commensurate with my parents’ status. It was an imposing house, built around a courtyard guarded by elaborate wrought-iron gates. Automobiles would drive into this courtyard and stop in front of a flight of stairs which provided a suitable entrance to the richly furnished house. But the children—my two brothers and I—had to use the back stairs. These were dark, steep, and narrow and ended unimpressively in a rear corridor. Children had no business in the elegant, carpeted front hall.

As children our realm extended from our bedrooms in the rear wing to a vast kitchen. We had to pass through the kitchen to enter the elegant part of the fourteen-room apartment. From a vestibule with a sham fireplace faced with valuable Delft tiles guests were conducted into a large room full of French furniture and Empire upholstery. The glittering crystal chandelier particularly is so impressed on my memory that I can see it to this day. So is the conservatory, whose appointments my father had bought at the Paris World Exhibition in 1900: richly carved Indian furniture, hand-embroidered curtains, and a tapestry-covered divan. Palms and other exotic plants suggested an exotic world. Here my parents had their breakfast and here my father would make ham rolls for us children of the kind that were eaten in his native Westphalia. My recollection of the adjacent living room has faded, but the paneled, neo-Gothic dining room has kept its magic for me. The table could seat more than twenty. There my baptism was celebrated; there our family festivals take place to this day.

My mother took great pleasure and pride in seeing to it that we belonged socially to the leading families of Mannheim. There were surely no more—but no less-than twenty or thirty households in the city that enjoyed comparable luxuries. A large staff of servants helped meet the requirements of status. In addition to the cook—whom for obvious reasons we children were especially fond of-my parents employed a kitchen maid, a chambermaid, a butler frequently, and a chauffeur always, as well as a nanny to look after us. The maids wore white caps, black dresses, and white aprons; the butler, purple livery with gilt buttons. The chauffeur was dressed most magnificently of all.

My parents did their best to provide a happy childhood for us. But wealth and status—social obligations, the large household, the nanny, and the servants—stood in the way of their doing as they wished in this respect. To this day I can feel the artificiality and discomfort of that world. Moreover, I often had dizzy spells and sometimes fainted. The Heidelberg physician whom they consulted, a distinguished professor of medicine, diagnosed the cause as “weakness of the vascular nerves.” This disability was a considerable psychological burden and early made me conscious of the pressure of external conditions. I suffered all the more because my playmates and my two brothers were more robust than I, so that I felt inferior to them. In their rough and tumble way they often made it clear that this was how they thought of me, too.

An inadequacy often calls forth compensating forces. In any case these difficulties made me learn how to adjust better to the world of other boys. If I later showed some aptitude in dealing with difficult circumstances and troublesome people, I suspect that the gift can be traced back to my boyhood physical weakness.

When we were taken out by our French governess, we had to be nattily dressed, in keeping with our social status. Naturally, we were forbidden to play in the city parks, let alone on the street. All we had for a playground was our courtyard—not much larger than a few of our rooms put together. It was surrounded by the backs of tall apartment houses. This yard contained two or three wretched plane trees, starved for air, and an ivy-covered wall. A mound of tufa rocks in one corner suggested a grotto. By early spring a thick layer of soot coated the greenery, and whatever we touched was bent on transforming us into dirty, disreputable big-city children. My favorite playmate, before my school days began, was Frieda Allmendinger, the concierge’s daughter. The atmosphere of sparse simplicity and the close-knit quality of a family living in crowded quarters had a curious attraction for me.

I attended the primary grades at a distinguished private school where the children of leading families were taught reading and writing. After this sheltered environment, my first months in the public Oberrealschule (high school), amid rowdy fellow pupils, were especially hard for me. I had a friend named Quenzer, however, who soon introduced me to all sorts of fun and games. He also persuaded me to buy a soccer ball with my pocket money. This was a plebeian impulse which horrified my parents, all the more so since Quenzer came from a poor family. I think it was at this time that my bent for statistics first manifested itself. I recorded all the bad marks in the class book in my “Phoenix Calendar for Schoolchildren,” and every month counted up who had received the most demerits. No doubt I would not have bothered if I had not had some prospect of frequently heading the list.

The office of my father’s architectural firm was right next door to our apartment. That was where the large renderings for the builders were made. Drawings of all sorts were made on a bluish transparent paper whose smell is still part and parcel of my memories of that office. My fathers buildings were influenced by the neo-Renaissance: they had bypassed Jugendstil. Later on, the quieter classicism of Ludwig Hoffmann, the influential city architect of Berlin, served him as a model.

In that office I made my first “work of art” at the age of twelve. A birthday present for my father, it was a drawing of a sort of allegorical ‘life clock,” in a highly ornamented case complete with Corinthian columns and intricate scrollwork. I used all the watercolors I could lay hands on. With the help of the office employees, I produced a reasonable facsimile of an object in Late Empire style.

Before 1914 my parents kept a touring car for summer use as well as a sedan for driving around the city in winter. These automobiles were the focus of my technological passions. At the beginning of the war they had to be put upon blocks, to spare the tires; but if the chauffeur were well disposed to us, we children were allowed to sit at the steering wheel in the garage. At such times I experienced the first sensations of technical intoxication in a world that was yet scarcely technical. In Spandau prison I had to live like a man of the nineteenth century without a radio, television set, telephone, or car and was not even allowed to work the light switch myself. After ten years of imprisonment I experienced a similar rapture when I was allowed to run an electric floor polisher.

In 1915 I encountered another product of the technical revolution of those decades. One of the zeppelins used in the air raids on London was stationed in Mannheim. The captain and his officers were soon frequent guests in our house. They invited my two brothers and me to tour their airship. Ten years old, I stood before that giant product of technology, clambered into the motor gondola, made my way through the dim mysterious corridors inside the hull, and went into the control gondola. When the airship started, toward evening, the captain had it perform a neat loop over our house, and the officers waved a sheet they had borrowed from our mother. Night after night afterward I was in terror that the airship would go up in flames, and all my friends would be killed.*

*In 1917 heavy losses made it necessary to call off the attacks.

My imagination dwelt on the war, on the advances and retreats at the front, on the suffering of the soldiers. At night we sometimes heard a distant rumble from the great battle of attrition at Verdun. With the ardent sympathies of childhood, I would often sleep for several nights running on the hard floor beside my soft bed in order to be sharing the privations of the soldiers at the front.

We did not escape the food shortages in the city and what was then called the turnip winter. We had wealth, but no relatives or acquaintances in the countryside. My mother was clever at devising endless new variations on turnip dishes, but I was often so hungry that in secret I gradually consumed a whole bag of stone-hard dog biscuits left over from peacetime. The air raids on Mannheim, which by present-day standards were quite innocuous, became more frequent. One small bomb struck a neighboring house. A new period of my boyhood began.

Since 1905 we had owned a summer home in the vicinity of Heidelberg. It stood on the slope of a quarry that was said to have supplied the stone for the nearby Heidelberg Schloss. Back of the slope rose the hills of the Odenwald with hiking paths through the ancient woods. Strip clearings provided occasional glimpses of the Neckar Valley. Here everything was peaceful; we could have a fine garden and vegetables, and the neighbor owned a cow. We moved there in the summer of 1918.

My health soon improved. Every day, even in snowstorms and rain, I tramped for three-quarters of an hour to and from school, often at a steady run. Bicycles were not available in the straitened early postwar period.

My way to school led me past the clubhouse of a rowing association. In 19191 became a member and for two years was coxswain of the racing fours and eights. In spite of my still frail constitution I soon became one of the most diligent oarsmen in the club. At the age of sixteen I advanced to stroke in the school shells and took part in several races. For the first time I had been seized by ambition and was spurred to performances I would not have thought myself capable of. What excited me was more the chance to direct the crew by my own rhythm than the prospect of winning respect in the small world of oarsmen.

Most of the time we were defeated, to be sure. But since a team performance was involved, each individuals flaws could not be weighed. On the contrary, a sense of common action arose. There was another benefit to such training: the requirement of self-discipline. At the time I despised those among my schoolmates who were finding their first pleasures in dancing, wine, and cigarettes.

On my way to school, at the age of seventeen, I met the girl who was to become my wife. Falling in love made me more studious, for a year later we agreed that we would be married as soon as I completed my university studies. I had long been good at mathematics; but now my marks in other subjects also improved, and I became one of the best in the class.

Our German teacher, an enthusiastic democrat, often read aloud to us from the liberal Frankfurter Zeitung. But for this teacher I would have remained altogether nonpolitical in school. For we were being educated in terms of a conservative bourgeois view of the world. In spite of the Revolution which had brought in the Weimar Republic, it was still impressed upon us that the distribution of power in society and the traditional authorities were part of the God-given order of things. We remained largely untouched by the currents stirring everywhere during the early twenties. In school, there could be no criticism of courses or subject matter, let alone of the ruling powers in the state. Unconditional faith in the authority of the school was required. It never even occurred to us to doubt the order of things, for as students we were subjected to the dictates of a virtually absolutist system. Moreover, there were no subjects such as sociology which might have sharpened our political judgments. Even in our senior year, German class assignments called solely for essays on literary subjects, which actually prevented us from giving any thought to the problems of society. Nor did all these restrictions in school impel us to take positions on political events during extracurricular activities or outside of school. One decisive point of difference from the present was our inability to travel abroad. Even if funds for foreign travel had been available, no organizations existed to help young people undertake such travel. It seems to me essential to point out these lacks, as a result of which a whole generation was without defenses when exposed to the new techniques for influencing opinion.

At home, too, politics were not discussed. This was all the odder since my father had been a convinced liberal even before 1914. Every morning he waited impatiently for the Frankfurter Zeitung to arrive; every week he read the critical magazines Simplicissimus and Jugend. He shared the ideas of Friedrich Naumann, who called for social reforms in a powerful Germany. After 1923 my father became a follower of Coudenhove-Kalergi and zealously advocated his pan-European ideas. Father would surely have been glad to talk about politics with me, but I tended to dodge such discussions and he did not insist. This political indifference was characteristic of the youth of the period, tired and disillusioned as they were by a lost war, revolution, and inflation; but it prevented me from forming political standards, from setting up categories on which political judgments could be based. I was much more inclined to detour on my way to school across the park of the Heidelberg Schloss and to linger on the terrace looking dreamily at the ruins of the castle and down at the old city. This partiality for tumbledown citadels and tangles of crooked old streets remained with me and later found expression in my passion for collecting landscape paintings, especially the works of the Heidelberg Romantics. On the way to the Schloss I sometimes met the poet Stefan George, who radiated dignity and pride and a kind of priestliness. The great religious preachers must have had such an effect upon people, for there was something magnetic about him. When my elder brother was in his senior year, he was admitted to the Master’s inner circle.

Music meant a good deal to me. Up to 1922, I was able to hear the young Furtwängler in Mannheim and after him, Erich Kleiber. At that time I found Verdi more impressive than Wagner and thought Puccini frightful. On the other hand, I was ravished by a symphony of Rimsky-Korsakov and judged Mahlers Fifth Symphony “rather complicated, but I liked it.” After a visit to the Playhouse, I observed that Georg Kaiser was “the most important modem dramatist who in his works wrestles with the concept of the value and power of money.” And upon seeing Ibsen’s The Wild Duck, I decided that we could not find the characteristics of the leaders of society as other than ridiculous. These people were “farcical,” I wrote. Romain Hollands novel Jean Christophe heightened my enthusiasm for Beethoven.2

It was, therefore, not only in a burst of youthful rebelliousness that I found the luxurious life at home not to my liking. There was a more basic opposition involved when I turned to what were then the advanced writers and looked for friends in a rowing club or in the huts of the Alpine Club. The custom in my circles was for a young man to seek his companions and his future wife in the sheltered class to which his parents belonged. But I was drawn to plain, solid artisan families for both. I even felt an instinctive sympathy for the extreme left—though this inclination never assumed any concrete form. At the time I was allergic to any political commitments. That continued to be so, even though I felt strong nationalistic feelings—as for example, at the time of the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923.

To my amazement my Abitur essay was judged the best in my class. Nevertheless I thought, “That’s hardly likely for you,” when the head of the school in his farewell address told the graduates that now “the way to highest deeds and honors” was open to us.

Since I was the best mathematician in the school, I had intended to study that subject. But my father presented sound reasons against this choice, and I would not have been a mathematician familiar with the laws of logic if I had not yielded to his arguments. The profession of architecture, which I had been absorbing naturally since my boyhood, seemed the obvious choice. I therefore decided, to my father’s delight, to become an architect, like him and his father before him.

During my first semester I studied at the Institute of Technology in nearby Karlsruhe. Financial reasons dictated this choice, for the inflation was growing wilder with each passing day. I had to draw my allowance weekly; by the end of the week the fabulous sum had melted away to nothing. From the Black Forest where I was on a bicycle tour in the middle of September 1923, I wrote: “Very cheap here! Lodgings 400,000 marks and supper 1,800,000 marks. Milk 250,000 marks a pint.” Six weeks later, shortly before the end of the inflation, a restaurant dinner cost ten to twenty billion marks, and even in the student dining hall over a billion.

I had to pay between three and four hundred million marks for a theater ticket.

The financial upheaval finally forced my family to sell my deceased grandfathers firm and factory to another company at a fraction of its value in return for “dollar treasury bills.” Afterward, my monthly allowance amounted to sixteen dollars—on which I was totally free of cares and could live splendidly.

In the spring of 1924, with the inflation now over, I shifted to the Institute of Technology in Munich. Although I remained there until the summer of 1925 and Hitler, after his release from prison, was again making a stir in the spring of 1925, I took no notice of him. In my long letters to my fiancée I wrote only of how I was studying far into the night and of our common goal: getting married in three or four years.

During the holidays my future wife and I with a few fellow students frequently went on tramps from shelter to shelter in the Austrian Alps. Hard climbs gave us the sense of real achievement. Sometimes, with characteristic obstinacy, I managed to convince my fellow hikers not to give up a tour we had started on, even in the worst weather—in spite of storms, icy rains, and cold, although mists spoiled the view from the peak when we finally reached it. Often, from the mountain tops, we looked down upon a deep gray layer of cloud over the distant plain. Down there lived what to our minds were wretched people; we thought we stood high above them in every sense. Young and rather arrogant, we were convinced that only the finest people went into the mountains. When we returned from the peaks to the normal life of the lowlands, I was quite confused for a while by the bustle of the cities.

We also sought “closeness with nature” on trips with our folding boats. In those days this sport was still new; the streams were not filled with craft of all kinds as they are today. In perfect quiet we floated down the rivers, and in the evenings we could pitch our tent at the most beautiful spot we could find. This leisurely hiking and boating gave us some of that happiness that had been a matter of course to our forefathers. Even my father had taken a tour on foot and in horse carriages from Munich to Naples in 1885. Later, when he would drive through all of Europe in his car, he used to speak of that tour as the finest travel experience he had ever had.

Many of our generation sought such contact with nature. This was not merely a romantic protest against the narrowness of middle-class life. We were also escaping from the demands of a world growing increasingly complicated. We felt that the world around us was out of balance. In nature, in the mountains and the river valleys, the harmony of Creation could still be felt. The more virginal the mountains, the lonelier the river valleys, the more they drew us. I did not, however, belong to any youth movement, for the group quality of these movements would have negated the very isolation we were seeking.

In the autumn of 1925, I began attending the Institute of Technology in Berlin-Charlottenburg, along with a group of Munich students of architecture. I wanted Professor Poelzig for my teacher, but he had set limits to the number of students in his drafting seminar. Since my talent for drawing was inadequate, I was not accepted. In any case, I was beginning to doubt that I would ever make a good architect and took this verdict without surprise. Next semester Professor Heinrich Tessenow was appointed to the institute. He was a champion of the spirit of simple craftsmanship in architecture and believed in architectonic expressiveness by severely delimited means. “A minimum of pomp is the decisive factor.” I promptly wrote to my fiancée:

My new professor is the most remarkable, most clear-headed man I have ever met. I am wild about him and am working with great eagerness. He is not modem, but in a certain sense more modem than all the others. Outwardly he seems unimaginative and sober, just like me, but his buildings have something about them that expresses a profound experience. His intelligence is frighteningly acute. I mean to try hard to be admitted to his “master school” in a year, and after another year will try to become his assistant. Of course all this is wildly optimistic and is merely meant to trace what I’d like to do in the best of cases.

Only half a year after completing my examination I became his assistant. In Professor Tessenow I had found my first catalyst—and he remained that for me until seven years later when he was replaced by a more powerful one.

I also had great respect for our teacher of the history of architecture, Professor Daniel Krenkler. An Alsatian by birth, he was a dedicated archaeologist and a highly emotional patriot as well. In the course of one lecture he burst into tears while showing us pictures of Strassburg Cathedral and had to suspend the lecture. For him I delivered a report on Albrecht Haupt’s book on Germanic architecture, Die Baukunst der Germanen. But at the same time I wrote to my fiancée:

A little racial mixture is always good. And if today we are on the downward path, it is not because we are a mixed race. For we were already that in the Middle Ages when we still had a vigorous germ in us and were expanding, when we drove the Slavs out of Prussia, or later transplanted European culture to America. We are going downhill because our energies have been consumed; it is the same thing that happened in the past to the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. There is nothing to be done about that.

The twenties in Berlin were the inspiring backdrop to my student years. Many theatrical performances made a deep impression upon me— among others Max Reinhardt’s staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream,

Elisabeth Bergner in Shaw’s Saint Joan, Pallenberg in Piscator’s version of Schweik. But Charell’s lavishly mounted revues also fascinated me. On the other hand, I took no pleasure in Cecil B. De Mille’s bombastic pomp —never suspecting that ten years later I myself would be going his movie architecture one better. As a student I thought his films examples of “American tastelessness.”

But overshadowing all such impressions was the poverty and unemployment all around me. Spengler’s Decline of the West had convinced me that we were living in a period of decay strongly similar to the late Roman Empire: inflation, decline of morals, impotence of the German Reich. His essay “Prussianism and Socialism” excited me especially because of the contempt for luxury and comfort it expressed. On this score, Spengler’s and Tessenow’s doctrines coincided. But my teacher, in contrast to Spengler, saw hope for the future. He took an ironic tone toward the “cult of heroes” fashionable at the period.

Perhaps there are really uncomprehended “super” heroes all around us who because of their towering aims and abilities may rightly smile at even the greatest of horrors, seeing them as merely incidental. Perhaps, before handicraft and the small town can flourish again, there must first come something like a rain of brimstone. Perhaps nations which have passed through infernos will then be ready for their next age of flowering.3

In the summer of 1927, after nine semesters, I passed the architect’s license examination. The following spring, at twenty-three, I became one of the youngest assistants at the institute. In the last year of the war, I had gone to a fortuneteller at a fair, and she had prophesied: “You will win early fame and retire early.” Now I had reason to think of this prediction; for it seemed evident that if only I wanted to I could someday teach at the Institute of Technology like my professor.

This post as assistant made it possible for me to marry. We did not go to Italy for our honeymoon, but took faltboats and tent through the solitary, forested chain of lakes in Mecklenburg. We launched our boats in Spandau, a few hundred yards from the prison where I would be spending twenty years of my life.

2. Profession and Vocation

I VERY NEARLY BECAME AN OFFICIAL COURT ARCHITECT AS EARLY AS 1928.

Aman Ullah, ruler of the Afghans, wanted to reform his country and was hiring young German technicians with that end in view. Joseph Brix, Professor of Urban Architecture and Road Building, organized the group. It was proposed that I would serve as city planner and architect and in addition as teacher of architecture at a technical school which was to be founded in Kabul. My wife and I pored over all available books on remote Afghanistan. We considered how a style natural to the country could be developed out of the simple existing structures, and the pictures of wild mountains filled us with dreams of ski tours. Favorable contractual conditions were worked out. But no sooner was everything virtually settled—the King had just been received with great honors by President Hindenburg—than the Afghans overthrew their ruler in a coup d’état.

The prospect of continuing to work with Tessenow consoled me. I had been having some misgivings anyhow, and I was glad that the fall of Aman Ullah removed the need to make a decision. I had to look after my seminar only three days a week; in addition there were five months of academic vacation. Nevertheless I received 300 Reichsmark—about the equivalent in value of 800 Deutsche Mark* [$200] today.

*All figures in DM do not take into account the 1969 revaluation of the mark. The reader can easily reckon the amounts in U.S. dollars by dividing DM figures by four.

Tessenow delivered no lectures; he came to the large seminar room only to correct the papers of his fifty-odd students. He was around for no more than four to six hours a week; the rest of the time the students were left in my care for instruction and correction.

The first months in particular were very strenuous for me. The students assumed a highly critical attitude toward me and tried to trap me into a show of ignorance or weakness. It took a while before my initial nervousness subsided. But the commissions for buildings, which I had hoped to spend my ample free time on, did not come my way. Probably I struck people as too young. Moreover, the construction industry was very slow because of the economic depression. One exception was the commission to build a house in Heidelberg for my wife’s parents. It proved to be a modest building which was followed by two others of no great consequence-two garage annexes for Wannsee villas—and the designing of the Berlin offices of the Academic Exchange Service.

In 1930 we sailed our two faltboats from Donaueschingen, which is in Swabia, down the Danube to Vienna. By the time we returned, there had been a Reichstag election on September 14 which remains in my memory only because my father was greatly perturbed about it. The NSDAP (National Socialist Party) had won 107 seats and was suddenly the chief topic of political discussion.

My father had the darkest forebodings, chiefly in view of the NSDAP’s socialist tendencies. He was already disturbed enough by the strength of the Social Democrats and the Communists.

Our Institute of Technology had in the meanwhile become a center of National Socialist endeavors. The small group of Communist architecture students gravitated to Professor Poelzig’s seminar, while the National Socialists gathered around Tessenow, even though he was and remained a forthright opponent of the Hitler movement, for there were parallels, unexpressed and unintended, between his doctrine and the ideology of the National Socialists. Tessenow was not aware of these parallels. He would surely have been horrified by the thought of any kinship between his ideas and National Socialist views.

Among other things, Tessenow taught: “Style comes from the people. It is in our nature to love our native land. There can be no true culture that is international. True culture comes only from the maternal womb

Hitler, too, denounced the internationalization of art. The National Socialist creed held that the roots of renewal were to be found in the

Tessenow decried the metropolis and extolled the peasant virtues: “The metropolis is a dreadful thing. The metropolis is a confusion of old and new. The metropolis is conflict, brutal conflict. Everything good should be left outside of big cities… . Where urbanism meets the peasantry, the spirit of the peasantry is ruined. A pity that people can no longer think in peasant terms.” In a similar vein, Hitler cried out against the erosion of morals in the big cities. He warned against the ill effects of civilization which, he said, damaged the biological substance of the people. And he emphasized the importance of a healthy peasantry as a mainstay for the state.

Hitler was able to sense these and other currents which were in the air of the times, though many of them were still diffuse and intangible. He was able to articulate them and to exploit them for his own ends.

In the process of my correcting their papers, the National Socialist students often involved me in political discussions. Naturally, Tessenow’s ideas were passionately debated. Well trained in dialectics, these students easily crushed the feeble objections I could make, borrowed as they were from my fathers vocabulary.

The students were chiefly turning to the extremists for their beliefs, and Hitler’s party appealed directly to the idealism of this generation. And after all, was not a man like Tessenow also fanning these flames? About 1931 he had declared: “Someone will have to come along who thinks very simply. Thinking today has become too complicated. An uncultured man, a peasant as it were, would solve everything much more easily merely because he would still be unspoiled. He would also have the strength to carry out his simple ideas.”2 To us this oracular remark seemed to herald Hitler.

Hitler was delivering an address to the students of Berlin University and the Institute of Technology. My students urged me to attend. Not yet convinced, but already uncertain of my ground, I went along. The site of the meeting was a beer hall called the Hasenheide. Dirty walls, narrow stairs, and an ill-kept interior created a poverty-stricken atmosphere. This was a place where workmen ordinarily held beer parties. The room was overcrowded. It seemed as if nearly all the students in Berlin wanted to see and hear this man whom his adherents so much admired and his opponents so much detested. A large number of professors sat in favored places in the middle of a bare platform. Their presence gave the meeting an importance and a social acceptability that it would not otherwise have had. Our group had also secured good seats on the platform, not far from the lectern.

Hitler entered and was tempestuously hailed by his numerous followers among the students. This enthusiasm in itself made a great impression upon me. But his appearance also surprised me. On posters and in caricatures I had seen him in military tunic, with shoulder straps, swastika armband, and hair flapping over his forehead. But here he was wearing a well-fitted blue suit and looking markedly respectable. Every-tiling about him bore out the note of reasonable modesty. Later I learned that he had a great gift for adjusting—consciously or intuitively—to his surroundings.

As the ovation went on for minutes he tried, as if slightly pained, to check it. Then, in a low voice, hesitantly and somewhat shyly, he began a kind of historical lecture rather than a speech. To me there was something engaging about it—all the more so since it ran counter to everything the propaganda of his opponents had led me to expect: a hysterical demagogue, a shrieking and gesticulating fanatic in uniform. He did not allow the bursts of applause to tempt him away from his sober tone.

It seemed as if he were candidly presenting his anxieties about the future. His irony was softened by a somewhat self-conscious humor; his South German charm reminded me agreeably of my native region. A cool Prussian could never have captivated me that way. Hitler’s initial shyness soon disappeared; at times now his pitch rose. He spoke urgently and with hypnotic persuasiveness. The mood he cast was much deeper than the speech itself, most of which I did not remember for long.

Moreover, I was carried on the wave of the enthusiasm which, one could almost feel this physically, bore the speaker along from sentence to sentence. It swept away any skepticism, any reservations. Opponents were given no chance to speak. This furthered the illusion, at least momentarily, of unanimity. Finally, Hitler no longer seemed to be speaking to convince; rather, he seemed to feel that he was expressing what the audience, by now transformed into a single mass, expected of him. It was as if it were the most natural thing in the world to lead students and part of the faculty of the two greatest academies in Germany submissively by a leash. Yet that evening he was not yet the absolute ruler, immune from all criticism, but was still exposed to attacks from all directions.

Others may afterward have discussed that stirring evening over a glass of beer. Certainly my students pressed me to do so. But I felt I had to straighten things out in my own mind, to master my confusion. I needed to be alone. Shaken, I drove off into the night in my small car, stopped in a pine forest near the Havel, and went for a long walk.

Here, it seemed to me, was hope. Here were new ideals, a new understanding, new tasks. Even Spengler’s dark predictions seemed to me refuted, and his prophecy of the coming of a new Roman emperor simultaneously fulfilled. The peril of communism, which seemed inexorably on its way, could be checked, Hitler persuaded us, and instead of hopeless unemployment, Germany could move toward economic recovery. He had mentioned the Jewish problem only peripherally. But such remarks did not worry me, although I was not an anti-Semite; rather, I had Jewish friends from my school days and university days, like virtually everyone else.

A few weeks after this speech, which had been so important to me, friends took me to a demonstration at the Sportpalast. Goebbels, the Gauleiter of Berlin, spoke. How different my impression was: much phrase-making, careful structure, and incisive formulations; a roaring crowd whom Goebbels whipped up to wilder and wilder frenzies of enthusiasm and hatred; a witches’ cauldron of excitement such as I had hitherto witnessed only at six-day bike races. I felt repelled; the positive effect Hitler had had upon me was diminished, though not extinguished.

Both Goebbels and Hitler had understood how to unleash mass instincts at their meetings, how to play on the passions that underlay the veneer of ordinary respectable life. Practiced demagogues, they succeeded in fusing the assembled workers, petits bourgeois, and students into a homogeneous mob whose opinions they could mold as they pleased… . But as I see it today, these politicians in particular were in fact molded by the mob itself, guided by its yearnings and its daydreams. Of course Goebbels and Hitler knew how to penetrate through to the instincts of their audiences; but in the deeper sense they derived their whole existence from these audiences. Certainly the masses roared to the beat set by Hitler’s and Goebbels’s baton; yet they were not the true conductors. The mob determined the theme. To compensate for misery, insecurity, unemployment, and hopelessness, this anonymous assemblage wallowed for hours at a time in obsessions, savagery, license. This was no ardent nationalism. Rather, for a few short hours the personal unhappiness caused by the breakdown of the economy was replaced by a frenzy that demanded victims. And Hitler and Goebbels threw them the victims. By lashing out at their opponents and villifying the Jews they gave expression and direction to fierce, primal passions.

The Sportpalast emptied. The crowd moved calmly down Potsdamer Strasse. Their selfassurance fed by Goebbels’s speech, they challengingly took up the whole width of the street, so that automobile traffic and the streetcars were blocked. At first the police took no action; perhaps they did not want to provoke the crowd. But in the side streets mounted squads and trucks with special patrols were held in readiness. At last the mounted police rode into the crowd, with raised truncheons, to clear the street. Indignantly, I watched the procedure; until that moment I had never witnessed such use of force. At the same time I felt a sense of partisanship, compounded of sympathy for the crowd and opposition to authority, take possession of me. My feelings probably had nothing to do with political motives. Actually, nothing extraordinary had happened. There had not even been any injuries.

The following day I applied for membership in the National Socialist Party and in January 1931 became Member Number 474,481.

It was an utterly undramatic decision. Then and ever afterward I scarcely felt myself to be a member of a political party. I was not choosing the NSDAP, but becoming a follower of Hitler, whose magnetic force had reached out to me the first time I saw him and had not, thereafter, released me. His persuasiveness, the peculiar magic of his by no means pleasant voice, the oddity of his rather banal manner, the seductive simplicity with which he attacked the complexity of our problems—all that bewildered and fascinated me. I knew virtually nothing about his program. He had taken hold of me before I had grasped what was happening.

I was not even thrown off by attending a meeting of the racist Kampfbund Deutscher Kultur (League of Struggle for German Culture), although I heard many of the aims advocated by our teacher Tessenow roundly condemned. One of the speakers called for a return to old-fashioned forms and artistic principles; he attacked modernism and finally berated Der Ring, the society of architects to which Tessenow, Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Scharoun, Mendelsohn, Taut, Behrens, and Poelzig belonged. Thereupon one of our students sent a letter to Hitler in which he took exception to this speech and spoke with schoolboyish ardor of our admired master. Soon afterward he received a routine letter from party headquarters to the effect that National Socialists had the greatest respect for the work of Tessenow. We laid great weight on that. However, I did not tell Tessenow at the time about my membership in the party.*

* After 1933 all the accusations made against Tessenow at this meeting, as well as his connection with the publisher Cassirer and his circle, were cited as incriminating. He became politically suspect and was barred from teaching. But thanks to my privileged position, I was able to persuade the Minister of Education to have him reinstated. He kept his chair at the Berlin Institute of Technology until the end of the war. After 1945 his reputation soared; he was elected one of the first rectors of Berlin’s Technical University. “After 1933, Speer soon became a total stranger to me,” Tessenow wrote to my wife in 1950, “but I have never thought of him as anything but the friendly, good-natured person I used to know.”

It must have been during these months that my mother saw an SA parade in the streets of Heidelberg. The sight of discipline in a time of chaos, the impression of energy in an atmosphere of universal hopelessness, seems to have won her over also. At any rate, without ever having heard a speech or read a pamphlet, she joined the party. Both of us seem to have felt this decision to be a breach with a liberal family tradition. In any case, we concealed it from one another and from my father. Only years later, long after I had become part of Hitler’s inner circle, did my mother and I discover by chance that we shared early membership in the party.

Quite often even the most important step in a man’s life, his choice of vocation, is taken quite frivolously. He does not bother to find out enough about the basis and the various aspects of that vocation. Once he has chosen it, he is inclined to switch off his critical awareness and to fit himself wholly into the predetermined career.

My decision to enter Hitler’s party was no less frivolous. Why, for example, was I willing to abide by the almost hypnotic impression Hitler’s speech had made upon me? Why did I not undertake a thorough, systematic investigation of, say, the value or worthlessness of the ideologies of all the parties? Why did I not read the various party programs, or at least Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Rosenberg’s Myth of the Twentieth Century? As an intellectual I might have been expected to collect documentation with the same thoroughness and to examine various points of view with the same lack of bias that I had learned to apply to my preliminary architectural studies. This failure was rooted in my inadequate political schooling. As a result, I remained uncritical, unable to deal with the arguments of my student friends, who were predominantly indoctrinated with the National Socialist ideology.

For had I only wanted to, I could have found out even then that Hitler was proclaiming expansion of the Reich to the east; that he was a rank anti-Semite; that he was committed to a system of authoritarian rule; that after attaining power he intended to eliminate democratic procedures and would thereafter yield only to force. Not to have worked that out for myself; not, given my education, to have read books, magazines, and newspapers of various viewpoints; not to have tried to see through the whole apparatus of mystification—was already criminal. At this initial stage my guilt was as grave as, at the end, my work for Hitler. For being in a position to know and nevertheless shunning knowledge creates direct responsibility for the consequences—from the very beginning.

I did see quite a number of rough spots in the party doctrines. But I assumed that they would be polished in time, as has often happened in the history of other revolutions. The crucial fact appeared to me to be that I personally had to choose between a future Communist Germany or a future National Socialist Germany since the political center between these antipodes had melted away. Moreover, in 1931, I had some reason to feel that Hitler was moving in a moderate direction. I did not realize that there were opportunistic reasons for this. Hitler was trying to appear respectable in order to seem qualified to enter the government. The party at that time was confining itself—as far as I can recall today—to denouncing what it called the excessive influence of the Jews upon various spheres of cultural and economic life. It was demanding that their participation in these various areas be reduced to a level consonant with their percentage of the population. Moreover, Hitler’s alliance with the old-style nationalists of the Harzburg Front led me to think that a contradiction could be detected between his statements at public meetings and his political views. I regarded this contradiction as highly promising. In actuality Hitler only wanted to thrust his way to power by whatever means he could.

Even after joining the party I continued to associate with Jewish acquaintances, who for their part did not break relations with me although they knew or suspected that I belonged to this anti-Semitic organization. At that time I was no more an anti-Semite than I became in the following years. In none of my speeches, letters, or actions is there any trace of anti-Semitic feelings or phraseology.

Had Hitler announced, before 1933, that a few years later he would burn down Jewish synagogues, involve Germany in a war, and kill Jews and his political opponents, he would at one blow have lost me and probably most of the adherents he won after 1930. Goebbels had realized that, for on November 2, 1931, he wrote an editorial in the Angriff entitled “Septemberlings” concerning the host of new members who joined the party after the September election of 1930. In this editorial he warned the party against the infiltration of more bourgeois intellectuals who came from the propertied and educated classes and were not as trustworthy as the Old Fighters. In character and principles, he maintained, they stood abysmally far below the good old party comrades, but they were far ahead in intellectual skills: “They are of the opinion that the Movement has been brought to greatness by the talk of mere demagogues and are now prepared to take it over themselves and provide it with leadership and expertise. That’s what they think!”

In making this decision to join the accursed party, I had for the first time denied my own past, my upper-middle-class origins, and my previous environment. Far more than I suspected, the “time of decision” was already past for me. I felt, in Martin Bubers phrase, “anchored in responsibility in a party.” My inclination to be relieved of having to think, particularly about unpleasant facts, helped to sway the balance. In this I did not differ from millions of others. Such mental slackness above all facilitated, established, and finally assured the success of the National Socialist system. And I thought that by paying my party dues of a few marks a month I had settled with my political obligations.

How incalculable the consequences were!

The superficiality of my attitude made the fundamental error all the worse. By entering Hitler’s party I had already, in essence, assumed a responsibility that led directly to the brutalities of forced labor, to the destruction of war, and to the deaths of those millions of so-called undesirable stock—to the crushing of justice and the elevation of every evil. In 1931 I had no idea that fourteen years later I would have to answer for a host of crimes to which I subscribed beforehand by entering the party. I did not yet know that I would atone with twenty-one years of my life for frivolity and thoughtlessness and breaking with tradition. Still, I will never be rid of that sin.

3. Junction

I WOULD BE GIVING A MORE ACCURATE PICTURE OF THOSE YEARS IF I WERE to speak chiefly of my professional life, my family, and my inclinations. For my new political interests played a subsidiary part in my thinking. I was above all an architect.

As owner of a car I became a member of the newly founded Motorists Association of the National Socialist Party (NSKK), and since it was a new organization I promptly started as head of the Wannsee Section— Wannsee was the Berlin suburb where we lived. For the time being, any serious political activity for the party was far from my thoughts. I was, incidentally, the only member in Wannsee, and therefore in my section, who had a car; the other members only expected to have one after the “revolution” they dreamed of took place. By way of preparation they were finding out where in that rich suburb the right cars were available for X Day.

This party office sometimes led to my calling at Kreisleitung West (District Headquarters of the West End), which was headed by an uncomplicated but intelligent and highly energetic young journeyman miller named Karl Hanke. He had just leased a villa in elegant Grunewald as the future quarters for his district organization. For after its success in the elections of September 14, 1930, the party was trying hard to establish its respectability. He offered me the job of redecorating the villa—naturally without fee.

We conferred on wallpapers, draperies, and paints. The young district leader chose Bauhaus wallpapers at my suggestion, although I had hinted that these were “Communistic” 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—in fact, determining even ideological questions by their effect upon the voters.

I had the vestibule painted bright red and the offices a strong yellow, further sparked by scarlet window hangings. For me this work was the fulfillment of a long unrealized urge to try my hand at practical architecture, and no doubt I wanted to express a revolutionary spirit. But my decor met with a divided reception.

Early in 1932 the salaries of professors’ assistants were reduced—a small gesture toward balancing the strained budget of the State of Prussia. Sizable building projects were nowhere in sight; the economic situation was hopeless. Three years of working as an assistant were enough for us. My wife and I decided that I would give up my post with Tessenow and we would move to Mannheim. I would manage the buildings owned by my family and that would give us financial security and allow me to start seriously on my career as an architect, which so far had been distinctly inglorious.

In Mannheim I sent innumerable letters to the companies in the vicinity and to my father’s business friends offering my services as an “independent architect.” But of course I waited in vain for a builder who was willing to engage a twenty-six-year-old architect. Even well-established architects in Mannheim were not getting any commissions in those times. By entering prize competitions I tried to attract some attention to myself. But I did no better than win third prizes and have a few of my plans purchased. Rebuilding a store in one of my parents’ buildings was my sole architectural activity in this dreary period.

The party here was marked by the easygoing atmosphere typical of Baden. After the exciting party affairs in Berlin, into which I had gradually been drawn, I felt in Mannheim as if I were a member of a bowling club. There was no Motorists Association, so Berlin assigned me to the Motorized SS. At the time I thought that meant I was a member, but apparently I was only a guest; for in 1942 when I wanted to renew my membership it turned out that I had not belonged to the Motorized SS at all.

When the preparations for the election of July 31, 1932, started, my wife and I went to Berlin in order to feel a little of the exciting election atmosphere and—if possible—to help somewhat. For the persistent stagnation of my professional life had greatly intensified my interest, or what I thought was that, in politics. I wanted to do my bit to contribute to

Hitler’s electoral victory. This stay in Berlin was meant to be merely a few days’ break, for from there we planned to go on to make a long-planned faltboat tour of the East Prussian lakes.

I reported along with my car to my NSKK chief of the Berlin Kreisleitung West, Will Nagel, who used me for courier duty to a wide variety of local party headquarters. When I had to drive into the parts of the city dominated by the “Reds,” I often felt distinctly uncomfortable. In those areas, Nazi bands were quartered in cellar apartments that rather resembled holes in the ground and were subject to a good deal of harassment. The Communist outposts in the areas dominated by the Nazis were in a similar situation. I cannot forget the careworn and anxious face of a troop leader in the heart of Moabit, one of the most dangerous areas at the time. These people were risking their lives and sacrificing their health for an idea, never imagining that they were being exploited in behalf of the fantastic notions of a power-hungry man.

On July 27, 1932, Hitler was to arrive at the Berlin-Staaken airport from a morning meeting in Eberswalde. I was assigned to drive a courier from Staaken to the site of the next meeting, the Brandenburg Stadium. The three-motored plane rolled to a stop. Hitler and several of his associates and adjutants got out. Aside from myself and the courier, there was scarcely anyone at the airport. I kept at a respectful distance, but I saw Hitler reproving one of his companions because the cars had not yet arrived. He paced back and forth angrily, slashing at the tops of his high boots with a dog whip and giving the general impression of a cross, uncontrolled man who treats his associates contemptuously.

This Hitler was very different from the man of calm and civilized manner who had so impressed me at the student meeting. Although I did not give much thought to it, what I was seeing was an example of Hitler’s remarkable duplicity—indeed, “multiplicity” would be a better word. With enormous histrionic intuition he could shape his behavior to changing situations in public while letting himself go with his intimates, servants, or adjutants.

The cars came. I took my passenger into my rattling roadster and drove at top speed a few minutes ahead of Hitler’s motorcade. In Brandenburg the sidewalks close to the stadium were occupied by Social Democrats and Communists. With my passenger wearing the party uniform, the temper of the crowd grew ugly. When Hitler with his entourage arrived a few minutes later, the demonstrators overflowed into the street. Hitler’s car had to force its way through at a snail’s pace. Hitler stood erect beside the driver. At that time I felt respect for his courage, and still do. The negative impression that his behavior at the airport had made upon me was wiped out by this scene.

I waited outside the stadium with my car. Consequently I did not hear the speech, only the storms of applause that interrupted Hitler for minutes at a time. When the party anthem indicated the end, we started out again. For that day Hitler was speaking at still a third meeting in the Berlin Stadium. Here, too, the stands were jammed. Thousands who had not been able to obtain admission stood outside in the streets. For hours the crowd waited patiently; once more Hitler was very late. My report to Hanke that Hitler was on his way was promptly announced over the loudspeaker. A roar of applause burst out—incidentally the first and only applause that I myself was ever the cause of.

The following day decided my future. The faltboats were already at the railroad station and our tickets to East Prussia purchased. We were planning to take the evening train. But at noon I received a telephone call. NSKK Chief Nagel informed me that Hanke, who had now risen to organization leader of the Berlin District, wanted to see me.

Hanke received me joyfully. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Would you like to rebuild our new district headquarters?” he asked as soon as I entered. “I’ll propose it to the Doctor* today. Were in a great hurry.”

* This was how Goebbels was always referred to in party circles. The party simply did not have many doctors of philosophy among its members in those days.

A few hours later I would have been sitting in the train and on the lonely East Prussian lakes would have been out of reach for weeks. The district would have had to find another architect. For years I regarded this coincidence as the luckiest turning point in my life. I had reached the junction.

Two decades later, in Spandau, I read in Sir James Jeans:

The course of a railway train is uniquely prescribed for it at most points of its journey by the rails on which it runs. Here and there, however, it comes to a junction at which alternative courses are open to it, and it may be turned on to one or the other by the quite negligible expenditure of energy involved in moving the points.

The new district headquarters was situated on imposing Voss Strasse, cheek by jowl with the legations of the German states. From the rear windows I could see eighty-five-year-old President von Hindenburg strolling in the adjacent park, often in the company of politicians or military men. As Hanke said to me, even in visual terms the party wanted to advance to the immediate vicinity of political power and thus make a political impression. My assignment was not so impressive; once again it came down to repainting the walls and making minor alterations. The furnishing of a conference room and the Gauleiter’s office likewise turned out to be a fairly plain affair, partly for lack of funds, partly because I was still under Tessenow’s influence. But this modesty was offset by the ornate carved woods and molded plaster of the Gründerzeit, the boom period of the early eighteen-seventies. I worked day and night because the district was anxious to have the place ready as soon as possible. I seldom saw Gauleiter Goebbels. The campaign for the forthcoming elections of November 6, 1932, was taking up all his time. Harried and hoarse, he deigned to be shown the rooms several times, but without evincing much interest.

The renovations were finished, the estimate of costs far exceeded, and the election was lost. Membership shrank; the treasurer wrung his hands over the unpaid bills. To the workmen he could show only his empty cashbox. As party members they had to consent to wait for their pay, in order not to bankrupt the party.

A few days after the dedication Hitler also inspected the district headquarters, which was named after him. I heard that he liked what he saw, which filled me with pride, although I was not sure whether he had praised the architectural simplicity I had striven for or the ornateness of the original Wilhelmine structure.

Soon afterward I returned to my Mannheim office. Nothing had changed; the economic situation and therefore the prospect of commissions had grown worse, if anything. Political conditions were becoming even more confused. One crisis followed on the heels of another, and we paid no attention. For us, things went on as before. On January 30, 1933, I read of Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor, but for the time being that did not affect me. Shortly afterward I attended a membership meeting of the Mannheim local party group. I was struck by the low personal and intellectual level of the members. “A country cannot be governed by such people,” I briefly thought. My concern was needless. The old bureaucratic apparatus continued to run the affairs of state smoothly under Hitler, too.*

* Particularly in the early years Hitler achieved his successes largely by using the existing organizations that he had taken over. In the administrative bureaucracy the old civil servants carried on as before. Hitler found his military leaders among the elite of the old Imperial Army and the Reichswehr. Practical matters concerning labor were still partially in the hands of the old union officials. And later, of course (after I introduced the principle of industrial self-responsibility), the directors who helped to achieve the extraordinary increase in armaments production from 1942 on were ones who had already made names for themselves before 1933. Significantly, great successes resulted from combining these old, proven organizations and carefully selected officials from them with Hitler’s new system. But undoubtedly this harmonious phase would have been only transitional. After a generation at most, the old leadership would have been replaced by a new one trained in Adolf Hitler Schools and Ordensburgen [Order Castles, special training schools for Nazi leaders] according to the new educational principles. Even in party circles the products of such schools were occasionally regarded as too ruthless and arrogant.

Then came the election of March 5, 1933, and a week later I received a telephone call from District Organization Leader Hanke in Berlin:

“Would you come to Berlin? There is certainly work for you here. When can you come?” he asked. I had the oil changed in our small BMW sports car, packed a suitcase, and we drove all night to Berlin. On little sleep, I called on Hanke at headquarters in the morning. “You’re to drive over with the Doctor right away. He wants to have a look at his new Ministry.”

The result was that I made a ceremonial entrance along with Goebbels into the handsome building on Wilhelmsplatz, the work of the well-known nineteenth-century architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. A few hundred people who were waiting there for something, perhaps for Hitler, waved to the new Minister of Propaganda. I felt—and not only here—that new life had been infused into Berlin. After the long crisis people seemed more vigorous and hopeful. Everyone knew that this time more than another of the usual cabinet shifts was involved. Everyone seemed to sense that an hour of decision had arrived. Groups of people stood around in the streets. Strangers exchanged commonplaces, laughed with one another, or expressed approval of the political events—while somewhere, unnoticed, the party machinery was relentlessly settling accounts with the opponents of years of political struggles, and hundreds of thousands of people were trembling because of their descent, their religion, or their convictions.

After inspecting the Ministry, Goebbels commissioned me to rebuild it and to furnish various important rooms, such as his office and the meeting halls. He gave me a formal assignment to begin at once, without waiting for an estimate of costs and without troubling to find out whether funds were available. That was, as subsequently developed, rather autocratic, for no appropriations had yet been made for the newly created Propaganda Ministry, let alone for these renovations. I tried to carry out my assignment with due deference for Schinkel’s interior. But Goebbels thought what I had done insufficiently impressive. After some months he commissioned the Vereinigte Werkstätten (United Workshops) in Munich to redo the rooms in “ocean-liner style.”

Hanke had secured the influential post of “Minister’s Secretary” in the Ministry and ruled over the new ministers anterooms with great skill. I happened to see a sketch on his desk of the decorations for the night rally that was to be held at Tempelhof Field on May 1. The designs outraged both my revolutionary and my architectural feelings. “Those look like the decorations for a rifle club meet,” I exclaimed. Hanke replied: ‘If you can do better, go to it.”

That same night I sketched a large platform and behind it three mighty banners, each of them taller than a ten-story building, stretched between wooden struts: two of the banners would be black-white-red with the swastika banner between them. (A rather risky idea, for in a strong wind those banners would act like sails.) They were to be illuminated by powerful searchlights. The sketch was accepted immediately, and once more I had moved a step ahead.

Full of pride, I showed my drawings to Tessenow. But he remained fixed in his ideal of solid craftsmanship. “Do you think you have created something? It’s showy, that’s all.” But Hitler, as Hanke told me, was enthusiastic about the arrangement—although Goebbels claimed the idea for himself.

A few weeks later Goebbels moved into the official residence of the Minister of Nutrition. He took possession of it more or less by force, for Hugenberg insisted that it ought to remain at his disposal, the portfolio of Minister of Nutrition being then assigned to his German Nationalist Party. But this dispute soon ended, for Hugenberg left the cabinet on June 26.

I was given the assignment to redo the minister’s house and also to add a large hall. Somewhat recklessly I promised to have house and annex ready within two months. Hitler did not believe it would be possible to keep this deadline, and Goebbels, in order to spur me on, told me of his doubts. Day and night I kept three shifts at work. I took care that various aspects of the construction were synchronized down to the smallest detail, and in the last few days I set a large drying apparatus to work. The building was finally handed over, furnished, punctually on the promised date.

To decorate the Goebbels house I borrowed a few watercolors by Nolde from Eberhard Hanfstaengl, the director of the Berlin National Gallery. Goebbels and his wife were delighted with the paintings—until Hitler came to inspect and expressed his severe disapproval. Then the Minister summoned me immediately: “The pictures have to go at once; they’re simply impossible!”

During those early months after the taking of power, a few, at least, of the schools of modem painting, which in 1937 were to be branded as “degenerate” along with the rest, still had a fighting chance. For Hans Weidemann, an old party member from Essen who wore the gold party badge, headed the Art Section in the Propaganda Ministry. Knowing nothing about this episode with Nolde’s watercolors, he assembled an exhibition of pictures more or less of the Nolde-Munch school and recommended them to the Minister as samples of revolutionary, nationalist art. Goebbels, having learned better, had the compromising paintings removed at once. When Weidemann refused to go along with this total repudiation of modernity, he was reassigned to some lesser job within the Ministry. At the time this conjunction of power and servility on Goebbels’s part struck me as weird. There was something fantastic about the absolute authority Hitler could assert over his closest associates of many years, even in matters of taste. Goebbels had simply groveled before Hitler. We were all in the same boat. I too, though altogether at home in modem art, tacitly accepted Hitler’s pronouncement.

No sooner had I finished the assignment for Goebbels than I was summoned to Nuremberg. That was in July 1933. Preparations were being made there for the first Party Rally of what was now the government party. The victorious spirit of the party was to be expressed even in the architecture of the background, but the local architect had been unable to come up with satisfactory suggestions. I was taken to Nuremberg by plane and there made my sketches. They were not exactly overflowing with fresh ideas, for in fact they resembled the design for May 1. Instead of my great banners I provided a gigantic eagle, over a hundred feet in wingspread, to crown the Zeppelin Field. I spiked it to a timber framework like a butterfly in a collection.

The Nuremberg organization leader did not dare to decide on this matter by himself, and therefore sent me to headquarters in Munich. I had a letter of introduction with me, since I was still completely unknown outside of Berlin. It seemed that headquarters took architecture, or rather festival decor, with extraordinary seriousness. A few minutes after my arrival I stood in Rudolf Hess’s luxuriously appointed office, my folder of drawings in my hand. He did not give me a chance to speak. “Only the Fuehrer himself can decide this sort of thing.” He made a brief telephone call and then said: “The Fuehrer is in his apartment. I’ll have you driven over there.” For the first time I had an intimation of what the magic word “architecture” meant under Hitler.

We stopped at an apartment house in the vicinity of the Prinzregenten Theater. Two flights up I was admitted to an anteroom containing mementos or presents of low quality. The furniture, too, testified to poor taste. An adjutant came in, opened a door, said casually, “Go in,” and I stood before Hitler, the mighty Chancellor of the Reich. On a table in front of him lay a pistol that had been taken apart; he seemed to have been cleaning it. “Put the drawings here,” he said curtly. Without looking at me, he pushed the parts of the pistol aside and examined my sketches with interest but without a word. “Agreed.” No more. Since he turned to his pistol again, I left the room in some confusion.

There was astonishment in Nuremberg when I reported that I had received the approval from Hitler in person. Had the organizers there known how spellbound Hitler was by any drawing, a large delegation would have gone to Munich and I would at best have been allowed to stand at the very back of the group. But in those days few people were acquainted with Hitler’s hobby.

In the autumn of 1933 Hitler commissioned his Munich architect, Paul Ludwig Troost, who had designed the fittings for the ocean liner Europa and rebuilt the Brown House, to completely redo and refurnish the Chancellor’s residence in Berlin. The job was to be completed as quickly as possible. Troost’s building supervisor came from Munich and was thus not familiar with Berlin construction firms and practices. Hitler then recollected that a young architect had finished an annex for Goebbels in a remarkably brief time. He assigned me as an aide to the Munich supervisor; I was to choose the firms, to guide him through the mazes of the Berlin construction market, and to intervene wherever needed in the interests of speed.

This collaboration began with a careful inspection of the Chancellor’s residence by Hitler, his building supervisor, and myself. In the spring of 1939, six years later, in an article on the previous condition of the place, Hitler wrote:

After the 1918 Revolution the building gradually began to decay. Large parts of the roof timbers were rotted and the attics completely dilapidated… . Since my predecessors in general could count upon a term of office of only three to five months, they saw no reason to remove the filth of those who had occupied the house before them nor to see to it that those who came after would have better conditions than they themselves. They had no prestige to maintain toward foreign countries since these in any case took little notice of them. As a result the building was in a state of utter neglect. Ceilings and floors were moldy, wallpaper and floors rotting, the whole place filled with an almost unbearable smell.1

That was certainly exaggerated. Still, the condition of this residence was almost incredible. The kitchen had little light and was equipped with long-outmoded stoves. There was only one bathroom for all the inhabitants, and its fixtures dated from the turn of the century. There were also innumerable examples of bad taste: doors painted to imitate natural wood and marble urns for flowers which were actually only marbleized sheet-metal basins. Hitler exclaimed triumphantly: “Here you see the whole corruption of the old Republic. One can’t even show the Chancellor’s residence to a foreigner. I would be embarrassed to receive even a single visitor here.”

During this thorough tour, which lasted perhaps three hours, we also went into the attic. The janitor explained: “And this is the door that leads to the next building.”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s a passage running through the attics of all the ministries as far as the Hotel Adlon.”

“Why?”

“During the riots at the beginning of the Weimar Republic it turned out that the rioters could besiege the residence and cut the Chancellor off from the outside world. The passage was created so that in an emergency he could clear out.”

Hitler had the door opened, and sure enough, we could walk into the adjacent Foreign Office. “Have the door walled up,” he said. “We don t need anything like that.”

After the repairs had begun, Hitler came to the site at noon almost every day, followed by an adjutant. He studied the progress that had been made and took pleasure in the rooms as they came into being. Soon the band of construction workers were greeting him in a friendly and easy way. In spite of the two SS men in civilian dress who stood unobtrusively in the background, these scenes had an idyllic air. You could see from Hitler’s behavior that he felt “at home” amid construction. Yet he avoided any cheap popularity-chasing.

The supervisor and I accompanied him on these tours. In a terse but not unfriendly manner, he addressed his questions to us: “When is this room to be plastered? … When are the windows coming? … Have the detail drawings arrived from Munich? Not yet? I’ll ask the Professor [that was the way he usually referred to Troost] about them myself.” Another room was inspected: “Ah, this has already been plastered. That hadn’t been done yesterday. Why, this ceiling molding is very handsome. The Professor does that sort of thing wonderfully… . When do you think you’ll be finished? I’m in a great hurry. All I have now is the small state secretary’s apartment on the top floor. I can’t invite anyone there. It’s ridiculous, how penny-pinching the Republic was. Have you seen the entrance? And the elevator? Any department store has a better one.” The elevator in fact would get stuck from time to time and was rated for only three persons.

That was the tone Hitler took. It is easy to imagine how this naturalness of his impressed me—after all, he was not only the Chancellor but also the man who was beginning to revive everything in Germany, who was providing work for the unemployed and launching vast economic programs. Only much later, and on the basis of tiny clues, did I begin to perceive that a good measure of propagandist calculation underlay all this simplicity.

I had already accompanied him some twenty or thirty times when he suddenly invited me, in the course of a tour: “Will you come to dinner with me today?” Naturally this unexpected gesture made me happy—all the more so since I had never expected it, because of his impersonal manner.

I was used to clambering around building sites, but that particular day I unluckily had a hod of plaster fall on me from a scaffolding. I must have looked at my stained jacket with a rueful expression, for Hitler commented: “Just come along; we’ll fix that upstairs.”

In his apartment the guests were already waiting, among them Goebbels, who looked quite surprised to see me appear in this circle. Hitler took me into his private rooms. His valet was sent off for Hitler’s own dark-blue jacket. “There, wear that for the while.” And so I entered the dining room behind Hitler and sat at his side, favored above all the other guests. Evidently he had taken a liking to me. Goebbels noticed something that had entirely escaped me in my excitement. “Why, you’re wearing the Fuehrer’s badge.*

* Hitler was the only party member to wear a gold “badge of sovereignty”—an eagle with a swastika in its talons. Everyone else wore the round party badge. But Hitler’s jacket did not differ from ordinary civilian jackets.

That isn’t your jacket, then?” Hitler spared me the reply: “No, it’s mine.”

On this occasion Hitler for the first time addressed a few personal questions to me. Only now did he discover that I had designed the May 1 decorations. “I see, and you did the ones in Nuremberg too? There was an architect who came to see me with the plans! Right, that was you! … I never would have thought you could have got Goebbels’s building finished by the deadline.” He did not ask about my membership in the party. In the case of artists, it seemed to me, he did not care one way or the other. Instead of political questions, he wanted to find out as much as possible about my origins, my career as an architect, and my father’s and grandfather’s buildings.

Years later Hitler referred to this invitation:

You attracted my notice during our rounds. I was looking for an architect to whom I could entrust my building plans. I wanted someone young; for as you know these plans extend far into the future. I need someone who will be able to continue after my death with the authority I have conferred on him. I saw you as that man.

After years of frustrated efforts I was wild to accomplish things— and twenty-eight years old. For the commission to do a great building, I would have sold my soul like Faust. Now I had found my Mephistopheles. He seemed no less engaging than Goethe’s.

4. My Catalyst

I WAS BY NATURE HARDWORKING, BUT I ALWAYS NEEDED A SPECIAL IMPULSE to develop new talents and rally fresh energy. Now I had found my catalyst; I could not have encountered a more effective one. At an ever quickening pace and with ever greater urgency, all my powers were summoned forth.

In responding to this challenge I gave up the real center of my life: my family. Completely under the sway of Hitler, I was henceforth possessed by my work. Nothing else mattered. Hitler knew how to drive his associates to the greatest efforts. “The higher he aims, the more a man grows,” he would say.

During the twenty years I spent in Spandau prison I often asked myself what I would have done if I had recognized Hitler’s real face and the true nature of the regime he had established. The answer was banal and dispiriting: My position as Hitler’s architect had soon become indispensable to me. Not yet thirty, I saw before me the most exciting prospects an architect can dream of.

Moreover, the intensity with which I went at my work repressed problems that I ought to have faced. A good many perplexities were smothered by the daily rush. In writing these memoirs I became increasingly astonished to realize that before 1944 I so rarely—in fact almost never—found the time to reflect about myself or my own activities, that I never gave my own existence a thought. Today, in retrospect, I often have the feeling that something swooped me up off the ground at the time, wrenched me from all my roots, and beamed a host of alien forces upon me.

In retrospect, what perhaps troubles me most is that my occasional spells of uneasiness during this period were concerned mainly with the direction I was taking as an architect, with my growing estrangement from Tessenow’s doctrines. On the other hand I must have had the feeling that it was no affair of mine when I heard the people around me declaring an open season on Jews, Freemasons, Social Democrats, or Jehovah’s Witnesses. I thought I was not implicated if I myself did not take part.

The ordinary party member was being taught that grand policy was much too complex for him to judge it. Consequently, one felt one was being represented, never called upon to take personal responsibility. The whole structure of the system was aimed at preventing conflicts of conscience from even arising. The result was the total sterility of all conversations and discussions among these like-minded persons. It was boring for people to confirm one another in their uniform opinions.

Worse still was the restriction of responsibility to one’s own field. That was explicitly demanded. Everyone kept to his own group—of architects, physicians, jurists, technicians, soldiers, or farmers. The professional organizations to which everyone had to belong were called chambers (Physicians’ Chamber, Art Chamber), and this term aptly described the way people were immured in isolated, closed-off areas of life. The longer Hitler’s system lasted, the more people’s minds moved within such isolated chambers. If this arrangement had gone on for a number of generations, it alone would have caused the whole system to wither, I think, for we would have arrived at a kind of caste society. The disparity between this and the Volksgemeinschaft (community of the people) proclaimed in 1933 always astonished me. For this had the effect of stamping out the promised integration, or at any rate of greatly hindering it. What eventually developed was a society of totally isolated individuals. For although it may sound strange today, for us it was no empty slogan that “the Fuehrer proposes and disposes” for all.

We had been rendered susceptible to such ideas from our youth on. We had derived our principles from the Obrigkeitsstaat, the authoritarian though not totalitarian state of Imperial Germany. Moreover, we had learned those principles in wartime, when the state’s authoritarian character had been further intensified. Perhaps the background had prepared us like soldiers for the kind of thinking we encountered once again in Hitler’s system. Tight public order was in our blood; the liberalism of the Weimar Republic seemed to us by comparison lax, dubious, and in no way desirable.

In order to be available to my client at any time, I had rented a painters studio on Behrenstrasse, a few hundred yards from the Chancellery, for my office. My assistants, all of them young, worked from morning until late at night without regard for their private lives. For lunch we generally had a few sandwiches. It would be nearly ten o’clock at night before we would quit and, exhausted, end our working day with a bite at the nearby Pfälzer Weinstube—where we would once more discuss the day’s labors.

Major assignments did not come our way at once. I continued to receive a few occasional rush jobs from Hitler, who apparently thought that what I was chiefly good for was the speedy completion of commissions. The previous Chancellor’s office on the second floor of the office building had three windows overlooking Wilhelmsplatz. During those early months of 1933 a crowd almost invariably gathered there and chanted their demand to see the Fuehrer. As a result, it had become impossible for Hitler to work in the room, and he did not like it anyhow. “Much too small. Six hundred and fifty square feet—it might do for one of my assistants. Where would I sit with a state visitor? In this little comer here? And this desk is just about the right size for my office manager.”

Hitler had me refurbish a hall overlooking the garden as his new private office. For five years he contented himself with this room, although he considered it only temporary. But even after he moved into his office in the new Chancellery built in 1938, he soon came to feel that this too was unsatisfactory. By 1950, according to his instructions and my plans, a final new Chancellery was to be built. It was to include a palatial office for Hitler and his successors in coming centuries, which would measure ten thousand square feet—sixteen times larger than the original Chancellor’s office. But after talking the matter over with Hitler, I tucked in a private office to supplement this vast hall; it again measured about six hundred square feet.

As things worked out, the old office was not to be used. For Hitler wanted to be able to show himself to the crowd and therefore had me build a new “historic balcony” in great haste. “The window was really too inconvenient,” Hitler remarked to me with satisfaction. “I could not be seen from all sides. After all, I could not very well lean out.” But the architect of the first reconstruction of the Chancellery, Professor Eduard Jobst Siedler of the Berlin Institute of Technology, made a fuss about our doing violence to his work, and Lammers, chief of the Reich Chancery, agreed that our addition would constitute an infringement on an artist’s copyright. Hitler scornfully dismissed these objections: “Siedler has spoiled the whole of Wilhelmsplatz. Why, that building looks like the headquarters of a soap company, not the center of the Reich. What does he think? That I’ll let him build the balcony too?” But he propitiated the professor with another commission.

A few months later I was told to build a barracks camp for the workmen of the autobahn, construction of which had just begun. Hitler was displeased with the kind of quarters hitherto provided and instructed me to develop a model which could be used for all such camps: with decent kitchens, washrooms, and showers, with a lounge and cabins containing only two beds each. These quarters were indeed a great improvement over the building site barracks commonly used up to that time. Hitler took an interest in these model buildings and asked me to give him a report on their effect on the workers. This was just the attitude I had imagined the National Socialist leader would have.

Until the remodeling of his Chancellor’s residence was done, Hitler stayed in the apartment of State Secretary Lammers, on the top floor of the office building. Here I frequently had lunch or dinner with him. Evenings he usually had some trusty companions about: Schreck, his chauffeur of many years; Sepp Dietrich, the commander of his SS bodyguard; Dr. Otto Dietrich, the press chief; Bruckner and Schaub, his two adjutants; and Heinrich Hoffmann, his official photographer. Since the table held no more than ten persons, this group almost completely filled it. For the midday meal, on the other hand, Hitler’s old Munich comrades foregathered, such as Amann, Schwarz, and Esser or Gauleiter Wagner. Frequently, Werlin was present also; he was head of the Munich branch of Daimler-Benz and supplier of Hitler’s personal cars. Cabinet ministers seemed seldom present; I also saw very little of Himmler, Roehm, or Streicher at these meals, but Goebbels and Goering were often there. Even then all regular officials of the Chancellery were excluded. Thus it was noticeable that even Lammers, although the apartment was his, was never invited—undoubtedly with good reason.

For in this circle Hitler often spoke his mind on the day’s developments. He used these sociable hours to work off the nervous strain of his office. He liked to describe the way he had broken the grip of the bureaucracy, which threatened to strangle him in his capacity as Reich Chancellor:

In the first few weeks every petty matter was brought to me for decision. Every day I found heaps of files on my desk, and however much I worked there were always as many again. Finally, I put an end to that nonsense. If I had gone on that way, I would never have accomplished anything, simply because that stuff left me no time for thinking. When I refused to see the files they told me that important decisions would be held up. But I decided that I had to clear the decks so I could give my mind to the important things. That way I governed the course of development instead of being governed by the officials.

Sometimes he talked about his drivers:

Schreck was the best driver you can imagine, and our supercharger is good for over a hundred. We always drove very fast. But in recent years

I’ve told Schreck not to drive over fifty. How terrible if something had happened to me. What fun we had teasing the big American cars. We kept right behind them until they tried to lose us. Those Americans are junk compared to a Mercedes. Their motor couldn’t take it; after a while it would overheat, and they’d have to pull over to the side of the road, looking glum. Served them right!

Every evening a crude movie projector was set up to show the newsreel and one or two movies. In the early days the servants were extremely inept at handling the apparatus. Frequently, the picture was upside down or the film strip broke. In those days Hitler took such accidents with more good humor than his adjutants, who were fond of using the power they derived from their chief to bawl out underlings.

The choice of films was a matter Hitler discussed with Goebbels. Usually they were the same ones being shown in the Berlin movie houses at the time. Hitler preferred light entertainment, love, and society films. All the films with Emil Jannings and Heinz Rühmann, with Henny Porten, Lil Dagover, Olga Tschechowa, Zarah Leander, or Jenny Jugo had to be procured as quickly as possible. Revues with lots of leg display were sure to please him. Frequently we saw foreign films, including those that were withheld from the German public. Sports and mountaineering films were shown very rarely, animal and landscape movies and travelogues never. Hitler also had no feeling for the comedies of the kind I loved at the time, those featuring Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. German movie production was not nearly sufficient to fill the quota of two new movies every day. Many were therefore shown twice or even more often—interestingly enough, never those with tragic plots. The ones we saw more than once were frequently spectaculars or movies with his favorite actors. His preferences, and the habit of seeing one or two films every evening, continued until the beginning of the war.

At one of these dinners, in the winter of 1933, I happened to be seated beside Goering. “Is Speer doing your residence, my Fuehrer? Is he your architect?” I wasn’t, but Hitler said I was. “Then permit me to have him remodel my house too.” Hitler gave his consent, and Goering, scarcely inquiring what I thought of the proposal, put me into his big open limousine after the meal was over and dragged me off to his residence like a piece of booty. He had picked out for himself the former official residence of the Prussian Minister of Commerce, a palace that the Prussian state had built with great lavishness before 1914. It was situated in one of the gardens behind Leipziger Platz.

Only a few months before, this residence had been expensively redone according to Goering’s own instructions, with Prussian state funds. Hitler had come to see it and commented deprecatingly: “Dark! How can anyone live in such darkness! Compare this with my professor’s work.

Everything bright, clear, and simple!” I did in fact find the place a romantically tangled warren of small rooms gloomy with stained-glass windows and heavy velvet hangings, cluttered with massive Renaissance furniture. There was a kind of chapel presided over by the swastika, and the new symbol had also been reiterated on ceilings, walls, and floors throughout the house. There was the feeling that something terribly solemn and tragic would always be going on in this place.

It was characteristic of the system—and probably of all authoritarian forms of society—that Hitler’s criticism and example produced an instant change in Goering. For he immediately repudiated the decorative scheme he had just completed, although he probably felt fairly comfortable in it, since it rather corresponded to his disposition. “Don’t look at this,” he said to me. “I can’t stand it myself. Do it any way you like. I’m giving you a free hand; only it must turn out like the Fuehrer’s place.” That was a fine assignment. Money, as was always the case with Goering, was no object. And so walls were ripped out, in order to turn the many rooms on the ground floor into four large rooms. The largest of these, his study, measured almost fifteen hundred square feet, thus approaching the size of Hitler’s. An annex was added, mostly of glass framed in bronze. Bronze was in short supply; it was treated as a scarce metal and there were high penalties for using it for nonessential purposes, but that did not bother Goering in the least. He was rapturous every time he made an inspection; he beamed like a child on its birthday, rubbed his hands, and laughed.

Goering’s furniture suited his bulk. An old Renaissance desk was of enormous proportions, as was the desk chair whose back rose far above his head; it had probably been a prince’s throne. On the desk he had two silver candelabra with enormous parchment shades to illuminate an oversized photograph of Hitler; the original, which Hitler had given him, had not seemed impressive enough. He had had it tremendously enlarged, and every visitor wondered at this special honor that Hitler had seemingly conferred on him, since it was well known in party and government circles that Hitler presented his portrait to his paladins always in the same size, inside a silver frame specially designed for it by Frau Troost.

There was an immense painting in the hall which could be drawn up to the ceiling in order to expose openings to a projection room behind the wall. The painting struck me as familiar. In fact, as I subsequently learned, Goering had in his unabashed fashion simply ordered “his” director of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum to deliver the famous Rubens, Diana at the Stag Hunt, considered one of the museum’s prize possessions, to his residence.

During the reconstruction, Goering lived in the mansion of the President of the Reichstag, opposite the Reichstag itself, an early twentieth-century building with strong elements of nouveau riche rococo. Here our discussions about his future residence took place. Frequently present at these talks was one of the directors of the Vereinigte Werkstätten, Herr Paepke, a gray-haired elderly gentleman full of best intentions to please Goering, but cowed by the brusque manner Goering used with subordinates.

One day we were sitting with Goering in a room whose walls were done in the Wilhelmine neorococo style, adorned from top to bottom with roses in bas-relief—quintessential atrociousness. Even Goering knew that when he asked: “How do you like this decoration, Herr Direktor? Not bad, is it?” Instead of saying, “It’s ghastly,” the old gentleman became unsure of himself. He did not want to disagree with his prominent employer and customer and answered evasively. Goering immediately scented an opportunity for a joke and winked at me: “But, Herr Direktor, don’t you think it’s beautiful? I mean to have you decorate all my rooms this way. We were talking about just that, weren’t we, Herr Speer?” “Yes, of course, the drawings are already being made.” “There you are, Herr Direktor. You see, this is the style were going to follow. I’m sure you like it.” The director writhed; his artistic conscience brought beads of sweat to his forehead and his goatee quivered with distress. Goering had taken it into his head to make the old man forswear himself. “Now look at this wall carefully. See how wonderfully those roses twine their way up. Like being in a rose arbor out in the open. And you mean to say you can’t feel enthusiastic about this sort of thing?” “Oh yes, yes,” the desperate man concurred. “But you should be enthusiastic about such a work of art—a well-known connoisseur like you. Tell me, don’t you think it’s beautiful?” The game went on for a long time until the director gave in and voiced the praise Goering demanded.

“They’re all like that!” Goering afterward said contemptuously. And it was true enough: They were all like that, Goering included. For at meals he now never tired of telling Hitler how bright and expansive his home was now, “just like yours, my Fuehrer.”

If Hitler had had roses climbing the walls of his room, Goering would have insisted on roses.

By the winter of 1933, only a few months after that decisive invitation to dinner, I had been taken into the circle of Hitler’s intimates. There were very few persons besides myself who had been so favored. Hitler had undoubtedly taken a special liking to me, although I was by nature reticent and not very talkative. I have often asked myself whether he was projecting upon me his unfulfilled youthful dream of being a great architect. But given the fact that Hitler so often acted in a purely intuitive way, why he took to me so warmly remains a mystery.

I was still a long way from my later neoclassical manner. By chance some plans which I drew up in the autumn of 1933 have been preserved. They were for a prize competition for a party school in Munich-Grünwald. All German architects were invited to participate. My design already relied heavily on melodrama and a dominant axis, but I was still using the austere vocabulary I had learned from Tessenow.

Hitler, along with Troost and myself, looked at the entries before the judging. The sketches were unsigned, as is mandatory in such competitions. Of course I did not win. After the verdict, when the incognitos were lifted, Troost in a studio conversation praised my sketch. And to my astonishment Hitler remembered it in detail, although he had looked at my plans for only a few seconds among a hundred others. He silently ignored Troost’s praise; probably in the course of it he realized that I was still far from being an architect after his own heart.

Hitler went to Munich every two or three weeks. More and more often, he took me along on these trips. In the train he would usually talk animatedly about which drawings “the professor” would probably have ready. “I imagine he’s redone the ground-floor plan of the House of Art. There were some improvements needed there. … I wonder whether the details for the dining room have been drafted yet? And then perhaps well be able to see the sketches for Wackerle’s sculptures.”

On arrival he usually went directly from the railroad station to Professor Troost’s studio. It was situated in a battered backyard off Theresienstrasse, fairly near the Institute of Technology. We would go up two flights of a dreary stairway that had not been painted for years. Troost, conscious of his standing, never came to meet Hitler on the stairs, nor ever accompanied him downstairs when he left. In the anteroom, Hitler would greet him: “I can’t wait, Herr Professor. Is there anything new—let’s see it!” And we would plunge right in—Hitler and I would stand in the studio itself while Troost, composed and quiet as always, spread out his plans and the sketches of his ideas. But Hitler’s foremost architect had no better luck than I later did; Hitler seldom showed his enthusiasm.

Afterward Troost’s wife, Frau Professor, would show samples of the textiles and wall colors to be used for the Munich Fuehrer Building. These were subtle and restrained, actually too understated for Hitler’s taste, which inclined toward the gaudy. But he liked what he saw. The balanced bourgeois atmosphere which was then the fashion in wealthy society had about it a muted luxury that obviously appealed to him. Two or more hours would pass; then Hitler would take his leave, tersely but very cordially, to go to his own Munich apartment. He would throw a few quick words to me: “But come for lunch in the Osteria.”

At the usual time, around half past two, I went to the Osteria Bavaria, a small artists’ restaurant which rose to unexpected fame when it became Hitler’s regular restaurant. In a place like this, one could more easily imagine a table of artists gathered around Lenbach or Stuck, with long hair and huge beards, than Hitler with his neatly dressed or uniformed retinue. But he felt at ease in the Osteria; as a “frustrated artist” he obviously liked the atmosphere he had once sought to attain to, and now had finally both lost and surpassed.

Quite often the select group of guests had to wait for hours for Hitler. There would be an adjutant, also Bavarian Gauleiter Wagner if by this time he had slept off last night’s drinking bout, and of course Hitler’s constant companion and court photographer, Hoffmann, who by this time was quite often slightly tipsy. Very often the likable Miss Unity Mitford was present, and sometimes, though rarely, a painter or a sculptor. Then there would be Dr. Dietrich, the Reich press chief, and invariably Martin Bormann, Rudolf Hess’s secretary, who seemed utterly inconspicuous. On the street several hundred people would be waiting, for our presence was indication enough that he would be coming.

Shouts of rejoicing outside. Hitler headed toward our regular comer, which was shielded on one side by a low partition. In good weather we sat in the small courtyard where there was a hint of an arbor. Hitler gave the owner and the two waitresses a jovial greeting: “What’s good today? Ravioli? If only you didn’t make it so delicious. It’s too tempting!” Hitler snapped his fingers: “Everything would be perfect in your place, Herr Deutelmoser, if I did not have to think of my waistline. You forget that the Fuehrer cannot eat whatever he would like to.” Then he would study the menu for a long time and order ravioli.

Everyone ordered whatever he liked: cutlets, goulash, Hungarian wine from the cask. In spite of Hitler’s occasional jokes about “carrion eaters” and “wine drinkers,” everyone ate and drank with zest. In this circle there was a sense of privacy. One tacit agreement prevailed: No one must mention politics. The sole exception was Lady Mitford, who even in the later years of international tension persistently spoke up for her country and often actually pleaded with Hitler to make a deal with England. In spite of Hitler’s discouraging reserve, she did not abandon her efforts through all those years. Then, in September 1939, on the day of England’s declaration of war, she tried to shoot herself with a small pistol in Munich’s Englischer Garten. Hitler had the best specialists in Munich care for her, and as soon as she could travel sent her home to England by a special railroad car through Switzerland.

The principal topic during these meals was, regularly, the morning visit to Professor Troost. Hitler would be full of praise for what he had seen; he effortlessly remembered all the details. His relationship to Troost was somewhat that of a pupil to his teacher; it reminded me of my own uncritical admiration of Tessenow.

I found this trait very engaging. I was amazed to see that this man, although worshiped by the people around him, was still capable of a kind of reverence. Hitler, who felt himself to be an architect, respected the superiority of the professional in this field. He would never have done that in politics.

He talked frankly about how the Bruckmanns, a highly cultivated publishing family of Munich, had introduced him to Troost. It was, he said, “as if scales fell from my eyes” when he saw Troost’s work. “I could no longer bear the things I had drawn up to then. What a piece of good luck that I met this man!” One could only assent; it is ghastly to think what his architectural taste would have been like without Troost’s influence. He once showed me his sketchbook of the early twenties. I saw attempts at public buildings in the neobaroque style of Vienna’s Ringstrasse—products of the eighteen-nineties. Curiously enough, such architectural sketches often shared the page with sketches of weapons and warships.

In comparison to that sort of thing, Troost’s architecture was actually spare. Consequently, his influence upon Hitler remained marginal. Up to the end Hitler lauded the architects and the buildings which had served him as models for his early sketches. Among these was the Paris Opera (built 1861-74) by Charles Gamier: “The stairwell is the most beautiful in the world. When the ladies stroll down in their costly gowns and uniformed men form lanes—Herr Speer, we must build something like that too!” He raved about the Vienna Opera: “The most magnificent opera house in the world, with marvelous acoustics. When as a young man I sat up there in the fourth gallery… Hitler had a story to tell about van der Null, one of the two architects of this building: “He thought the opera house was a failure. You know, he was in such despair that on the day before the opening he put a bullet through his head. At the dedication it turned out to be his greatest success; everyone praised the architect.” Such remarks quite often led him to observations about difficult situations in which he himself had been involved and in which some fortunate turn of events had again and again saved him. The lesson was: You must never give up.

He was especially fond of the numerous theaters built by Hermann Helmer (1849-1919) and Ferdinand Fellner (1847-1916), who had provided both Austria-Hungary and Germany at the end of the nineteenth century with many late-baroque theaters, all in the same pattern. He knew where all their buildings were and later had the neglected theater in Augsburg renovated.

But he also appreciated the stricter architects of the nineteenth century such as Gottfried Semper (1803-79), who built the Opera House and the Picture Gallery in Dresden and the Hofburg and the court museums in Vienna, as well as Theophil Hansen (1803-83), who had designed several impressive classical buildings in Athens and

Vienna. As soon as the German troops took Brussels in 1940, I was dispatched there to look at the huge Palace of Justice by Poelaert (1817-79), which Hitler raved about, although he knew it only from its plans (which was also true of the Paris Opera). After my return he had me give him a detailed description of the building.

Such were Hitler’s architectural passions. But ultimately he was always drawn back to inflated neobaroque such as Kaiser Wilhelm II had also fostered, through his court architect Ihne. Fundamentally, it was decadent baroque, comparable to the style that accompanied the decline of the Roman Empire. Thus, in the realm of architecture, as in painting and sculpture, Hitler really remained arrested in the world of his youth: the world of 1880 to 1910, which stamped its imprint on his artistic taste as on his political and ideological conceptions.

Contradictory impulses were typical of Hitler. Thus he would sing the praises of the Viennese examples that had impressed him in his youth, and in the same breath would declare:

I first learned what architecture is from Troost. When I had some money, I bought one piece of furniture after the other from him. I looked at his buildings, at the appointments of the Europa, and always gave thanks to fate for appearing to me in the guise of Frau Bruckmann and leading this master to me. When the party had greater means, I commissioned him to remodel and furnish the Brown House. You’ve seen it. What trouble I had on account of it! Those philistines in the party thought it was a waste of money. And how much I learned from the Professor in the course of that remodeling!

Paul Ludwig Troost was a Westphalian, extremely tall and spare, with a close-shaven head. Restrained in conversation, eschewing gestures, he belonged to a group of architects such as Peter Behrens, Joseph M. Olbrich, Bruno Paul, and Walter Gropius who before 1914 led a reaction against the highly ornamented Jugendstil and advocated a lean approach, almost devoid of ornament, and a spartan traditionalism with which they combined elements of modernity. Troost had occasionally won prizes in competitions, but before 1933 he was never able to advance into the leading group of German architects.

There was no “Fuehrer’s style,” for all that the party press expatiated on this subject. What was branded as the official architecture of the Reich was only the neoclassicism transmitted by Troost; it was multiplied, altered, exaggerated, and sometimes distorted to the point of ludicrousness. Hitler appreciated the permanent qualities of the classical style all the more because he thought he had found certain points of relationship between the Dorians and his own Germanic world. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to try to look within

Hitler’s mentality for some ideologically based architectural style. That would not have been in keeping with his pragmatic way of thinking.

Undoubtedly Hitler had something in mind when he regularly took me along on those architectural consultations in Munich. He must have wanted me in my turn to become a disciple of Troost. I was eager to learn and actually did learn a good deal from Troost. The elaborate but restrained architecture of my second teacher decisively influenced me.

The prolonged table talk in the Osteria was brought to an end: “The Professor told me that the stairwell in the Fuehrer House is being paneled today. I can hardly wait to see it. Bruckner, send for the car—well drive right over.” And to me: “You’ll come along?”

He would hurry straight from the car to the stairwell in the Fuehrer House, inspect it from downstairs, from the gallery, from the stairs, then go upstairs again, full of enthusiasm. Finally he would look over the entire building. He would once again demonstrate his familiarity with every detail of the plans and sufficiently astonish everyone concerned with the building. Satisfied with the progress, satisfied with himself because he was the cause and prime mover of these buildings, he went to his next destination: The home of his photographer in Munich-Bogenhausen.

In good weather coffee would be served in the Hoffmanns’ little garden. Surrounded by the gardens of other villas, it was hardly more than two thousand feet square. Hitler tried to resist the cake, but finally consented, with many compliments to Frau Hoffmann, to have some put on his plate. If the sun were shining brightly the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor might even take off his coat and he down on the grass in shirtsleeves. At the Hoffmanns’ he felt at home; once he sent for a volume of Ludwig Thoma and read a passage aloud.

Hitler particularly looked forward to the paintings which the photographer had brought to his house for the Fuehrer to choose from. At first I was stunned at what Hoffmann showed Hitler and what met with his approval. Later I grew accustomed to Hitler’s taste in art, though I myself still went on collecting early romantic landscapes by such painters as Rottmann, Fries, or Kobell.

One of Hitler’s as well as Hoffmann’s favorite painters was Eduard Grützner, whose pictures of tipsy monks and inebriated butlers seemed hardly the right sort of thing for a teetotaler like Hitler. But Hitler regarded these paintings solely from their “artistic” aspect: “What, that one is priced at only five thousand marks?” The painting’s market value could not have been more than two thousand marks. “Do you know, Hoffmann, that’s a steal! Look at these details. Grützner is greatly underrated.” The next work by this painter cost him considerably more. “It’s simply that he hasn’t been discovered yet. Rembrandt also counted for nothing for many decades after his death. His pictures were practically given away. Believe me, this Grützner will someday be worth as much as a Rembrandt. Rembrandt himself couldn’t have painted that better.”

For all departments of art Hitler regarded the late nineteenth century as one of the greatest cultural epochs in human history. That it was not yet recognized as such, he said, was only because we were too close to it in time. But his appreciation stopped at Impressionism, whereas the naturalism of a Leibl or a Thoma suited his activistic approach to art. Makart ranked highest; he also thought highly of Spitzweg. In this case I could understand his feeling, although what he admired was not so much the bold and often impressionistic brush-work as the staunch middle-class genre quality, the affable humor with which Spitzweg gently mocked the small-town Munich of his period.

Later, to the consternation of the photographer, it turned out that a forger had exploited this fondness for Spitzweg. Hitler began to be uneasy about which of his Spitzwegs were genuine, but quickly repressed these doubts and commented maliciously: “You know, some of the Spitzwegs that Hoffmann has hanging are fake. I can tell at a glance. But let’s not take away his pleasure in them.” He said that last with the Bavarian intonation he liked to fall into while in Munich.

He frequently visited Carltons Tearoom, a bogus luxurious place with reproduction furniture and fake crystal chandeliers. He liked it because the people there left him undisturbed, did not bother him with applause or requests for autographs, as was generally the case elsewhere in Munich.

Frequently, I would receive a telephone call late at night from Hitler’s apartment: “The Fuehrer is driving over to the Cafe Heck and has asked that you come too.” I would have to get out of bed and had no prospect of returning before two or three o’clock in the morning.

Occasionally Hitler would apologize. “I formed the habit of staying up late during our days of struggle. After rallies I would have to sit down with the old fighters, and besides my speeches usually stirred me up so much that I would not have been able to sleep before early morning.”

The Cafe Heck, in contrast to Carlton’s Tearoom, was furnished with plain wooden chairs and iron tables. It was the old party café where Hitler used to meet his comrades. But any such meetings stopped after 1933. The Munich group had shown him such devotion over so many years that I had expected him to have a group of close Munich friends; but there was nothing of the sort. On the contrary, Hitler tended to become sulky when one of the old comrades wanted to speak to him and almost always managed to refuse or delay such requests on all sorts of pretexts. No doubt the old party comrades did not always assume the tone of respectful distance that Hitler, for all the geniality he outwardly displayed, now thought proper. Frequently, they adopted an air of unseemly familiarity; what they supposed was their well-earned right to such intimacy no longer comported with the historical role Hitler by now attributed to himself.

On extremely rare occasions he might still pay a visit to one or another of them. They had meanwhile acquired lordly mansions; most of them held important offices. Their one annual meeting was the anniversary of the putsch of November 9, 1923, which was celebrated in the Bürgerbraukeller. Surprisingly, Hitler did not at all look forward to these reunions; it was clear that he found it distasteful to have to be present.

After 1933 there quickly formed various rival factions that held divergent views, spied on each other, and held each other in contempt. A mixture of scorn and dislike became the prevailing mood within the party. Each new dignitary rapidly gathered a circle of intimates around him. Thus Himmler associated almost exclusively with his SS following, from whom he could count on unqualified respect. Goering also had his band of uncritical admirers, consisting partly of members of his family, partly of his closest associates and adjutants. Goebbels felt at ease in the company of literary and movie people. Hess occupied himself with problems of homeopathic medicine, loved chamber music, and had screwy but interesting acquaintances.

As an intellectual Goebbels looked down on the crude philistines of the leading group in Munich, who for their part made fun of the conceited academics literary ambitions. Goering considered neither the Munich philistines nor Goebbels sufficiently aristocratic for him, and therefore avoided all social relations with them; whereas Himmler, filled with the elitist missionary zeal of the SS (which for a time expressed itself in a bias for the sons of princes and counts), felt far superior to all the others. Hitler, too, had his retinue, which went everywhere with him. Its membership, consisting of chauffeurs, the photographer, his pilot, and secretaries, remained always the same.

Hitler held these divergent circles together politically. But after a year in power, neither Himmler nor Goering nor Hess appeared frequently enough at his dinner table or movie showings for there to be any semblance of a “society” of the new regime. When they did come their interest was so completely concentrated upon wooing Hitler’s favor that no cross-connections to the other groups sprang up.

To be sure, Hitler did not foster any social ties among the leaders.

In fact, as his situation grew increasingly critical in later years, he watched any efforts at rapprochement with keen suspicion. Not until it was all over did the still surviving heads of these isolated miniature worlds meet all together in a Luxemburg hotel—and then only because they had no choice in the matter, for they were all prisoners.

During these stays in Munich, Hitler paid little attention to government or party business, even less than in Berlin or at Obersalzberg. Usually only an hour or two a day remained available for conferences. Most of his time he spent marching about building sites, relaxing in studios, cafés, and restaurants, or hurling long monologues at his associates who were already amply familiar with the unchanging themes and painfully tried to conceal their boredom.

After two or three days in Munich, Hitler usually ordered preparations for the drive to “the mountain”—Obersalzberg. We rode over dusty highways in several open cars; the autobahn to Salzburg did not exist in those days, although it was being built on a priority basis. Usually the motorcade stopped for coffee in a village inn at Lambach am Chiemsee, which served delicious pastries that Hitler could scarcely ever resist. Then the passengers in the following cars once more swallowed dust for two hours, for the column rode in close file. After Berchtesgaden came the steep mountain road full of potholes, until we arrived at Hitler’s small, pleasant wooden house on Obersalzberg. It had a wide overhanging roof and modest interior: a dining room, a small living room, and three bedrooms. The furniture was bogus old-German peasant style and gave the house a comfortable petit-bourgeois look. A brass canary cage, a cactus, and a rubber plant intensified this impression. There were swastikas on knick-knacks and pillows embroidered by admiring women, combined with, say, a rising sun or a vow of “eternal loyalty.” Hitler commented to me with some embarrassment: “I know these are not beautiful things, but many of them are presents. I shouldn’t like to part with them.”

Soon he emerged from his bedroom, having changed out of his jacket into a Bavarian sports coat of light-blue linen, which he wore with a yellow tie. Usually he fell to talking about his building plans.

A few hours later a small Mercedes sedan would drive up with his two secretaries, Fraulein Wolf and Fraulein Schroder. A simple Munich girl would usually be with them. She was pleasant and fresh-faced rather than beautiful and had a modest air. There was nothing about her to suggest that she was a ruler’s mistress: Eva Braun.

This sedan was never allowed to drive in the official motorcade, for no one was to connect it with Hitler. The secretaries also served the function of disguising the mistress’s presence. I could only wonder at the way Hitler and Eva Braun avoided anything that might suggest an intimate relationship—only to go upstairs to the bedrooms together late at night. It has always remained incomprehensible to me why this needless, forced practice of keeping their distance was continued even in this inner circle whose members could not help being aware of the truth.

Eva Braun kept her distance from every one of Hitler’s intimates. She was the same toward me too; that changed only in the course of years. When we became more familiar with one another I realized that her reserved manner, which impressed many people as haughty, was merely embarrassment; she was well aware of her dubious position in Hitler’s court.

During those early years of our acquaintanceship Hitler, Eva Braun, an adjutant, and a servant were the only persons who stayed in the small house; we guests, five or six of us, including Martin Bormann and Press Chief Dietrich, as well as the two secretaries, were put up in a nearby pension.

Hitler’s decision to settle on Obersalzberg seemed to point to a love of nature. But I was mistaken about that. He did frequently admire a beautiful view, but as a rule he was more affected by the awesomeness of the abysses than by the harmony of a landscape. It may be that he felt more than he allowed himself to express. I noticed that he took little pleasure in flowers and considered them entirely as decorations. Sometime around 1934, when a delegation of Berlin women’s organizations was planning to welcome Hitler at Anhalter Station and hand him flowers, the head of the organization called Hanke, then the Propaganda Minister’s secretary, to ask what Hitler’s favorite flower was. Hanke said to me: “I’ve telephoned around, asked the adjutants, but there’s no answer. He hasn’t any.” He reflected for a while: “What do you think, Speer? Shouldn’t we say edelweiss? I think edelweiss sounds right. First of all it’s rare and then it also comes from the Bavarian mountains. Let’s simply say edelweiss!” From then on the edelweiss was officially “the Fuehrer’s flower.” The incident shows how much liberty party propaganda sometimes took in shaping Hitler’s image.

Hitler often talked about mountain tours he had undertaken in the past. From a mountain climber’s point of view, however, they did not amount to much. He rejected mountain climbing or alpine skiing: “What pleasure can there be in prolonging the horrible winter artificially by staying in the mountains?” His dislike for snow burst out repeatedly, long before the catastrophic winter campaign of 1941-42. “If I had my way I’d forbid these sports, with all the accidents people have doing them. But of course the mountain troops draw their recruits from such fools.”

Between 1934 and 1936 Hitler still took tramps on the public forest paths, accompanied by his guests and three or four plainclothes detectives belonging to his SS bodyguard. At such times Eva Braun was permitted to accompany him, but only trailing along with the two secretaries at the end of the file. It was considered a sign of favor when he called someone up to the front, although conversation with him flowed rather thinly. After perhaps half an hour Hitler would change partners: “Send the press chief to me,” and the companion of the moment would be demoted back to the rear. Hitler set a fast pace. Frequently other walkers met us; they would pause at the side of the path, offering reverent greetings. Some would take up their courage, usually women or girls, and address Hitler, whereupon he would respond with a few friendly words.

The destination was often the Hochlenzer, a small mountain inn, on the Scharitzkehl, about an hour’s walk, where we sat outside at plain wooden tables and had a glass of milk or beer. On rare occasions there would be a longer tour; I remember one with General von Blomberg, the Commander in Chief of the army. We had the impression that weighty military problems were being discussed, since everyone had to stay far enough behind to be out of hearing. Even when we rested for a while in a clearing in the woods, Hitler had his servant spread his blankets at a considerable distance from the rest of us, and he stretched out on them with the general—a peaceful and innocent-seeming sight.

Another time we drove by car to the Königssee and from there by motorboat to the Bartholomä Peninsula; or else we took a three-hour hike over the Scharitzkehl to the Königssee. On the last part of this walk we had to thread our way through numerous strollers who had been lured out by the lovely weather. Interestingly enough, these many people did not immediately recognize Hitler in his rustic Bavarian clothes, since scarcely anyone imagined that he would be among the hikers. But shortly before we reached our destination, the Schiffmeister restaurant, a band of enthusiasts began excitedly following our group; they had belatedly realized whom they had encountered. Hitler in the lead, almost running, we barely reached the door before we were overtaken by the swelling crowd. We sat over coffee and cake while the big square outside filled. Hitler waited until police reinforcements had been brought up before he entered the open car, which had been driven there to meet us. The front seat was folded back, and he stood beside the driver, left hand resting on the windshield, so that even those standing at a distance could see him. Two men of the escort squad walked in front of the car, three more on either side, while the car moved at a snail’s pace through the throng. I sat as usual in the jump seat close behind Hitler and shall never forget that surge of rejoicing, the ecstasy reflected in so many faces. Wherever Hitler went during those first years of his rule, wherever his car stopped for a short time, such scenes were repeated. The mass exultation was not called forth by rhetoric or suggestion, but solely by the effect of Hitler’s presence. Whereas individuals in the crowd were subject to this influence only for a few seconds at a time, Hitler himself was eternally exposed to the worship of the masses. At the time I admired him for nevertheless retaining his informal habits in private.

Perhaps it is understandable that I was carried along by these tempests of homage. But it was even more overwhelming for me to speak with the idol of a nation a few minutes or a few hours later, to discuss building plans with him, sit beside him in the theater, or eat ravioli with him in the Osteria. It was this contrast that overcame me.

Only a few months before I had been carried away by the prospect of drafting and executing buildings. Now I was completely under Hitler’s spell, unreservedly and unthinkingly held by him. I was ready to follow him anywhere. Yet his ostensible interest in me was only to launch me on a glorious career as an architect. Years later, in Spandau, I read Ernst Cassirer’s comment on the men who of their own accord threw away man’s highest privilege: to be an autonomous person.*

Now I was one of them.

* In The Myth of the State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1946), p. 286, Ernst Cassirer writes: “But here are men, men of education and intelligence, honest and upright men who suddenly give up the highest human privilege. They have ceased to be free and personal agents.” And earlier: “Man no longer questions his environment; he accepts it as a matter of course.”

Two deaths in 1934 delimited the private and the political realms. After some weeks of severe illness, Hitler’s architect Troost died on January 21; and on August 2, Reich President von Hindenburg passed away. His death left the way clear for Hitler to assume total power.

On October 15, 1933, Hitler had solemnly laid the cornerstone for the House of German Art in Munich. He delivered the ceremonial hammer blows with a fine silver hammer Troost had designed especially for this day. But the hammer broke. Now, four months later, Hitler remarked to us: “When that hammer shattered I knew at once it was an evil omen. Something is going to happen, I thought. Now we know why the hammer broke. The architect was destined to die.” I have witnessed quite a few examples of Hitler’s superstitiousness.

But for me Troost’s death meant a grave loss. A close relationship had just become established between us, and I counted on profiting, both humanly and artistically, from it. Funk, then state secretary in Goebbels’s Propaganda Ministry, took a different view. On the day of Troost’s death I met him in Goebbels’s anteroom, a long cigar in his round face. “Congratulations! Now you’re the first!” he said to me.

I was twenty-eight years old.

5. Architectural Megalomania

For a while it looked as if hitler himself intended to take over Troost’s office. He worried lest the plans be carried out without the necessary sympathy with the deceased architect’s vision. “I’d best take that in hand myself,” he remarked. This notion, after all, was no stranger than his later assuming supreme command of the army.

No doubt he had several weeks enjoyment out of imagining himself as the head of a smoothly functioning studio. On the trip to Munich he sometimes prepared himself for the role by discussing designs or making sketches, and a few hours later he would be sitting at the bureau manager’s drawing board correcting plans. But Bureau Manager Gall, a simple, straightforward Bavarian, defended Troost’s work with unexpected tenacity. He did not accept the highly detailed suggestions Hitler drafted and showed that he could do better.

Hitler acquired confidence in him and soon tacitly dropped his plan. He acknowledged the man’s ability. After some time he made Gall chief of the studio and gave him additional assignments.

Hitler also remained close to the deceased architect’s widow, with whom he had been friendly for a long time. She was a woman of taste and character who defended her frequently idiosyncratic views more obstinately than a good many men in high office. She came to the defense of her husband’s work with a determination and sometimes a heatedness that made her much feared. Thus, she lashed out at Bonatz when he was so imprudent as to object to Troost’s design for Königsplatz in Munich. She violently attacked the modem architects Vorhoelzer and Abel. In all these cases her views were the same as Hitler’s. In addition she introduced her favorite Munich architects to him, made deprecatory or favorable remarks about artists and artistic events, and because Hitler frequently listened to her, became a kind of arbiter of art in Munich. But unfortunately not on questions of painting. For Hitler had given his photographer, Hoffmann, the job of first sifting through the paintings submitted for the annual Grand Art Show. Frau Troost frequently protested against the one-sided selection, but in this field Hitler would not give way to her, so that she soon stopped going to the shows.

If I myself wanted to give paintings to associates, I chose them from among the excluded pictures stored in the cellars of the House of German Art. Nowadays, when I see these paintings here and there in the homes of acquaintances, I am struck by the fact that they can scarcely be distinguished from the pictures that were actually shown at the time. The differences, once the subject of such violent controversies, have melted away in the interval.

I was in Berlin during the Roehm putsch.*

*The Blood Purge of June 30, 1934. The official version was that Ernst Roehm, leader of the SA, was planning a putsch; hence the name.—Translators note.

Tension hung over the city. Soldiers in battle array were encamped in the Tiergarten. Trucks full of police holding rifles cruised the streets. There was clearly an air of “something cooking,” similar to that of July 20, 1944, which I would likewise experience in Berlin.

The next day Goering was presented as the savior of the situation in Berlin. Late on the morning of July 1, Hitler returned after making a series of arrests in Munich, and I received a telephone call from his adjutant: “Have you any new designs? If so, bring them here!” That suggested that Hitler’s entourage was trying to distract him by turning his mind to his architectural interests.

Hitler was extremely excited and, as I believe to this day, inwardly convinced that he had come through a great danger. Again and again he described how he had forced his way into the Hotel Hanselmayer in Wiessee—not forgetting, in the telling, to make a show of his courage: “We were unarmed, imagine, and didn’t know whether or not those swine might have armed guards to use against us.” The homosexual atmosphere had disgusted him: “In one room we found two naked boys!” Evidently he believed that his personal action had averted a disaster at the last minute: “I alone was able to solve this problem. No one else!”

His entourage tried to deepen his distaste for the executed SA leaders by assiduously reporting as many details as possible about the intimate life of Roehm and his following. Bruckner showed Hitler the menus of banquets held by the Roehm clique, which had purportedly been found in the Berlin SA headquarters. The menus listed a fantastic variety of courses, including foreign delicacies such as frogs’ legs, birds’ tongues, shark fins, seagulls’ eggs, along with vintage French wines and the best champagnes. Hitler commented sarcastically: “So, here we have those revolutionaries! And our revolution was too tame for them.”

After paying a call on the President he returned overjoyed. Hindenburg had approved his operation, he said, saying something like: “When circumstances require it, one must not shrink from the most extreme action. One must be able to spill blood also.” The newspapers concurrently reported that President von Hindenburg had officially praised Chancellor Hitler and Prussian Prime Minister Hermann Goering* for their action.

* While in prison I learned from Funk that Hindenburg had made a similar remark to him. The inside story of Hindenburg’s congratulatory telegram remains an unfathomable mystery.

The leadership became frenziedly busy justifying the operation. A day of great activity ended with a speech by Hitler to a special session of the Reichstag. His feelings of guilt were audible in his protestations of innocence. A Hitler defending himself was something we would not encounter again in the future, not even in 1939, at the beginning of the war. Even Minister of Justice Gürtner was dragged into the proceedings. Since he was nonpartisan and consequently did not appear to be dependent on Hitler, his support carried special weight with all doubters. The fact that the army silently accepted General Schleicher’s death seemed highly significant. But what most impressed me, as well as many of my unpolitical acquaintances, was the attitude of Hindenburg. The field marshal of the First World War was held in reverence by people of middle-class origins. Even in my school days he epitomized the strong, steadfast hero of modem history, and as such seemed to belong to a somewhat legendary realm. During the last year of the war, we children were allowed to take part in the nationwide ceremony of driving nails into huge statues of Hindenburg—each nail representing a contribution of a mark. Thus for as long as I could remember he had been for me the symbol of authority. That Hitler’s action was approved by this supreme judge was highly reassuring.

It was no accident that after the Roehm putsch the Right, represented by the President, the Minister of Justice, and the generals, lined up behind Hitler. These men were free of radical anti-Semitism of the sort Hitler advocated. They in fact despised that eruption of plebeian hatreds. Their conservatism had nothing in common with racist delusions. Their open display of sympathy for Hitler’s intervention sprang from quite different causes: in the Blood Purge of June 30, 1934, the strong left wing of the party, represented chiefly by the SA, was eliminated. That wing had felt cheated of the fruits of the revolution. And not without reason. For the majority of the members of the SA, raised in the spirit of revolution before 1933, had taken Hitler’s supposedly socialist program seriously. During my brief period of activity in Wannsee I had been able to observe, on the lowest plane, how the ordinary SA man sacrificed himself for the movement, giving up time and personal safety in the expectation that he would someday receive tangible compensation. When nothing came of that, anger and discontent built up. It could easily have reached the explosive point. Possibly Hitler’s action did indeed avert that “second revolution” Roehm was supposed to have been plotting.

With such arguments we soothed our consciences. I myself and many others snatched avidly at excuses; the things that would have offended us two years before we now accepted as the standard of our new environment. Any troublesome doubts were repressed. At a distance of decades I am staggered by our thoughtlessness in those years.1

These events led the very next day to a new commission for me. “You must rebuild the Borsig Palace as quickly as possible. I want to transfer the top SA leadership from Munich to Berlin, so that I can have them nearby in the future. Go over there and start at once.” To my objection that the offices of the Vice Chancellor were in the Borsig Palace, Hitler merely replied: “Tell them to clear out right away! Don t give that a second thought!”

With these orders, I promptly went over to Papen’s office. The office manager of course knew nothing about the plan. He proposed that I wait for a few months until new quarters had been found and prepared. When I returned to Hitler, he flew into a rage. He again ordered that the building be immediately evacuated and told me to begin on my project without consideration for the presence of the officials.

Papen remained invisible. His officials wavered but promised to arrange their files and transfer them to a provisional home in a week or two. I thereupon ordered the workmen to move into the building without further ado and encouraged them to knock the heavy plaster decorations from the walls and ceilings in halls and anterooms, creating the maximum noise and dust. The dust wafted through the cracks of the doors into the offices, and the racket made all work impossible. Hitler was delighted. Along with his expressions of approval he made jokes about the “dusty bureaucrats.”

Twenty-four hours later they moved out. In one of the rooms I saw a large pool of dried blood on the floor. There, on June 30, Herbert von Bose, one of Papen’s assistants, had been shot. I looked away and from then on avoided the room. But the incident did not affect me any more deeply than that.

On August 2, Hindenburg died. That same day Hitler personally commissioned me to take care of the background for the funeral ceremonies at the Tannenberg Monument in East Prussia.

I had a high wooden stand built in the inner courtyard. Decorations were limited to banners of black crepe hung from the high towers that framed the inner courtyard. Himmler turned up for a few hours with a staff of SS leaders and had his men explain the security measures to me. He retained his aloofness while I set forth my sketch. He gave me the impression of cold impersonality. He did not seem to deal with people but rather to manipulate them.

The benches of fresh, light-colored wood disturbed the intended impression. The weather was good, and so I had the structure painted black; but unfortunately toward evening it began to rain. The rain continued for the next few days and the paint remained wet. We had bales of black doth flown by special plane from Berlin and covered the benches with it. Nevertheless the wet paint soaked through, and a good many of the funeral guests must have ruined their clothes.

On the eve of the funeral the coffin was brought on a gun carriage from Neudeck, Hindenburg’s East Prussian estate, to one of the towers of the monument. Torchbearers and the traditional flags of German regiments of the First World War accompanied it; not a single word was spoken, not a command given. This reverential silence was more impressive than the organized ceremonial of the following days.

In the morning Hindenburg’s coffin was placed on a bier in the center of the Court of Honor. The speaker’s lectern was set up right beside it, rather than at a discreet distance. Hitler stepped forward. Schaub took the manuscript of his funeral oration from a briefcase and laid it on the lectern. Hitler began to speak, hesitated, and shook his head angrily in a manner quite out of keeping with the solemnity of the occasion. The adjutant had given him the wrong manuscript. After the mistake was corrected, Hitler read a surprisingly cool, formal memorial address.

Hindenburg had long—much too long for Hitler’s impatience—made difficulties for him. The old man had been rigid and thick-headed on many matters; Hitler had often had to resort to cunning, cleverness, or intrigue to win him over. One of Hitler’s shrewd moves had been to send Funk, then still Goebbels’s state secretary and an East Prussian by birth, to the President’s morning press briefing. As a fellow countryman, Funk was often able to take the sting out of a bit of news that Hindenburg found objectionable or to present the matter so that the President did not take offense.

Hindenburg and many of his political allies had expected the new regime to reinstate the monarchy. Any such step, however, was far from Hitler’s mind. He was apt to make such remarks as:

I’ve permitted the Social Democratic ministers like Severing to continue receiving their pensions. Think whatever you like about them, you have to grant there is one thing to their credit: They did away with the monarchy. That was a great step forward. To that extent they prepared the way for us. And now we’re supposed to bring back this monarchy? Am I to divide my power? Look at Italy! Do they think I’m that dumb? Kings have always been ungrateful to their foremost associates. We need only remember Bismarck. No, I’m not falling for that. Even though the Hohenzollerns are being so friendly right now.

Early in 1934 Hitler surprised me with my first major commission. The temporary bleachers on the Zeppelin Field in Nuremberg were to be replaced by a permanent stone installation. I struggled over those first sketches until, in an inspired moment, the idea came to me: a mighty flight of stairs topped and enclosed by a long colonnade, flanked on both ends by stone abutments. Undoubtedly it was influenced by the Pergamum altar. The indispensable platform for honored guests presented problems; I tried to place it as unobtrusively as possible midway in the flight of stairs.

With some trepidation I asked Hitler to look at the model. I was worried because the design went far beyond the scope of my assignment. The structure had a length of thirteen hundred feet and a height of eighty feet. It was almost twice the length of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.

Hitler took his time looking at the plaster model from all sides, professionally assuming the proper eye level, silently studying the drawings, and remaining totally impassive through it all. I was beginning to think he would reject my work. Then, just as he had done that time at our first meeting, he tersely said, “Agreed,” and took his leave. To this day I am not sure why, given as he was to long-winded comments, he remained so terse about such decisions.

Where other architects were concerned, Hitler usually rejected the first draft. He liked an assignment to be worked over several times and even during construction would insist on changes in detail. But after this first test of my ability he let me go on without interference. Henceforth he respected my ideas and treated me, as an architect, as if I were his equal.

Hitler liked to say that the purpose of his building was to transmit his time and its spirit to posterity. Ultimately, all that remained to remind men of the great epochs of history was their monumental architecture, he would philosophize. What had remained of the emperors of Rome? What would still bear witness to them today, if their buildings had not survived? Periods of weakness are bound to occur in the history of nations, he argued; but at their lowest ebb, their architecture will speak to them of former power. Naturally, a new national consciousness could not be awakened by architecture alone. But when after a long spell of inertia a sense of national grandeur was born anew, the monuments of men’s ancestors were the most impressive exhortations. Today, for example, Mussolini could point to the buildings of the Roman Empire as symbolizing the heroic spirit of Rome. Thus he could fire his nation with the idea of a modem empire. Our architectural works should also speak to the conscience of a future Germany centuries from now. In advancing this argument Hitler also stressed the value of a permanent type of construction.

The building on the Zeppelin Field was begun at once, in order to have at least the platform ready for the coming Party Rally. To clear ground for it, the Nuremberg streetcar depot had to be removed. I passed by its remains after it had been blown up. The iron reinforcements protruded from concrete debris and had already begun to rust. One could easily visualize their further decay. This dreary sight led me to some thoughts which I later propounded to Hitler under the pretentious heading of “A Theory of Ruin Value.” The idea was that buildings of modem construction were poorly suited to form that “bridge of tradition” to future generations which Hitler was calling for. It was hard to imagine that rusting heaps of rubble could communicate these heroic inspirations which Hitler admired in the monuments of the past. My “theory” was intended to deal with this dilemma. By using special materials and by applying certain principles of statics, we should be able to build structures which even in a state of decay, after hundreds or (such were our reckonings) thousands of years would more or less resemble Roman models.2

To illustrate my ideas I had a romantic drawing prepared. It showed what the reviewing stand on the Zeppelin Field would look like after generations of neglect, overgrown with ivy, its columns fallen, the walls crumbling here and there, but the outlines still clearly recognizable. In Hitler’s entourage this drawing was regarded as blasphemous. That I could even conceive of a period of decline for the newly founded Reich destined to last a thousand years seemed outrageous to many of Hitler’s closest followers. But he himself accepted my ideas as logical and illuminating. He gave orders that in the future the important buildings of his Reich were to be erected in keeping with the principles of this ‘law of ruins.”

In the course of an inspection of the Party Rally area Hitler turned to Bormann and in a few good-natured words said that I must henceforth appear in party uniform. Those who were with him constantly, his doctor, the photographer, even the director of Daimler-Benz, had already received a uniform. The sight of a single civilian therefore struck a jarring note. But this little gesture also meant that Hitler now counted me as a member of his intimate circle. He had never said a word of reproof when one of his acquaintances in the Chancellery or at the Berghof appeared in civilian dress, for Hitler himself preferred such dress whenever possible. But on his journeys and inspections he was appearing in an official capacity, and to his mind such occasions called for a uniform. Thus, at the beginning of 1934, I was appointed Abteilungsleiter (department chief) on the staff of his deputy, Rudolf Hess. A few months later Goebbels conferred the same rank upon me within his staff for my contribution toward the Party Rally, the Harvest Festival, and the May 1 celebration.

After January 30, 1934, at the suggestion of Robert Ley, head of the Labor Front, a leisure-time organization was created. I was supposed to take over the section called Beauty of Labor; the name had provoked a good deal of mockery, as had the tide Strength through Joy itself. A short while before, on a trip through the Dutch province of Limburg, Ley had seen a number of mines conspicuous for their neatness and cleanliness and surrounded by beautifully tended gardens. By temperament Ley always tended to generalize, and he now wanted to have all of German industry follow this example. The project turned out to be an extremely gratifying one, at least for me personally. First we persuaded factory owners to modernize their offices and to have some flowers about. But we did not stop there. Lawn was to take the place of asphalt. What had been wasteland was to be turned into little parks where the workers could sit during breaks. We urged that window areas within factories be enlarged and workers’ canteens set up. What was more, we designed the necessary artifacts for these reforms, from simple, well-shaped flatware to sturdy furniture, all of which we had manufactured in large quantities. We provided educational movies and a counseling service to help businessmen on questions of illumination and ventilation. We were able to draw former union leaders and some members of the dissolved Arts and Crafts Society into this campaign. One and all devoted themselves to the cause of making some improvements in the workers’ living conditions and moving closer to the ideal of a classless People’s Community. However, it was somewhat dismaying to discover that Hitler took hardly any interest in these ideas. He who could lose himself in the details of an architectural project proved remarkably indifferent when I came to him with reports of my progress in this social area. The British ambassador in Berlin, at any rate, thought better of it than Hitler.*

*Sir Neville Henderson, Failure of a Mission (New York, 1940), p. 15: “There are, in fact, many things in the Nazi organization and social institutions, as distinct from its rabid nationalism and ideology, which we might study and adapt to our own use with great profit both to the health and happiness of our own nation and old democracy.”

It was due to my new party rank that in the spring of 1934 I received my first invitation to an official evening reception that Hitler gave as party chief, one to which wives were also invited. We were seated in groups of six to eight persons at round tables in the large dining hall of the Chancellor’s residence. Hitler went from table to table, said a few friendly words, and made the acquaintance of the ladies. When he came up to us I introduced my wife, whom I had hitherto not mentioned to him. “Why have you deprived us of your wife for so long?” he commented privately a few days later, obviously much taken with her. In fact one reason I had avoided introducing her earlier was my dislike for the way Hitler treated his mistress. Moreover, it seemed to me that it should have been the business of the adjutants to invite my wife or to call Hitler’s attention to her existence. But you could not expect any sense of etiquette from them. In the final analysis Hitler’s own petit-bourgeois origins were reflected in the behavior of the adjutants.

That first evening they met, Hitler said to my wife with a certain solemnity: “Your husband is going to erect buildings for me such as have not been created for four thousand years.”

Every year a rally was held at the Zeppelin Field for the assemblage of middle and minor party functionaries, the so-called Amtswalter, who were in charge of the various organizations affiliated with the NSDAP. While the SA, the Labor Front, and, of course, the army tried to make a good showing at its mass meetings and impress Hitler and visitors by their bearing and discipline, it proved a rather difficult task to present the Amtswalter in a favorable fashion. For the most part they had converted their small prebends into sizable paunches; they simply could not be expected to line up in orderly ranks. There were conferences about this problem in the Organization Section for Party Rallies, for the appearance of the Amtswalter had already provoked some sarcastic comments on Hitler’s part. The saving idea came to me: “Let’s have them march up in darkness.”

I explained my plan to the organization leaders of the Party Rally. The thousands of flags belonging to all the local groups in Germany were to be held in readiness behind the high fences surrounding the field. The flagbearers were to divide into ten columns, forming lanes in which the Amtswalter would march up. Since all this was to take place at evening, bright spotlights would be cast on these banners, and the great eagle crowning them all. That alone would have a dramatic effect. But even this did not seem sufficient to me. I had occasionally seen our new antiaircraft searchlights blazing miles into the sky. I asked Hitler to let me have a hundred and thirty of these. Goering made a fuss at first, since these hundred and thirty searchlights represented the greater part of the strategic reserve. But Hitler won him over: “If we use them in such large numbers for a thing like this, other countries will think were swimming in searchlights.”

The actual effect far surpassed anything I had imagined. The hundred and thirty sharply defined beams, placed around the field at intervals of forty feet, were visible to a height of twenty to twenty-five thousand feet, after which they merged into a general glow. The feeling was of a vast room, with the beams serving as mighty pillars of infinitely high outer walls. Now and then a cloud moved through this wreath of lights, bringing an element of surrealistic surprise to the mirage. I imagine that this “cathedral of light” was the first luminescent architecture of this type, and for me it remains not only my most beautiful architectural concept but, after its fashion, the only one which has survived the passage of time. “The effect, which was both solemn and beautiful, was like being in a cathedral of ice,” British Ambassador Henderson wrote.3

When it came to cornerstone layings, there seemed no way to blot out the dignitaries, ministers, Reichsleiters, and Gauleiters, although these too were a less than impressive bunch. The parade marshals had all they could do to teach them to line up properly. When Hitler appeared they stiffened to attention and raised their arms in salute. At the cornerstone laying of the Nuremberg Kongresshalle, Hitler saw me standing in the second rank. He interrupted the solemn ceremonial to extend his hand to me. I was so overwhelmed by this unusual sign of favor that I let my own hand, raised in salute, fall with a loud smack on the bald head of Julius Streicher, the Gauleiter of Franconia, who stood just front of me.

During the Nuremberg Party Rallies, Hitler remained out of sight most of the time, as far as his intimates were concerned. He withdrew either to prepare his speeches or to attend one of the numerous functions. He took special satisfaction in the foreign visitors and delegations who came each year in growing numbers, especially when these were from the democratic West. During his hasty lunches he asked to have their names read and was obviously pleased at the interest shown by the world at large in National Socialist Germany.

I too had a strenuous time of it in Nuremberg, having been made responsible for all the buildings in which Hitler would appear in the course of the rally. As “chief decorator” I had to check on the arrangements shortly before the beginning of the function, then rush along to see to the next. At that time I dearly loved flags and used them wherever I could. They were a way of introducing a play of color into somber architecture. I found it a boon that the swastika flag Hitler had designed proved more amenable to these uses than a flag divided into three stripes of color. Of course it was not altogether consonant with the flag’s dignity to use it mostly for decorative effect, for accenting the pleasing harmonies of certain façades or covering ugly nineteenth-century buildings from eaves to sidewalks. Quite often I added gold ribbons to the flag to intensify the effect of the red. But it was always scenic drama I was after. I arranged for veritable orgies of flags in the narrow streets of Goslar and Nuremberg, with banners stretched from house to house, so that the sky was almost blotted out.

With all this to attend to, I missed most of Hitler’s rallies except for his “cultural speeches,” as he himself called these major oratorical flights. He used to draft these while he was at Obersalzberg. At the time I admired the speeches not so much, I thought, for their rhetorical brilliance as for what I felt to be their incisive content, their intellectual level. In Spandau I decided I would reread them, once my prison term was over, on the theory that I would find in them one element in my former world which would not repel me. But my expectations were disappointed. In the context of that time they had said a great deal to me; now they seemed empty, without tension, shallow and useless. What was more, in them Hitler openly aired his intention to pervert the very meaning of the concept of culture by mobilizing it for his own power goals. I found it incomprehensible that these tirades should once have impressed me so profoundly. What had done it?

I also never missed the first event of the Party Rally, a performance of Die Meistersinger with the ensemble of the Berlin State Opera under Furtwängler. One might have expected that such a gala night, which could be matched only by the performances in Bayreuth, would have been jammed. Over a thousand leaders of the party received invitations and tickets, but they apparently preferred to investigate the quality of Nuremberg beer or Franconian wine. Each of them probably assumed that the others would do their duty for the party and sit out the opera—indeed, legend has it that the top leadership of the party was interested in music. But in fact the leading men in the party were on the whole diamonds in the rough who had as little bent for classical music as for art and literature in general. Even the few representatives of the intelligentsia in Hitler’s leadership, such as Goebbels, did not bother with such functions as the regular concerts of the Berlin Philharmonic under Furtwängler. Of all the prominent personalities of the Third Reich, only Minister of the Interior Frick could be met at these concerts. Hitler, too, who seemed partial to music, went to the Berlin Philharmonic concerts only on rare official occasions after 1933.

Given this background, it is understandable that the Nuremberg Opera House was almost empty in 1933 when Hitler entered the central box to hear Die Meistersinger. He reacted with intense vexation. Nothing he said, was so insulting and so difficult for an artist as playing to an empty house. He ordered patrols sent out to bring the high party functionaries from their quarters, beer halls, and cafes to the opera house; but even so the seats could not be filled. The following day many jokes were told about where and how the missing leaders had been picked up.

Next year Hitler explicitly ordered the party chiefs to attend the festival performance. They showed their boredom; many were visibly overpowered by sleep. Moreover, to Hitler’s mind the sparse applause did not do justice to the brilliant performance. From 1935 on, therefore, the indifferent party audience was replaced by members of the public who had to buy their tickets for hard cash. Only then was the “atmosphere” as encouraging and the applause as hearty as Hitler required.

Late at night I would return from my rounds to the Hotel Deutscher Hof, which had been reserved for Hitler’s staff and for the Gauleiters and Reichsleiters. In the hotel restaurant I usually found a group of old Gauleiters waxing boisterous over their beer as they denounced the party’s betrayal of the principles of the revolution and betrayal of the workers. Here was a sign that the ideas of Gregor Strasser, who had once led the anticapitalist wing within the NSDAP, were still alive, though reduced to mere bombast. Only in alcohol could these fellows resurrect their old revolutionary elan.

In 1934 some military exercises were performed for the first time at the Party Rally, in Hitler’s presence. That same evening Hitler officially visited the soldiers’ bivouac. As a former corporal, he seemed thrown back into a world that was familiar to him. He mingled with the soldiers at the campfires, was surrounded by them, tossed jokes back and forth with them. He returned from this episode in a relaxed mood, and during a late snack, described it all with a good many telling details.

The high command of the army, however, was by no means overjoyed. Army Adjutant Hossbach spoke of the soldiers’ “breaches of discipline.” He insisted that such familiarities must be prevented in the future, since they infringed upon the dignity of the Chief of State. Hitler privately expressed annoyance with this criticism, but was ready to comply. I was astonished at his almost timid attitude in the face of these demands. But he must have felt he had to be careful of the army and have been still shaky in his role as Chief of State.

During the preparations for the Party Rallies I met a woman who had impressed me even in my student days: Leni Riefenstahl, who had starred in or had directed well-known mountain and skiing movies. Hitler appointed her to make films of the rallies. As the only woman officially involved in the proceedings, she had frequent conflicts with the party organization, which was soon up in arms against her. The Nazis were by tradition antifeminist and could hardly brook this selfassured woman, the more so since she knew how to bend this men’s world to her purposes. Intrigues were launched and slanderous stories carried to Hess, in order to have her ousted. But after the first Party Rally film, which convinced even the doubters of her skill as a director, these attacks ceased.

When I was first introduced to her, she took a yellowed newspaper clipping from a little chest. “Three years ago, when you reconstructed the Gau headquarters, I dipped your picture from the newspaper,” she said. Why in the world had she done that, I asked in astonishment. “I thought at the time that with your head you might well play a part… . In one of my movies, of course.”

I recall, incidentally, that the footage taken during one of the solemn sessions of the 1935 Party Congress was spoiled. At Leni Riefenstahl’s suggestion Hitler gave orders for the shots to be refilmed in the studio. I was called in to do a backdrop simulating a section of the Kongresshalle, as well as a realistic model of the platform and lectern. I had spotlights aimed at it; the production staff scurried around—while Streicher, Rosenberg, and Frank could be seen walking up and down with their manuscripts, determinedly memorizing their parts. Hess arrived and was asked to pose for the first shot. Exactly as he had done before an audience of 30,000 at the Party Congress, he solemnly raised his hand. With his special brand of ardor, he turned precisely to the spot where Hitler would have been sitting, snapped to attention and cried: “My Leader, I welcome you in the name of the Party Congress! The congress will now continue. The Fuehrer speaks!”

He did it all so convincingly that from that point on I was no longer so sure of the genuineness of his feelings. The three others also gave excellent performances in the emptiness of the studio, proving themselves gifted actors. I was rather disturbed; Frau Riefenstahl, on the other hand, thought the acted scenes better than the original presentation.

By this time I thoroughly admired the art with which Hitler would feel his way during his rallies until he had found the point to unleash the first great storm of applause. I was by no means unaware of the demagogic element; indeed I contributed to it myself by my scenic arrangements. Nevertheless, up to this time I had believed that the feelings of the speakers were genuine. It was therefore an upsetting discovery, that day in the studio, when I saw that all this emotion could be represented “authentically” even without an audience.

For the buildings in Nuremberg I had in mind a synthesis between Troost’s classicism and Tessenow’s simplicity. I did not call it neoclassicist, but neoclassical, for I thought I had derived it from the Dorian style. I was deluding myself, deliberately forgetting that these buildings had to provide a monumental backdrop such as had already been attempted on the Champs de Mars in Paris during the French Revolution, although the resources at that time were more modest. Terms like “classical” and “simple” were scarcely consonant with the gigantic proportions I employed in Nuremberg. Yet, to this day I still like my Nuremberg sketches best of all, rather than many others that I later prepared for Hitler and that turned out considerably more practical.

Because of my fondness for the Doric, when I went on my first trip abroad in May 1935, I did not go to Italy to see the Renaissance palaces and the colossal buildings of Rome, although these might have served me better as prototypes for what was wanted. Instead, I turned to Greece— a sign of where I considered my architectural allegiance to lie. My wife and I sought out chiefly examples of Doric buildings. I shall never forget how overwhelmed we were by the reconstructed stadium of Athens. Two years later, when I myself had to design a stadium, I borrowed its basic horseshoe form.

In Delphi I thought I discerned how the purity of Greek artistic creativeness was speedily contaminated by the wealth won in the Ionian colonies in Asia. Didn’t this prove how sensitive a high artistic consciousness was and how little it took to distort the ideal conception to the point of unrecognizability? I happily played with such theories; it never occurred to me that my own works might be subject to these same laws.

When we came back in June 1935 my own house in Berlin-Schlachtensee was completed. It was of modest dimensions, 1345 square feet of living space comprising one dining room, one living room, and minimal bedrooms—in deliberate contrast to the recent habit among the leaders of the Reich, who were moving into huge villas or acquiring palaces. We wanted to avoid all that, for we had observed that in surrounding themselves with pomp and stiff officialism, these people were condemning themselves to a slow process of “petrifaction”—which involved their private lives as well.

In any case I could not have built on any greater scale, since I lacked the means. My house cost seventy thousand marks; in order to swing it I had to ask my father to take a mortgage of thirty thousand marks. Although I was acting as a freelance architect for the party and the state, my income remained low. For in an idealistic spirit which seemed to accord with the temper of the time, I had renounced any architect’s fees for all my official buildings.

This attitude, however, caused some amazement in party circles. One day in Berlin, Goering said to me in high good humor: “Well, Herr Speer, you have a great deal to do now, of course. You must be earning plenty.” When I said that was not the case, he stared incredulously at me. “What’s that? An architect as busy as you? I figured you for a couple of hundred thousand a year. That’s all nonsense, this idealistic business. You must make money!” Thereafter I accepted the architect’s fee, except for my Nuremberg buildings, for which I received a thousand marks a month. But it was not only on financial grounds that I clung to my professional independence and fended off an official post. Hitler had, I knew, much greater confidence in nonofficial architects—his prejudice against bureaucrats colored his views in everything. At the end of my career as an architect my fortune had increased to about one and a half million marks, and the Reich owed me another million that I did not collect.

My family lived happily in this house. I wish I could write that I had a share in this familial happiness, as my wife and I had once dreamed. But by the time I arrived home, it would be late in the evening and the children would have long since been put to bed. I would sit with my wife for a while—silent from exhaustion. This land of rigidity became more and more the norm, and when I consider the matter in retrospect, what was happening to me was no different from what was happening to the party bigwigs, who ruined their family life by their ostentatious style of living. They froze into poses of officialism. My own rigidity sprang from excessive work.

In the autumn of 1934 Otto Meissner, state secretary in the Chancellery, who had served under Ebert and Hindenburg and now was working for his third Chief of State, telephoned me. I was to come to Weimar the next day in order to accompany Hitler to Nuremberg.

I sat up until the wee hours sketching out ideas that had been exciting me for some time. More major construction for the Party Rallies was wanted: a field for military exercises, a large stadium, a hall for Hitler’s cultural addresses and for concerts as well. Why not concentrate all that, together with what already existed, into a great center? I thought. Until then I had not ventured to take the initiative on such questions, for Hitler kept this sort of decision for himself. I therefore went about drafting this plan with some hesitation.

In Weimar, Hitler showed me a sketch for a “Party Forum” by Professor Paul Schultze-Naumburg. “It looks like an oversized marketplace for a provincial town,” he commented. “Theres nothing distinctive about it, nothing that sets it off from former times. If we are going to build a party forum, we want people centuries hence to be able to see that our times had a certain building style, like Königsplatz in Munich, for example.” Schultze-Naumburg, a pillar of the League of Struggle for German Culture, was given no chance to defend his proposal; he was not even called into Hitler’s presence. With total disregard for the man’s reputation, Hitler threw away the plans and ordered a new competition among various architects of his choice.

We went on to Nietzsche’s house where his sister, Frau Förster-Nietzsche, was expecting Hitler. This solitary, eccentric woman obviously could not get anywhere with Hitler; an oddly shallow conversation at cross-purposes ensued. The principle purpose of the meeting, however, was settled to the satisfaction of all parties: Hitler undertook to finance an annex to the old Nietzsche house, and Frau Förster-Nietzsche was willing to have Schultze-Naumburg design it. “He’s better at that sort of thing, doing something in keeping with the old house,” Hitler remarked. He was plainly pleased to be able to offer the architect some small sop.

Next morning we drove by car to Nuremberg, although Hitler preferred the railroad at that period, for reasons that I was to learn that very day. As always he sat beside his driver in the dark-blue open seven-liter supercharged Mercedes; I was behind him on one jump seat, on the other his servant, who on request produced from a pouch automobile maps, crusty rolls, pills, or eyeglasses; in the rear sat his adjutant Bruckner and Press Chief Dietrich. In an accompanying car of the same size and color were five strong men of his bodyguard squad and Hitler’s personal physician, Dr. Brandt.

As soon as we had traversed the Thuringian Forest and come into more thickly settled areas, the difficulties began. Riding through a village, we were recognized; but before the people could recover from their astonishment we had passed them. “Now watch,” Hitler said. “In the next village it won’t be so easy. The local party group will certainly have telephoned ahead by now.” Sure enough, when we arrived, the streets were full of cheering people. The village policeman was doing his best, but the car could advance no faster than a walk. Even after we had worked our way out, a few enthusiasts on the open highway let down the railroad barrier in order to keep Hitler among them a while longer.

In this way we made slow progress. When it was time for lunch, we stopped at a small inn in Hildburgshausen where years before Hitler had had himself appointed police commissioner in order to acquire German citizenship. But no one mentioned this. The innkeeper and his wife were beside themselves with excitement. After some difficulty, the adjutant managed to elicit from them what they could serve: spaghetti with spinach. We waited for a long time; finally the adjutant went to take a look in the kitchen. “The women are in such a state that they can’t tell whether the spaghetti is done.”

Meanwhile, thousands of people were gathering outside chanting calls for Hitler. “If only we were out of this,” he commented when we emerged from the inn. Slowly, under a rain of flowers, we reached the medieval gate. Juveniles closed it before our eyes; children climbed on the running boards of the car. Hitler had to give autographs. Only then would they open the gate. They laughed, and Hitler laughed with them.

Everywhere in the countryside farmers left their implements, women waved. It was a triumphal procession. As the car rolled along, Hitler leaned back to me and exclaimed: “Heretofore only one German has been hailed like this: Luther. When he rode through the country, people gathered from far and wide to cheer him. As they do for me today!”

This enormous popularity was only too easy to understand. The public credited Hitler and no one else with the achievements in economics and foreign policy of the period. They more and more regarded him as the leader who had made a reality of their deeply rooted longings for a powerful, proud, united Germany. Very few were mistrustful at this time. And those who occasionally felt doubts rising reassured themselves with thoughts of the regime’s accomplishments and the esteem it enjoyed even in critical foreign countries.

During these stormy scenes of homage by the populace, which certainly affected me as well, there was one person in our car who refused to be carried away: Hitler’s chauffeur of many years, Schreck. I heard some of his mutterings: “Folks are dissatisfied because … party people swellheaded … proud, forget where they come from… .” After his early death an oil painting of Schreck hung in Hitler’s private office at Obersalzberg side by side with one of Hitler’s mother4—there was none of his father.

Shortly before we reached Bayreuth, Hitler shifted over to a small Mercedes sedan which was driven by his photographer Hoffmann and rode to Villa Wahnfried, where Frau Winifred Wagner was expecting him. We others went on to Berneck, the nearby spa where Hitler regularly spent the night on the drive from Munich to Berlin. In eight hours we had covered only a hundred and thirty miles.

When I learned that Hitler would be staying at Wahnfried until quite late, I was in some embarrassment, for next morning we were to drive on to Nuremberg where Hitler might very possibly agree to the building program proposed by the municipal administration, which had its own axes to grind. If so, there was little prospect that my design would even be considered, for Hitler never liked to rescind a decision. Under the circumstances, I turned to Schreck. I explained my plan for the Party Rally area. He promised to tell Hitler about it during the drive and to show him the sketch if he reacted favorably.

Next morning, shortly before we set out, I was called to Hitler’s suite: “I agree to your plan. We’ll discuss it today with Mayor Liebel.”

Two years later Hitler would have come directly to the point in dealing with a mayor: “Here is the plan for the Party Rally area; this is how we’re going to do it.” But at that time, in 1935, he did not yet feel so completely in command and so spent almost an hour in prefatory explanations, before he finally placed my sketch on the table. Naturally the mayor found the design excellent, for as an old party man he had been trained to concur.

After my plan had been properly praised, Hitler again began feeling his way: The design called for moving the Nuremberg zoo. “Can we ask the people of Nuremberg to accept that? They’re very attached to it, I know. Of course we’ll pay for a new and even more beautiful zoo.”

The mayor, who was equally alert to protect the interests of his city, suggested: “We would have to call a stockholders’ meeting, perhaps try to buy their shares… Hitler proved amenable to everything. Outside, Liebel, rubbing his hands, said to one of his aides: “I wonder why the Fuehrer spent so much time persuading us? Of course he can have the old zoo, and we’ll get a new one. The old one was no good anyhow. We’ll have the finest in the world. They’re paying for it, after all.” Thus the people of Nuremberg at least got their new zoo—the only thing in the plan which was ever carried to completion.

That same day we took the train to Munich. That evening Adjutant Bruckner telephoned me: “You and your goddamned plans! Couldn’t they keep? The Fuehrer didn’t close an eye last night, he was so excited. Next time have the goodness to ask me first!”

To build this giant complex an Association for the Nuremberg Party Rally Site was created. The Finance Minister of the Reich reluctantly assumed the duty of funding the project. Out of some whimsical impulse Hitler appointed Minister of Churches Kerri to take charge of the association, and as the latter’s deputy, Martin Bormann, who thus received his first important assignment outside the party secretariat.

The plan called for an expenditure of between seven and eight hundred million marks on building, which today would cost three billion marks [$750,000,000]— eight years later I would be spending such a sum every four days on armaments.5 Including the camping grounds for participants, the tract embraced an area of 16.5 square kilometers (about 6.5 square miles). Under Kaiser Wilhelm II, incidentally, there had been plans for a “Center for German National Festivals” with an area 6600 by

Two years after Hitler had approved it, my design was exhibited as a model at the Paris World’s Fair of 1937 and won the Grand Prix. At the southern end of the complex was the Marchfield; the name was intended not only as a reference to the war god Mars, but also to the month in which Hitler introduced conscription. *

*It probably also referred to the National Assembly of the Franks, which was likewise called the Marchfield.

Within this enormous tract, an area of 3400 by 2300 feet was set aside where the army could practice minor maneuvers. By contrast, the grandiose area of the palace of Kings Darius I and Xerxes in Persepolis (fifth century b.c.) had embraced only 1500 by 900 feet. Stands 48 feet high were to surround the entire area, providing seats for a hundred and sixty thousand spectators. Twenty-four towers over a hundred and thirty feet in height were to punctuate these stands; in the middle was a platform for guests of honor which was to be crowned by a sculpture of a woman. In a.d. 64 Nero erected on the Capitol a colossal figure 119 feet high. The Statue of Liberty in New York is 151 feet high; our statue was to be 46 feet higher.

To the north, in the direction of the old Nuremberg castle of the Hohenzollerns, which could be seen in the distance, the Marchfield opened out into a processional avenue a mile and a quarter long and 264 feet wide. The army was to march down this avenue in ranks 165 feet wide. This avenue was finished before the war and paved with heavy granite slabs, strong enough to bear the weight of tanks. The surface was roughened to provide a secure footing for the goose-stepping soldiers. On the right rose a flight of stairs from which Hitler, flanked by his generals, would review such parades. Opposite was a colonnade where the flags of the regiments would be displayed.

This colonnade with its height of only sixty feet was to serve as a foil for the “Great Stadium” towering up behind it. Hitler had stipulated that the stadium was to hold four hundred thousand spectators. History’s largest precedent was the Circus Maximus in Rome, built for between one hundred and fifty and two hundred thousand persons. Modem stadiums in those days contained about a hundred thousand seats.

The pyramid of Cheops, with a base of 756 feet and a height of 481 feet, measured 3,277,300 cubic yards. The Nuremberg stadium would have been 1815 feet long and 1518 wide and could have enclosed a volume of over 11,100,000 cubic yards, some three times more than the pyramid of Cheops.6 The stadium was to be by far the largest structure on the tract and one of the hugest in history. Calculations showed that in order to hold the required number of spectators the stands would have to be over three hundred feet high. An oval would really have been out of the question; the resultant bowl would not only have intensified the heat, but produced psychological discomfort. I therefore turned my thoughts to the Athenian horseshoe shape. We took a hillside of approximately the same shape and smoothed out its irregularities by temporary wooden structures; the question was whether sporting events would be visible from the upper rows. The results of our study were more positive than I had expected.

Our rough estimate of the costs of the Nuremberg stadium came to between two hundred and two hundred and fifty million marks—approximately a billion marks [$250,000,000] at present-day construction costs. Hitler took this calmly. “That is less than two battleships of the Bismarck class. How quickly a warship can be destroyed, and if not, it is scrap-iron anyhow in ten years. But this building will stand for centuries. When the Finance Minister asks what it will cost, don’t give him any answer. Say that nobody has any experience with building projects of such size.” Granite to the value of several million marks was ordered, pink for the exteriors, white for the stands. At the site a gigantic pit for the foundation was dug; during the war it became a picturesque lake, which suggested the proportions of the structure.

Farther to the north of the stadium the processional avenue crossed an expanse of water in which the buildings would be reflected. Then, concluding the complex, came a square, bounded on the right by the

Kongresshalle, which still stands, and on the left by a “Kulturhalle” meant specifically for Hitler’s speeches on cultural matters.

Hitler had appointed me the architect for all these buildings except the Kongresshalle, which had been designed in 1933 by Ludwig Ruff. He gave me a free hand with plans and execution and participated every year in a ceremonial cornerstone laying. However, these cornerstones were subsequently moved to the municipal buildings and grounds yard to wait until the building had made further progress and they could be incorporated in the wall. At the laying of the cornerstone for the stadium on September 9, 1937, Hitler solemnly shook hands with me before the assembled party bigwigs. “This is the greatest day of your life!” Perhaps I was something of a skeptic even then, for I replied: “No, not today, my Fuehrer, but only when the building is finished.”

Early in 1939 Hitler, in a speech to construction workers, undertook to justify the dimensions of his style: “Why always the biggest? I do this to restore to each individual German his self-respect. In a hundred areas I want to say to the individual: We are not inferior; on the contrary, we are the complete equals of every other nation.”7

This love for vast proportions was not only tied up with the totalitarian cast of Hitler’s regime. Such tendencies, and the urge to demonstrate one’s strength on all occasions, are characteristic of quickly acquired wealth. Thus we find the largest buildings in Greek antiquity in Sicily and Asia Minor. It is an interesting corollary that those cities were generally ruled by despots. But even in Periclean Athens the statue of Athena Parthenos by Phidias was forty feet high. Moreover, most of the Seven Wonders of the World won their repute by their excessive size: the Temple of Diana at Ephesus, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Olympian Zeus of Phidias.

Hitler’s demand for huge dimensions, however, involved more than he was willing to admit to the workers. He wanted the biggest of everything to glorify his works and magnify his pride. These monuments were an assertion of his claim to world dominion long before he dared to voice any such intention even to his closest associates.

I, too, was intoxicated by the idea of using drawings, money, and construction firms to create stone witnesses to history, and thus affirm our claim that our works would survive for a thousand years. But I found Hitler’s excitement rising whenever I could show him that at least in size we had “beaten” the other great buildings of history. To be sure, he never gave vent to these heady feelings. He was sparing in his use of high-sounding words to me. Possibly at such moments he actually felt a certain awe; but it was directed toward himself and toward his own greatness, which he himself had willed and projected into eternity.

At the same Party Rally of 1937 at which Hitler laid the cornerstone of the stadium, his last speech ended with the ringing words: “The German nation has after all acquired its Germanic Reich.” At dinner afterward Hitler’s adjutant, Brückner, reported that at these words Field Marshal von Blomberg had burst into tears from sheer emotion. Hitler took this as evidence of the army’s assent to what was being promised in this slogan.

At the time there was a great deal of talk to the effect that this mysterious dictum would be ushering in a new era in foreign policy; that it would bear much fruit. I had an idea of what it meant, for shortly before the speech was given, Hitler one day abruptly stopped me on the stairs to his apartment, let his entourage go on ahead, and said: “We will create a great empire. All the Germanic peoples will be included in it. It will begin in Norway and extend to northern Italy. I myself must carry this out. If only I keep my health!”

That was still a relatively restrained formulation. In the spring of 1937 Hitler visited me at my Berlin showrooms. We stood alone in front of the nearly seven-foot high model of the stadium for four hundred thousand people. It had been set up precisely at eye level. Every detail had been rendered, and powerful spotlights illuminated it, so that with only a little imagination we could conceive the effect of this structure. Alongside the model were the plans, pinned up on boards. Hitler turned to these. We talked about the Olympic Games, and I pointed out, as I had done several times before, that my athletic field did not have the prescribed Olympic proportions. Without any change of tone, as if it were a matter settled beyond the possibility of discussion, Hitler observed: “No matter. In 1940 the Olympic Games will take place in Tokyo. But thereafter they will take place in Germany for all time to come, in this stadium. And then we will determine the measurements of the athletic field.”

According to our carefully worked out schedule this stadium was supposed to be completed in time for the Party Rally of 1945… .

6. The Greatest Assignment

Hitler was pacing back and forth in the garden at Obersalzberg. “I really don’t know what I should do. It is a terribly difficult decision. I would by far prefer to join the English. But how often in history the English have proved perfidious. If I go with them, then everything is over for good between Italy and us. Afterward the English will drop me, and we’ll sit between two stools.” In the autumn of 1935 he made frequent remarks of this sort to his intimate circle, which as always had accompanied him to Obersalzberg. At this point Mussolini had begun his invasion of Abyssinia, accompanied by massive air raids; the Negus had fled and a new Roman Empire proclaimed.

Ever since Hitler had made his unfortunate visit to Italy in June 1934, he distrusted the Italians and Italian policy, though not Mussolini. Now that he saw his doubts reinforced, Hitler recalled an item in Hindenburg’s political testament, to the effect that Germany should never again ally herself with Italy. Under England’s leadership the League of Nations imposed economic sanctions on Italy. This was the moment, Hitler remarked, when he had to decide whether he should ally himself with the English or the Italians. The decision must be taken in terms of the long view, he said. He spoke of his readiness to guarantee England’s empire in return for a global arrangement—a favorite idea of his, which he was to voice often. But circumstances left him no choice. They forced him to decide in favor of Mussolini. In spite of the ideological relationship and the developing personal tie, that was no easy decision. For days afterward Hitler would remark in somber tones that the situation had forced him to take this step. He was all the more gratified when it turned out a few weeks later that the sanctions as ultimately voted were relatively mild. From this Hitler concluded that both England and France were loath to take any risks and anxious to avoid any danger. Actions of his which later seemed reckless followed directly from such observations. The Western governments had, as he commented at the time, proved themselves weak and indecisive.

He found this view confirmed when the German troops marched into the demilitarized Rhineland on March 7, 1936. This was an open breach of the Treaty of Locarno and might have provoked military countermeasures on the part of the Allies. Nervously, Hitler waited for the first reactions. The special train in which we rode to Munich on the evening of that day was charged, compartment after compartment, with the tense atmosphere that emanated from the Fuehrers section. At one station a message was handed into the car. Hitler sighed with relief: “At last! The King of England will not intervene. He is keeping his promise. That means it can all go well.” He seemed not to be aware of the meager influence the British Crown has upon Parliament and the government. Nevertheless, military intervention would have probably required the King’s approval, and perhaps this was what Hitler meant to imply. In any case, he was intensely anxious, and even later, when he was waging war against almost the entire world, he always termed the remilitarization of the Rhineland the most daring of all his undertakings. “We had no army worth mentioning; at that time it would not even have had the fighting strength to maintain itself against the Poles. If the French had taken any action, we would have been easily defeated; our resistance would have been over in a few days. And what air force we had then was ridiculous. A few Junkers 52’s from Lufthansa, and not even enough bombs for them.” After the abdication of King Edward VIII, later the Duke of Windsor, Hitler frequently referred to his apparent friendliness toward National Socialist Germany: “I am certain that through him permanent friendly relations with England could have been achieved. If he had stayed, everything would have been different. His abdication was a severe loss for us.” Whereupon he would launch into remarks about sinister anti-German forces who were deciding the course of British policy. His regret at not having made an ally out of England ran like a red thread through all the years of his rule. It increased when the Duke of Windsor and his wife visited Hitler at Obersalzberg on October 22, 1937, and allegedly had good words to say about the achievements of the Third Reich.

A few months after the uncontested remilitarization of the Rhineland, Hitler exulted over the harmonious atmosphere that prevailed during the Olympic Games. International animosity toward National Socialist

Germany was plainly a thing of the past, he thought. He gave orders that everything should be done to convey the impression of a peace-minded Germany to the many prominent foreign guests. He himself followed the athletic contests with great excitement. Each of the German victories— and there were a surprising number of these—made him happy, but he was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored American runner, Jesse Owens. People whose antecedents came from the jungle were primitive, Hitler said with a shrug; their physiques were stronger than those of civilized whites. They represented unfair competition and hence must be excluded from future games. Hitler was also jolted by the jubilation of the Berliners when the French team filed solemnly into the Olympic Stadium. They had marched past Hitler with raised arms and thereby sent the crowd into transports of enthusiasm. But in the prolonged applause Hitler sensed a popular mood, a longing for peace and reconciliation with Germany’s western neighbor. If I am correctly interpreting Hitler’s expression at the time, he was more disturbed than pleased by the Berliners’ cheers.

In the spring of 1936 Hitler took me with him to inspect a stretch of the autobahn. In conversation he dropped the remark: “I have one more building assignment to give out. The greatest of all.” There was only this one hint. He did not explain.

Occasionally, it was true, he outlined a few of his ideas for the rebuilding of Berlin, but it was not until June that Hitler showed me a plan for the center of the city. “I patiently explained to the mayor why this new avenue must be a hundred and thirty yards wide, and now he presents me with one only a hundred yards wide.” A few weeks later Mayor Lippert, an old party member and editor in chief of the Berlin Angriff, was summoned again; but nothing had changed; the avenue was still a hundred yards in width. Lippert could not work up any enthusiasm for Hitler’s architectural ideas. At first Hitler was merely annoyed, remarking that Lippert was petty, incapable of governing a metropolis, and even more incapable of understanding the historical importance he planned to give it. As time wore on, these remarks mounted in intensity: “Lippert is an incompetent, an idiot, a failure, a zero.” What was astonishing, however, was that Hitler never showed his dissatisfaction in the mayor’s presence and never tried to win him over to his views. Even in this early period he sometimes shied away from the wearisome business of explaining reasons. After four years of this sort of thing, and right after a walk from the Berghof to the teahouse, during which he once more brooded over Lippert’s stupidity, he telephoned Goebbels and categorically ordered him to replace his mayor.

Until the summer of 1936 Hitler had evidently meant to have his plans for Berlin carried out by the municipal government. Now he sent for me and tersely gave me the assignment: “There’s nothing to be done with the Berlin city government. From now on you make the plans. Take this drawing along. When you have something ready, show it to me. As you know, I always have time for such things.”

As Hitler told me, his conception of an enormously wide avenue went back to the early twenties, when he began to study the various plans for Berlin, found them all inadequate, and was impelled to develop his own ideas.*

*He was probably referring to the plans by Martin Mächler which were shown in 1927 at a major art exhibit in Berlin. As a matter of fact these bear a striking resemblance to Hitler’s ideas. I did not become acquainted with them until I read Alfred Schinz’s book,Berlin: Stadtschicksal und Städtebau (Braunschweig, 1964)

Even then, he said, he had decided to shift the Anhalter and Potsdam railroad stations to the south of Tempelhof Field. This would release broad strips of trackage in the center of the city, so that with only a little further clearing, starting from the Siegesallee, a magnificent avenue lined with impressive buildings could be built, three miles long.

To be sure, all the architectural proportions of Berlin would be shattered by two buildings that Hitler envisaged on this new avenue. On the northern side, near the Reichstag, he wanted a huge meeting hall, a domed structure into which St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome would have fitted several times over. The diameter of the dome was to be eight hundred twenty-five feet. Beneath it, in an area of approximately four hundred and ten thousand square feet, there would be room for more than a hundred and fifty thousand persons to assemble standing.

During these first discussions, when our general views on the city plan were still fluid, Hitler thought it necessary to explain to me that the size of meeting halls should be governed by medieval conceptions. The cathedral of Ulm, for example, had thirty thousand square feet of area; but when the building was begun in the fourteenth century only fifteen thousand people lived in Ulm, including children and the aged. “Therefore they could never fill the space. Compared to that, a hall for a hundred fifty thousand persons could be called small for a city of millions like Berlin.”

To balance this structure Hitler wanted an arch of triumph four hundred feet high. “At least that will be a worthy monument to our dead of the world war. The names of our dead, all 1,800,000 of them, will be chiseled in the granite. What a paltry affair the Berlin monument put up by the Republic is. How wretched and undignified for a great nation.” He handed me two sketches drawn on small cards. “I made these drawings ten years ago. I’ve always saved them, because I never doubted that someday I would build these two edifices. And this is how we will carry it out now.”

The proportions of the drawings showed, Hitler explained, that even then he had intended a diameter of more than six hundred and fifty feet for the dome and a height of more than three hundred thirty feet for the arch of triumph. What is startling is less the grandiosity of the project than the obsessiveness with which he had been planning triumphant monumental buildings when there was not a shred of hope that they could ever be built. And today it strikes me as rather sinister that in the midst of peacetime, while continually proclaiming his desire for international reconciliation, he was planning buildings expressive of an imperial glory which could be won only by war.

“Berlin is a big city, but not a real metropolis. Look at Paris, the most beautiful city in the world. Or even Vienna. Those are cities with grand style. Berlin is nothing but an unregulated accumulation of buildings. We must surpass Paris and Vienna.” These were some of the points he made during the series of discussions that now began. Most of the time we conferred in his apartment in the Chancellery. As a rule, he would have all other guests leave, so we could talk seriously.

At an earlier stage in his life he had carefully studied the plans of Vienna and Paris, and he revealed an amazing memory for these. In Vienna he admired the architectural complex of Ringstrasse with its great buildings, the Rathaus, the Parliament, the Concert Hall, or the Hofburg and the twin museums. He could draw this part of the city in correct proportions and had absorbed the lesson that impressive public buildings, like monuments, must be planned to be freely visible from all sides. He admired these buildings even if they did not directly coincide with his views, like the neo-Gothic Rathaus. “Here Vienna is worthily represented. By contrast, consider the Berlin Rathaus. We will give Berlin a more beautiful one than Vienna’s, no doubt about that.”

He was even more impressed by the vast rebuilding project and the new boulevards that Georges E. Haussmann had built in Paris between 1853 and 1870 at an expenditure of 2.5 million gold francs. He regarded Haussmann as the greatest city planner in history, but hoped that I would surpass him. The struggles that Haussmann had waged for years led him to expect that the plans for Berlin would also encounter opposition. Only his authority, he believed, would successfully put the work across.

Initially, however, he found a cunning way to bring the municipal administration around; for the city was less than eager to accept Hitler’s plans when it became evident that the considerable expense of clearing ground and building the avenues, the public gardens, and the rapid-transit railways would fall to the city. “We’ll let them think were considering building our new capital on the Müritzsee in Mecklenburg. You’ll see how the Berliners come to life at the threat that the federal government may move out,” he remarked. And in fact a few hints of this sort sufficed; the city fathers soon proved ready to foot the costs of the architectural planning. Nevertheless, for a few months Hitler was rather taken with this plan for a German Washington, and liked to talk about creating an ideal city out of nothingness. In the end, however, he rejected the idea: “Artificially created capitals always remain lifeless. Think of Washington or Canberra. In our own Karlsruhe, too, no life springs up because the dull bureaucrats are left to themselves there.” In connection with this episode, I am not certain to this day whether Hitler was playacting as well, or whether for a while he was not somewhat converted to this idea of a new city.

His plans for Berlin were inspired by the Champs Elysées with its Arc de Triomphe, a hundred and sixty feet high, begun by Napoleon I in 1805. This was the model for his great arch and for the width of his avenue as well: “The Champs Elysées is three hundred and thirty feet wide. In any case we’ll make our avenue seventy-odd feet wider. When the far-sighted Great Elector laid out Unter den Linden in the seventeenth century with a width of two hundred feet, he could no more have foreseen present-day traffic than Haussmann when he designed the Champs Elysees to carry out this project, Hitler had State Secretary Lammers issue an ordinance giving me extensive powers and making me his direct subordinate. Neither the Minister of the Interior nor the Mayor of Berlin nor the Gauleiter of Berlin, Goebbels, had any authority over me. In fact, Hitler explicitly exempted me from having to inform the city government or the party of my plans.1 When I told Hitler that I preferred to carry out this commission also as a freelance architect, he immediately consented. State Secretary Lammers invented a legal device which took account of my distaste for a bureaucratic position. My office was not treated as a part of the government, but as a large, independent research institute.

On January 30, 1937, I was officially commissioned to carry out Hitlers “greatest architectural task.” For a long time he searched for a resounding enough title for me. Finally Funk hit on a good one: “Inspector General of Buildings for the Renovation of the Federal Capital.” In presenting me with the certification of my appointment, Hitler manifested a kind of shyness which sometimes came over him. After lunch he pressed the document into my hand: “Do a good job.” By a generous interpretation of my contract I thereafter held the formal rank of a state secretary of the Reich government. At the age of thirty-two I could sit beside Dr. Todt in the third row of the government benches, was entitled to a place at the lower end of the table at official state dinners and automatically received from every foreign state visitor a decoration of fixed rank. I also received a monthly salary of fifteen hundred marks, an insignificant sum compared to my architect’s fees.

In February, moreover, Hitler bluntly ordered the Minister of Education to clear out the venerable Academy of Arts on Pariser Platz, so that my offices—called GBI for Generalbauinspektor (Inspector General of Buildings)—could be installed there. He chose this building because he could reach it through the intervening ministerial gardens without being seen by the public. Soon he made ample use of this convenience.

Hitler’s city plan had one major fault: It had not been thought through to the end. He had become so set on the notion of a Berlin Champs Elysées two and a half times the length of the original in Paris that he entirely lost sight of the structure of existing Berlin, a city of four million people. For a city planner such an avenue could only have a meaning and function as the core of a general reorganization of the city. For Hitler, however, it was a display piece and an end in itself. Moreover, it did not solve the Berlin railroad problem. The huge wedge of tracks which divided the city into two parts would merely be shifted a few miles to the south.

Ministerial Director Leibbrand of the Reich Traffic Ministry, the chief planner for the German railroads, saw in Hitler’s plans an opportunity for a large-scale reorganization of the entire railroad network in the capital. Together, we found an almost ideal solution. The capacity of the Berlin suburban railroad, the Ringbahn, would be expanded by two tracks, so that long-distance traffic could also be funnelled into it. We could thus have a central station in the north and another in the south, which would do away with the need for the various Berlin terminals. The cost of the new arrangement was estimated at between one and two billion marks.2

This would give us the old tracks to the south for a prolongation of our avenue and a large open area in the heart of the city for new housing for four hundred thousand persons.3 We could do the same to the north as well, and by eliminating the Lehrter Station open up new residential districts. The only trouble with this plan was that neither Hitler nor I wanted to give up the domed hall, which was to form the terminus of the magnificent avenue. The vast square in front of the hall was to remain free of traffic. So the plan, which would also have been a boon to traffic, was sacrificed on the altar of ostentation, and the flow of north-south traffic considerably hampered by a detour.

It was an obvious idea to continue the existing two hundred foot wide thoroughfare to the west, Heerstrasse, with the same width in an easterly direction—a project that was partly realized after 1945 by the extension of the former Frankfurter Allee. This axis, like the north-south axis, would be continued to its natural terminus, the ring formed by the autobahn, so that new urban areas could also be opened up in the eastern part of Berlin. In this way, even though we were razing the heart of the city, we would be able to provide room for almost double the city’s population.4

Both axes were to be lined by tall office buildings which would be scaled down at either end, passing by degrees into lower and lower buildings until an area was reached of private homes surrounded by considerable greenery. By this system I hoped to avoid the usual strangulation of the city center. This plan, which arose necessarily out of my axial structure, led the areas of greenery along the radii deep into the heart of the city.

Beyond the autobahn, at the four terminal points of the two great spokes, land was reserved for airports. In addition, the Rangsdorfer Lake was expected to serve as landing field for a water airport, for in those days a greater future was envisaged for the seaplane. Tempelhof Airfield, situated much too close to the prospective new center of the city, would be turned into an amusement park in the style of Copenhagen’s Tivoli. In years to come, we considered, the intersecting axes would be supplemented by five rings and seventeen radial thoroughfares, each of which was to be two hundred feet wide. For the present, however, we limited ourselves to determining where the new rows of buildings were to go. To connect the midpoint of the axes and part of the rings and to relieve traffic in the streets, rapid-transit subways were planned. In the west, bordering on the Olympic Stadium, we planned a new university quarter, for most of the buildings of the old Friedrich Wilhelm University on Unter den Linden were antiquated and in deplorable condition. To the north of the new university district a new medical quarter was to be established, with hospitals, laboratories, and medical schools. The banks of the Spree between the museum island and the Reichstag—a neglected area full of junkyards and small factories— were also to be reconstructed and additions and new buildings for the Berlin museums undertaken.

The land beyond the ring formed by the autobahn was to be set aside for recreation purposes. The typical Brandenburg pine forest of the area had been given into the charge of a high official in the Forestry Bureau who took his orders from me. Instead of pines, a woodland of deciduous trees was to be established here. After the model of the Bois de Boulogne, Grunewald was to be provided with hiking paths, rest areas, restaurants, and athletic fields for the capital’s millions. The work had already begun. I had tens of thousands of deciduous trees planted, in order to restore the old mixed forest which Frederick the Great had cut for lumber to finance the Silesian War. Of the whole vast project for the reshaping of Berlin, these deciduous trees are all that have remained.

In the course of the work a new urban concept emerged from Hitler’s initially pointless plan for a grand avenue. In the light of all this, his original idea seemed relatively insignificant. At least where urban renewal was concerned, I had gone far beyond Hitler’s megalomaniacal notions. I imagine that this had rarely happened to him in the course of his life. He went along with all these expansions of the original idea and gave me a free hand, but he could not really work up much enthusiasm for this part of the project. He would look at the plans, but really only glance at them, and after a few minutes would ask with palpable boredom: “Where do you have the plans for the grand avenue?” Then he would revel in visions of ministries, office buildings and showrooms for major German corporations, a new opera house, luxury hotels, and amusement palaces—and I gladly joined in these visions. Nevertheless, I considered these official buildings as subsidiary to the total plan; Hitler did not. His passion for building for eternity left him without a spark of interest in traffic arrangements, residential areas, and parks. He was indifferent to the social dimension.

Hess, on the other hand, was interested only in the residential structures and scarcely took notice of the representational aspect of our plans. At the end of one of his visits he chided me for putting too much emphasis on the latter. I promised him that for every brick used for these ostentatious buildings, I would use one for a residential structure. Hitler was rather annoyed when he heard of this bargain; he spoke of the urgency of his requirements but did not cancel our arrangement.

It has been generally assumed that I was Hitler’s chief architect, to whom all others were subordinate. This was not so. The architects for the replanning of Munich and Linz had similar powers bestowed upon them. In the course of time Hitler consulted an ever-growing number of architects for special tasks. Before the war began, there must have been ten or twelve.

When buildings were in question, Hitler repeatedly displayed his ability to grasp a sketch quickly and to combine the floor plan and renderings into a three-dimensional conception. Despite all his government business and although he was often dealing with anywhere from ten to fifteen large buildings in different cities, whenever the drawings were presented to him again—often after an interval of months—he immediately found his bearings and could remember what changes he had asked for. Those who assumed that a request or a suggestion had long since been forgotten quickly learned otherwise.

In these conferences he usually behaved with restraint and civility. He asked for changes amiably and without any note of insult—entirely in contrast to the domineering tone he took toward his political associates. Convinced that the architect should be responsible for his building, he encouraged the architect to do the talking, not the Gauleiter or Reichsleiter who accompanied him. For he did not want any nonprofessional higher authority snarling up the explanations. If the architect’s ideas ran counter to his own, Hitler was not stubborn: “Yes, you’re right, that’s better.”

The result was that I too was left with the feeling of creative independence. I frequently had differences of opinion with Hitler, but I cannot recall a single case in which he forced me as the architect to adopt his view. This comparatively equal relationship is the reason why later on, as Minister of Armaments, I assumed greater initiative than the majority of ministers and field marshals.

Hitler reacted obstinately and ungraciously only when he sensed a mute opposition based on antagonistic principles. Thus Professor Bonatz, the teacher of a whole generation of architects, received no more commissions after he had criticized Troost’s new buildings on Munich’s Königsplatz. Bonatz was in such disfavor that even Todt did not dare consult him for the building of a few bridges on the autobahn. Only my intervening with Frau Troost brought Bonatz back into currency. “Why shouldn’t he build bridges?” she remarked to Hitler. “He’s very good on technical structures.” Her word was weighty enough, and thereafter Bonatz built autobahn bridges.

Hitler declared again and again: “How I wish I had been an architect.” And when I responded: “But then I would have no client,” he would say: “Oh, you, you would have made your way in any case!” I sometimes ask myself whether Hitler would have forsaken his political career if in the early twenties he had met a wealthy client willing to employ him as architect. But at bottom, I think, his sense of political mission and his passion for architecture were always inseparable. It seems to me that this theory is borne out by the two sketches he made around 1925, when at the age of thirty-six his political career had been virtually wrecked— for certainly it must then have seemed a wild absurdity that he would ever be a political leader who could crown his success with a triumphal arch and a domed hall.

The German Olympic Committee was thrown into a quandary when State Secretary Pfundtner of the Ministry of the Interior showed Hitler its first plans for the rebuilding of the Olympic Stadium. Otto March, the architect, had designed a concrete structure with glass partition walls, similar to the Vienna Stadium. Hitler went to inspect the site and came back in a state of anger and agitation. Having been summoned to discuss some plans with him, I was present when he curtly informed State Secretary Pfundtner to cancel the Olympic Games. They could not take place without his presence, he said, since the Chief of State must open them. But he would never set foot inside a modem glass box like that.

Overnight I made a sketch showing how the steel skeleton already built could be clad in natural stone and have more massive cornices added. The glass partitions were eliminated, and Hitler was content. He saw to the financing of the increased costs; Professor March agreed to the changes, and the Olympic Games were held in Berlin after all— although I was never sure whether Hitler would actually have carried out his threat or whether it was merely a flash of pique, which he often used to get his way.

Hitler also abruptly threatened withdrawal from the Paris World’s Fair of 1937, although the invitation had already been accepted and the site for the German pavilion fixed. He strongly disliked all the sketches he was shown. The Ministry of Economics thereupon asked me for a design. The Soviet Russian and German pavilions were to be placed directly opposite one another on the fairgrounds; the French directors of the fair had deliberately arranged this confrontation. While looking over the site in Paris, I by chance stumbled into a room containing the secret sketch of the Soviet pavilion. A sculptured pair of figures thirty-three feet tall, on a high platform, were striding triumphantly toward the German pavilion. I therefore designed a cubic mass, also elevated on stout pillars, which seemed to be checking this onslaught, while from the cornice of my tower an eagle with the swastika in its claws looked down on the Russian sculptures. I received a gold medal for the building; so did my Soviet colleague.

At the dedication dinner for our pavilion I met the French ambassador to Berlin, André François-Poncet. He proposed that I exhibit my works in Paris in exchange for a show of modem French painting in Berlin. French architecture was lagging, he commented, “but in painting you can learn from us.” At the next opportunity I told Hitler of this proposal, which might open the way for me to win an international reputation. Hitler passed over the ambassador’s unwelcome comment in silence, but for the moment said neither yes nor no. The upshot was that I could never bring up the subject again.

During those days in Paris I saw the Palais de Chaillot and the Palais des Musées d’Art Moderne, as well as the Musée des Travaux Publics, then still being built, which had been designed by the famous avant-gardist August Perret. It surprised me that France also favored neoclassicism for her public buildings. It has often been asserted that this style is characteristic of the architecture of totalitarian states. That is not at all true. Rather, it was characteristic of the era and left its impress upon Washington, London, and Paris as well as Rome, Moscow, and our plans for Berlin.5

We had obtained some extra French currency. My wife and I drove by car through France with some friends. Slowly, we toured southward, stopping at castles and cathedrals on the way. We reached Carcassonne and found it highly stirring and romantic, although it was merely one of the most utilitarian fortifications of the Middle Ages, as typical of its time as an atomic shelter is of ours. In the citadel hotel we enjoyed an old French red wine and decided to linger in the region for a few days more. In the evening I was called to the telephone. I had thought myself safe in this remote comer of France from Hitler’s adjutants, all the more so since nobody knew our destination.

For reasons of security and control, however, the French police had checked our movements. At any rate, in response to an inquiry from Obersalzberg they were able to say at once where we were. Adjutant Bruckner was on the phone: “You’re to come to the Fuehrer by tomorrow noon.” I objected that it would take me two and a half days to drive back. “A conference has been set for tomorrow afternoon,” Bruckner replied, “and the Fuehrer insists on your presence.” I tried one more feeble protest. “Just a moment…. Yes, the Fuehrer knows where you are, but you must be here tomorrow.”

I was wretched, angry, and perplexed. Lengthy telephone calls with Hitler’s pilot produced the news that the Fuehrers private plane could not land in France. But a place would be obtained for me on a German cargo plane that was due for a stopover in Marseilles, on a flight from Africa, at six o’clock in the morning. Hitler’s special plane would then take me from Stuttgart to Ainring Airport near Berchtesgaden.

That same night we set out on the drive to Marseilles. For a few minutes we looked at the Roman buildings in Arles, which had been the actual goal of our journey, by moonlight. At two o’clock in the morning we reached a hotel in Marseilles. Three hours later I was off to the airport, and in the afternoon I presented myself, as ordered, to Hitler in Obersalzberg. “Oh yes, I’m sorry, Herr Speer, I’ve postponed the conference. I wanted to have your opinion on a suspension bridge for Hamburg.” Dr. Todt had been supposed to show him the design for a mammoth bridge that would surpass San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Since construction was not due to begin until the nineteen-forties, Hitler might easily have let me have another week’s vacation.

Another time I had fled to the Zugspitze with my wife when the usual telephone call from the adjutant reached me: “You’re to come to the Fuehrer. Dinner tomorrow afternoon in the Osteria.” He cut off my objections: “No, it’s urgent.” In the Osteria, Hitler greeted me with: “Why, how nice that you’ve come to dine with us. What, you were sent for? I merely asked yesterday: I wonder where Speer is? But you know, it serves you right. What’s this about going skiing with all you have to do?”

Von Neurath displayed more backbone. Once when Hitler told his adjutant late one evening: “I’d like to talk to the Foreign Minister,” he received the reply: “The Foreign Minister has already gone to bed.”— “Tell them he’s to be waked when I want to talk to him.” Another telephone call; the adjutant returned discomfited: “The Foreign Minister says he will be available in the morning; he’s tired now and wants to sleep.”

Faced with such resolution, Hitler could only give up, but he was in bad humor for the rest of the evening. Moreover, he could never forget such defiance and took revenge at the first opportunity.

7. Obersalzberg

There is a special trap for every holder of power, whether the director of a company, the head of a state, or the ruler of a dictatorship. His favor is so desirable to his subordinates that they will sue for it by every means possible. Servility becomes endemic among his entourage, who compete among themselves in their show of devotion. This in turn exercises a sway upon the ruler, who becomes corrupted in his turn.

The key to the quality of the man in power is how he reacts to this situation. I have observed a number of industrialists and military men who knew how to fend off this danger. Where power has been exercised over generations, a kind of hereditary incorruptibility grows up. Only a few individuals among those around Hitler, such as Fritz Todt, withstood the temptation to sycophancy. Hitler himself put up no visible resistance to the evolution of a court.

The special conditions of his style of rule led Hitler, especially after 1937, into increasing isolation. Added to that was his inability to make human contacts. Among his intimates we sometimes spoke of the change which was more and more marked in him. Heinrich Hoffmann had just put out a new edition of his book, Hitler, wie ihn keiner kennt ( The Hitler Nobody Knows). The old edition had to be withdrawn because of a picture showing Hitler amicably together with Roehm, whom he was shortly afterward to kill. Hitler himself selected the new photos. They showed a casual, good-natured private individual in leather shorts, in a rowboat, stretched out on meadows, hiking, surrounded by enthusiastic young people, or in artists’ studios. He was always seen relaxed, friendly, and accessible. The book proved to be Hoffmann’s greatest success. But it was already out of date by the time it was published. For the genial, relaxed Hitler whom I too had known in the early thirties had become, even to his intimate entourage, a forbidding despot with few human relationships.

In the Ostertal, a remote mountain valley in the Bavarian Alps, I had located a small hunting lodge, big enough to set up drawing boards, which with a bit of crowding could accommodate my family and a few associates. There, in the spring of 1935, we worked away at my plans for Berlin. That was a happy period for my work and for the family. But one day I made a crucial error; I told Hitler about this idyll. His response was: “Why, you can have all that and more near me. I’ll put the Bechstein house*

*A villa near Hitler’s residence at Obersalzberg, formerly owned by his friends, the Bechsteins.

at your disposal. There’s ample room for your office there in the conservatory.” (At the end of May 1937 we moved from the Bechstein house into a studio building which Hitler had Bormann build from my design.)

Thus I became the fourth “Obersalzberger,” along with Hitler, Goering, and Bormann.

Naturally I was happy to be granted so obvious a distinction and be admitted to the most intimate circle. But I soon came to realize that the change had not been exactly advantageous. From the solitary mountain valley we passed into an area guarded by a high barbed-wire fence which could be entered only after identity checks at two gates. It was reminiscent of an open-air enclosure for wild animals. Curiosity-seekers were always trying to catch a glimpse of some of the prominent inhabitants of the mountain.

Bormann was the real master of Obersalzberg. He forcibly bought up centuries-old farms and had the buildings tom down. The same was done to the numerous votive chapels, despite the objections of the parishes. He also confiscated state forests, until the private area reached from the top of the mountain, which was some sixty-four hundred feet high, to the valley at an altitude of two thousand feet, and embraced an area of 2.7 square miles. The fence around the inner area was almost two miles long, around the outer area nine miles long.

With total insensitivity to the natural surroundings, Bormann laid out a network of roads through this magnificent landscape. He turned forest paths, hitherto carpeted by pine needles and penetrated by roots, into paved promenades. A barracks, a vast garage building, a hotel for Hitler’s guests, a new manor house, a complex for the constantly growing number of employees, sprang up as rapidly as in a suddenly fashionable resort. Dormitory barracks for hundreds of construction workers clung to the slopes; trucks loaded with building materials rumbled along the roads. At night the various building sites glowed with light, for work went on in two shifts, and occasionally detonations thundered through the valley.

On the top of Hitler’s private mountain Bormann erected a house that was luxuriously furnished in a somewhat rusticated ocean-liner style. You reached it by a precipitous road that ended in an elevator blasted into the rock. Bormann squandered between twenty and thirty million marks merely on the access route to this eyrie, which Hitler visited only a few times. Cynics in Hitler’s entourage remarked: “Bormann has created a gold-rush town atmosphere. Only he doesn’t find any, he spends it.” Hitler regretted the hubbub but commented: “It’s Bormann’s doing; I don’t want to interfere.” Another time he said: “When it’s all finished I’ll look for a quiet valley and build another small wooden house there like the first.” It never was finished. Bormann conceived a never-ending succession of new roads and buildings, and when the war finally broke out he began building underground quarters for Hitler and his entourage.

The gigantic installations on the mountain were, in spite of Hitler’s occasional sarcasms about the tremendous effort and expenditure, characteristic of the change in the Fuehrer’s style of life and also indicative of his tendency to withdraw more and more from the wider world around him. Fear of assassination cannot explain it, for almost daily he allowed thousands of people to enter the protected area to pay homage to him. His entourage considered such behavior more dangerous than spontaneous strolls on public forest paths.

In the summer of 1935 Hitler had decided to enlarge his modest country house into one more suitable for his public duties, to be known as the Berghof. He paid for the project out of his own money, but that was nothing but a gesture, since Bormann drew upon other sources for the subsidiary buildings, sums disproportionately greater than the amount Hitler himself provided.

Hitler did not just sketch the plans for the Berghof. He borrowed drawing board, T-square, and other implements from me to draw the ground plan, renderings, and cross sections of his building to scale, refusing any help with the matter. There were only two other designs on which Hitler expended the personal care that he applied to his Obersalzberg house: that of the new Reich war flag and his own standard as Chief of State.

Most architects will put a wide variety of ideas down on paper, and see which lends itself best to further development. It was characteristic of Hitler that he regarded his first inspiration as intuitively right and drew it with little hesitation. Afterward, he introduced only small retouchings to eliminate glaring defects.

The old house was preserved within the new one, whose living room joined the old through a large opening. The resultant ground plan was most impractical for the reception of official visitors. Their staffs had to be content with an unprepossessing entry hall which also led to the toilets, stairwell, and the large dining room.

During official conferences Hitler’s private guests were banished to the upper floor. But since the stairs led down to the entry hall, private visitors had to be cleared by a guard before being allowed to go through the room and leave the house for a walk.

A huge picture window in the living room, famous for its size and the fact that it could be lowered, was Hitler’s pride. It offered a view of the Untersberg, Berchtesgaden, and Salzburg. However, Hitler had been inspired to situate his garage underneath this window; when the wind was unfavorable, a strong smell of gasoline penetrated into the living room. All in all, this was a ground plan that would have been graded D by any professor at an institute of technology. On the other hand, these very clumsinesses gave the Berghof a strongly personal note. The place was still geared to the simple activities of a former weekend cottage, merely expanded to vast proportions.

All the cost estimates were exceeded by far, and Hitler was somewhat embarrassed:

I’ve completely used up the income from my book, although Amann’s given me a further advance of several hundred thousand. Even so there’s not enough money, so Bormann has told me today. The publishers are after me to release my second book, the 1928 one, for publication.*

*Hitler’s so-called second book was not published until 1961.

But I’m certainly glad this volume hasn’t been published. What political complications it would make for me at the moment. On the other hand it would relieve me of all financial pressures at one stroke. Amann promised me a million just as an advance, and beyond that it would bring in millions. Perhaps later, when I’m further along. Now its impossible.

There he sat, a voluntary prisoner with his view of the Untersberg where, legend has it, the Emperor Charlemagne still sleeps, but will one day arise to restore the past glory of the German Empire. Hitler naturally appropriated this legend for himself: “You see the Untersberg over there. It is no accident that I have my residence opposite it.”

Bormann was linked to Hitler not only by his vast building projects on the Obersalzberg. He contrived at the same time to take over administration of Hitler’s personal finances. Not only were Hitler’s adjutants tied to the purse strings that Bormann controlled, but even Hitler’s mistress was dependent upon him, as she candidly confessed to me. Hitler left it to Bormann to attend to her modest needs.

Hitler praised Bormann’s financial skill. Once I heard him relate how Bormann had performed a significant service for the party during the difficult year of 1932 by introducing compulsory accident insurance for all party members. The income from this insurance fund considerably exceeded the expenditures, Hitler said, and the party was able to use the surplus for other purposes. Bormann also did his bit to eliminate Hitler’s financial anxieties permanently after 1933. He found two sources of ample funds. Together with Hitler’s personal photographer Hoffmann and Hoffmann’s friend Ohnesorge, the Minister of Posts, he decided that Hitler had rights to the reproduction of his picture on postage stamps and was therefore entitled to payments. The percentage royalty was infinitesimal, but since the Fuehrers head appeared on all stamps, millions flowed into the privy purse administered by Bormann.

Bormann developed another source by founding the Adolf Hitler Endowment Fund of German Industry. Entrepreneurs who were profiting by the economic boom were bluntly requested to show their appreciation by voluntary contributions to the Fuehrer. Since other party bigwigs had had the same notion, Bormann obtained a decree assuring him a monopoly on such contributions. But he was clever enough to return a part of the donations to various party leaders “in behalf of the Fuehrer.” Almost all of the top party functionaries received gifts from this fund. This power to set the living standards of the Gauleiters and Reichsleiters did not attract attention; but fundamentally it conferred on Bormann more power than many other positions within the hierarchy.

With his typical perseverance, from 1934 on Bormann followed the simple principle of always remaining in closest proximity to the source of all grace and favor. He accompanied Hitler to the Berghof and on trips, and in the Chancellery never left his side until Hitler went to bed in the early morning hours. In this way Bormann became Hitler’s hardworking, reliable, and ultimately indispensable secretary. He pretended to be obliging to everyone, and almost everyone availed himself of Bormann’s services—all the more so since he obviously served Hitler with utter selflessness. Even his immediate superior, Rudolf Hess, found it convenient to have Bormann close to Hitler at all times.

The powerful men under Hitler were already jealously watching one another like so many pretenders to the throne. Quite early there were struggles for position among Goebbels, Goering, Rosenberg, Ley, Himmler, Ribbentrop, and Hess. Only Roehm had been left by the wayside, and before long Hess was to lose all his influence. But none of them recognized a threat in the shape of trusty Bormann. He had succeeded in representing himself as insignificant while imperceptibly building up his bastions. Even among so many ruthless men, he stood out by his brutality and coarseness. He had no culture, which might have put some restraints on him, and in every case he carried out whatever Hitler had ordered or what he himself had gathered from Hitler’s hints. A subordinate by nature, he treated his own subordinates as if he were dealing with cows and oxen. He was a peasant.

I avoided Bormann; from the beginning we could not abide each other. We treated each other with formal correctness, as the private atmosphere at Obersalzberg required. With the exception of my own studio, I never designed a building for him to execute.

Hitler’s stays on “the mountain” provided him, as he often stressed, with the inner calm and assurance for his surprising decisions. He also composed his most important speeches there, and it is worth noting how he wrote them. Thus, before the Nuremberg Party Rally he regularly retreated to Obersalzberg for several weeks in order to work out his long speeches on basic principles. As the deadline drew nearer, his adjutants kept urging him to begin the dictation and kept everyone and everything away from him, even architectural plans and visitors, so that he would not be distracted from the work. But Hitler postponed the task from week to week, then from day to day, and would reluctantly set to work on it only under extreme time pressure. By then it was usually too late to finish all the speeches, and during the Rally, Hitler usually had to stay up nights to make up for the time he had squandered at Obersalzberg.

I had the impression that he needed this pressure in order to be able to work, that in the bohemian manner of the artist he despised discipline and could not or would not force himself to work regularly. He let the content of his speeches or his thoughts ripen during these weeks of apparent idling until all that had accumulated poured out like a stream bursting its bounds upon followers or negotiators.

Our move from our secluded valley to the bustle of Obersalzberg was ruinous to my work. The very sameness of the day’s routine was tiring, the unchanging group around Hitler—the same coterie who regularly met in Munich and in Berlin—was boring. The only difference from Berlin and Munich was that wives were present on the mountain, and also two or three women secretaries and Eva Braun.

Hitler usually appeared in the lower rooms late in the morning, around eleven o’clock. He then went through the press summaries, received several reports from Bormann, and made his first decisions. The day actually began with a prolonged afternoon dinner. The guests assembled in the anteroom. Hitler chose the lady he would take in to dinner, while Bormann, from about 1938 on, had the privilege of escorting Eva Braun, to the table; she usually sat on Hitler’s left. That in itself was proof of Bormann’s dominant position in the court. The dining room was a mixture of artistic rusticity and urban elegance of a sort which was often characteristic of country houses of the wealthy. The walls and ceilings were paneled in pale larchwood, the chairs covered with bright red morocco leather. The china was a simple white; the silver bore Hitler’s monogram and was the same as that used in Berlin. Hitler always took pleasure in its restrained floral decoration. The food was simple and substantial: soup, a meat course, dessert, with either Fachinger mineral water or wine. The waiters, in white vests and black trousers, were members of the SS bodyguard. Some twenty persons sat at the long table, but because of its length no general conversation could arise. Hitler sat in the middle, facing the window. He talked with the person opposite him, who was different every day, or with the ladies to either side of him.

Shortly after dinner the walk to the teahouse began. The width of the path left room for only two abreast, so that the file resembled a procession. Two security men walked at the head. Then came Hitler with one other person, with whom he conversed, followed in any order by the dinner company, with more guards bringing up the rear. Hitler’s two police dogs roamed about the area and ignored his commands— the only oppositionists at his court. To Bormann’s vexation, Hitler was addicted to this particular walk, which took about half an hour, and disdained using the mile-long paved forest roads.

The teahouse had been built at one of Hitler’s favorite lookout points above the Berchtesgaden valley. The company always marveled at the panorama in the same phrases. Hitler always agreed in much the same language. The teahouse itself consisted of a round room about twenty-five feet in diameter, pleasing in its proportions, with a row of small-paned windows and a fireplace along the interior wall. The company sat in easy chairs around the round table, with Eva Braun and one of the other ladies again at Hitler’s side. Those who did not find seats went into a small adjoining room. According to taste, one had tea, coffee, or chocolate, and various types of cake and cookies, followed by liqueurs. Here, at the coffee table, Hitler was particularly fond of drifting into endless monologues. The subjects were mostly familiar to the company, who therefore listened absently, though pretending attention. Occasionally Hitler himself fell asleep over one of his monologues. The company then continued chatting in whispers, hoping that he would awaken in time for the evening meal. It was all very familial.

After about two hours the teatime ended, generally around six. Hitler stood up, and the procession moved on to the parking area, about twenty minutes’ walk, where a column of cars waited. After returning to the Berghof, Hitler usually withdrew to the upper rooms, while the retinue scattered. Bormann frequently disappeared into the room of one of the younger stenographers, which elicited spiteful remarks from Eva Braun.

Two hours later the company met again for supper, with repetition of the afternoon ritual. Afterward, Hitler went into the salon, again followed by the still unchanged company.

The Troost studio had furnished the salon sparsely, but with oversize furniture: a sideboard over ten feet high and eighteen feet long which housed phonograph records along with various certificates of honorary citizenship awarded to Hitler; a monumental classicist china closet; a massive clock crowned by a fierce bronze eagle. In front of the large picture window stood a table twenty feet long, which Hitler used for signing documents or, later, for studying military maps. There were two sitting areas: one a sunken nook at the back of the room, with the red upholstered chairs grouped around a fireplace; the other, near the window, dominated by a round table whose fine veneer was protected by a glass top. Beyond this sitting area was the movie projection cabinet, its openings concealed by a tapestry. Along the opposite wall stood a massive chest containing built-in speakers, and adorned by a large bronze bust of Richard Wagner by Amo Breker. Above this hung another tapestry which concealed the movie screen. Large oil paintings covered the walls: a lady with exposed bosom ascribed to Bordone, a pupil of Titian; a picturesque reclining nude said to be by Titian himself; Feuerbach’s Nana in a very handsome frame; an early landscape by Spitzweg; a landscape with Roman ruins by Pannini; and, surprisingly, a kind of altar painting by Eduard von Steinle, one of the Nazarene group, representing King Henry, founder of cities. But there was no Grützner. Hitler occasionally let it be known that he had paid for these paintings out of his own income.

We found places on the sofas or in one of the easy chairs in either of the sitting areas; the two tapestries were raised; and the second part of the evening began with a movie, as was also the custom when Hitler was in Berlin. Afterward the company gathered around the huge fireplace— some six or eight persons lined up in a row on the excessively long and uncomfortably low sofa, while Hitler, once more flanked by Eva Braun and one of the ladies, ensconced himself in one of the soft chairs. Because of the inept arrangement of the furniture the company was so scattered that no common conversation could arise. Everyone talked in low voices with his neighbor. Hitler murmured trivialities with the two women at his side, or whispered with Eva Braun; sometimes he held her hand. But often he fell silent or stared broodingly into the fire. Then the guests fell silent also, in order not to disturb him in important thoughts.

Occasionally the movies were discussed, Hitler commenting mainly on the female actors and Eva Braun on the males. No one took the trouble to raise the conversation above the level of trivialities by, for example, remarking on any of the new trends in directing. Of course the choice of films scarcely allowed for any other approach, for they were all standard products of the entertainment industry. Such experiments of the period as Curt Ortel’s Michelangelo film were never shown, at least not when I was there. Sometimes Bormann used the occasion to take some swipes at Goebbels, who was responsible for German film production. Thus, he would remark that Goebbels had made all lands of trouble for the movie based on Kleist’s The Broken Jug because he thought Emil Jannings’s portrayal of the lame village magistrate, Adam, was a caricature of himself. Hitler gleefully watched the film, which had been withdrawn from circulation, and gave orders that it be shown again in the largest Berlin movie theater. But—and this is typical of Hitler’s sometimes amazing lack of authority—for a long time this simply was not done. Bormann, however, kept bringing up the matter until Hitler showed serious irritation and let Goebbels know that his orders had better be obeyed.

Later, during the war, Hitler gave up the evening showings, saying that he wanted to renounce his favorite entertainment “out of sympathy for the privations of the soldiers.” Instead records were played. But although the record collection was excellent, Hitler always preferred the same music. Neither baroque nor classical music, neither chamber music nor symphonies, interested him. Before long the order of the records became virtually fixed. First he wanted a few bravura selections from Wagnerian operas, to be followed promptly with operettas. That remained the pattern. Hitler made a point of trying to guess the names of the sopranos and was pleased when he guessed right, as he frequently did.

To animate these rather barren evenings, sparkling wine was handed around and, after the occupation of France, confiscated champagne of a cheap brand; Goering and his air marshals had appropriated the best brands. From one o’clock on some members of the company, in spite of all their efforts to control themselves, could no longer repress their yawns. But the social occasion dragged on in monotonous, wearing emptiness for another hour or more, until at last Eva Braun had a few words with Hitler and was permitted to go upstairs. Hitler would stand up about a quarter of an hour later, to bid his company goodnight. Those who remained, liberated, often followed those numbing hours with a gay party over champagne and cognac.

In the early hours of the morning we went home dead tired, exhausted from doing nothing. After a few days of this I was seized by what I called at the time “the mountain disease.” That is, I felt exhausted and vacant from the constant waste of time. Only when Hitler’s idleness was interrupted by conferences was I free to put myself and my associates to work on designs. As a favored permanent guest and inhabitant of Obersalzberg I could not withdraw from these evenings, agonizing as they were, without appearing impolite. Dr. Otto Dietrich, the press chief, ventured to slip away to performances at the Salzburg Festival a few times, but in doing so he incurred Hitler’s anger. During Hitler’s longer stays at Obersalzberg the only way to save oneself was to flee to Berlin.

Sometimes familiars of Hitler’s old Munich or Berlin circles, such as Goebbels, Franz Schwarz, the party treasurer, or Hermann Esser, State Secretary for Tourism in the Ministry of Propaganda, put in an appearance. But this happened rarely and then only for a day or two. Even Hess, who should have had every reason to check the activities of his deputy, Bormann, turned up only two or three times, at least while I was there. These close associates, who could frequently be met at afternoon dinners in the Chancellery, obviously avoided Obersalzberg. Their absence was particularly noticeable because Hitler showed considerable pleasure when they turned up and frequently asked them to come often and to stay longer. But they had meanwhile become the centers of their own circles, and it was therefore rather uncomfortable for them to submit to Hitler’s altogether different routine and to his manner, which in spite of all his charm was painfully self-assertive.

Eva Braun was allowed to be present during visits from old party associates. She was banished as soon as other dignitaries of the Reich, such as cabinet ministers, appeared at table. Even when Goering and his wife came, Eva Braun had to stay in her room. Hitler obviously regarded her as socially acceptable only within strict limits. Sometimes I kept her company in her exile, a room next to Hitler’s bedroom. She was so intimidated that she did not dare leave the house for a walk. “I might meet the Goerings in the hall.”

In general Hitler showed little consideration for her feelings. He would enlarge on his attitude toward women as though she were not present: “A highly intelligent man should take a primitive and stupid woman. Imagine if on top of everything else I had a woman who interfered with my work! In my leisure time I want to have peace. … I could never marry. Think of the problems if I had children! In the end they would try to make my son my successor. Besides, the chances are slim for someone like me to have a capable son. That is almost always how it goes in such cases. Consider Goethe’s son—a completely worthless person! … Lots of women are attracted to me because I am unmarried. That was especially useful during our days of struggle. It’s the same as with a movie actor; when he marries he loses a certain something for the women who adore him. Then he is no longer their idol as he was before.”

Hitler believed that he had a powerful sexual appeal to women. But he was also extremely wary about this; he never knew, he used to say, whether a woman preferred him as the Chancellor or as Adolf Hitler, and as he often remarked ungallantly, he certainly did not want witty and intelligent women about him. In making such remarks he was apparently not aware of how offensive they must have been to the ladies present. On the other hand Hitler could sometimes behave like a good head of a family. Once, when Eva Braun was skiing and came to tea rather late, he looked uneasy, kept glancing nervously at the clock, and was plainly worried that she might have had an accident.

Eva Braun came of a family of modest circumstances. Her father was a schoolteacher. I never met her parents; they never appeared and continued to live as befitted their station until the end. Eva Braun, too, remained simple; she dressed quietly and wore the inexpensive jewelry*

*N. E. Gun’s Eva Braun: Hitler’s Mistress (Meredith, 1968) gives a list of valuable jewelry. So far as I remember she did not wear anything of the sort, nor does any appear in the many photographs of her. Perhaps the list refers to the objects of value which Hitler saw to it that she received through Bormann during the war.

that Hitler gave her for Christmas or her birthdays: usually semiprecious stones worth a few hundred marks at most and actually insulting in their modesty. Bormann would present a selection, and Hitler would choose these trinkets with what seemed to me petit-bourgeois taste.

Eva Braun had no interest in politics. She scarcely ever attempted to influence Hitler. With a good eye for the facts of everyday life, however, she did sometimes make remarks about minor abuses in conditions in Munich. Bormann did not like that, since in such cases he was instantly called to account. She was sports-loving, a good skier with plenty of endurance with whom my wife and I frequently undertook mountain tours outside the enclosed area. Once Hitler actually gave her a week’s vacation —when he himself was not at Obersalzberg, of course. She went to Zürs with us for a few days. There, unrecognized, she danced with great passion into the wee hours of the morning with young army officers. She was very far from being a modern Madame Pompadour; for the historian she is interesting only insofar as she set off some of Hitler’s traits.

Out of sympathy for her predicament I soon began to feel a liking for this unhappy woman, who was so deeply attached to Hitler. In addition, we were linked by our common dislike for Bormann, although at that time what we resented most was the coarseness with which he was raping the beauty of nature at Obersalzberg and betraying his wife. When I heard at the Nuremberg Trial that Hitler had married Eva Braun in the last day and a half of his life, I felt glad for her—even though I could sense even in this act the cynicism with which Hitler had treated her and probably women in general.

I have often wondered whether Hitler felt anything like affection for children. He certainly made an effort when he met them, whether they were the children of acquaintances or unknown to him. He even tried to deal with them in a paternally friendly fashion, but never managed to be very convincing about it. He never found the proper easy manner of treating them; after a few benign words he would soon turn to others. On the whole he regarded children as representatives of the next generation and therefore took more pleasure in their appearance (blond, blue-eyed), their stature (strong, healthy), or their intelligence (brisk, aggressive) than in their nature as children. His personality had no effect whatsoever upon my own children.

What remains in my memory of social life at Obersalzberg is a curious vacuity. Fortunately, during my first years of imprisonment, while my recollections were still fresh, I noted down a few scraps of conversations which I can now regard as reasonably authentic.

In those hundreds of teatimes questions of fashion, of raising dogs, of the theater and movies, of operettas and their stars were discussed, along with endless trivialities about the family lives of others. Hitler scarcely ever said anything about the Jews, about his domestic opponents, let alone about the necessity for setting up concentration camps. Perhaps such topics were omitted less out of deliberate intention than because they would have been out of place amidst the prevailing banality. On the other hand, Hitler made fun of his closest associates with striking frequency. It is no accident that these particular remarks have remained in my mind, for after all they involved persons who were officially immune from all criticism. Hitler’s private circle was not held to these rules, and in any case Hitler considered it pointless to attempt to keep women from gossiping. Was it self-aggrandizement when he spoke disparagingly of everything and everyone? Or did such talk spring from his general contempt for all persons and events?

Thus Hitler had little sympathy with Himmler in his mythologizing of the SS.

What nonsense! Here we have at last reached an age that has left all mysticism behind it, and now he wants to start that all over again. We might just as well have stayed with the church. At least it had tradition. To think that I may someday be turned into an SS saint! Can you imagine it? I would turn over in my grave… .

Himmler has made another speech calling Charlemagne the “butcher of the Saxons.” Killing all those Saxons was not a historical crime, as Himmler thinks. Charlemagne did a good thing in subjugating Widukind and killing the Saxons out of hand. He thereby made possible the empire of the Franks and the entry of Western culture into what is now Germany.

Himmler had scientists undertake excavations of prehistoric sites. Hitler commented:

Why do we call the whole world’s attention to the fact that we have no past? It isn’t enough that the Romans were erecting great buildings when our forefathers were still living in mud huts; now Himmler is starting to dig up these villages of mud huts and enthusing over every potsherd and stone axe he finds. All we prove by that is that we were still throwing stone hatchets and crouching around open fires when Greece and Rome had already reached the highest stage of culture. We really should do our best to keep quiet about this past. Instead Himmler makes a great fuss about it all. The present-day Romans must be having a laugh at these revelations.

Amid his political associates in Berlin, Hitler made harsh pronouncements against the church, but in the presence of the women he adopted a milder tone—one of the instances where he adapted his remarks to his surroundings.

“The church is certainly necessary for the people. It is a strong and conservative element,” he might say at one time or another in this private circle. However, he conceived of the church as an instrument that could be useful to him. “If only Reibi [this was his nickname for Reich Bishop Ludwig Muller] had some kind of stature. But why do they appoint a nobody of an army chaplain? I’d be glad to give him my full support. Think of all he could do with that. Through me the Evangelical [Protestant] Church could become the established church, as in England.”

Even after 1942 Hitler went on maintaining that he regarded the church as indispensable in political life. He would be happy, he said in one of those teatime talks at Obersalzberg, if someday a prominent churchman turned up who was suited to lead one of the churches—or if possible both the Catholic and Protestant churches reunited. He still regretted that Reich Bishop Muller was not the right man to carry out his far-reaching plans. But he sharply condemned the campaign against the church, calling it a crime against the future of the nation. For it was impossible, he said, to replace the church by any “party ideology.” Undoubtedly, he continued, the church would learn to adapt to the political goals of National Socialism in the long run, as it had always adapted in the course of history. A new party religion would only bring about a relapse into the mysticism of the Middle Ages. The growing SS myth showed that clearly enough, as did Rosenberg’s unreadable Myth of the Twentieth Century.

If in the course of such a monologue Hitler had pronounced a more negative judgment upon the church, Bormann would undoubtedly have taken from his jacket pocket one of the white cards he always carried with him. For he noted down all Hitler’s remarks that seemed to him important; and there was hardly anything he wrote down more eagerly than deprecating comments on the church. At the time I assumed that he was gathering material for a biography of Hitler.

Around 1937, when Hitler heard that at the instigation of the party and the SS vast numbers of his followers had left the church because it was obstinately opposing his plans, he nevertheless ordered his chief associates, above all Goering and Goebbels, to remain members of the church. He too would remain a member of the Catholic Church, he said, although he had no real attachment to it. And in fact he remained in the church until his suicide.

Hitler had been much impressed by a scrap of history he had learned from a delegation of distinguished Arabs. When the Mohammedans attempted to penetrate beyond France into Central Europe during the eighth century, his visitors had told him, they had been driven back at the Battle of Tours. Had the Arabs won this battle, the world would be Mohammedan today. For theirs was a religion that believed in spreading the faith by the sword and subjugating all nations to that faith. The Germanic peoples would have become heirs to that religion. Such a creed was perfectly suited to the Germanic temperament. Hitler said that the conquering Arabs, because of their racial inferiority, would in the long run have been unable to contend with the harsher climate and conditions of the country. They could not have kept down the more vigorous natives, so that ultimately not Arabs but Islamized Germans could have stood at the head of this Mohammedan Empire.

Hitler usually concluded this historical speculation by remarking: “You see, it’s been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn’t we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?” It is remarkable that even before the war he sometimes went on: “Today the Siberians, the White Russians, and the people of the steppes live extremely healthy lives. For that reason they are better equipped for development and in the long run biologically superior to the Germans.” This was an idea he was destined to repeat in far more drastic tones during the last months of the war.

Rosenberg sold his seven-hundred page Myth of the Twentieth Century in editions of hundreds of thousands. The public regarded the book as the standard text for party ideology, but Hitler in those teatime conversations bluntly called it “stuff nobody can understand,” written by “a narrow-minded Baltic German who thinks in horribly complicated terms.” He expressed wonderment that such a book could ever have attained such sales: “A relapse into medieval notions!” I wondered if such private remarks were carried back to Rosenberg.

Hitler believed that the culture of the Greeks had reached the peak of perfection in every field. Their view of life, he said, as expressed in their architecture, had been “fresh and healthy.” One day a photograph of a beautiful woman swimmer stirred him to enthusiastic reflections: “What splendid bodies you can see today. It is only in our century that young people have once again approached Hellenistic ideals through sports.

How the body was neglected in earlier centuries. In this respect our times differ from all previous cultural epochs since antiquity.” He personally, however, was averse to any kind of sports. Moreover, he never mentioned having practiced any sport at all as a young man.

By the Greeks he meant the Dorians. Naturally his view was affected by the theory, fostered by the scientists of his period, that the Dorian tribe which migrated into Greece from the north had been of Germanic origin and that, therefore, its culture had not belonged to the Mediterranean world.

Goering’s passion for hunting was one of his favorite topics.

How can a person be excited about such a thing. Killing animals, if it must be done, is the butchers business. But to spend a great deal of money on it in addition. … I understand, of course, that there must be professional hunters to shoot sick animals. If only there were still some danger connected with hunting, as in the days when men used spears for killing game. But today, when anybody with a fat belly can safely shoot the animal down from a distance… . Hunting and horse racing are the last remnants of a dead feudal world.

Hitler also took delight in having Ambassador Hewel, Ribbentrop’s liaison man, transmit the content of telephone conversations with the Foreign Minister. He would even coach Hewel in ways to disconcert or confuse his superior. Sometimes he stood right beside Hewel, who would hold his hand over the mouthpiece of the telephone and repeat what Ribbentrop was saying, while Hitler whispered what to answer. Usually these were sarcastic remarks intended to fan the nervous Foreign Minister’s suspicions that unauthorized persons might be influencing Hitler on questions of foreign policy, thus infringing on his domain.

After dramatic negotiations Hitler was apt to deride his opposites. Once he described Schuschnigg’s visit to Obersalzberg on February 12, 1938. By a pretended fit of passion he had made the Austrian Chancellor realize the gravity of the situation, he said, and finally forced him to yield. Many of those hysterical scenes that have been reported were probably carefully staged. In general, self-control was one of Hitler’s most striking characteristics. In those early days he lost control of himself only a very few times, at least in my presence.

Sometime around 1936 Schacht had come to the salon of the Berghof to report. We guests were seated on the adjacent terrace and the large window of the salon was wide open. Hitler was shouting at his Finance Minister, evidently in extreme excitement. We heard Schacht replying firmly in a loud voice. The dialogue grew increasingly heated on both sides and then ceased abruptly. Furious, Hitler came out on the terrace and ranted on about this disobliging, limited minister who was holding up the rearmament program. He had another such fit of rage at Pastor Niemöller in 1937. Niemöller had once again delivered a rebellious sermon in Dahlem; at the same time transcripts of his tapped telephone conversations were presented to Hitler. In a bellow Hitler ordered Niemöller to be put in a concentration camp and, since he had proved himself incorrigible, kept there for life.

Another incident refers back to his early youth. On a trip from Budweis to Krems in 1942 I noticed a large plaque on a house in the village of Spital, close to the Czech border. In this house, according to the plaque, “the Fuehrer lived in his youth.” It was a handsome house in a prosperous village. I mentioned this to Hitler. He instantly flew into a rage and shouted for Bormann, who hurried in much alarmed. Hitler snarled at him: How many times had he said that this village must never be mentioned. But that idiot of a Gauleiter had gone and put up a plaque there. It must be removed at once. At the time I could not explain his excitement, since he was usually pleased when Bormann told him about the refurbishing of other sites connected with his youth around Linz and Braunau. Apparently he had some motive for erasing this part of his youth. Today, of course, these chapters of family history lost in the mists of this Austrian forest region are well known.*

*The reference is to the illegitimacy of Hitler’s father, Alois Schicklgruber.—Translator’s note

Sometimes Hitler sketched one of the towers of the historic fortifications of Linz. “Here was my favorite playground. I was a poor pupil in school, but I was the leader of our pranks. Someday I am going to have this tower made into a large youth hostel, in memory of those days.” He would also frequently speak of the first important political impressions of his youth. Almost all of his fellow pupils in Linz, he said, had distinctly felt that the immigration of the Czechs into German Austria should be stopped. This had made him conscious of the problem of nationalities for the first time. But then, in Vienna, he said, the danger of Judaism had abruptly dawned on him. Many of the workers with whom he was thrown together had been intensely anti-Semitic. In one respect, however, he had not agreed with the construction workers: “I rejected their Social Democratic views. Moreover, I never joined a union. This attitude brought me into my first political difficulties.” Perhaps this was one of the reasons he did not have good memories of Vienna—altogether in contrast to his time in Munich before the war. For he would go on and on in praise of Munich and—with surprising frequency—in praise of the good sausages to be had in its butcher shops. He spoke with unqualified respect about the Bishop of Linz in his early days, who in the face of many obstacles insisted on the unusual proportions of the cathedral he was building in Linz. The bishop had had difficulties with the Austrian government, Hitler said, because he wanted to surpass St. Stephans Cathedral and the government did not wish to see Vienna outstripped.1 Such remarks were usually followed by comments on the way the Austrian central government had crushed all independent cultural impulses on the part of cities like Graz, Linz, or Innsbruck. Hitler could say these things apparently without being aware that he was imposing the same kind of forcible regimentation upon whole countries. Now that he was giving the orders, he said, he would help his native city win its proper place. His program for the transformation of Linz into a “metropolis” envisioned a number of impressive public buildings on both sides of the Danube. A suspension bridge was to connect the two banks. The apex of his plan was a large Gau House (District Headquarters) for the National Socialist Party, with a huge meeting hall and a bell tower. There would be a crypt in this tower for his own burial place. Other impressive monuments along the shore were to be a town hall, a large theater, a military headquarters, a stadium, a picture gallery, a library, a museum of armaments, and an exhibition building, as well as a monument celebrating the liberation of Austria in 1938 and another glorifying Anton Bruckner.*

* Hitler himself had done sketches for all these structures.

The design for the picture gallery and the stadium was to be assigned to me. The stadium would be situated on a hill overlooking the city. Hitler’s residence for his old age would be located nearby, also on a height.

Hitler sometimes went into raptures over the shorelines in Budapest which had grown up on both sides of the Danube in the course of centuries. It was his ambition to transform Linz into a German Budapest. Vienna was oriented all wrong, he would comment in this connection, since it merely turned its back to the Danube. The planners had neglected to incorporate the river in their design. Thanks to what he would be doing with the river in Linz, the city might someday rival Vienna. No doubt he was not altogether serious in making such remarks; he would be tempted into them by his dislike for Vienna, which would spontaneously break out from time to time. But there were many other times when he would exclaim over the brilliant stroke of city planning accomplished in Vienna by the use of the former fortifications.

Before the war Hitler was already talking about the time when, his political goals accomplished, he would withdraw from the affairs of state and finish out his life in Linz. When this time came, he would say, he would no longer play any political part at all; for only if he withdrew completely could his successor gain authority. He would not interfere in any way. People would turn to his successor quickly enough once it became evident that power was now in those hands. Then he himself would be soon forgotten. Everyone would forsake him. Playing with this idea, with a good measure of self-pity, he continued: “Perhaps one of my former associates will visit me occasionally. But I don t count on it. Aside from Fraulein Braun, I’ll take no one with me. Fraulein Braun and my dog. I’ll be lonely. For why should anyone voluntarily stay with me for any length of time? Nobody will take notice of me anymore. They’ll all go running after my successor. Perhaps once a year they’ll show up for my birthday.” Naturally everyone at the table protested and assured him that they would remain faithful and always stay by him. Whatever Hitler’s motives may have been for these allusions to an early retirement from politics, he at any rate seemed to assume at such times that the source of his authority was not the magnetism of his personality but his position of power.

The nimbus that surrounded Hitler for those of his collaborators who did not have any intimate association with him was incomparably greater than for his immediate entourage. Members of the “retinue” did not speak respectfully of the “Fuehrer,” but of the “Chief.” They were sparing in their use of “Heil Hitler” and greeted one another with an ordinary “Guten Tag.” They even openly made fun of Hitler, without his taking offense. Thus, his standard phrase, “There are two possibilities,” would be used by one of his secretaries, Fraulein Schroder, in his presence, often in the most banal of contexts. She would say: “There are two possibilities. Either it is going to rain or it is not going to rain.” Eva Braun in the presence of his table companions might pertly call Hitler’s attention to the fact that his tie did not go with his suit, and occasionally she gaily referred to herself as “Mother of the Country.”

Once, when we were seated at the round table in the teahouse, Hitler began staring at me. Instead of dropping my eyes, I took it as a challenge. Who knows what primitive instincts are involved in such staring duels. I had had others, and always used to win them, but this time I had to muster almost inhuman strength, seemingly forever, not to yield to the ever-mounting urge to look away—until Hitler suddenly closed his eyes and shortly afterward turned to the woman at his side.

Sometimes I asked myself: Why can’t I call Hitler my friend? What is missing? I spent endless time with him, was almost at home in his private circle and, moreover, his foremost associate in his favorite field, architecture.

Everything was missing. Never in my life have I met a person who so seldom revealed his feelings, and if he did so, instantly locked them away again. During my time in Spandau I talked with Hess about this peculiarity of Hitler’s. Both of us agreed that there had been moments when we felt we had come close to him. But we were invariably disillusioned. If either of us ventured a slightly more personal tone, Hitler promptly put up an unbreakable wall.

Hess did think there had been one person with whom Hitler had had a closer bond: Dietrich Eckart. But as we talked about it, we decided that the relationship had been, on Hitler’s side, more a matter of admiration for the older man, who was regarded chiefly in anti-Semitic circles as a leading writer, than a friendship. When Eckart died in 1923 there remained four men with whom Hitler used the Du of close friendship: Hermann Esser,* Christian Weber, Julius Streicher, and Ernst Roehm.

* Hermann Esser was one of the very first party members and later became the state secretary for tourism. Christian Weber, also one of the earliest party members, was reduced to a rather limited role after 1933; among other things he was in charge of the horse races at Riem. Ernst Roehm was head of the SA and was murdered by Hitler in 1934. Julius Streicher was Germany’s foremost anti-Semite, editor of Der Stürmer and Gauleiter of Franconia.

In Esser’s case he found a pretext after 1933 to reintroduce the formal Sie; Weber he avoided; Streicher he treated impersonally; and Roehm he had killed. Even toward Eva Braun he was never completely relaxed and human. The gulf between the leader of the nation and the simple girl was always maintained. Now and then, and it always struck a faintly jarring note, he would call her Tschapperl, a Bavarian peasant pet name with a slightly contemptuous flavor.

Hitler must already have realized the immense drama that his life was, the high stakes he was playing for, by the time he had a long conversation with Cardinal Faulhaber at Obersalzberg in November 1936. Afterward Hitler sat alone with me in the bay window of the dining room, while the twilight fell. For a long time he looked out of the window in silence. Then he said pensively: “There are two possibilities for me: To win through with all my plans, or to fail. If I win, I shall be one of the greatest men in history. If I fail, I shall be condemned, despised, and damned.”

8. The New Chancellery

TO PROVIDE THE PROPER BACKGROUND FOR HIS RISE TO THE RANK OF “ONE of the greatest men in history,” Hitler now demanded an architectural stage set of imperial majesty. He described the Chancellery into which he had moved on January 30, 1933, as “fit for a soap company.” It would not do for the headquarters of a now powerful Reich, he said.

At the end of January 1938 Hitler called me to his office. “I have an urgent assignment for you,” he said solemnly, standing in the middle of the room. “I shall be holding extremely important conferences in the near future. For these, I need grand halls and salons which will make an impression on people, especially on the smaller dignitaries. For the site I am placing the whole of Voss Strasse at your disposal. The cost is immaterial. But it must be done very quickly and be of solid construction. How long do you need? For plans, blueprints, everything? Even a year and a half or two years would be too long for me. Can you be done by January 10, 1939? I want to hold the next diplomatic reception in the new Chancellery.” I was dismissed.

Hitler later described the rest of that day in his speech for the raising of the ridgepole of the building: “My Generalbauinspektor (Inspector General of Buildings) asked for a few hours time for reflection, and in the evening he came to me with a list of deadlines and told me. On such-and-such a date in March the old buildings will be gone, on August 1 we will celebrate the raising of the ridgepole, and on January 9, my Leader, I shall report completion to you.’ I myself have been in the business, in building, and know what such a schedule means. This has never happened before. It is a unique achievement.”1 Actually, it was the most thoughtless promise of my life. But Hitler seemed satisfied.

I had the razing of the houses on Voss Strasse begun at once in order to clear the site. Simultaneously, I plunged ahead with plans for the exterior of the building. The underground air-raid shelter had in fact to be started from crude sketches. But even at a later stage of the work I had to order many components before the architectural data had been definitely settled. For example, the longest delivery times were required for the enormous hand-knotted rugs which were to be used in several large salons. I decided their colors and size before I knew what the rooms they were meant for would look like. In fact the rooms were more or less designed around these rugs. I decided to forgo any complicated organizational plan and schedule, since these would only have revealed that the project could not possibly be carried out within the time limit. In many respects this improvised approach resembled the methods I was to apply four years later in directing the German war economy.

The oblong site was an invitation to string a succession of rooms on a long axis. I showed Hitler my design: From Wilhelmsplatz an arriving diplomat drove through great gates into a court of honor. By way of an outside staircase he first entered a medium-sized reception room from which double doors almost seventeen feet high opened into a large hall clad in mosaic. He then ascended several steps, passed through a round room with domed ceiling, and saw before him a gallery four hundred eighty feet long. Hitler was particularly impressed by my gallery because it was twice as long as the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Deep window niches were to filter the light, creating that pleasant effect I had seen in the Salle de Bal at the Palace of Fontainebleau.

As a whole, then, it was to be a series of rooms done in a rich variety of materials and color combinations, in all some seven hundred twenty-five feet long. Only then came Hitler’s reception hall. To be sure, it was architecture that reveled in ostentation and aimed at startling effects. But that sort of thing existed in the baroque period, too—it has always existed.

Hitler was delighted: “On the long walk from the entrance to the reception hall they’ll get a taste of the power and grandeur of the German Reich!” During the next several months he asked to see the plans again and again but interfered remarkably little in this building, even though it was destined for him personally. He let me work freely.

The haste with which Hitler was urging the building of the new Chancellery had a deeper cause in his anxiety about his health. He seriously feared that he did not have much longer to live. Since 1935 his imagination had dwelt increasingly on a stomach ailment which he tried to cure by a self-imposed regimen. He thought he knew what foods harmed him and in the course of time was prescribing a starvation diet for himself. A little soup, salad, small quantities of the lightest food—he no longer ate anything substantial. He sounded desperate when he pointed to his plate: “A man is supposed to keep alive on that! Look at it. It’s easy for the doctors to say that people ought to eat what they have an appetite for.2 Hardly anything is good for me nowadays. After every meal the pain begins. Leave out still more? Then how am I going to exist?”

He often interrupted a conference because of his gastric pains and withdrew for half an hour or more, or did not return at all. He also suffered, so he said, from excessive formation of gas, cardiac pains, and insomnia. Eva Braun once confided that he had said to her—this before he was fifty: “I’ll soon have to give you your freedom. Why should you be tied to an old man?”

His physician, Dr. Brandt, was a young surgeon who tried to persuade Hitler to undergo a thorough examination by a first-class specialist in internal medicine. All of us supported this proposal. The names of celebrated doctors were mentioned, and plans made for carrying out an examination without creating any stir, for instance at a military hospital, since secrecy could be most easily maintained there. But in the end, again and again, Hitler repulsed all such suggestions. He simply could not afford to be regarded as sick, he said. It would weaken his political position, especially abroad. He even refused to have a specialist come to his home for a preliminary examination. To my knowledge he was never seriously examined at the time, but experimented with treating his symptoms by his own theories—which accorded, incidentally, with his inveterate bent for amateurish activities.

On the other hand, when he suffered from increasing hoarseness he consulted the famous Berlin throat specialist Professor von Eicken. He underwent a thorough examination in his apartment in the Chancellery and was relieved when no cancer was detected. For months he had been referring to the fate of Emperor Frederick III, who died of cancer of the throat. The surgeon removed a harmless node. This minor operation also took place in Hitler’s apartment.

In 1935 Heinrich Hoffmann fell critically ill. Dr. Theodor Morell, an old acquaintance, tended him and cured him with sulfanilamides3 which he obtained from Hungary. Hoffmann was forever telling Hitler about the wonderful doctor who had saved his life. Undoubtedly Hoffmann meant well, though one of Morell’s talents was his ability to exaggerate immoderately any illness he cured, in order to cast his skill in the proper light.

Dr. Morell alleged that he had studied under the famous bacteriologist Ilya Mechnikov (1845-1916), Nobel Prize winner and professor at the Pasteur Institute.4 Mechnikov, he claimed, had taught him the art of combating bacterial diseases. Later, Morell had taken long voyages on passenger liners as a ship’s doctor. Undoubtedly he was not an out-and- out quack—rather a bit of a screwball obsessed with making money.

Hitler was persuaded to undergo an examination by Morell. The result surprised us all, for Hitler for the first time became convinced of a doctors importance. “Nobody has ever before told me so clearly and precisely what is wrong with me. His method of cure is so logical that I have the greatest confidence in him. I shall follow his prescriptions to the letter.” The chief finding, so Hitler said, was that he suffered from complete exhaustion of the intestinal flora, which Morell attributed to the overburdening of his nervous system. If that were cured, all the other complaints would fade away. Morell, however, wished to accelerate the restorative process by injections of vitamins, hormones, phosphorus, and dextrose. The cure would take a year; only partial results could be expected in any shorter period.

The most discussed medicine Hitler received henceforth consisted of capsules of intestinal bacteria, called “Multiflor” which were, Morell assured him, “raised from the best stock of a Bulgarian peasant.” The other injections and drugs he gave to Hitler were not generally known; they were only hinted at. We never felt entirely easy about these methods. Dr. Brandt asked around among his specialist friends, and they all pronounced Morell’s methods risky and improved and foresaw dangers of addiction. And in fact the injections had to be given more and more frequently, and biologicals obtained from the testicles and intestines of animals, as well as from chemical and plant sources, were poured into Hitler’s bloodstream. One day Goering deeply offended Morell by addressing him as “Herr Reich Injection Master.”

Soon after the beginning of the treatment, however, a foot rash vanished that had long caused Hitler much concern. After a few weeks Hitler’s stomach also improved; he ate considerably more, and heavier dishes, felt better, and fervently declared: “What luck that I met Morell! He has saved my life. Wonderful, the way he has helped me!”

If Hitler had the faculty for placing others under his spell, in this case the reverse relationship developed: Hitler was completely convinced of his personal physician’s genius and soon forbade any criticism of the man. From then on Morell belonged to the intimate circle and became—when Hitler was not present—the butt of humor, since he could talk of nothing but strepto-and other cocci, of bulls’ testicles and the newest vitamins.

Hitler kept urging all his associates to consult Morell if they had the slightest ailments. In 1936, when my circulation and stomach rebelled against an irrational working rhythm and adjustment to Hitler’s abnormal habits, I called at Morell’s private office. The sign at the entrance read: “Dr. Theodor Morell. Skin and Venereal Diseases.” Morell’s office and home were situated in the smartest part of Kurfürstendamm, near the Gedächtniskirche. The walls were hung with inscribed photographs of well-known actors and film stars. The time I was there, I shared the waiting room with the Crown Prince. After a superficial examination Morell prescribed for me his intestinal bacteria, dextrose, vitamin, and hormone tablets. For safety’s sake I afterward had a thorough examination by Professor von Bergmann, the specialist in internal medicine of Berlin University. I was not suffering from any organic trouble, he concluded, but only nervous symptoms caused by overwork. I slowed down my pace as best I could, and the symptoms abated. To avoid offending Hitler, I pretended that I was carefully following Morell’s instructions, and since my health improved I became for a time Morell’s showpiece. Hitler also had him examine Eva Braun. Afterward she told me that he was disgustingly dirty and vowed that she would not let Morell treat her again.

Hitler’s health improved only temporarily. But he would no longer part with his personal physician. On the contrary, Morell’s country house on Schwanenwerder Island near Berlin became the goal of Hitler’s teatime visits more and more frequently. It was the only place outside the Chancellery that continued to attract him. He visited Dr. Goebbels’s very rarely and came to my place at Schlachtensee only once, to see the house I had built for myself.

From the end of 1937 on, when Morell’s treatments began to fail, Hitler resumed his old laments. Even as he gave assignments and discussed plans, he would occasionally add: “I don’t know how long I am going to live. Perhaps most of these buildings will be finished only after I am no longer here… .”5 The date for the completion of many of the major buildings had been fixed between 1945 and 1950. Evidently Hitler was counting on only a few more years of life. Another example: “Once I leave here … I shall not have much more time.”6 In private one of his standard remarks became: “I shall not live much longer. I always counted on having time to realize my plans. I must carry them out myself. None of my successors will have the force to. I must carry out my aims as long as I can hold up, for my health is growing worse all the time.”

On May 2, 1938, Hitler drew up his personal will. He had already outlined his political testament on November 5, 1937, in the presence of the Foreign Minister and the military heads of the Reich. In that speech, he referred to his extensive plans for conquest as a “testamentary bequest in case of my decease.”7 With his intimate entourage, who night after night had to watch trivial operetta movies and listen to endless tirades on the Catholic Church, diet recipes, Greek temples, and police dogs, he did not reveal how literally he took his dream of world dominion.

Many of Hitler’s former associates have since attempted to establish the theory that Hitler changed in 1938. They attribute the change to his deteriorated health resulting from Morell’s treatment. It seems to me, on the contrary, that Hitler’s plans and aims never changed. Sickness and the fear of death merely made him advance his deadlines. His aims could only have been thwarted by superior counterforces, and in 1938 no such forces were visible. Quite the opposite: The successes of that year encouraged him to go on forcing the already accelerated pace.

The feverish haste with which Hitler pushed our building work seemed also connected with this inner unrest. At the Chancellery ridgepole celebration he said to the workmen: “This is no longer the American tempo; it has become the German tempo. I like to think that I also accomplish more than other statesmen accomplish in the so-called democracies. I think we are following a different tempo politically, and if it is possible to annex a country to the Reich in three or four days, why it must be possible to erect a building in one or two years.” Sometimes, however, I wonder whether his excessive passion for building did not also serve the purpose of camouflaging his plans and deceiving the public by means of building schedules and cornerstone layings.

I remember one occasion in 1938 when we were sitting in the Deutscher Hof in Nuremberg. Hitler spoke of the need to keep to oneself things not meant for the ears of the public. Among those present was Reichsleiter Philip Bouhler and his young wife. She objected that such restrictions surely did not apply to this group, since all of us knew how to keep any secret he confided to us. Hitler laughed and answered: “Nobody here knows how to keep his mouth shut, except for one person.” And he indicated me. But there were things that happened in the next several months of which he breathed no word to me.

On February 2, 1938, I saw the Commander in Chief of the Navy, Erich Raeder, crossing the main salon of the apartment, coming from a conference with Hitler. He looked utterly distraught. He was pale, staggering, like someone on the verge of a heart attack. On the day after next I learned from the newspapers that Foreign Minister von Neurath had been replaced by Ribbentrop and Army Commander in Chief von Fritsch by von Brauchitsch. Hitler personally had assumed the post of Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, replacing Field Marshal von Blomberg, and had made General Wilhelm Keitel his chief of staff.

I was acquainted with Colonel General von Blomberg from Obersalzberg; he was a pleasant, aristocratic looking man who enjoyed Hitler’s esteem and had been treated with unusual amiability until his dismissal. In the autumn of 1937, at Hitler’s suggestion, he had called at my office on Pariser Platz and looked over the plans and models for the rebuilding of Berlin. He listened calmly and with interest for about an hour. At the time he was accompanied by a general who seconded his chief’s every word by an approving nod of his head. This was Wilhelm Keitel, who had now become Hitler’s closest military assistant in the High Command of the Armed Forces. Ignorant of military hierarchy, I had taken him for Blomberg’s adjutant.

About the same time Colonel General von Fritsch, whom I had not met up to then, asked me to call at his office on Bendlerstrasse. It was not curiosity alone that prompted him to ask to see the plans for Berlin. I spread them out on a large map table. Coolly and aloofly, with a military curtness that verged on unfriendliness, he listened to my explanations. From his questions, it appeared he was considering whether Hitler’s vast building projects, extending over long periods of time, betokened any interest in preserving peace. But perhaps I was mistaken.

I also did not know the Foreign Minister, Baron von Neurath. One day in 1937 Hitler decided that Neurath’s villa was not adequate for the Foreign Ministers official duties and sent me to Frau von Neurath to offer to have the house significantly enlarged at government expense. She showed me through but stated in a tone of finality that in her opinion and that of the Foreign Minister it fully served its purpose; would I tell the Chancellor: “No, thank you.” Hitler was annoyed and did not repeat the offer. Here for once a member of the old nobility was demonstrating confident modesty and deliberately abstaining from the craving for ostentation on the part of the new masters. The same was certainly not true of Ribbentrop, who in the summer of 1936 had me come to London where he wanted the German Embassy enlarged and modernized. He wished to have it finished in time for the coronation of George VI in the spring of 1937. There would no doubt be many parties given then, and he meant to impress London society by the sumptuousness of the embassy. Ribbentrop left the details to his wife, who indulged herself in such splendors with an interior decorator from Munich’s United Workshops that I felt my services were superfluous. Toward me Ribbentrop took a conciliatory tone. But in those days in London he was always in a bad temper upon receiving cabled instructions from the Foreign Minister. This he regarded as pure meddling and would irritably and loudly declare that he cleared his actions with Hitler personally; the Fuehrer had directly assigned him to London.

Even this early many of Hitler’s political associates who hoped for good relations with England were beginning to think Ribbentrop was not the man for the job. In the autumn of 1937, Dr. Todt made an inspection trip of the various building sites for the autobahn, taking Lord Wolton along as guest. Afterward, it appeared that Lord Wolton expressed the wish, unofficially, to have Todt himself sent as ambassador to London in Ribbentrop’s place. So long as Ribbentrop remained, relations would never improve, Lord Wolton said. We took care that Hitler heard of these remarks. He did not react.

Soon after Ribbentrop’s appointment as Foreign Minister, Hitler suggested that the old Foreign Ministers villa be torn down entirely, and the former palace of the Reich President be renovated for his official residence. Ribbentrop accepted the offer.

I was in the salon of Hitler’s Berlin apartment when the second event of this year, and one which testified to the acceleration in Hitler’s political plans, began to unfold. The day was March 9, 1938. Hitler’s adjutant, Schaub, sat at the radio listening to the Innsbruck speech of Dr. Schuschnigg, the Austrian Chancellor. Hitler had withdrawn to his private study on the second floor. Apparently Schaub was waiting for something in particular. He was taking notes. Schuschnigg spoke more and more plainly, finally presenting his plan for a plebiscite in Austria. The Austrian people themselves would decide for or against independence. And then Schuschnigg sounded the watchword to his fellow countrymen: The time had come for Schaub too; he rushed upstairs to Hitler. A short while later, Goebbels in full dress and Goering in gala uniform hustled in. They were coming from some party, for the Berlin season for balls was in full swing, and vanished upstairs for some mysterious conference.

Once more enlightenment came to me several days later and via the newspapers. On March 13, German troops marched into Austria. Some three weeks later I too drove to Vienna by car to prepare the hall of the Northwest Railroad Station for a grand rally. Everywhere in towns and villages German cars were cheered. At the Hotel Imperial in Vienna I encountered the sordid hidden side of the rejoicing over the Anschluss. Many bigwigs from the Reich, such as Berlin Police Commissioner Count Helldorf, had hurried there, lured by the well-stocked shops. “They still have good underclothing… . Wool blankets, as many as you like… . I’ve discovered a place for foreign liqueurs… Scraps of the conversations in the hotel lobby. I felt repelled and limited myself to buying a Borsalino. Did any of this concern me?

Shortly after the annexation of Austria, Hitler sent for a map of Central Europe and showed his reverently listening entourage how Czechoslovakia was now caught in a “pincers.” For years to come he would recall how magnanimously Mussolini had given his consent to the invasion of Austria. He would remain eternally grateful to the Duce for that, Hitler said. For Austria had been an invaluable buffer zone for Italy. To have German troops standing at the Brenner Pass would in the long run cause a certain strain. Hitler’s Italian journey of 1938 was partly intended as an assurance of friendship. But he was also eager to see the monuments and art treasures of Rome and Florence. Resplendent uniforms were designed for the entourage and shown to Hitler. He loved such pomp; that his own dress was modest was a matter of careful strategy. “My surroundings must look magnificent. Then my simplicity makes a striking effect.” About a year later Hitler turned to the stage designer Benno von Arent, known for his sets for opera and operettas, and had him design new uniforms for diplomats. He was pleased by the frock coats laden with gold braid. But wits remarked: “They look like a scene from Die Fledermaus.” Arent also designed medals for Hitler; those too would have looked great on the stage. Thereafter I used to call Arent: “Tinsmith of the Third Reich.”

Back from Italy, Hitler summed up his impressions: “How glad I am that we have no monarchy and that I have never listened to those who have tried to talk me into one. Those court flunkies and that etiquette! It’s awful. And the Duce always in the background. The best places at all the dinners and on the platforms are taken by the royal family. The Duce was always kept at a remove, and yet he is the one who really runs the government.” By diplomatic protocol Hitler, as Chief of State, was treated as of equal rank with the King, Mussolini only as Prime Minister.

Even after the visit, Hitler felt obliged to do something special to honor Mussolini. He decided that Berlin’s Adolf Hitler Platz would bear Mussolini’s name after it had been incorporated into the major urban renewal project for Berlin.8 Privately, he thought this square appalling, disfigured as it was by “modem” buildings of the Weimar Republic. But: “If we rename it Mussolini Platz, I am rid of it, and besides it seems like an exceptional honor to cede my own square to the Duce. I already have designed a Mussolini monument for it!” Nothing came of the project, since the rebuilding plans were never carried out.

The dramatic year 1938 led finally to Hitler’s wresting the consent of the Western powers for the partition of Czechoslovakia. A few weeks before Hitler had put on an exceptionally effective performance at the Nuremberg Party Rally, playing the enraged leader of his nation; and supported by the frenzied applause of his followers, he tried to convince the contingent of foreign observers that he would not shrink from war. That was, judged with benefit of hindsight, intimidation on a grand scale. He had already tested this technique in his conference with Schuschnigg. On the other hand, he loved to sharpen his mettle by such audacities, going so far that he could no longer retreat without risking his prestige.

This time he wanted even his closest associates to believe in his feint. He explained the various considerations to them and stressed the inevitability of a military showdown, whereas his usual behavior was to veil his basic intentions. What he said about his resolve for war impressed even Bruckner, his chief adjutant of many years. In September 1938, during the Party Rally, I was sitting with Bruckner on a wall of Nuremberg Castle. Wreathed in smoke, the old city lay before us, in the mild September sunshine. Downcast, Bruckner remarked: “We may be seeing this peaceful scene for the last time. Probably we shall soon be at war.”

The war Bruckner was predicting was averted again more because of the compliance of the Western powers than because of any reasonableness on Hitler’s part. The surrender of the Sudetenland to Germany took place before the eyes of a frightened world and of Hitler’s followers, now completely convinced of their leader’s invincibility.

The Czech border fortifications caused general astonishment. To the surprise of experts a test bombardment showed that our weapons would not have prevailed against them. Hitler himself went to the former frontier to inspect the arrangements and returned impressed. The fortifications were amazingly massive, he said, laid out with extraordinary skill and echeloned, making prime use of the terrain. “Given a resolute defense, taking them would have been very difficult and would have cost us a great many lives. Now we have obtained them without loss of blood. One thing is certain: I shall never again permit the Czechs to build a new defense line. What a marvelous starting position we have now. We are over the mountains and already in the valleys of Bohemia.”

On November 10, driving to the office, I passed by the still smoldering ruins of the Berlin synagogues. That was the fourth momentous event that established the character of this last of the prewar years. Today, this memory is one of the most doleful of my life, chiefly because what really disturbed me at the time was the aspect of disorder that I saw on Fasanenstrasse: charred beams, collapsed façades, burned-out walls— anticipations of a scene that during the war would dominate much of Europe. Most of all I was troubled by the political revival of the “gutter.” The smashed panes of shop windows offended my sense of middle-class order.

I did not see that more was being smashed than glass, that on that night Hitler had crossed a Rubicon for the fourth time in his life, had taken a step that irrevocably sealed the fate of his country. Did I sense, at least for a moment, that something was beginning which would end with the annihilation of one whole group of our nation? Did I sense that this outburst of hoodlumism was changing my moral substance? I do not know.

I accepted what had happened rather indifferently. Some phrases of Hitler’s, to the effect that he had not wanted these excesses, contributed to this attitude. Later, in private, Goebbels hinted that he had been the impresario for this sad and terrible night, and I think it very possible that he confronted a hesitant Hitler with a fait accompli in order to force him to take the initiative.

It has repeatedly surprised me, in later years, that scarcely any anti-Semitic remarks of Hitler’s have remained in my memory. Out of the scraps that remain, I can reconstruct what crossed my mind at the time: dismay over the deviation from the image I wanted to have of Hitler, anxiety over the increasing deterioration of his health, hope for some letup of the struggle against the churches, a certain puzzlement at his partiality for utopian-sounding remote goals, all sorts of odd feelings —but Hitler’s hatred for the Jews seemed to me so much a matter of course that I gave it no serious thought.

I felt myself to be Hitler’s architect. Political events did not concern me. My job was merely to provide impressive backdrops for such events. And this view was reinforced daily, for Hitler consulted me almost exclusively on architectural questions. Moreover, it would have been regarded as self-importance on the part of a man who was pretty much of a latecomer in the party had I attempted to participate in the political discussions. I felt that there was no need for me to take any political positions at all. Nazi education, furthermore, aimed at separatist thinking; I was expected to confine myself to the job of building. The grotesque extent to which I dung to this illusion is indicated by a memorandum of mine to Hitler as late as 1944: “The task I have to fulfill is an unpolitical one. I have felt at ease in my work only so long as my person and my work were evaluated solely by the standard of practical accomplishments “9

But fundamentally the distinction was inconsequential. Today it seems to me that I was trying to compartmentalize my mind. On the one hand there was the vulgar business of carrying out a policy proclaimed in the anti-Semitic slogans printed on streamers over the entrances to towns. On the other hand there was my idealized picture of Hitler. I wanted to keep these two apart. Actually, it did not matter, of course, who mobilized the rabble of the gutter to attack synagogues and Jewish businesses, it did not matter whether this happened at Hitler’s direct instigation or merely with his approval.

During the years after my release from Spandau I have been repeatedly asked what thoughts I had on this subject during my two decades alone in the cell with myself; what I actually knew of the persecution, the deportation, and the annihilation of the Jews; what I should have known and what conclusions I ought to have drawn.

I no longer give the answer with which I tried for so long to soothe the questioners, but chiefly myself: that in Hitler’s system, as in every totalitarian regime, when a man’s position rises, his isolation increases and he is therefore more sheltered from harsh reality; that with the application of technology to the process of murder the number of murderers is reduced and therefore the possibility of ignorance grows; that the craze for secrecy built into the system creates degrees of awareness, so it is easy to escape observing inhuman cruelties.

I no longer give any of these answers. For they are efforts at legalistic exculpation. It is true that as a favorite and later as one of Hitler’s most influential ministers I was isolated. It is also true that the habit of thinking within the limits of my own field provided me, both as architect and as Armaments Minister, with many opportunities for evasion. It is true that I did not know what was really beginning on November 9, 1938, and what ended in Auschwitz and Maidanek. But in the final analysis I myself determined the degree of my isolation, the extremity of my evasions, and the extent of my ignorance.

I therefore know today that my agonized self-examinations posed the question as wrongly as did the questioners whom I have met since my release. Whether I knew or did not know, or how much or how little I knew, is totally unimportant when I consider what horrors I ought to have known about and what conclusions would have been the natural ones to draw from the little I did know. Those who ask me are fundamentally expecting me to offer justifications. But I have none. No apologies are possible.

The New Chancellery was supposed to be finished on January 9. On January 7, Hitler came to Berlin from Munich. He came in a mood of great suspense and obviously expecting to find teams of workmen and cleaning squads rushing about. Everyone knows the frantic atmosphere at a building site shortly before the building is to be handed over to the occupant: scaffoldings being dismantled, dust and rubbish being removed, carpets being unrolled and pictures hung. But his expectations were deceived. From the start we had given ourselves a few days reserve. We did not need them and therefore were finished forty-eight hours before the official handing over of the building. Hitler could have sat down at his desk right then and there and begun working on the affairs of government.

The building greatly impressed him. He highly praised the “genius of the architect” and, quite contrary to his habit, said so to me. But the fact that I had managed to finish the task two days early earned me the reputation of being a great organizer.

Hitler especially liked the long tramp that state guests and diplomats would now have to take before they reached the reception hall. Unlike me, he was not worried about the polished marble floor, which I was reluctant to cover with a runner. “That’s exactly right; diplomats should have practice in moving on a slippery surface.”

The reception hall struck him as too small; he wanted it tripled in size. The plans for this were ready at the beginning of the war. His study, on the other hand, met with his undivided approval. He was particularly pleased by an inlay on his desk representing a sword half drawn from its sheath. “Good, good… . When the diplomats sitting in front of me at this desk see that, they’ll learn to shiver and shake.”

From the gilded panels I had installed over the four doors of his study, four Virtues looked down on him: Wisdom, Prudence, Fortitude, and Justice. I don’t know what suggested this idea to me. I had put two sculptures by Amo Breker in the Round Salon, flanking the portal to the Great Gallery. One of them represented Daring, the other Caring.10 This rather pathetic hint on the part of my friend Breker that audacity should be tempered with responsibility, as well as my own allegorical reminder that bravery was a virtue but that the other virtues should not be forgotten, showed how naïvely we overestimated the influence of art. But it also betrayed a certain uneasiness on our part over the course things were taking.

A large marble-topped table stood by the window, useless for the time being. From 1944 on, military conferences were held at it. Here outspread strategic maps showed the rapid advance of the western and eastern enemies into the territory of the German Reich. This was Hitler’s penultimate military headquarters; the ultimate one was located five hundred feet away, under many feet of concrete. The hall for cabinet meetings, completely paneled in wood for acoustic reasons, found favor with Hitler, but he never used it for the intended purpose. Every so often a cabinet minister asked me whether I could arrange for him at least to see “his” room. Hitler gave permission, and so now and then a minister would stand for a few minutes at the place he had never taken, where a large blue leather desk pad, with his name embossed in gold letters, lay on the conference table.

Forty-five hundred workers had labored in two shifts to meet the deadline. There were several thousand more scattered over the country who had produced components. The whole work force, masons, carpenters, plumbers, and so on, were invited to inspect the building and filed awestruck through the finished rooms. Hitler addressed them in the Sportpalast:

I stand here as representative of the German people. And whenever I receive anyone in the Chancellery, it is not the private individual Adolf Hitler who receives him, but the Leader of the German nation—and therefore it is not I who receive him, but Germany through me. For that reason I want these rooms to be in keeping with their high mission. Every individual has contributed to a structure that will outlast the centuries and will speak to posterity of our times. This is the first architectural creation of the new, great German Reich!

After meals he frequently asked which of his guests had not yet seen the Chancellery, and he was delighted whenever he could show one of them through. On such occasions he liked to show off his ability to store up data. Thus, he would begin by asking me: “How large is this room? How high?” I would shrug my shoulders in embarrassment, and he would give the measurements. They were exactly right. Gradually this developed into a prearranged game, since I too became adept at rattling off the figures. But since it obviously gave him pleasure, I played along.

Hitler’s honors to me increased. He arranged a dinner in his residence for my closest associates; he wrote an essay for a book on the Chancellery, conferred the Golden Party Badge on me, and with a few shy words gave me one of the watercolors he had done in his youth. A Gothic church done in 1909, it is executed in an extremely precise, patient, and pedantic style. No personal impulses can be felt in it; not a stroke has any verve. But it is not only the brush strokes that lack all character; by its choice of subject, the flat colors, the conventional perspective, the picture seems a candid witness to this early period of Hitler. All his watercolors from the same time have this quality, and even the watercolors done while he was an orderly in the First World War lack distinctiveness. The transformation in Hitler’s personality, the growth of selfassurance, came later. It is evident in the two pen sketches for the great hall in Berlin and for the triumphal arch, which he drew about 1925. Ten years later he would often sketch with a vigorous hand, using red and blue pencil, sometimes going over and over his drawing until he had forced his way through to the conception he had dimly in mind. Nevertheless he still thought well enough of the modest watercolors of his youth to give them away occasionally as a special distinction.

For decades a marble bust of Bismarck by Reinhold Begas had stood in the Chancellery. A few days before the dedication of the new building, while workmen were moving the bust to the new headquarters, it dropped and broke off at the neck. I felt this as an evil omen. And since I had heard Hitler’s story that right at the beginning of the First World War the Reich eagle had toppled from the post-office building, I kept the accident a secret and had Amo Breker make an exact copy. We gave it some patina by steeping it in tea.

In the aforementioned speech Hitler made the following pronouncement: “This is the special and wonderful property of architecture: When the work has been done, a monument remains. That endures; it is something different from a pair of boots, which also can be made, but which the wearer wears out in a year or two and then throws away. This remains, and through the centuries will bear witness to all those who helped to create it.” On January 10, 1939, the new building destined to last for centuries was dedicated: Hitler received the diplomats accredited to Berlin in the Grand Salon and delivered his New Year address to them.

Sixty-five days after the dedication, on March 15, 1939, the President of Czechoslovakia was ushered into Hitler’s new study. This room was the scene of the tragedy which ended at night with Hacha’s submission and early in the morning with the occupation of his country. “At last,” Hitler reported later, “I had so belabored the old man that his nerves gave way completely, and he was on the point of signing; then he had a heart attack. In the adjoining room Dr. Morell gave him an injection, but in this case it was too effective. Hacha regained too much of his strength, revived, and was no longer prepared to sign, until I finally wore him down again.”

On July 16, 1945, seventy-eight months after the dedication, Winston Churchill was shown through the Chancellery. “In front of the Chancellery there was a considerable crowd. When I got out of the car and walked among them, except for one old man who shook his head disapprovingly, they all began to cheer. My hate had died with their surrender, and I was much moved by their demonstrations.” Then the party walked for a good while through the shattered corridors and halls of the Chancellery.

Soon afterward the remains of the building were removed. The stone and marble supplied the materials for the Russian war monument in Berlin-Treptow.

9. A Day in the Chancellery

Between forty and fifty persons had access to hitler’s afternoon dinner table in the Chancellery. They needed only to telephone his adjutant and say they would be coming. Usually they were the Gauleiters and Reichsleiters of the party, a few cabinet ministers, the members of the inner circle, but no army officers except for Hitler’s Wehrmacht adjutant. More than once this adjutant, Colonel Schmundt, urged Hitler to allow the leading military men to dine with him; but Hitler would not have it. Perhaps he realized that the quality of his regular associates was such that the officers’ corps would soon be looking down on them.

I too had free admission to Hitler’s residence and often availed myself of it. The policeman at the entrance to the front garden knew my car and opened the gate without making inquiries; I would park my car in the yard and enter the apartment that Troost had rebuilt. It extended along the right side of the new Chancellery and was connected with it by a hall.

The SS member of Hitler’s escort squad greeted me familiarly. I would hand him my roll of drawings and then, unaccompanied, like someone who belonged to the household, step into the spacious entrance hall: a room with two groups of comfortable seats, the white walls adorned with tapestries, the dark-red marble floor richly covered with rugs. There would usually be several guests there conversing, while others might be making private telephone calls. In general this room was favored because it was the only one where smoking was permitted.

It was not at all customary to use the otherwise mandatory “Heil Hitler” in greeting; a “Guten Tag” was far more common. The party lapel badge was also little flaunted in this circle, and uniforms were relatively seldom seen. Those who had penetrated as far as this privileged group could allow themselves a certain informality.

Through a square reception salon, which thanks to its uncomfortable furniture remained unused, you reached the actual living room, where the guests would be chatting, usually standing. This room, about a thousand square feet in area, was the only one in the entire apartment furnished with a measure of Gemütlichkeit. Out of respect for its Bismarckian past it had been preserved during the major reconstruction of 1933-34 and had a beamed ceiling, wood wainscoting, and a fireplace adorned by a Florentine Renaissance coat of arms which Chancellor von Bülow had once brought back from Italy. This was the only fireplace on the lower floor. Around it were grouped a sofa and chairs upholstered in dark leather; behind the sofa stood a largish table with a marble top on which several newspapers usually lay. A tapestry and two paintings by Schinkel hung on the walls. They had been lent by the National Gallery for the Chancellor’s apartment.

Hitler was royally unreliable about the time of his appearance. The dinner was usually set for about two o’clock, but it was apt to be three or later before Hitler arrived, sometimes from the upper private rooms of the apartment, often from a conference in the Chancellery. His entrance was as informal as that of any private individual. He greeted his guests by shaking hands; everyone gathered in a circle around him. He would express his opinion on one or another problem of the day; with a few favored guests he inquired, usually in a conventional tone, about the wellbeing of “your spouse.” Then he took the news excerpts from his press chief, sat down off to one side, and began to read. Sometimes he would pass an excerpt on to one of the guests because the news seemed especially interesting to him, and would throw out a few casual remarks about it.

The guests would continue to stand around for another fifteen or twenty minutes, until the curtain was drawn away from a glass door that led to the dining room. The house steward, a man with the encouraging bulk of a restaurateur, would inform Hitler quietly, in a tone in keeping with the whole Unpublic atmosphere, that dinner was ready. The Fuehrer would lead the way; the others followed him into the dining room without

Of all the rooms in the Chancellors apartment that Professor Troost had redecorated, this large square dining room (forty by forty feet) was the most harmonious. A wall with three glass doors led out to the garden. Opposite was a large buffet of palisander wood; above it hung a painting by Kaulbach which had a certain charm because it was unfinished; at any rate it was without some of the embarrassing aspects of that eclectic painter. Each of the two other walls was marked by a shallow recess in which, on pedestals of marble, stood nude studies by the Munich sculptor Josef Wackerle. To either side of the recesses were more glass doors which led to the pantry, to a large salon, and into the living room from which we had come. Smoothly plastered walls, painted ivory, and equally light-colored curtains, produced a feeling of openness and brightness. Slight jogs in the walls carried out the clean, austere rhythm; a molding held it all together. The furnishing was restrained and restful: a large round table for about fifteen persons, ringed by simple chairs with dark red leather seats. The chairs were all alike, the host’s no more elaborate than the rest. At the comers of the room stood four more small tables, each with from four to six similar chairs. The tableware consisted of light, plain china and simple glasses; both had been selected by Professor Troost before his death. A few flowers in a bowl formed the centerpiece.

Such was the “Merry Chancellor’s Restaurant,” as Hitler often called it in speaking to his guests. He had his seat on the window side of the room, and before entering would select which of the guests would be seated at his side. All the rest sat down around the table wherever they found a place. If many guests came, the adjutants and persons of lesser importance, among whom I belonged, took seats at the side tables—an advantage, I always thought, since there we could talk with less constraint.

The food was emphatically simple. A soup, no appetizer, meat with vegetables and potatoes, a sweet. For beverage we had a choice between mineral water, ordinary Berlin bottled beer, or a cheap wine. Hitler was served his vegetarian food, drank Fachinger mineral water, and those of his guests who wished could imitate him. But few did. It was Hitler himself who insisted on this simplicity. He could count on its being talked about in Germany. Once, when the Helgoland fishermen presented him with a gigantic lobster, this delicacy was served at table, much to the satisfaction of the guests, but Hitler made disapproving remarks about the human error of consuming such ugly monstrosities. Moreover, he wanted to have such luxuries forbidden, he declared.

Goering seldom came to these meals. Once, when I left him to go to dinner at the Chancellery, he remarked: “To tell the truth, the food there is too rotten for my taste. And then, these party dullards from Munich! Unbearable.”

Hess came to table about once every two weeks; he would be followed by his adjutant in a rather weird get-up, carrying a tin vessel containing a specially prepared meal which was to be rewarmed in the kitchen. For a long time it was hidden from Hitler that Hess had his own special vegetarian meal served to himself. When someone finally gave the secret away, Hitler turned irritably to Hess in the presence of the assembled company and blustered: “I have a first-class diet cook here. If your doctor has prescribed something special for you, she will be glad to prepare it. But you cannot bring your food with you.” Hess, even then inclining to obstinate contrariness, began explaining that the components of his meals had to be of special biodynamic origin. Whereupon Hitler bluntly informed him that in that case he should take his meals at home. Thereafter Hess scarcely ever came to the dinners.

When, at the instance of the party, word was sent out that all households in Germany should eat a one-dish meal on Sundays, thereby promoting guns instead of butter, only a tureen of soup was served at Hitler’s table too. The number of Sunday guests thereafter shrank to two or three, which provoked some sarcastic remarks from Hitler about the spirit of sacrifice among his associates. For there would also be a list passed around the table, with every guest pledging his donation to the war effort. Every one-dish meal cost me fifty or a hundred marks.

Goebbels was the most prominent guest at table; Himmler seldom came; Bormann of course never missed a meal, but like me he belonged to the inner group of courtiers and could not be considered a guest.

Here, too, Hitler’s conversation at table did not go beyond the very narrow range of subjects and the limited point of view that made the Obersalzberg talk so wearisome. In Berlin he tended to phrase his opinions more harshly, but the repertory remained the same; he neither extended nor deepened it, scarcely ever enriched it by new approaches and insights. He did not even try to cover up the frequent repetitions which were so embarrassing to his listeners. I cannot say that I found his remarks impressive, even though I was still captivated by his personality. What he said rather sobered me, for I had expected opinions and judgments of higher quality.

In these monologues he frequently asserted that his political, artistic, and military ideas formed a unity which he had developed in detail between the ages of twenty and thirty. That had been intellectually his most fertile period, he said; the things he was now planning and doing were only the execution of the ideas of that period.

In the table talk much weight was given to experiences in the First World War. Most of the guests had served during the war. For a time Hitler had been in the trenches opposite the British forces, whose bravery and determination had won his respect, although he also often made fun of their idiosyncrasies. Thus he liked to relate with heavy irony that they were in the habit of stopping their artillery fire exactly at teatime, so that he as a courier was always able to carry out his errands safely at that hour.

In 1938 he expressed no ideas of revenge upon the French; he did not want a rerun of the war of 1914. It was not worth waging another war, he said, over that insignificant strip of territory constituting Alsace-Lorraine. Besides, he would add, the Alsatians had become so characterless due to the constant shifting of their nationality that it would be a gain to neither side to have them. They ought to be left where they were. In saying this, of course, Hitler was assuming that Germany could expand to the east. The bravery of the French soldiers had impressed him in the First World War; only the officer corps was morally enfeebled. “With German officers the French would be a splendid army.”

He did not exactly repudiate the alliance with Japan—from the racist point of view a dubious affair—but he took a tone of reserve toward it as far as the more distant future was concerned. Whenever he touched on this theme, he implied that he was somewhat sorry about having made an alliance with the so-called yellow race. But then he would remind himself that England, too, had mobilized Japan against the Central Powers in the World War. Hitler considered Japan an ally that ranked as a world power, whereas he was not convinced that Italy was in the same class.

The Americans had not played a very prominent part in the war of 1914-18, he thought, and moreover had not made any great sacrifices of blood. They would certainly not withstand a great trial by fire, for their fighting qualities were low. In general, no such thing as an American people existed as a unit; they were nothing but a mass of immigrants from many nations and races.

Fritz Wiedemann, who had once been regimental adjutant and superior to Hitler in his days as a courier and whom Hitler had now with signal lack of taste made his own adjutant, thought otherwise and kept urging Hitler to have talks with the Americans. Vexed by this offense against the unwritten law of the round table, Hitler finally sent him to San Francisco as German consul general. “Let him be cured of his notions there.”

Those who took part in these table conversations were almost to a man without cosmopolitan experience. Most had never been outside Germany; if one of them had taken a pleasure trip to Italy, the matter was discussed at Hitler’s table as if it were an event and the person in question was considered a foreign affairs expert. Hitler, too, had seen nothing of the world and had acquired neither knowledge nor understanding of it. Moreover, the average party politician lacked higher education. Of the fifty Reichsleiters and Gauleiters, the elite of the leadership, only ten had completed a university education, a few had attended university classes for a while, and the majority had never gone beyond secondary school. Virtually none of them had distinguished himself by any notable achievement in any field whatsoever. Almost all displayed an astonishing intellectual dullness. Their educational standard certainly did not correspond to what might be expected of the top leadership of a nation with a traditionally high intellectual level. Basically, Hitler preferred to have people of the same origins as himself in his immediate entourage; no doubt he felt most at ease among them. In general he was pleased if his associates showed some “flaw in the weave,” as we called it at the time. As Hanke commented one day: “It is all to the good if associates have faults and know that the superior is aware of them. That is why the Fuehrer so seldom changes his assistants. For he finds them easiest to work with. Almost every one of them has his defect; that helps keep them in line.” Immoral conduct, remote Jewish ancestors, or recent membership in the party were counted as flaws in the weave.

Hitler would often theorize to the effect that it was a mistake to export ideas such as National Socialism. To do so would only lead to a strengthening of nationalism in other countries, he said, and thus to a weakening of his own position. He was glad to see that the Nazi parties of other countries produced no leader of his own caliber. He considered the Dutch Nazi leader Mussert and Sir Oswald Mosley, chief of the British Nazi party, mere copyists who had had no original or new ideas. They only imitated us and our methods slavishly, he commented, and would never amount to anything. In every country you had to start from different premises and change your methods accordingly, he argued. He had a better opinion of Degrelle, but did not expect much of him either.

Politics, for Hitler, was purely pragmatic. He did not except his own book of confessions and professions, Mein Kampf, from this general rule. Large parts of it were no longer valid, he said. He should not have let himself be pinned down to definite statements so early. After hearing that remark I gave up my fruitless efforts to read the book.

When ideology receded into the background after the seizure of power, efforts were made to tame down the party and make it more respectable. Goebbels and Bormann were the chief opponents of that tendency. They were always trying to radicalize Hitler ideologically. To judge by his speeches, Ley must also have belonged to the group of tough ideologists, but lacked the stature to gain any significant influence. Himmler, on the other hand, obviously was going his own absurd way, which was compounded of beliefs about an original Germanic race, a brand of elitism, and an assortment of health-food notions. The whole thing was beginning to assume far-fetched pseudoreligious forms. Goebbels, with Hitler, took the lead in ridiculing these dreams of Himmler’s, with Himmler himself adding to the comedy by his vanity and obsessiveness. When, for example, the Japanese presented him with a samurai sword, he at once discovered kinships between Japanese and Teutonic cults and called upon scientists to help him trace these similarities to a racial common denominator.

Hitler was particularly concerned with the question of how he could assure his Reich a new generation of followers committed to his ideas. The general outlines of a plan were drafted by Ley, to whom Hitler had also entrusted the organization of the educational system. Adolf Hitler Schools were established for the elementary grades and Ordensburgen (Order Castles) for higher education. These were meant to turn out a technically and ideologically trained elite. To be sure, all this elite would have been good for was positions in a bureaucratic party administration, since thanks to their isolated and specialized education the young people knew nothing about practical life, while on the other hand their arrogance and conceit about their own abilities were boundless. It was significant that the high party functionaries did not send their own children into these schools; even so fanatical a party member as Gauleiter Sauckel refrained from launching a single one of his many boys on such a course. Conversely, Bormann sent one of his sons to an Adolf Hitler School as punishment.

In Bormann’s mind, the Kirchenkampf, the campaign against the churches, was useful for reactivating party ideology which had been lying dormant. He was the driving force behind this campaign, as was time and again made plain to our round table. Hitler was hesitant, but only because he would rather postpone this problem to a more favorable time. Here in Berlin, surrounded by male cohorts, he spoke more coarsely and bluntly than he ever did in the midst of his Obersalzberg entourage. “Once I have settled my other problems,” he occasionally declared, “I’ll have my reckoning with the church. I’ll have it reeling on the ropes.”

But Bormann did not want this reckoning postponed. Brutally direct himself, he could ill tolerate Hitler’s prudent pragmatism. He therefore took every opportunity to push his own projects. Even at meals he broke the unspoken rule that no subjects were to be raised which might spoil Hitler’s humor. Bormann had developed a special technique for such thrusts. He would draw one of the members of the entourage into telling him about seditious speeches a pastor or bishop had delivered, until Hitler finally became attentive and demanded details. Bormann would reply that something unpleasant had happened and did not want to bother Hitler with it during the meal. At this Hitler would probe further, while Bormann pretended that he was reluctantly letting the story be dragged from him. Neither the angry looks from his fellow guests nor Hitler’s gradually flushing face deterred him from going on. At some point he would take a document from his pocket and begin reading passages from a defiant sermon or a pastoral letter. Frequently Hitler became so worked up that he began to snap his fingers—a sure sign of his anger—pushed away his food and vowed to punish the offending clergyman eventually. He could much more easily put up with foreign indignation and criticism than opposition at home. That he could not immediately retaliate raised him to a white heat, though he usually managed to control himself quite well.

Hitler had no humor. He left joking to others, although he could laugh loudly, abandonedly, sometimes literally writhing with laughter. Often he would wipe tears from his eyes during such spasms. He liked laughing, but it was always laughter at the expense of others.

Goebbels was skilled at entertaining Hitler with jokes while at the same time demolishing any rivals in the internal struggle for power. “You know” he once related, “the Hitler Youth asked us to issue a press release for the twenty-fifth birthday of its staff chief, Lauterbacher. So I sent along a draft of the text to the effect that he had celebrated this birthday ‘enjoying full physical and mental vigor.’ We heard no more from him.” Hitler doubled up with laughter, and Goebbels had achieved his end of cutting the conceited youth leader down to size.

To the dinner guests in Berlin, Hitler repeatedly talked about his youth, emphasizing the strictness of his upbringing. “My father often dealt me hard blows. Moreover, I think that was necessary and helped me.” Wilhelm Frick, the Minister of the Interior, interjected in his bleating voice: “As we can see today, it certainly did you good, mein Führer” A numb, horrified silence around the table. Frick tried to save the situation: “I mean, mein Führer, that is why you have come so far.” Goebbels, who considered Frick a hopeless fool, commented sarcastically: “I would guess you never received a beating in your youth, Frick.”

Walther Funk, who was both Minister of Economics and president of the Reichsbank, told stories about the outlandish pranks that his vice president, Brinkmann, had gone on performing for months, until it was finally realized that he was mentally ill. In telling such stories Funk not only wanted to amuse Hitler but to inform him in this casual way of events which would sooner or later reach his ears. Brinkmann, it seemed, had invited the cleaning women and messenger boys of the Reichsbank to a grand dinner in the ballroom of the Hotel Bristol, one of the best hotels in Berlin, where he played the violin for them. This sort of thing rather fitted in with the regime’s propaganda of all Germans forming one “folk community.” But as everyone at table laughed, Funk continued: “Recently he stood in front of the Ministry of Economics on Unter den Linden, took a large package of newly printed banknotes from his briefcase—as you know, the notes bear my signature—and gave them out to passers-by, saying: Who wants some of the new Funks?’ “*

*A pun in German; Funken — sparks.—Translators’ note.

Shortly afterward, Funk continued, the poor man’s insanity had become plain for all to see. He called together all the employees of the Reichsbank. “ ‘Everyone older than fifty to the left side, the younger employees to the right.’ ” Then, to one man on the right side: “’How old are you?’—Forty-nine sir.’—’You go to the left too. Well now, all on the left side are dismissed at once, and what is more with a double pension.’ “

Hitler’s eyes filled with tears of laughter. When he had recovered, he launched into a monologue on how hard it sometimes is to recognize a madman. In this roundabout way Funk was also accomplishing another end. Hitler did not yet know that the Reichsbank vice president in his irresponsible state had given Goering a check for several million marks.

Goering cashed the check without a qualm. Later on, of course, Goering vehemently objected to the thesis that Brinkmann did not know what he was doing. Funk could expect him to present this point of view to Hitler. Experience had shown that the person who first managed to suggest a particular version of an affair to Hitler had virtually won his point, for Hitler never liked to alter a view he had once expressed. Even so, Funk had difficulties recovering those millions of marks from Goering.

A favorite target of Goebbels’s jokes and the subject of innumerable anecdotes was Rosenberg, whom Goebbels liked to call “the Reich philosopher.” On this subject Goebbels could be sure that Hitler agreed with him. He therefore took up the theme so frequently that the stories resembled carefully rehearsed theatrical performances in which the various actors were only waiting for their cues. Hitler was almost certain to interject at some point: “The Völkischer Beobachter is just as boring as its editor, Rosenberg. You know, we have a so-called humor sheet in the party, Die Brennessel. The dreariest rag imaginable. And on the other hand the VB is nothing but a humor sheet.” Goebbels also made game of the printer Muller, who was doing his best both to keep the party and not to lose his old customers, who came from strictly Catholic circles in Upper Bavaria. His printing program was certainly versatile, ranging from pious calendars to Rosenberg’s antichurch writings. But Muller was allowed considerable leeway; in the twenties he had gone on printing the Völkischer Beobachter no matter how large the bill grew.

Many jokes were carefully prepared, tied up as they were with actual events, so that Hitler was kept abreast of interparty developments under the guise of foolery. Again, Goebbels was far better at this than all the others, and Hitler gave him further encouragement by showing that he was very much amused.

An old party member, Eugen Hadamowski, had obtained a key position as Reichssendeleiter (Head of Broadcasting for the Reich), but now he was longing to be promoted to Leiter des Reichsrundfunks (Head of the Reich Radio System). The Propaganda Minister, who had another candidate, was afraid that Hitler might back Hadamowski because he had skillfully organized the public address systems for the election campaigns before 1933. He had Hanke, state secretary in the Propaganda Ministry, send for the man and officially informed him that Hitler had just appointed him Reichsintendant (General Director) for radio. At the table Hitler was given an account of how Hadamowski had gone wild with joy at this news. The description was, no doubt, highly colored and exaggerated, so that Hitler took the whole affair as a great joke. Next day Goebbels had a few copies of a newspaper printed reporting on the sham appointment and praising the new appointee in excessive terms. He outlined the article for Hitler, with all its ridiculous phrases, and acted out Hadamowski’s rapture upon reading these things about himself. Once more Hitler and the whole table with him was convulsed. That same day Hanke asked the newly appointed Reichsintendant to make a speech into a dead microphone, and once again there was endless merriment at Hitler’s table when the story was told. After this, Goebbels no longer had to worry that Hitler would intervene in favor of Hadamowski. It was a diabolic game; the ridiculed man did not have the slightest opportunity to defend himself and probably never realized that the practical joke was carefully plotted to make him unacceptable to Hitler. No one could even know whether what Goebbels was describing was true or whether he was giving his imagination free rein.

From one point of view, Hitler was the real dupe of these intrigues. As far as I could observe, Hitler was in fact no match for Goebbels in such matters; with his more direct temperament he did not understand this sort of cunning. But it certainly should have given one pause that Hitler allowed this nasty game to go on and even encouraged it. One word of displeasure would certainly have stopped this sort of thing for a long while to come.

I often asked myself whether Hitler was open to influence. He surely could be swayed by those who knew how to manage him. Hitler was mistrustful, to be sure. But he was so in a cruder sense, it often seemed to me; for he did not see through clever chess moves or subtle manipulation of his opinions. He had apparently no sense for methodical deceit. Among the masters of that art were Goering, Goebbels, Bormann, and, within limits, Himmler. Since those who spoke out in candid terms on the important questions usually could not make Hitler change his mind, the cunning men naturally gained more and more power.

Let me conclude my account of afternoon dinners in the Chancellery by relating another joke of this perfidious type. This time the target was the foreign press chief, Putzi Hanfstaengl, whose close personal ties with Hitler were a source of uneasiness to Goebbels. Goebbels began casting aspersions on Hanfstaengl’s character, representing him as miserly, money grubbing, and of dubious honesty. He once brought in a phonograph record of an English song and attempted to prove that Hanfstaengl had stolen its melody for a popular march he had composed.

The foreign press chief was already under a cloud when Goebbels, at the time of the Spanish Civil War, told the table company that Hanfstaengl had made adverse remarks about the fighting spirit of the German soldiers in combat there. Hitler was furious. This cowardly fellow who had no right to judge the courage of others must be given a lesson, he declared. A few days later Hanfstaengl was informed that he must make a plane trip; he was given sealed orders from Hitler which were not to be opened until after the plane had taken off. Once in the air, Hanfstaengl read, horrified, that he was to be put down in “Red Spanish territory” where he was to work as an agent for Franco. At the table Goebbels told Hitler every detail: How Hanfstaengl pleaded with the pilot to turn back; it must all be a misunderstanding, he insisted. But the plane, Goebbels related, continued circling for hours over German territory, in the clouds. The passenger was given false location reports, so that he believed he was approaching closer and closer to Spanish territory. Finally the pilot announced that he had to make an emergency landing and set the plane down safely at Leipzig airport. Hanfstaengl, who only then realized that he had been the victim of a bad joke, began asserting that there was a plot against his life and soon afterward vanished without a trace.

All the chapters in this story elicited great merriment at Hitler’s table —all the more so since in this case Hitler had plotted the joke together with Goebbels. But when word came a few days later that the missing press chief had sought asylum abroad, Hitler became afraid that Hanfstaengl would collaborate with the foreign press and profit by his intimate knowledge of the Third Reich. But for all his reputation for money grubbing, Hanfstaengl did nothing of the sort.

I too, found myself going along with this streak in Hitler, who seemed to enjoy destroying the reputation and self-respect of even his close associates and faithful comrades in the struggle for power. But although I was still under Hitler’s spell, my feeling had evolved considerably from what it had been during the early years of our association. Seeing him daily as I did, I acquired some perspective and occasionally a capacity for critical observation.

My close relation with him, moreover, centered increasingly around architecture. To be able to serve him with all my ability and to translate his architectural ideas into reality still filled me with enthusiasm. In addition, the larger and more important my building assignments became, the more respect others paid me. I was on the way, I thought at the time, to creating a body of work that would place me among the most famous architects of history. My sense of this also made me feel that I was not just the recipient of Hitler’s favor. Rather, I was offering him a return of equal value for having established me as an architect. What is more, Hitler treated me like a colleague and often made it clear that I stood above him where architecture was concerned.

Dining with Hitler regularly meant a considerable loss of time, for we sat at table until half past four in the afternoon. Naturally, hardly anyone could afford to squander so much time every day. I too went to the meals no more than once or twice a week, for otherwise I would have had to neglect my work.

Yet it was important for one’s prestige to attend these dinners. Moreover, it was important to most of the guests to be kept abreast of Hitler’s daily opinions. The round table was useful to Hitler himself as well, for in this way he could casually and effortlessly hand down a political line or slogan. On the other hand, Hitler was apt to speak little about his own work, say about the outcome of an important conference. Whenever he did allude to such matters, it was usually for the purpose of commenting critically upon an interlocutor.

Some of the guests would throw out their bait during the meal itself, in hopes of being granted a special interview with Hitler. They would mention that they had brought along photographs of the latest stage of a building project. Other favorite baits were photographs of the sets for some newly staged work, preferably a Wagner opera or an operetta. But the infallible attraction was always: “Mein Führer, I have brought you new building plans.” The guest who said that could be fairly certain that Hitler would reply: “Oh, good, show them to me right after dinner.” To be sure, the other diners frowned on such direct approaches. But otherwise one might wait for months before receiving an official appointment to see Hitler.

When the meal was over, Hitler rose, the guests said brief good-bys, and the favored guest was led into the adjacent salon, which for some inexplicable reason was called the “conservatory.” On such occasions Hitler would often say to me: “Wait a moment. There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.” The moment often turned into an hour or more. Then Hitler would have me called in. Now he behaved quite informally, sat opposite me in one of the comfortable chairs and inquired about the progress of my buildings.

By this time it was often six o’clock. Hitler went to his rooms on the upper floor, while I drove to my office, frequently for only a short time. The adjutant might telephone to say that Hitler had asked me to come to supper, which meant I had to return to the Chancellor’s apartment two hours later. But often, when I had plans to show, I went unasked.

From six to eight persons would assemble on those evenings: his adjutants, his doctor, the photographer Hoffmann, one or two Munich acquaintances, quite often Hitler’s pilot Bauer along with his radio man and onboard mechanic, and the inevitable Bormann. This was the most private circle in Berlin, for political associates such as Goebbels were usually not wanted in the evenings. The level of the conversations was a distinct stage lower than at the afternoon affairs. The talk wandered off into trivialities. Hitler liked to hear about the theater. Scandals also interested him. The pilot talked about flying; Hoffmann contributed anecdotes about Munich artistic circles and reported on his art collecting. But usually Hitler would tell stories about his life and development.

The meal again consisted of simple dishes. Kannenberg, the house steward, did try a few times to serve better food for these rather private meals. For a few weeks Hitler actually ate caviar by the spoonful with gusto, and praised the taste, which was new to him. But then he asked Kannenberg about the price, was horrified, and gave strict orders against having that again. Thereupon the cheaper red caviar was served him, but that too he rejected as an extravagance. To be sure, these expenses were insignificant in comparison with the total outlay for the Chancellor’s household. But the idea of a caviar-eating Leader was incompatible with Hitler’s conception of himself.

After supper the company moved into the salon, which was otherwise reserved for official occasions. Everyone settled into easy chairs; Hitler unbuttoned his jacket and stretched out his legs. The lights slowly dimmed, while household employees, including some of the women, and members of Hitler’s bodyguard were admitted through a rear door. The first movie began. There we sat, as at Obersalzberg, mute for some three or four hours, and when these films came to an end at about one in the morning, we stood up stiff and dazed. Hitler alone seemed sprightly; he discoursed on the actors’ performances, spoke appreciatively of the art of one of his favorite actors, then went on to other subjects. The conversation was continued at a sluggish pace in the small drawing room. Beer, wine, and sandwiches were handed around, until Hitler at last said good night at about two o’clock in the morning. I frequently reflected that this mediocre group was assembling at the same spot where Bismarck used to talk brilliantly with friends and political associates.

A few times I suggested inviting a famous pianist or a scientist, in order to introduce a new element into the monotony of these evenings. But Hitler always fended off anything of this sort. “The artists would not be so eager to come as they say.” In fact many of them would have regarded such an invitation as a distinction. Probably Hitler did not want to have the sluggish, banal conclusion of his daily routine disturbed; he was fond of it. Moreover, I often observed that Hitler felt a certain shyness toward people of high standing in some professional field. He did receive them occasionally, but in the reserved atmosphere of an official audience. Perhaps that was one of the reasons he had picked out so very young an architect as myself. He did not feel such an inferiority complex toward me.

During the early years after 1933 the adjutants were permitted to invite ladies, some of them screen stars selected by Goebbels. But as a rule only married women were admitted, usually with their husbands. Hitler followed this rule in order to forestall rumors which might harm the image shaped by Goebbels of a Leader whose style of life was absolutely respectable. Toward these women Hitler behaved rather like the graduate of a dance class at the final dance. He displayed a shy eagerness to do nothing wrong, to offer a sufficient number of compliments, and to welcome them and bid them good-by with the Austrian kissing of the hand. When the party was over, he usually sat around for a while with his private circle to rave a bit about the women. He spoke more about their figures than their charm or cleverness, and always there was something in his tone of the schoolboy who is convinced that his wishes are unattainable. Hitler loved tall, full-figured women; Eva Braun, who was rather small and delicate of build, was actually not at all his type.

Abruptly, sometime in 1935, as I recall, this practice ceased from one day to the next. I never learned the reason for this; perhaps it was due to some gossip. Whatever the reason, Hitler suddenly announced that henceforth the invitations to women were to stop. From then on he contented himself with the stars in the nightly movies.

Around 1939 Eva Braun was assigned a bedroom in the Berlin residence. It adjoined his; the windows looked out on a narrow courtyard. Here even more than in Obersalzberg she led a completely isolated life, stealing into the building through a side entrance and going up a rear staircase, never descending into the lower rooms, even when there were only old acquaintances in the apartment, and she was overjoyed whenever I kept her company during her long hours of waiting.

In Berlin, Hitler very seldom went to the theater, except to see operettas. He would never miss a new production of the by now classical operettas such as Die Fledermaus and The Merry Widow. I am certain that I saw Die Fledermaus with him at least five or six times in cities all over Germany. He customarily contributed considerable sums from Bormann’s privy purse to have the operetta put on in lavish style.

In addition he liked revues. He went to the Wintergarten several times to attend a Berlin variety show and would certainly have gone more frequently but for the fact that he was embarrassed to be seen there. Sometimes he sent his house steward in his place and then late in the evening would look over the program and ask for an account of what had gone on. Several times he also went to the Metropol Theater which put on insipid musicals with plenty of scantily clad girls.

During the Bayreuth Festival every year he attended every single performance of the first cycle. It seemed to a musical layman like myself that in his conversations with Frau Winifred Wagner he displayed knowledge about musical matters in detail; but he was even more concerned about the directing.

Aside from Bayreuth, however, he very seldom attended performances of operas, and his initially rather keen interest in theater also dwindled. Even his enthusiasm for Bruckner never seemed very marked and imposed no obligations on others. Although a movement from a Bruckner symphony was played before each of his “cultural speeches” at the Nuremberg Party Rallies, for the rest he merely took care that Bruckner’s works continued to be fostered at St. Florian. He saw to it, however, that his public image of a man passionately devoted to art was cultivated.

I never found out whether and to what extent Hitler had an interest in literature. Mostly he talked about books on military science, naval matters and architecture, which he would pore over with great interest during the night hours. On other books he made no comment.

I myself threw all my strength into my work and was baffled at first by the way Hitler squandered his working time. I could understand that he might wish his day to trail off in boredom and pastimes; but to my notion this phase of the day, averaging some six hours, proved rather long, whereas the actual working session was by comparison relatively short. When, I would often ask myself, did he really work? Little was left of the day; he rose late in the morning and conducted one or two official conferences; but from the subsequent dinner on he more or less wasted time until the early hours of the evening.1 His rare appointments in the late afternoon were imperiled by his passion for looking at building plans. The adjutants often asked me: “Please don’t show any plans today.” Then the drawings I had brought with me would be left by the telephone switchboard at the entrance, and I would reply evasively to Hitler’s inquiries. Sometimes he saw through this game and would himself go to look in the anteroom or the cloakroom for my roll of plans.

In the eyes of the people Hitler was the Leader who watched over the nation day and night. This was hardly so. But Hitler’s lax scheduling could be regarded as a life style characteristic of the artistic temperament. According to my observations, he often allowed a problem to mature during the weeks when he seemed entirely taken up with trivial matters. Then, after the “sudden insight” came, he would spend a few days of intensive work giving final shape to his solution. No doubt he also used his dinner and supper guests as sounding boards, trying out new ideas, approaching these ideas in a succession of different ways, tinkering with them before an uncritical audience, and thus perfecting them. Once he had come to a decision, he relapsed again into his idleness.

10. Our Empire Style

WENT TO HITLER’S EVENINGS ONCE OR TWICE A WEEK. AROUND MIDNIGHT, after the last movie had been run, he sometimes asked to see my roll of drawings and studied every detail until two or three o’clock in the morning. The other guests withdrew for a glass of wine, or went home, aware that there would be little chance to have a word with Hitler once he was caught up in his ruling passion.

Hitler’s favorite project was our model city, which was set up in the former exhibition rooms of the Berlin Academy of Arts. In order to reach it undisturbed, he had doors installed in the walls between the Chancellery and our building and a communicating path laid out. Sometimes he invited the supper guests to our studio. We would set out armed with flashlights and keys. In the empty halls spotlights illuminated the models. There was no need for me to do the talking, for Hitler, with flashing eyes, explained every single detail to his companions.

There was keen excitement when a new model was set up and illuminated by brilliant spots from the direction in which the sun would fall on the actual buildings. Most of these models were made on a scale of 1:50; cabinetmakers reproduced every small detail, and the wood was painted to simulate the materials that would actually be used. In this way whole sections of the grand new avenue were gradually put together, and we could have a three-dimensional impression of the building intended to be a reality in a decade. This model street went on for about a hundred feet through the former exhibition rooms of the Academy of Arts.

Hitler was particularly excited over a large model of the grand boulevard on a scale of 1:1000. He loved to “enter his avenue” at various points and take measure of the future effect. For example, he assumed the point of view of a traveler emerging from the south station or admired the great hall as it looked from the heart of the avenue. To do so, he bent down, almost kneeling, his eye an inch or so above the level of the model, in order to have the right perspective, and while looking he spoke with unusual vivacity. These were the rare times when he relinquished his usual stiffness. In no other situation did I see him so lively, so spontaneous, so relaxed, whereas I myself, often tired and even after years never free of a trace of respectful constraint, usually remained taciturn. One of my close associates summed up the character of this remarkable relationship: “Do you know what you are? You are Hitler’s unrequited love!”

These rooms were kept under careful guard and no one was allowed to inspect the grand plan for the rebuilding of Berlin without Hitler’s express permission. Once, when Goering had examined the model of the grand boulevard, he had his escort walk on ahead, then said in a deeply moved tone: “A few days ago the Fuehrer spoke to me about my mission after his death. He leaves me free to handle everything as I think best. But he made me promise one thing, that I would never replace you by anyone else after his death; that I would not tamper with your plans, but let you take complete charge. And that I must place the money for the buildings at your disposal, all the money you ask for.” Goering made an emotional pause. “I solemnly took the Fuehrer’s hand and promised him that, and I now make the same promise to you.” Whereupon, he gave me a long and sentimental handshake.

My father, too, came to see the work of his now famous son. He only shrugged his shoulders at the array of models: “You’ve all gone completely crazy.” The evening of his visit we went to the theater and saw a comedy in which Heinz Rühmann was appearing. By chance Hitler was at the same performance. During the intermission he sent one of his adjutants to ask whether the old gentleman sitting beside me was my father; then he asked us both to his box. When my father—still erect and self-controlled in spite of his seventy-five years—was introduced to Hitler, he was overcome by a violent quivering such as I had never seen him exhibit before, nor ever did again. He turned pale, did not respond to Hitler’s lavish praise of his son, and then took his leave in silence. Later, my father never mentioned this meeting, and I too avoided asking him about the fit of nerves that the sight of Hitler had produced in him.

“You’ve all gone completely crazy.” Nowadays, when I leaf through the numerous photos of models of our one-time grand boulevard, I see that it would have turned out not only crazy, but also boring.

We had, of course, recognized that lining the new avenue solely with public buildings would lead to a certain lifelessness and had therefore reserved two-thirds of the length of the street for private buildings. With Hitler’s support we fended off efforts by various government agencies to displace these business buildings. We had no wish for an avenue consisting solely of ministries. A luxurious movie house for premieres, another cinema for the masses accommodating two thousand persons, a new opera house, three theaters, a new concert hall, a building for congresses, the so-called House of the Nations, a hotel of twenty-one stories, variety theaters, mass and luxury restaurants, and even an indoor swimming pool, built in Roman style and as large as the baths of Imperial Rome, were deliberately included in the plans with the idea of bringing urban life into the new avenue.1 There were to be quiet interior courtyards with colonnades and small luxury shops set apart from the noise of the street and inviting strollers. Electric signs were to be employed profusely. The whole avenue was also conceived by Hitler and me as a continuous sales display of German goods which would exert a special attraction upon foreigners.

Whenever, nowadays, I look through the plans and the photos of the models, even these varied parts of the avenue strike me as lifeless and regimented. When on the morning after my release from imprisonment I passed one of these buildings on the way to the airport,2 I saw in a few seconds what I had been blind to for years: our plan completely lacked a sense of proportion. We had set aside block units of between five hundred feet and six hundred and sixty feet even for private businesses. A uniform height had been imposed on all the buildings, as well as on all the store fronts. Skyscrapers, however, were banished from the foreground. Thus we deprived ourselves of all the contrasts essential for animating and loosening the pattern. The entire conception was stamped by a monumental rigidity that would have counteracted all our efforts to introduce urban life into this avenue.

Our happiest concept, comparatively speaking, was the central railroad station, the southern pole of Hitler’s grand boulevard. The station, its steel ribbing showing through sheathings of copper and glass, would have handsomely offset the great blocks of stone dominating the rest of the avenue. It provided for four traffic levels linked by escalators and elevators and was to surpass New York’s Grand Central Station in size.

State visitors would have descended a large outside staircase. The idea was that as soon as they, as well as ordinary travelers, stepped out of the station they would be overwhelmed, or rather stunned, by the urban scene and thus the power of the Reich. The station plaza, thirty-three hundred feet long and a thousand feet wide, was to be lined with captured weapons, after the fashion of the Avenue of Rams which leads from Karnak to Luxor. Hitler conceived this detail after the campaign in France and came back to it again in the late autumn of 1941, after his first defeats in the Soviet Union.

This plaza was to be crowned by Hitler’s great arch or “Arch of Triumph,” as he only occasionally called it. Napoleons Arc de Triomphe on the Place de l’Etoile with its one-hundred-sixty-foot height certainly presents a monumental appearance and provides a majestic terminus to the Champs Elysées. Our triumphal arch, five hundred and fifty feet wide, three hundred and ninety-two feet deep, and three hundred and eighty-six feet high, would have towered over all the other buildings on this southern portion of the avenue and would literally have dwarfed them.

After trying a few times in vain, I no longer had the courage to urge any changes on Hitler. This was the heart of his plan; he had conceived it long before encountering the purifying influence of Professor Troost, and the arch was the classic example of the architectural fantasies he had worked out in his lost sketchbook of the twenties. He remained impervious to all my hints that the monument might be improved by a change of proportions or a simplification of lines and did not demur when on the plans I delicately indicated the architect by three X’s. Everyone would know who the “anonymous” architect was.

Sighting through the two hundred sixty foot opening of the great arch, the arriving traveler would see at the end of a three-mile vista the street’s second great triumphal structure rearing out of the haze of the metropolis: the great hall with its enormous dome, described in an earlier chapter.

Eleven separate ministry buildings adorned the avenue between the triumphal arch and the great hall. I had already designed quarters for the ministries of the Interior, Transportation, Justice, Economics, and Food when, after 1941, I was told to include a Colonial Ministry in my plans.3 In other words, even after the invasion of Russia, Hitler was dreaming of acquiring German colonies. The ministers, who hoped that our program would result in concentration of their offices, now distributed throughout Berlin, were disappointed. For by Hitler’s decree the new buildings were to serve chiefly for purposes of prestige, not for the housing of the bureaucratic apparatus.

After the monumental central section, the avenue once more resumed its business and entertainment character for a distance of more than half a mile and ended with the round plaza at the intersection with Potsdamer Strasse. Proceeding northward it once more began to be ceremonial. On the right rose Soldiers’ Hall, designed by Wilhelm Kreis: a huge cube whose purpose Hitler had never stated frankly, but was probably to be a combination of armory and veterans’ memorial. At any rate, after the armistice with France he gave orders that the dining car in which the surrender of Germany had been signed in 1918 and the surrender of France in 1940 was to be brought here as the hall’s first exhibit. A crypt was planned for the tombs of celebrated German field marshals of the past, present, and future.4 Stretching westward behind the hall as far as Bendlerstrasse were to be the buildings for a new High Command of the Army.5

After inspecting these plans Goering felt that his Air Ministry had been demoted. He asked me to be his architect,*

*Despite my official position as General Inspector of Buildings, Hitler allowed me to design major buildings as a private architect. The general procedure for the reconstruction of Berlin was to call in private architects to design the official buildings as well as the commercial buildings.

and opposite the soldiers’ hall, on the edge of the Tiergarten, we found an ideal building site for his purposes. Goering was enraptured by my plans for his new building (which after 1940 went by the name of Office of the Reich Marshal, in order to do justice to the multitude of positions he held), but Hitler was less so. “The building is too big for Goering,” he commented. “He’s puffing himself up too much. All in all, I don’t like his taking my architect for that purpose.” Although he privately grumbled a good deal over Goering’s plans, he never found the courage to speak out on the matter. Goering knew Hitler and reassured me: “Just let the matter be and don’t worry about it. We’ll build it that way, and in the end the Füehrer will be delighted.”

Hitler often showed similar forbearance in personal matters. Thus he overlooked the marital misdemeanors of his entourage—unless, as in the Blomberg case,6 the scandal could be made to serve a political purpose. He could also smile at someone’s craving for pomp and make acid remarks in private without so much as hinting to the person concerned that he disapproved of his conduct.

The design for Goering’s headquarters provided for extensive series of stairways, halls, and salons which took up more room than the offices themselves. The heart of the building was to be an imposing hall with a great flight of stairs rising through four stories, which would never have been used since everyone would of course have taken the elevator. The whole thing was pure spectacle. This was a decisive step in my personal development from the neoclassicism I had first espoused, and which was perhaps still to be seen in the new Chancellery, to a blatant nouveau riche architecture of prestige. An entry for May 5, 1941, in my office journal records that the Reich Marshal was highly pleased with the model of his building. The staircase especially delighted him. Here he would stand, he declared, when he proclaimed the watchword of the year for the officers of the air force. The office journal preserves more of his magniloquence.

“In tribute to this, the greatest staircase in the world,” Goering continued, “Breker must create a monument to the Inspector General of Buildings. It will be installed here to commemorate forever the man who so magnificently shaped this building.”

This part of the ministry, with its eight hundred feet of frontage on the grand boulevard, was supplemented by a wing of equal size, on the Tiergarten side, which contained the ballrooms Goering had stipulated as well as his private apartment. I situated the bedrooms on the top story. Alleging the need for air-raid protection, I decided to cover the roof with thirteen feet of garden soil, which meant that even large trees would have been able to strike root there. Thus I envisioned a two and a half acre roof garden, with swimming pools and tennis courts, fountains, ponds, colonnades, pergolas, and refreshment rooms, and finally a summer theater for two hundred and forty spectators above the roofs of Berlin. Goering was overwhelmed and began raving about the parties he would hold there. “I’ll illuminate the great dome with Bengal lights and provide grand fireworks for my guests.”

Without the basements, Goering’s building would have had a volume of seven hundred and fifty-four thousand cubic yards; the volume of Hitler’s newly built Chancellery was only five hundred and twenty thousand cubic yards. Nevertheless, Hitler did not feel that Goering had outstripped him. In that speech of August 1, 1938, in which he disclosed so many of his theories on architecture, Hitler let it be known that according to the great plan for the rebuilding of Berlin the newly completed Chancellery would be used for ten or twelve years. The plan, he said, provided for a residence and seat of government many times larger. After an inspection of Hess’s party headquarters in Berlin, Hitler had abruptly decided on the final destiny of the Voss Strasse Chancellery. At Hess’s headquarters Hitler was unpleasantly impressed by a stairwell painted a fiery red and furnishings that were considerably plainer and more austere than the ocean-liner style he and the other party and government leaders inclined toward. Back at the Chancellery, Hitler criticized his deputy’s taste in no uncertain terms: “Hess is totally un-artistic. I must never let him build anything new. After a while he’ll receive the present Chancellery as his headquarters, and he won’t be allowed to make the slightest changes in it, because he’s completely ignorant on such matters.” This kind of criticism, especially of a man’s aesthetic judgment, could sometimes spell an end to a career, and in the case of Rudolf Hess it was generally so taken. But Hitler never said a word of this to Hess. Hess could only observe that his standing must have fallen by the courtiers’ reserved attitude toward him thereafter.

There was to be a huge railroad station to the north as well as to the south of the city. Emerging from it, the visitor would face a basin of water thirty-three hundred feet long and eleven hundred and fifty-five feet wide, across which the great dome was to be seen a mile away. We did not intend to take our water from the Spree, polluted as it was by the filth of the city. As a lover of water sports, I wanted this artificial lake to be clean enough for swimming. Dressing cabins, boathouses, and refreshment terraces were to line this vast open-air pool in the heart of the city; presumably it would have presented a remarkable contrast to the massive buildings that were to be reflected in the lake. The reason for my lake was very simple: The marshy subsoil made the land unfit for building purposes.

Three enormous buildings were to stand on the western side of the lake. In the middle would be the new Berlin Town Hall, some fifteen hundred feet in length. Hitler and I favored different designs; after many discussions my arguments prevailed, even against Hitler’s persistent opposition. The Town Hall was flanked by the new High Command of the Navy and the new Berlin Police Headquarters. On the eastern side of the lake, in the midst of gardened areas, a new German War Academy was to be built. The plans for all these buildings were completed.

This avenue between the two central railroad stations was meant to spell out in architecture the political, military, and economic power of Germany. In the center sat the absolute ruler of the Reich, and in his immediate proximity, as the highest expression of his power, was the great domed hall which was to be the dominant structure of the future Berlin. At least the planning would reflect Hitler’s statement: “Berlin must change its face in order to adapt to its great new mission.”7

For five years I lived in this world of plans, and in spite of all their defects and absurdities I still cannot entirely tear myself away from it all. When I look deep into myself for the reasons for my present hatred of Hitler, I sometimes think that in addition to all the terrible things he perpetrated I should perhaps include the personal disappointment his warmaking brought to me; but I also realize that these plans could only have sprung from his unscrupulous game of power.

Designs of such scale naturally indicate a kind of chronic megalomania, which is reason enough to dwell on these grandiose plans. Yet that broad boulevard, those new central railroad stations with their underground communications, are not so excessive by present-day standards when skyscrapers and public buildings all over the world have reached similar proportions. Perhaps it was less their size than the way they violated the human scale that made them abnormal. The great domed hall, Hitler’s future Chancellery, Goering’s grandiose ministry, the Soldiers’ Hall, and the triumphal arch—I saw all these buildings with Hitler’s political eyes. Once, when we were contemplating the model city, he took my arm and with moist eyes confided: “Now do you understand why we are building all this on such a scale? The capital of the Germanic Empire—if only my health were good… .”

Hitler was in a hurry for work to start on the five-mile-long core of his plan. After involved calculations I promised him that all the buildings would be completed by 1950. This was the spring of 1939. I had imagined that in setting such an early date, based as it was on a nonstop work program, I would give him special pleasure, so I was somewhat dashed when he merely accepted this deadline. Perhaps he was thinking about his military plans, which of course made a mockery of my calculations.

At other times, however, he was so intent upon finishing within the intended period and seemed to be looking forward to 1950 with such eagerness, that if his architectural fantasies were only meant to conceal his imperialistic aims they would have been the best of all his deceits. His frequent allusions to the political importance of this project should have alerted me to the real nature of his plans; but the way he seemed to assume that my building operations in Berlin would go forward undisturbed offset these suspicions. I was accustomed to his occasionally saying things that sounded hallucinatory; in retrospect it is easier to find the thread between this trancelike state and the building projects.

Hitler was extremely concerned that our designs should not be publicized. Only parts were made known, since we could not work entirely in secret; too many persons were engaged on preliminary jobs. Thus we occasionally permitted glimpses of aspects of the plan that seemed innocuous, and Hitler even let me publish an article outlining the basic idea of our urban renewal.8 But when the cabaret humorist Werner Fink made fun of these projects he was sent off to a concentration camp, although this may not have been his only sin. His arrest took place, incidentally, just the day before I meant to attend his show as proof that I was not offended.

Our caution extended even to details. When we were considering tearing down the tower of the Berlin Town Hall, we launched a trial balloon by having State Secretary Karl Hanke insert a “readers letter” in a Berlin newspaper. When angry protests from the populace poured in, I postponed the matter. Our aim in general was to spare the feelings of the public in carrying out our plans. Thus we considered, for example, what to do about charming Monbijou Palace, since a museum was planned for the site. We decided to reconstruct it in the park of Charlottenburg Palace.9 Even the radio tower was to be preserved for similar reasons. The Victory Column, while it would break the line of our projected avenue, was also not to be razed. Hitler regarded it as a monument of German history. In fact, he was going to make the column more impressive by adding a tambour to increase its height. He drew a sketch of the improvement; the drawing has been preserved. In discussing the matter he made fun of the thrift practiced by the State of Prussia even at the height of its triumph, pinching pennies by saving on the height of its column.

I estimated the total cost of the Berlin rebuilding at between four and six billion Reichsmark, which at present-day building costs would have been between 16 and 24 billion Deutsche Mark (DM). Spread over eleven years, this meant about five hundred million Reichsmark to be allocated annually to the project. This was by no means a utopian proposal, for it amounted to only one twenty-fifth of the total volume of the German construction industry.*

*According to Rolf Wagenführ, Die deutsche Industrie im Kriege 1939-1945 (Berlin, 1954), 12.8 billion Reichsmarks were spent on building projects in 1939.

To further reassure myself, I proposed another comparison, though a highly dubious one. I calculated what percentage of the total tax revenues of the Prussian state the notably thrifty King Frederick William I of Prussia, the father of Frederick the Great, had expended on his buildings in Berlin. It was many times our projected expenditures, which amounted to only 3 per cent of the 15 billion, 700 million Reichsmark tax revenues. But the parallel was questionable because the revenues of the early eighteenth century cannot be compared with the taxation of the present day.

Professor Hettlage, my budgetary adviser, commented sardonically about our approach to the matter: “For the municipality of Berlin expenditures have to be governed by income; for us it is the other way around.”10 As Hitler and I saw it, our annual 500 million should not be represented as a single appropriation. Rather, it was to be divided among as many budgets as possible. Every ministry and every government office was to pay for its new quarters out of its individual budget, just as the government railroad system would pay for the modernization of its Berlin installations, and the city of Berlin for streets and subways. Private industry would of course cover its own costs.

By 1938 we had settled these details, and Hitler took some glee in the cunning of it all: “Distributed this way,” he commented, “the cost of the whole thing won’t attract attention. All that we’ll finance ourselves will be the great hall and the triumphal arch. We’ll call on the people to make contributions. In addition the Finance Minister is to place 60 million annually at the disposal of your office. Whatever we don’t use of this can be put aside for the future.” By 1941 I had already accumulated 218 million marks.11 In 1943—the sum had meanwhile increased to three hundred twenty million—the Finance Minister proposed, and I agreed, that the account be quietly dissolved. We never said a word to Hitler about this.

Finance Minister von Schwerin-Krosigk, aghast at this squandering of public funds, repeatedly made objections. Lest these disturb me, Hitler fetched up counter arguments:

If the Finance Minister could realize what a source of income to the state my buildings will be in fifty years! Remember what happened with Ludwig II. Everyone said he was mad because of the cost of his palaces. But today? Most tourists go to Upper Bavaria solely to see them. The entrance fees alone have long since paid for the building costs. Don’t you agree? The whole world will come to Berlin to see our buildings. All we need do is tell the Americans how much the Great Hall cost. Maybe well exaggerate a bit and say a billion and a half instead of a billion. Then they’ll be wild to see the most expensive building in the world.

Each time he sat over the plans he was apt to repeat: “My only wish, Speer, is to live to see these buildings. In 1950 we’ll organize a world’s fair. Until then the buildings will remain empty, and then they’ll serve as exhibition buildings. We’ll invite the entire world.” That was the way Hitler talked; it was difficult to guess his real thoughts. To console my wife, who saw the next eleven years devoted entirely to work with no prospect of any family life, I promised her a trip around the world in 1950.

Hitler’s idea of distributing the cost of the project over as many shoulders as possible actually worked out. For Berlin, wealthy, prospering and increasingly the center of national authority, attracted more and more government officials. Industries responded to this by making impressive additions to their Berlin headquarters. So far there had been only one avenue which functioned as “Berlin’s show window”: Unter den Linden. Big companies were lured to the broad new boulevard partly in the expectation of avoiding the traffic jams of the old prestige streets, partly because building lots were relatively cheap in this still undeveloped area. At the outset of my work I received many applications for building projects which would otherwise have been scattered at random throughout the city. Thus, soon after Hitler’s accession to power the large new building of the Reichsbank had been put up in an out-of-the-way quarter; several blocks had been tom down to make room for it. Incidentally, one day after dinner Himmler pointed out that the longitudinal and transverse wings had the shape of a Christian cross. This, he maintained, was obviously a veiled attempt on the part of the Catholic architect Wolf to glorify the Christian religion. Hitler knew enough about building to be merely amused by such points.

Within a few months after the plans were finally drafted and even before the shifting of the railroad tracks had been completed, the first available section of the avenue, three quarters of a mile long, was assigned to the various builders. Applications from ministries, private companies, and government departments for some of the other building sites, which would not be available for several years, increased to such an extent that all the sites along the entire four and a half miles were taken. What is more, we had to begin allocating sites south of the south station. With some difficulty we restrained Dr. Robert Ley, head of the German Labor Front, from using the enormous funds he collected from workmen’s contributions to buy up a fifth of the entire length of the boulevard for his own purposes. Even so, he obtained a block a thousand feet in length, which he planned to make into a huge amusement area.

Among the motives for this burst of building fever was, of course, the desire to curry favor with Hitler by erecting important edifices. Since the expenses for such buildings were higher than they would have been on ordinary sites, I suggested to Hitler that he commend the people who commissioned the buildings for all the additional millions they were spending. The idea appealed to him immediately. “Why not have a medal for those who have rendered service to art? We’ll award it very rarely and chiefly to those who have financed a major building. A lot can be done with medals.” Even the British Ambassador thought (and he was not wrong) that he was ingratiating himself with Hitler when he proposed building a new embassy within the framework of the Berlin renewal plan. Mussolini, too, was extremely interested in the project.*

*Sir Neville Henderson in Failure of a Mission (New York, 1940), p. 48, wrote:

My idea, therefore, was to exchange the Embassy, which the German Government would have been glad to use for government offices, for some large site on a comer of one of Hitler’s new thoroughfares. … I spoke both to Goering and Ribbentrop of this plan and asked them to let Hitler know that I contemplated it. I suggested that they might inform him and that I meant one day to talk to him about it and hoped it would form part of a general understanding with Germany.

According to the Office Journal, August 20, 1941, Alfieri mentioned that “the Duce takes an extraordinary interest in German architecture and has already asked him if he knows Speer.”

Although Hitler did not reveal the full extent of his ambitions in the realm of architecture, there was plenty of discussion about what he did make public. As a result, there was a boom in architecture. Had Hitler been interested in breeding horses, a passion for horse breeding would undoubtedly have sprung up among the leading men in the Reich. As it was, there was a veritable flood of designs with a Hitlerian cast. True, no such thing as a style of the Third Reich developed, but buildings took a definite cast, marked by certain eclectic elements. Soon this mode became almost universal. Yet Hitler was by no means doctrinaire. He realized full well that an autobahn restaurant or a Hitler Youth home in the country should not look like an urban building. Nor would it ever have occurred to him to build a factory in his public-display style; in fact, he could become enthusiastic over an industrial building in glass and steel. But any public building in a nation that was on the point of creating an empire must, he thought, have a particular stamp.

The plans for Berlin inspired a host of designs for other urban programs. Every Gauleiter henceforth wanted to immortalize himself in his own city. Almost every one of the plans provided, as did my Berlin design, for intersecting axes; they imitated my design even to the orientation. The Berlin model had become a rigid pattern.

In conferring with me over plans, Hitler perpetually drew sketches of his own. They were casually tossed off but accurate in perspective; he drew outlines, cross sections, and renderings to scale. An architect could not have done better. Some mornings he would show me a well-executed sketch he had prepared overnight, but most of his drawings were done in a few hasty strokes during our discussions.

I kept these quick sketches of Hitler’s, noting their dates and subjects, and have preserved them to this day. It is interesting that of a total of one hundred and twenty-five such drawings, a good fourth of them relate to the Linz building project, which was always closest to his heart. Equally frequent are sketches for theaters. One morning he surprised me with a neatly drawn design for a commemorative shaft for Munich, which was to be a new symbol of the city dwarfing the towers of the Frauenkirche. He regarded this project, like the Berlin triumphal arch, as his very own, and did not hesitate to make revisions, based on his own sketch, in the design of a Munich architect. Even today these changes strike me as real improvements, providing better for the transition between the static elements of the base and the dynamic thrust of the column.

Hermann Giessler, whom Hitler commissioned to draw up the plans for Munich, could do marvelous imitations of Dr. Ley, the stammering Labor Front leader. Hitler was so delighted with this sort of comedy that he would ask Giessler again and again to tell the story of a visit by the Leys to the showrooms where the models for the Munich city plan were on exhibition. First, Giessler described how the leader of the German workers appeared at the studio in an elegant summer suit, with white stitched gloves and straw hat, accompanied by his wife, who was dressed with equal ostentation. Giessler showed him the Munich plan until Ley interrupted: “I’ll build on this entire block. What will that cost? A few hundred millions? Yes, we want to build solidly… .”

“And what will be the purpose of the building?”

“A large fashion house. We’ll set all the fashions. My wife will take care of that end. We need a whole building for it. Let’s! My wife and I will set the German fashions…. And … and … and we’ll need whores too! Lots of them, a whole house full, with the most modem furnishings. We’ll take everything in hand; a few hundred millions for the building, that’s nothing.” Hitler laughed until the tears came over the depraved notions of his ‘labor leader.” Giessler, who had had to act out this scene innumerable times, was sick to death of it.

My own building plans were not the only ones Hitler was energetically promoting. He was constantly approving forums for provincial capitals and urging his corps of leaders to officiate as patrons of public edifices. He liked to see a good deal of ruthless competition, since he assumed that this was the only road to outstanding achievement. This attitude of his often irritated me. He could not understand that there were limits to what we could do. Thus, he passed over my objection that before long it would be impossible for me to keep any deadlines because his Gauleiters were using up the available quarry materials for their own buildings.

Himmler came to Hitler’s aid. When he heard of the threatening shortage of brick and granite, he offered to employ his prisoners to increase production. He proposed to Hitler that an extensive brickworks be set up in Sachsenhausen, near Berlin, under SS direction and as SS property. Since Himmler was extremely receptive to innovations, someone soon turned up with a new system for manufacturing brick. But the promised production did not follow, for the technique proved a failure.

Another promise made by Himmler, who was constantly pursuing futuristic projects, ended similarly. He offered to supply granite blocks for the buildings in Nuremberg and Berlin using the labor of concentration camp prisoners. He immediately started a firm with a noncommittal name and set the prisoners to breaking stone. Because of the incredible ignorance of the SS entrepreneurs, the blocks developed cracks, and the SS was finally forced to admit that it could supply only a small part of the promised granite. Dr. Todt’s road-building organization took the rest of the material produced and used it for cobblestones. Hitler, who had placed great hopes in Himmler’s promises, was more and more annoyed. Finally, he commented sarcastically that the SS had better devote itself to making felt slippers and paper bags, the traditional prison products.

Out of the multitude of projects, I .myself was to design the square in front of the great hall, at Hitler’s request. In addition I had taken over Goering’s new building and the south station. That was more than enough, for I was also to design the Nuremberg Party Rally buildings. But since these various projects were to be carried out over a decade I was able to manage if I turned the technical details over to others, with a studio of eight to ten associates. It was still possible for me to keep personal control of a group that size. My private office was on Lindenallee in the West End, near Adolf Hitler Platz, which had formerly been Reichskanzler Platz. But my afternoons, until the late hours of the evening, were regularly reserved for my city-planning office in Pariser Platz. Here I assigned major commissions to those men I considered Germany’s best architects. Paul Bonatz, after many designs for bridges, was given his first high-rise commission: the High Command of the Navy. Hitler was especially pleased with the grand scale of the design. German Bestelmeyer was assigned the new Town Hall, Wilhelm Kreis the High Command of the Army, the Soldiers’ Hall, and various museums. Peter Behrens, the teacher of Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, who had long worked for the AEG electrical company, was entrusted with building the firm’s new administrative building on the grand boulevard. This naturally called forth objections from Rosenberg and his cultural watch-and-ward society; they were outraged that this forerunner of architectural radicalism should be allowed to win immortality on “the Fuehrer’s avenue.” Hitler, who thought well of Peter Behrens’s embassy in Leningrad (built when the city was still St. Petersburg), backed up my decision. Several times I also pressed my teacher, Tessenow, to take part in the design competitions. But he did not want to abandon his simple small-town craftsman’s style and stubbornly resisted the temptation to design big buildings.

For sculpture I employed chiefly Josef Thorak and Amo Breker, the pupil of Maillol. In 1943, Breker acted as my intermediary in commissioning a sculpture by Maillol to be set up in Grunewald.

Historians have commented that in my private associations I kept away from the party.*

*For example, Trevor-Roper, Fest, and Bullock.

It might also be said that the party bigwigs kept away from me, whom they regarded as an interloper. But I was not especially interested in what the Reichsleiters and Gauleiters felt, since I had Hitler’s confidence. Aside from Karl Hanke, who had “discovered” me, I was not on familiar terms with any of them. None of them visited me at home. Instead, I found my circle of friends among the artists I gave employment to and among their friends. What time I had in Berlin for socializing I spent with Arno Breker and Wilhelm Kreis; we also frequently saw Wilhelm Kempff, the pianist. In Munich I was on friendly terms with Josef Thorak and Hermann Kaspar, the painter. Late in the night Kaspar could seldom be restrained from loudly proclaiming his preference for the Bavarian monarchy.

I was also close to my first client, Dr. Robert Frank, for whom I had rebuilt a manor house back in 1933, before I became involved with the buildings for Hitler and Goebbels. It was situated near Wilsnack some eighty miles from Berlin, and I frequently spent weekends there with my family. Until 1933, Frank had been general manager of the Prussian Electricity Works, but after the Nazis took power he was relieved of his post and had since lived in retirement. Occasionally bothered by the party, he was protected by my friendship. In 1945, I entrusted my family to him; there, in Schleswig, they were as far as possible from the center of the collapse.

Shortly after my appointment I managed to persuade Hitler that party members of any quality had long since been assigned leading posts, so that only members of the second rank were available for my tasks.

He therefore gave me permission to choose my associates as I pleased. Gradually word went round that a sanctuary for nonparty people could be found in my office, and so more and more architects thronged to join us.

Once one of my associates asked me for a reference for admission to the party. My answer went the rounds of the Inspectorate General of Building: “Why? It’s enough for all of us that I’m in the party.” We took Hitler’s building plans seriously but were not so reverential as others about the solemnity of this Hitlerian Reich.

I also continued to absent myself from party meetings, had scarcely any contact with party circles even in the Berlin district, and neglected the party duties turned over to me, although I could have built them up into positions of power. If only from sheer lack of time, I turned over the “Beauty of Work” office to a permanent deputy. I could plead my total incapacity for making public speeches as an excuse for this sort of lack of zeal.

In March 1939, I took a trip with a group of close friends through Sicily and southern Italy. Wilhelm Kreis, Josef Thorak, Hermann Kaspar, Amo Breker, Robert Frank, Karl Brandt, and their wives, formed the party. Magda Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister’s wife, came along at our invitation; she used a false name for the journey.

There were certainly a good many love affairs in Hitler’s entourage, and he tolerated them. Thus Bormann, with a crudeness that might be expected from this unfeeling and amoral man, had his movie-actress mistress visit him at Obersalzberg and actually stay in his house in the midst of his family. Frau Bormann put up with this situation in a way I found incomprehensible.

Goebbels, too, had many love affairs. Half amused, half revolted, his state secretary, Hanke, would tell how the all-powerful Minister of Culture would blackmail young movie actresses. But Goebbels’s intimacy with the Czech film star Lida Baarova was more than an affair. At the time, his wife broke with him and demanded that he live separately from her and the children. Hanke and I were entirely on the wife’s side, but Hanke himself complicated this marital crisis when he fell in love with his minister’s wife, who was so many years his senior. In order to extricate her from this embarrassment, I proposed that she accompany us on the trip. Hanke wanted to follow her; during our travels he bombarded her with love letters; but she was firm in her refusal.

Throughout this trip, Frau Goebbels proved a pleasant and sensible woman. In general the wives of the regime’s bigwigs resisted the temptation of power far more than their husbands. They did not lose themselves in the latters’ fantasy world. They looked on at the often grotesque antics of their husbands with inner reservations and were not caught up in the political whirlwind in which their men were carried steeply upward.

Frau Bormann remained a modest, somewhat browbeaten housewife, although blindly devoted both to her husband and the party ideology. I had the impression that Frau Goering was inclined to smile at her husband’s mania for pomp. And in the final analysis Eva Braun, too, proved her inner superiority. At any rate she never used for personal ends the power which lay within her grasp.

Sicily, with its Doric temple ruins in Segesta, Syracuse, Selinus, and Agrigentum, provided a valuable supplement to the impressions of our earlier journey to Greece. At the sight of the temples of Selinus and Agrigentum, I observed once again, and with some satisfaction, that even classical antiquity had not been free of megalomaniacal impulses. The Greeks of the colonies were obviously departing from the principle of moderation so praised in the motherland. Compared to these temples, all the examples of Saracen-Norman architecture we encountered paled, except for Frederick II’s wonderful hunting castle, the octagonal Castel del Monte. Paestum was another high point of our trip; Pompeii, on the other hand, seemed to me further away from the pure forms of Paestum than were our buildings from the world of the Dorians.

On the return journey we stayed in Rome for a few days. The Fascist government discovered the real identity of our illustrious traveling companion, and Italian Propaganda Minister Alfieri invited us all to the opera. But we found it hard to give a plausible explanation for the fact that the second lady of the German Reich was traveling abroad without her husband and therefore set out for home as quickly as possible.

While we had been dreaming our way through Greek antiquity, Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia and annexed it to the Reich. Back in Germany we found a general mood of depression. Apprehensions about the future filled all of us. To this day I find it strange that a nation can have so right a sense of what is to come, so much so that all the massive propaganda by the government does not banish this feeling.

Nevertheless, it seemed a better sign that Hitler stood up to Goebbels one day when, at lunch in the Chancellery, the Propaganda Minister attacked former Foreign Minister von Neurath, who a few weeks earlier had been appointed Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Goebbels said: “Everyone knows von Neurath is a weak sneak. But what is needed in the Protectorate is a strong hand to keep order. This man has nothing in common with us; he belongs to an entirely different world.” Hitler took issue with this. “Von Neurath was the only man for the job. In the Anglo-Saxon world he is considered a man of distinction. The international effect of his appointment will be reassuring because people will see in it my decision not to deprive the Czechs of their racial and national life.”

Hitler asked me to report on my impressions of Italy. I had been most struck by the fact that the walls of even the villages were painted with militant propaganda slogans. “We don’t need that,” Hitler commented. “If it comes to a war, the German people are tough enough. This kind of propaganda may be all right for Italy. Whether it does any good is another question.”*

*In his speech to the editors in chief of the German press Hitler described what he considered to be the proper method of propaganda for creating war readiness: “Certain events should be presented in such a light that unconsciously the masses will automatically come to the conclusion: If there’s no way to redress this matter pleasantly then it will have to be done by force; we can’t possibly let things go on this way.”

Hitler had already asked me several times to deliver the opening address at the Munich Architectural Exhibition in his stead. Hitherto I had always been able to avoid such duties by a variety of pretexts. In February 1938 my evasions resulted in a kind of deal: I agreed to design the picture gallery and the stadium for Linz, if I did not have

But now, on the eve of Hitler’s fiftieth birthday, a part of the “East-West axis” in Berlin was to be opened to traffic, with Hitler present at the dedication. That maiden speech could no longer be fended off— and to make matters worse in the presence of the Chief of State. At dinner Hitler announced: “A great event: Speer is making a speech. I can hardly

In the middle of the roadway, at the Brandenburg Gate, the dignitaries of the city had lined up, with me on the right wing and with the crowd massed behind ropes on the distant sidewalks. From the distance came cheers, swelling as Hitler’s motorcade approached and becoming a steady roar. Hitler’s car stopped right in front of me; he got out and greeted me by shaking hands, while responding to the welcome of the dignitaries merely by raising his arm briefly. Portable movie cameras began filming the scene from close up, while Hitler expectantly took up a position six feet away from me. I took a deep breath, then spoke these exact words: “Mein Führer, I herewith report the completion of the East-West axis. May the work speak for itself!” There was a protracted pause before Hitler replied with a few sentences. Then I was invited into his car and drove with him down the five-mile lane of Berliners who were paying tribute to him on his fiftieth birthday. No doubt it had taken an energetic effort by the Propaganda Ministry to bring this crowd here; but the applause seemed to me genuine.

After we had reached the Chancellery and were waiting to be called to dinner, Hitler commented good-humoredly: “You put me in a fine fix with your two sentences. I was expecting a long speech and meant to use the time while you were talking to frame my answer, the way I usually do. But since you were finished so quickly, I didn’t know what to say. Still I must grant you that it was a good speech. One of the best I have ever heard.” In the following years this anecdote became part of his regular repertory, and he told it often.

At midnight the diners offered Hitler the proper congratulations. But when I told him that to celebrate the day I had set up a thirteen-foot model of his triumphal arch in one of the salons, he immediately left the party and hurried to the room. For a long time he stood contemplating with visible emotion the dream of his younger years, realized in this model. Overwhelmed, he gave me his hand without a word, and then, in a euphoric mood, lectured his birthday guests on the importance of this structure for the future history of the Reich. That night he returned to look at the model several times. On the way back and forth we would pass the former cabinet room where Bismarck had presided over the Congress of Berlin in 1878. Here Hitler’s birthday presents were heaped up on long tables—pretty much a collection of kitsch sent by his Reichsleiters and Gauleiters: white marble nudes, small bronze casts of such well-known works as the Roman boy extracting a thorn from his foot, and oil paintings whose level matched the stuff exhibited in the House of Art. Hitler spoke well of some of the presents, made fun of others, but there was in fact not much difference between them.

Meanwhile matters had progressed between Hanke and Frau Goebbels to such a point that, to the horror of everyone in the know, they wished to marry. An ill-matched couple: Hanke was young and awkward, she was considerably older and a polished society woman. Hanke petitioned Hitler for his approval, but Hitler refused to allow the Goebbelses to divorce for raison d’état! At the beginning of the 1939 Bayreuth Festival, Hanke arrived at my house one morning in a state of despair. Magda and Joseph Goebbels had had a reconciliation, he reported, and gone to Bayreuth together. For my part I thought this was the happiest outcome for Hanke, too. But you cannot console a desperate lover with felicitations on his escape. I therefore promised him to find out what had happened in Bayreuth and left at once.

The Wagner family had added a spacious wing to Haus Wahnfried, where Hitler and his adjutants stayed during the festival, while Hitler’s guests were put up in private homes in Bayreuth. Incidentally, Hitler selected these guests more carefully than he did at Obersalzberg, or even at the Chancellery. Aside from the adjutants he invited only a few other persons with their wives, those he could be sure would be welcome to the Wagner family. Actually, these guests were almost always only Dr. Dietrich, Dr. Brandt, and myself.

On these festival days Hitler seemed more relaxed than usual. He obviously felt at ease in the Wagner family and free of the compulsion to represent power, which he sometimes thought himself obliged to do even with the evening group in the Chancellery. He was gay, paternal to the children, friendly and solicitous toward Winifred Wagner. Without Hitler’s financial aid, the festival could scarcely have been kept going. Every year Bormann produced hundreds of thousands of marks from his funds in order to make the festival productions the glory of the German opera season. As patron of the festival and as the friend of the Wagner family, Hitler was no doubt realizing a dream which even in his youth he perhaps never quite dared to dream.

Goebbels and his wife had arrived in Bayreuth on the same day as myself and, like Hitler, had moved into the Wahnfried annex. Frau Goebbels looked very drawn. She spoke quite candidly with me: “It was frightful, the way my husband threatened me. I was just beginning to recuperate at Gastein when he turned up at the hotel. For three days he argued with me incessantly, until I could no longer stand it. He used the children to blackmail me; he threatened to take them away from me. What could I do? The reconciliation is only for show. Albert, it’s terrible! I’ve had to swear never to meet Karl privately again. I’m so unhappy, but I have no choice.”

What could have been more appropriate for this marital tragedy than, of all operas, Tristan und Isolde? Hitler, Herr and Frau Goebbels, Frau Winifred Wagner, and I heard it sitting in the big central box. Frau Goebbels, on my right, cried silently throughout the performance. During the intermission she sat, bowed and sobbing uncontrollably, in a comer of the salon, while Hitler and Goebbels went to the window to show themselves to the audience, both of them strenuously pretending to be unaware of the embarrassing episode.

Next morning I was able to explain to Hitler, who could not understand Frau Goebbels’s conduct, the background of the so-called reconciliation. As Chief of State he welcomed this turn of events, but in my presence he sent for Goebbels at once and in a few dry words informed him that it would be better if he left Bayreuth immediately with his wife. Without allowing him to reply, or even shaking hands with him, he dismissed the Propaganda Minister and then turned to me: “With women Goebbels is a cynic.” He too was one, though in a different way.

11. The Globe

Whenever he came to see my models of the Berlin buildings, hitler would particularly brood over one part of the plan: the future headquarters of the Reich which was meant to manifest for hundreds of years to come the power that had been attained in the era of Hitler. Just as the Champs Elysées finds its dramatic focus in the residence of the French kings, so the grand boulevard was to culminate in a group of buildings which Hitler regarded as central to his political activities. These were the Chancellery, where the affairs of government were conducted; the High Command of the Armed Forces, where the power of command over the three branches of the services was concentrated; and a secretariat for the party (Bormann), for protocol (Meissner), and for Hitler’s personal affairs (Bouhler). The Reichstag building also formed part of this complex, but this in no way signified that Hitler meant the German parliament to play any important part in the exercise of power. It was mere chance that the old Reichstag building happened to be situated there.

I proposed to Hitler that Paul Wallot’s Reichstag, built in Wilhelmine Germany, be razed. But here I met unexpected resistance. Hitler liked the structure. However, he intended to use it merely for social purposes. Hitler was usually taciturn about his ultimate goals. When on this and some other occasions he spoke rather candidly to me about the background of his building plans, he did so out of that intimacy that almost always crops up in the relationship between an architect and his client.

“In the old building we can set up reading rooms and lounges for the deputies. For all I care the chamber can be turned into a library. With its five hundred and eighty seats it’s much too small for us. We’ll build a new one right beside it. Provide a chamber for twelve hundred deputies!”1 That assumed a population of one hundred and forty million, and so in saying this Hitler was revealing the scale on which he was thinking. Partly he had in mind a rapid natural increase of the Germans, partly the incorporation into the Reich of other Germanic peoples—but he was not including the population of subjugated nations, for these would not have any voting rights. I proposed that he simply increase the number of voters whom each deputy represented, and thereby make the old Reichstag chamber still usable. But Hitler did not want to alter the proportion of sixty thousand voters for each deputy which had been set by the Weimar Republic. He never explained his reasons; but he was as firm on this matter as he was firm about nominal retention of the traditional electoral system with its fixed dates for elections, rules of franchise, ballot boxes, and secret ballot. On this matter he evidently wanted to preserve a tradition which had brought him to power, even though his introduction of the one-party system had made the whole thing pointless.

The buildings which were intended to frame the future Adolf Hitler Platz lay in the shadow of the great domed hall. But as if Hitler wanted by architecture alone to denigrate the whole process of popular representation, the hall had a volume fifty times greater than the proposed Reichstag building. He had asked me to work out the designs for this hall as early as the summer of 1936.2 On April 20, 1937, his birthday, I gave him the renderings, ground plans, cross sections, and a first model of the building. He was delighted and only quarreled with my having signed the plans: “Developed on the basis of the Fuehrer’s ideas.” I was the architect, he said, and my contribution to this building must be given greater credit than his sketch of the idea dating from 1925. I stuck to this formula, however, and Hitler was probably gratified at my refusal to claim authorship for this building. Partial models were prepared from the plans, and in 1939 a detailed wooden model of the exterior some ten feet high and another model of the interior were made. The floor could be removed in order to test the future effect at eye level. In the course of his many visits to the exhibit Hitler would unfailingly spend a long time contemplating these two models. He would point triumphantly to them as an idea that must have struck his friends fifteen years ago as a fantastic quirk. “In those days who was prepared to believe me when I said that this would be built someday!”

This structure, the greatest assembly hall in the world ever conceived up to that time, consisted of one vast hall that could hold between one hundred fifty and one hundred eighty thousand persons standing. In spite of Hitler’s negative attitude toward Himmler’s and Rosenberg’s mystical notions, the hall was essentially a place of worship. The idea was that over the course of centuries, by tradition and venerability, it would acquire an importance similar to that St. Peters in Rome has for Catholic Christendom. Without some such essentially pseudoreligious background the expenditure for Hitler’s central building would have been pointless and incomprehensible.

The round interior was to have the almost inconceivable diameter of eight hundred and twenty-five feet. The huge dome was to begin its slightly parabolic curve at a height of three hundred and twenty-three feet and rise to a height of seven hundred and twenty-six feet.

In a sense the Pantheon in Rome had served as our model. The Berlin dome was also to contain a round opening for light, but this opening alone would be one hundred and fifty-two feet in diameter, larger than the entire dome of the Pantheon (142 feet) and of St. Peter’s (145 feet). The interior would contain sixteen times the volume of St. Peter’s.

The interior appointments were to be as simple as possible. Circling an area four hundred sixty-two feet in diameter, a three-tier gallery rose to a height of one hundred feet. A circle of one hundred rectangular marble pillars—still almost on a human scale, for they were only eighty feet high—was broken by a recess opposite the entrance. This recess was one hundred and sixty-five feet high and ninety-two feet wide, and was to be clad at the rear in gold mosaic. In front of it, on a marble pedestal forty-six feet in height, perched the hall’s single sculptural feature: a gilded German eagle with a swastika in its claws. This symbol of sovereignty might be said to be the very fountainhead of Hitler’s grand boulevard. Beneath this symbol would be the podium for the Leader of the nation; from this spot he would deliver his messages to the peoples of his future empire. I tried to give this spot suitable emphasis, but here the fatal flaw of architecture that has lost all sense of proportion was revealed. Under that vast dome Hitler dwindled to an optical zero.

From the outside the dome would have loomed against the sky like some green mountain, for it was to be roofed with patinated plates of copper. At its peak we planned a skylight turret one hundred and thirty-two feet high, of the lightest possible metal construction. The turret would be crowned by an eagle with a swastika.

Optically, the mass of the dome was to have been set off by a series of pillars sixty-six feet high. I thought this effect would bring things back to scale—undoubtedly a vain hope. The mountainous dome rested upon a granite edifice two hundred and forty-four feet high with sides ten hundred and forty feet long. A delicate frieze, four clustered, fluted pillars on each of the four comers, and a colonnade along the front facing the square were to dramatize the size of the enormous cube.3

Two sculptures each fifty feet high would flank the colonnade. Hitler had already decided on the subjects of these sculptures when we were preparing our first sketches of the building. One would represent Adas bearing the vault of the heavens, the other Tellus supporting the globe of the world. The spheres representing sky and earth were to be enamel coated with constellations and continents traced in gold.

The volume of this structure amounted to almost 27.5 million cubic yards;4 the Capitol in Washington would have been contained many times in such a mass. These were dimensions of an inflationary sort.

Yet the hall was by no means an insane project which could in fact never be executed. Our plans did not belong to that supergrandiose category envisioned by Claude Nicolas Ledoux as the swan song of the Bourbon dynasty of France, or by Etienne L. Boullée to glorify the Revolution—projects which were never meant to be carried out. Their scale, however, was by no means vaster than Hitler’s.5 But we were seriously going ahead with our plans. As early as 1939 many old buildings in the vicinity of the Reichstag were razed to make room for our Great Hall and the other buildings that were to surround the future Adolf Hitler Platz. The character of the underlying soil was studied. Detail drawings were prepared and models built. Millions of marks were spent on granite for the exterior. Nor were the purchases confined to Germany. Despite the shortage of foreign exchange, Hitler had orders placed with quarries in southern Sweden and Finland. Like all the other edifices on Hitler’s long grand boulevard, the great hall was also scheduled to be completed in eleven years, by 1950. Since the hall would take longer to build than all the rest, the ceremonial cornerstone laying was set for 1940.

Technically, there was no special problem in constructing a dome over eight hundred feet in diameter.*

*A special problem connected with every dome is the acoustics. But to our relief prominent acoustical experts calculated that if we observed a few precautions there would be no need to worry.

The bridge builders of the thirties had no difficulty with similar spans of steel or reinforced concrete. Leading German engineers had even calculated that it would be possible to build a massive vault with such a span. In keeping with my notion of “ruin value” I would rather have eschewed the use of steel; but in this case Hitler expressed doubts. “You know, an aerial bomb might strike the dome and damage the vaulting. If there were danger of collapse, how would you go about making repairs?” He was right, and we therefore had a steel skeleton constructed, from which the inner shell of the dome would be suspended. The walls, however, were to be of solid stone like the Nuremberg buildings. Their weight, along with that of the dome, would exert tremendous pressure and would demand an unusually strong foundation. The engineers decided on an enormous concrete footing which would have had a content of 3.9 million cubic yards. According to our calculations, this would sink only a few centimeters into the sandy soil; but to test this a sample section was built near Berlin.6 Except for drawings and photographs of models, it is the only thing that has remained of the projected structure.

In the course of the planning I had gone to see St. Peters in Rome. It was rather dashing for me to realize that its size had little to do with the impression it creates. In work on such a scale, I saw, effectiveness is no longer proportionate to the size of the building. I began to be afraid that our great hall would turn out disappointingly.

Ministerial Councilor Knipfer, who was in charge of air-raid protection in the Reich Air Ministry, had heard rumors about this gigantic structure. He had just issued directives providing that all future buildings be as widely dispersed as possible in order to diminish the effect of air raids. Now, here in the center of the city and of the Reich, a building was to be erected which would tower above low clouds and act as an ideal navigational guide to enemy bombers. It would be virtually a signpost for the government center. I mentioned these considerations to Hitler. But he was sanguine. “Goering has assured me,” he said, “that no enemy plane will enter Germany. We will not let that sort of thing stand in the way of our plans.”

Hitler was obsessed with the idea for this domed building. We had already drawn up our designs when he heard that the Soviet Union was also planning an enormous assembly building in Moscow in honor of Lenin. He was deeply irked, feeling himself cheated of the glory of building the tallest monumental structure in the world. Along with this was an intense chagrin that he could not make Stalin stop by a simple command. But he finally consoled himself with the thought that his building would remain unique. “What does one skyscraper more or less amount to, a little higher or a little lower. The great thing about our building will be the dome!” After the war with the Soviet Union had begun, I now and then saw evidence that the idea of Moscow’s rival building had preyed on his mind more than he had been willing to admit. “Now,” he once said, “this will be the end of their building for good and all.”

The domed hall was to be surrounded on three sides by water which would reflect it and enhance its effect. For this purpose we intended to widen the Spree into a land of lake. The normal river traffic, however, would have to bypass this area through a set of underground canals. On its south side, the building would be flanked by the great plaza, the future Adolf Hitler Platz. Here the annual May 1 rallies would take place; these had previously been held on Tempelhof Field.7

The Propaganda Ministry had worked out a pattern for managing such mass rallies. In 1939, Karl Hanke told me of the variants of such demonstrations; which manner of demonstration was wanted depended on political and propagandists factors. From the gathering of schoolchildren to cheer a foreign guest all the way to the mobilizing of millions of workers to express the will of the people, the Propaganda Ministry had a prepared scenario. Ironically, Hanke spoke of “cheering levies.” Had the future gone according to plan, it would have taken the ultimate of all “cheering levies” to fill Adolf Hitler Platz, since it would hold a million people.

One side of the square was to be bounded by the new High Command of the Armed Forces, the other by the Chancellery office building. The fourth side was open, permitting an enormous vista down the grand boulevard. This would be the only opening in the gigantic square, otherwise hemmed in completely by buildings.

Aside from the great hall, the most important and psychologically the most interesting of the buildings was to be Hitler’s palace. It is no exaggeration to speak of a palace rather than the Chancellors residence. As the preserved sketches show, Hitler had been thinking about this building as early as November 1938.8 The architecture made plain his craving for status, which had increased by leaps and bounds since his accession to power. From the Chancellors residence of Bismarck’s day into which he originally moved to this projected palace, the proportions had multiplied by a factor of one hundred and fifty. Even Nero’s legendary palace area, the Golden House, with its expanse of more than eleven million square feet, would be outstripped by Hitler’s palace. Right in the center of Berlin, it was to occupy, with the attached grounds, twenty-two million square feet. Reception rooms led through several series of salons into a dining hall which could have accommodated thousands. Eight vast entertainment halls were available for gala receptions.*

*The eight public rooms would have had a total area of 161,400 square feet. The theater was to contain four hundred comfortable seats. Following the normal practice of allowing about two and a half square feet per seat in a theater, the 3,442 square feet would have provided easily for eight hundred persons in the orchestra and another hundred and fifty in the balcony. Hitler planned to have a special box for himself in the theater.

The most modem stage equipment was to be provided for a theater of four hundred seats, an imitation of the ducal theaters of the baroque and rococo eras.

From his own quarters Hitler could reach the great dome by a series of covered galleries. His offices, on the other hand, were conveniently adjacent to the private apartment, and his personal office located at the very center of this official sector. Its measurements far exceeded the reception room of the President of the United States.9 Hitler was so well pleased with the long hike the diplomats had to take in the recently completed new Chancellery that he wanted a similar device in the new building. I therefore doubled the distance visitors would have to traverse, making it somewhat more than a quarter of a mile.

From the former Chancellery, built in 1931, Hitler’s aspirations had by now multiplied seventy-fold.10 That gives some idea of the proportions by which his megalomania had evolved.

And in the midst of all this splendor Hitler would have set up his white enameled bedstead in a bedroom of fairly modest dimensions. He once said to me: “I hate all show in a bedroom. I feel most comfortable in a simple ordinary bed.”

In 1939, when these plans were assuming tangible form, Goebbels’s propaganda went on fostering the German people’s belief in Hitler’s modesty and simplicity. In order not to imperil this image, Hitler said scarcely a word about the plans for his palatial private residence and the future Chancellery. But once, when we were tramping through the snow, he gave me justification for his soaring demands:

You see, I myself would find a simple little house in Berlin quite sufficient. I have enough power and prestige; I don’t need such luxury to sustain me. But believe me, those who come after me will find such ostentation an urgent necessity. Many of them will be able to hold on only by such means. You would hardly believe what power a small mind acquires over the people around him when he is able to show himself in such imposing circumstances. Such rooms, with a great historical past, raise even a petty successor to historical rank. You see, that is why we must complete this construction in my lifetime—so that I shall have lived there and my spirit will have conferred tradition upon the building. If I live in it only for a few years, that will be good enough.

In his speeches to the construction workers of the Chancellery in 1938, Hitler had made similar remarks, though of course without revealing any of his plans, which by then were already quite far advanced. As Leader and Chancellor of the German nation, he had said, he did not enter former palaces; that was why he had refused to move into the palace of the Reich President, for he was not going to live in a former Lord Chamberlain’s residence. But in this area, too, he would see to it that the German state was provided with a public building that matched the prestigious edifices of any foreign king or emperor.11

Even at that time, Hitler ruled that we were not to worry about the costs of these buildings, and we therefore obediently omitted volume calculations. I have drawn them up for the first time only now, after a quarter of a century. The result is the following table:

Although the immense scale would have reduced the price per cubic yard, the total costs were almost inconceivable. For these vast structures would need enormous walls and correspondingly deep foundations. Moreover, the exterior walls were to be dad in expensive granite, the interior walls in marble. The very best materials were likewise to be employed for doors, windows, ceilings, and so on. A cost of five billion present-day marks for the buildings of Adolf Hitler Platz alone probably represents far too low an estimate.12

The shift in the mood of the population, the drooping morale which began to be felt throughout Germany in 1939, was evident in the necessity to organize cheering crowds where two years earlier Hitler had been able to count on spontaneity. What is more, he himself had meanwhile moved away from the admiring masses. He tended to be angry and impatient more often than in the past when, as still occasionally happened, a crowd on Wilhelmsplatz began clamoring for him to appear. Two years before he had often stepped out on the “historic balcony.” Now he sometimes snapped at his adjutants when they came to him with the request that he show himself: “Stop bothering me with that!”

This seemingly small point had a certain bearing on the conception of the new Adolf Hitler Platz, for one day he said to me: “You know it is not out of the question that I shall someday be forced to take unpopular measures. These might possibly lead to riots. We must provide for that eventuality. All the buildings on this square must be equipped with heavy steel bulletproof shutters over their windows. The doors, too, must be of steel, and there should be heavy iron gates for closing off the square. It must be possible to defend the center of the Reich like a fortress.”

This remark betrayed a nervousness he had not had before. The same feeling emerged when we discussed the location of the barracks for the bodyguard, which had meanwhile grown into a fully motorized regiment armed with the most modem equipment. He shifted its headquarters to the immediate vicinity of the grand southern axis. “Suppose there should be some disturbances!” he said. And pointing to the four hundred foot wide avenue: “If they come rolling up here in their armored vehicles the full width of the street—nobody will be able to put up any resistance.” I do not know whether the army heard of this arrangement and wanted to be on the spot before the SS, or whether Hitler himself gave the order—but in any case, at the request of the army command and with Hitler’s approval a barracks site was prepared even closer to the center for the Grossdeutschland guards regiment.13

I unwittingly gave expression to this separation of Hitler from his people—a Hitler who was ready to have soldiers fire upon the populace —in my design for the façade of his palace. There was no opening in it except for the great steel entrance gate and a door to a balcony from which Hitler could show himself to the crowd. But this balcony was now suspended five stories high above the street. This frowning façade still seems to me to communicate an accurate image of the remote Leader who had in the meantime moved into realms of self-idolatry.

During my imprisonment, this design, with its red mosaics, its pillars, its bronze lions and gilded silhouettes, had assumed in my memory a bright, almost pleasant character. But when I once again saw the color photographs of the model, after a lapse of more than twenty-one years, I was struck by the resemblance to a Cecil B. De Mille set. Along with its fantastic quality I also became aware of the cruel element in this architecture. It had been the very expression of a tyranny.

Before the war, I had laughed at an inkwell which the architect Brinckmann (who like Troost had originally designed steamship decor) had presented Hitler as a surprise gift. Brinckmann had made a solemn construction out of this simple utensil. It was a mass of ornamentation, scrolls and steps—and then, alone and forlorn amid all the magnificence of this “inkwell for the Chief of State,” there was a tiny pool of ink. I thought I had never seen anything so abnormal. But contrary to my expectations Hitler did not disdain the object. In fact he praised this bronze inkwell immoderately. Brinckmann was no less successful with a desk chair he had designed for Hitler. It was veritably of Goeringesque proportions, a kind of throne with two oversized gilded pine cones topping the back. These two items, with their inflated bombast, seemed to me to reek of the parvenu. But from about 1937 on Hitler furthered this tendency toward pomposity by showing increasing approval of it. He had come round again to Vienna’s Ringstrasse, where he had once begun. Slowly but steadily he moved even further away from the doctrines of Troost.

And I moved with him. For my designs of this period owed less and less to what I regarded as “my style.” This estrangement from my beginnings was revealed in other ways besides the wildly excessive size of my buildings. For they also no longer had any of the Dorian character I had originally tried to achieve. They had become pure “art of decadence.” Wealth, the inexhaustible funds at my disposal, but also Hitler’s party ideology, had led me along the path to a style which drew its inspiration rather from the show palaces of Oriental despots.

At the beginning of the war, I had formed a theory which I explained at a dinner in Maxim’s in Paris to a group of German and French artists. Cocteau and Despiau were among the latter. The French Revolution, I said, had developed a new sense of style which was destined to replace the late rococo. Even its simplest furniture was beautifully proportioned. This style, I argued, had found its purest expression in the architectural designs of Boullée. The Directoire that followed this revolutionary style had still treated their more abundant means with lightness and good taste. The turning point, I said, had come with the Empire style. From year to year new elements were introduced; elaborate ornamentation had been lavished upon the still classical basic forms until, at the end, Late Empire had achieved a resplendence and wealth that could scarcely be surpassed. Late Empire had expressed the end point of a stylistic evolution which had begun so promisingly with the Consulate. It had also expressed the transition from Revolution to the Napoleonic Empire. Within it were revealed signs of decay which were a forecast of the end of the Napoleonic era. Compressed within the span of twenty years, I said, we could observe a phenomenon that ordinarily took place only over centuries: the development from the Doric buildings of early antiquity to the fissured baroque façades of Late Hellenism, such as was to be seen in, say, Baalbek; or the Romanesque buildings at the beginning of the medieval period and the playful Late Gothic at its end.

Had I been able to think the matter out consistently, I ought to have argued further that my designs for Hitler were following the pattern of the Late Empire and forecasting the end of the regime; that, therefore, Hitler’s downfall could be deduced from these very designs. But this was hidden from me at the time. Probably Napoleons entourage saw in the ornate salons of the Late Empire only the expression of grandeur. Probably only posterity beholds the symptoms of downfall in such creations. Hitler’s entourage, at any rate, felt the towering inkwell to be a suitable prop for his genius as a statesman, and similarly accepted my hulking dome as the symbol of Hitler’s power.

The last buildings we designed in 1939 were in fact pure neo-Empire, comparable to the style that prevailed a hundred and twenty-five years before, shortly before Napoleons fall. They were marked by excessive ornamentation, a mania for gilding, a passion for pomp, and total decadence. And not only the style but the excessive size of these buildings plainly revealed Hitler’s intention.

One day in the early summer of 1939, he pointed to the German eagle with the swastika in its claws which was to crown the dome nine hundred fifty-seven feet in the air. “That has to be changed. Instead of the swastika, the eagle is to be perched above the globe. To crown this greatest building in the world the eagle must stand above the globe.”*

*As late as May 8, 1943 Goebbels noted in his diary: “The Fuehrer expresses his unshakable conviction that the Reich will one day rule all of Europe. We will have to survive a great many conflicts, but they will doubtless lead to the most glorious triumphs. And from then on the road to world domination is practically spread out before us. For whoever rules Europe will be able to seize the leadership of the world.”

There are photos of the models in which this revision is plainly to be seen.

A few months later the Second World War began.

12. The Descent Begins

About the beginning of august 1939 we, an untroubled group, drove with Hitler up to the Eagle’s Nest. The long motorcade wound along the road which Bormann had blasted into the rock. Through a high bronze portal we entered a marble hall, damp from the moisture in the heart of the mountain, and stepped into the elevator of polished brass.

As we rode up the hundred and sixty-five feet of shaft, Hitler said abruptly, as if he were talking to himself: “Perhaps something enormously important will happen soon. Even if I should have to send Goering… . But if need be I would even go myself. I am staking everything on this card.” There was no more beyond this hint.

Barely three weeks later, on August 21, 1939, we heard that the German Foreign Minister was in Moscow for some negotiations. During supper a note was handed to Hitler. He scanned it, stared into space for a moment, flushed deeply, then banged on the table so hard that the glasses rattled, and exclaimed in a voice breaking with excitement: “I have them! I have them!” Seconds later he had already regained control of himself. No one dared ask any question, and the meal continued.

After supper Hitler called his entourage together. “We are going to conclude a nonaggression pact with Russia. Here, read this. A telegram from Stalin.” It briefly acknowledged the agreement that had been reached. To see the names of Hitler and Stalin linked in friendship on a piece of paper was the most staggering, the most exciting turn of events I could possibly have imagined. Immediately afterward we were shown a movie depicting Stalin watching a Red army parade; a tremendous number of troops marched past him. Hitler expressed his gratification that this military might was now neutralized. He turned to his military adjutants, evidently wanting to hear their estimate of the mass display of weapons and troops. The ladies were still excluded, but of course they soon heard the news from us, and shortly afterward it was announced on the radio.

Goebbels held an evening press conference on August 23 in which he offered commentary on the pact. Hitler telephoned him immediately afterward. He wanted to know how the foreign correspondents had reacted. With eyes glistening feverishly, he told us what Goebbels had said. “The sensation was fantastic. And when the church bells simultaneously began ringing outside, a British correspondent fatalistically remarked: ‘That is the death knell of the British Empire.’ ” These words made the strongest impression upon Hitler in his euphoria that night. He thought he now stood so high as to be out of the reach of fate.

In the course of the night we stood on the terrace of the Berghof with Hitler and marveled at a rare natural spectacle. Northern lights1 of unusual intensity threw red light on the legend-haunted Untersberg across the valley, while the sky above shimmered in all the colors of the rainbow. The last act of Götterdämmerung could not have been more effectively staged. The same red light bathed our faces and our hands.

The display produced a curiously pensive mood among us. Abruptly turning to one of his military adjutants, Hitler said: “Looks like a great deal of blood. This time we won’t bring it off without violence.”2

Weeks before, the center of Hitler’s interests had already shifted to the military area. In long talks with his four military adjutants— Colonel Rudolf Schmundt for the High Command of the Aimed Services (OKW); Captain Gerhard Engel for the Army, Captain Nikolaus von Below for the air force, and Captain Karl-Jesko von Puttkamer for the navy—Hitler tried to arrive at definitive plans. He seemed to especially like these young and unbiased officers, all the more since he was always seeking approval, which they were more likely to give him than the perhaps better informed but skeptical generals.

During these days immediately after announcement of the German-Russian pact, however, he saw less of the adjutants than of the political and military heads of the German Reich, among them Goering, Goebbels, Keitel, and Ribbentrop. Goebbels above all spoke openly and anxiously about the danger of war. Surprisingly, the usually radical Propaganda Minister considered the risk excessively large. He tried to recommend a peaceful line to Hitler’s entourage and was particularly acrid toward Ribbentrop, whom he regarded as the chief representative of the war party. We who were members of Hitler’s personal circle considered him as well as Goering, who also counseled peace, weaklings who had degenerated in the luxury of power and did not want to risk the privileges they had acquired.

Even though my future as an architect was also at stake, I thought that the solution of national questions must take precedence over personal interests. Any doubts I might have had were quelled by the selfassurance Hitler showed. In those days he seemed to me like a hero of ancient myth who unhesitantly, in full consciousness of his strength, could enter upon and masterfully meet the test of the wildest undertakings.*

*And, in fact, nine months previously I had had bas-reliefs portraying the Hercules legend installed on the new Chancellery.

Whoever did belong to the actual war party, aside from Hitler and Ribbentrop, had worked out arguments more or less as follows:

Let us assume that because of our rapid rearmament we hold a four to one advantage in strength at the present time. Since the occupation of Czechoslovakia the other side has been rearming vigorously. They need at least one and a half to two years before their production will reach its maximum yield. Only after 1940 can they begin to catch up with our relatively large headstart. If they produce only as much as we do, however, our proportional superiority will constantly diminish, for in order to maintain it we would have to go on producing four times as much. We are in no position to do so. Even if they reach only half of our production, the proportion will constantly deteriorate. Right now, on the other hand, we have new weapons in all fields, the other side obsolete types.3

Considerations of this sort probably did not govern Hitler’s decisions, but they undoubtedly influenced his choice of the time to strike. For the present, however, he remarked: “I shall stay at Obersalzberg as long as possible, in order to keep myself fresh for the difficult days to come. I’ll go to Berlin only when decisions become essential.”

Only a few days later Hitler’s motorcade was moving along the autobahn to Munich. There were ten cars at long distances from one another, for security. My wife and I were in one of the cars. It was a beautiful, cloudless sunny day at the end of summer. The populace remained unusually silent as Hitler drove by. Hardly anyone waved. In Berlin, too, it was strikingly quiet in the vicinity of the Chancellery. Usually, when Hitler’s private standard was raised to indicate his presence, the building was besieged by people who cheered him as he drove out and in.

In the nature of things I was excluded from the further course of events—all the more so because the normal routine of Hitler’s day was turned topsy-turvy during this tumultuous spell. After the court moved to Berlin, an incessant series of conferences fully occupied Hitler’s time. Our common meals were for the most part canceled. Memory can be peculiarly arbitrary, and among my most vivid recollections is the somewhat comic picture of Bernardo Attolico, the Italian Ambassador, rushing breathlessly into the Chancellery a few days before the attack upon Poland. He was bringing word that for the present Italy could not keep its obligations under the alliance. The Duce cloaked this bad news in impossible demands for immediate delivery of a vast quantity of military and economic goods. Granting such demands could have resulted in a disastrous weakening of the German armed forces. Hitler had a high regard for the fighting strength of the Italian fleet in particular, with its modern units and large number of submarines. He was equally convinced of the effectiveness of the big Italian air force. For a moment he thought his plans had been ruined, for he assumed that Italy’s bellicosity would help frighten the Western powers. In some dismay, he postponed the assault on Poland, which had already been ordered.

But this temporary retreat soon yielded to new hopes; his instincts told him that even with Italy defaulting, the West might still shrink from declaring war. He therefore rejected Mussolini’s offer to mediate; he would hold back no longer, he said, for if the army were held in suspense too long it would grow nervous. Besides, the period of good autumn weather would soon pass, and during the later rainy season there was danger of the troops bogging down in the Polish mud.

Notes on the Polish question were exchanged with England. Out of the rush of events I particularly remember one evening in the conservatory of the Chancellor’s residence. I had the impression that Hitler looked exhausted from overwork. He spoke with deep conviction to his intimate circle: “This time the mistake of 1914 will be avoided. Everything depends on making the other side accept responsibility. In 1914 that was handled clumsily. And now again the ideas of the Foreign Office are simply useless. The best thing is for me to compose the notes myself.” As he spoke he held a page of manuscript in his hand, probably the draft of a note from the Foreign Office. He hastily took his leave, not joining us for dinner, and vanished into the upper rooms. Later, in prison, I read that exchange of notes; it did not seem to me that Hitler had carried out his intent very well.

Hitler’s view that the West would once more give in to his demands as it had done at Munich was supported by intelligence information: An officer on the British General Staff was said to have evaluated the strength of the Polish army and come to the conclusion that Polish resistance would soon collapse. Hitler thus had reason to hope that the British General Staff would do everything in its power to advise its government against so hopeless a war. When, on September 3, the Western powers followed up their ultimatum with declarations of war, Hitler was initially stunned, but quickly reassured himself and us by saying that England and France had obviously declared war merely as a sham, in order not to lose face before the whole world. In spite of the declarations there would be no fighting; he was convinced of that, he said. He therefore ordered the Wehrmacht to remain strictly on the defensive. He felt that this decision of his showed remarkable political acumen.

During those last days of August Hitler was in an unwonted state of nerves and at times completely lost the reassuring air of infallible leader. The hectic activities were followed by an uneasy period of quiet. For a short time Hitler resumed his customary daily routine. Even his interest in architectural plans revived. To his round table he explained: “Of course we are in a state of war with England and France, but if we on our side avoid all acts of war, the whole business will evaporate. As soon as we sink a ship and they have sizable casualties, the war party over there will gain strength.” Even when German U-boats lay in a favorable position near the French battleship Dunkerque he refused to authorize an attack. But the British air raid on Wilhelmshaven and the sinking of the Athenia soon called for a reconsideration of this policy.

He stuck unswervingly to his opinion that the West was too feeble, too worn out, and too decadent to begin the war seriously. Probably it was also embarrassing for him to admit to his entourage and above all to himself that he had made so crucial a mistake. I still remember his consternation when the news came that Churchill was going to enter the British War Cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty. With this ill-omened press report in his hand, Goering stepped out of the door of Hitler’s salon. He dropped into the nearest chair and said wearily: “Churchill in the Cabinet. That means that the war is really on. Now we shall have war with England.” From these and other observations I deduced that this initiation of real war was not what Hitler had projected.

His illusions and wish-dreams were a direct outgrowth of his unrealistic mode of working and thinking. Hitler actually knew nothing about his enemies and even refused to use the information that was available to him. Instead, he trusted his inspirations, no matter how inherently contradictory they might be, and these inspirations were governed by extreme contempt for and underestimation of the others. In keeping with his classic phrase that there were always two possibilities, he wanted to have the war at this supposedly most favorable moment, while at the same time he failed to adequately prepare for it. He regarded England, as he once stressed, as “our enemy Number One,”4 while at the same time hoping to come to an arrangement with that enemy.

I do not think that in those early days of September, Hitler was fully aware that he had irrevocably unleashed a world war. He had merely meant to move one step further. To be sure, he was ready to accept the risk associated with that step, just as he had been a year before during the Czech crisis; but he had prepared himself only for the risk, not really for the great war. His naval rearmament was obviously planned for a later date; the battleships as well as the first large aircraft carriers were still under construction. He knew that they would not attain full military value until they could face the enemy on more or less even terms. Moreover, he had spoken so often of the neglect of the submarine arm in the First World War that he probably would not have knowingly begun the Second without preparing a strong fleet of U-boats.

But all his anxieties seemed to be scattered to the winds in early September, when the campaign in Poland yielded such successes for the German troops. Hitler seemed to recover his assurance swiftly, and later, at the climax of the war, I frequently heard him say that the Polish campaign had been a necessary thing.

Do you think it would have been good fortune for our troops if we had taken Poland without a fight, after obtaining Austria and Czechoslovakia without fighting? Believe me, not even the best army can stand that sort of thing. Victories without loss of blood are demoralizing. Therefore it was not only fortunate there was no compromise; at the time we would have had to regard it as harmful, and I therefore would have struck in any case.5

It may be, nevertheless, that by such remarks he was trying to gloss over his diplomatic miscalculations of August 1939. On the other hand, toward the end of the war Colonel General Heinrici told me about an early speech of Hitler’s to the generals which points in the same direction. I noted down Heinrici’s remarkable story as follows: “Hitler said that he was the first man since Charlemagne to hold unlimited power in his own hand. He did not hold this power in vain, he said, but would know how to use it in a struggle for Germany. If the war were not won, that would mean that Germany had not stood the test of strength; in that case she would deserve to be and would be doomed.”6

From the start the populace took a far more serious view of the situation than did Hitler and his entourage. Because of the general nervousness a false air-raid alarm was sounded in Berlin early in September. Along with many other Berliners I sat in a public shelter. The atmosphere was noticeably depressed; the people were full of fear about the future.7

Hitler looking at Speers architectural plans at Obersalzberg, spring 1934.

( HEINRICH HOFFMANN )

None of the regiments marched off to war decorated with flowers as they had done at the beginning of the First World War. The streets remained empty. There was no crowd on Wilhelmsplatz shouting for Hitler. It was in keeping with the desolate mood that Hitler had his bags packed into the cars one night to drive east, to the front. Three days after the beginning of the attack on Poland he had his adjutant summon me to the provisionally blacked-out residence in the Chancellery to bid me good-by. I found a man who lost his temper over trivialities. The cars drove up, and he tersely took his leave of the “courtiers” who were remaining behind. Not a soul on the street took notice of this historic event: Hitler driving off to the war he had staged. Obviously Goebbels could have provided a cheering crowd of any size, but he was apparently not in the mood to do it.

Even during the mobilization Hitler did not forget his artists. In the late summer of 1939, orders were given that their draft records be sent to Hitler’s adjutant by the various army districts. He then tore up the papers and threw them away. By this original device, the men ceased to exist for the draft boards. On the list drawn up by Hitler and Goebbels, however, architects and sculptors occupied little space. The overwhelming majority of those thus exempted were singers and actors. The fact that young scientists were also important for the future was not discovered until 1942, and then with my help.

While still at Obersalzberg I had telephoned Will Nagel, my former superior and now head of my staff, and asked him to begin forming a technical assistance group under my leadership. We wanted to put our well-coordinated team of construction supervisors to use in rebuilding bridges, extending or widening roads, and similar areas of the war effort. However, our notions about what we could do immediately were extremely vague. For the time being it consisted of no more than getting sleeping bags and tents ready, and painting my car field-gray. On the day of general mobilization I went to the High Command of the Army on Bendlerstrasse. As might be expected in a Prusso-German organization, General Fromm, who was responsible for the army mobilization, sat idle in his office while the machinery ran according to plan. He readily accepted my offer of assistance; my car was given an army number, and I myself army identification papers. For the present, that was the extent of my wartime activity.

It was Hitler who tersely forbade me to undertake any missions for the army. My duty, he told me, was to continue working at his plans. Thereupon I at least placed the workmen and the technical staffs employed on my buildings in Berlin at the disposal of the army and industry. We took charge of the Peenemünde site for the development of rockets and of some urgent buildings for the aircraft industry.

I informed Hitler of these commitments, which seemed to me the least I could do. I was confident of his approval. But to my surprise there came an unusually rude letter from Bormann. What was I doing choosing new assignments, he demanded. I had received no such orders. Hitler had asked him to let me know that all building projects were to proceed unchecked.

This order provides another example of how unrealistically and dividedly Hitler thought. On the one hand he repeatedly asserted that Germany was now being challenged by fate and had to wage a life-and- death struggle; on the other hand he did not want to give up his grandiose toys. In making such choices, moreover, he was disregarding the mood of the masses, who were inevitably baffled by the construction of such luxury buildings, now that Hitler’s expansionism was beginning to demand sacrifices. This order of his was the first one I shirked. It was true that I saw Hitler far more rarely during this first year of the war. But whenever he came to Berlin for a few days, or to Obersalzberg for a few weeks, he still asked to be shown the building plans and urged me to go on developing them. But I think he soon tacitly accepted the cessation of actual work on the buildings.

Around the beginning of October the German Ambassador in Moscow, Count von Schulenburg, informed Hitler that Stalin was personally interested in our building plans. A series of photographs of our models was exhibited in the Kremlin, but on Hitler’s instructions our largest buildings were kept secret in order, as he said, “not to give Stalin any ideas.” Schulenburg had proposed that I fly to Moscow to explain the plans. “He might keep you there,” Hitler commented half jokingly, and refused to let me take the trip. A short while afterward, Schnurre, a member of the embassy staff, informed me that Stalin had liked my sketches.

On September 29, Ribbentrop returned from his second Moscow conference with a German-Soviet frontier and friendship treaty which was to seal the fourth partition of Poland. At Hitler’s table he recounted that he had never felt so much at ease as among Stalin’s associates: “As if I were among old party comrades of ours, mein Führer!” Hitler listened without a flicker of expression to this burst of enthusiasm on the part of the normally impassive Foreign Minister. Stalin, so Ribbentrop declared, seemed satisfied with the border arrangements, and when it was all settled drew in his own hand on the map along the border of the zone assigned to Russia an area which he presented to Ribbentrop as a vast hunting preserve. At this Goering’s hackles rose; he insisted that Stalin could hardly have meant this gift to apply to the Foreign Minister personally. On the contrary, it was a grant to the German Reich and consequently to himself as Reich Master of the Hunt. A hot dispute broke out between the two passionate hunters which ended with the Foreign Minister sulking, for Goering proved more forceful in argument and better able to get his way.

In spite of the war the renovation of the former palace of the Reich President, which was to be the Foreign Minister’s new official residence, had to proceed. Hitler inspected the nearly completed building and showed dissatisfaction. Hastily and recklessly, Ribbentrop thereupon ordered the new annex tom down and rebuilt. Probably in order to please Hitler he insisted on clumsy marble doorways, huge doors, and moldings which were quite unsuitable for rooms of middling size. Before the second inspection I begged Hitler to refrain from making negative comments, or else the Foreign Minister would order a third rebuilding. Hitler actually held his tongue, and only later in his intimate circle did he make fun of the building, which to his mind was an utter failure.

In October, Hanke told me something which had been learned when German troops met Soviet troops on the demarcation line in Poland: that Soviet equipment appeared extremely deficient, in fact wretched. Hanke had reported this to Hitler. Army officers confirmed this point; Hitler must have listened to this piece of intelligence with the keenest interest, for thereafter he repeatedly cited this report as evidence that the Russians were weak and poorly organized. Soon afterward, the failure of the Soviet offensive against Finland confirmed him in this view.

In spite of all the secrecy I obtained some light on Hitler’s further plans when he gave me the assignment, still in 1939, to fit out a headquarters for him in western Germany. Ziegenberg, a manorial estate of Goethe’s time, situated near Nauheim in the foothills of the Taunus range, was modernized by us for this purpose, and provided with shelters.

When the arrangements were completed, millions of marks squandered on building, telephone cables laid over hundreds of miles, and the most modem communications equipment installed, Hitler abruptly decided that the place was too luxurious for him. In wartime he must lead a simple life, he said, and therefore quarters conceived in this spirit were to be built for him in the Eifel hills. This may have made an impression upon those who did not know how many millions of marks had already been expended and how manymore millions would now have to be spent. We pointed this out to Hitler, but he would not be swayed, for he saw his reputation for “modesty” imperiled.

After the swift victory in France, I was firmly convinced that Hitler had already become one of the great figures in German history. Yet I wondered at the apathy I thought I observed in the public despite all the grand triumphs. Hitler’s selfconfidence was obviously growing by leaps and bounds. He had found a new theme for his monologues at table. His great concept, he declared, had not run afoul of the inadequacies which had caused Germany to lose the First World War. In those days there had been dissension between the political and the military leadership, he said. The political parties had been given leeway to undermine the unity of the nation and even to engage in treasonous activities. For reasons of protocol incompetent princes of the ruling houses had to be commanders of their armies; they were supposed to earn military laurels in order to increase the glory of their dynasties. The only reason that enormous disasters had been averted was that these incompetent scions of decadent royal families had been assigned excellent General Staff officers to aid them. Moreover, at the top as supreme war lord had been the incompetent Wilhelm II. Today, on the other hand, Germany was united. The states had been reduced to unimportance, the army commanders were selected from among the best officers without regard to their descent, the privileges of the nobility had been abolished, political life and the army as well as the nation as a whole had been forged into a unity. Moreover, he, Hitler, stood at the head. His strength, his determination, his energy would overcome all future difficulties.

Hitler claimed total credit for the success of the campaign in the West. The plan for it came from him, he said. “I have again and again,” he told us, “read Colonel de Gaulle’s book on methods of modem warfare employing fully motorized units, and I have learned a great deal from it.”

Shortly after the end of the campaign in France, I received a telephone call from the office of the Fuehrers adjutant: I was to come to headquarters for a few days for a special purpose. Hitler had set up temporary headquarters in the small village of Bruly le Peche near Sedan. The village had been cleared of all inhabitants. The generals and adjutants were established in the small houses that lined the single village street. Hitler’s own quarters in no way differed from those of the others. At my arrival he greeted me in the best of humors. “In a few days we are flying to Paris. I’d like you to be with us. Breker and Giessler are coming along also.” With that I was dismissed for the present, astonished that the victor had sent for three artists to accompany him on his entry into the French capital.

That same evening I was invited to dine with Hitler’s military circle. Details of the trip to Paris were discussed. This was not to be an official visit, I learned, but a kind of “art tour” by Hitler. This was the city, as he had so often said, which had fascinated him from his earliest years, so that he thought he would be able to find his way about the streets and important monuments as if he had lived there, solely from his endless studies of its plans.

The armistice was to go into effect at 1:35 A.M. on June 25, 1940. That night we sat with Hitler around a deal table in the simple room of a peasant house. Shortly before the agreed time Hitler gave orders to turn out the light and open the windows. Silently, we sat in the darkness, swept by the sense of experiencing a historic moment so close to the author of it. Outside, a bugler blew the traditional signal for the end of fighting. A thunderstorm must have been brewing in the distance, for as in a bad novel occasional flashes of heat lightning shimmered through the dark room. Someone, overcome by emotion, blew his nose. Then Hitler’s voice sounded, soft and unemphatic: “This responsibility …” And a few minutes later: “Now switch the light on.” The trivial conversation continued, but for me it remained a rare event. I thought I had for once seen Hitler as a human being.

Next day I set out from headquarters for Rheims, to see the cathedral. A ghostly looking city awaited me, almost deserted, ringed by military police protecting the champagne cellars. Casement windows banged in the wind, newspapers of several days ago blew through the streets, open front doors revealed interiors. It was as if ordinary life had stood still for a foolish moment. Glasses, dishes, and half-eaten meals could be seen on the tables. En route we had encountered innumerable refugees along the roads; they used the sides of the roads, for the middle was taken up by columns of German army units. These selfassured troops between the worn-looking people transporting their worldly goods in baby carriages, wheelbarrows, and other primitive vehicles made a striking contrast. Three and a half years later I saw similar scenes in Germany.

Three days after the beginning of the armistice we landed at Le Bourget airfield. It was early in the morning, about five-thirty. Three large Mercedes sedans stood waiting. Hitler as usual sat in the front seat beside the chauffeur, Breker and I on the jump seats behind him, while Giessler and the adjutants occupied the rear seats. Field-gray uniforms had been provided for us artists, so that we might fit into the military framework. We drove through the extensive suburbs directly to the Opera, Charles Garnier’s great neobaroque building. It was Hitler’s favorite and the first thing he wanted to see. Colonel Speidel, assigned by the German Occupation Authority, was waiting at the entrance for us.

The great stairway, famous for its spaciousness, notorious for its excessive ornamentation, the resplendent foyer, the elegant, gilded parterre, were carefully inspected. All the lights glowed as they would on a gala night. Hitler had undertaken to lead the party. A white-haired attendant accompanied our small group through the deserted building. Hitler had actually studied the plans of the Paris opera house with great care. Near the proscenium box he found a salon missing, remarked on it, and turned out to be right. The attendant said that this room had been eliminated in the course of renovations many years ago. “There, you see how well I know my way about,” Hitler commented complacently. He seemed fascinated by the Opera, went into ecstasies about its beauty, his eyes glittering with an excitement that struck me as uncanny. The attendant, of course, had immediately recognized the person he was guiding through the building. In a businesslike but distinctly aloof manner, he showed us through the rooms. When we were at last getting ready to leave the building, Hitler whispered something to his adjutant, Bruckner, who took a fifty-mark note from his wallet and went over to the attendant standing some distance away. Pleasantly, but firmly, the man refused to take the money. Hitler tried a second time, sending Breker over to him; but the man persisted in his refusal. He had only been doing his duty, he told Breker.

Afterward, we drove past the Madeleine, down the Champs Elysées, on to the Trocadéro, and then to the Eiffel Tower, where Hitler ordered another stop. From the Arc de Triomphe with its tomb of the Unknown Soldier we drove on to the Invalides, where Hitler stood for a long time at the tomb of Napoleon. Finally, Hitler inspected the Pantheon, whose proportions greatly impressed him. On the other hand he showed no special interest in some of the most beautiful architectural works in Paris: the Place des Vosges, the Louvre, the Palace of Justice, and Sainte-Chapelle. He became animated again only when he saw the unitary row of houses on the Rue de Rivoli. The end of our tour was the romantic, insipid imitation of early medieval domed churches, the church of Sacré Coeur on Montmartre—a surprising choice, even given Hitler’s taste. Here he stood for a long time surrounded by several powerful men of his escort squad, while many churchgoers recognized him but ignored him. After a last look at Paris we drove swiftly back to the airport. By nine o’clock in the morning the sightseeing tour was over. “It was the dream of my life to be permitted to see Paris. I cannot say how happy I am to have that dream fulfilled today.” For a moment I felt something like pity for him: three hours in Paris, the one and only time he was to see it, made him happy when he stood at the height of his triumphs.

In the course of the tour Hitler raised the question of a victory parade in Paris. But after discussing the matter with his adjutants and Colonel Speidel, he decided against it after all. His official reason for calling off the parade was the danger of its being harassed by English air raids. But later he said: “I am not in the mood for a victory parade. We aren’t at the end yet.”

That same evening he received me once more in the small room in the peasant house. He was sitting alone at table. Without more ado he declared: “Draw up a decree in my name ordering full-scale resumption of work on the Berlin buildings… . Wasn’t Paris beautiful? But Berlin must be made far more beautiful. In the past I often considered whether we would not have to destroy Paris,” he continued with great calm, as if he were talking about the most natural thing in the world. “But when we are finished in Berlin, Paris will only be a shadow. So why should we destroy it?” With that, I was dismissed.

Although I was accustomed to hearing Hitler make impulsive remarks, I was nevertheless shocked by this cool display of vandalism. He had reacted in a similar fashion to the devastation of Warsaw. At the time he had announced that he was not going to allow the city to be rebuilt, in order to deprive the Polish people of their political and cultural center. Warsaw, however, had been devastated by acts of war. Now Hitler was showing that he could entertain the thought of wantonly and without cause annihilating the city which he himself had called the most beautiful in Europe, with all its priceless artistic treasures. Within a few days some of the contradictions in Hitler’s nature had been revealed to me, although at the time I certainly did not perceive them in anything like their full intensity. He contained a multitude of selves, from a person deeply aware of his responsibilities all the way to a ruthless and mankind-hating nihilist.

The effect of this experience however was quickly obscured for me. I was once again seduced by Hitler’s brilliant victories and by the prospect of soon resuming work on my building projects. Now it was up to me to surpass Paris. Nothing more was said of razing her monuments. Instead, Hitler gave orders that our own be erected with maximum urgency. As he himself reworded the decree: “Berlin is to be given the style commensurate with the grandeur of our victory,” and he further declared: “I regard the accomplishment of these supremely vital constructive tasks for the Reich as the greatest step in the preservation of our victory.” He antedated this decree to June 25, 1940, the day of the armistice and of his greatest triumph.

Hitler was pacing back and forth on the gravel path in front of his house, accompanied by Generals Jodl and Keitel, when an adjutant came to tell him that I wished to take my leave. I was summoned, and as I approached the group I heard a snatch of the conversation: “Now we have shown what we are capable of,” Hitler was saying. “Believe me, Keitel, a campaign against Russia would be like a child’s game in a sandbox by comparison.” In radiant good humor, he bade me good-by, sent his warmest regards to my wife, and promised that he would soon be discussing new plans and models with me.

13. Excess

Even while hitler was deep in the plans for the Russian campaign, his mind was already dwelling on theatrical effects for the victory parades of 1950, once the grand boulevard and the great triumphal arch had been completed.1 But while he dreamed of new wars, new victories and celebrations, he suffered one of the greatest defeats of his career. Three days after a talk with me in which he had outlined more of his conceptions of the future, I was called to Obersalzberg with my sketches. Waiting in the anteroom at the Berghof, pale and agitated, were Leitgen and Pintsch, two of Hess’s adjutants. They asked if I would let them see Hitler first; they had a personal letter from Hess to transmit to him. At this moment Hitler descended from his room upstairs. One of the adjutants was called into the salon. While I began leafing through my sketches once more, I suddenly heard an inarticulate, almost animal outcry. Then Hitler roared: “Bormann, at once! Where is Bormann?” Bormann was told to get in touch with Goering, Ribbentrop, Goebbels, and Himmler by the fastest possible means. All private guests were confined to the upper floor. Many hours passed before we learned what had happened: Hitler’s deputy had flown to hostile England.

Superficially, Hitler soon appeared to have regained his usual composure. What bothered him was that Churchill might use the incident to pretend to Germany’s allies that Hitler was extending a peace feeler. “Who will believe me when I say that Hess did not fly there in my name, that the whole thing is not some sort of intrigue behind the backs of my allies?” Japan might even alter her policy because of this, he fretted. He put through a phone call to Ernst Udet, the famous First World War fighter pilot and now technical chief of the air force, and wanted to know whether the two-motored plane Hess was using could reach its goal in Scotland and what weather conditions it would encounter. After a brief interval Udet called back to say that Hess was bound to fail for navigational reasons alone; because of the prevailing side winds he would probably fly past England and into empty space. For a moment Hitler regained hope: ‘If only he would drown in the North Sea! Then he would vanish without a trace, and we could work out some harmless explanation at our leisure.” But after a few hours his anxieties returned, and in order to anticipate the British in any case he decided to announce over the radio that Hess had gone mad. The two adjutants, however, were arrested—as the harbingers of bad news used to be at the courts of ancient despots.

A rush of activity began at the Berghof. Aside from Goering, Goebbels, and Ribbentrop, Ley, various Gauleiters, and other party leaders arrived. Ley, as organizational chief of the party, made a bid to take over Hess’s duties. In organizational terms this was no doubt what should have happened. But Bormann now showed for the first time how much influence he had over Hitler. He made short work of fending off Ley’s proposal, and took the post for himself. Churchill commented at the time that this flight showed the presence of a worm in the German apple. He could not possibly have guessed how literally this phrase applied to Hess’s successor.

Henceforth, Hess was scarcely ever mentioned in Hitler’s entourage. Bormann alone looked into the affairs of his former superior and showed great zeal in visiting the sins of her husband on Frau Hess. Eva Braun tried to intercede with Hitler on her behalf, but unsuccessfully; later she gave her a small allowance behind Hitler’s back. A few weeks later I heard from my doctor, Professor Chaoul, that Hess’s father was dying. I sent him flowers, though without disclosing myself as the sender.

At the time it appeared to me that Bormann’s ambition had driven Hess to this desperate act. Hess, also highly ambitious, could plainly see himself being excluded from access to and influence over Hitler. Thus, for example, Hitler said to me some time in 1940, after a conversation with Hess lasting many hours: “When I talk with Goering, it’s like a bath in steel for me; I feel fresh afterward. The Reich Marshal has a stimulating way of presenting things. With Hess every conversation becomes an unbearably tormenting strain. He always comes to me with unpleasant matters and won’t leave off.” By his flight to England, Hess was probably trying, after so many years of being kept in the background, to win prestige and some success. For he did not have the qualities necessary for survival in the midst of a swamp of intrigues and struggles for power. He was too sensitive, too receptive, too unstable, and often told all factions they were in the right, in the order of their appearance. As a type he undoubtedly corresponded to the majority of the high party leaders; like him, most of them had great difficulty keeping the ground of reality under their feet.

Hitler put the blame for Hess’s flight on the corrupting influence of Professor Haushofer.*

*Hess had first introduced Hitler to Professor Karl Haushofer, a former general and founder of the theories of “geopolitics.” His ideas strongly influenced Hitler’s early thinking, but Haushofer evidently did not go all the way with Nazism. His son, Albrecht Haushofer, was arrested for participation in the July 20, 1944, conspiracy, and was shot in the closing days of the war. Professor Haushofer committed suicide after his son’s death.

Twenty-five years later, in Spandau prison, Hess assured me in all seriousness that the idea had been inspired in him in a dream by supernatural forces. He said he had not at all intended to oppose or embarrass Hitler. “We will guarantee England her empire; in return she will give us a free hand in Europe.” That was the message he took to England—without managing to deliver it. It had also been one of Hitler’s recurrent formulas before and occasionally even during the war.

If I judge correctly, Hitler never got over this “disloyalty” on the part of his deputy. Some while after the assassination attempt of July 20, 1944, he mentioned, in the course of one of his fantastic misreadings of the real situation, that among his conditions for peace was the extradition of the “traitor.” Hess would have to be hanged, he said. When I told Hess about this later, he commented: “He would have made it up with me. I’m certain of it. And don’t you believe that in 1945, when everything was going to smash, he sometimes thought: ‘Hess was right after all’?”

Hitler went even further than insisting that the Berlin buildings be pushed forward at full speed in the midst of war. Under the influence of his Gauleiters he also wildly lengthened the list of cities slated for reconstruction. Originally they had been only Berlin, Nuremberg, Munich, and Linz. Now, by personal decrees, he declared another twenty-seven cities, including Hanover, Augsburg, Bremen, and Weimar, to be “reconstruction cities.”2 Neither I nor anyone else was ever asked about the feasibility of such decisions. Instead, after each such conference I merely received a copy of the decree Hitler had informally issued. According to my estimate at the time the costs for party buildings alone in those reconstruction cities would be, as I wrote to Bormann on November 26, 1940, between 22 and 25 billion marks.

I thought that my own deadlines were being imperiled by these requirements. At first I tried to secure a decree from Hitler placing all building plans throughout the Reich under my authority. But when this effort was blocked by Bormann, I told Hitler on January 17, 1941—after a long illness that had given me time to reflect on many problems— that it would be better if I were to concentrate only upon the buildings in Nuremberg and Berlin which had been assigned to me. Hitler instantly agreed: “You’re right. It would be a pity if you threw away your energies on general matters. If necessary you can declare in my name that I, the Fuehrer, do not wish you to become involved in these other matters lest you be led away from your proper artistic tasks.”3

I availed myself generously of this exemption, and during the next few days resigned all my party offices. If I can sort out my motives at the time, this step was probably also directed against Bormann, who had been hostile to me from the start. I knew I was in no danger, however, since Hitler had frequently referred to me as irreplaceable.

Occasionally I was caught amiss, at which times Bormann could deliver a sharp reproof to me from headquarters, undoubtedly with satisfaction. Thus, for example, I had consulted with the Protestant and Catholic authorities on the location of churches in our new section of Berlin.*

*As yet we had only agreed to compensate the churches for those of their buildings situated in parts of the inner city which were slated for demolition.

Bormann curtly informed me that churches were not to receive building sites.

Hitler’s decree of June 25, 1940, for the “preservation of our victory” was tantamount to an order for work to go forward on the buildings in Berlin and Nuremberg. A few days later, however, I made it clear to Reich Minister Lammers that of course we did not “intend to proceed at once with the practical reconstruction of Berlin … as long as the war was going on.” But Hitler remonstrated and commanded continuance of the building operations even though to do so ran against public feeling. Again on his insistence I set up a “Fuehrers immediate program,” in the light of which Goering—this was in the middle of April 1941—assigned the necessary quantity of iron to me. It amounted to eighty-four thousand tons annually. To camouflage the operation from the public, the program was given the code name “War program for waterways and Reich railways, Berlin section.” On April 18, Hitler and I again discussed deadlines: for the completion of the great hall, the High Command of the Armed Forces, the Chancellery, the Fuehrers building—in short, for his power centers around Adolf Hitler Platz. He was still determined to have that complex erected as quickly as possible. Simultaneously, an association of seven of the best German construction firms was organized for the purpose of speeding the work.

With his characteristic obstinacy and in spite of the impending campaign against the Soviet Union, Hitler personally continued to take a hand in the selection of paintings for the Linz gallery. He sent his art dealers into the occupied areas to comb the picture market there, with the result that there was soon a bitter contest between his dealers and Goering’s. The picture war had begun to take a nasty turn when Hitler finally reproved his Reich Marshal and thereby once and for all restored the order of rank even in regard to art dealers.

In 1941 large catalogues bound in brown leather arrived at Obersalzberg. They contained photographs of hundreds of paintings which Hitler personally distributed among his favorite galleries: Linz, Königsberg, Breslau, and other eastern cities. At the Nuremberg Trials, I saw these volumes again as evidence for the prosecution. The majority of the paintings had been seized from Jewish owners by Rosenberg’s Paris office.

Hitler made no inroads on the famous state art collections of France. However, this restraint was not so unselfish as it seemed, for he occasionally remarked that in a peace treaty the best pieces from the Louvre would have to be delivered to Germany as part of war reparations. But Hitler did not utilize his authority for his private ends. He did not keep in his own possession a single one of the paintings acquired or confiscated in the occupied territories.

Goering, on the other hand, went about increasing his art collection during the war by any means whatsoever. The halls and rooms of Karinhall were sheathed with valuable paintings hung one above the other in three and four tiers. He even had a life-size nude representing Europa mounted above the canopy of his magnificent bed. He himself also dabbled in art dealing: The walls of one large hall of his country estate were covered with paintings. They had been the personal property of a well-known Dutch art dealer who after the occupation had been compelled to turn over his collection to Goering for a ridiculous price. In the middle of the war Goering sold these pictures to Gauleiters, as he told me with a childlike smile, for many times what he had paid—adding, moreover, an extra something to the price for the glory of the paintings having come “from the famous Goering collection.”

One day—it must have been sometime in 1943—I heard from a French intermediary that Goering was pressing the Vichy government to exchange a famous painting belonging to the Louvre for several of the worthless pictures in his own collection. Knowing Hitler’s views about the inviolability of the Louvre’s collection, I was able to advise the French informant not to yield to this pressure; if Goering should persist in the matter, he was to let me know. Goering, however, let it drop. On the other hand, one day at Karinhall he showed me the Sterzing Altar, which had been presented to him by Mussolini after the agreement on South Tyrol in the winter of 1940. Hitler was often outraged by the way the “Second Man in the State” appropriated valuable works of art, but he never dared call Goering to account.

Toward the end of the war Goering invited my friend Breker and me to afternoon dinner at Karinhall—this was a rare and exceptional occasion. The meal was not too lavish, but I was rather taken aback when at its end an ordinary brandy was poured for us, while Goering’s servant poured his, with a certain solemnity, from a dusty old bottle. “This is reserved for me alone,” he commented without embarrassment to his guests and went on about the particular French palace in which this rare find had been confiscated. Afterward, in an expansive mood, he showed us the treasures stowed away in the Karinhall cellar. Among them were some priceless classical pieces from the Naples Museum; these had been removed before the evacuation of Naples at the end of 1943. With the same pride of ownership he had his cupboards opened to allow us a glimpse of his hoard of French soaps and perfumes, a stock that would have sufficed for years. At the conclusion of this display he sent for his collection of diamonds and other precious stones, obviously worth hundreds of thousands of marks.

Hitler’s purchases of paintings stopped after he had appointed the head of the Dresden Gallery, Dr. Hans Posse, as his agent for building the Linz collection. Until then Hitler had chosen his purchases himself from the auction catalogues. In the course of this he had occasionally been victimized by his habit of appointing two or three rivals to carry out a particular assignment. There were times when he would have separately instructed both his photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, and one of his art dealers, to bid without limit. The result was that Hitler’s two emissaries kept fearlessly outbidding one another long after all other bidders had dropped out. This went on until one day Hans Lange, the Berlin auctioneer, called my attention to this state of affairs.

Shortly after the appointment of Posse, Hitler showed him his previous acquisitions, including the Grützner collection. The showing took place in Hitler’s air-raid shelter, where he had stored these treasures for safety. Chairs were brought in for Posse, Hitler, and myself, and SS orderlies carried in picture after picture. Hitler went on about his favorite paintings in his usual way, but Posse refused to be overpowered either by Hitler’s position or by his engaging amiability. Objective and incorruptible, he turned down many of these expensive acquisitions: “Scarcely useful,” or “Not in keeping with the stature of the gallery, as I conceive it.” As was so often the case when Hitler was dealing with a’ specialist, he accepted the criticisms without demur. Posse rejected most of the pictures by painters of Hitler’s beloved Munich School.

In the middle of November 1940, Molotov arrived in Berlin. Hitler and his dinner guests greatly relished the tale carried by his physician, Dr. Karl Brandt, that the Soviet Foreign Ministers staff had all plates and silverware boiled before use for fear of German germs.

In the salon at the Berghof stood a large globe on which, a few months later, I found traces of this unsuccessful conference. One of the army adjutants pointed out, with a significant look, an ordinary pencil line: a line running from north to south along the Urals. Hitler had drawn it to indicate the future boundary between his sphere of interest and that of the Japanese. On June 21, 1941, the eve of the attack on the Soviet Union, Hitler called me into his Berlin salon after dinner, had a record put on and a few bars from Liszt’s Les Préludes played. “You’ll hear that often in the near future, because it is going to be our victory fanfare for the Russian campaign. Funk chose it. How do you like it?* … We’ll be getting our granite and marble from there, in any quantities we want.”

* For each of the previous campaigns Hitler had personally chosen a musical fanfare that preceded radio announcements of striking victories.

Hitler was now openly manifesting his megalomania. What his building plans had been implying for years was now to be sealed “in blood,” as he put it, by a new war. Aristotle once wrote in the Politics: “It remains true that the greatest injustices proceed from those who pursue excess, not from those who are driven by necessity.”

For Ribbentrop’s fiftieth birthday in 1943 several of his close associates presented him with a handsome casket, ornamented with semiprecious stones, which they intended to fill with photocopies of all the treaties and agreements concluded by the Foreign Minister. “We were thrown into great embarrassment,” Ambassador Hewel, Ribbentrop’s liaison man, remarked to Hitler at supper, “when we were about to fill the casket. There were only a few treaties that we hadn’t broken in the meantime.”

Hitler’s eyes filled with tears of laughter.

As had happened at the beginning of the war, I was again oppressed by the idea of pushing forward with such vast building operations, drawing upon all available means, when the great war was obviously reaching a crucial stage. On July 30, 1941—while the German advance in Russia was still proceeding boldly—I proposed to Dr. Todt, who was in charge of the entire German construction industry, that work be suspended on all buildings not essential for the war effort.4 Todt, however, thought that in view of the present favorable state of military operations we could wait a few weeks more before facing this question. The question was to be deferred altogether, for my arguments once again made no impression on Hitler. He would not hear of any restrictions and refused to divert the material and labor for his private buildings to war industries any more than he would consider calling a halt to his favorite projects, the autobahns, the party buildings, and the Berlin projects.

In the middle of September 1941, when the advance in Russia was already lagging considerably behind the overconfident forecasts, Hitler ordered sizable increases in our contracts for granite purchases from Sweden, Norway, and Finland for my big Berlin and Nuremberg buildings. Contracts to the value of thirty million Reichsmarks had been awarded to the leading companies in the Norwegian, Finnish, Italian, Belgian, Swedish, and Dutch stone industry.5 In order to bring these vast quantities of granite to Berlin and Nuremberg, we founded (on June 4, 1941) a transport fleet of our own and set up our own shipyards in Wismar and Berlin, with plans to build a thousand boats with a cargo capacity of five hundred tons each.

My proposals that we cease peacetime building continued to be disregarded even when the outlines of the disaster of the winter of 1941 in Russia began to be apparent. On November 29, 1941, Hitler told me bluntly: “The building must begin even while this war is still going on. I am not going to let the war keep me from accomplishing my plans.”6

After the initial successes in Russia, moreover, Hitler decided that we wanted even more martial accents for our boulevard. These were to be supplied by captured enemy armaments set up on granite pedestals. On August 20, 1941, on Hitler’s orders, I informed an astonished Admiral Lorey, commander of the Berlin armory, that we intended to place thirty pieces of captured heavy artillery between the south station and the triumphal arch (“Structure T,” as we privately called it). There were other points, I informed the admiral, on the grand boulevard and along the southern axis where Hitler wanted to place such guns, so that we would need about two hundred pieces of the heaviest type in toto. Any extra-large tanks were to be reserved for setting up in front of important public buildings.

Hitler’s ideas about the political constitution of his “Teutonic Empire of the German Nation” still seemed quite vague, but he had already made up his mind about one point: In the immediate vicinity of the Norwegian city of Trondheim, which offered a particularly favorable strategic position, the largest German naval base was to arise. Along with shipyards and docks a city for a quarter of a million Germans would be built and incorporated into the German Reich. Hitler had commissioned me to do the planning. On May 1, 1941, I obtained from Vice Admiral Fuchs of the High Command of the Navy the necessary data on the space required for a large state-owned shipyard. On June 21, Grand Admiral Raeder and I went to the Chancellery to report to Hitler on the project. Hitler then determined the approximate site of the city. As much as a year later, on May 13, 1942, he discussed this base in the course of a conference on armaments.7 Special maps were prepared from which he studied the optimum position of the docks, and he decided that a large underground submarine base was to be blasted into the granite cliff. For the rest, Hitler assumed that St. Nazaire and Lorient in France, as well as the British Channel Islands, would be incorporated into a future naval base system. Thus he disposed at will of territories, interests, and rights belonging to others; by now he was totally convinced of his world dominion.

In this connection I must mention his plan for founding German cities in the occupied areas of the Soviet Union. On November 24, 1941 in the very midst of the winter catastrophe, Gauleiter Meyer, deputy of Alfred Rosenberg, the Reich Minister for the occupied eastern territories, asked me to take over the section on “new cities” and plan and build the settlements for the German garrisons and civil administrations. I finally refused this offer at the end of January 1942 on the grounds that a central authority for city planning would inevitably lead to a uniformity of pattern. I instead suggested that the great German cities each stand as sponsor for the construction of the new ones.8

Ever since I had begun, at the beginning of the war, to assume responsibility for erecting buildings for the army and air force, I had considerably expanded the organization entrusted with this work. To be sure, by the standards of a few months hence, the twenty-six thousand construction workers employed on these military programs by the end of 1941 would be insignificant. But at this time I was proud of being able to make a small contribution to the war effort; it eased my conscience not to be engaged entirely on Hitler’s peacetime plans. The most pressing task was the Ju 88 Program for the air force, which was to turn out the new two-motored, medium-range Junkers 88 dive bombers. Three big factories in Brünn, Graz, and Vienna, each of them larger than the Volkswagen plant, were completed within eight months. For the first time we used prefabricated concrete elements. From the autumn of 1941 on, however, our work was hampered by the shortage of fuel. Even though our programs had top priority, in September 1941 the amounts of fuel assigned to them had to be reduced by a third, and by January 1, 1942, to a sixth of our needs.9 That is just one example of how greatly Hitler had overextended his resources by embarking on the Russian campaign.

Along with this, repair of the bomb damage in Berlin and the building of air-raid shelters had been turned over to me. Without suspecting it, I was thus preparing for my duties as Minister of Armaments. For one thing, this gave me some insight into the havoc wreaked on the mechanisms of production by the constant arbitrary shifts in programs and priorities. For another thing, it taught me a good deal about the power relationships and the dissensions within the leadership.

For example, I took part in a session with Goering in the course of which General Thomas expressed his anxieties about the vast demands the leadership was making upon the economy. Goering answered the respected general by roaring at him: “What business is that of yours?

I am handling that—I am, do you hear. Or are you by any chance in charge of the Four-Year Plan? You have nothing to say in this matter; the Fuehrer has entrusted all these questions to me alone.” In such disputes General Thomas could expect no support from his chief, General Keitel, who was only too glad to escape being bullied by Goering. The well-conceived economic plan of the Armaments Office of the High Command of the Armed Forces was never carried out. But as I had already realized by then, Goering did nothing about these problems. Whenever he did do anything, he usually created total confusion, since he never took the trouble to work through the problems but made his decisions on the basis of impulsive inspirations.

A few months later, around November 1941, in my capacity as chief of armaments construction I took part in a conversation between Field Marshal Milch and Dr. Todt. In the autumn of 1941, Hitler was convinced that the Russians were already defeated; he therefore wanted priority to be given to building up the air force in preparation for his next operation, the subjugation of England.*

*This order of Hitler’s was still in effect in December 1941, although the situation had changed radically. Hitler hesitated to withdraw such orders, partly because he had a general tendency to hesitate and partly because he was concerned about saving face. A new order consistent with the exigencies of the war, giving army equipment priority over air force equipment, as required by the circumstances, was not issued until January 10, 1942.

Milch now insisted on this priority, as was his duty—while Dr. Todt, who knew something about the military situation, was close to despair. For he too was responsible for increasing the equipment of the army as fast as possible, but lacked an order from Hitler which would have given his assignment the necessary priority. At the end of the conference Todt summed up his helplessness: “It would be best, sir, if you’d take me into your ministry and let me be your assistant.”

It was again in the fall of 1941 that I visited the Junkers plant in Dessau to see General Manager Koppenberg and discuss how to coordinate our building programs with his production plans. After we had worked the matter out, he led me into a locked room and showed me a graph comparing American bomber production for the next several years with ours. I asked him what our leaders had to say about these depressing comparative figures. “That’s just it, they won’t believe it,” he said. Whereupon he broke into uncontrollable tears. But Goering, the Commander in Chief of the then heavily engaged Luftwaffe, had plenty of leisure. On June 23, 1941, the day after the beginning of the attack on the Soviet Union, he found time to dress in his gala uniform and come with me to see the models of his Reich Marshal’s office, which were being exhibited in Treptow.

My last art tour for a quarter of a century took me to Lisbon, where on November 8 an exhibit of new German architecture was being opened. I was supposed to fly in Hitler’s plane; but when it appeared that some of the alcoholic members of his entourage, such as Adjutant Schaub and the photographer Hoffmann, wanted to go along on the flight, I shook off their company by proposing to Hitler that I drive to Lisbon in my car. I saw ancient cities such as Burgos, Segovia, Toledo, and Salamanca; I visited the Escorial, a complex I could compare only to Hitler’s Fuehrer palace in its proportions, although the underlying impulse was quite different and far more spiritual: Philip

I had surrounded the palace nucleus with a monastery. What a contrast with Hitler’s architectural ideas: in the one case, remarkable conciseness and clarity, magnificent interior rooms, their forms perfectly controlled; in the other case, pomp and disproportionate ostentation. Moreover, this rather melancholic creation by the architect Juan de Herrera (1530-97) more closely matched our ominous situation than Hitler’s boastful program music. In hours of solitary contemplation it began to dawn on me for the first time that my recent architectural ideals were on the wrong track.

Because of this trip I missed the visit to Berlin of several Parisian acquaintances, among them Vlaminck, Derain, and Despiau,10 who at my invitation had come to see the models of our plans for Berlin. They must have looked in dead silence at our project and at the buildings that were going up; the office journal does not record a word about the impression that our exhibit made on them. I had met them during my stays in Paris and through my office had several times helped them out with commissions. Curiously enough, they had more freedom than their German colleagues. For when I visited the Salon d’Automne in Paris during the war, the walls were hung with pictures which would have been branded degenerate art in Germany. Hitler, too, had heard of this show. His reaction was as surprising as it was logical: “Are we to be concerned with the intellectual soundness of the French people? Let them degenerate if they want to! All the better for us.”

While I was on my trip to Lisbon, a transportation disaster had developed behind the fronts in the eastern theater of war. The German military organization had been unable to cope with the Russian winter. Moreover, the Soviet troops in the course of their retreat had systematically wiped out all locomotive sheds, watering stations, and other technical apparatus of their railroad system. In the intoxication of success during the summer and autumn when it seemed that “the Russian bear is already finished,” no one had given sufficient thought to the repair of this equipment. Hitler had refused to understand that such technical measures must be taken well ahead of time, in view of the Russian winter.

I heard about these difficulties from high officials of the Reichsbahn (the government railroad system) and from army and air force generals. I thereupon proposed to Hitler that thirty thousand of the sixty-five thousand German construction workers I was employing be assigned under the direction of my engineers, to repair work on the railroads. Incredibly, it was two weeks before Hitler could bring himself to authorize this. On December 27, 1941, he at last issued the order. Instead of hurling construction crews into the breach at the beginning of November, he had gone on with his triumphal buildings, determined not to capitulate in any way to reality.

On that same December 27, I had a meeting with Dr. Todt in his modest house on Hintersee near Berchtesgaden. He assigned the entire Ukraine to me as my field of activity, while staffs and workmen who had all along been frivolously engaged in working on the autobahns were made responsible for the central and northern areas of Russia. Todt had just returned from a long tour of inspection in the eastern theater of war. He had seen stalled hospital trains in which the wounded had frozen to death and had witnessed the misery of the troops in villages and hamlets cut off by snow and cold. He had been struck by the discouragement and despair among the German soldiers. Deeply depressed himself, he concluded that we were both physically incapable of enduring such hardships and psychologically doomed to destruction in Russia. “It is a struggle in which the primitive people will prove superior,” he continued. “They can endure everything, including the harshness of the climate. We are too sensitive and are bound to be defeated. In the end the victory will go to the Russians and the Japanese.” Hitler too, obviously influenced by Spengler, had expressed similar ideas in peacetime when he spoke of the biological superiority of the “Siberians and Russians.” But when the campaign in the east began, he thrust aside his own thesis, for it ran counter to his plans.

Hitler’s passion for building, his blind attachment to his personal hobbies, stimulated the same sort of thing in his imitative paladins, so that most of them had assumed the life style of victors. Even at that time I felt that here was one dangerous flaw in Hitler’s system. For unlike the democratic regimes, there could be no public criticism; no demand could arise that these abuses be corrected. On March 19, 1945, in my last letter to Hitler, I reminded him of this tendency: “I was sore at heart in the victorious days of 1940 when I saw how we were losing, among a broad spectrum of our leadership, our inner discipline. That was the very time when we ought to have proved our worthiness to Providence by decency and inner modesty.”

Though these lines were written five years later, they confirm the fact that at the time I saw the mistakes, winced at the abuses, took a critical stand, and was tormented by doubts and skepticism. But I must admit that these feelings were born from my fear that Hitler and his leadership might gamble away the victory.

In the middle of 1941, Goering inspected our model city on Pariser Platz. In a moment of affability he made an unusual remark to me: “I have told the Fuehrer,” he said, “that I consider you, after him, the greatest man Germany possesses.” But as second man in the hierarchy he felt he had better qualify this statement: “In my eyes you are absolutely the greatest architect. I would like to say that I esteem you as highly for your architectural creativity as I do the Fuehrer for his political and military abilities.”11

After nine years as Hitler’s architect I had worked my way up to an admired and uncontested position. The next three years were to confront me with entirely different tasks which for a time actually made me the most important man after Hitler.

Part Two

14. Start in My New Office

SEPP DIETRICH, ONE OF HITLERS EARLIEST FOLLOWERS AND NOW THE Commander of an SS tank corps hard pressed by the Russians near Rostov in the southern Ukraine, was flying to Dnepropetrovsk on January 30, 1941 in a plane of the Fuehrer’s air squadron. I asked him to take me along. My staff was already in the city, organizing the task of repairing the railroads in southern Russia.*

* According to the Office Journal, beginning on January 28, 1942, a train left Berlin every day carrying construction workers and building materials to the Ukraine. Several hundred workers had already been sent ahead to Dnepropetrovsk to make preparations.

The obvious idea of having a plane placed at my disposal had not occurred to me—a sign of how small a role in the war effort I so far attributed to myself.

Huddled close together, we sat in a Heinkel bomber refitted as a passenger plane. Beneath us the dreary, snow-covered plains of southern Russia flowed by. On large farms we saw the burned sheds and bams. To keep our direction, we flew along the railroad line. Scarcely a train could be seen; the stations were burned out, the roundhouses destroyed. Roads were rare, and they too were empty of vehicles. The great stretches of land we passed over were frightening in their deathly silence, which could be felt even inside the plane. Only gusts of snow broke the monotony of the landscape—or, rather, emphasized it. This flight brought home to me the danger to the armies almost cut off from supplies. At dusk we landed in the Russian industrial city of Dnepropetrovsk.

My group of technicians was called the “Speer Construction Staff” —in keeping with the bent of the period to link assignments with the names of individuals. They had taken up emergency quarters in a sleeping car. From time to time a locomotive sent a whiff of steam through the heating coils to keep them from freezing. Working conditions were just as grim; for our office we had only a dining car. The assignment was proving more formidable than we had thought. The Russians had destroyed all the intermediate stations. Nowhere were repair sheds still standing, nowhere were water tanks protected from freezing, nowhere were there stations or intact switching yards. The simplest matters, which at home could have been settled by a telephone call, became a problem here. Even lumber and nails were hard to come by.

It snowed and snowed. Railroad and highway traffic had come to a total standstill. The airport runway was drifted over. We were cut off; my return had to be postponed. Socializing with our construction workmen filled the time; get-togethers were held, songs sung. Sepp Dietrich made speeches and was cheered. I stood by; with my awkwardness at speechmaking I did not dare say even a few words to my men. Among the songs distributed by the army corps were some very melancholy ones, expressing the longing for home and the dreariness of the Russian steppes. These songs were undisguised statements of inner stress, and significantly enough, they were the soldiers’ favorite songs.

Meanwhile the situation was growing critical. A small Russian tank group had broken through and was approaching Dnepropetrovsk. We held conferences on what we could use to oppose them. Virtually nothing was available; a few rifles and an abandoned artillery piece without ammunition. The Russians advanced to within about twelve miles, then circled around aimlessly in the steppe. One of the mistakes so typical of war happened; they did not take advantage of their situation. A brief sortie to the long bridge over the Dnieper and destroying it by fire—it had been rebuilt in wood in months of toilsome work—would have cut off the German army southeast of Rostov from winter supplies for several months more.

I am not at all disposed to be a hero, and since the seven days of my stay had been of no use whatsoever and I was only eating into my engineers’ scarce provisions, I decided to go along on a train that was going to attempt to break through the snowdrifts to the west. My staff gave me a friendly—and it seemed to me thankful—farewell. All night we went along at six or seven miles an hour, stopped, shoveled snow, rode again. I thought we were a good deal farther to the west at dawn, when the train pulled into a deserted station.

But everything looked oddly familiar to me: burned sheds, clouds of steam above a few dining cars and sleeping cars, patrolling soldiers. We were back in Dnepropetrovsk. The huge drifts had forced the train to turn back. Depressed, I tramped into my construction staff’s dining car, where my associates received me with astonished and, I felt, rather irritated expressions. After all, they had pillaged their stocks of alcohol until the early morning hours drinking to their chief’s departure.

On that same day, February 7, 1942, the plane that had flown Sepp Dietrich in was to start on the return flight. Air Captain Nein, who was soon to be pilot of my own plane, was willing to take me with him. Just getting out to the airfield involved considerable difficulty. Under a clear sky and at a temperature barely above zero, a violent wind was whipping masses of snow in all directions. Russians in padded jackets tried in vain to clear the many feet of snow from the road. After we had tramped along for about an hour, several of them surrounded me and addressed me excitedly. I did not understand a word. Finally one of them picked up some snow and began rubbing my face with it. “Frozen,” I thought; I knew that much from my mountain tours. My astonishment grew when one of the Russians took from his filthy clothes a snow-white and neatly folded handkerchief to dry my face.

After some difficulty, around eleven o’clock we managed to take off from a runway poorly cleared of drifts. The plane’s destination was Rastenburg in East Prussia, the headquarters of the squadron. My destination was Berlin, but it was not my plane and so I was glad that at least I would be taken a considerable part of the way. By this chance I for the first time came to Hitler’s East Prussian headquarters.

In Rastenburg, I telephoned one of the adjutants in the hope that he would report my presence to Hitler and perhaps Hitler would want to talk with me. I had not seen him since the beginning of December, and it would have been a special distinction if he were at least to give me a brief greeting.

One of the Fuehrer’s cars drove me to headquarters. There I at last had a good meal in the dining barracks where Hitler ate daily with his generals, political associates, and adjutants. Hitler himself was not present. Dr. Todt, the Minister of Armaments and Munitions, was reporting to him, and the two were dining alone in Hitler’s private apartment. Meanwhile, I discussed our difficulties in the Ukraine with Army Transport Chief General Gercke and the commander of the railroad engineering troops.

After supper with a large group, Hitler and Todt continued their conference. It was late at night before Todt emerged, strained and fatigued, from a long and—it appeared—trying discussion. He wore a depressed air. I sat with him for a few minutes while he silently drank a glass of wine without speaking of the reason for his mood. By chance he mentioned, in the course of our rather lame conversation, that he was to fly back to Berlin next morning and that there was an unoccupied seat in his plane.

*Todt was flying to Munich and expected to make a stopover in Berlin.

He said he would be glad to take me along, and I was relieved not to have to make that long trip by rail. We agreed to fly at an early hour, and Dr. Todt bade me good night, since he was going to try to get a little sleep.

An adjutant came in and requested me to join Hitler. It was then after one o’clock in the morning; in Berlin, too, we had often sat over our plans at this hour. Hitler seemed as exhausted and out of sorts as Todt. The furniture of his room stressed spareness; he had even renounced the comfort of an upholstered chair here at headquarters. We talked about the Berlin and Nuremberg building projects, and Hitler visibly brightened. Even his sallow complexion seemed to take on color. Finally he asked me to tell him what impressions I had gathered on my visit to southern Russia and helped me along by interjecting questions. The difficulties in restoring the railroad equipment, the blizzards, the incomprehensible behavior of the Russian tank force, the social evenings with their melancholy songs—bit by bit everything I had observed came out. When I mentioned the songs his attention sharpened, and he asked about the words. I produced the text I had in my pocket. He read it and said nothing. My opinion was that the songs were the natural response to a grim situation. Hitler, however, decided at once that some traitor was trying to undermine morale. He thought my story would enable him to track down this “oppositionist.” Not until after the war did I learn that he had ordered a court-martial of the officer responsible for printing the songs.

This episode was characteristic of his perpetual suspiciousness. He closed his mind against the truth, but thought he could draw important conclusions from such random observations. Consequently he was always querying subordinates, even though they could not possibly have a view of the whole. Such distrust, usually without basis, had become a strong component in Hitler’s character. It caused him to become obsessed with trivialities. Undoubtedly it was also to blame for his isolation from the events and the mood at the front; for his entourage tried as far as possible to fend off any informants who might stir up his suspicions that all was not well with the army in the east.

When I finally left Hitler at three o’clock in the morning, I sent word that I would not be flying with Dr. Todt. The plane was to start five hours later, I was worn out and wanted only to have a decent sleep. In my small bedroom I considered—who in Hitler’s entourage did not do so after a two-hour conversation with him?—what impression I had probably left with him. I was content, my confidence restored that we would be able to carry out our building projects, a matter I had begun to doubt in view of the military situation. That night our dreams were transformed into realities; we had once again worked ourselves up to a hallucinatory optimism.

Next morning, the shrill clang of the telephone startled me out of a deep sleep. Dr. Brandt reported excitedly: “Dr. Todt’s plane has just crashed, and he has been killed.”

From that moment on my whole world was changed.

My relationship to Dr. Todt had become perceptibly closer in recent years. With his death I felt that I had lost an older, prudent colleague. We had much in common. Both of us came from prosperous, upper-middle-class circumstances; both of us were Badeners and had technological backgrounds. We loved nature, life in alpine shelters, ski tours—and shared a strong dislike for Bormann. Todt had repeatedly had serious run-ins with Bormann, protesting against his despoiling the landscape around Obersalzberg. My wife and I had frequently been Todt’s house guests; the Todts lived in a small unpretentious place off the beaten track on Hintersee near Berchtesgaden. No one would have guessed that the famous road builder and creator of the autobahns lived there.

Dr. Todt was one of the very few modest, unassertive personalities in the government, a man you could rely on, and who steered clear of all the intrigues. With his combination of sensitivity and matter-of- factness, such as is frequently found in technicians, he fitted rather poorly into the governing class of the National Socialist state. He lived a quiet, withdrawn life, having no personal contacts with party circles —and even very rarely appeared at Hitler’s dinners and suppers, although he would have been welcome. This retiring attitude enhanced his prestige; whenever he did appear he became the center of interest. Hitler, too, paid him and his accomplishments a respect bordering on reverence. Nevertheless, Todt had maintained his personal independence in his relations with Hitler, although he was a loyal party member of the early years.

In January 1941, when I was having difficulties with Bormann and Giessler, Todt wrote me an unusually candid letter which revealed his own resigned approach to the working methods of the National Socialist leadership:

Perhaps my own experiences and bitter disappointments with all the men with whom I should actually be cooperating might be of help to you, enabling you to regard your experience as conditioned by the times, and perhaps the point of view which I have gradually arrived at after much struggle might somewhat help you psychologically. For I have concluded that in the course of such events … every activity meets with opposition, everyone who acts has his rivals and unfortunately his opponents also. But not because people want to be opponents, rather because the tasks and relationships force different people to take different points of view. Perhaps, being young, you have quickly discovered how to cut through all such bother, while I only brood over it.1

At the breakfast table in the Fuehrer’s headquarters there was lively discussion of who could possibly be considered for Dr. Todt’s successor. Everyone agreed that he was irreplaceable. For he had held the positions of three ministers. Thus, he had been the supreme head of all road-building operations, in charge of all navigable waterways and improvements on them, as well as of all power plants. In addition, as Hitler’s direct envoy, he was Minister of Armaments and Munitions. Within the framework of Goering’s Four-Year Plan he headed the construction industry and had also created the Todt Organization which was building the West Wall and the U-boat shelters along the Atlantic, as well as the roads in the occupied territories all the way from northern Norway to southern France. Now he was also responsible for road building in Russia.

Thus in the course of the past several years Todt had gathered the major technical tasks of the Reich into his own hands. For the time being his operations were still nominally divided into various offices, but in essence he had set up the future technical ministry—all the more so since he was entrusted, within the party organization, with the Head Office for Technology, whose scope included all technical societies and associations.

During these first few hours I had already realized that an important portion of Todt’s widely ranging tasks would surely fall to me. For as early as the spring of 1939, on one of his inspection tours of the West Wall, Hitler had remarked that if anything should happen to Todt, I would be the man to carry out his construction assignments. Later, in the summer of 1940, Hitler received me officially in the Chancellery office to inform me that Todt was overburdened. He had therefore decided, he said, to put me in charge of all construction, including the fortifications along the Atlantic. At the time I had been able to convince Hitler that it would be better if construction and armaments remained in one hand, since they were closely linked. Hitler had not referred to the matter again, and I had not spoken to anyone about it. The arrangement would not only have offended Todt but would surely have diminished his prestige.2

I was therefore prepared for some such assignment when I was summoned to Hitler as the first caller of the day at the usual late hour, around one o’clock in the afternoon. Even the face of Chief Adjutant Schaub expressed the importance of the occasion. In contrast to the night before, Hitler received me officially as Fuehrer of the Reich. Standing, earnest and formal, he received my condolences, replied very briefly, then said without more ado: “Herr Speer, I appoint you the successor to Minister Todt in all his capacities.”

I was thunderstruck. He was already shaking hands with me and on the point of dismissing me. But I thought he had expressed himself imprecisely and therefore replied that I would try my best to be an adequate replacement for Dr. Todt in his construction assignments. “No, in all his capacities, including that of Minister of Armaments,” Hitler corrected me. “But I don’t know anything about…” I protested.

“I have confidence in you. I know you will manage it,” Hitler cut me off. “Besides, I have no one else. Get in touch with the Ministry at once and take over!”

“Then, mein Führer, you must put that as a command, for I cannot vouch for my ability to master this assignment.”

Tersely, Hitler issued the command. I received it in silence. Without a personal word, such as had been the usual thing between us, Hitler turned to other business. I took my leave, having experienced a first sample of our new relationship. Hitherto, Hitler had displayed a kind of fellowship toward me as an architect. Now a new phase was perceptibly beginning. From the first moment on he was establishing the aloofness of an official relationship to a minister who was his subordinate.

As I turned to the door, Schaub entered. “The Reich Marshal is here and urgently wishes to speak to you, mein Führer. He has no appointment.”

Hitler looked sulky and displeased. “Send him in.” He turned to me. “Stay here a moment longer.”

Goering bustled in and after a few words of condolence stated his mind: “Best if I take over Dr. Todt’s assignments within the framework of the Four-Year Plan. This would avoid the frictions and difficulties we had in the past as a result of overlapping responsibilities.”

Goering had presumably come in his special train from his hunting lodge in Rominten, about sixty miles from Hitler’s headquarters. Since the accident had taken place at half past nine he must have wasted no time at all.

Hitler ignored Goering’s proposal. “I have already appointed Todt’s successor. Reich Minister Speer here has assumed all of Dr. Todt’s offices as of this moment.”

The statement was so unequivocal that it excluded all possible argument. Goering seemed stunned and alarmed. But within a few seconds he recovered his composure. Coldly and ill-humoredly, he made no comment on Hitler’s announcement. Instead he said: “I hope you will understand, mein Führer, if I do not attend Dr. Todt’s funeral. You know what battles I had with him. It would hardly do for me to be present.”

I no longer remember precisely what Hitler replied, since all this washing of dirty linen was naturally somewhat of a shock to me at this early moment in my new ministerial career. But I recall that Goering finally consented to come to the funeral, so that his disagreements with Todt would not become public knowledge. Given the importance assigned to such ceremonies by the system, it would have caused quite a stir if the second man in the state was absent from a formal act of state in honor of a dead cabinet minister.

There could be no doubt that Goering had tried to win his point by a surprise assault. I even surmised that Hitler had expected such a maneuver, and that this was the reason for the speed of my appointment.

As Minister of Armaments, Dr. Todt could carry out his assignment from Hitler only by issuing direct orders to industry. Goering, on the other hand, as Commissioner of the Four-Year Plan, felt responsible for running the entire war economy. He and his apparatus were therefore pitted against Todt’s activities. In the middle of January 1942, about two weeks before his death, Todt had taken part in a conference on production matters. In the course of it Goering had so berated him that Todt informed Funk on the same afternoon that he would have to quit. On such occasions it worked to Todt’s disadvantage that he wore the uniform of a brigadier general of the air force. This meant that in spite of his ministerial office he ranked as Goering’s subordinate in the military hierarchy.

After this little episode one thing was clear to me: Goering would not be my ally, but Hitler seemed prepared to back me if I should encounter difficulties with the Reich Marshal.

At first Hitler seemed to treat Todt’s death with the stoic calm of a man who must reckon with such incidents as part of the general picture. Without citing any evidence, he expressed the suspicion, during the first few days, that foul play might have been involved and that he was going to have the secret service look into the matter. This view, however, soon gave way to an irritable and often distinctly nervous reaction whenever the subject was mentioned in his presence. In such cases Hitler might declare sharply: “I want to hear no more about that. I forbid further discussion of the subject.” Sometimes he would add: ‘“You know that this loss still affects me too deeply for me to want to talk about it.”

On Hitler’s orders the Reich Air Ministry tried to determine whether sabotage might have been responsible for the plane crash. The investigation established the fact that the plane had exploded, with a sharp flame darting straight upward, some sixty-five feet above the ground. The report of the commission, which because of its importance was headed by an air force lieutenant general, nevertheless concluded with the curious statement: “The possibility of sabotage is ruled out. Further measures are therefore neither requisite nor intended.”*

*The plane executed a normal takeoff, but while still within sight of the airport the pilot made a rapid turn which suggested that he was trying for an emergency landing. As he was coming down he steered for the landing strip without taking time to head into the wind. The accident occurred near the airport and at a low altitude. The plane was a Heinkel III, converted for passenger flight; it had been lent to Dr. Todt by his friend Field Marshal Sperrle, since Todt’s own plane was undergoing repairs. Hitler reasoned that this Heinkel, like all the courier planes that were used at the front, had a self-destruct mechanism on board. It could be activated by pulling a handle located between the pilot’s and the copilot’s seats, whereupon the plane would explode within a few minutes. The final report of the military tribunal, dated March 8, 1943 (K 1 T.L. II/42) and signed by the commanding general and the commander of Air District I, Knigsberg, stated: “Approximately twenty-three hundred feet from the airport and the end of the runway the pilot apparently throttled down, then opened the throttle again two or three seconds later. At that moment a long flame shot up vertically from the front of the plane, apparently caused by an explosion. The aircraft fell at once from an altitude of approximately sixty-five feet, pivoting around its right wing and hitting the ground almost perpendicularly, facing directly away from its flight direction. It caught fire at once and a series of explosions totally demolished it.”

Incidentally, not long before his death Dr. Todt had deposited a sizable sum of money in a safe, earmarked for his personal secretary of many years service. He had remarked that he was doing this in case something should happen to him.

One can only wonder at the recklessness and the frivolity with which Hitler appointed me to one of those three or four ministries on which the existence of his state depended. I was a complete outsider to the army, to the party, and to industry. Never in my life had I had anything to do with military weapons, for I had never been a soldier and up to the time of my appointment had never even used a rifle as a hunter. To be sure, it was in keeping with Hitler’s dilettantism that he preferred to choose nonspecialists as his associates. After all, he had already appointed a wine salesman as his Foreign Minister, his party philosopher as his Minister for Eastern Affairs, and an erstwhile fighter pilot as overseer of the entire economy. Now he was picking an architect of all people to be his Minister of Armaments. Undoubtedly Hitler preferred to fill positions of leadership with laymen. All his life he respected but distrusted professionals such as, for example, Schacht.

As after the death of Professor Troost, my career was again being furthered by the death of another man. Hitler regarded it as a specially striking instance of Providence that I had arrived at headquarters the night before by sheer chance, and that I had canceled my projected flight with Todt. Later, when I was having my first successes, he liked to say that the plane crash had been engineered by fate in order to bring about an increase in armaments production.

In contrast to the troublesome Dr. Todt, Hitler must have found me a rather willing tool at first. To that extent, this shift in personnel obeyed the principle of negative selection which governed the composition of Hitler’s entourage. Since he regularly responded to opposition by choosing someone more amenable, over the years he assembled around himself a group of associates who more and more surrendered to his arguments and translated them into action more and more unscrupulously.

Nowadays, historians are apt to inquire into my activities as Armaments Minister and inclined to treat my building plans for Berlin and Nuremberg as of secondary importance. For me, however, my work as architect still remained my life task. I regarded my surprising appointment as an interim thing for the “duration,” a form of wartime service. I saw the possibility of winning a reputation, and even fame, as Hitler’s architect, whereas whatever even a prominent minister could accomplish would necessarily be absorbed in Hitler’s glory. I therefore very soon extracted the promise from Hitler that he appoint me his architect again after the war.3 The fact that I thought this necessary shows how dependent we all felt on Hitler’s will, even in his most personal decisions. Hitler met my request without hesitation. He too thought that I would perform my most valuable services for him and his Reich as his foremost architect. When on occasion he spoke of his plans for the future, he frequently declared longingly: “Then both of us will withdraw from affairs for several months to go through all the building plans once more.” But soon such remarks became rarer and rarer.

The first result of my appointment as a minister was the arrival by plane at the Fuehrers headquarters of Oberregierungsrat Konrad Haasemann, Todt’s personal assistant. There were more influential and more important associates of Todt. I was therefore vexed and interpreted the dispatch of Haasemann as an attempt to test my authority. Haasemann claimed that he had come to brief me on the qualities of my future associates. I told him sharply that I intended to form my own view. That same evening I took the night train to Berlin. For the time being I had lost any fondness I may have had for plane travel.

Next morning as I rode through the suburbs of the capital with their factories and railroad yards, I was overcome by anxiety. How would I be able to contend with this vast and alien field, I wondered. I had considerable doubts about my qualifications for this new task, for coping with either the practical difficulties or the personal demands that were made upon a minister. As the train pulled into the Schlesischer Station, I found my heart pounding and felt weak.

Here I was about to occupy a key position in the wartime organization, although I was rather shy in dealing with strangers, lacked the gift of speaking up easily at public meetings, and even in conferences found it hard to express my thoughts precisely and understandably. What would the generals of the army say when I, already marked as a nonsoldier and artist, was presented to them as their colleague? Actually, such questions of personal impression and of the extent of my authority worried me as much as the practical tasks.

A rather considerable problem awaited me in dealing with the administrative aspect of my new job. I was aware that Todt’s old associates would regard me as an intruder. They knew me, of course, as a friend of their chief, but they also knew me as someone always petitioning them for supplies of building materials. And these men had been in close collaboration with Dr. Todt for many years.

Immediately after my arrival I paid a visit to all the important department heads in their offices, thus sparing them the necessity of coming to me to report. I also gave the order that nothing was to be changed in Dr. Todt’s private office, although its furnishings did not suit my taste.*

*Not until the summer of 1943, when I moved, was I able to get rid of these ugly furnishings unobtrusively and replace them with furniture I had designed for my old study. In the process I also succeeded in parting company with a picture that had previously hung over my desk. It showed Hitler, who was hopeless on horseback, staring sternly from the saddle and decked out as a medieval knight with a lance… . Sensitive technicians do not always show the best taste in their interior decoration.

On the morning of February 11, 1942, I had to be present at Anhalter Station to receive the coffin with Todt’s remains. This ceremony was hard on my nerves, as was the funeral on the next day in my mosaic hall in the Chancellery—in the presence of a Hitler moved to tears. During the simple ceremony at the grave Xaver Dorsch, one of Todt’s key men, solemnly assured me of his loyalty. Two years later, when I fell seriously ill, he entered into an intrigue against me led by Goering.

My work began immediately. Field Marshal Erhard Milch, state secretary of the Air Ministry, invited me to a conference in the great hall of the Ministry, to be held on Friday, February 13, at which armament questions were to be discussed with the three branches of the services and with representatives of industry. When I asked whether this conference could not be postponed, since I first had to get the feel of my job, Milch replied with a counterquestion typical of his free and easy manner and the good relations between us: The top industrialists from all over the Reich were already on their way to the conference, and was I going to beg off? I agreed to come.

On the day before, I was summoned to Goering. This was my first visit to him in my new capacity of minister. Cordially, he spoke of the harmony between us while I was his architect. He hoped this would not change, he said. When Goering wanted to, he could display a good deal of charm, hard to resist if somewhat condescending. But then he came down to business. He had had a written agreement with my predecessor, he said. A similar document had been prepared for me; he would send it to me for my signature. The agreement stipulated that in my procurement for the army I could not infringe on areas covered by the Four-Year Plan. He concluded our discussion by saying rather obscurely that I would learn more in the course of the conference with Milch and the others. I did not reply and ended the discussion on the same note of cordiality. Since the Four-Year Plan embraced the entire economy, I would have had my hands completely tied if I abided by Goerings arrangement.

I sensed that something unusual was awaiting me at Milch’s conference. Since I still felt by no means secure and since Hitler was still in Berlin, I informed him of my anxieties. I knew, from the little episode with Goering at the time of my appointment, that I could count on his backing. “Very well,” he said. “If any steps are taken against you, or if you have difficulties, interrupt the conference and invite the participants to the Cabinet Room. Then I’ll tell those gentlemen whatever is necessary.”

The Cabinet Room was regarded as a “sacred place”; to be received there would inevitably make a deep impression. And the fact that Hitler would be willing to address this group, with whom I would be dealing in the future, offered me the best possible prospects for my start.

The large conference hall of the Air Ministry was filled. There were thirty persons present: the most important men in industry, among them General Manager Albert Vögler; Wilhelm Zangen, head of the German Industry Association; General Ernst Fromm, chief of the Reserve Army, with his subordinate, Lieutenant General Leeb, chief of the army Ordnance Office; Admiral Witzell, armaments chief of the navy; General Thomas, chief of the War Economy and Armaments Office of the OKW; Walther Funk, Reich Minister of Economics; various officials of the Four-Year Plan; and a few more of Goering’s important associates. Milch took the chair as representative of the conference host. He asked Funk to sit at his right and me at his left. In a terse introductory address he explained the difficulties that had arisen in armaments production due to the conflicting demands of the three services. Vögler of the United Steel Works followed with some highly intelligent explanations of how orders and counterorders, disputes over priority levels, and constant shifting of priorities interfered with industrial production. There were still unused reserves available, he said, but because of the frigging and hauling these did not come to light. Thus it was high time to establish clear relationships. There must be one man able to make all decisions. Industry did not care who it was.

Thereafter, General Fromm spoke for the army and Admiral Witzell for the navy. In spite of some reservations they expressed general agreement with Vöglers remarks. The other participants likewise were convinced of the necessity for having one person to assume authority in economic matters. During my own work for the air force I too had recognized the urgency of this matter.

Finally Economics Minister Funk stood up and turned directly to Milch. We were all in essential agreement, he said; the course of the meeting had revealed that. The only remaining question, therefore, was who the man should be. “Who would be better suited for the purpose than you, my dear Milch, since you have the confidence of Goering, our revered Reich Marshal? I therefore believe I am speaking in the name of all when I ask you to take over this office!” he exclaimed, striking a rather over-emotional note for the occasion.

This had clearly been prearranged. Even while Funk was speaking, I whispered into Milch’s ear: “The conference is to be continued in the Cabinet Room. The Fuehrer wants to speak about my tasks.” Milch, quick-wittedly grasping the meaning of this, replied to Funk’s proposal that he was greatly honored by such an expression of confidence, but that he could not accept.4

I spoke up for the first time, transmitting to the assembled group the Fuehrers invitation and announcing that the discussion would be continued on Thursday, February 18, in my ministry, since it would probably deal with my assignment. Milch then adjourned the session.

Later Funk admitted to me that on the eve of the conference Billy Körner, Goering’s state secretary and associate in the work of the Four-Year Plan, had urged him to propose Milch as the authority for final decisions. Funk took it for granted that Körner could not have made this request without Goering’s knowledge.

Hitler’s invitation alone must have made it clear to those familiar with the balance of power that I was starting from a stronger position than my predecessor had ever possessed.

Now Hitler had to make good on his promise. In his office he let me brief him on what had taken place and jotted down some notes. He then went into the Cabinet Room with me and immediately took the floor.

Hitler spoke for about an hour. Rather tediously, he expatiated on the tasks of war industry, emphasized the need for accelerated production, spoke of the valuable forces that must be mobilized in industry, and was astonishingly candid on the subject of Goering: “This man cannot look after armaments within the framework of the Four-Year Plan.”

It was essential, Hitler continued, to separate this task from the Four-Year Plan and turn it over to me. A function was given to a man and then taken from him again; such things happened. The capacity for increased production was available, but things had been mismanaged.

(In prison Funk told me that Goering had asked for this statement of Hitler’s—which amounted to stripping him of some of his powers—in writing so that he could use it as evidence against his use of forced labor.)

Hitler avoided touching on the problem of a single head for all armaments production. Similarly, he spoke only of supplies for the army and navy, deliberately excluding the air force. I too had glossed over this contested point in my words with him, since the matter involved a political decision and would have brought in all sorts of ambiguities. Hitler concluded his address with an appeal to the participants. He first described my great feats in construction—which could scarcely have made much of an impression on these people. He went on to say that this new job represented a great sacrifice on my part—a statement which did not have much meaning in view of the critical situation. He expected not only cooperation on their part but also fair treatment. “Behave toward him like gentlemen!” he said, employing the English word, which he rarely used. What exactly my assignment was, he did not clearly state, and I preferred it that way.

Heretofore Hitler had never introduced a minister in this way. Even in a less authoritarian system such a debut would have been of assistance. In our state the consequences were astonishing, even to me. For a considerable time I found myself moving in a kind of vacuum that offered no resistance whatsoever. Within the widest limits I could practically do as I pleased.

Funk, who then walked Hitler back to his apartment in the Chancellery along with me, promised emotionally on the way that he would place everything at my disposal and do all in his power to help me. Moreover he kept the promise, with minor exceptions.

Bormann and I stood chatting with Hitler in the salon for a few minutes longer. Before Hitler withdrew to his upstairs rooms, he once again recommended that I avail myself of industry as far as possible, since I would find the most valuable assistants there. This idea was not new to me, for Hitler had in the past often emphasized that one did best to let industry handle major tasks directly, for government bureaucracy only hampered initiative—this aversion to bureaucrats remained a standing point with him. I took this favorable moment with Bormann present to assure him that I would indeed be drawing chiefly on technicians from industry. But there would have to be no questions raised as to their party membership, since many of them kept aloof from the party, as was well known. Hitler agreed; he instructed Bormann to go along with this; and so my ministry was—at least until the attempted assassination of July 20, 1944—spared the unpleasant probings of Bormann’s party secretariat.

That same evening I had a full discussion with Milch, who pledged an end to that rivalry the air force had hitherto practiced toward the army and navy in matters of procurement. Especially during the early months his advice became indispensable; out of our official relationship there grew a cordial friendship which has lasted to the present.

15. Organized Improvisation

I HAD FIVE DAYS BEFORE THE CONFERENCE IN MY MINISTRY. BY THEN I would have to have some plan of action. Surprising though it may seem, the principles were clear to me from the start. From the first day on I headed, with a sleepwalkers sureness, toward the one system that could possibly achieve success in armaments production. Of course I had a certain advantage, for during my two years of construction work for the armaments industry on a lower plane I had caught glimpses of “many fundamental errors which would have remained hidden from me if I had been at the top.”1

I prepared a plan of organization whose vertical lines represented individual items, such as tanks, planes, or submarines. In other words, the armaments for the three branches of the service were included. These vertical columns were enclosed in numerous rings, each of which was to stand for a group of components needed for all guns, tanks, planes, and other armaments. Within these rings I considered, for example, the production of forgings or ball bearings or electrical equipment as a whole. Accustomed as an architect to three-dimensional thinking, I drew this new organizational scheme in perspective.

On February 18 the top figures in war industry and in the government bureaus having to do with armaments met once again, in the former conference room of the Academy of Arts. After I had spoken for an hour, they accepted my organizational scheme without cavil and gave their endorsement to a statement reviewing the demands for unitary leadership made at the February 13 conference and announcing that I was herewith being given a mandate for full authority. I prepared to pass this paper around the table for signature—a most unusual procedure in relations among government boards.

Hitler’s injunctions had had their effect. Milch was the first to declare himself in full agreement with the proposal and signed the paper without more ado. Some of the other participants raised formal objections, but Milch used his authority to override them. Only Admiral Witzell, the representative of the navy, continued his opposition to the last and finally gave his consent only under protest.

Next day, February 19, I went to the Fuehrers headquarters accompanied by Field Marshal Milch, General Thomas, and General Olbricht (as General Fromm’s representative) to present my organizational plans to Hitler and report to him on the results of the conference. Hitler approved of all I had done.

Immediately after my return Goering summoned me to his hunting lodge, Karinhall, more than forty-five miles north of Berlin. After Goering had seen Hitler’s new Berghof in 1935, he had had his modest old hunting lodge rebuilt into a manor that exceeded Hitler’s in size. The salon was just as large as Hitler’s, but with an even bigger picture window. At the time Hitler was annoyed by this pomp. But it must be admitted that Goering’s architect had created a suitable frame for Goering’s craving for magnificence. It now served as his headquarters.

Such conferences usually meant the loss of a valuable working day. This time, too, when I arrived punctually toward eleven o’clock after a long automobile ride, I spent an hour in Goering’s reception hall looking at pictures and tapestries. For in contrast to Hitler, Goering took a large view of the appointed time. Finally he emerged from his private apartment on the upper floor, dressed in a flowing green-velvet dressing gown, a picturesque note, and descended the stairs. We greeted each oilier rather coolly. With tripping steps he preceded me into his office and took his seat at a gigantic desk. I modestly sat down facing him. Goering was extremely angry; he complained bitterly that I had not invited him to the conference in the Cabinet Room and pushed toward me across the vast expanses of the desk an opinion by Erich Neumann, his ministerial director for the Four-Year Plan, on the legal implications of my own paper. With an agility I would not have thought so fat a man capable of, he leaped to his feet and began pacing the big room, frantic with agitation. His deputies were all spineless wretches, he declared. By giving their signatures they had made themselves my underlings for all time to come, and this without even asking him. Of course, this bluster was directed against me as well; but the fact that he did not dare storm at me signified a weakened position. He could not accept such nibbling away at his power, he declared in conclusion. He would go to Hitler at once and resign his office as boss of the Four-Year Plan.2

At the time such a resignation would certainly have been no loss. For although at the start Goering had pushed the Four-Year Plan with great energy, by 1942 he was generally regarded as sluggish and distinctly averse to work. Increasingly, he gave an impression of instability; he took up too many ideas, changed course all the time, and was consistently unrealistic.

Hitler would probably not have permitted Goering to resign because of the political backlash. Instead, he would have sought a compromise. I saw that this was something I had to head off, for Hitler’s compromises were merely evasions and of a sort everyone in the government feared. They did not eliminate difficulties but instead made all administrative interrelationships more opaque and complicated.

I knew that I had to do something to build up Goering’s prestige. For the time being, I assured him that the new arrangement desired by Hitler and approved by the representatives of industry and the services would in no way infringe on his position as head of the Four-Year Plan. At this, Goering seemed mollified. I went on to say that I was ready to become his subordinate and carry out my work within the framework of the Four-Year Plan.

Three days later I called on Goering again and showed him a draft agreement appointing me “Chief Representative for Armaments within the Four-Year Plan.” Goering seemed satisfied, although he pointed out that I had undertaken much too much and would be wiser to limit my goals. Two days later, on March 1, 1942, he signed the decree. It authorized me “to give armaments … within the whole of the economy the priority which is appropriate for them in wartime.”3 This was more power than had been given me by the document of February 18, which Goering had been so furious about.

On March 16, shortly after Hitler had approved the matter—he was glad to be relieved of all personal difficulties with Goering—I informed the German press of my appointment. To make my point more vividly, I had dug up an old photograph showing Goering, delighted with my design for his Reich Marshal’s office building, clapping his hands on my shoulders. This was supposed to show that the crisis, which had begun to be talked about in Berlin, was now over. However, there was a protest from Goering’s press agency: I was told that the photo and the decree should by rights have been released by Goering alone.

There were more problems of this sort. His sensitivities aroused, Goering complained of having heard from the Italian Ambassador that the foreign press was intimating that he had been downgraded. Such reports were bound to undermine his prestige in industry, he protested. Now it was an open secret that Goering’s high style of living was financed by industry, and I had the feeling that he feared a reduction in his prestige would result in a reduction in these subsidies. I therefore suggested that he invite the chief industrialists to a conference in Berlin, in the course of which I would declare formally my subordination to him. This proposal gratified him enormously; his good humor returned instantly.

Goering thereupon ordered some fifty industrialists to come to Berlin. The conference began with a very brief address by me, saying what I had promised, while Goering delivered a long discourse on the importance of armaments. He extorted all those present to make the maximum effort, and other such commonplaces. On the other hand he did not mention my assignment in either a favorable or an unfavorable sense. Thereafter, thanks to Goering’s lethargy, I was able to work freely and unhampered. No doubt he was often jealous of my successes with Hitler; but during the next two years he scarcely ever tried to interfere with anything I was doing.

Goering’s own powers seemed to me, given his now reduced authority, not quite sufficient for my own work. Soon afterward, therefore —on March 21—I had Hitler sign another decree: “The requirements of the German economy as a whole must be subordinated to the necessities of armaments production.” Given the usages of the authoritarian system, this decree of Hitler’s amounted to dictatorial powers over the economy.

The constitutional forms of our organization were just as improvised and vague as all these arrangements. There was no precise statement of my assignments or jurisdiction. My feeling was that I was better off without such definitions. I did my best to keep the situation fluid. Consequently, we were able to determine our jurisdiction from case to case, depending on need and the impetuosity of my associates. A legalistic formulation of our rights, which given Hitler’s favorable attitude toward me could have been used to acquire a position of almost unlimited power, would only have led to jurisdictional disputes with other ministries. It would not have achieved our purpose, which was to have everyone pull together satisfactorily.

These vaguenesses were a cancer in Hitler’s mode of governing. But I was in accord with the system as long as it permitted me to function effectively and as long as Hitler signed all the decrees that I presented to him for signature. But when he no longer blindly granted my requests —and in certain areas he soon stopped doing so—I was condemned to either impotence or cunning.

On the evening of March 2, 1942, about a month after my appointment, I invited the architects employed on the rebuilding of Berlin to a farewell dinner at Horcher’s. The very thing you have forcibly resisted, I said to them in a brief address, sooner or later overpowers you. I found it strange that my new work was not so alien, although at first sight it seemed so remote from what I had previously done. “I have known since my university days,” I continued, “that if we wish to understand everything, we must do one thing thoroughly. I have therefore decided to take a keen interest in tanks for the moment, trusting that I thereby shall be better able to grasp the essence of many other tasks.” As a cautious person, I said, I had for the time being drawn up my program for the next two years. I hoped, however, to be able to return to architecture sooner. My wartime assignment should prove of use later on, for we technicians would be called on to solve the problems of the future. “Moreover,” I concluded somewhat grandiosely, “in the future architects will take over the leadership in technology.”4

Equipped with Hitler’s grant of full authority, with a peaceable Goering in the background, I could go forward with my comprehensive plan of “industrial self-responsibility,” as I had sketched it in my outline. Today it is generally agreed that the astonishingly rapid rise in armaments production was due to this plan. Its principles, however, were not new. Both Field Marshal Milch and my predecessor Todt had already adopted the procedure of entrusting eminent technicians from leading industrial firms with the management of separate areas of armaments production. But Dr. Todt himself had borrowed this idea. The real creator of the concept of industrial self-responsibility was Walther Rathenau, the great Jewish organizer of the German economy during the First World War. He realized that considerable increases in production could be achieved by exchange of technical experiences, by division of labor from plant to plant, and by standardization. As early as 1917 he declared that such methods could guarantee “a doubling of production with no increase in equipment and no increase in labor costs.”5 On the top floor of Todt’s Ministry sat one of Rathenau’s old assistants who had been active in his raw materials organization during the First World War and had later written a memorandum on its structure. Dr. Todt benefited by his advice.

We formed “directive committees” for the various types of weapons and “directive pools” for the allocation of supplies. Thirteen such committees were finally established, one for each category of my armaments program. Linking these were an equal number of pools.6

Alongside these committees and pools I set up development commissions in which army officers met with the best designers in industry. These commissions were to supervise new products, suggest improvements in manufacturing techniques even during the design stage, and call a halt to any unnecessary projects.

The heads of the committees and the pools were to make sure—this was vital to our whole approach—that a given plant concentrated on producing only one item, but did so in maximum quantity. Because of Hitler’s and Goering’s continual restiveness, expressed in sudden shifts of program, the factories had hitherto tried to assure themselves of four or five different contracts simultaneously, and if possible, from different branches of the services, so that they could shift to alternative contracts in case of sudden cancellations. Moreover, the Wehrmacht frequently assigned contracts only for a limited time. Thus, for example, before 1942 the manufacture of ammunition was checked or increased depending on consumption, which came in sudden bursts because of the blitz campaigns. This state of affairs kept the factories from throwing all their productive energy into making ammunition. We provided contractual guarantees of continued procurement and assigned the types we needed among the various factories.

By dint of these changes, the armaments production of the early years of the war, which had been on a more or less piecework basis, was converted to industrial mass production. Amazing results were soon to show up; but significantly enough, not in those industries which had already been working along modem lines of efficiency, such as the automobile industry. These scarcely lent themselves to any increase in production. I regarded my task principally as one of tracking down and defining problems so far screened by long years of routine; but I left their solution to the specialists. Obsessed with my task, I did not try to keep down the extent of my responsibilities, but rather to take in more and more areas of the economy. Reverence for Hitler, a sense of duty, ambition, pride —all these elements were operative. After all, at thirty-six I was the youngest minister in the Reich. My Industry Organization soon comprised more than ten thousand assistants and aides, but in our Ministry itself there were only two hundred and eighteen officials at work.7 This proportion was in keeping with my view of the Ministry as merely a steering organization, with the chief thrust of our operation lying in “industrial self-responsibility.”

The traditional arrangement provided that most matters would be submitted to the minister by his state secretary. The latter functioned as a kind of sieve, deciding the importance of things at his own discretion. I eliminated this procedure and made directly subordinate to myself more than thirty leaders of the Industry Organization and no less than ten department chiefs*

*All department heads under my direction were empowered to sign orders as “deputized by” the minister rather than “in behalf of” the minister. This was a technical breach in the rules of the state bureaucracy, for it implied that they were authorized to act independently, a power usually reserved to state secretaries. I ignored the protests submitted by the Minister of the Interior, who was responsible for preserving the regular procedures of government administration.

I brought the head of the Planning Department, Willy Liebel, from Nuremberg, where he had been mayor. The director of the Technical Department, Karl Saur, had risen from the intermediate ranks of party functionaries, after previously occupying a subordinate position in industry. The head of the Supply Department, Dr. Walter Schieber, was a chemist by profession; he was typical of the older party member in the SS and party who had had previous experience as specialists. Xaver Dorsch, my deputy in the Todt Organization, was our oldest party member. The head of the department responsible for consumer goods production, Seebauer, had also joined the party long before 1933.

in the Ministry. In principle they were all supposed to settle their interrelationships among themselves, but I took the liberty of intervening in important questions or whenever differences of opinion arose.

Our method of work was just as unusual as this form of organization. The old-line officials of the government bureaucracy spoke disdainfully of a “dynamic Ministry” or a “Ministry without an organization plan” and a “Ministry without officials.” It was said that I applied rough-and-ready or “American” methods. My comment, “If jurisdictions are sharply separated, we are actually encouraging a limited point of view,”8 was prompted by rebellion against the caste mentality of the system, but also bore some resemblance to Hitler’s notions of improvised government by an impulsive genius.

Another principle of mine also gave offense. This had to do with personnel policy. As soon as I assumed my post I gave instructions, as the Fuehrer’s Minutes of February 19, 1942, record, that the leading men in important departments who were “over fifty-five years old must be assigned a deputy who is no older than forty.”

Whenever I explained my organizational plans to Hitler, he showed a striking lack of interest. I had the impression that he did not like to deal with these questions; indeed, in certain realms he was altogether incapable of distinguishing the important from the unimportant. He also did not like establishing clear lines of jurisdiction. Sometimes he deliberately assigned bureaus or individuals the same or similar tasks. “That way,” he used to say, “the stronger one does the job.”

Within half a year after my taking office we had significantly increased production in all the areas within our scope. Production in August 1942, according to the Index Figures for German Armaments End-Products, as compared with the February production, had increased by 27 percent for guns, by 25 percent for tanks, while ammunition production almost doubled, rising 97 percent. The total productivity in armaments increased by 59.6 percent.9 Obviously we had mobilized reserves that had hitherto lain fallow.

After two and a half years, in spite of the beginning of heavy bombing, we had raised our entire armaments production from an average index figure of 98 for the year 1941 to a summit of 322 in July 1944. During the same period the labor force expanded by only about 30 percent. We had succeeded in doubling the output of labor and had achieved the very results Rathenau had predicted in 1917 as the effect of efficiency: doubling production without increasing equipment or labor costs.

It was not that any genius was at work here, though that has often been asserted. Many of the technicians in my office would undoubtedly have been more fit for the job, as far as knowledge of the fields involved is concerned. But none of them could have thrown the nimbus of Hitler into the balance as I could, and that made all the difference. The backing of the Fuehrer counted for everything.

Aside from all organizational innovations, things went so well because I applied the methods of democratic economic leadership. The democracies were on principle committed to placing trust in the responsible businessmen as long as that trust was justified. Thus they rewarded initiative, aroused an awareness of mission, and spurred decision making. Among us, on the other hand, all such elements had long ago been buried. Pressure and coercion kept production going, to be sure, but destroyed all spontaneity. I felt it necessary to issue a declaration to the effect that industry was not “knowingly lying to us, stealing from us, or otherwise trying to damage our war economy.”10

The party felt acutely challenged by that attitude, as I was to find out after July 20, 1944. Exposed to sharp attacks, I had to defend my system of delegated responsibility in a letter to Hitler.11

Paradoxically, from 1942 on, the developments in the warring countries moved in an opposite direction. The Americans, for example, found themselves compelled to introduce an authoritarian stiffening into their industrial structure, whereas we tried to loosen the regimented economic system. The elimination of all criticism of superiors had in the course of years led to a situation in which mistakes and failures, misplanning, or duplication of effort were no longer even noted. I saw to the formation of committees in which discussion was possible, shortages and mistakes could be uncovered, and their elimination considered. We often joked that we were on the point of reintroducing the parliamentary system.12 Our new system had created one of the prerequisites for balancing out the weaknesses of every authoritarian order. Important matters were not to be regulated solely by the military principle, that is by channels of command from top to bottom. But for such “parliamentarism” to work, of course, the committees mentioned above had to be headed by persons who allowed arguments and counterarguments to be stated before they made a decision.

Grotesquely enough, this system met with considerable reserve on the part of the factory heads. Early in my job I had sent out a circular letter asking them to inform me of their “fundamental needs and observations on a larger scale then previously.” I expected a flood of letters, but there was no response. At first I suspected my office staff of withholding the mail from me. But actually none had come in. The factory heads, as I learned later, feared reprimands from the Gauleiters.

There was more than enough criticism from above to below, but the necessary complement of criticism from below to above was hard to come by. I often had the feeling that I was hovering in the air, since my decisions produced no critical response.

We owed the success of our programs to thousands of technicians with special achievements to their credit to whom we now entrusted the responsibility for whole segments of the armaments industry. This aroused their buried enthusiasm. They also took gladly to my unorthodox style of leadership. 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.

In my work I preferred “uncomfortable associates to compliant tools.”13 The party, on the other hand, had a deep distrust for nonpolitical specialists. Fritz Sauckel, always one of the most radical of the party leaders, once commented that if they had begun by shooting a few factory heads, the others would have reacted with better performances.

For two years my position was unassailable. After the generals’ putsch of July 20, 1944, Bormann, Goebbels, Ley, and Sauckel prepared to cut me down to size. I quickly appealed to Hitler in a letter stating that I did not feel strong enough to go on with my job if it were going to be subjected to political standards.14

The nonparty members of my Ministry enjoyed a legal protection highly unusual in Hitler’s state. For over the objections of the Minister of Justice I had established the principle, right at the beginning of my job, that there would be no indictments for sabotage of armaments except on my motion.15 This proviso protected my associates even after July 20, 1944. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the Gestapo chief, wanted to indict three general managers, Bucher of the AEG electrical company, Vögler of the United Steel Works, and Reusch of the Gutehoffnungshütte (the mining combine), for “defeatist” conversations. He came to me for authorization. I pointed out that the nature of our work compelled us to speak candidly about the situation and thus fended off the Gestapo. On the other hand, I applied severe penalties for abuse of our honor system —if, for example, someone furnished false data in order to hoard important raw materials. For actions of this sort would result in the withholding of arms from the front.16

From the first day on I considered our gigantic organization temporary. Just as I myself wanted to return to architecture after the war and had even asked Hitler for an assurance to that effect, I felt we had to promise the uneasy leaders of business that our system of organization was solely a war measure. In peacetime, industry could not be asked, I told them, to give up their best men or to share their knowledge with rival enterprises.17

Along with this, I also made an effort to preserve the style of improvisation. The idea that bureaucratic methods were now taking root inside my own organization depressed me. Again and again I called upon my associates to cut down on record keeping, to make agreements informally in conversation and by means of telephone calls, and to eschew the multiplication of “transactions” as bureaucratic jargon called filling a file. Moreover, the bombing raids on German cities forced us to constant ingenuities. There were times when I actually regarded these raids as helpful—witness my ironic reaction to the destruction of the Ministry in the air raid of November 22, 1943: “Although we have been fortunate in that large parts of the current files of the Ministry have burned and so relieved us for a time of useless ballast, we cannot really expect that such events will continually introduce the necessary fresh air into our work.”18

In spite of this technical and industrial progress, even at the height of the military successes in 1940 and 1941 the level of armaments production of the First World War was not reached. During the first year of the war in Russia, production figures were only a fourth of what they had been in the autumn of 1918. Three years later, in the spring of 1944, when we were nearing our production maximum, ammunition production still lagged behind that of the First World War—considering the total production of Germany at that time together with Austria and Czechoslovakia.10

Among the causes for this backwardness I always reckoned excessive bureaucratization, which I fought in vain.20 For example, the size of the staff of the Ordnance Office was ten times what it had been during the First World War. The cry for simplification of administration runs through all my speeches and letters from 1942 to the end of 1944. The longer I fought the typically German bureaucracy, whose tendencies were aggravated by the authoritarian system, the more my criticism assumed a political cast. This matter became something of an obsession with me, for on the morning of July 20, 1944, a few hours before the attempted assassination, I wrote to Hitler that Americans and Russians knew how to act with organizationally simple methods and therefore achieved greater results, whereas we were hampered by superannuated forms of organization and therefore could not match the others’ feats. The war, I said, was also a contest between two systems of organization, the “struggle of our system of overbred organization against the art of improvisation on the opposing side.” If we did not arrive at a different system of organization, I continued, it would be evident to posterity that our outmoded, tradition-bound, and arthritic organizational system had lost the struggle.

16. Sins of Omission

It REMAINS ONE OF THE ODDITIES OF THIS WAR THAT HITLER DEMANDED FAR less from his people1 than Churchill and Roosevelt did from their respective nations. The discrepancy between the total mobilization of labor forces in democratic England and the casual treatment of this question in authoritarian Germany is proof of the regime’s anxiety not to risk any shift in the popular mood. The German leaders were not disposed to make sacrifices themselves or to ask sacrifices of the people. They tried to keep the morale of the people in the best possible state by concessions. Hitler and the majority of his political followers belonged to the generation who as soldiers had witnessed the Revolution of November 1918 and had never forgotten it. In private conversations Hitler indicated that after the experience of 1918 one could not be cautious enough. In order to anticipate any discontent, more effort and money was expended on supplies of consumer goods, on military pensions or compensation to women for the loss of earnings by their men in the services, than in the countries with democratic governments. Whereas Churchill promised his people only blood, sweat, and tears, all we heard during the various phases and various crises of the war was Hitler’s slogan: “The final victory is certain.” This was a confession of political weakness. It betrayed great concern over a loss of popularity which might develop into an insurrectionary mood.

Alarmed by the setbacks on the Russian front, in the spring of 1942 I considered total mobilization of all auxiliary forces. What was more, I urged that “the war must be ended in the shortest possible time; if not, Germany will lose the war. We must win it by the end of October, before the Russian winter begins, or we have lost it once and for all. Consequently, we can only win with the weapons we have now, not with those we are going to have next year.” In some inexplicable way this situation analysis came to the knowledge of The Times (London), which published it on September 7, 1942.2 The Times article actually summed up the points on which Milch, Fromm, and I had agreed at the time.

“Our feelings tell us that this year we are facing the decisive turning point in our history,” I also declared publicly in April 1942,3 without suspecting that the turning point was impending: with the encirclement of the Sixth Army in Stalingrad, the annihilation of the Africa Corps, the successful Allied land operations in North Africa, and the first massive air raids on German cities. We had also reached a turning point in our wartime economy; for until the autumn of 1941 the economic leadership had been basing its politics on short wars with long stretches of quiet in between. Now the permanent war was beginning.

As I saw it, a mobilization of all reserves should have begun with the heads of the party hierarchy. This seemed all the more proper since Hitler himself had solemnly declared to the Reichstag on September 1, 1939, that there would be no privations which he himself was not prepared to assume at once.

In actual fact he at last agreed to suspend all the building projects he was still engaged on, including those at Obersalzberg. I cited this noble gesture of the Fuehrers two weeks after entering office when I addressed the group that gave us the most difficulties, the assembled Gauleiters and Reichsleiters: “Consideration of future peacetime tasks must never be allowed to influence a decision. I have instructions from the Fuehrer to report to him in the future on any such hindrances to our armaments production, which from now on can no longer be tolerated.” That was a plain enough threat, even though I softened it somewhat by saying that up to the winter of this year each of us had cherished special wishes. But now, I said, the military situation demanded that all superfluous construction be halted, anywhere in the country. It was our duty to lead the way by presenting a good example, even if the savings in labor forces and materials were not significant.

I took it for granted that in spite of the monotonous tone in which I had read these exhortations, anyone there would see their logic and obey. After the speech, however, I was surrounded by party leaders who wanted some special building project of theirs to be exempted from the general rule.

Reichsleiter Bormann was the arch offender. He easily persuaded a vacillating Hitler that the Obersalzberg project need not be canceled. The large crew employed there, who had to be provided for, actually stayed right there on the site until the end of the war, even though three weeks after the meeting I had again wrested a suspension order from Hitler.*

* Führerprotokoll, March 5-6, 1942, Point 17, 3: “The Fuehrer has ordered that work at Obersalzberg be halted. Compose appropriate memorandum to Reichsleiter Bormann.” But two and a half years later, on September 8, 1944, construction there was still continuing. Bormann wrote to his wife: “Herr Speer who, as I see time and again, has not the slightest respect for me, simply went to Hagen and Schenk and asked for a report on the Obersalzberg construction. A crazy way to go about things! Instead of going through the proper channels and addressing himself to me, the God of Building, without any more ado he ordered my men to report directly to him! And since we are dependent on him for materials and labor, all I can do is put a good face on the matter.” (Bormann, Letters, p. 103.)

Then Gauleiter Sauckel pressed forward to plead that his “Party Forum” in Weimar would not be affected. He too went on building undeterred until the end of the war. Robert Ley fought for a pigsty on his model farm. This was actually a war priority, he argued, since his experiments in hog raising were of great importance for food production. I turned down this request in writing but took gleeful delight in addressing the letter: “To the Reich Organization Chief of the National Socialist Party and Chief of the German Labor Front. Subject: Your pigsty.”

Even after I had made this ringing appeal, Hitler went ahead and had the tumbledown castle of Klessheim near Salzburg rebuilt into a luxurious guest house at an expenditure of many millions of marks. Near Berchtesgaden, Himmler erected a country lodge for his mistress and did it so secretly that I did not hear of it until the last weeks of the war. Even after 1942, Hitler encouraged one of his Gauleiters to renovate a hotel and the Posen Castle, both projects drawing heavily on essential materials. The same Gauleiter had a private residence built for himself in the vicinity of the city. In 1942—43 new special trains were built for Ley, Keitel, and others, although this kind of thing tied down valuable raw materials and technicians. For the most part, however, these whims of the party functionaries were concealed from me. Given the enormous powers of the Reichsleiters and Gauleiters there was no way to check up on what they were doing. I therefore could rarely interpose a veto—which in any case was disregarded. As late as the summer of 1944 Hitler and Bormann were capable of informing their Minister of Armaments that a Munich manufacturer of picture frames must not be made to shift to war production. A few months before, on their personal order, the “rug factories and other producers of artistic materials,” which were engaged in manufacturing rugs and tapestries for Hitler’s postwar buildings, were given a special status.4

After only nine years of rule the leadership was so corrupt that even in the critical phase of the war it could not cut back on its luxurious style of living. For “representational reasons” the leaders all needed big houses, hunting lodges, estates and palaces, many servants, a rich table, and a select wine cellar.*

* For propaganda reasons, Goebbels tried to change the life style of the prominent men in government and the party, but in vain. See his diary, February 22, 1942: “Bormann has issued a directive to the party regarding the need for greater simplicity in the conduct of the leaders, particularly with respect to banquets—a reminder to the party that it should provide a good example for the people. This directive is most welcome. I hope it will be taken to heart. In this connection I have become rather skeptical.” Bormann’s directive had no effect. On May 22, 1943, more than a year later, Goebbels wrote in his diary: “Because of the tense situation domestically the people naturally have been keeping a sharp eye on the life style of our so-called celebrities. Unfortunately many of the prominent people pay no heed; some of them are living a life which can in no way be called suitable under current conditions.”

They were also concerned about their lives to an insane degree. Hitler himself, wherever he went, first of all issued orders for building bunkers for his personal protection. The thickness of their roofs increased with the caliber of the bombs until it reached sixteen and a half feet. Ultimately there were veritable systems of bunkers in Rastenburg, in Berlin, at Obersalzberg, in Munich, in the guest palace near Salzburg, at the Nauheim headquarters, and on the Somme. And in 1944 he had two underground headquarters blasted into mountains in Silesia and Thuringia, the project tying up hundreds of indispensable mining specialists and thousands of workmen.5

Hitler’s obvious fear and his exaggeration of the importance of his own person inspired his entourage to go in for equally exaggerated measures of personal protection. Goering had extensive underground installations built not only in Karinhall, but even in the isolated castle of Veldenstein near Nuremberg, which he hardly ever visited.6 The road from Karinhall to Berlin, forty miles long and leading mostly through lonely woods, had to be provided with concrete shelters at regular intervals. When Ley saw the effect of a heavy bomb on a public shelter, he was interested solely in comparing the thickness of the ceiling with that in his private bunker in the rarely attacked suburb of Grunewald. Moreover, the Gauleiters—on orders from Hitler, who was convinced of their indispensability—had additional shelters built outside the cities for their personal protection.

Of all the urgent questions that weighed upon me during my early weeks in office, solution of the labor problem was the most pressing. Late one evening in the middle of March, I inspected one of the leading Berlin armaments plants, Rheinmetall-Borsig, and found its workshops filled with valuable machinery, but unused. There were not enough workers to man a second shift. Similar conditions prevailed in other factories. Moreover, during the day we had to reckon with difficulties with the electricity supply, whereas during the evening and night hours the drain on the available supply was considerably smaller. Since new plants worth some 11 billion marks were being built which would be faced with shortages of machine tools, it seemed to me more rational to suspend most of the new building and employ the labor force thus released to establish a second shift.

Hitler seemed to accept this logic. He signed a decree ordering reduction of the volume of building to 3 billion marks. But then he balked when, in carrying out this edict, I wanted to suspend long-term building projects by the chemical industry involving about a billion marks.*

* This construction project tied up high-grade steel and many specialists. I opposed Hitler’s view, arguing that “it is better to get one hydrogenation plant built in a few months than to build several over a period three times as long employing a third of the necessary construction workers. The plant that is built quickly by concentrating all the labor on the one project will provide fuel for many months to come, whereas if the usual practice is followed, the first deliveries of additional fuel will not be ready until a much later date.” (Speech, April 18, 1942.)

For he always wanted to have everything at once and reasoned as follows: “Perhaps the war with Russia will soon be ended. But then I have more far-reaching plans, and for them I need more synthetic fuel than before. We must go on with the new factories, even though they may not be finished for years.” A year later, on March 2, 1943, I again had to remonstrate that there was no point to “building factories which are intended to serve great future programs and will not begin to produce until after January 1, 1945.”7 Hitler’s wrong-headed decision of the spring of 1942 was still a drag upon our armaments production in September 1944, in a military situation that had meanwhile become catastrophic.

Despite Hitler’s countermanding of my plan, it had nevertheless freed several hundred thousand construction workers, who could have been transferred to armaments production. But then a new, unexpected trouble arose: the head of the “Business Department for Labor Assignment within the Four-Year Plan,” Ministerial Director Dr. Mansfeld, told me frankly that he lacked authority to transfer the released construction workers from one district to another over the objections of the Gauleiters.8 And in fact the Gauleiters, for all their rivalries and intrigues, closed ranks whenever any of their privileges were threatened. I realized that in spite of my strong position I could never deal with them alone. I needed someone from their number to act as my ally. I would also need special powers from Hitler.

The man I had in mind was my old friend Karl Hanke, longtime state secretary under Goebbels, who since January 1941 had been Gauleiter of Lower Silesia. Hitler proved willing to nominate a commissioner from among the Gauleiters who would be assigned to me. But Bormann was quick to parry. For Hanke was considered one of my adherents. His appointment would have meant not only a reinforcement of my power but also an infringement of Bormann’s realm, the party hierarchy.

Two days after my first request, when I again approached Hitler on the matter, he was still acquiescent to the idea, but had objections to my choice. “Hanke hasn’t been a Gauleiter long enough and doesn’t command the necessary respect. I’ve talked with Bormann. We’ll take Sauckel.”*

* I must share the responsibility for Sauckel’s dire labor policies. Despite differences of opinion on other matters, I was always in basic agreement with his mass deportations of foreign labor to Germany. Since Edward L. Homse, Foreign Labor in Nazi Germany (Princeton, 1967) gives exhaustive details on the little war that soon developed between Sauckel and me, I can restrict myself to the salient points. I agree with Homse that these internal enmities and clashes were typical. Dr. Allan S. Milward’s recent book, The New Order and the French Economy (London, 1969), also gives an accurate picture.

Bormann had not only put in his own candidate but had managed to have him made his, Bormann’s, direct subordinate. Goering rightly protested that what was involved was a task hitherto handled within the framework of the Four-Year Plan. With his usual indifference in administrative matters, Hitler thereupon appointed Sauckel “Commissioner General,” but placed him in Goering’s Four-Year Plan organization. Goering protested once more, since the way the thing was handled seemed to diminish his prestige. The appointment of Sauckel should have come from Goering himself. But Hitler had overlooked that nicety. Once again Bormann had struck a blow at Goering’s position.

Sauckel and I were summoned to Hitler’s headquarters. In giving us the document authorizing the appointment, Hitler pointed out that basically there could not be any such thing as a labor problem. He repeated, in effect, what he had already stated on November 9, 1941: “The area working directly for us embraces more than two hundred fifty million people. Let no one doubt that we will succeed in involving every one of these millions in the labor process.”9 The necessary labor force, therefore, was to come from the occupied territories. Hitler instructed Sauckel to bring the needed workers in by any means whatsoever. That order marked the beginning of a fateful segment of my work.

During the early weeks of our association we cooperated smoothly. Sauckel gave us his pledge to eliminate all labor shortages and to provide replacements for specialists drafted into the services. For my part, I helped Sauckel gain authority and supported him wherever I could. Sauckel had promised a great deal, for in every peacetime year the attrition of the labor force by age or death was balanced by the maturing of some six hundred thousand young men. Now, however, not only these men but sizable segments of the industrial working class were being drafted. In 1942, consequently, the war economy was short far more than one million workers.

To put the matter briefly, Sauckel did not meet his commitments. Hitler’s fine rhetoric about drawing labor out of a population of two hundred fifty million came to nought, partly because of the ineffectiveness of the German administration in the occupied territories, partly because of the preference of the men involved for taking to the forests and joining the partisans sooner than be dragged off for labor service in Germany.

No sooner had the first foreign workers begun arriving in the factories than I began hearing protests from our Industry Organization. They had a number of objections to make. The first was as follows: The technical specialists now being replaced by foreigners had occupied key posts in vital industries. Any sabotage in these plants would have far-reaching consequences. What was to prevent enemy espionage services from planting agents in Sauckel’s contingents?

Another problem was that there were not enough interpreters to handle the various linguistic groups. Without adequate communication, these new workers were as good as useless.

It seemed far more practicable to all concerned to employ German women rather than assorted foreign labor. Businessmen came to me with statistics showing that the employment of German women during the First World War had been significantly higher than it was now. They showed me photographs of workers streaming out of the same ammunition factory at closing time in 1918 and 1942; in the earlier war they had been predominantly women; now they were almost entirely men. They also had pictures from American and British magazines which indicated to what extent women were pitching in on the industrial front in those countries.10

At the beginning of April 1942 I went to Sauckel with the proposition that we recruit our labor from the ranks of German women. He replied brusquely that the question of where to obtain which workers and how to distribute them was his business. Moreover, he said, as a Gauleiter he was Hitler’s subordinate and responsible to the Fuehrer alone. But before the discussion was over, he offered to put the question to Goering, who as Commissioner of the Four-Year Plan should have the final say. Our conference with Goering took place in Karinhall. Goering showed plainly that he was flattered at being consulted. He behaved with excessive amiability toward Sauckel and was markedly cooler toward me. I was scarcely allowed to advance my arguments; Sauckel and Goering continually interrupted me. Sauckel laid great weight on the danger that factory work might inflict moral harm upon German womanhood; not only might their “psychic and emotional life” be affected but also their ability to bear. Goering totally concurred. But to be absolutely sure, Sauckel went to Hitler immediately after the conference and had him confirm the decision.

All my good arguments were thereby blown to the winds. Sauckel informed his fellow Gauleiters of his victory in a proclamation in which, among other things, he stated: “In order to provide the German housewife, above all mothers of many children … with tangible relief from her burdens, the Fuehrer has commissioned me to bring into the Reich from the eastern territories some four to five hundred thousand select, healthy, and strong girls.”11 Whereas by 1943 England had reduced the number of maidservants by two-thirds, nothing of the sort took place in Germany until the end of the war.12 Some 1.4 million women continued to be employed as household help. In addition, half a million Ukrainian girls helped solve the servant problem for party functionaries—a fact that soon caused a good deal of talk among the people.

Armaments production is directly dependent on the supply of crude steel. During the First World War the German war economy drew on 46.5 percent of its crude steel production. One of the first facts I learned when I took office was that the parallel figure was only 37.5 percent.13 In order to be able to gain more steel for armaments, I proposed to Milch that we jointly undertake the allocation of raw materials.

On April 2, therefore, we once again set out for Karinhall. Goering at first beat about the bush, talking on a wide range of subjects, but finally he agreed to our suggestions about establishing a central planning authority within the Four-Year Plan. Impressed by our firmness, he asked almost shyly: “Could you possibly take in my friend Körner? Otherwise, he’ll feel sad at the demotion.”*

* Körner was Goering’s state secretary and confidant.

This “Central Planning” soon became the most important institution in our war economy. Actually it was incomprehensible that a top board of this sort to direct the various programs and priorities had not been established long ago. Until about 1939 Goering had personally taken care of this matter; but afterward there was no one with authority who could grasp the increasingly complicated and increasingly urgent problems and who could have leaped into the breach when Goering began shirking.14 Goering’s decree creating the office of Central Planning did in fact provide that he would have the final say whenever he thought necessary. But as I expected, he never asked about anything and we for our part had no reason ever to bother him.15

The Central Planning meetings took place in the large conference hall in my Ministry. They dragged on endlessly, with a vast number of participants. Ministers and state secretaries would come in person.

Supported by their experts, they would fight for their shares in sometimes highly dramatic tones. The task was particularly tricky, for we had to trim the civilian branch of the economy, but not so much as to impair its efficiency in producing what would be needed for the war industries or in providing basic necessities for the population.16

I myself was trying to push through a sizable cut in consumer goods production—especially since the consumer industries at the beginning of 1942 were producing at a rate only 3 percent below our peacetime level. But in 1942 the utmost I could manage was a 12 percent cutback.17 For after only three months of such austerity, Hitler began to regret this policy, and on June 28-29, 1942 decreed “that the fabrication of products for the general supply of the population must be resumed.” I protested, arguing that “such a slogan today will encourage those who have all along been averse to our concentration on armaments to resume resistance to the present line.”18 By “those” I meant the party functionaries. But Hitler remained deaf to these reminders.

Once again my efforts to organize an effective war economy had been ruined by Hitler’s vacillation.

In addition to more workers and more crude steel, we needed an expansion of the railroads. This was essential even though the Reichsbahn had not yet recovered from the disaster of the Russian winter. Deep into German territory the tracks were still clogged by paralyzed trains. Transports of important war materials were therefore subject to intolerable delays.

On March 5, 1942, Dr. Julius Dorpmüller, our Minister of Transportation and a spry man in spite of his seventy-three years, went to headquarters with me in order to report to Hitler on transportation problems. I explained the catastrophic predicament that we were in, but since Dorpmüller gave me only lame support, Hitler, as always, chose the brighter view of the situation. He postponed the important question, remarking that “conditions are probably not so serious as Speer sees them.”

Two weeks later, on my urging, he consented to designate a young official as successor to the sixty-five-year-old state secretary in the Ministry of Transportation. But Dorpmüller would not hear of it. “My state secretary too old?” he exclaimed when I told him what we had in mind. “That young man? When I was president of one of the Reichsbahn boards of directors in 1922, he was just starting in railroad work as a Reichsbahn inspector.” He succeeded in keeping things as they were.

Two months later, however, on May 21, 1941, Dorpmüller was forced to confess to me: “The Reichsbahn has so few cars and locomotives available for the German area that it can no longer assume responsibility for meeting the most urgent transportation needs.” This description of the situation, as my official journal noted, “was tantamount to a declaration of bankruptcy by the Reichsbahn.” That same day the Reich Minister of Transportation offered me the post of “traffic dictator.” bit I refused.19

Two days later Hitler let me bring a young Reichsbahn inspector named Dr. Ganzenmüller to meet him. During the past winter Dr. Ganzenmüller had restored railroad traffic in a part of Russia (on the stretch between Minsk and Smolensk) after it had totally broken down. Hitler was impressed: “I like the man; I’m going to make him state secretary at once.” Shouldn’t we speak with Dorpmüller about that first, I suggested. “Absolutely not!” Hitler exclaimed. “Don’t let either Dorpmüller or Ganzenmüller know anything about it. I’ll simply summon you, Herr Speer, to headquarters with your man. Then I’ll have the Transportation Minister come here separately.”

On Hitler’s instructions both men were put up at headquarters in different barracks, and Dr. Ganzenmüller entered Hitler’s office without knowing what awaited him. There are minutes of Hitler’s remarks which were made the same day:

The transportation problem is crucial; therefore it must be solved. All my life, but more so than ever in the past winter, I have confronted crucial questions that had to be solved. So-called experts and men who by rights should have been leaders repeatedly told me: “That isn’t possible, that won’t do!” I cannot resign myself to such talk! There are problems that absolutely have to be solved. Where real leaders are present, these problems always are solved and always will be solved. This cannot be done by pleasant methods. Pleasantness is not what counts for me; in the same way, it is a matter of complete indifference to me what posterity will say about the methods I have been compelled to use. For me there is only a single question that must be solved: We must win the war or Germany faces annihilation.

Hitler went on to recount how he had pitted his will against the disaster of the past winter and against the generals who urged retreat. From this, he made a slight jump to the transport problem and mentioned some of the measures which I had earlier recommended to him as necessary if order were to be restored to the railways. Without calling in the Minister of Transportation, who was now waiting outside, also ignorant of what this was all about, he appointed Ganzenmüller the new state secretary in the Transportation Ministry because “he has proved at the front that he possesses the energy to restore order to the muddled transportation situation.” Only at this point were Minister of Transportation Dorpmüller and his assistant, Ministerial Director Leibbrandt, brought into the conference. He had decided, Hitler announced, to intervene in the transportation situation, since victory depended on it. Then he continued with one of his standard arguments: “In my day I started with nothing, an obscure soldier in the World War, and began my career only when all others, who seemed more destined to leadership than I, failed. The whole course of my life proves that I never capitulate. The tasks of the war must be mastered. I repeat: For me the word ‘impossible’ does not exist.” And he repeated, almost screaming: “It does not exist for me!” Thereupon he informed the Minister of Transportation that he had appointed the former Reichsbahn inspector the new state secretary in the Ministry of Transportation—an embarrassing situation for the Minister, for the state secretary, and for me as well.

Hitler had always spoken with great respect of Dorpmüllers expertise. In view of that Dorpmüller could have expected that the question of his deputy would first be discussed with him. But apparently Hitler (as was so often the case when he confronted experts) wanted to avoid an awkward argument by presenting the Minister of Transportation with a fait accompli. And in fact Dorpmüller took this humiliation in silence.

Hitler now turned to Field Marshal Milch and me and instructed us to act temporarily as transportation dictators. We were to see to it that the requirements were “met to the largest extent and in the fastest time.” With the disarming comment, “We cannot allow the war to be lost because of the transportation question; therefore it can be solved!”20 Hitler adjourned the meeting.

In fact it was solved. The young state secretary found procedures for handling the backup of trains. He speeded traffic and was able to provide for the increased transportation needs of the war plants. A special committee for rolling stock took charge of the locomotives damaged by the Russian winter; repair techniques were much accelerated. Instead of the previous craft system of manufacturing locomotives, we went over to assembly-line methods and increased production many fold.21 In spite of the steadily rising demands of the war, traffic continued to flow in the future, or at least until the systematic air raids of the fall of 1944 once again throttled traffic and made transportation, this time for good, the greatest bottleneck in our war economy.

When Goering heard that we intended to increase production of locomotives many times over, he summoned me to Karinhall. He had a suggestion to offer, which was that we build locomotives out of concrete, since we did not have enough steel available. Of course the concrete locomotives would not last as long as steel ones, he said; but to make up for that we would simply have to produce more of them. Quite how that was to be accomplished, he did not know; nevertheless, he clung for months to this weird idea for the sake of which I had squandered a two-hour drive and two hours of waiting time. And I had come home on an empty stomach, for visitors in Karinhall were seldom offered a meal. That was the only concession the Goering household made to the needs of a total war economy.

A week after Ganzenmüllers appointment, at which such heroic words had been spoken on the solution of the transportation crisis, I visited Hitler once more. In keeping with my view that in critical times the leadership must set a good example, I proposed to Hitler that the use of private railroad cars by government and party officials be discontinued for the time being. Naturally, I was not thinking of Hitler himself when I made this suggestion. But Hitler demurred; private cars were a necessity in the east, he said, because of the poor housing conditions. I corrected him: most of the cars were not being used in the east, I said, but inside the Reich. And I presented him with a long list of the prominent users of private cars. But I had no luck.22

I met regularly for lunch with General Friedrich Fromm in a chambre séparée at Horcher’s Restaurant. In the course of one of these meetings, at the end of April 1942, he remarked that our only chance of winning the war lay in developing a weapon with totally new effects. He said he had contacts with a group of scientists who were on the track of a weapon which could annihilate whole cities, perhaps throw the island of England out of the fight. Fromm proposed that we pay a joint visit to these men. It seemed to him important, he said, at least to have spoken with them.

Dr. Albert Vögler, head of the largest German steel company and president of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft, also called my attention at this time to the neglected field of nuclear research. He complained of the inadequate support fundamental research was receiving from the Ministry of Education and Science, which naturally did not have much Influence during wartime. On May 6, 1942, I discussed this situation with Hitler and proposed that Goering be placed at the head of the Reich Research Council—thus emphasizing its importance.23 A month later, on June 9, 1942, Goering was appointed to this post.

Around the same time the three military representatives of armaments production, Milch, Fromm, and Witzell, met with me at Harnack House, the Berlin center of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft, to be briefed on the subject of German atomic research. Along with scientists whose names I no longer recall, the subsequent Nobel Prize winners Otto Hahn and Werner Heisenberg were present. After a few demonstration lectures on the matter as a whole, Heisenberg reported on “Atom-smashing and the development of the uranium machine [sic] and the cyclotron.”24 Heisenberg had bitter words to say about the Ministry of Education’s neglect of nuclear research, about the lack of funds and materials, and the drafting of scientific men into the services. Excerpts from American technical journals suggested that plenty of technical and financial resources were available there for nuclear research. This meant that America probably had a head start in the matter, whereas Germany had been in the forefront of these studies only a few years ago. In view of the revolutionary possibilities of nuclear fission, dominance in this field was fraught with enormous consequences.

After the lecture I asked Heisenberg how nuclear physics could be applied to the manufacture of atom bombs. His answer was by no means encouraging. He declared, to be sure, that the scientific solution had already been found and that theoretically nothing stood in the way of building such a bomb. But the technical prerequisites for production would take years to develop, two years at the earliest, even provided that the program was given maximum support. Difficulties were compounded, Heisenberg explained, by the fact that Europe possessed only one cyclotron, and that of minimal capacity. Moreover, it was located in Paris and because of the need for secrecy could not be used to full advantage. I proposed that with the powers at my disposal as Minister of Armaments we build cyclotrons as large as or larger than those in the United States. But Heisenberg said that because we lacked experience we would have to begin by building only a relatively small type.

Nevertheless, General Fromm offered to release several hundred scientific assistants from the services, while I urged the scientists to inform me of the measures, the sums of money, and the materials they would need to further nuclear research. A few weeks later they presented their request: an appropriation of several hundred thousand marks and some small amounts of steel, nickel, and other priority metals. In addition, they asked for the building of a bunker, the erection of several barracks, and the pledge that their experiments would be given highest priority. Plans for building the first German cyclotron had already been approved. Rather put out by these modest requests in a matter of such crucial importance, I suggested that they take one or two million marks and correspondingly larger quantities of materials. But apparently more could not be utilized for the present,25 and in any case I had been given the impression that the atom bomb could no longer have any bearing on the course of the war.

I was familiar with Hitler’s tendency to push fantastic projects by making senseless demands, so that on June 23, 1942, I reported to him only very briefly on the nuclear-fission conference and what we had decided to do.26 Hitler received more detailed and more glowing reports from his photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann, who was friendly with Post Office Minister Ohnesorge. Goebbels, too, may have told him something about it. Ohnesorge was interested in nuclear research and was supporting —like the SS—an independent research apparatus under the direction of Manfred von Ardenne, a young physicist. It is significant that Hitler did not choose the direct route of obtaining information on this matter from responsible people but depended instead on unreliable and incompetent informants to give him a Sunday-supplement account. Here again was proof of his love for amateurishness and his lack of understanding of fundamental scientific research.

Hitler had sometimes spoken to me about the possibility of an atom bomb, but the idea quite obviously strained his intellectual capacity. He was also unable to grasp the revolutionary nature of nuclear physics. In the twenty-two hundred recorded points of my conferences with Hitler, nuclear fission comes up only once, and then is mentioned with extreme brevity. Hitler did sometimes comment on its prospects, but what I told him of my conference with the physicists confirmed his view that there was not much profit in the matter. Actually, Professor Heisenberg had not given any final answer to my question whether a successful nuclear fission could be kept under control with absolute certainty or might continue as a chain reaction. Hitler was plainly not delighted with the possibility that the earth under his rule might be transformed into a glowing star. Occasionally, however, he joked that the scientists in their unworldly urge to lay bare all the secrets under heaven might someday set the globe on fire. But undoubtedly a good deal of time would pass before that came about, Hitler said; he would certainly not live to see it.

I am sure that Hitler would not have hesitated for a moment to employ atom bombs against England. I remember his reaction to the final scene of a newsreel on the bombing of Warsaw in the autumn of 1939. We were sitting with him and Goebbels in his Berlin salon watching the film. Clouds of smoke darkened the sky; dive bombers tilted and hurtled toward their goal; we could watch the flight of the released bombs, the pull-out of the planes and the cloud from the explosions expanding gigantically. The effect was enhanced by running the film in slow motion. Hitler was fascinated. The film ended with a montage showing a plane diving toward the outlines of the British Isles. A burst of flame followed, and the island flew into the air in tatters. Hitler’s enthusiasm was unbounded. “That is what will happen to them!” he cried out, carried away. “That is how we will annihilate them!”

On the suggestion of the nuclear physicists we scuttled the project to develop an atom bomb by the autumn of 1942, after I had again queried them about deadlines and been told that we could not count on anything for three or four years. The war would certainly have been decided long before then. Instead I authorized the development of an energy-producing uranium motor for propelling machinery. The navy was interested in that for its submarines.

In the course of a visit to the Krupp Works I asked to be shown parts of our first cyclotron and asked the technician in charge whether we could not go on and build a considerably larger apparatus. But he confirmed what Professor Heisenberg had previously said: We lacked the technical experience. At Heidelberg in the summer of 1944, I was shown our first cyclotron splitting an atomic nucleus. To my questions, Professor Walther Bothe explained that this cyclotron would be useful for medical and biological research. I had to rest content with that.

In the summer of 1943, wolframite imports from Portugal were cut off, which created a critical situation for the production of solid-core ammunition. I thereupon ordered the use of uranium cores for this type of ammunition.27 My release of our uranium stocks of about twelve hundred metric tons showed that we no longer had any thought of producing atom bombs.

Perhaps it would have proved possible to have the atom bomb ready for employment in 1945. But it would have meant mobilizing all our technical and financial resources to that end, as well as our scientific talent. It would have meant giving up all other projects, such as the development of the rocket weapons. From this point of view, too, Peenemünde was not only our biggest but our most misguided project.*

* From 1937 to 1940 the army spent five hundred and fifty million marks on the development of a large rocket. But success was out of the question, for Hitler’s principle of scattering responsibility meant that even scientific research teams were divided and often at odds with one another. According to the Office Journal, August 17, 1944, not only the three branches of the armed forces but also other organizations, the SS, the postal system, and such, had separate research facilities. In the United States, on the other hand, all the atomic physicists—to take an example—were in one organization.

Our failure to pursue the possibilities of atomic warfare can be partly traced to ideological reasons. Hitler had great respect for Philipp Lenard, the physicist who had received the Nobel Prize in 1920 and was one of the few early adherents of Nazism among the ranks of the scientists. Lenard had instilled the idea in Hitler that the Jews were exerting a seditious influence in their concern with nuclear physics and the relativity theory.*

* According to L. W. Helwig, Persönlichkeiten der Gegenwart (1940), Lenard inveighed against “relativity theories produced by alien minds.” In his four-volume work, Die Deutsche Phystk (1935), Helwig considered physics “cleansed of the outgrowths which the by now well-known findings of race research have shown to be the exclusive products of the Jewish mind and which the German Volk must shun as racially incompatible with itself.”

To his table companions Hitler occasionally referred to nuclear physics as “Jewish physics”—citing Lenard as his authority for this. This view was taken up by Rosenberg. It thus becomes clearer why the Minister of Education was not inclined to support nuclear research.

But even if Hitler had not had this prejudice against nuclear research and even if the state of our fundamental research in June 1942 could have freed several billion instead of several million marks for the production of atom bombs, it would have been impossible—given the strain on our economic resources—to have provided the materials, priorities, and technical workers corresponding to such an investment. For it was not only superior productive capacity that allowed the United States to undertake this gigantic project. The increasing air raids had long since created an armaments emergency in Germany which ruled out any such ambitious enterprise. At best, with extreme concentration of all our resources, we could have had a German atom bomb by 1947, but certainly we could not beat the Americans, whose bomb was ready by August 1945. And on the other hand the consumption of our latest reserves of chromium ore would have ended the war by January 1, 1946, at the very latest.

Thus, from the start of my work as Minister of Armaments I discovered blunder after blunder, in all departments of the economy. Incongruously enough, Hitler himself used to say, during those war years: “The loser of this war will be the side that makes the greatest blunders.” For Hitler, by a succession of wrong-headed decisions, helped to speed the end of a war already lost because of productive capacities— for example, by his confused planning of the air war against England, by the shortage of U-boats at the beginning of the war, and, in general, by his failure to develop an overall plan for the war. So that when many German memoirs comment on Hitler’s decisive mistakes, the writers are completely right. But all that does not mean that the war could have been won.

17. Commander in Chief Hitler

Amateurishness was one of hitler’s dominant traits, he had never learned a profession and basically had always remained an outsider to all fields of endeavor. Like many self-taught people, he had no idea what real specialized knowledge meant. Without any sense of the complexities of any great task, he boldly assumed one function after another. Unburdened by standard ideas, his quick intelligence sometimes conceived unusual measures which a specialist would not have hit on at all. The victories of the early years of the war can literally be attributed to Hitler’s ignorance of the rules of the game and his laymans delight in decision making. Since the opposing side was trained to apply rules which Hitler’s self-taught, autocratic mind did not know and did not use, he achieved surprises. These audacities, coupled with military superiority, were the basis of his early successes. But as soon as setbacks occurred he suffered shipwreck, like most untrained people. Then his ignorance of the rules of the game was revealed as another kind of incompetence; then his defects were no longer strengths. The greater the failures became, the more obstinately his incurable amateurishness came to the fore. The tendency to wild decisions had long been his forte; now it speeded his downfall.

Every two or three weeks I traveled from Berlin to spend a few days in Hitler’s East Prussian, and later in his Ukrainian, headquarters in order to have him decide the many technical questions of detail in which he was interested in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the army. Hitler knew all the types of ordnance and ammunition, including the calibers, the lengths of barrels, and the range of fire. He had the stocks of the most important items of armament in his head—as well as the monthly production figures. He was able to compare our quotas with our deliveries and draw conclusions.

Hitler naive pleasure at being able to shine in the field of armaments, as previously in automobile manufacturing or in architecture, by reciting abstruse figures, made it plain that in this realm also he was working as an amateur. He seemed to be constantly endeavoring to show himself the equal of or even the superior of the experts. The real expert sensibly does not burden his mind with details that he can look up or leave to an assistant. Hitler, however, felt it necessary for his own self-esteem to parade his knowledge. But he also enjoyed doing it.

He obtained his information from a large book in a red binding with broad yellow diagonal stripes. It was a catalogue, continually being brought up to date, of from thirty to fifty different types of ammunition and ordnance. He kept it on his night table. Sometimes he would order a servant to bring the book down when in the course of military conferences an assistant had mentioned a figure which Hitler instantly corrected. The book was opened and Hitler’s data would be confirmed, without fail, every time, while the general would be shown to be in error. Hitler’s memory for figures was the terror of his entourage.

By tricks of this sort, Hitler could intimidate the majority of the officers who surrounded him. But on the other hand he felt uncertain when he was confronting an out-and-out technical expert. He did not insist on his opinion if a specialist objected.

My predecessor, Todt, had sometimes gone to conferences with Hitler accompanied by two of his closest associates, Xaver Dorsch and Karl Saur; occasionally, he would bring one of his experts along. But he thought it important to deliver his reports personally and to involve his associates only on difficult points of detail. From the very first I did not even take the trouble to memorize figures which Hitler in any case kept in his head better than I. But knowing Hitler’s respect for specialists, I would come to conferences flanked by all those experts who had the best mastery of the various points under discussion.

I was thus saved from the nightmare of all “Fuehrer conferences”— the fear of being driven into a comer by a bombardment of figures and technical data. I consistently appeared at the Fuehrers headquarters accompanied by approximately twenty civilians. Before long everybody in Restricted Area I, as the specially guarded area round the headquarters was known, was making fun of “Speer’s invasions.” Depending on the subjects to be discussed, from two to four of my experts were invited to the conferences which took place in the situation room of the headquarters, adjacent to Hitler’s private apartment. It was a modestly furnished room about nine hundred square feet in area, the walls paneled in light-colored wood. The room was dominated by a heavy oak map table thirteen feet long next to a large window. In one comer was a smaller table surrounded by six armchairs. Here our conference group sat.

During these conferences I remained in the background as far as possible. I opened them with a brief reference to the subject and then asked one of the experts present to state his views. Neither the environment, with its innumerable generals, adjutants, guard areas, barriers, and passes, nor the aureole that this whole apparatus conferred upon Hitler, could intimidate these specialists. Their many years of successful practice of their professions gave them a clear sense of their rank and their responsibility. Sometimes the conversation developed into a heated discussion, for they quite often forgot whom they were addressing. Hitler took all this partly with humor, partly with respect. In this circle he seemed modest and treated my people with remarkable courtesy. With them, moreover, he refrained from his habit of killing opposition by long, exhaustive, and numbing speeches. He knew how to distinguish key matters from those of lesser importance, was adaptable, and surprised everyone by the swiftness with which he could choose among several possibilities and justify his choice. Effortlessly, he found his bearings when presented with technical processes, plans, and sketches. His questions showed that during the brief explanation period he could grasp the essentials of complicated subjects. However, there was a disadvantage to this which he was unaware of: He arrived at the core of matters too easily and therefore could not understand them with real thoroughness.

I could never predict what the result of our conferences would be. Sometimes he instantly approved a proposal whose prospects seemed exceedingly slight. Sometimes he obstinately refused to permit certain trivial measures which he himself had demanded only a short time before. Nevertheless, my system of circumventing Hitler’s knowledge of detail by having experts confront him with even more detailed knowledge netted me more successes than failures. His other associates observed with astonishment and with some degree of envy that Hitler often changed his ‘mind after hearing our counterproposals and would alter decisions which in the preceding military conferences he had called unalterable.1

Hitler’s technical horizon, however, just like his general ideas, his views on art, and his style of life, was limited by the First World War. His technical interests were narrowly restricted to the traditional weapons of the army and navy. In these areas he had continued to learn and steadily increased his knowledge, so that he frequently proposed convincing and usable innovations. But he had little feeling for such new developments as, for example, radar, the construction of an atom bomb, jet fighters, and rockets. On his rare flights in the newly developed Condor he showed concern that the mechanism which let down the retracted landing gear might not function. Warily, he declared that he preferred the old Junkers 52 with its rigid landing gear.

Very often, directly after one of these conferences Hitler would lecture his military advisers on the technical knowledge he had just acquired. He loved to present such pieces of information with a casual air, as if the knowledge were his own.

When the Russian T-34 appeared, Hitler was triumphant, for he could then point out that he had earlier demanded the kind of long-barreled gun it had. Even before my appointment as Minister of Armaments, I heard Hitler in the Chancellery garden, after a demonstration of the Panzer IV, inveighing against the obstinacy of the Army Ordnance Office which had turned down his idea for increasing the velocity of the missile by lengthening the barrel. The Ordnance Office had at the time presented counterarguments: The long barrel would overload the tank in front, since it was not built with such a gun in view. If so major a change were introduced, the whole design would be thrown out of balance.

Hitler would always bring up this incident whenever his ideas encountered opposition. “I was right at the time, and no one wanted to believe me. Now I am right again!” When the army felt the need for a tank which could outmaneuver the comparatively fast T-34 by greater speed, Hitler insisted that more would be gained by increasing the range of the guns and the weight of the armor. In this field, too, he had mastered the necessary figures and could recite penetration results and missile velocities by heart. He usually defended his theory by the example of warships:

In a naval battle the side having the greater range can open fire at the greater distance. Even if it is only half a mile. If along with this he has stronger armor … he must necessarily be superior. What are you after? The faster ship has only one advantage: to utilize its greater speed for retreating. Do you mean to say a ship can possibly overcome heavier armor and superior artillery by greater speed? Its exactly the same for tanks. Your faster tank has to avoid meeting the heavier tank.

My experts from industry were not direct participants in these discussions. Our business was to build the tanks according to the requirements set by the army, whether these were decided by Hitler, by the General Staff, or by the Army Ordnance Office. Questions of battle tactics were not our concern; such discussions were usually conducted by the army officers. In 1942, Hitler still encouraged such discussions. He was still listening quietly to objections and offering his arguments just as quietly. Nevertheless, his arguments carried special weight.

Since the Tiger had originally been designed to weigh fifty tons but as a result of Hitler’s demands had gone up to seventy-five tons, we decided to develop a new thirty-ton tank whose very name, Panther, was to signify greater agility. Though light in weight, its motor was to be the same as the Tiger s, which meant it could develop superior speed. But in the course of a year Hitler once again insisted on clapping so much armor on it, as well as larger guns, that it ultimately reached forty-eight tons, the original weight of the Tiger.

In order to compensate for this strange transformation of a swift Panther into a slow Tiger, we made still another effort to produce a series of small, light, quick-moving tanks.2 By way of pleasing and reassuring Hitler, Porsche also undertook to design a superheavy tank which weighed over a hundred tons and hence could be built only in small numbers, one by one. For security purposes this new monster was assigned the code name Mouse. In any case Porsche had personally taken over Hitler’s bias for superheaviness and would occasionally bring the Fuehrer reports about parallel developments on the part of the enemy. Once, Hitler sent for General Buhle and demanded: “I have just heard that an enemy tank is coming along with armor far beyond anything we have. Have you any documentation of that? If it is true a new antitank gun must be developed instantly. The force of penetration must … the gun must be enlarged, or lengthened—to be brief, we must begin reacting immediately. Instantly.”3

Thus, Hitler’s decisions led to a multiplicity of parallel projects. They also led to more and more complicated problems of supply. One of his worst failings was that he simply did not understand the necessity for supplying the armies with sufficient spare parts.*

* This disastrous tendency was evident as early as 1942: “Presented the Fuehrer with the monthly list of tank replacement parts and reported that despite the increase in production the demand is so high that to raise the production of spare parts we must decrease the production of new tanks.” (Führerprotokoll, May 6-7, 1942, Point 38.)

General Guderian, the Inspector General of Tank Ordnance, frequently pointed out to me that if we could repair our tanks quickly, thanks to sufficient spare parts, we could have more available for battle, at a fraction of the cost, than by producing new ones. But Hitler insisted on the priority of new production, which would have had to be reduced by 20 percent if we made provision for such repairs.

General Fromm as Chief of the Reserve Army was deeply concerned about this kind of poor planning. I took him with me to see Hitler several times so that he could present the arguments of the military. Fromm knew how to state a problem clearly; he had presence and had diplomatic tact. Sitting there, his sword pressed between his knees, hand on the hilt, he looked charged with energy; and to this day I believe that his great abilities might have prevented many a blunder at the Fuehrer’s headquarters. After several conferences, in fact, his influence increased. But immediately opposition appeared, both on the part of Keitel, who saw his position threatened, and on the part of Goebbels, who tried to persuade Hitler that Fromm had a dangerous political record. Finally, Hitler clashed with Fromm over a question of reserve supplies. Curtly, he let me know that I was no longer to bring Fromm with me.

Many of my conferences with Hitler were concerned with establishing the armaments programs for the army. Hitler’s point of view was: The more I demand, the more I receive. And to my astonishment programs which industrial experts considered impossible to carry out were in the end actually surpassed. Hitler’s authority liberated reserves that nobody had taken into his calculations. From 1944 on, however, his programs became totally unrealistic. Our efforts to push these through in the factories were self-defeating.

It often seemed to me that Hitler used these prolonged conferences on armaments and war production as an escape from his military responsibilities. He himself admitted to me that he found in them a relaxation similar to our former conferences on architecture. Even in crisis situations he devoted many hours to such discussions, sometimes refusing to interrupt them even when his field marshals or ministers urgently wanted to speak with him.

Our technical conferences were usually combined with a demonstration of new weapons which took place in a nearby field. A few moments before we would have been sitting intimately with Hitler, but now everybody had to line up in rank and file, Field Marshal Keitel, chief of the OKW (High Command of the Armed Forces), on the right. Obviously, Hitler laid stress on the ceremonial aspect of the occasion, adding a further note of formality by entering his official limousine to cover the few hundred yards to the field. I took my place in the back seat. Hitler would then step out, and Keitel would report the presence of the waiting line of generals and technicians.

This ritual concluded, the group promptly broke up. Hitler looked into details, clambered over the vehicles on portable steps held in readiness for him, and continued his discussions with the specialists. Often Hitler and I would make appreciative remarks about the weapons, such as: “What an elegant barrel,” or, “What a fine shape this tank has!”—a ludicrous relapse into the terminology of our joint inspections of architectural models.

In the course of one such inspection, Keitel mistook a 7.5 centimeter antitank gun for a light field howitzer. Hitler passed over the mistake at the time but had his joke on our ride back: “Did you hear that? Keitel and the antitank gun? And he’s a general of the artillery!”

Another time the air force had lined up on a nearby airfield the multiple variants and types in its production program for Hitler’s inspection. Goering had himself reserved the right to explain the planes to Hitler. His staff thereupon provided him with a cram sheet, in the order of the models on display, giving their names, flight characteristics, and other technical data. One type had not been brought up in time, and Goering had not been informed. From that point on he blandly misidentified everything, for he adhered strictly to his list. Hitler instantly perceived the error but gave no sign.

At the end of June 1942 I read in the newspapers, just like everyone else, that a great new offensive in the east had begun. There was a mood of exuberance at headquarters. Every evening Hitler’s chief adjutant, Schmundt, traced the onrush of the troops on a wall map, for the edification of civilians at headquarters. Hitler was triumphant. Once again he had proved that he was right and the generals wrong—for they had advised against an offensive and called for defensive tactics, occasionally straightening out the front. Even General Fromm had brightened up, although at the beginning of the operation he had commented to me that any such offensive was a luxury in the “poor man’s” situation we were in.

The left wing east of Kiev grew longer and longer. The troops were approaching Stalingrad. Feats were performed to maintain emergency railroad traffic in the newly won territories and thus keep supplies moving.

Barely three weeks after the beginning of the successful offensive Hitler moved to an advanced headquarters near the Ukrainian city of Vinnitsa. Since Russian air activity was as good as nonexistent and the west this time was too far away, even given Hitler’s anxieties, he for once did not demand the building of any special air-raid shelters. Instead of the usual concrete buildings a pleasant-looking cluster of blockhouses scattered about a forest was established.

Whenever I had to fly to the new headquarters, I used what free time I had to drive around the country. Once I drove to Kiev. Immediately after the October Revolution avant-gardists like Le Corbusier, May, or El Lissitzky had influenced modem Russian architecture. But under Stalin at the end of the twenties it had all swung back to a conservative and classicist style. The conference building in Kiev, for example, could have been designed by a good pupil of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. I toyed with the notion of searching out the architect and employing him in Germany. A classicist stadium in Kiev was adorned with statues of athletes in the fashion of classical antiquity—but touchingly, the figures were clad in bathing suits.

I found one of the most famous churches of Kiev a heap of rubble. A Soviet powder magazine had blown up inside it, I was told. Later, I learned from Goebbels that the church had been blown up deliberately on orders of Erich Koch, Reich Commissioner for the Ukraine; the idea had been to destroy this symbol of Ukrainian national pride. Goebbels told the story with displeasure; he was horrified by the brutal course being pursued in occupied sectors of the Soviet Union. In fact the Ukraine at that time was still so peaceable that I could drive through the extensive forests without an escort. Half a year later, thanks to the twisted policy of the eastern commissioners, the whole area was infested with partisans.

Other drives took me to the industrial center of Dnepropetrovsk. What most impressed me was a university complex under construction. Its facilities went far beyond anything in Germany and left no doubt of the Soviet Union’s determination to become a technical power of the first rank. I also visited the power plant of Saporoshe, blown up by the Russians. A large construction crew closed the blast hole in the dam, but they also had to install new turbines. Before retreating, the Russians had thrown the oil switch, interrupting the oiling of their turbines while they were running at full speed. The machines ran hot and finally ground themselves into a useless tangle of parts—a feat which could be accomplished by a single man pulling a lever. The vision of that later gave me many a sleepless hour when I learned of Hitler’s intention to make Germany a wasteland.

Even at the Fuehrers headquarters, Hitler kept to his habit of taking his meals in the midst of his close associates. But whereas at the Chancellery party uniforms had dominated the scene, he was now surrounded by generals and officers of his staff. In contrast to the luxuriously furnished dining hall in the Chancellery, this dining room looked rather like the railroad station restaurant in a small town. Pine boarding formed the walls, and the windows were those of a standardized barracks. There was a long table for about twenty persons, flanked by plain chairs. Hitler’s seat was on the window side in the middle of the long table; Keitel sat facing him, while the places of honor on either side of Hitler were reserved for the ever-changing visitors. As in past days in Berlin, Hitler talked long-windedly about his favorite subjects, while his dinner guests were reduced to silent listeners. It was apparent, however, that Hitler made an effort in the presence of these men, with whom he was not especially intimate and who moreover were his superiors by birth and education, to present his thoughts in as impressive a manner as possible.*

* Tischgespräche (Table Talk) published by Picker gives a good idea of Hitler’s topics of conversation. But we must remember that this collection includes only those passages in Hitler’s monologues—they took up one to two hours every day—which struck Picker as significant. Complete transcripts would reinforce the sense of stifling boredom.

Thus the level of the table talk in the Fuehrers headquarters differed from that at the Chancellery. It was considerably higher.

During the first weeks of the offensive we had discussed the rapid progress of the troops in the South Russian plains in an exultant mood. By contrast, after two months the faces of the diners grew increasingly doleful, and Hitler too began to lose his selfassurance.

Our troops had, it is true, taken the oil fields of Maikop. The leading tank columns were already fighting along the Terek and pushing on, over a roadless steppe near Astrakhan toward the southern Volga. But this advance was no longer maintaining the pace of the first weeks. Supplies could no longer keep up; the spare parts the tanks carried with them had long since been consumed, so that the fighting wedge was steadily thinning out. Moreover, our monthly armaments production lagged far behind the demands of an offensive over such enormous spaces. At that time we were manufacturing only a third of the tanks and a fourth of the artillery we were to be producing in 1944. Aside from that, normal wear and tear was extremely high over such distances. The tank testing station at Kummersdorf operated on the assumption that the treads or the motor of a heavy tank would need repairs after four to five hundred miles.

Hitler realized none of this. With the enemy supposedly too weak to offer any resistance, he wanted the exhausted German troops to thrust on to the southern side of the Caucasus, toward Georgia. He therefore detached considerable forces from the already weakened wedge and directed them to advance beyond Maikop toward Sochi. These contingents were supposed to reach Sukhumi by way of the narrow coastal road. This was where the main blow was to be delivered; he assumed that the territory north of the Caucasus would fall easily to him in any case.

But the units were done in. They could no longer push forward, however imperiously Hitler ordered it. In the situation conferences Hitler was shown aerial photos of the impenetrable walnut forests outside Sochi. Chief of Staff Haider warned Hitler that the Russians could easily render the coastal road impassable for a long time by blasting the steep slopes. In any case, he argued, the road was too narrow for the advance of large troop units. But Hitler remained unimpressed:

These difficulties can be overcome as all difficulties can be overcome! First we must conquer the road. Then the way is open to the plains south of the Caucasus. There we can deploy our armies freely and set up supply camps. Then, in one or two years, we’ll start an offensive into the underbelly of the British Empire. With a minimum of effort we can liberate Persia and Iraq. The Indians will hail our divisions enthusiastically.

When in 1944 we were combing through the printing trade for unnecessary assignments, we came upon a plant in Leipzig that was turning out Persian maps and language guides for the OKW in large quantities. The contract had been let and then forgotten.

Even a layman like myself could tell that the offensive had run itself into the ground. Then the report arrived that a detachment of German mountain troops had taken Mount Elbrus, nearly nineteen thousand feet high, the highest mountain in the Caucasus and surrounded by broad fields of glaciers. They had planted the German war flag there. To be sure, this was a superfluous action, certainly on the smallest scale,*

* One mountain division tried to push through to Tiflis by way of the Caucasian mountain passes, following the old military road from Grozny. Hitler considered this road a poor one to use for sending reinforcements, since it was blocked for months at a time by snow and avalanches. One group from the mountain division had gone off to take Mount Elbrus.

which could be understood only as an adventure by a group of enthusiastic mountain climbers. All of us could sympathize with the impulse behind this act, but otherwise it seemed to us completely unimportant. I often saw Hitler furious but seldom did his anger erupt from him as it did when this report came in. For hours he raged as if his entire plan of campaign had been ruined by this bit of sport. Days later he went on railing to all and sundry about “these crazy mountain climbers” who “belong before a court-martial.” There they were pursuing their idiotic hobbies in the midst of a war, he exclaimed indignantly, occupying an idiotic peak even though he had commanded that all efforts must be concentrated upon Sukhumi. Here was a clear example of the way his orders were being obeyed.

Urgent business called me back to Berlin. A few days later the commander of the army group operating in the Caucasus was relieved, although Jodl vigorously defended him. When I returned to headquarters again about two weeks later, I found that Hitler had quarreled with Keitel, Jodl, and Haider. He refused to shake hands with them or to dine with them at the common table. From then on until the end of the war he had his meals served in his bunker room, only occasionally inviting a few select persons to join him. The close relations that Hitler had with his military associates were shattered for good.

Was the cause merely the failure of the offensive on which he had placed so many hopes, or did he for the first time have an inkling that this was the turning point? The fact that from then on he stayed away from the officers’ table may have been due to the fact that he would no longer be sitting among them as the invincible leader in peace and war, but as a man whose plans had come to grief. Moreover, he must by now have run through the stock of general ideas with which he had regaled this group. Perhaps he also felt that his magic was failing him for the first time.

For several weeks Keitel skulked about mournfully and displayed great devotion, so that Hitler soon began treating him somewhat more amicably. His relations with Jodl—who had characteristically remained impassive through it all—likewise straightened out. But General Haider, the army chief of staff, had to go. He was a quiet, laconic man who was probably always thrown off by Hitler’s vulgar dynamism and thus gave a rather hapless impression. His successor, Kurt Zeitzler, was just the opposite: a straightforward, insensitive person who made his reports in a loud voice. He was not the type of military man given to independent thinking and no doubt represented the kind of Chief of Staff that Hitler wanted: a reliable “assistant” who, as Hitler was fond of saying, “doesn’t go off and brood on my orders, but energetically sees to carrying them out.” With that in mind, too, Hitler probably did not pick him from the ranks of the higher generals. Zeitzler had up to that time held a subordinate place in the army hierarchy; he was promoted two grades at once.

After the appointment of the new Chief of Staff, Hitler permitted me—the only civilian for the time being*

* Several months passed before Bormann and Ribbentrop received permission to attend.

—to participate in the situation conferences. I could take this as a special proof of his satisfaction with me—for which he had every reason, given the constantly rising production figures. But this favor would probably not have been shown me if he had felt threatened by a loss of prestige in my presence because of opposition, vehement debates, and disputes. The storm had calmed down again; Hitler had regained his standing

Every day around noon the grand situation conference took place. It lasted two to three hours. Hitler was the only one who was seated— on a plain armchair with a rush seat. The other participants stood around the map table: his adjutants, staff officers of the OKW and the Army General Staff, and Hitler’s liaison officers to the air force, the navy, the Waffen-SS, and Himmler. On the whole they were rather young men with likable faces, most of them holding the rank of colonel or major. Keitel, Jodl, and Zeitzler stood casually amongst them. Sometimes Goering came too. As a gesture of special distinction and perhaps in consideration of his corpulence, Hitler had an upholstered stool brought in for the Reich Marshal, on which he sat beside Hitler.

Desk lamps with long, swinging arms illuminated the maps. First the eastern theater was discussed. Three or four strategic maps, pasted together, each of them about five by eight feet, were laid out on the long table in front of Hitler. The discussion began with the northern part of the eastern theater of war. Every detail of the events of the previous day was entered on the maps, every advance, even patrols—and almost every entry was explained by the Chief of Staff. Bit by bit the maps were pushed farther up the table, so that Hitler always had a comprehensible segment within reading distance. Longer discussion was devoted to the more important events, Hitler noting every change from the status of the previous day. Just the daily preparation for this conference was a tremendous burden on the time of the Chief of Staff and his officers, who no doubt had more important things to do. As a layman I was astonished at the way Hitler in the course of hearing the reports made deployments, pushed divisions back and forth, or dealt with petty details.

At least during 1942 he received the news of grave setbacks calmly. Or perhaps this was already the beginning of the apathy he later displayed. Outwardly, at any rate, he showed no sign of despair. He seemed determined to present the image of the superior war lord whose composure nothing could shake. Frequently he stressed that his experiences in the trenches of the First World War had given him more insight into many details of military policy than all his military advisers had acquired in the General Staff school. This may well have been true, for certain restricted areas. In the opinion of many army officers, however, his very “trench perspective” had given him a false picture of the process of leadership. In this regard his knowledge of detail, the detailed knowledge of a corporal, rather hampered him. General Fromm commented in his laconic fashion that a civilian as commander in chief might have been better than, of all people, a corporal—moreover one who had never fought in the east and therefore could not conceive the special problems of warfare in this part of the world.

Hitler practiced a policy of patchwork of the pettiest sort. Moreover, he labored under the handicap that the nature of any given terrain cannot really be gathered adequately from maps. In the early summer of 1942 he personally ordered the first six of our Tiger tanks to be thrown into battle. As always, when a new weapon was ready, he expected it to turn the tide of battle. He regaled us with vivid descriptions of how the Soviet 7.7 centimeter antitank guns, which penetrated our Panzer IV front armor even at sizable distances, would fire shot after shot in vain, and how finally the Tiger would roll over the antitank gun nests. His staff remonstrated that the terrain he had chosen made tactical deployment of the tanks impossible because of the marshy subsurface on both sides of the road. Hitler dismissed these objections, not sharply, but with a superior air. And so the first Tiger assault started. Everybody was tensely awaiting the results, and I was rather anxious, wondering whether all would go well technically. There was no opportunity for a technical dress rehearsal. The Russians calmly let the tanks roll past an antitank gun position, then fired direct hits at the first and last Tiger. The remaining four thereupon could move neither forward nor backward, nor could they take evasive action to the side because of the swamps, and soon they were also finished off. Hitler silently passed over the debacle; he never referred to it again.

The situation in the western theater of war, at that time still centered in Africa, was taken up next by General Jodl. Here too Hitler tended to intervene in every detail. He was bitterly annoyed with Rommel, who would often give extremely unclear bulletins on the day’s movements. In other words, he “veiled” them from headquarters, sometimes for days, only to report an entirely changed situation. Hitler liked Rommel personally but could ill brook this sort of conduct.

Properly speaking, Jodl as chief of the Wehrmacht Operations Staff ought to have coordinated the actions in the various theaters of war. But Hitler had claimed this task for himself, although he did not actually perform it. Basically, Jodl had no clearly defined field of activity. But in order to have something to do, his staff assumed independent leadership in certain theaters, so that in the end two rival general staffs existed for the army. Hitler acted as arbitrator between them —in keeping with that principle of divisiveness he favored. The more critical the situation became, the more vehemently the two rival staffs fought over the shifting of divisions from east to west and vice versa.

Once the “army situation” had been discussed, reports of the events of the last twenty-four hours in the “air situation” and the “naval situation”—as these areas were designated—were reviewed, usually by the liaison officer or the adjutant for this branch of the services, rarely by the commander himself. Attacks on England, the bombings of German cities, were reported briefly, as were the latest accomplishments in submarine warfare. On questions of air and naval warfare Hitler left his commanders in chief the broadest freedom of choice. At least at that period he rarely intervened, and then only in an advisory capacity.

Toward the end of the conference Keitel presented Hitler with various documents for signature. Usually these were the partly sneered-at, partly dreaded “covering orders”—in other words, orders intended to cover him or someone else against subsequent reprimands from Hitler. At the time I called this procedure an outrageous abuse of Hitler’s signature, since it often meant that altogether incompatible ideas and plans were thereby given the form of orders, creating a confusing and impenetrable thicket of contradictions.

The presence of so large a company in the relatively small space made the air stale, which quickly tired me as well as most of the others. A ventilation system had been installed, but Hitler thought it produced “excessive pressure” which resulted in headaches and a feeling of giddiness. Therefore it was switched on only before and after the situation conference. Even in the finest weather the window usually remained closed, and even by day the curtains were drawn. These conditions created an extremely sultry atmosphere.

I had expected respectful silence during these situation conferences and was therefore surprised that the officers who did not happen to be participating in a report talked together freely, though in low voices. Frequently, the officers, showing no further consideration for Hitler’s presence, would take seats in the group of chairs at the back of the room. The many marginal conversations created a constant murmur that would have made me nervous. But it disturbed Hitler only when the side conversations grew too excited and too loud. When he raised his head disapprovingly, however, the noise immediately subsided.

From about the autumn of 1942 on, it became almost impossible to oppose Hitler on important questions, unless one went about it very cautiously. Outsiders had a better chance to present objections; Hitler would not stand for them from the group which constituted his daily entourage. Whenever he himself was trying to convince someone, he went far afield and tried as long as possible to keep the discussion on the plane of generalities. He would hardly allow the other person to say a word. If a controversial point arose in the course of the discussion, Hitler usually evaded it skillfully, postponing clarification of it to a subsequent conference. He proceeded on the assumption that military men were shy about giving in on points in front of their staff officers. Probably he also expected his aura and his persuasiveness to operate better in a face-to-face discussion with an individual. Both these elements came across poorly over the telephone. Probably that was why Hitler always showed a distinct dislike for conducting important arguments on the telephone.

In the late evening hours there was a further situation conference in which a younger General Staff officer reported on the developments of the last few hours. Hitler would sit alone with the officer. If I had dined with Hitler, he sometimes took me along to these reports. Undoubtedly he found these occasions far more relaxing than the main situation conference, and the atmosphere and tone would be considerably less formal.

Hitler’s entourage certainly bore a measure of the blame for his growing belief in his superhuman abilities. Early in the game, Field Marshal Blomberg, Hitler’s first and last Minister of War, had been overfond of praising Hitler’s surpassing strategic genius. Even a more restrained and modest personality than Hitler ever was would have been in danger of losing all standards of self-criticism under such a constant torrent of applause.

In keeping with his character, Hitler gladly sought advice from persons who saw the situation even more optimistically and delusively than he himself. Keitel was often one of those. When the majority of the officers would greet Hitler’s decisions with marked silence, Keitel would frequently feel called upon to speak up in favor of the measure. Constantly in Hitler’s presence, he had completely succumbed to his influence. From an honorable, solidly respectable general he had developed in the course of years into a servile flatterer with all the wrong instincts. Basically, Keitel hated his own weakness; but the hopelessness of any dispute with Hitler had ultimately brought him to the point of not even trying to form his own opinion. If, however, he had offered resistance and stubbornly insisted on a view of his own, he would merely have been replaced by another Keital.

In 1943-44 when Schmundt, Hitler’s chief adjutant and army personnel chief, tried, along with many others, to replace Keitel by the much more vigorous Field Marshal Kesselring, Hitler said that he could not do without Keitel because the man was “loyal as a dog” to him. Perhaps Keitel embodied most precisely the type of person Hitler need in his entourage.

General Jodl, too, rarely contradicted Hitler openly. He proceeded diplomatically. Usually he did not express his thoughts at once, thus skirting difficult situations. Later he would persuade Hitler to yield, or even to reverse decisions already taken. His occasional deprecatory remarks about Hitler showed that he had preserved a relatively unbiased view.

Keitel’s subordinates, such as, for example, his deputy General Warlimont, could not be more courageous than their superior; for Keitel would not stand up for them against Hitler’s ire. Occasionally they tried to counter the effects of obviously absurd orders by adding little clauses that Hitler did not understand. Under the leadership of a man so submissive and irresolute as Keitel, the High Command often had to look for all sorts of crooked paths in order to arrive at its goals.

The subjugation of the generals might also be laid in part to their state of permanent fatigue. Hitler’s work routine intersected the normal daily routine of the High Command. As a result, the generals often went without regular sleep. Such purely physical strains probably affect events more than is generally assumed, especially when high performance over a protracted span of time is required. In private associations, too, Keitel and Jodl gave the impression of being exhausted, burned out. In order to break through this ring of hollow men, I hoped to place —in addition to Fromm—my friend Field Marshal Milch within the Fuehrers headquarters. I had taken him with me to headquarters several times, supposedly in order to report on activities of Central Planning. A few times all went well, and Milch was gaining ground with his plan of concentrating on a fighter-plane program instead of the proposed fleet of big bombers. But then Goering forbade him to pay any further visits to headquarters.

Goering too gave the impression of a worn-out man at the end of 1942, when I sat with him in the pavilion that had been built especially for his brief stays at headquarters. Goering still had comfortable chairs, not the spartan furnishings of Hitler’s bunker office. Depressed, the Reich Marshal said: “We will have reason to be glad if Germany can keep the boundaries of 1933 after the war.” He quickly tried to cover up this remark by adding a few confident banalities, but I had the impression that in spite of the bluffness he put on, he saw defeat coming closer.

After his arrival at the Fuehrers headquarters, Goering usually withdrew to his pavilion for a few minutes while General Bodenschatz, his liaison officer to Hitler, left the situation conference in order to brief Goering by telephone, so we suspected, on certain disputed questions. Fifteen minutes later, Goering would enter the situation conference. Of his own accord he would emphatically advocate exactly the viewpoint that Hitler wished to put across against the opposition of his generals. Hitler would then look around at his entourage: “You see, the Reich Marshal holds exactly the same opinion as I do.”

On the afternoon of November 7, 1942, I accompanied Hitler to Munich in his special train. These journeys were a favorable occasion to draw Hitler into the necessary but time-consuming consideration of general armaments questions. This special train was equipped with radio, teletype machines, and a telephone switchboard. Jodl and some members of the General Staff had joined Hitler.

The atmosphere was tense. We were already many hours late, for at every sizable station a prolonged stop was made in order to connect the telephone cable with the railroad telegraph system, so we could get the latest reports. From early morning on a mighty armada of transports, accompanied by large naval units, had been passing through the Strait of Gibralter into the Mediterranean.

In earlier years Hitler had made a habit of showing himself at the window of his special train whenever it stopped. Now these encounters with the outside world seemed undesirable to him; instead, the shades on the station side of the train would be lowered. Late in the evening we sat with Hitler in his rosewood-paneled dining car. The table was elegantly set with silver flatware, cut glass, good china, and flower arrangements. As we began our ample meal, none of us at first saw that a freight train was stopped on the adjacent track. From the cattle car bedraggled, starved, and in some cases wounded German soldiers, just returning from the east, stared at the diners. With a start, Hitler noticed the somber scene two yards from his window. Without as much as a gesture of greeting in their direction, he peremptorily ordered his servant to draw the shades. This, then, in the second half of the war, was how Hitler handled a meeting with ordinary frontline soldiers such as he himself had once been.

At every station along the way the number of reported naval units rose. An enterprise of vast proportions was obviously afoot. Finally the units passed through the Strait. All the ships reported by our air reconnaissance were now moving eastward in the Mediterranean. “This is the largest landing operation that has ever taken place in the history of the world,” Hitler declared in a tone of respect, perhaps taking pride that he was the cause of enterprises of such magnitude. Until the following morning the landing fleet remained north of the Moroccan and Algerian coast.

In the course of the night Hitler proposed several different explanations for this mysterious behavior. He thought the most probable thing was that the enemy was undertaking a great supply operation to reinforce the offensive against the hard-pressed Africa Corps. The naval units were keeping together in this way, he concluded, in order to advance through the narrow strait between Sicily and Africa under cover of darkness, safe from German air attacks. Or else, and this second version corresponded more to his feeling for perilous military operations: “The enemy will land in central Italy tonight. There he would meet with no resistance at all. There are no German troops there, and the Italians will run away. That way they can cut northern Italy off from the south. What will become of Rommel in that case? He would be lost in a short time. He has no reserves and supplies will no longer come through.”

Hitler intoxicated himself with thoughts of far-reaching operations, of a kind he had long been missing. He more and more put himself into the position of the enemy: “I would occupy Rome at once and form a new Italian government. Or, and this would be the third possibility, I would use this great fleet to land in southern France. We have always been too gentle. And now this is what we get for it! No fortifications and no German troops at all down there. A great mistake that we have nothing garrisoned there. The Pétain government won’t put up a bit of resistance, of course.” From moment to moment he seemed to forget that these forces were gathering against himself.

Hitler’s guesses were wide of the mark. It would never have occurred to him not to associate such a landing operation with a coup. To put the troops on land in safe positions from which they could methodically spread out, to take no unnecessary risks—that was a strategy alien to his nature. But that night he clearly realized one thing: Now the second front was beginning to be a reality.

By the next day the Allied troops were pouring ashore in North Africa. Nevertheless, Hitler went ahead with his speech in commemoration of his failed putsch of 1923.1 still remember how shocked we all were when, instead of at least referring to the gravity of the situation and calling for a mustering of energies, he adopted his usual “victory-is- certain” tone: “They’ve already become idiots,” he digressed about our enemy, whose operations had only yesterday called forth his homage, “if they think that they can ever shatter Germany… . We will not fall; consequently, the others will fall.”

In the late autumn of 1942, Hitler triumphantly stated in the course of a situation conference: “Now the Russians are sending their cadets into the struggle.4 That’s the surest proof they have reached the end. A country sacrifices the next generation of officers only when it has nothing left.”

A few weeks later, on November 19, 1942, the first reports of the great Russian winter offensive reached Hitler, who had withdrawn to Obersalzberg days before. The offensive, which nine weeks later was to lead to the capitulation of Stalingrad,5 began near Serafinov. There, after violent artillery preparations, strong Soviet forces had broken through the positions of Rumanian divisions. Hitler tried at first to explain and belittle this disaster by making slurring remarks on the fighting qualities of his allies. But shortly afterward the Soviet troops began overwhelming German divisions as well. The front was beginning to crumble.

Hitler paced back and forth in the great hall of the Berghof.

Our generals are making their old mistakes again. They always overestimate the strength of the Russians. According to all the frontline reports, the enemy’s human material is no longer sufficient. They are weakened; they have lost far too much blood. But of course nobody wants to accept such reports. Besides, how badly Russian officers are trained! No offensive can be organized with such officers. We know what it takes! In the short or long run the Russians will simply come to a halt. They’ll run down. Meanwhile we shall throw in a few fresh divisions; that will put things right.

In the peaceful atmosphere of the Berghof he simply did not understand what was brewing. But three days later, when the bad news kept pouring in, he rushed back to East Prussia.

A few days afterward at Rastenburg the strategic map showed the area from Voronezh to Stalingrad covered with red arrows across a front a hundred and twenty-five miles wide. These represented the thrust of the Soviet troops. Among all the arrows were small blue circles, pockets of resistance by the remnants of German and allied divisions. Stalingrad was already surrounded by red rings. Disturbed, Hitler now commanded units to be detached from all other sectors of the front and from the occupied territories and dispatched in all haste to the southern sector. No operational reserve was available, although General Zeitzler had pointed out long before the emergency that each of the divisions in southern Russia had to defend a frontal sector of unusual length* and would not be able to cope with a vigorous assault by Soviet troops.

* Establishing the new line of defense, Orel-Stalingrad-Terek River-Maikop, meant that the troops had to defend a line 2.3 times longer than the Orel-Black Sea position taken in the spring

Stalingrad was encircled. Zeitzler, his face flushed and haggard from lack of sleep, insisted that the Sixth Army must break out to the west. He deluged Hitler with data on all that the army lacked, both as regards to rations and fuel, so that it had become impossible to provide warm meals for the soldiers exposed to fierce cold in the snow-swept fields or the scanty shelter of ruins. Hitler remained calm, unmoved and deliberate, as if bent on showing that Zeitzler’s agitation was a psychotic reaction in the face of danger. “The counterattack from the south that I have ordered will soon relieve Stalingrad. That will recoup the situation. We have been in such positions often before, you know. In the end we always had the problem in hand again.” He gave orders for supply trains to be dispatched right behind the troops deploying for the counteroffensive, so that as soon as Stalingrad was relieved something could at once be done about alleviating the plight of the soldiers. Zeitzler disagreed, and Hitler let him talk without interrupting. The forces provided for the counterattack were too weak, Zeitzler said. But if they could unite successfully with a Sixth Army that had broken out to the west, they would then be able to establish new positions farther to the south. Hitler offered counterarguments, but Zeitzler held to his view. Finally, after the discussion had gone on for more than half an hour, Hitler’s patience snapped: “Stalingrad simply must be held. It must be; it is a key position. By breaking traffic on the Volga at that spot, we cause the Russians the greatest difficulties. How are they going to transport their grain from southern Russia to the north?” That did not sound convincing; I had the feeling, rather, that Stalingrad was a symbol for him. But for the time being the discussion ended after this dispute.

Next day the situation had worsened. Zeitzler’s pleas had grown even more urgent; the atmosphere in the situation conference was somber; and even Hitler looked exhausted and downcast. Once he too spoke of a breakout. Once more he asked for figures on how many tons of supplies were needed daily to maintain the fighting strength of over two hundred thousand soldiers.

Twenty-four hours later the fate of the encircled army was finally sealed. For Goering appeared in the situation room, brisk and beaming like an operetta tenor who is supposed to portray a victorious Reich Marshal. Depressed, with a beseeching note in his voice, Hitler asked him: “What about supplying Stalingrad by air?” Goering snapped to attention and declared solemnly: “My leader! I personally guarantee the supplying of Stalingrad by air. You can rely on that.” As I later heard from Milch, the Air Force General Staff had in fact calculated that supplying the pocket was impossible. Zeitzler, too, instantly voiced his doubts. But Goering retorted that it was exclusively the business of the air force to undertake the necessary calculations. Hitler, who could be so pedantic about erecting edifices of figures, on this day did not even ask for an accounting of how the necessary planes could be made available. He had revived at Goering’s mere words, and had recovered his old staunchness. “Then Stalingrad can be held! It is foolish to go on talking anymore about a breakout of the Sixth Army. It would lose all its heavy weapons and have no fighting strength left. The Sixth Army remains in Stalingrad!”*

* Later experience with battles fought in winter by the retreating armies belies Hitler’s theory, since adopted by some historians, that the Stalingrad pocket served its purpose because it tied up the Soviet forces for eight weeks.

Although Goering knew that the fate of the army encircled in Stalingrad hung on his promise, on December 12, 1942,6 he issued invitations to his subordinates to attend a festive performance of Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger to celebrate the reopening of the destroyed Berlin State Opera House. In gala uniforms or full dress we took our seats in the Fuehrers big box. The jovial plot of the opera painfully contrasted with the events at the front, so that I kept chiding myself for having accepted the invitation.

A few days later I was back at the Fuehrer’s headquarters. Zeitzler was now giving a daily report on the tons of rations and munitions the Sixth Army was receiving by air. They came to only a fraction of the promised quantities. Goering, repeatedly called to account by Hitler, had excuses: The weather was bad, fog, freezing rain, or snowstorms had so far prevented commitment of as many planes as planned. But as soon as the weather changed, Goering said, he would be able to deliver the promised tonnage.

Thereupon, food rations had to be reduced still further in Stalingrad. Zeitzler conspicuously had himself served the same rations in the General Staff casino, and visibly lost weight. After a few days of this Hitler informed him that he considered it improper for a chief of staff to wear out his nerves with such demonstrations of solidarity with the troops. He commanded Zeitzler to resume at once taking sufficient nourishment. However, for a few weeks Hitler prohibited the serving of champagne and cognac. The mood became blacker and blacker. Faces froze into masks. Often we stood about in silence. No one wanted to talk about the gradual destruction of what had been, only a few months before, a victorious army.

But Hitler went on hoping; he was still hoping when I once more was at headquarters from January 2 to 7. The counterattack he had ordered, which was supposed to break the ring around Stalingrad and bring fresh supplies to the dying army, had failed two weeks before. The sole remaining hope, and that a faint one, lay in a decision to evacuate the pocket.

One day, while I waited outside the situation room, I heard Zeitzler urging Keitel, literally begging him, on this day at least to support him in persuading Hitler to give the order for evacuation. This was the last moment to avert a fearful catastrophe, Zeitzler said. Keitel emphatically agreed and solemnly promised Zeitzler that he would help as requested. But at the situation conference, when Hitler once again stressed the necessity of holding out in Stalingrad, Keitel strode emotionally toward him, pointed to the map, where a small remnant of the city was surrounded by thick red rings, and declared: “Mein Führer, we will hold that!”

In this hopeless situation, on January 15, 1943, Hitler signed a special decree giving Field Marshal Milch the power to take all measures in the air force and the civilian air fleet that he considered necessary for supplying Stalingrad—without asking Goering’s permission.*

* Milch directed this operation from the air force headquarters south of Stalingrad. He was able to increase the flights to Stalingrad appreciably, so that at least some of the wounded could be evacuated. After performing his mission, Milch was received by Hitler. Their conversation ended in a violent clash over the desperate military situation, whose seriousness Hitler still refused to acknowledge.

At the time I telephoned Milch several times, for he had promised me to rescue my brother, who was caught with the rest of the encircled troops in Stalingrad. In the general confusion, however, it proved impossible to locate him. Desperate letters came from him. He had jaundice and swollen limbs, was taken to a field hospital, but could not endure conditions there and dragged himself back to his comrades at an artillery observation post. After that nothing more was heard from him. What my parents and I went through was repeated by hundreds of thousands of families who for a time continued to receive airmail letters from the encircled city, until it was all over.*

* Hitler could not have blocked delivery of these letters without causing wild rumors. But when the Soviet Army allowed German prisoners to send home postcards, Hitler ordered the cards destroyed. Because they were a sign of life from the relatives, they might have mitigated the Russophobia that was being so carefully cultivated by Hitler’s propaganda apparatus. Fritzsche told me about this at Nuremberg.

In the future Hitler never said another word about the catastrophe for which he and Goering were alone responsible. Instead, he commanded the immediate formation of a new Sixth Army which was supposed to restore the glory of the doomed one. A year and a half later, in the middle of August 1944, it too was encircled by the Russians and annihilated.

Our enemies rightly regarded this disaster at Stalingrad as a turning point in the war. But at Hitler’s headquarters the only reaction was a temporary numbness followed by a rush of feverish staff work in which the most trivial details were threshed over. Hitler began conceiving plans for new victories in 1943. The top leadership of the Reich, already tom by dissension and filled with envy and jealousy, did not close ranks in the face of the peril that was almost upon us. On the contrary, in that den of intrigue which Hitler had created by splitting all the centers of power, the gamblers began playing for higher stakes than ever before.

18. Intrigues

In THE WINTER OF 1942, DURING THE STALINGRAD CRISIS, BORMANN, KEITEL, and Lammers decided to close their own ring around Hitler more tightly. Henceforth, all orders to be signed by the Chief of State had to be cleared through these three men. This would supposedly prevent the unconsidered signing of decrees and therefore put a stop to the command confusion caused by this practice. Hitler was content so long as he retained the final decision. Henceforth, the divergent views of various branches of government would be “sifted” by this Committee of Three. In accepting this arrangement Hitler counted on objective presentation and a nonpartisan method of working.

The three-man committee divided up its jurisdictions. Keitel, who was to be in charge of all orders relating to the armed forces, came to grief right from the start, since the commanders in chief of the air force and the navy utterly refused to accept his authority. All changes in the powers of the ministries, all constitutional affairs, and all administrative questions were supposed to go through Lammers. As it turned out, however, he had to leave these decisions more and more to Bormann, since he himself had little access to Hitler. Bormann had reserved the field of domestic policy for himself. But he not only lacked the intelligence for these matters; he also had insufficient knowledge of the outside world. For more than eight years he had been little more than Hitler’s shadow. He had never dared go on any lengthy business trips, or even to allow himself a vacation, for fear that his influence might diminish. From his own days as Hess’s deputy, Bormann knew the perils of ambitious deputies. For Hitler was all too ready to treat the second men in an organization, as soon as they were presented to him, as members of his staff and to make assignments directly to them. This quirk accorded with his tendency to divide power wherever he encountered it. Moreover, he loved to see new faces, to try out new persons. In order to avoid raising up such a rival in his own household, many a minister took care not to appoint an intelligent and vigorous deputy.

The plan of these three men to surround Hitler, to filter his information and thus control his power, might have led to an abridgement of Hitler’s one-man rule—had the Committee of Three consisted of men possessing initiative, imagination, and a sense of responsibility. But since they had been trained always to act in Hitler’s name, they slavishly depended on the expressions of his will. What is more, Hitler soon stopped abiding by this regulation. It became a nuisance to him, and was, moreover, contrary to his temperament. But it is understandable that those who stood outside this ring resented its stranglehold.

In fact Bormann was now assuming a role which could be dangerous to the top functionaries. He alone, with Hitler’s compliance, drew up the appointments calendar, which meant that he decided which civilian members of the government or party could see, or more important, could not see, the Fuehrer. By now, hardly any of the ministers, Reichsleiters, or Gauleiters could penetrate to Hitler. They all had to ask Bormann to present their programs to him. Bormann was very efficient. Usually the official in question received an answer in writing within a few days, whereas in the past he would have had to wait for months. I was one of the exceptions to this rule. Since my sphere was military in nature, I had access to Hitler whenever I wished. Hitler’s military adjutants were the ones who set up my appointments.

After my conferences with Hitler, it sometimes happened that the adjutant would announce Bormann, who would then come into the room carrying his files. In a few sentences he would report on the memoranda sent to him. He spoke monotonously and with seeming objectivity and would then advance his own solution. Usually Hitler merely nodded and spoke his terse, “Agreed.” On the basis of this one word, or even a vague comment by Hitler, which was hardly meant as a directive, Bormann would often draft lengthy instructions. In this way ten or more important decisions were sometimes made within half an hour. De facto, Bormann was conducting the internal affairs of the Reich. A few months afterward, on April 12, 1943, Bormann obtained Hitler’s signature to a seemingly unimportant piece of paper. He became “Secretary to the Fuehrer.” Whereas previously his powers, strictly speaking, should have been restricted to party affairs, this new position now authorized him to act officially in any field he wished.

After my first major achievements in the field of armaments, Goebbels’s hostility toward me, apparent ever since his affair with Lida Baarova, gave way to good will. In the summer of 1942, I had asked him to put his propaganda apparatus to work to speed armaments production. Newsreels, picture magazines, and newspapers were required to publish articles on the subject. My prestige rose. Thanks to this directive by the Propaganda Minister, I became one of the best-known personages in the Reich. This improvement in my status in its turn was useful to my associates in their daily bouts with government and party bureaus.

All of Goebbels’s speeches sounded the note of stereotyped fanaticism, but it would be quite wrong to think of him as a hot-blooded man seething with temperament. Goebbels was a hard worker and something of a martinet about the way his ideas were carried out. But he never let the minutiae make him lose sight of the whole situation. He had the gift of abstracting problems from their surrounding circumstances so that, as it seemed to me then, he could arrive at objective judgments. I was impressed by his cynicism, but also by the logical arrangement of his ideas, which revealed his university training. Toward Hitler, however, he seemed extremely constrained.

During the first, successful phase of the war, Goebbels had shown no signs of ambition. On the contrary, as early as 1940 he expressed his intention of devoting himself to his many personal interests once the war was brought to a victorious conclusion. It would then be time for the next generation to assume responsibility, he would say.

In December 1942 the disastrous course of affairs prompted him to invite three of his colleagues to call on him more often: Walther Funk, Robert Ley, and myself. The choice was typical of Goebbels, for we were all men of academic background, university graduates.

Stalingrad had shaken us—not only the tragedy of the Sixth Army’s soldiers, but even more, perhaps, the question of how such a disaster could have taken place under Hitler’s orders. For hitherto there had always been a success to offset every setback; hitherto there had been a new triumph to compensate for all losses or at least make everyone forget them. Now for the first time we had suffered a defeat for which there was no compensation.

In one of our discussions at the beginning of 1943, Goebbels made the point that we had had great military successes at the beginning of the war while taking only half-measures inside the Reich. Consequently, we had thought we could go on being victorious without great efforts. The British, on the other hand, had been luckier in that Dunkirk had taken place right at the beginning of the war. This defeat had made them aware of the need to tighten up on the civilian economy. Now Stalingrad was our Dunkirk! The war could no longer be won simply by engendering confidence.

In speaking this way Goebbels was referring to the information he had from his band of correspondents concerning the uneasiness and dissatisfaction among the populace. The public was actually demanding a ban on all luxuries, which did not help the national struggle. In general, Goebbels said, he could sense a great readiness among the people to exert themselves to the utmost. In fact, significant restrictions were a real necessity if only to revive popular confidence in the leadership.

From the viewpoint of armaments, considerable sacrifices were certainly required. Hitler had demanded a step-up in production. What was more, in order to compensate for the tremendous casualties on the eastern front, eight hundred thousand of the younger skilled workers were going to be drafted.1 Every subtraction of the German labor force would add to the difficulties all our factories were encountering.

On the other hand, the air raids had shown that life could continue on an orderly basis in the severely affected cities. Tax revenues for instance went on being paid even after bombs falling on Treasury offices had destroyed the documents. Taking my cue directly from the principle of self-responsibility in industry, I formulated a program which would substitute trust for distrust toward the populace and allow us to trim our supervisory and administrative agencies, which alone employed nearly three million persons. We considered ways in which the taxpayers could be made responsible for their own declarations, or the feasibility of not reassessing liability at all, or for withholding taxes from the payrolls. Given the billions being spent on the war every month, Goebbels and I argued, what did it matter if a few hundred millions were lost to the government due to the dishonesty of some individuals.

A considerably greater stir was created by my demands that the working time of all government officials be extended to match the hours of armaments workers. That alone, in purely arithmetical terms, would have freed some two hundred thousand administrative people for armaments work. Furthermore, I wanted to release several hundreds of thousands of workers by a drastic cut in the living standard of the upper classes. At a meeting of Central Planning, I made no attempt to gloss over the effect my radical proposals would have on the German scene: “This means that for the duration of the war, if it goes on for a long time, we shall be—to put it crudely—proletarianized.”2 Today, I am glad that my plan did not win acceptance. Had it, Germany would have faced the extraordinary burdens of the early postwar months economically even more weakened and administratively more disorganized. But I am also convinced that in England, for example—had she been facing the same situation—such proposals would have been consistently carried out.

We had a hard time persuading a hesitant Hitler that certain austerities were essential, that the administrative apparatus had to be enormously simplified, consumption checked, and cultural activities restricted. But my proposal that Goebbels handle all this was thwarted by an alert Bormann, who feared an increase in power on the part of this rival. Instead of Goebbels, Dr. Lammers, Bormann’s ally in the Committee of Three, was assigned the task. He was a government official without initiative or imagination whose hair stood on end at the thought of such disregard for the sacred bureaucratic procedures.

It was also Lammers who from January 1943 on presided over the Cabinet meetings, which were then resumed, in Hitler’s stead. Not all members of the Cabinet were invited, only those who were concerned with the subjects on the agenda. But the meeting place, the Cabinet Room, showed what power the Committee of Three had acquired or at any rate intended to acquire.

These meetings turned out quite heated. Goebbels and Funk supported my radical views. Minister of the Interior Frick, as well as Lammers himself, raised the anticipated doubts. Sauckel maintained that he could provide any number of workers requested of him, including skilled personnel, from abroad.3 Even when Goebbels demanded that leading party members forgo their previous, almost limitless luxuries, he could change nothing. And Eva Braun, ordinarily so unassuming, had no sooner heard of a proposed ban on permanent waves as well as the end of cosmetic production when she rushed to Hitler in high indignation. Hitler at once showed uncertainty. He advised me that instead of an outright ban I quietly stop production of “hair dyes and other items necessary for beauty culture,” as well as “cessation of repairs upon apparatus for producing permanent waves.”*

* Even Goebbels wavered on the question of cosmetics: “A whole series of individual points are still being debated [by the public], especially the question of feminine beauty care… . Perhaps in this case we ought to be somewhat more lenient.” (Diary entry for March 12, 1943.) Hitler’s recommendation may be found in the Fükrerprotokoll, April 25, 1943, Point 14.

After a few meetings in the Chancellery it was clear to Goebbels and me that armaments production would receive no spur from Bormann, Lammers, or Keitel. Our efforts had bogged down in meaningless details.

On February 18, 1943, Goebbels delivered his speech in the Sportpalast on “total war.” It was not only directed to the population; it was obliquely addressed to the leadership which had ignored all our proposals for a radical commitment of domestic reserves. Basically, it was an attempt to place Lammers and all the other dawdlers under the pressure of the mob.

Except for Hitler’s most successful public meetings, I had never seen an audience so effectively roused to fanaticism. Back in his home, Goebbels astonished me by analyzing what had seemed to be a purely emotional outburst in terms of its psychological effects—much as an experienced actor might have done. He was also satisfied with his audience that evening. “Did you notice? They reacted to the smallest nuance and applauded at just the right moments. It was the politically best-trained audience you can find in Germany.” This particular crowd had been rounded up out of the party organizations; among those present were popular intellectuals and actors like Heinrich George whose applause was caught by the newsreel cameras for the benefit of the wider public.

But this speech by Goebbels also had a foreign-policy aspect. It was one of several attempts to supplement Hitler’s purely military approach by introducing politics. Goebbels at any rate thought that he was also pleading with the West to remember the danger which threatened all of Europe from the East. A few days later he expressed great satisfaction that the Western press had commented favorably upon these very sentences.

At the time, as a matter of fact, Goebbels seemed interested in becoming Foreign Minister. With all the eloquence at his command he tried to turn Hitler against Ribbentrop and for a while seemed to be succeeding. At least Hitler listened in silence to his arguments, without shifting the conversation to a less unpleasant subject, as was his habit. Goebbels already thought the game was won when Hitler unexpectedly began praising Ribbentrop’s excellent work and his talent for negotiations with Germany’s “allies.” He concluded finally with the remarkable statement: “You’re altogether wrong about Ribbentrop. He is one of the greatest men we have, and history will someday place him above Bismarck. He is greater than Bismarck.” Along with this, Hitler forbade Goebbels to extend anymore feelers toward the West, as he had done in his Sportpalast speech.

Nevertheless, Goebbels’s speech on “total war” was followed up by a gesture which was roundly applauded by the public: He had Berlin’s luxury restaurants and expensive places of amusement closed. Goering, to be sure, promptly interposed his bulk to protect his favorite restaurant, Horcher’s. But when subsequently some demonstrators (set on by Goebbels) appeared at the restaurant and smashed the windows, Goering yielded. The result was a serious rift between him and Goebbels.

On the evening after the speech in the Sportpalast mentioned above, many prominent persons assembled in the palatial residence that Goebbels had built shortly before the beginning of the war near the Brandenburg Gate. Among those present were Field Marshal Milch, Minister of Justice Thierack, State Secretary Stuckart of the Ministry of the Interior, Goering’s right-hand man, State Secretary Körner, and Funk and Ley. For the first time a motion proposed by Milch and myself was discussed: to use Goering’s powers as “Chairman of the Council of Ministers for the Defense of the Reich” in order to stiffen the home front.

Nine days later Goebbels invited me to his home again, together with Funk and Ley. The huge building with its rich appointments now gave a gloomy appearance. In order to provide a good example of acting in the spirit of “total war,” Goebbels had had the large public rooms closed and most of the electric bulbs removed in the remaining halls and rooms. We were asked into one of the smaller rooms, perhaps four hundred fifty square feet in area. Servants in livery served French cognac and tea; then Goebbels signaled to them to leave us undisturbed.

“Things cannot go on this way,” he began. “Here we are sitting in Berlin. Hitler does not hear what we have to say about the situation. I cannot influence him politically, cannot even report the most urgent measures in my area. Everything goes through Bormann. Hitler must be persuaded to come to Berlin more often.”

Domestic policy, Goebbels continued, had slipped entirely out of Hitler’s hands. It was being controlled by Bormann, who managed to give Hitler the feeling that he was still directing things. Bormann, Goebbels said further, was guided only by ambition; with his rigidly doctrinaire approach, he represented a great danger to any sane evolution of policy. First and foremost his influence must be diminished!

Altogether contrary to his habit, Goebbels did not even except Hitler from his critical remarks. “We are not having a leadership crisis,” but strictly speaking a ‘Leader crisis’!”4 To Goebbels, a born politician, it was incomprehensible that Hitler should have abandoned politics, that most important of instruments, in favor of playing a superfluous role as Commander in Chief.

The rest of us could only agree; none of us could hold a candle to Goebbels where political instinct was concerned. His criticism showed what Stalingrad really meant. Goebbels had begun to doubt Hitler’s star, and hence his victory—and we were doubting with him.

I repeated the proposal we had made: that Goering be reinstalled in the function that had been intended for him at the beginning of the war. Here was an organizational position equipped with the fullest powers, including the right to issue decrees even without Hitler’s collaboration. From this post the power usurped by Bormann and Lammers could be shattered. Bormann and Lammers would have to bow to this existing authority whose potentialities had so far gone untapped because of Goering’s indolence.

Since Goebbels and Goering were on bad terms because of the Horcher’s Restaurant incident,* the group asked me to speak with Goering about the matter.

* The dispute between Goebbels and Goering over the restaurant was resolved as follows: The restaurant remained closed as a public restaurant, but it reopened as a club for the Luftwaffe.

The present-day reader may well wonder why, when we were making a last effort to rally all our forces, our choice should have fallen on this man who had done nothing but loll about in apathetic luxury for years. Goering had not always been this way, and his reputation of an admittedly violent but also energetic and intelligent person still lingered on from the days when he had built up the air force and the Four-Year Plan. There seemed a chance that if a task appealed to him he might recover some of his old daring and energy. And if not, we reckoned, then the committee of the Reich Defense Council would in any case constitute an instrument that could make radical decisions.

Only in retrospect do I realize that stripping Bormann and Lammers of power would hardly have changed the course of events. For the shift in direction we wanted to bring about could not be achieved by overthrowing Hitler’s secretaries but solely by turning against Hitler himself. For us, however, that was beyond imagination. Instead, if we had succeeded in restoring our personal positions which were endangered by Bormann, we would presumably have been ready to follow Hitler even more loyally than before, if possible; more so than we actually did under the cowardly Lammers and the scheming Bormann. The fact that we regarded minimal differences as so important merely shows in how closed a world we all moved.

This was the first time I emerged from my reserve as a specialist to plunge into political maneuvering. I had always carefully avoided such a step; but the fact that I took it now had a certain logic. I had decided that it was wrong to imagine I could concentrate exclusively upon my specialized work. In an authoritarian system anyone who wants to remain part of the leadership inevitably stumbles into fields of force where political battles are in progress.

Goering was staying in his summer house at Obersalzberg. As I learned from Field Marshal Milch, he had deliberately withdrawn there for a rather long vacation because he was offended by Hitler’s criticisms of his leadership of the air force. I went to see him the day after our meeting, February 28, 1943. He was prepared at once to receive me.

The atmosphere of our discussion, which lasted for many hours, was friendly and unconstrained, in keeping with the intimate conditions of the relatively small house. I was astonished, though, by his lacquered fingernails and obviously rouged face, although the oversize ruby brooch on his green velvet dressing gown was already a familiar sight to me.

Goering listened quietly to our proposal and to my report of our Berlin conference. As he sat he occasionally scooped a handful of unset gems from his pocket and playfully let them glide through his fingers. It seemed to delight him that we had thought of him. He too saw the danger in the way things were going with Bormann and agreed with our plans. But he was still angry with Goebbels because of the Horcher incident, until I finally proposed that he personally invite the Propaganda Minister here, so that we could thoroughly discuss our plan with him.

Goebbels came to Berchtesgaden the very next day. I first informed him of the result of my discussion. Together, we drove to Goering’s, where I soon withdrew to let the two men, whose relations had been almost continually strained, have it out. When I was called in again, Goering rubbed his hands with delight at the prospect of the struggle that was about to begin and showed his most engaging side. First of all, he said, the personnel of the Council of Ministers for the Defense of the Reich must be broadened. Goebbels and I ought to become members; the fact that we were not, by the way, indicated that the council was of little importance.

There was also talk about the necessity for replacing Ribbentrop. The Foreign Minister should be persuading Hitler to adopt a rational policy, but instead he was too much Hitler’s mouthpiece to find a political solution for our sorry military predicament.

Growing more and more excited, Goebbels continued: “The Fuehrer has not seen through Lammers anymore than he has seen through Ribbentrop.”

Goering sprang to his feet. “He’s always putting in a word edgewise, torpedoing me below the water line. But that’s ending right now! I’m going to see to it, gentlemen!”

Goebbels was obviously relishing Goering’s rage and deliberately trying to spur him on, while at the same time fearing some rash act on the part of the tactically unskilled Reich Marshal. “Depend on it, Herr Goering, we are going to open the Fuehrer’s eyes about Bormann and Lammers. Only we mustn’t risk going too far. We’ll have to proceed slowly. You know the Fuehrer.” His caution increased as he spoke: “At any rate we had better not talk too openly with the other members of the Council of Ministers. There’s no need for them to know that we intend to slowly spike the Committee of Three. We’re simply acting out of loyalty to the Fuehrer. We have no personal ambitions. But if each one of us supports the others to the Fuehrer we’ll soon be on top of the situation and can form a solid fence around the Fuehrer.”

Goebbels was highly pleased by the time he left. “This is going to work,” he said to me. “Goering has really come to life again, don t you think?”

I too had not seen Goering so dynamic and bold in recent years. On a long walk in the peaceful vicinity of Obersalzberg, Goering and I discussed the course Bormann had taken. Goering maintained that Bormann was aiming at nothing less than the succession to Hitler, and that he would stop at nothing to outmaneuver him, Goering—in fact, all of us—in influencing Hitler. I took occasion to tell Goering how Bormann seized every opportunity to undermine the Reich Marshal’s prestige. Goering listened with mounting feeling as I spoke of the teatimes with Hitler at Obersalzberg, from which Goering was excluded. There I had been able to observe Bormann’s tactics at close vantage.

He never worked by direct attack, I said. Instead, he would weave little incidents into his conversation which were effective only in their sum. Thus, for example, in the course of the teatime chatter Bormann would tell unfavorable anecdotes from Vienna in order to damage Baldur von Schirach, the Hitler Youth leader. But Bormann carefully avoided agreeing with Hitler’s subsequent negative remarks. On the contrary, he thought it prudent to praise Schirach afterward—the kind of praise, of course, which would leave an unpleasant aftertaste. After about a year of this sort of thing Bormann had brought Hitler to the point of disliking Schirach and often feeling outright hostility toward him. Then—when Hitler was not around—Bormann could venture to go a step further. With an air of casually dismissing the matter but in reality annihilating the man, he would remark contemptuously that of course Schirach belonged in Vienna since everybody there was always intriguing against everybody else. Bormann would be playing the same sort of game against Goering, I added in conclusion.

The trouble was that Goering was an easy mark for this sort of thing. In the course of these days at Obersalzberg, Goebbels himself spoke somewhat apologetically of the “baroque garments” Goering favored which did seem rather comical to anyone who did not know the Reich Marshal. And then Goering continued to comport himself with sovereign dignity, forgetful of his failures as Commander in Chief of the Air Force. Much later, in the spring of 1945, when Hitler publicly insulted his Reich Marshal in the most cutting manner before all the participants in the situation conference, Goering remarked to Below, Hitler’s air force adjutant: “Speer was right when he warned me. Now Bormann has succeeded.”

Goering was mistaken. Bormann had already done his work by the spring of 1943.

A few days later, on March 5, 1943, I flew to headquarters to obtain several decisions on armaments questions from Hitler. My chief purpose, however, was to promote our little plot. I found it easy to persuade Hitler to invite Goebbels to headquarters. Things were especially dreary, and he looked forward to a visit from the sprightly, clever Propaganda Minister.

Three days later Goebbels arrived at headquarters. He first took me aside. “What is the Fuehrers mood, Herr Speer?” he asked. I had to tell him that Hitler was not feeling particularly warm toward Goering at this juncture and advised restraint. It would probably be better not to press the matter right now, I thought. Consequently, after briefly feeling my way, I had done nothing further. Goebbels agreed: “You’re probably right. At the moment we had better not mention Goering to the Fuehrer. That would spoil everything.”

The massed Allied air raids, which had been going on for weeks and meeting almost no opposition, had further weakened Goering’s already imperiled position. If Goering’s name was as much as mentioned, Hitler would start fuming at the mistakes and omissions in the planning for air warfare. That very day Hitler had repeatedly exclaimed that if the bombings went on not only would the cities be destroyed, but the morale of the people would crack irreparably. Hitler was succumbing to the same error as the British strategists on the other side who were ordering mass bombing.

Hitler invited Goebbels and me to lunch. Oddly enough, on such occasions he refrained from asking Bormann—who was otherwise indispensable—to join him. In this respect he treated Bormann entirely as a secretary. Enlivened by Goebbels, Hitler became considerably more talkative than I was accustomed to seeing him on my visits to headquarters. He used the opportunity to unburden his mind and as usual made disparaging remarks about almost all of his associates except those of us who were present.

After the meal I was dismissed, and Hitler spent several hours alone with Goebbels. The fact that Hitler courteously and amicably showed me out corresponded with his way of sharply separating individuals and areas. I did not return until it was time for the military situation conference. At supper we met again, this time all three of us. Hitler had a fire made in the fireplace; the orderly brought us a bottle of wine, and Fachinger mineral water for Hitler. We sat up until early morning in a relaxed, almost cozy atmosphere. I did not have a chance to say much, for Goebbels knew how to entertain Hitler: He spoke brilliantly, in polished phrases, with irony at the right place and admiration where Hitler expected it, with sentimentality when the moment and the subject required it, with gossip and love affairs. He mixed everything in a masterly brew: theater, movies, and old times. But Hitler also listened with eager interest —as always—to a detailed account of the children of the Goebbels family. Their childish remarks, their favorite games, their frequently pungent comments, distracted Hitler from his cares that night.

By recalling earlier periods of difficulty which one way or another had been overcome, Goebbels contrived to strengthen Hitler’s selfassurance and to flatter his vanity, which the sober tone of the military men hardly pampered. Hitler, for his part, reciprocated by magnifying his Propaganda Ministers achievements and thus giving him cause for pride. In general the leaders of the Third Reich were fond of mutual praise and were continually reassuring one another.

In spite of certain qualms, Goebbels and I had agreed beforehand that somewhere in the course of the evening we would bring up our plans for activating the Council of Ministers for the Defense of the Reich, or at least drop some hints about it. The atmosphere certainly seemed favorable—though there was always the danger that Hitler might take such suggestions as a criticism of the way he was running things—when suddenly this idyll at the fireplace was interrupted by the report of a heavy air raid on Nuremberg. As if he had guessed our intention—perhaps, too, he had been warned by Bormann—Hitler put on a scene such as I had seldom witnessed. He immediately had Brigadier General Bodenschatz, Goering’s chief adjutant, hauled out of bed and brought before him, where the poor man had to take a terrible tongue-lashing on behalf of the “incompetent Reich Marshal.” Goebbels and I tried to soothe Hitler, and finally he did calm down. But all our spadework had obviously been in vain. Goebbels, too, thought it advisable to give the subject wide berth for the present. Nevertheless, after Hitler’s many expressions of appreciation he felt that his political stock had risen considerably. Afterward, he no longer spoke of a “Leader crisis.” On the contrary, it even seemed as if he had recovered his old confidence in Hitler. But we still had to go on with the struggle against Bormann, he decided.

On March 17, Goebbels, Funk, Ley, and I met with Goering in the latter’s Berlin palace on Leipziger Platz. At first Goering received us in his office, adopting his most official manner—planted behind his enormous desk on his Renaissance throne. We sat facing him on uncomfortable chairs. Initially, there was no sign of the cordiality he had shown at Obersalzberg. It rather seemed as if Goering had repented of his candor.

But while the rest of us sat silent for the most part, Goering and Goebbels aroused each other by outlining the perils presented by that triumvirate around Hitler and by devising schemes for recapturing Hitler for ourselves. Goebbels seemed to have forgotten completely how Hitler had lashed into Goering only a few days earlier. Soon both of them saw their goal within reach. Goering, alternating as always between torpor and euphoria, was already beginning to discount the influence of the headquarters clique. “We mustn’t overestimate it either, Herr Goebbels! Bormann and Keitel are nothing but the Fuehrers secretaries, after all. Who do they think they are! As far as their own powers are concerned, they’re nobodies.”

What seemed to disturb Goebbels most was the possibility that

Bormann might utilize his direct contacts with the Gauleiters to build up bases against our efforts on the home front also. I recall the way Goebbels tried to enlist Ley against Bormann in his capacity of Organization Chief of the Party. Finally, Goebbels proposed that the Council of Ministers for the Defense of the Reich must be given the right to summon Gauleiters and call them to account. Fully aware that Goering would scarcely attend the sessions so often, he proposed weekly meetings. Casually, he added that probably it would be all right, wouldn’t it, if he acted as deputy chairman if Goering were sometimes unable to attend.5 Goering did not see through Goebbels’s machinations and consented. Behind the fronts of the great struggle for power the old rivalries continued to smolder.

For a considerable time the numbers of workers whom Sauckel claimed to have sent into industry, statistics which he reported to Hitler, had ceased to correspond with the actual figures. The difference amounted to several hundred thousand. I proposed to our coalition that we join forces in compelling Sauckel, Bormann’s outpost in our territory, as it were, to report truthful data.

At Hitler’s request a large building in the rustic Bavarian style had been erected near Berchtesgaden to house the Berlin Chancellery secretariat. Whenever Hitler stayed at Obersalzberg for months at a time, Lammers and his immediate staff conducted the business of the Chancellery there. Goering arranged for Lammers as the host to invite our group, as well as Sauckel and Milch, to meet in the conference room of this building on April 12, 1943. Before the meeting Milch and I once more reminded Goering of what we wanted. He rubbed his hands: “That will soon be taken care of!”

We were surprised to find that Himmler, Bormann, and Keitel were also in the conference room. And to make matters worse, our ally Goebbels sent his apologies: On the way to Berchtesgaden he had suffered an attack of kidney colic and was lying ill in his special car. To this day I don’t know whether this was true or whether he merely had an instinct for what was going to happen.

That session marked the end of our alliance. Sauckel simply challenged our demand for an additional two million, one hundred thousand workers for the entire economy, insisted that he had delivered the needed forces, and became furious when I charged that his figures could not be accurate.*

* Later we learned from General Roesch, our armaments inspector for Upper Bavaria, that Sauckel had directed his employment bureaus to list every worker who was assigned to a factory as placed, even if the worker turned out to be unqualified for the particular job and was sent back to the bureau. The factories, on the other hand, listed only those workers who were actually hired.

Milch and I expected that Goering would ask Sauckel for explanations and make him change his labor-assignment policy. Instead, to our horror Goering began with a violent attack upon Milch, and thus indirectly upon me. It was outrageous that Milch was making so many difficulties, he said. Our good party comrade Sauckel who was exerting himself to the utmost and had achieved such successes…. He at any rate felt a great debt of gratitude toward him. Milch was simply blind to Sauckel’s achievements.

It was as though Goering had picked out the wrong phonograph record. In the ensuing prolonged discussion on the missing workers, each of the ministers present offered explanations, on entirely theoretical grounds, of the difference between the real and the official figures. Himmler commented with the greatest calm that perhaps the missing hundreds of thousands had died.

The conference proved a total failure. No light was thrown on the question of the missing labor force, and in addition our grand assault on Bormann had come to grief.

After this meeting Goering took me aside. “I know you like to work closely with my state secretary, Milch,” he said. “In all friendship I’d like to warn you against him. He’s unreliable; as soon as his own interests are in question, he’ll trample over even his best friends.”

I immediately passed this remark on to Milch. He laughed. “A few days ago Goering told me exactly the same thing about you.”

This attempt on Goering’s part to sow distrust was the very opposite of what we had agreed on: that we would form a bloc. The sad fact was that our circles were so infected by suspicion that friendship was felt to be a threat.

A few days after this affair Milch commented that Goering had switched sides because the Gestapo had proof of his drug addiction. Quite some time before Milch had suggested to me that I look closely at Goering’s pupils. At the Nuremberg Trial my attorney, Dr. Flächsner, told me that Goering had been an addict long before 1933. Flächsner had acted as his lawyer once when he was sued for improperly administering a morphine injection.*

* A lady’s dress caught fire in a night club. Goering gave her an injection of morphine to relieve the pain. But the injection left a scar and the woman sued Goering.

Our attempt to mobilize Goering against Bormann was probably doomed to failure from the start for financial reasons as well. For as was later revealed by a Nuremberg document, Bormann had made Goering a gift of six million marks from the industrialists’ Adolf Hitler Fund.

After the collapse of our alliance, Goering actually bestirred himself for a while, but, surprisingly, his activity was directed against me. Contrary to his habit, a few weeks later he asked me to invite the leading men in the steel industry to a conference at Obersalzberg. The meeting took place at the drafting tables in my studio and was memorable only because of Goering’s behavior. He appeared in an euphoric mood, his pupils visibly narrowed, and delivered to the astonished specialists from the steel industry a long lecture on the manufacture of steel, parading all his knowledge of blast furnaces and metallurgy. There followed a succession of commonplaces: We had to produce more, must not shim innovations; industry was frozen in tradition, must learn to jump over its own shadow; and more of the like. At the end of his two-hour torrent of bombast, Goering’s speech slowed and his expression grew more and more absent. Finally, he abruptly put his head on the table and fell peacefully asleep. We thought it politic to pretend to ignore the splendidly uniformed Reich Marshal and proceeded to discuss our problems until he awoke again and curtly declared the meeting over.

For next day Goering had announced a conference on radar problems which likewise ended with nothing accomplished. Once again, in the best of humor, he gave endless explanations in his Imperial Majesty style, telling the specialists what they already knew and he knew nothing about. Finally, there came a spate of directives and injunctions. After he had left the meeting, highly pleased with himself, I had my hands full undoing the damage he had done, while somehow avoiding an outright disavowal of Goering. Nevertheless, the incident was so serious that I was compelled to inform Hitler about it. He seized the next opportunity to summon the industrialists to headquarters on May 13, 1943, in order to restore the government’s prestige.*

* In an unpublished diary passage, May 15, 1943, Goebbels wrote: “He [Hitler] spent the whole day conferring with the captains of the armaments industry on the measures that must be taken now. This conference with the Fuehrer was intended to salve the wounds left by Goering’s latest, rather unfortunate conference. Goering’s tactical blunders offended the armaments manufacturers. The Fuehrer has now straightened that out.”

A few months after this setback to our plans I ran into Himmler at headquarters. Bluntly, in a threatening voice, he said to me: “I think it would be very unwise of you to try to activate the Reich Marshal again!”

But that was no longer possible in any case. Goering had relapsed into his lethargy, and for good. He did not wake up again until he was on trial in Nuremberg.

19. Second Man in the State

Around the beginning of may 1943, a few weeks after the demise of our short-lived association, Goebbels was finding in Bormann the qualities he had ascribed to Goering a few weeks before. The two came to an arrangement—Goebbels promising to direct reports to Hitler through Bormann, in return for Bormann’s extracting the right sort of decision from Hitler. It was clear that Goebbels had written Goering off; he would support him henceforth only as a prestige figurehead.

Thus actual power had shifted still more in Bormann’s favor. Nevertheless, he had no way of knowing whether he might not need me someday. Although he must have heard of my illfated attempt to dethrone him, he behaved amiably toward me and hinted that I could come over to his camp as Goebbels had done. I did not avail myself of this offer, however. The price seemed to me too high: I would have become dependent upon him.

Goebbels, too, continued to remain in close contact with me, for both of us were still bent on making utmost use of our domestic reserves. Undoubtedly, I behaved much too trustfully in my relations with him. I was fascinated by his dazzling friendliness and perfect manners, as well as by his cool logic.

Outwardly, then, little had changed. The world in which we lived forced upon us dissimulation and hypocrisy. Among rivals an honest word was rarely spoken, for fear it would be carried back to Hitler in a distorted version. Everyone conspired, took Hitler’s capriciousness into his reckonings, and won or lost in the course of this cryptic game. I played on this out-of-tune keyboard of mutual relations just as unscrupulously as all the others.

In the second half of May, Goering sent word to me that he wanted to make a speech on armaments, together with me, in the Sportpalast. I agreed. A few days later, however, Hitler to my surprise appointed Goebbels as the speaker. When we were coordinating our texts, the Propaganda Minister advised me to shorten my speech, since his would take an hour. “If you don’t stay considerably under half an hour, the audience will lose interest.” As usual, we sent both speeches to Hitler in manuscript, with a note to the effect that mine was going to be condensed by a third. Hitler ordered me to come to Obersalzberg. While I was sitting by, he read the drafts Bormann handed to him. With what seemed to me eagerness, he ruthlessly cut Goebbels’s speech by half within a few minutes. “Here, Bormann, inform the Doctor and tell him that I think Speers speech excellent.” In the presence of the arch-intriguer Bormann, Hitler had thus helped me to increase my prestige vis-à-vis Goebbels. It was a way of letting both men know that I still stood high. I could count on Hitler’s supporting me, if need be, against his closest associates.

My speech on June 5, 1943, in which I could for the first time announce a sizable increase in armaments production, was a failure on two scores. From the party hierarchy I heard such comments as: “So it can be done without big sacrifices! Then why should we upset the populace by drastic measures?” The General Staff and the frontline commanders, on the other hand, doubted the truth of my statistics whenever they had supply difficulties with ammunition or ordnance.

The Soviet winter offensive had ground to a halt. Our increased production enabled us to close the gap on the eastern front. What is more, the delivery of new weapons encouraged Hitler to make preparations for an offensive in spite of the winter’s losses of materiel. The objective was to cut off a bend in the line near Kursk. The beginning of this offensive was prepared under the code name “Operation Citadel.” It kept being postponed because Hitler counted heavily on the effectiveness of the new tanks. Above all he was expecting wonders from a new type of tank with electric drive constructed by Professor Porsche.

At a simple supper in a small back room of the Chancellery furnished in peasant style, I by chance heard from Sepp Dietrich, the commander of Hitler’s bodyguard, that Hitler intended to issue an order that this time no prisoners were to be taken. In the course of advances by SS units it had been established, Dietrich said, that the Soviet troops had killed their German prisoners. Hitler had then and there announced that a thousandfold retaliation in blood must be taken.

I was thunderstruck. But I was also selfishly alarmed at the sheer wastefulness of such a step. Hitler was counting on hundreds of thousands of prisoners. For months we had been trying in vain to close a gap of hundreds of thousands in the supply of labor. I therefore took the first opportunity to reason with Hitler on this score. It was not difficult to persuade him to reconsider; he seemed rather relieved to be able to withdraw his pledge to the SS. That same day, July 8, 1943, he had Keitel prepare instructions to the effect that all prisoners must be sent into armaments production.1

The disagreement over the fate of prisoners proved to be unnecessary. The offensive began on July 5, but in spite of the formidable array of our most advanced weapons we were not able to encircle the Soviet forces. Hitler’s confidence had been mistaken. After two weeks of battle he gave up. This failure was a sign that even in the summer the initiative had passed to the enemy.

After the second winter disaster at Stalingrad, the Army High Command had urged the establishing of a defensive position far to the rear, but Hitler would not hear of it. Now, after the thwarted offensive, even Hitler was ready to prepare defensive positions from twelve to fifteen miles behind the main line of battle.2 The General Staff made a counterproposal: establishing the defensive line on the west bank of the Dnieper where the steep slope, over a hundred and fifty feet high, dominated the plain across the river. There would presumably have been sufficient time for building an extensive defensive line there, for the Dnieper was still some one hundred twenty-five miles behind the front. But Hitler flatly rejected this plan. Whereas during his successful campaigns he had always hailed the German soldiers as the best in the world, he now declared: “Building a position so far to the rear is not possible for psychological reasons. If the troops learn that there are fortified positions perhaps sixty miles behind the front line, no one will be able to persuade them to fight. At the first opportunity they’ll fall back without resistance.”3

In spite of this ban, on Manstein’s orders and with the tacit consent of Zeitzler, the Todt Organization began building fortified positions on the Bug in December 1943. Hitler found out about this from my deputy, Dorsch. At this time the Soviet armies were still some one hundred to one hundred and twenty-five miles east of the Bug River. And once again Hitler commanded, in unusually strong language and on the same grounds as before, that the work be stopped at once.*

* Jodl’s unpublished diary (entry for December 16, 1943) describes the outcome of this unauthorized action: “Dorsch reported the deployment of the Todt Organization along the Bug, something of which the Fuehrer had known nothing… . The Fuehrer spoke agitatedly to Minister Speer and me about the defeatist mood of Manstein’s staff, which Gauleiter Koch had described to him.”

This building of rear positions, he stormed, was proof again of the defeatist attitude of Manstein and his army group.

Hitler’s obstinacy made it easier for the Soviet troops to harass our armies. For in Russia digging became impossible once the ground froze in November. What time we had was squandered. The soldiers were exposed with no defenses to the weather; moreover our winter equipment was of poor quality compared to that of the enemy.

Such behavior was not the only indication that Hitler had refused to acknowledge the turn of affairs. In the spring of 1943 he had demanded that a three-mile-long road and railroad bridge be built across the Strait of Kerch, although we had long been building a cable railway there; it went into operation on June 14 with a daily capacity of one thousand tons. This amount of supplies just sufficed for the defensive needs of the Seventeenth Army. But Hitler had not forsaken his plan to push through the Caucasus to Persia. He justified his order for the bridge explicitly on the necessity to transport materiel and troops to the Kuban bridgehead for an offensive.*

* Because of the frequency of earth tremors, provision had to be made for extrastrength girders which would have required vast quantities of precious steel. In addition, as Zeitzler pointed out during the situation conference, if we transported building materials for the bridge over the inadequate railroad facilities of the Crimea, we would be forced to curtail the shipments needed to maintain our defensive positions.

His generals, however, had long put any such ideas out of their heads. On a visit to the Kuban bridgehead the frontline generals expressed anxiety over whether the positions could be held at all in the face of the enemy’s obvious strength. When I reported these fears to Hitler he said contemptuously: “Nothing but empty evasions! Jänicke is just like the General Staff; he hasn’t faith in a new offensive.”

Shortly afterward, in the summer of 1943, General Jänicke, commander of the Seventeenth Army, was forced to ask Zeitzler to recommend retreat from the exposed Kuban bridgehead. He wanted to take up a more favorable position in the Crimea to be ready for the expected Soviet winter offensive. Hitler, on the other hand, insisted even more obstinately than before that the building of the bridge for his offensive plans must be speeded. Even at that time it was clear that the bridge would never be completed. On September 4, the last German units began evacuating Hitler’s bridgehead on the continent of Asia.

Just as we had met at Goering’s house to discuss overcoming the crisis in political leadership, Guderian, Zeitzler, Fromm, and I were now talking about the military leadership crisis. In the summer of 1943, General Guderian, Inspector General of the Tank Forces, asked me to set up a meeting with army Chief of Staff Zeitzler. There had been some disputes between the two men, springing from unresolved jurisdictional questions. Since I had something approaching a friendly relationship with both generals, it was natural to ask me to play the part of go-between. But it turned out that Guderian had more in mind than the settlement of minor disputes.

He wanted to discuss common tactics in regard to the matter of a new Commander in Chief of the army. We met in my home at Obersalzberg.

The differences between Zeitzler and Guderian quickly dwindled to nothing. The conversation centered on the situation that had arisen from Hitler’s assuming command of the army but not exercising it. The interests of the army as against the two other branches of the service and the SS must be represented more vigorously, Zeitzler thought. Hitler, as Commander in Chief of the armed forces, ought to remain nonpartisan. A Commander in Chief of the army, Guderian added, had to maintain close personal contact with the army commanders. He should be looking out for the needs of his troops and deciding fundamental questions of supply. But Hitler, both men agreed, had neither the time nor the inclination to act on this practical level, nor to uphold the special interests of one branch of the service. He appointed and deposed generals whom he hardly knew. Only a Commander in Chief who associated with his higher-ranking officers on a personal basis could decide such questions of personnel. The army knew, Guderian said, that Hitler scarcely interfered in the personnel policies of his Commanders in Chief of the air force and the navy. Only the army was exposed to this sort of treatment.

We came to the conclusion that each of us would try to appeal to Hitler to appoint a new Commander in Chief of the army. But the very first hints that Guderian and I separately made to Hitler came to grief; he was obviously offended and rejected the idea in unusually sharp terms. I did not know that shortly before we spoke Field Marshals von Kluge and von Manstein had undertaken a similar probe on the same subject. Hitler must have assumed that we were all in collusion.

The time when Hitler readily granted all my personal and organizational requests was long since past. The triumvirate of Bormann, Lammers, and Keitel was doing its best to block any further extension of my power, even though concern for the armaments program might have dictated the opposite. However, there was little these three could do against the joint proposal by Admiral Doenitz and myself that we also assume control of naval armaments.

I had met Doenitz immediately after my appointment in June 1942. The then commander of the U-boat fleet received me in Paris in an apartment which struck me at once by its avant-garde severity. I was all the more taken with the plain surroundings since I had just come from an opulent lunch with many courses and expensive wines given by Field Marshal Sperrle, commander of the air forces stationed in France. He had set up headquarters in the Palais du Luxembourg, the former palace of Marie de Médicis. The Field Marshal’s craving for luxury and public display ran a close second to that of his superior Goering; he was also his match in corpulence.

During the next several months problems connected with the building of the large U-boat pens along the Atlantic brought Doenitz and me together several times. Admiral Raeder, Commander in Chief of the navy, seemed to be annoyed. He tartly forbade Doenitz to discuss technical questions directly with me.

At the end of December 1942, Captain Schütze, the successful U-boat commander, informed me of serious dissension between the Berlin navy command and Doenitz. From various signs and portents, Schütze said, the submarine fleet knew that their commander was going to be relieved in the near future. A few days later I heard from State Secretary Naumann that the navy censor in the Propaganda Ministry had stricken the name of Doenitz from the captions of all press photos showing an inspection tour undertaken jointly by Raeder and Doenitz.

When I was in headquarters at the beginning of January, Hitler was worked up over foreign press reports of a naval battle which the navy command had not informed him about in detail.*

* This was the naval battle that took place December 31, 1942. Hitler held that the Lützow and the Hipper had retreated in the face of weaker English forces. He accused the navy of lacking fighting spirit.

As if by chance, in our subsequent conference he raised the question of the feasibility of assembly-line building of U-boats, but soon he became more interested in the troubles I was having in my collaboration with Raeder. I told him of the stricture against my discussing technical questions with Doenitz, of the U-boat officers’ fears that their commander was going to be replaced, and of the censorship of the photo captions. By now I had learned, from watching Bormann’s tactics, that one had to plant suspicions very carefully and gradually for them to be effective with Hitler. Any direct attempt to influence him was hopeless, since he never accepted a decision which he thought had been imposed on him. Therefore I merely hinted that all obstacles standing in the way of our U-boat plans could be eliminated if Doenitz were given his head. Actually, what I wanted to achieve was the replacement of Raeder. But knowing the tenacity with which Hitler clung to his old associates I hardly hoped that I would succeed.

On January 30, Doenitz was named Grand Admiral and simultaneously appointed Commander in Chief of the navy, while Raeder was kicked upstairs: He became Admiral Inspector of the navy, which entitled him solely to the privilege of a state funeral.

By resolute expertise and technical arguments, Doenitz was able to protect the navy from Hitler’s whims until the end of the war. I met with him frequently to discuss the problems of building submarines—despite the fact that this close cooperation began with a foul-up. Without consulting me, after hearing a report from Doenitz, Hitler raised all naval armament to the highest priority. This happened in the middle of April, but only three months before, on January 22, 1943, he had already classified the expanded tank program as the task of highest priority. The upshot was that two programs would be competing. It was unnecessary for me to appeal to Hitler again. Before any controversy developed, Doenitz had already realized that cooperation with the massive apparatus of army procurement would be more useful than Hitler’s favoritism. We soon agreed to transfer naval armaments production to my organization. In taking this on, I pledged myself to carry out the naval program Doenitz had envisaged. This meant, instead of the previous monthly production of twenty submarines of the smaller type totaling sixteen thousand tons displacement, producing forty U-boats per month with a displacement totaling more than fifty thousand tons. In addition I was to double the number of minesweepers and PT boats.

Doenitz had made it clear that only the production of a new type of U-boat could save our submarine warfare. The navy wanted to abandon the previous type of “surface ship” which occasionally moved under water. It wanted to give its U-boats the best possible streamlining and attain a higher underwater speed and a greater underwater range by doubling the power of the electric motors and simplifying the system of storage batteries.

As always in such cases, the chief problem was to find the right director for this assignment. I chose a fellow Swabian, Otto Merker, who had hitherto proved his talents in the building of fire engines. Here was a challenge to all marine engineers. On July 5, 1943, Merker presented his new construction system to the heads of the navy. As was being done in the production of Liberty ships in the United States, the submarines were to be built in inland factories, where the machinery and electrical equipment would also be installed. They were then to be transported in sections to the coast and quickly assembled there. We would thus avoid the problem of the shipyards, whose limited facilities had so far stood in the way of any expansion of our shipbuilding programs.4 Doenitz sounded almost emotional when he declared, at the end of our conference: “This means we are beginning a new life.”

For the time being, however, we had nothing but a vision of what the new U-boats would look like. In order to design them and to settle on the details, a development commission was established. Its chairman was not a leading engineer, as was customary, but Admiral Topp, whom Doenitz assigned to this task without our even attempting to clarify the complicated questions that arose as a result. The cooperation between Topp and Merker worked out as easily as that between Doenitz and myself.

Barely four months after the first session of the development commission—on November n, 1943—all the drawings were finished. A month later Doenitz and I were able to inspect and even walk inside a wooden model of the large new sixteen hundred ton submarine. Even while the blueprints were being prepared, our Directive Committee for Shipbuilding was assigning contracts to industry—a procedure we had already used in speeding up the production of the new Panther tank. Thanks to all this, the first seaworthy U-boats of the new type were delivered to the navy for testing in 1944. We would have been able to keep our promise of delivering forty boats a month by early in 1945, however badly the war was going otherwise, if air raids had not destroyed a third of the submarines at the dockyards.5

At the time, Doenitz and I often asked ourselves why we had not begun building the new type of U-boat earlier. For no technical innovations were employed; the engineering principles had been known for years. The new boats, so the experts assured us, would have revolutionized submarine warfare. This fact seemed to be appreciated by the American navy, which after the war began building the new type for itself.

On July 26, 1943, three days after Doenitz and I signed our joint decree on the new naval program, I obtained Hitler’s consent to placing all production under my Ministry. For tactical reasons I had asked for this on the grounds of the additional burdens which the naval program and other tasks required by Hitler were imposing upon industry. By transforming large consumer goods plants into armaments plants, I explained to Hitler, we would not only free half a million German workers but also enlist the industrial managers and the factory machinery in our urgent programs. Most of the Gauleiters, however, objected to such measures. The Ministry of Economics had proved too weak to enforce such shifts against the opposition of the Gauleiters. And, to jump a bit ahead in the story, I also was too weak, as I was soon forced to realize.

After an unusually protracted procedure, in which all the ministers involved and all the various boards of the Four-Year Plan were requested to hand in their objections, Lammers convoked the ministers for a meeting in the Cabinet Room on August 26. Thanks to the generosity of Funk, who at this meeting “delivered his own funeral oration with wit and humor,” it was unanimously agreed that from now on all war production would be placed under the control of my Ministry. Willy-nilly, Lammers had to promise to communicate this result to Hitler via Bormann. A few days later Funk and I went to the Fuehrers headquarters together to receive Hitler’s final authorization.

Greatly to my surprise, however, Hitler, in Funk’s presence, cut short my remarks, saying irritably that he would not listen to any further explanations. Only a few hours ago Bormann had warned him, he said, that I was going to lure him into signing something that had been discussed neither with Reich Minister Lammers nor with the Reich Marshal. He was not going to be drawn into our little rivalries. When I tried to explain that Reich Minister Lammers had properly obtained the consent of Goering’s state secretary for the Four-Year Plan, Hitler again cut me off with unaccustomed curtness: “I am glad that in Bormann at least I have a faithful soul around me.” The implication was clear: He was accusing me of trickery.

Funk informed Lammers of the incident. Then we went to meet Goering, who was on the way to Hitler’s headquarters in his private car; he had just come from his personal hunting preserve, the Rominten Heath. Goering, too, was very huffy; undoubtedly he had been told only one side of the story and had been warned against us. Funk, amiable and persuasive, finally succeeded in breaking the ice and going over our decree point by point. And now Goering indicated full agreement, though not before we had inserted a sentence: “The powers of the Reich Marshal of the Greater German Reich as Commissioner General for the Four-Year Plan remain unaffected.” In practice that was a very minor reservation—all the more so since most of the important functions of the Four-Year Plan were directed by me anyhow through the Central Planning Board.

As a sign of his approval, Goering signed our draft, and Lammers could report by teletype that there were no longer any objections. Thereupon Hitler, too, was ready to sign the draft when it was presented to him for signature a few days later, on September 2. From a Reich Minister of Armaments and Munitions I had now become Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production.

Bormann’s intrigue had fallen through this time. I did not make remonstrances to Hitler; instead, I left it to him to consider whether Bormann had actually served him loyally in this case. After my recent experiences I knew it was wiser not to expose Bormann’s machinations and to spare Hitler embarrassment.

But Bormann was surely the source of all the overt or covert opposition to an expansion of my Ministry. To Bormann it was all too clear that I was moving outside the reach of his power and accumulating more and more power myself. Moreover, my work had brought me into comradely contacts with the leadership of the army and navy: with Guderian, Zeitzler, Fromm, and Milch, and now lately with Doenitz. Even in Hitler’s immediate entourage I was particularly close to the anti-Bormann forces: Hitler’s army adjutant, General Engel; his air force adjutant, General von Below, and Hitler’s armed forces adjutant, General Schmundt. In addition Hitler’s physician, Dr. Karl Brandt, whom Bormann likewise considered a personal opponent of his, was quite close to me.

One evening when I had had a few glasses of Steinhäger with Schmundt, he came out with the declaration that I was the army’s great hope. Wherever he went, he said, the generals had the greatest confidence in me, whereas they had nothing but derogatory opinions of Goering. With rather high-flown emotion he concluded: “You can always rely on the army, Herr Speer. It is behind you.”

I have never quite fathomed what Schmundt had in mind, though I suspect that he was confusing the army with the generals. But it seems probable that Schmundt must have said something of the sort to others. Given the narrow confines of the headquarters, such remarks must surely have reached Bormann’s ears.

Around this time, perhaps in the autumn of 1943, Hitler put me in some embarrassment when, just before the beginning of a situation conference, he greeted Himmler and me in the presence of several associates with the phrase: “You two peers.” Whatever Hitler meant by it, the chief of the SS could scarcely have been pleased by this remark, given his special niche in the power structure. In those same weeks Zeitzler, too, told me with pleasure: “The Fuehrer is so pleased with you. He recently said that he placed the greatest hopes in you, that now a new sun has arisen after Goering.”*

* It might be thought that after years of experience Hitler would know how such remarks were received and what reactions they inevitably evoked. I could not decide whether Hitler did think this far ahead or was even capable of doing so. Sometimes he struck me as a total innocent—or as a misanthrope who did not care what the effects were. Perhaps, too, he believed that he could set things right himself whenever he chose.

I asked Zeitzler not to quote this. But since the same words were reported to me by other persons within the headquarters area, there could be no doubt that Bormann also heard the tribute. Hitler’s powerful secretary was forced to realize that he had not been able to turn Hitler against me that summer. Bather, the opposite had happened.

Since Hitler did not say such things often, Bormann must have taken the threat to heart. To him, it spelled danger. From now on he kept telling his closest associates that I was not only an enemy of the party but was actually bent on succeeding Hitler.*

* Dr. G. Klopfer, Bormann’s state secretary, testified in an affidavit dated July 7, 1947: “Bormann repeatedly stated that Speer was a confirmed opponent of the party and was in fact ambitious to become Hitler’s successor.”

He was not entirely wrong in this assumption. I recall having had several conversations with Milch about the matter.

At the time Hitler must have been wondering whom he should select for his successor. Goering’s reputation was undermined, Hess had ruled himself out, Schirach had been ruined by Bormann’s intrigues, and Bormann, Himmler, and Goebbels did not correspond to the “artistic type” Hitler envisaged. Hitler probably thought he recognized kindred features in me. He considered me a gifted artist who within a short time had won an impressive position within the political hierarchy and finally, by achievements in the field of armaments, had also demonstrated special abilities in the military field. Only in foreign policy, Hitler’s fourth domain, I had not come to the fore. Possibly he regarded me as an artistic genius who had successfully switched to politics, so that I thus indirectly served as a confirmation of his own career.

Among friends I always called Bormann “the man with the hedge clippers.” For he was forever using all his energy, cunning, and brutality to prevent anyone from rising above a certain level. From then on, Bormann devoted his full capacities to reducing my power. After October 1943 the Gauleiters formed a front against me. Before another year had passed, things became so difficult that I often wanted to give up and resign my post. Until the end of the war this struggle between Bormann and me remained undecided. Hitler did not want to lose me, even occasionally singled me out for a display of favor, but then again would turn on me rudely. Bormann could not wrest from me my successful industrial apparatus. This was so much my own creation that my fall would have meant the end of it and thus have endangered the war effort.

20. Bombs

The exuberance i had felt during the building of the new organization and the success and recognition of the early months soon gave way to more somber feelings. The labor problem, unsolved raw materials questions, and court intrigues created constant worries. The British air raids began to have their first serious effects on production and for a while made me forget about Bormann, Sauckel, and the Central Planning Board. However they also served to raise my prestige. For in spite of the losses of factories we were producing more, not less.

These air raids carried the war into our midst. In the burning and devastated cities we daily experienced the direct impact of the war. And it spurred us to do our utmost.

Neither did the bombings and the hardships that resulted from them weaken the morale of the populace. On the contrary, from my visits to armaments plants and my contacts with the man in the street I carried away the impression of growing toughness. It may well be that the estimated loss of 9 percent of our production capacity1 was amply balanced out by increased effort.

Our heaviest expense was in fact the elaborate defensive measures. In the Reich and in the western theaters of war the barrels of ten thousand antiaircraft guns were pointed toward the sky.2 The same guns could have well been employed in Russia against tanks and other ground targets. Had it not been for this new front, the air front over Germany, our defensive strength against tanks would have been about doubled, as far as equipment was concerned. Moreover, the antiaircraft force tied down hundreds of thousands of young soldiers. A third of the optical industry was busy producing gunsights for the flak batteries. About half of the electronics industry was engaged in producing radar and communications networks for defense against bombing. Simply because of this, in spite of the high level of the German electronics and optical industries, the supply of our frontline troops with modem equipment remained far behind that of the Western armies.*

* Thus a serious shortage of army communications equipment developed—for instance, walkie-talkies for the infantry and sound-ranging apparatus for the artillery. In addition, further development of such devices had to be neglected in favor of antiaircraft weaponry.

We were given a foretaste of our coming woes as early as the night of May 30, 1942, when the British gathered all their forces for an attack on Cologne with ten hundred and forty-six bombers.

By chance Milch and I were summoned to see Goering on the morning after the raid. This time he was not residing in Karinhall, but at Veldenstein castle in Franconia. We found him in a bad humor, still not believing the reports of the Cologne bombing. “Impossible, that many bombs cannot be dropped in a single night,” he snarled at his adjutant. “Connect me with the Gauleiter of Cologne.”

There followed, in our presence, a preposterous telephone conversation. “The report from your police commissioner is a stinking lie!” Apparently the Gauleiter begged to differ. “I tell you as the Reich Marshal that the figures cited are simply too high. How can you dare report such fantasies to the Fuehrer!?” The Gauleiter at the other end of the line was evidently insisting on his figures. “How are you going to count the fire bombs? Those are nothing but estimates. I tell you once more they’re many times too high. All wrong! Send another report to the Fuehrer at once revising your figures. Or are you trying to imply that I am lying? I have already delivered my report to the Fuehrer with the correct figures. That stands!”

As though nothing had happened, Goering showed us through his house, his parents’ former home. As if this were most serene peacetime, he had blueprints brought in and explained to us what a magnificent citadel he would be building to replace the simple Biedermeier house of his parents in the courtyard of the old ruin. But first of all he wanted to have a reliable air-raid shelter built. The plans for that were already drawn up.

Three days later I was at headquarters. The excitement over the air raid on Cologne had not yet died down. I mentioned to Hitler the curious telephone conversation between Goering and Gauleiter Grohe—naturally assuming that Goering’s information must be more authentic than the Gauleiter’s. But Hitler had already formed his own opinion. He presented Goering with the reports in the enemy newspapers on the enormous number of planes committed to the raid and the quantity of bombs they had dropped. These figures were even higher than those of the Cologne police commissioner.3 Hitler was furious with Goering’s attempt to cover up, but he also considered the staff of the air force command partly responsible. Next day Goering was received as usual. The affair was never mentioned again.

As early as September 20, 1942, I had warned Hitler that the tank production of Friedrichshafen and the ballbearing facilities in Schweinfurt were crucial to our whole effort. Hitler thereupon ordered increased antiaircraft protection for these two cities. Actually, as I had early recognized, the war could largely have been decided in 1943 if instead of vast but pointless area bombing the planes had concentrated on the centers of armaments production. On April 11, 1943, I proposed to Hitler that a committee of industrial specialists be set to determining the crucial targets in Soviet power production. Four weeks later, however, the first attempt was made—not by us but by the British air force—to influence the course of the war by destroying a single nerve center of the war economy. The principle followed was to paralyze a cross section, as it were— just as a motor can be made useless by the removal of the ignition. On May 17, 1943, a mere nineteen bombers of the RAF tried to strike at our whole armaments industry by destroying the hydroelectric plants of the Ruhr.

The report that reached me in the early hours of the morning was most alarming. The largest of the dams, the Möhne dam, had been shattered and the reservoir emptied. As yet there were no reports on the three other dams. At dawn we landed at Werl Airfield, having first surveyed the scene of devastation from above. The power plant at the foot of the shattered dam looked as if it had been erased, along with its heavy turbines.

A torrent of water had flooded the Ruhr Valley. That had the seemingly insignificant but grave consequence that the electrical installations at the pumping stations were soaked and muddied, so that industry was brought to a standstill and the water supply of the population imperiled. My report on the situation, which I soon afterward delivered at the Fuehrer’s headquarters, made “a deep impression on the Fuehrer. He kept the documents with him.”*

* Führerprotokoll, May 30, 1943, Point 16. We immediately summoned experts from all over Germany who had the electrical insulation dried out and also confiscated other motors of this type from other factories, regardless of the consequences. Thus the Ruhr industries would be supplied with water within a few weeks.

The British had not succeeded, however, in destroying the three other reservoirs. Had they done so, the Ruhr Valley would have been almost completely deprived of water in the coming summer months. At the largest of the reservoirs, the Sorpe Valley reservoir, they did achieve a direct hit on the center of the dam. I inspected it that same day. Fortunately the bomb hole was slightly higher than the water level. Just a few inches lower—and a small brook would have been transformed into a raging river which would have swept away the stone and earthen dam.4 That night, employing just a few bombers, the British came close to a success which would have been greater than anything they had achieved hitherto with a commitment of thousands of bombers. But they made a single mistake which puzzles me to this day: They divided their forces and that same night destroyed the Eder Valley dam, although it had nothing whatsoever to do with the supply of water to the Ruhr.*

* According to Charles Webster and Noble Frankland, The Strategic Air Offensive against Germany (London, 1961), Vol. II, the fifth plane succeeded in destroying the Möhne Valley dam. Subsequent attacks were directed against the Eder Valley dam, which served mainly to equalize the water level of the Weser and the Midland Canal during the summer months, thus maintaining navigation. Not until this dam had been destroyed did two planes attack the Sorpe Valley dam. In the meantime Air Marshal Bottomley had suggested on April 5, 1943, that the Möhne and Sorpe dams be attacked before the Eder dam. But the bombs that had been developed specifically for this purpose were considered unsuitable for the earthen dam of the Sorpe reservoir.

A few days after this attack seven thousand men, whom I had ordered shifted from the Atlantic Wall to the Möhne and Eder areas, were hard at work repairing the dams. On September 23, 1943, in the nick of time before the beginning of the rains, the breach in the Möhne dam was closed.5 We were thus able to collect the precipitation of the late autumn and winter of 1943 for the needs of the following summer. While we were engaged in rebuilding, the British air force missed its second chance. A few bombs would have produced cave-ins at the exposed building sites, and a few fire bombs could have set the wooden scaffolding blazing.

After these experiences I wondered once again why our Luftwaffe, with its by now reduced forces, did not launch similar pinpoint attacks whose effects could be devastating. At the end of May 1943, two weeks after the British raid, I reminded Hitler of my idea of April 11 that a group of experts might pinpoint the key industrial targets in the enemy camp. But as so often, Hitler proved irresolute. “I’m afraid that the General Staff of the air force will not want to take advice from your industrial associates. I too have broached such a plan to General Jeschonnek several times. “But,” he concluded in rather a resigned tone, “you speak to him about it sometime.” Evidently Hitler was not going to do anything about this; he lacked any sense of the decisive importance of such operations. There is no question that once before he had thrown away his chance—between 1939 and 1941 when he directed our air raids against England’s cities instead of coordinating them with the U-boat campaigns and, for example, attacking the English ports which were in any case sometimes strained beyond their capacity by the convoy system. Now he once again failed to see his opportunity. And the British, for their part, thoughtlessly copied this irrational conduct—aside from their single attack on the dams.

In spite of Hitler’s skepticism and my own lack of influence upon air force strategy, I did not feel discouraged. On June 23, I formed a committee consisting of several industry experts to analyze prime bombing targets.6 Our first proposal concerned the British coal industry, for British technical publications provided a complete picture of its centers, locations, capacities, and so on. But this proposal came two years too late; our air power no longer sufficed.

Given our reduced forces, one prime target virtually forced itself on our attention: the Russian electric power plants. To judge by our experiences, no systematically organized air defenses needed to be anticipated in Russia. Moreover, the electric power system in the Soviet Union differed structurally from that of the Western countries in one crucial point. Whereas the gradual industrial growth of the West had resulted in many middle-sized power plants connected in a grid, in the Soviet Union large power plants of gigantic dimensions had been built, usually in the heart of extensive industrial areas.7 For example, a single huge power plant on the upper Volga supplied most of the energy consumption of Moscow. We had information, in fact, that 60 percent of the manufacturing of essential optical parts and electrical equipment was concentrated in the Soviet capital. Moreover, the destruction of a few gigantic power plants in the Urals would have put a halt to much of Soviet steel production as well as to tank and munitions manufacture. A direct hit on the turbines or their conduits would have released masses of water of a destructiveness greater than that of many bombs. Since many of the major Soviet power plants had been built with the assistance of German companies, we were able to obtain very good data on them.

On November 26, Goering gave the order to strengthen the Sixth Air Corps under Major General Rudolf Meister with long-range bombers. In December the units were assembled near Bialystok.8 We had wooden models of the power plants made for use in training the pilots. Early in December I had informed Hitler.9 Milch had relayed our plans to Gunter Korten, the new Chief of Staff of the air force. On February 4, I wrote Korten that “even today the prospects are good … for an operative air campaign against the Soviet Union. … I definitely hope that significant effects on the fighting power of the Soviet Union will result from it.” I was referring specifically to the attacks upon the power plants in the vicinity of Moscow and the upper Volga.

Success depended—as always in such operations—upon chance factors. I did not think that our action would decisively affect the war. But I hoped, as I wrote to Korten, that we would wreak enough damage on Soviet production so that it would take several months for American supplies to balance out their losses.

Once again we were two years too late. The Russian winter offensive forced our troops to retreat. The situation had grown critical. In emergencies Hitler was, as so often, amazingly short-sighted. At the end of February he told me that the “Meister Corps” had been ordered to destroy railroad lines in order to slow down Russian supplies. I objected that the soil in Russia was frozen hard and our bombs would have only a superficial effect. Moreover, according to our own experience and despite the fact that the German railroads were much more complex and hence more sensitive to destruction, damage to railroad sections could often be repaired in a matter of hours. But these objections were in vain. The “Meister Corps” came to grief in a senseless operation, and the Russians were in no way impeded.

Whatever interest Hitler might still have had in the idea of pinpoint bombing strategy was forgotten in his stubborn determination to retaliate against England. Even after the annihilation of the “Meister Corps,” we would still have had enough bombers for limited targets. But Hitler succumbed to the unrealistic hope that a few massive air strikes on London might persuade the British to give up their pounding of Germany. That was the only reason he continued to demand, as late as 1943, the development and production of new heavy bombers. It made no impression upon him that such bombers could have been used with far greater effect in the east, although occasionally, even as late as the summer of 1944, he would seem to be swayed by my arguments.10 He as well as our air force staff could not grasp the principle of aerial warfare in technological terms. Instead they proceeded along outmoded military lines. So did the other side at first.

While I was trying to convert Hitler and the General Staff of the air force to this policy, our Western enemies launched five major attacks on a single big city—Hamburg—within a week, from July 25 to August 2.11 Rash as this operation was, it had catastrophic consequences for us. The first attacks put the water supply pipes out of action, so that in the subsequent bombings the fire department had no way of fighting the fires. Huge conflagrations created cyclone-like firestorms; the asphalt of the streets began to blaze; people were suffocated in their cellars or burned to death in the streets. The devastation of this series of air raids could be compared only with the effects of a major earthquake. Gauleiter Kaufmann teletyped Hitler repeatedly, begging him to visit the stricken city. When these pleas proved fruitless, he asked Hitler at least to receive a delegation of some of the more heroic rescue crews. But Hitler refused even that.

Hamburg had suffered the fate Goering and Hitler had conceived for London in 1940. At a supper in the Chancellery in that year Hitler had, in the course of a monologue, worked himself up to a frenzy of destructiveness:

Have you ever looked at a map of London? It is so closely built up that one source of fire alone would suffice to destroy the whole city, as happened once before, two hundred years ago. Goering wants to use innumerable incendiary bombs of an altogether new type to create sources of fire in all parts of London. Fires everywhere. Thousands of them. Then they’ll unite in one gigantic area conflagration. Goering has the right idea. Explosive bombs don’t work, but it can be done with incendiary bombs—total destruction of London. What use will their fire department be once that really starts!

Hamburg had put the fear of God in me. At the meeting of Central Planning on July 29 I pointed out: “If the air raids continue on the present scale, within three months we shall be relieved of a number of questions we are at present discussing. We shall simply be coasting downhill, smoothly and relatively swiftly… . We might just as well hold the final meeting of Central Planning, in that case.” Three days later I informed Hitler that armaments production was collapsing and threw in the further warning that a series of attacks of this sort, extended to six more major cities, would bring Germany’s armaments production to a total halt.*

* The next day I informed Milch’s colleagues of similar fears (Conference with chief of Air Force Procurement, August 3, 1943): “We are approaching the point of total collapse … in our supply industry. Soon we will have airplanes, tanks, or trucks lacking certain key parts.” Ten months later I said to a group of Hamburg dockworkers: “A while back we were saying to ourselves: If this goes on another few months we’ll be washed up. Then armaments production will come to a standstill.” (Office Journal.)

“You’ll straighten all that out again,” he merely said.

In fact Hitler was right. We straightened it out again—not because of our Central Planning organization, which with the best will in the world could issue only general instructions, but by the determined efforts of those directly concerned, first and foremost the workers themselves. Fortunately for us, a series of Hamburg-type raids was not repeated on such a scale against other cities. Thus the enemy once again allowed us to adjust ourselves to his strategy.

We barely escaped a further catastrophic blow on August 17, 1943, only two weeks after the Hamburg bombings. The American air force launched its first strategic raid. It was directed against Schweinfurt where large factories of the ballbearing industry were concentrated. Ball bearings had in any case already become a bottleneck in our efforts to increase armaments production.

But in this very first attack the other side committed a crucial mistake. Instead of concentrating on the ballbearing plants, the sizable force of three hundred seventy-six Flying Fortresses divided up. One hundred and forty-six of the planes successfully attacked an airplane assembly plant in Regensburg, but with only minor consequences. Meanwhile, the British air force continued its indiscriminate attacks upon our cities.

After this attack the production of ball bearings dropped by 38 percent.12 Despite the peril to Schweinfurt we had to patch up our facilities there, for to attempt to relocate our ballbearing industry would have held up production entirely for three or four months. In the light of our desperate needs we could also do nothing about the ballbearing factories in Berlin-Erkner, Cannstatt, or Steyr, although the enemy must have been aware of their location.

In June 1946 the General Staff of the Royal Air Force asked me what would have been the results of concerted attacks on the ballbearing industry. I replied:

Armaments production would have been crucially weakened after two months and after four months would have been brought completely to a standstill.

This, to be sure, would have meant:

One: All our ballbearing factories (in Schweinfurt, Steyr, Erkner, Cannstatt, and in France and Italy) had been attacked simultaneously.

Two: These attacks had been repeated three or four times, every two weeks, no matter what the pictures of the target area showed.

Three: Any attempt at rebuilding these factories had been thwarted by further attacks, spaced at two-month intervals.13

After this first blow we were forced back on the ballbearing stocks stored by the armed forces for use as repair parts. We soon consumed these, as well as whatever had been accumulated in the factories for current production. After these reserves were used up—they lasted for six to eight weeks—the sparse production was carried daily from the factories to the assembly plants, often in knapsacks. In those days we anxiously asked ourselves how soon the enemy would realize that he could paralyze the production of thousands of armaments plants merely by destroying five or six relatively small targets.

The second serious blow, however, did not come until two months later. On October 14, 1943, I was at the East Prussian headquarters discussing armaments questions with Hitler when Adjutant Schaub interrupted us: “The Reich Marshal urgently wishes to speak to you,” he said to Hitler. “This time he has pleasant news.”

Hitler came back from the telephone in good spirits. A new daylight raid on Schweinfurt had ended with a great victory for our defenses, he said.14 The countryside was strewn with downed American bombers. Uneasy, I asked for a short recess in our conference, since I wanted to telephone Schweinfurt myself. But all communications were shattered; I could not reach any of the factories. Finally, by enlisting the police, I managed to talk to the foreman of a ballbearing factory. All the factories had been hard hit, he informed me. The oil baths for the bearings had caused serious fires in the machinery workshops; the damage was far worse than after the first attack. This time we had lost 67 percent of our ballbearing production.

My first measure after this second air raid was to appoint my most vigorous associate, General Manager Kessler, as special commissioner for ballbearing production. Our reserves had been consumed; efforts to import ball bearings from Sweden and Switzerland had met with only slight success. Nevertheless, we were able to avoid total disaster by substituting slide bearings for ball bearings wherever possible.15 But what really saved us was the fact that from this time on the enemy to our astonishment once again ceased his attacks on the ballbearing industry.16

On December 23, the Erkner plant was heavily hit, but we were not sure whether this was a deliberate attack, since Berlin was being bombed in widely scattered areas. The picture did not change again until February 1944. Then, within four days, Schweinfurt, Steyr, and Cannstatt were each subjected to two successive heavy attacks. Then followed raids on Erkner, Schweinfurt, and again Steyr. After only six weeks our production of bearings (above 6.3 centimeters in diameter) had been reduced to 29 percent of what it had been before the air raids.17

At the beginning of April 1944, however, the attacks on the ballbearing industry ceased abruptly. Thus, the Allies threw away success when it was already in their hands. Had they continued the attacks of March and April with the same energy, we would quickly have been at our last gasp.*

* Perhaps the enemy air staffs overrated the effects. Our Air Force General Staff also concluded from aerial photographs that an attack on a Soviet synthetic rubber factory in the fall of 1943 had completely wiped out production for many months to come. I showed these photos to our leading synthetic rubber specialist, Hoffmann, the manager of our plant in Hüls, which had undergone much more severe attacks. After pointing out various key sections of the plant which had not been hit, he explained that the plant would be in full production again within a week or two.

As it was, not a tank, plane, or other piece of weaponry failed to be produced because of lack of ball bearings, even though such production had been increased by 19 percent from July 1943 to April 1944.18 As far as armaments were concerned, Hitler’s credo that the impossible could be made possible and that all forecasts and fears were too pessimistic, seemed to have proved itself true.

Not until after the war did I learn the reason for the enemy’s error.

The air staffs assumed that in Hitler’s authoritarian state the important factories would be quickly shifted from the imperiled cities. On December 20, 1943, Sir Arthur Harris declared his conviction that “at this stage of the war the Germans have long since made every possible effort to decentralize the manufacture of so vital a product [as ball bearings].” He considerably overestimated the strengths of the authoritarian system, which to the outside observer appeared so tightly knit.

As early as December 19, 1942, eight months before the first air raid on Schweinfurt, I had sent a directive to the entire armaments industry stating: “The mounting intensity of the enemy air attacks compels accelerated preparations for shifting manufactures important for armaments production.” But there was resistance on all sides. The Gauleiters did not want new factories in their districts for fear that the almost peacetime quiet of their small towns would be disturbed. My band of directors, for their part, did not want to expose themselves to political infighting. The result was that hardly anything was done.

After the second heavy raid on Schweinfurt on October 14, 1943, we again decided to decentralize. Some of the facilities were to be distributed among the surrounding villages, others placed in small and as yet unendangered towns in eastern Germany.*

* In the two months following the first attack on Schweinfurt nothing had been done. “The minister forcefully expressed his dissatisfaction with the measures previously taken, asserting that the urgency of the matter required all other considerations to be put aside. Deeply impressed by the damage and by the minister’s account of the potential consequences for the armaments industry, everyone readily offered all assistance, even the neighboring Gauleiters who would have to accept the unwelcome intrusions into their domains that would accompany the transfer of operations from Schweinfurt to their territories.” (Office Journal, October 18, 1943.)

This policy of dispersal was meant to provide for the future; but the plan encountered a great deal of opposition. As late as January 1944 shifting of ballbearing production to cave factories was still being discussed,19 and in August 1944 my representative to the ballbearing industry complained that he was having difficulties “pushing through the construction work for the shift of ballbearing production.”20

Instead of paralyzing vital segments of industry, the Royal Air Force began an air offensive against Berlin. I was having a conference in my private office on November 22, 1943, when the air-raid alarm sounded. It was about 7:30 p.m. A large fleet of bombers was reported heading toward Berlin. When the bombers reached Potsdam, I called off the meeting to drive to a nearby flak tower, intending to watch the attack from its platform, as was my won’t. But I scarcely reached the top of the tower when I had to take shelter inside it; in spite of the towers stout concrete walls, heavy hits nearby were shaking it. Injured antiaircraft gunners crowded down the stairs behind me; the air pressure from the exploding bombs had hurled them into the walls. For twenty minutes explosion followed explosion. From above I looked down into the well of the tower, where a closely packed crowd stood in the thickening haze formed by cement dust falling from the walls. When the rain of bombs ceased, I ventured out on the platform again. My nearby Ministry was one gigantic conflagration. I drove over there at once. A few secretaries, looking like Amazons in their steel helmets, were trying to save files even while isolated time bombs went off in the vicinity. In place of my private office I found nothing but a huge bomb crater.

The fire spread so quickly that nothing more could be rescued. But nearby was the eight-story building of the Army Ordnance Office, and since the fire was spreading to it and we were all nerved up from the raid and feeling the urge to do something, we thronged into the imperiled building in order at least to save the valuable special telephones. We ripped them from their wires and piled them up in a safe place in the basement shelter of the building. Next morning General Leeb, the chief of the Army Ordnance Office, visited me. “The fires in my building were extinguished early in the morning hours,” he informed me, grinning. “But unfortunately we can’t do any work now. Last night somebody ripped all the telephones from the walls.”

When Goering, at his country estate Karinhall, heard about that nocturnal visit to the flak tower, he gave the staff there orders not to allow me to step out on the platform again. But by this time the officers had already formed a friendly relationship with me that was stronger than Goering’s command. My visits to the tower were not hampered by his order.

From the flak tower the air raids on Berlin were an unforgettable sight, and I had constantly to remind myself of the cruel reality in order not to be completely entranced by the scene: the illumination of the parachute flares, which the Berliners called “Christmas trees,” followed by flashes of explosions which were caught by the clouds of smoke, the innumerable probing searchlights, the excitement when a plane was caught and tried to escape the cone of light, the brief flaming torch when it was hit. No doubt about it, this apocalypse provided a magnificent spectacle.

As soon as the planes turned back, I drove to those districts of the city where important factories were situated. We drove over streets strewn with rubble, lined by burning houses. Bombed-out families sat or stood in front of the ruins. A few pieces of rescued furniture and other possessions lay about on the sidewalks. There was a sinister atmosphere full of biting smoke, soot, and flames. Sometimes the people displayed that curious hysterical merriment that is often observed in the midst of disasters. Above the city hung a cloud of smoke that probably reached twenty thousand feet in height. Even by day it made the macabre scene as dark as night.

I kept trying to describe my impressions to Hitler. But he would interrupt me every time, almost as soon as I began: “Incidentally, Speer, how many tanks can you deliver next month?”

On November 26, 1943, four days after the destruction of my Ministry, another major air raid on Berlin started huge fires in our most important tank factory, Allkett. The Berlin central telephone exchange had been destroyed. My colleague Saur hit on the idea of reaching the Berlin fire department by way of our still intact direct line to the Fuehrer’s headquarters. In this way Hitler, too, learned of the blaze, and without making any further inquiries ordered all the fire departments in the vicinity of Berlin to report to the burning tank plant.

Meanwhile I had arrived at Allkett. The greater part of the main workshop had burned down, but the Berlin fire department had already succeeded in extinguishing the fire. As the result of Hitler’s order, however, a steady stream of fire equipment from cities as far away as Brandenburg, Oranienburg, and Potsdam kept arriving. Since a direct order from the Fuehrer had been issued, I could not persuade the chiefs to go on to other urgent fires. Early that morning the streets in a wide area around the tank factory were jammed with fire engines standing around doing nothing—while the fires spread unchecked in other parts of the city.

In order to awaken my associates to the problems and anxieties about air armaments, Milch and I held a conference in September 1943 at the Air Force Experimental Center in Rechlin am Müritzsee. Among other things, Milch and his technical experts spoke on the future production of enemy aircraft. Graphs were presented for type after type of aircraft, with emphasis especially on American production curves as compared with our own. What alarmed us most were the figures on the future increase in four-motored daylight bombers. If these figures were accurate, what we were undergoing at the moment could be regarded only as a prelude.

Naturally, the question arose as to how aware Hitler and Goering were of these figures. Bitterly, Milch told me that he had been trying for months to have his experts on enemy armaments deliver a report to Goering. But Goering refused to hear anything about it. The Fuehrer had told him it was all propaganda, Milch said, and Goering was simply holding to this line. I too had no luck when I tried to force these production figures on Hitler’s attention. “Don’t let them fool you. Those are all planted stories. Naturally those defeatists in the Air Ministry fall for them.” With similar remarks he had thrust aside all warnings in the winter of 1942. Now, when our cities were one after the next being blasted into rubble, he would not change his tune.

About this same time I witnessed a dramatic scene between Goering and General Galland, who commanded his fighter planes. Galland had reported to Hitler that day that several American fighter planes accompanying the bomber squadrons had been shot down over Aachen. He had added the warning that we were in grave peril if American fighters, thanks to improved fuel capacity, should soon be able to provide escort protection to the fleets of bombers on flights even deeper into Germany. Hitler had just relayed these points to Goering.

Goering was embarking for Rominten Heath on his special train when Galland came along to bid him good-by. “What’s the idea of telling the Fuehrer that American fighters have penetrated into the territory of the Reich?” Goering snapped at him.

“Herr Reichsmarschall,” Galland replied with imperturbable calm, “they will soon be flying even deeper.”

Goering spoke even more vehemently: “That’s nonsense, Galland, what gives you such fantasies? That’s pure bluff!”

Galland shook his head. “Those are the facts, Herr Reichsmarschall!” As he spoke he deliberately remained in a casual posture, his cap somewhat askew, a long cigar clamped between his teeth. “American fighters have been shot down over Aachen. There is no doubt about it!”

Goering obstinately held his ground: “That is simply not true, Galland. It’s impossible.”

Galland reacted with a touch of mockery: “You might go and check it yourself, sir; the downed planes are there at Aachen.”

Goering tried to smooth matters over: “Come now, Galland, let me tell you something. I’m an experienced fighter pilot myself. I know what is possible. But I know what isn’t, too. Admit you made a mistake.”

Galland only shook his head, until Goering finally declared: “What must have happened is that they were shot down much farther to the west. I mean, if they were very high when they were shot down they could have glided quite a distance farther before they crashed.”

Not a muscle moved in Galland’s face. “Glided to the east, sir? If my plane were shot up…”

“Now then, Herr Galland,” Goering fulminated, trying to put an end to the debate, “I officially assert that the American fighter planes did not reach Aachen.”

The General ventured a last statement: “But, sir, they were there!”

At this point Goering’s self-control gave way. “I herewith give you an official order that they weren’t there! Do you understand? The American fighters were not there! Get that! I intend to report that to the Fuehrer.”

Goering simply let General Galland stand there. But as he stalked off he turned once more and called out threateningly: “You have my official order!”

With an unforgettable smile the General replied: “Orders are orders, sir!”

Goering was not actually blind to reality. I would occasionally hear him make perceptive comments on the situation. Rather, he acted like a bankrupt who up to the last moment wants to deceive himself along with his creditors. Capricious treatment and blatant refusal to accept reality had already driven the first chief of Air Force Procurement, the famous fighter pilot Ernst Udet, to his death in 1941. On August 18, 1943, another of Goering’s closest associates and the man who had been Air Force Chief of Staff for over four years, General Jeschonnek, was found dead in his office. He too had committed suicide. On his table, so Milch told me, a note was found stating that he did not wish Goering to attend his funeral. Nevertheless Goering showed up at the ceremony and deposited a wreath from Hitler.21

I have always thought it was a most valuable trait to recognize reality and not to pursue delusions. But when I now think over my life up to and including the years of imprisonment, there was no period in which I was free of delusory notions.

The departure from reality, which was visibly spreading like a contagion, was no peculiarity of the National Socialist regime. But in normal circumstances people who turn their backs on reality are soon set straight by the mockery and criticism of those around them, which makes them aware they have lost credibility. In the Third Reich there were no such correctives, especially for those who belonged to the upper stratum. On the contrary, every self-deception was multiplied as in a hall of distorting mirrors, becoming a repeatedly confirmed picture of a fantastical dream world which no longer bore any relationship to the grim outside world. In those mirrors I could see nothing but my own face reproduced many times over. No external factors disturbed the uniformity of hundreds of unchanging faces, all mine.

There were differences of degree in the flight from reality. Thus Goebbels was surely many times closer to recognizing actualities than, say, Goering or Ley. But these differences shrink to nothing when we consider how remote all of us, the illusionists as well as the so-called realists, were from what was really going on.

21. Hitler in the Autumn of 1943

Both his old associates and his adjutants agreed that hitler had undergone a change in the past year. This could scarcely be surprising, for during this period he had experienced Stalingrad, had looked on powerlessly as a quarter of a million soldiers surrendered in Tunisia, and had seen German cities leveled. Along with all this he had to approve the navy’s decision to withdraw the U-boats from the Atlantic, thus relinquishing one of his greatest hopes for victory. Undoubtedly, Hitler could see the meaning of this turn of affairs. And undoubtedly he reacted to it as human beings do, with disappointment, dejection, and increasingly forced optimism.

In the years since then, Hitler may have become the object of sober studies for the historian. But for me he possesses to this day a substantiality and physical presence, as if he still existed in the flesh. Between the spring of 1942 and the summer of 1943 he sometimes spoke despondently. But, then, a curious transformation seemed to take place in him. Even in desperate situations he displayed confidence in ultimate victory. From this later period I can scarcely recall any remarks on the disastrous course of affairs, although I was expecting them. Had he gone on for so long persuading himself that he now firmly believed in victory? At any rate, the more inexorably events moved toward catastrophe, the more inflexible he became, the more rigidly convinced that everything he decided on was right.

His closest associates noted his growing inaccessibility. He deliberately made his decisions in isolation. At the same time he had grown intellectually more sluggish and showed little inclination to develop new ideas. It was as if he were running along an unalterable track and could no longer find the strength to break out of it.

Underlying all this was the impasse into which he had been driven by the superior power of his enemies. In January 1943 they had jointly issued a demand for Germany’s unconditional surrender. Hitler was probably the only German leader who entertained no illusions about the seriousness of this statement. Goebbels, Goering, and the others would talk about exploiting the political antagonisms among the Allies. Still others imagined that Hitler would find some political device by which he could save the situation, even now. After all, had he not earlier, starting with the occupation of Austria up to the pact with the Soviet Union, contrived with apparent ease a succession of new tricks, new shifts, new finesses? But now, during the situation conferences, he more and more often declared: “Don’t fool yourself. There is no turning back. We can only move forward. We have burned our bridges.” In speaking this way Hitler was cutting his government off from any negotiation. The meaning of these words was first fully revealed at the Nuremberg Trial.

One of the causes for the changes in Hitler’s personality, so I thought at the time, was the constant stress under which he labored. He was working in an unaccustomed way. Since the beginning of the Russian campaign he had abandoned his former staccato method of administering the affairs of government in flurries of activity, with spells of indolence in between. Instead, he regularly attended to an enormous daily mass of work. Whereas in the past he had known how to let others work for him, he now assumed more and more responsibility for details. As anxieties mounted, he made himself into a strictly disciplined worker. But such discipline ran counter to his nature, and this was inevitably reflected in the quality of his decisions.

It is true that even before the war Hitler had shown signs of overwork. At times he would be distinctly averse to making decisions, would appear absent-minded, and would relapse into painful spells of monologuing. Or else he would fall into a sort of muteness or would say nothing more than an occasional “yes” or “no.” At such times it was not clear whether he still had his mind on the subject or was brooding on other thoughts. Earlier, however, these states of exhaustion did not usually last long. After staying at Obersalzberg for a few weeks he would appear more relaxed. His eyes would be brighter, his capacity for reaction would have increased, and he would recover his pleasure in state business.

In 1943, too, his entourage frequently urged him to take a vacation. At such times he would change the location of his headquarters and would go for weeks and sometimes even for months to Obersalzberg.*

* During the twenty months from July 28, 1941, to March 20, 1943, Hitler interrupted his stay in Rastenburg four times, for a total of fifty-seven days. Beginning on March 20, 1943, on his doctor’s urging, he went to Obersalzberg for a three-month vacation and then worked for the next nine months in Rastenburg. After this, completely exhausted, he spent the four months after March 16, 1944, at Obersalzberg and in Berlin. (Domarus, Hitler’s Reden, Vol. IV [Munich, 1965].)

But these vacations did not involve any change in his daily routine. Bormann was always hovering nearby, with endless small questions which the Fuehrer had to settle. There was a stream of callers, Gauleiters or ministers who could not obtain admission to headquarters and who now insisted on seeing him. Along with all this the lengthy daily situation conferences went on, for the entire military staff came along to wherever Hitler happened to be staying. Hitler frequently said, when we expressed concern for his health: “It’s easy to advise me to take a vacation. But it’s impossible. I cannot leave current military decisions to others even for twenty-four hours.”

The people in Hitler’s military entourage had been used to concentrated daily work from their youth. They could not have realized how overstrained Hitler was. Bormann, likewise, seemed unable to understand that he was asking too much of Hitler. But even apart from this, Hitler neglected to do what every factory executive must do: appoint good deputies for each important phase of his work. He had neither a competent executive chief nor a vigorous head of the armed forces nor even a capable Commander in Chief of the army. He continually flouted the old rule that the higher his position the more free time a man should have available. Formerly, he had abided by this rule.

Overwork and isolation led to a peculiar state of petrifaction and rigor. He suffered from spells of mental torpor and was permanently caustic and irritable. Earlier, he had made decisions with almost sportive ease; now, he had to force them out of his exhausted brain.1 As a former racing shell crewman I knew about the phenomenon of overtraining. I remembered how, when we reached such a state, our performance dropped, we became dull and irritable and lost all flexibility. We would become automatons to such an extent that a rest period seemed actually unwelcome and all we wanted was to go on training. Excessive intellectual strain can produce similar symptoms. During the difficult days of the war, I could observe in myself how my mind went on working mechanically, while at the same time my ability to absorb fresh impressions diminished and I made decisions in an apathetic way. The fact that Hitler left the darkened Chancellery in silence and secrecy on the night of September 3, 1939, in order to go to the front, proved to be a step of high significance for the subsequent years. His relationship to the people had changed. Even when he did come into contact with the populace—at intervals of many months—their enthusiasm and capacity to respond to him had faded and his magnetic power over them seemed likewise to have fled.

In the early thirties, during the final phases of the struggle for power, Hitler had driven himself as hard as during the second half of the war. But he probably drew more impetus and courage from those mass meetings than he himself had poured out upon the multitude. Even during the period between 1933 and 1939, when his position made life easier for him, he was visibly refreshed by the daily procession of admirers who came to pay homage to him at Obersalzberg. The rallies in the prewar period had also been a stimulant to Hitler. They were part of his life, and each one left him more incisive and selfassured than he had been before.

The private circle—his secretaries, doctors, and adjutants—in which he moved at headquarters was, if possible, even less stimulating than the prewar circle at Obersalzberg had been, or the circle in the Chancellery. Here there were no people so carried away by his aura that they could hardly speak. Daily association with Hitler, as I had already observed in the days when he and I dreamed together over building projects, reduced him from the demigod Goebbels had made of him to a human being with all ordinary human needs and weaknesses, although his authority remained intact.

Hitler’s military entourage, too, must have been tiring to him. For in the matter-of-fact atmosphere of headquarters any touch of idolatry would have made a bad impression. On the contrary, the military officers remained distinctly dispassionate. Even had they not been so by nature, restrained etiquette was part of their training. For that reason the Byzantine flatteries of Keitel and Goering seemed all the more obtrusive. Moreover, they did not sound genuine. Hitler himself encouraged his military entourage not to be servile. In that atmosphere objectivity remained the dominant note.

Hitler would not listen to criticism about his own life pattern. Consequently, members of his entourage had to conceal their worries and accept his habits for what they were. More and more he avoided conversations of a personal nature, aside from the rare sentimental talks he had with a few of his comrades from the early days, such as Goebbels, Ley, or Esser. To me and others he spoke in an impersonal, rather aloof manner. Occasionally, Hitler still made decisions alertly and spontaneously, as he had in the past, and once in a long while he would even listen attentively to opposing arguments. But these times had become so unusual that we afterward made special note of them.

Schmundt and I hit on the idea of bringing young frontline officers to Hitler, in order to introduce a little of the mood of the outside world into the stale, hermetic atmosphere of the headquarters. But our efforts came to naught. For one thing Hitler seemed unwilling to spare the time for such things, and then we also realized that these interviews did more harm than good. For example, a young tank officer reported that during the advance along the Terek his unit had encountered hardly any resistance and had had to check the advance only because it ran out of ammunition. In his overwrought state of mind, Hitler kept brooding on the matter for days afterward. “There you have it! Too little ammunition for the 7.5 centimeter guns! What’s the matter with production? It must be increased at once by every possible means.” Actually, given our limited facilities there was enough of this ammunition available; but the supply lines were so overextended that the supplies had not caught up with the tempestuous advance of the tank troops. Hitler, however, refused to take this factor into account.

On such occasions the young frontline officers would disclose other details into which Hitler immediately read major errors of omission on the part of the General Staff. In reality most of the difficulties arose from the tempo of the advances, which Hitler insisted on. It was impossible for the army staff to discuss this matter with him, since he had no knowledge of the complicated logistics involved in such advances.

At long intervals Hitler still continued to receive officers and enlisted men on whom he was to confer high military decorations. Given his distrust in the competence of his staff, there were often dramatic scenes and peremptory orders after such visits. In order to avert such complications, Keitel and Schmundt did their best to neutralize the visitors beforehand, insofar as they could.

Hitler’s evening tea, to which he invited guests even at headquarters, had in the course of time been shifted to two o’clock in the morning and did not end before three or four o’clock. The time when he went to bed had also been shifted more and more into the early morning, so that I once commented: “If the war goes on much longer we’ll at least come around to the normal working hours of an early riser and take Hitler’s evening tea as our breakfast.”

Hitler unquestionably suffered from insomnia. He spoke of the agony of lying awake if he went to bed earlier. During the tea he would often complain that the day before he had only been able to snatch a few hours of rest in the morning, after many hours of sleeplessness.

Only the intimates were admitted to these teas: his doctors, his secretaries, his military and civilian adjutants, the press chief’s deputy, the Foreign Ministry’s representative, Ambassador Hewel, sometimes his Viennese diet cook, such visitors as were close to Hitler, and the inevitable Bormann. I too was welcome as a guest anytime. We sat stiffly in Hitler’s dining room in uncomfortable armchairs. On these occasions Hitler still loved a gemütlich atmosphere, with, if possible, a fire in the fireplace. He passed cake to the secretaries with emphatic gallantry and tried to achieve a tone of friendliness with his guests like an easygoing host. I felt pity for him; there was always something misbegotten about his attempts to radiate warmth in order to receive it.

Since music was banned at headquarters, there remained only conversation, with Hitler himself doing most of the talking. His familiar jokes were appreciated as if they had been heard for the first time; his stories of his harsh youth or the “days of struggle” were listened to as raptly as if they were being told for the first time; but this circle could not whip up much liveliness or contribute to the conversation. It was an unwritten law that events at the front, politics, or criticism of leaders must be avoided. Naturally, Hitler, too, had no need to talk about such matters. Only Bormann had the privilege of making provocative remarks. Sometimes, too, a letter from Eva Braun would send Hitler into a fit, for she was apt to cite cases of blatant stupidity on the part of officials. When, for example, regulations were issued forbidding the people of Munich from going to the mountains for skiing, Hitler became extremely excited and launched into tirades about his everlasting struggle against the idiocy of the bureaucracy. In the end, Bormann would be ordered to look into such cases.

The banality of the subjects indicated that Hitler’s threshold of irritability had become extremely low. On the other hand, such trivialities really had a kind of relaxing effect on him, since they led him back to a world in which he could still issue effective orders. For the moment at least he could forget the impotence that had plagued him since his enemies had begun to shape the course of events.

Even though he still played at being master of the situation and his circle did its best to abet him in his illusions, elements of the truth forced themselves upon his consciousness. At such moments, he would go back to his old litany that he had become a politician against his will, that basically he was an architect but that he had been out of luck: The kind of projects that would have suited his talents were not being built. Only when he himself was head of government was the right land of building possible. He had only one remaining wish, he would say in one of those bursts of self-pity which became more and more frequent these days. “As soon as possible I want to hang the field-gray jacket on its nail again.*

* Since the beginning of the war he had worn military dress rather than his old party uniform, and he had promised the Reichstag that he would not put it aside until the war was over—just as Isabella of Castile had once sworn not to take off her chemise until the country was liberated from the Moors.

When I have ended the war victoriously, my life’s task will be fulfilled, and I’ll withdraw to the home of my old age, in Linz, across the Danube. Then my successor can worry about these problems.” He had, it is true, sometimes spoken in this vein before the beginning of the war, during those more relaxed teatimes at Obersalzberg. But in those days, I suspect, all that was mere coquettishness. Now, he formulated such thoughts unsentimentally, in a normal conversational tone and with a credible note of bitterness.

His abiding interest in the plans for the city of his retirement years also gradually assumed an escapist character. Toward the end of the war, Hermann Giessler, the chief architect of Linz, was summoned to headquarters more and more frequently to present his designs, whereas Hitler scarcely ever asked for the Hamburg, Berlin, Nuremberg, or Munich plans, which had previously meant so much to him. When he considered the torments he now had to endure, he would say gloomily, death could only mean a release for him. In keeping with this mood, when he studied the Linz plans he would repeatedly turn to the sketches for his tomb, which was to be located in one of the towers of the Linz complex of party buildings. Even after a victorious war, he emphasized, he did not want to be buried beside his field marshals in the Soldiers Hall in Berlin.

During these nocturnal conversations in the Ukrainian or East Prussian headquarters, Hitler often gave the impression of being slightly unbalanced. The leaden heaviness of the early morning hours weighed on those few of us who participated. Only politeness and a sense of duty could induce us to attend the teas. For after the day of strenuous conferences, we could scarcely keep our eyes open during the monotonous conversations.

Before Hitler appeared, someone might ask: “Say, where is Morell this evening?”

Someone else would reply crossly: “He hasn’t been here the past three evenings.”

One of the secretaries: “He could stand staying up late once in a while. It’s always the same….I’d love to sleep too.”

Another: “We really should arrange to take turns. It isn’t fair for some to shirk and the same people have to be here all the time.”

Of course Hitler was still revered by this circle, but his nimbus was distinctly wearing thin.

After Hitler had eaten breakfast late in the morning, the daily newspapers and press information sheets were presented to him. The press reports were crucially important in forming his opinions; they also had a great deal to do with his mood. Where specific foreign news items were concerned, he instantly formulated the official German position, usually highly aggressive, which he would then dictate word for word to his press chief, Dr. Dietrich, or to Dietrich’s deputy, Lorenz. Hitler would boldly intrude on all areas of government, usually without consulting the ministers in question, such as Goebbels or Ribbentrop, or even bothering to inform them beforehand.

After that, Hewel reported on foreign events, which Hitler took more calmly than he did the press notices. In hindsight it seems to me that he considered the reverberations more important than the realities; that the newspaper accounts interested him more than the events themselves.

Schaub then brought in the reports of last night’s air raids, which had been passed on from the Gauleiters to Bormann. Since I often went to look at the production facilities in the damaged cities a day or two later, I can judge that Hitler was correctly informed on the degree of destruction. It would in fact have been unwise of a Gauleiter to minimize the damage, since his prestige could only increase if, in spite of the devastation, he succeeded in restoring normal life and production.

Hitler was obviously shaken by these reports, although less by the casualties among the populace or the bombing of residential areas than by the destruction of valuable buildings, especially theaters. As in his plans for the “reshaping of German cities” before the war, he was primarily interested in public architecture and seemed to give little thought to social distress and human misery. Consequently, he was likely to demand that burned-out theaters be rebuilt immediately. Several times I tried to remind him of other strains upon the construction industry. Apparently the local political authorities were also less than eager to carry out these unpopular orders, and Hitler, in any case sufficiently taken up by the military situation, seldom inquired about the way the work was going. Only in Munich, his second home, and in Berlin did he insist that the opera houses be rebuilt at great expenditure of labor and money.2

Incidentally, Hitler betrayed a remarkable ignorance of the true situation and the mood of the populace when he answered all objections with: “Theatrical performances are needed precisely because the morale of the people must be maintained.” The urban population certainly had other things to worry about. Once more, such remarks showed to what extent Hitler was rooted in a “bourgeois milieu.”

While reading these reports, Hitler was in the habit of raging against the British government and the Jews, who were to blame for these air raids. We could force the enemy to stop by building a large fleet of bombers ourselves, he declared. Whenever I objected that we had neither the planes nor explosives for heavy bombing,3 he always returned the same answer: “You’ve made so many things possible, Speer. You’ll manage that too.” It seems to me, in retrospect, that our ability to produce more and more in spite of the air raids must have been one of the reasons that Hitler did not really take the air battle over Germany seriously. Consequently, Milch’s and my proposals that the manufacture of bombers be radically reduced in favor of increased fighter-plane production was rejected until it was too late.

I tried a few times to persuade Hitler to travel to the bombed cities and let himself be seen there.4 Goebbels, too, had tried to put over the same idea, but in vain. He lamented Hitler’s obstinacy and referred enviously to the conduct of Churchill: “When I think of the propaganda value I could make of such a visit!” But Hitler regularly brushed away any such suggestion. During his drives from Stettin Station to the Chancellery, or to his apartment in Prinzregentenstrasse in Munich, he now ordered his chauffeur to take the shortest route, whereas he formerly loved long detours. Since I accompanied him several times on such drives, I saw with what absence of emotion he noted the new areas of rubble through which his car would pass.

Morell had advised Hitler to take long walks, and it would indeed have been very easy to lay out a few paths in the adjacent East Prussian woods. But Hitler vetoed any such project. The result was that his daily airing consisted of a small circuit barely a hundred yards long within Restricted Area I.

On these walks Hitler’s interest was usually focused not on his companions but on his Alsatian dog Blondi. He used these intervals for training purposes. After a few exercises in fetching, the dog had to balance on a board about a foot wide and twenty-five feet long, mounted at a height of more than six feet. Hitler knew, of course, that a dog regards the man who feeds him as his master. Before the attendant opened the dog cage, Hitler usually let the excited dog leap up against the wire partitions for a few minutes, barking and whimpering with joy and hunger. Since I stood in special favor, I was sometimes allowed to accompany Hitler to this feeding, whereas all the others had to watch the process at a distance. The dog probably occupied the most important role in Hitler’s private life; he meant more to his master than the Fuehrer’s closest associates.

Hitler frequently took his meals alone when no guest he liked was at headquarters. In that case only the dog kept him company. As a matter of course, during my two-or three-day stays at headquarters I was asked to dine with the Fuehrer once or twice. People no doubt thought we were discussing important general matters or personal subjects during these meals. But even I found there was no talking with Hitler about broader aspects of the military situation, or even the economic situation. We stuck to trivial subjects or dreary production figures.

Initially, he remained interested in the matters that had absorbed both of us in the past, such as the future shaping of German cities. He also wanted to plan a transcontinental railroad network which would link his future empire together economically. After he decided on the size of the wide-gauge track he wanted for the railroad, he began considering various car types and plunging into detailed calculations on freight tonnages. Such matters occupied him during his sleepless nights.*

* The idea behind this transcontinental service was that a single train would transport as much as a freighter. Hitler felt that sea travel was never sufficiently safe and was certainly unreliable in wartime. Even where plans for new railroad facilities had already been completed, as in Berlin and Munich, an extra pair of tracks had to be added for Hitler’s new railroad system.

The Transportation Ministry thought that the drawbacks of two railroad systems more than outweighed the possible advantages, but Hitler had become obsessed with this idea; he decided that it was even more important as a binding force in his empire than the autobahn system.

From month to month Hitler became more taciturn. It may also be that he let himself go with me and made less of an effort at conversation than he did with other guests. In any case, from the autumn of 1943 on, a lunch with him became an ordeal. In silence, we spooned up our soup. While we waited for the next course we might make a few remarks about the weather, whereupon Hitler would usually say something acid about the incompetence of the weather bureau. Finally the conversation would revert to the quality of the food. He was highly pleased with his diet cook and praised her skill at vegetarian cuisine. If a dish seemed to him especially good, he asked me to have a taste of it.

He was forever worried about gaining weight. “Out of the question! Imagine me going around with a potbelly. It would mean political ruin ” After making such remarks he would frequently call his orderly, to put an end to temptation: “Take this away, please, I like it too much.” Incidentally, even here at headquarters he would often make fun of meat-eaters, but he did not attempt to sway me. He even had no objection to a Steinhäger after fatty food—although he commented pityingly that he did not need it, with his fare. If there were a meat broth I could depend on his speaking of “corpse tea”; in connection with crayfish he brought out his story of a deceased grandmother whose relations had thrown her body into the brook to lure the crustaceans; for eels, that they were best fattened and caught by using dead cats.

Earlier, during those evenings in the Chancellery, Hitler had never been shy about repeating stories as often as he pleased. But now, in these times of retreats and impending doom, such repetitions had to be regarded as signs that he was in an especially good humor. For most of the time a deadly silence prevailed. I had the impression of a man whose life was slowly ebbing away.

During conferences that often lasted for hours, or during meals, Hitler ordered his dog to lie down in a certain comer. There the animal settled with a protesting growl. If he felt that he was not being watched, he crawled closer to his master’s seat and after elaborate maneuvers finally landed with his snout against Hitler’s knee, whereupon a sharp command banished him to his comer again. I avoided, as did any reasonably prudent visitor to Hitler, arousing any feelings of friendship in the dog. That was often not so easy, especially when at meals the dog laid his head on my knee and in this position attentively studied the pieces of meat, which he evidently preferred to his masters vegetarian dishes. When Hitler noticed such disloyalty, he irritably called the dog back. But still the dog remained the only living creature at headquarters who aroused any flicker of human feeling in Hitler. Only—the dog was mute.

Hitler’s deep estrangement from people proceeded slowly, almost imperceptibly. From about the autumn of 1943 on, he used to make one remark which was all too revealing of his unhappy isolation: “Speer, one of these days I’ll have only two friends left, Fraulein Braun and my dog.” His tone was so misanthropic, and the remark seemed to be wrung from such depths that it would not have done for me to assure him of my own loyalty. That was the one and only prediction of Hitler’s that proved to be absolutely right. But that those two remained true to him was certainly no credit to Hitler, but rather to the staunchness of his mistress and the dependency of his dog.

Later, in my many years of imprisonment, I discovered what it meant to live under great psychological pressure. Only then did I realize that Hitler’s life had borne a great resemblance to that of a prisoner. His bunker, although it did not yet have the tomblike proportions it was to assume in July 1944, had the thick walls and ceilings of a prison. Iron doors and iron shutters guarded the few openings, and even his meager walks within the barbed wire brought him no more fresh air and contact with nature than a prisoner’s endless tramp around the prison yard.

Hitler’s hour came when the main situation conference began after lunch, around two o’clock. Outwardly, the scene had not changed since the spring of 1942. Almost the same generals and adjutants gathered around the big map table. Only now all the participants seemed to have been aged and worn by the events of the past year and a half. Indifferent and rather resigned, they received his watchwords and commands.

Positive aspects were played up. From the testimony of prisoners and special reports from the Russian front, it might appear that the enemy would soon be exhausted. The Russian casualties seemed to be much higher than ours because of their offensives—higher even in proportion to the relative sizes of our populations. Reports of insignificant successes loomed larger and larger in the course of these discussions, until they had become for Hitler incontrovertible evidence that Germany would after all be able to delay the Soviet onslaught until the Russians had been bled white. Moreover, many of us believed that Hitler would end the war at the right time.

To forecast what we might expect in the next few months, Jodl prepared a report to Hitler. At the same time he tried to revive his real job as chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff, which Hitler had more and more taken over. Jodl knew well Hitler’s distrust for arguments based on calculations. Toward the end of 1943, Hitler was still speaking scornfully of a projection by General Georg Thomas which had rated the Soviet war potential as extremely high. Hitler was irate over this memorandum, and soon after its presentation he had forbidden Thomas and the OKW to undertake any further studies of this type. When around the autumn of 1944 my planning board, in an earnest effort to help the military operations staff make its decisions, worked out a memorandum on the enemy’s armaments capacities, we received a reprimand from Keitel and were told not to transmit such documents to the OKW.

Thus, Jodl knew that there were serious barriers that prevented him from delivering his report. He therefore appointed a young air force colonel named Christian to give a quick sketch of the matter at one of the situation conferences. The colonel had the rather significant advantage of being married to one of Hitler’s secretaries, one of those who belonged to the nightly teatime circle. The idea was to discern the enemy’s possible long-run tactical plans and what the consequences would be for us. But aside from the scene of Colonel Christian’s showing a completely silent Hitler various places on several large maps of Europe, I no longer recall what happened with this attempt. In any case, it failed miserably.

Without much fuss, and without any rebellion on the part of those concerned, Hitler continued to make all decisions himself, in total disregard of any technical basis. He dispensed with analyses of the situation and logistical calculations. He did not rely on any study group which would examine all aspects of offensive plans in terms of their effectiveness and possible countermeasures by the enemy. The headquarters staffs were more than competent to carry out these functions of modem warfare; it would only have been necessary to activate them. To be sure, Hitler would accept information about partial aspects of situations; but the grand synthesis was supposed to be born solely in his head. His field marshals as well as his closest associates had, therefore, merely advisory functions, for his decision had usually been forged beforehand and only minor aspects of it were subject to change. Moreover, whatever he had learned from the eastern campaign in the years 1942-43 was rigorously repressed. Decisions were made in a total vacuum.

At headquarters, where everyone lived under the tremendous pressure of responsibility, probably nothing was more welcome than a dictate from above. That meant being freed of a decision and simultaneously being provided with an excuse for failure. Only rarely did I hear of a member of the headquarters staff applying for frontline service in order to escape the permanent conflicts of conscience to which all at headquarters were exposed. To this day the whole thing remains an enigma for me. For in spite of a great deal of criticism hardly any one of us ever managed to put across our reservations. Actually, we were hardly conscious of them. In the stupefying world of the headquarters we remained unmoved by what Hitler’s decisions must mean at the front, where men were fighting and dying. Yet time and again our men found themselves in emergencies that could have been avoided had Hitler not staved off a retreat proposed by the General Staff.

No one could expect the Chief of State to go to the front regularly. But as Commander in Chief of the army, who moreover decided on so many details himself, he was obliged to do so. If he were too ill, then he should have appointed someone else; if he were fearful for his life, he had no right to be Commander in Chief of the army.

A few trips to the front could easily have shown him and his staff the fundamental errors that were costing so much blood. But Hitler and his military advisers thought they could lead the army from their maps. They knew nothing of the Russian winter and its road conditions, nor of the hardships of soldiers who had to live in holes in the ground, without quarters, inadequately equipped, exhausted and half frozen. Their resistance had long since been shattered. At the situation conferences Hitler took these units as up to full strength, and under that delusion they were committed. He pushed about on the map divisions that had worn themselves out in previous fighting and now lacked arms and ammunition. Moreover, Hitler frequently set schedules that were completely unrealistic. Since he invariably ordered immediate action, the advance detachments came under fire before the task force could bring its full fire power to bear. The result was that the men were led piecemeal up to the enemy and slowly annihilated.

The communications apparatus at headquarters was remarkable for that period. It was possible to communicate directly with all the important theaters of war. But Hitler overestimated the merits of the telephone, radio, and teletype. For thanks to this apparatus the responsible army commanders were robbed of every chance for independent action, in contrast to earlier wars. Hitler was constantly intervening on their sectors of the front. Because of this communications apparatus individual divisions in all the theaters of war could be directed from Hitler’s table in the situation room. The more fearful the situation, the greater was the gulf modem technology created between reality and the fantasies with which the man at this table operated.

Military leadership is primarily a matter of intelligence, tenacity, and iron nerves. Hitler thought he had all these qualities in far greater measure than his generals. Again and again he predicted, although only after the disaster of the winter of 1941-42, that even the worst situations could be overcome and, indeed, that only in such situations would he prove how firmly he stood and how sound his nerves were.*

* On July 26, 1944, Hitler boasted to the heads of industry: “All I know is that unprecedentedly strong nerves and unprecedented resolution are necessary if a leader is to survive in times such as these and make decisions which concern our very existence… . Any other man in my place would have been unable to do what I have done; his nerves would not have been strong enough.”

Such remarks were scarcely complimentary toward the officers present; but Hitler was often capable of turning to the General Staff officers of his entourage and insulting them directly. He would tell them that they were not steadfast, that they were always wanting to retreat, that they were prepared to give up ground without any reason. These cowards on the General Staff would never have dared to start a war, he would say; they had always advised against it, always maintained that our forces were far too weak. But who had been proved right, if not himself! He would run down the usual list of earlier military successes and review the negative attitudes of the General Staff before these operations began—which produced a ghostly impression, given the situation that had meanwhile arisen. In going over the past that way he might lose his temper, flush deeply, and in a rapid, loud voice breaking with excitement burst out: “They aren’t only notorious cowards, they’re dishonest as well. They’re notorious liars! The training of the General Staff is a school of lying and deception. Zeitzler, these figures are false! You yourself are being lied to. Believe me, the situation is deliberately being represented as unfavorable. That’s how they want to force me to authorize retreats!” Invariably, Hitler ordered the bends in the front to be held at all costs, and just as invariably the Soviet forces would overrun the position after a few days or weeks. Then there followed new rages, mingled with fresh denunciations of the officers and, frequently, complaints against the German soldiers: “The soldier of the First World War was much tougher. Think of all they had to go through, in Verdun, on the Somme. Today, they would run away from that land of thing.”

A good many of the officers who came in for these tongue-lashings later joined the July 20, 1944, conspiracy against Hitler. That plot cast its shadow before. In the past Hitler had had a fine sense of discrimination and was able to adapt his language to the people around him. Now he was unrestrained and reckless. His speech became an overflowing torrent like that of a prisoner who betrays dangerous secrets even to his prosecutor. In his talk Hitler seemed to me to be obeying an obsession.

In order to supply evidence for posterity that he had always issued the right orders, as early as the late autumn of 1942, Hitler sent for certified stenographers from the Reichstag who from then on sat at the table during the situation conference and took down every word.

Sometimes, when Hitler thought he had found the way out of a dilemma, he would add: “Have you got that? Yes, someday people will see that I was right. But these idiotic General Staff officers refuse to believe me.” Even when the troops were retreating, he would declare triumphantly: “Didn’t I order so and so three days ago? Again my order hasn’t been carried out. They don’t carry out my orders and afterward they lie and blame the Russians. They lie when they say the Russians prevented them from carrying out the order.” Hitler refused to admit that his failures were due to the weak position into which he had cast us by insisting on a war on many fronts.

Only a few months before, the stenographers who unexpectedly found themselves in this madhouse had probably envisioned Hitler as a superior genius, just as Goebbels had taught them. Here they were forced to catch a glimpse of the reality. I can still see them distinctly as they sat writing, sallow-faced, or in their free time pacing back and forth at headquarters with a downcast air. They seemed to me like envoys from the populace who were condemned to witness the tragedy from front-row

At the beginning of the war in the east, Hitler, captive to his theory that the Slavs were subhuman, had called the war against them child’s play. But the longer the war lasted, the more the Russians gained his respect. He was impressed by the stoicism with which they had accepted their early defeats. He spoke admiringly of Stalin, particularly stressing the parallels to his own endurance. The danger that hung over Moscow in the winter of 1941 struck him as similar to his present predicament. In a brief access of confidence,5 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. Much had changed since that day after the armistice with France when Hitler predicted that a war with the Soviet Union would be child’s play.

In contrast to his 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 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. Within Restricted Area I in Rastenburg a teahouse had been built. Its furnishings were a pleasant change from the general drabness. Here we occasionally met for a glass of vermouth; here field marshals waited before conferring with Hitler. He himself avoided this teahouse and thus escaped encounters with the generals and staff officers of the High Command and of the armed forces. But for a few days, after Fascism had ingloriously come to an end in Italy on July 25, 1943, and Badoglio had taken over the government, Hitler sat there over tea several afternoons with perhaps ten of his military and political associates, among them Keitel, Jodl, and Bormann. Suddenly, Jodl blurted out: “Come to think of it, Fascism simply burst like a soap bubble.” A horrified silence followed, until someone launched another subject, whereupon Jodl, visibly alarmed, flushed beet red.

A few weeks afterward Prince Philip of Hesse was invited to the headquarters. He was one of the few followers whom Hitler always treated with deference and respect. Philip had often been useful to him, and especially in the early years of the Third Reich had arranged contacts with the heads of Italian Fascism. In addition he had helped Hitler purchase valuable art works. The Prince had been able to arrange their export from Italy through his connections with the Italian royal house, to which he was related.

When the Prince wanted to leave again after a few days, Hitler bluntly told him that he would not be allowed to leave headquarters. He continued to treat him with the greatest outward courtesy and invited him to his meals. But the members of Hitler’s entourage, who until then had been so fond of talking with a “real prince,” avoided him as if he had a contagious disease. On September 9, Prince Philip and Princess Mafalda, the Italian King’s daughter, were taken to a concentration camp on Hitler’s direct orders.

For weeks afterward Hitler boasted that he had begun suspecting early in the game that Prince Philip was sending information to the Italian royal house. He himself had kept an eye on him, Hitler said, and ordered his telephone conversations tapped. By methods such as these it had been discovered that the Prince was passing number codes to his wife. Nevertheless, Hitler had continued to treat the Prince with marked friendliness. That had been part of his tactics, he declared, obviously delighted with his gifts as a detective.

The arrest of the Prince and his wife reminded all those who were similarly close to Hitler that they had put themselves utterly into his hands. The feeling spread, unconsciously, that Hitler might be covertly and meanly keeping watch on anyone among his intimates and might deliver him up to a similar fate without giving him the slightest opportunity to justify himself.

Mussolini’s relationship to Hitler had been for all of us, ever since the Duce’s support during the Austrian crisis, the very symbol of amity. After the Italian Chief of State was overthrown and vanished without a trace, Hitler seemed to be inspired with a kind of Nibelungen loyalty. Again and again in the situation conferences he insisted that everything must be done to locate the missing Duce. He declared that Mussolini’s fate was a nightmare that weighed on him day and night.

On September 12, 1943, a conference was held in headquarters to which the Gauleiters of Tyrol and Carinthia were invited, along with me. It was settled that not only South Tyrol but also the Italian territory as far as Verona would be placed under the administration of Gauleiter Hofer of Tyrol. Large parts of Venetia, including Trieste, were assigned to the territory of Gauleiter Rainer of Carinthia. I was given jurisdiction in all questions of armaments and production for the remaining Italian territory and powers over and above those of the Italian authorities. Then came a great surprise: A few hours after the signing of these decrees Mussolini’s liberation was announced.

The two Gauleiters thought their newly acquired domains were lost again. So did I. “The Fuehrer won’t expect the Duce to swallow that!” I said. Shortly afterward I met Hitler again and proposed that he cancel the new arrangement. I assumed that this was what he meant to do. To my surprise he fended off the suggestion. The decree would continue to be valid, he said. I pointed out to him that with a new Italian government formed under Mussolini, he could hardly infringe on Italy’s sovereignty. Hitler reflected briefly, then said: “Present my decree to me for signature again, dated tomorrow. Then there will be no doubt that my order is not affected by the Duce’s liberation.”6

Undoubtedly Hitler had already been informed, a few days before this amputation of northern Italy, that the place where Mussolini was being held prisoner had been located. It seems a fair guess that we were called to headquarters so quickly precisely because of the impending liberation of the Duce.

The next day Mussolini arrived in Rastenburg. Hitler embraced him, sincerely moved. On the anniversary of the Three-Power Pact, Hitler sent to the Duce, with whom he declared himself “linked in friendship,” his “warmest wishes for the future of an Italy once more led to honorable freedom by Fascism.”

Two weeks before, Hitler had mutilated Italy.

22. Downhill

The mounting figures for armaments production strengthened my position until the autumn of 1943. After we had virtually exhausted the industrial reserves of Germany, I tried to exploit the industrial potential of the other European countries we controlled.1 Hitler was at first reluctant to make full use of the capacity of the West. And in years to come, he had decided, the occupied eastern territories were actually to be deindustrialized. For industry, he held, promoted communism and bred an unwanted class of intellectuals. But conditions quickly proved stronger than all such theories. Hitler was hardheaded enough to recognize how useful intact industries could be toward solving the problems of troop supply.

France was the most important of the occupied industrial countries. Until the spring of 1943, however, its industrial production scarcely helped us. Sauckel’s forcible recruiting of labor had done more damage there than its results warranted. For in order to escape forced labor, the French workers fled their factories, quite a few of which were producing for our armaments needs. In May 1943, I remonstrated to Sauckel about this. That July at a conference in Paris I proposed that at least the factories in France that were working for us be immune from Sauckel’s levies.*

* Office Journal, July 23, 1943: “The minister proposed to improve the situation by designating protected factories. These would be guaranteed against levying of workers and would thus be made more attractive to French labor.”

My associates and I intended to have the factories in France particularly, but also in Belgium and Holland, produce large quantities of goods for the German civilian population, such as clothing, shoes, textiles, and furniture, in order to free similar factories in Germany for armaments. As soon as I was charged with all of German production at the beginning of September, I invited the French Minister of Production to Berlin. Minister Bichelonne, a professor at the Sorbonne, was reputed to be a capable and energetic man.

After some bickering with the Foreign Office, I ensured that Bichelonne would be treated as a state visitor. To win that point I had to appeal to Hitler, explaining to him that Bichelonne was not going to “come up the back stairs” to see me. As a result, the French Production Minister was quartered in the Berlin government guest house.

Five days before Bichelonne arrived I cleared the idea with Hitler that we would set up a production planning council on a pan-European basis, with France as an equal partner along with the other nations. The assumption was, of course, that Germany would retain the decisive voice in this planning.2

On September 17, 1943, I received Bichelonne, and before very long a distinctly personal relationship sprang up between us. We were both young, we believed the future was on our side, and both of us therefore promised ourselves that someday we would avoid the mistakes of the First World War generation that was presently governing. I was even prepared to prevent what Hitler had in mind in the way of carving up France, all the more so since in a Europe integrated economically it did not matter where the frontiers ran. Such were the utopian thoughts in which Bichelonne and I lost ourselves for a while at that time—a token of the world of illusions and dreams in which we were moving.

On the last day of the negotiations Bichelonne asked to have a private talk with me. At the instigation of Sauckel, he began, Premier Laval had forbidden him to discuss the question of the transportation of workers from France to Germany.8 Would I nevertheless be willing to deal with the question? I said I would. Bichelonne explained his concern, and I finally asked him whether a measure protecting French industrial plants from deportations would help him. “If that is possible, then all my problems are solved, including those relating to the program we have just agreed on,” Bichelonne said with relief. “But then the transfer of labor from France to Germany will virtually cease. I must tell you that in all honesty.”

I was fully aware of that, but this seemed the only way I could harness French industrial production to our purposes. Both of us had done something unusual. Bichelonne had disobeyed an instruction from Laval, and I had disavowed Sauckel. Both of us, basically without the backing of our superiors, had come to a far-reaching agreement.*

* Sauckel pointed this out at the Central Planning meeting, March 1, 1944: “It is certainly difficult for me as a German to be confronted with a situation which all too plainly tells the French industries in France they have been placed under protection simply to keep them out of the grasp of Sauckel.”

Our production plan would offer benefits to both countries. I would gain armaments capacity, while the French appreciated the chance to resume peacetime production in the midst of war. In collaboration with the military commander in France, restricted factories would be established throughout the country. Placards posted in these factories would promise immunity from Sauckel’s levies to all the workers employed in them. I personally would stand behind this pledge, since the placards would bear my signature in facsimile. But French basic industry also had to be strengthened, transportation guaranteed, food production assured—so that ultimately almost every important productive unit—in the end a total of ten thousand—would be shielded from Sauckel.

Bichelonne and I spent the weekend at the country house of my friend Amo Breker. On Monday, I informed Sauckel’s associates of the new arrangements. I called upon them to direct their efforts from then on to inducing workers to go back to French factories. Their numbers, I pledged, would be reckoned in on the quota of “assignments to German armaments production.”4

Ten days later I was at the Fuehrers headquarters to beat Sauckel to the punch in reporting to Hitler. And in fact Hitler proved content; he approved my arrangements and was even ready to take into account possible production losses because of riots or strikes.5

In this way Sauckel’s operations in France virtually came to an end. Instead of the previous monthly quota of fifty thousand, before long only five thousand workers a month were being taken to Germany.*

* See Nuremberg Document RF 22. On June 27, 1943, Sauckel wrote to Hitler: “Therefore I ask you, mein Führer, to accept my proposal that another half a million French men and women be imported into the Reich until the end of the war.” According to a notation by his assistant, Dr. Strothfang, dated July 28, 1943, Hitler had already agreed to this measure.

A few months later (on March 1, 1944), Sauckel reported angrily: “I hear from my offices in France that everything is finished there. ‘We might as well close down,’ they tell me. It’s the same story in every prefecture: Minister Bichelonne has made an agreement with Minister Speer. Laval has the nerve to say: I won’t give you anymore men for Germany.’ “

A short while later I proceeded to apply the same principle to Holland, Belgium, and Italy.

On August 20, 1943, Heinrich Himmler had been appointed Minister of the Interior of the Reich. Until then, to be sure, he had been Reichsführer of the all-embracing SS, which was spoken of as a “state within the state.” But in his capacity as chief of the police he had been, strangely, a subordinate of Minister of the Interior Frick.

The power of the Gauleiters, constantly furthered by Bormann, had led to a splintering of sovereignty in the Reich. There were two categories of Gauleiters. The old ones, those who had held their positions before 1933, were simply incompetent to run an administrative apparatus. Alongside these men there rose, in the course of the years, a new class of Gauleiters of Bormann’s school. They were young administrative officials, usually with legal training, whose one thought was to strengthen the influence of the party within the state.

It was characteristic of Hitler’s double-track way of running things that the Gauleiters in their capacity of party functionaries were under Bormann, while in their capacity as Reich Commissioners for Defense they were under the Minister of the Interior. Under the feeble Frick this double allegiance involved no danger to Bormann. Analysts of the political scene suspected, however, that with Himmler as Minister of the Interior, Bormann had acquired a serious counterpoise.

I too saw it this way and was looking forward hopefully to Himmler’s reign. Above all I counted on his checking the progressive fragmentation of the government executive power. And, in fact, Himmler promptly gave me his promise that on administrative matters of the Reich government he would call the willful Gauleiters to account.6

On October 6, 1943, I addressed the Reichsleiters and the Gauleiters of the party. The reaction to my speech signaled a turning point. My purpose was to open the eyes of the political leadership to the true state of affairs, to dispel their illusion that a great rocket would soon be ready for use, and to make it clear that the enemy was calling all the turns. For us to regain the initiative, the economic structure of Germany, in part still on a peacetime basis, must be shaken up, I declared. Of the six million persons employed in our consumer goods industries, one and a half million must be transferred to armaments production. From now on consumer goods would be manufactured in France. I admitted that this would place France in a favorable starting position for the postwar era. “But my view is,” I declared to my audience of top party executives who sat there as if petrified, “that if we want to win the war we are the ones who will primarily have to make the sacrifices.”

I challenged the Gauleiters even more bluntly when I continued:

You will please take note of this: The manner in which the various districts [Gaue] have hitherto obstructed the shutdown of consumer goods production can and will no longer be tolerated. Henceforth, if the districts do not respond to my requests within two weeks I shall myself order the shutdowns. And I can assure you that I am prepared to apply the authority of the Reich government at any cost! I have spoken with Reichsführer-SS Himmler, and from now on I shall deal firmly with the districts that do not carry out these measures.

The Gauleiters were less disturbed by the comprehensiveness of my program than by these two last sentences. I had barely finished my speech when several of them came rushing up to me. Led by one of the oldest among them, Joseph Bürkel, in loud voices and with waving arms they charged that I had threatened them with concentration camp. In order to correct that misapprehension, I asked Bormann if I could once more take the floor. But Bormann waved me aside. With hypocritical friendliness he said this was not necessary at all, for there were really no misunderstandings.

The evening after this meeting many of the Gauleiters drank so heavily that they needed help to get to the special train taking them to the Fuehrer’s headquarters that night. Next morning I asked Hitler to say a few words about temperance to his political associates; but as always he spared the feelings of his comrades in arms of the early days. On the other hand, Bormann informed Hitler about my quarrel with the Gauleiters.*

* I did not learn the particulars from Gauleiter Kaufmann until May 1944. Then, immediately requested a meeting with Hitler. For further details, see Chapter 23.

Hitler gave me to understand that all the Gauleiters were furious, without telling me any of the specific reasons. Bormann, it soon became plain, had at last found a way to undermine my standing with Hitler. He went on chipping away incessantly, and for the first time with some success. I myself had given him the means. From now on I could no longer count on Hitler’s support as a matter of course.

I also soon found out what Himmler’s promise to enforce my directives was worth. I had documents on serious disputes with Gauleiters sent to him, but I did not hear anything about them for weeks. Finally, Himmler’s state secretary, Wilhelm Stuckart, informed me with some embarrassment that the Minister of the Interior had sent the documents directly to Bormann, whose reply had only now arrived. All the cases had been checked over by the Gauleiters, Stuckart said. As might have been expected, it had turned out that my orders were invalid and the Gauleiters were entirely justified in refusing to follow them. Himmler, Stuckart said, had accepted this report. So much for my hope of strengthening the government’s as against the party’s authority. Nothing came of the Speer-Himmler coalition either.

A few months passed before I found out why all these plans were doomed to failure. As I heard from Gauleiter Hanke of Lower Silesia, Himmler had actually tried to strike a blow against the sovereignty of some Gauleiters. He sent them orders through his SS commanders in their districts, a clear affront to their power. But he quickly learned that the Gauleiters had all the backing they needed in Bormann’s party headquarters. Within a few days Bormann had Hitler prohibit any such steps by Himmler. Hitler might have contempt for his Gauleiters, but at crucial moments he always remained loyal to these comrades of his early days of struggle. Even Himmler and the SS could do nothing against this sentimental cronyism.

Worsted in this one inept maneuver, the SS leader completely acknowledged the independence of the Gauleiters. The projected meeting of “Reich Defense Commissioners” was never called, and Himmler contented himself with making his power felt among the politically less influential mayors and governors. Bormann and Himmler, who were on a first-name basis anyhow, soon became good friends again. My speech had brought to light the strata of interest-groups, but in revealing these power-relationships I had endangered myself.

Within a few months I could chalk up a third failure in my efforts to activate the power and potentialities of the regime. Faced with a dilemma, I tried to escape it by taking the offensive. Only five days after my speech I had Hitler appoint me chief of future planning for all the cities damaged by bombing. Thus I was invested with full powers in a field which was much closer to the hearts of my opponents, including Bormann himself, than many of the problems concerned with the war. Some of them were already thinking of this reconstruction of the cities as their foremost future task. Hitler’s decree reminded them that I would be standing over them in this.

I wanted this assignment not only as a counter in the power struggle. There was another threat, one springing from the quality of the Gauleiters, which I felt had to be headed off. For they saw the devastation of the cities as an opportunity to tear down historic buildings which to them had little meaning. Instances of this tendency of theirs were all too common. One day, for example, I was sitting on a roof terrace with the Gauleiter of Essen looking out over the ruins after a heavy air raid. He commented casually that now the Cathedral of Essen could be tom down entirely, since the bombing had damaged it anyhow and it was only a hindrance to modernization of the city. The Mayor of Mannheim appealed to me for help to prevent the demolition of the burned-out Mannheim Castle and the National Theater. From Stuttgart, I heard that the burned palace there was also to be tom down at the orders of the local Gauleiter.*

* Hitler found out about such plans too late. Besides, the Gauleiters were able to make it appear that the buildings had been on the point of collapse. Eight months later, on June 26, 1944, I protested to Bormann: “In various cities efforts are under way to tear down buildings of historical and artistic merit that have been damaged in the raids. The argument offered to justify these measures is that the buildings are either about to collapse or cannot be restored. It is also contended that demolition will provide a welcome opportunity for urban renewal. I would be very grateful if you would send a memorandum to all the Gauleiters pointing out that historical monuments, even in ruins, must be preserved at all costs. I must ask you also to inform the Gauleiters that such monuments cannot be tom down until the Fuehrer himself has definitely decided on reconstruction plans for the cities and thus also for these buildings.” Despite the limited means, materials, and workmen available, I also ordered that many damaged monuments be patched up sufficiently to prevent further dilapidation. I tried to put this plan into effect in northern Italy and in France by giving similar instructions to the Todt Organization.

The reasoning in all these cases was the same: Away with castles and churches; after the war we’ll build our own monuments I In part this impulse sprang from the feeling of inferiority toward the past that the party bigwigs had. But there was another element in this feeling, as one of the Gauleiters explained when he was justifying his demolition order to me: Castles and churches of the past were citadels of reaction that stood in the way of our revolution. Remarks of this sort revealed a fanaticism that belonged to the early days of the party, but that had gradually been lost in the compromises and arrangements of a party in power.

I myself placed such importance on the preservation of the historical fabric of the German cities and on a sane policy of reconstruction that even at the climax and turning point of the war, in November and December 1943, I addressed a letter to all Gauleiters in which I recast most of my prewar philosophy: no more pretentious artistic notions, but economy-mindedness; broad-scale transportation planning to save the cities from traffic congestion; mass production of housing, cleaning up the old quarters of the cities, and establishing businesses in the city centers.7 There was no longer any talk of monumental buildings. My enthusiasm for them had faded, and so in all probability had Hitler’s, for he let me describe this new planning concept to him without the least protest.

Early in November 1943, Soviet troops were approaching Nikopol, the center of manganese mining. At this time there occurred a curious incident in which Hitler behaved much as Goering had when he ordered his generals to tell a deliberate lie.

Chief of Staff Zeitzler phoned to tell me that he had just had a violent disagreement with Hitler. He himself was highly agitated. Hitler had insisted, he said, that all available divisions be massed for the defense of Nikopol. Without manganese, Hitler had declared excitedly, the war would be lost in no time. Three months later Speer would have to halt armaments production, for he has no reserve stocks of manganese.8 Zeitzler begged me to help him. Instead of bringing in new troops, he said, the time had come to begin the retreat. This was our only chance to avert another Stalingrad.

After hearing this, I at once sat down with Röchling and Rohland, our steel industry experts, to clarify our situation in regard to manganese. Manganese was, of course, one of the principal constituents of high-strength steels. But it was equally clear after Zeitzler’s telephone call that one way or another the manganese mines in southern Russia were lost to us. What I learned at my conferences was surprisingly favorable. On

November 11, I informed Zeitzler and Hitler by teletype: “Manganese stocks sufficient for eleven to twelve months available in the Reich even if present procedures are maintained. The Reich Steel Association guarantees that in case Nikopol is lost introduction of other metals will enable us to stretch the manganese stocks without additional strain on other alloy materials for eighteen months.”9 I could moreover state that even the loss of neighboring Krivoi Rog—for the holding of which Hitler wanted to wage a great defensive battle—would not seriously affect the continued flow of German steel production.

When I arrived at the Fuehrers headquarters two days later, Hitler snarled at me in a tone he had never used toward me before: “What was the idea of your giving the Chief of Staff your memorandum on the manganese situation?”

I had expected to find him well pleased with me, and managed only to reply, stunned: “But, mein Führer, it’s good news after all!”

Hitler did not accept that. “You are not to give the Chief of Staff any memoranda at all! If you have some information, kindly send it to me. You’ve put me in an intolerable situation. I have just given orders for all available forces to be concentrated for the defense of Nikopol. At last I have a reason to force the army group to fight! And then Zeitzler comes along with your memo. It makes me out a liar! If Nikopol is lost now, it’s your fault. I forbid you once and for all”—his voice rose to a scream at the end—“to address any memos to anybody but myself. Do you understand that? I forbid it!”

Nevertheless, my memorandum had done its work; for soon afterward Hitler stopped insisting on a battle for the manganese mines. But since the Soviet pressure in this area ceased at the same time, Nikopol was not lost until February 18, 1944.

In a second memorandum I gave to Hitler that day, I had drawn up an inventory of our stocks of all alloy metals. By the single sentence, “imports from the Balkans, Turkey, Nikopol, Finland, and northern Norway have not been considered,” I alluded to the possibility that these areas might well be lost to us. The following table sums up the results: Figures given in metric tons.

From this table I drew the following conclusion:

Hence, the element in shortest supply is chromium. This is especially grave since chromium is indispensable to a highly developed armaments industry. Should supplies from Turkey be cut off, the stockpile of chromium is sufficient only for 5.6 months. The manufacture of planes, tanks, motor vehicles, tank shells, U-boats, and almost the entire gamut of artillery would have to cease from one to three months after this deadline, since by then the reserves in the distribution channels would be used up.10

That meant no more or less than that the war would be over approximately ten months after the loss of the Balkans. Hitler listened to my report, whose import was that it would not be Nikopol but the Balkans that would determine the outcome of the war, in total silence. Then he turned away, out of sorts. He addressed my associate Saur, to discuss new tank programs with him.

Until the summer of 1943, Hitler used to telephone me at the beginning of every month to ask for the latest production figures, which he then entered on a prepared sheet. I gave him the figures in the customary order, and Hitler usually received them with exclamations such as: “Very good! Why, that’s wonderful! Really a hundred and ten Tigers? That’s more than you promised. .. . And how many Tigers do you think you’ll manage next month? Every tank is important now. …” He generally concluded these conversations with a brief reference to the situation: “We’ve taken Kharkov today. It’s going well. Well then, nice to talk to you. My regards to your wife. Is she still at Obersalzberg? Well then, my regards again.”

When I thanked him and added the salutation, “Heil, mein Führer!” he sometimes replied, “Heil, Speer.” This greeting was a sign of favor which he only rarely vouchsafed to Goering, Goebbels, and a few other intimates; underlying it was a note of faint irony at the mandatory, “Heil, mein Führer.” At such moments I felt as if a medal had been conferred on me. I did not notice the element of condescension in this familiarity. Although the fascination of the early days and the excitement of being on an intimate footing with Hitler had long since passed, although I no longer enjoyed the unique special position of Hitler’s architect, and although I had become one of many in the apparatus of government, a word from Hitler had lost none of its magical force. To be precise, all the intrigues and struggles for power were directed toward eliciting such a word, or what it stood for. The position of each and every one of us was dependent on his attitude.

The telephone calls gradually ceased. It is difficult to say just when, but from the autumn of 1943 on, at any rate, Hitler fell into the habit of calling Saur to ask for the monthly reports.11 I did not oppose this, since I recognized Hitler’s right to take away what he had given. But since Bormann had particularly good relations with Saur as well as Dorsch—both men were old party members—I gradually began to feel insecure in my own Ministry.

At first I tried to consolidate my position by assigning a representative from industry as a deputy to each of my ten department heads.12 But Dorsch and Saur succeeded in frustrating my intention in their own departments. Since it became ever more apparent that a faction was forming in the Ministry under the leadership of Dorsch, on December 21, 1943, I initiated a kind of “coup d’état,” appointing two old, reliable associates from my days as Hitler’s chief architect as chiefs of the Personnel and Organization Section,13 and placed the previously independent Todt Organization under their direction.

The next day I escaped from the heavy burdens of the year 1943, with its multitudinous personal disappointments and intrigues, by seeking out the remotest and loneliest comer of the world within our sphere of power: northern Lapland. In 1941 and 1942, Hitler had refused to let me travel to Norway, Finland, and Russia because he considered such a journey too dangerous and me too indispensable. But this time he gave his approval with no more ado.

We started at dawn in my new plane, a four-motored Focke-Wulf Condor. It had unusually long range because of its built-in reserve tanks.14 Siegfried Borries, the violinist, and an amateur magician who became famous after the war under the name of Kalanag, accompanied us. My idea was that instead of making speeches, we would provide some Christmas entertainment for the soldiers and Todt Organization workers in the north. Flying low, we looked down at Finland’s chains of lakes, which my wife and I had longed to explore with faltboat and tent. Early in the afternoon, in the last glimmers of dusk in this northern region, we landed near Rovaniemi on a primitive snow-covered runway marked out by kerosene lamps.

The very next day we drove two hundred and seventy-five miles north in an open car until we reached the small Arctic port of Petsamo. The landscape had a certain high-alpine monotony, but the changes of light through all the intervening shades from yellow to red, produced by the sun moving below the horizon, had a fantastic beauty.

In Petsamo we held several Christmas parties for workers, soldiers and officers, and even more on the following evenings in the other barracks. The following night we slept in the personal blockhouse of the commanding general of the Arctic front. From here we visited advanced bases on Fisher Peninsula, our northernmost and the most inhospitable sector of the front, only fifty miles from Murmansk. It was an area of depressing solitude. A sallow, greenish light slanted down through a veil of fog and snow upon a treeless, deathly rigid landscape. Accompanied by General Hengl, we slowly worked our way on skis to the advance strongpoints. At one of these positions a unit demonstrated to me the effect of one of our 15 centimeter infantry howitzers on a Soviet dugout. It was the first “test-firing” with live ammunition I had really witnessed. For when one of the heavy batteries at Cape Griz-Nez was demonstrated to me, the commander said his target was Dover but then explained that in reality he had ordered his men to fire into the water. Here, on the other hand, the gunners scored a direct hit and the wooden beams of the Russian dugout flew into the air. Immediately afterward a lance corporal right beside me collapsed without a sound. A Soviet sharpshooter had hit him in the head through the observation slit. Oddly enough, this was the first time I had been confronted with the reality of the war. I had been acquainted with our infantry howitzers only as technical items to be demonstrated on a shooting range; now I suddenly saw how this instrument, which I had regarded purely theoretically, was used to destroy human beings.

During this inspection tour both our soldiers and officers complained about our lack of light infantry weapons. They particularly missed an effective submachine gun. The soldiers made do with captured Soviet weapons of this type.

Hitler was directly responsible for this situation. The former First World War infantryman still clung to his familiar carbine. In the summer of 1942 he decided against a submachine gun that had already been developed and ruled that the rifle better served the ends of the infantry. One lingering effect of his own experience in the trenches was, as I now saw in practice, that he promoted the heavy weapons and tanks he had then admired, to the neglect of infantry weapons.

Immediately after my return I tried to correct this unbalance. At the beginning of January our infantry program was supported with specific requests from the army General Staff and the Commander in Chief of the reserve army. But Hitler, as his own expert on matters of armaments, waited six months before approving our proposals, only afterward to hector us for any failure to meet our quotas on the deadlines. Within three-quarters of a year we achieved significant increases in this important area. In the case of the submachine gun we actually expanded production twenty-fold—though, to be sure, hardly any of these guns had been produced previously.15 We could have achieved these increases two years earlier without being compelled to use any facilities involved in the production of heavy weapons.

The next day, I had a look at the nickel plant of Kolosjokki, our sole source of nickel and the real destination of this Christmas trip of mine. Its yards were filled with ore that had not been shipped out because our transport facilities were being employed on building a bombproof power plant. I assigned the power plant a lower priority rating and the supply of nickel began to move to our factories at a faster pace.

In a clearing in the heart of the primeval forest, some distance from Lake Inari, Lapp and German woodcutters had gathered around an artfully built wood fire, source of both warmth and illumination, while Siegfried Borries began the evening with the famous chaconne from Bach’s

D-minor Partita. Afterward we took a nocturnal ski tour lasting for several hours to one of the Lapp encampments. Our expected idyllic night in a tent at twenty-two degrees below zero Fahrenheit came to naught, however; for the wind turned and filled our shelter halves with smoke. I fled outside and at three o’clock in the morning bedded down in my reindeer skin sleeping bag. The next morning I felt a darting pain in my knee.

A few days later I was back at Hitler’s headquarters. At Bormann’s instigation he had called a major conference at which, in the presence of the chief ministers, the labor program for 1944 was t0 be drafted and Sauckel was to lodge his complaints against me. On the day before I proposed to Hitler that we hold a prior meeting under the chairmanship of Lammers to discuss those differences which were better thrashed out beforehand. At this, Hitler became distinctly aggressive. He said in an icy voice that he would not put up with such attempts to influence the participants in the conference. He did not want to hear any preconceived opinions; he wanted to make the decisions himself.

After this reprimand I went to Himmler, accompanied by my technical advisers. Field Marshal Keitel was also present at my request.16 I wanted to agree on joint tactics with these men at least, in order to prevent Sauckel from resuming his deportations from the occupied western areas. For Keitel, as superior to all the military commanders, and Himmler, who was responsible for the policing of the occupied territories, feared that such a step would bring about a rise in partisan activities. Both Himmler and Keitel, we agreed, were to declare at the conference that they did not have the necessary personnel for any new roundup of labor by Sauckel and that therefore public order would be imperiled. By this shift I hoped to achieve my aim of finally stopping the deportations. I would then push through intensified employment of the German reserves, especially German women.

But apparently Bormann had prepared Hitler on the problems involved just as I had Himmler and Keitel. Even as Hitler greeted us he showed, by his coldness and rudeness toward all the participants, that he was out of sorts. Seeing such omens, anyone who knew Hitler would be very careful about raising difficult questions. I, too, on such a day, would have left all my most important concerns in my briefcase and would have presented him only with minor problems. But the subject of the conference could no longer be dodged. Irritably, Hitler cut me off: “Herr Speer, I will not have you trying once again to force your ideas on a conference. I am chairing this meeting and I shall decide at the end what is to be done. Not you! Kindly remember that!”

No one ever opposed Hitler in these angry, ill-natured moods. My allies Keitel and Himmler no longer dreamed of saying their pieces, as agreed on. On the contrary, they stoutly assured Hitler that they would do all in their power to support Sauckel’s program. Hitler began to ask the various ministers present about their need for workers in 1944. He carefully wrote down all these figures, added up the sum himself, and turned to Sauckel,17 “Can you, Party Comrade Sauckel, obtain four million workers this year? Yes or no.”

Sauckel puffed out his chest. “Of course, mein Führer. I give you my word on that. But to fill the quota I’ll have to have a free hand again in the occupied territories.”

I made a few objections to the effect that I thought the majority of these millions could be mobilized in Germany itself. Hitler cut me off sharply: “Are you responsible to me for the labor force or is Party Comrade Sauckel?”

In a tone that excluded all contradiction, Hitler now ordered Keitel and Himmler to instruct their organizations to push the program of obtaining workers. Keitel, as always, merely said: “Jawohl, mein Führer!” And Himmler remained mute. The battle seemed already lost. In order to save something out of it, I asked Sauckel whether in spite of his recruitments he could also guarantee the labor supply for the restricted factories. Boastfully, he replied that this would not cause any problems. I then attempted to settle the priorities and to extract some kind of pledge from Sauckel to transport workers to Germany only after the supply for the restricted factories had been guaranteed. Sauckel also consented to this with a wave of his hand. But Hitler promptly intervened: “What more do you want, Herr Speer? Isn’t it enough if Party Comrade Sauckel assures you that? Your mind should be at ease about French industry.”

Further discussion would only have strengthened Sauckel’s position. The conference was over; Hitler became more cordial again and exchanged a few friendly words, even with me. But that was the end of it. Nevertheless, Sauckel’s deportations never got started. That had little to do with my efforts to block him through my French offices and with the collusion of the army authorities.18 Loss of authority in the occupied areas, the spreading rule of the maquis, and the growing reluctance of the German occupation administrators to increase their difficulties, prevented the execution of all these plans.

The outcome of the conference at the Fuehrers headquarters had consequences only for me personally. From Hitler’s treatment of me, it was clear to everyone that I was in disfavor. The victor in the struggle between Sauckel and me had been Bormann. From now on we had to deal with, at first covert, but soon with more and more overt, attacks upon my aides from industry. More and more frequently I had to defend them at the party secretariat against suspicions or even intervene with the secret police to protect them.19

Even the last scintillating assembly of the prominent 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.

After the meal the guests scattered through the spacious rooms of Karinhall. Milch and I had some words about where the money for this ostentation was probably coming from. Milch said that recently Goering’s old friend Loerzer, the famous fighter pilot of the First World War, had sent him a carload of stuff from the Italian black market: women’s stockings, soap, and other rare items. Loerzer had informed Milch that he could have these things sold on the black market. There had even been a price list with the shipment, probably with the intention of keeping black market prices uniform throughout Germany, and the considerable profit that would fall to Milch had already been computed. Instead, Milch had the goods from the car distributed among the employees of his Ministry. Soon afterward I heard that many other carloads had been sold for Goering’s benefit. And a while after that the superintendent of the Reich Air Ministry, Plagemann, who had to carry out these deals for Goering, was removed from Milch’s control and made a direct subordinate of Goering.

I had had my personal experiences with Goering’s birthdays. Ever since I had been entitled to six thousand marks annually as a member of the Prussian Council of State, I had also been receiving every year, just before Goering’s birthday, a letter informing me that a considerable portion of my fee would be withheld for the Council of State’s birthday gift to Goering. I was not even asked for this contribution. When I mentioned this to Milch he told me that a similar procedure was followed with the Air Ministry’s general fund. On every birthday a large sum from this fund was diverted to Goering’s account, whereupon the Reich Marshal himself decided what painting was to be bought with this sum.

Yet we knew that such sources could cover only a small part of Goering’s enormous expenditures. We did not know what men in industry provided the subsidies; but Milch and I now and again had occasion to find out that such sources existed—when Goering telephoned us because some man in our organizations had treated one of his patrons a bit roughly.

My recent experiences and encounters in Lapland had provided the greatest imaginable contrast to the hothouse atmosphere of this corrupt bogus world. Evidently, too, I was more depressed by the uncertainty of my relationship with Hitler than I cared to admit to myself. The nearly two years of continuous tension had been taking their toll. Physically, I was nearly worn out at the age of thirty-eight. The pain in my knee hardly ever left me. I had no reserves of strength. Or were all these symptoms merely an escape?

On January 18, 1944, I was taken to a hospital.

Part Three

23. Illness

Dr. gebhardt, ss group leader and well known as a knee specialist in the European world of sports,*

* Gebhardt had also been consulted about a knee injury by Leopold III of Belgium and by the Belgian industrialist Danny Heinemann. During the Nuremberg Trial, I learned that Gebhardt had performed experiments on prisoners in concentration camps.

ran the Red Cross’s Hohenlychen Hospital. It was situated on a lakeside in wooded country about sixty miles north of Berlin. Without knowing it, I had put myself into the hands of a doctor who was one of Heinrich Himmler’s very few intimate friends. For more than two months I lived in a simply furnished sickroom in the private section of the hospital. My secretaries were quartered in other rooms in the building, and a direct telephone line to my Ministry was set up, for I wanted to keep on working.

Sickness on the part of a minister of the Third Reich involved some special difficulties. Only too often Hitler had explained the elimination of a prominent figure in the government or the party on grounds of ill health. People in political circles therefore pricked up their ears if any of Hitler’s close associates was reported “sick.” Since, however, I was really sick, it seemed advisable to remain as active as possible. Moreover, I could not let go on my apparatus, for like Hitler I had no suitable deputy at my disposal. Though friends and associates did their best to give me the opportunity to rest, the conferences, telephone calls, and dictation conducted from my bed often did not stop before midnight.

My absence unleashed certain elements, as the following incident will illustrate. Almost as soon as I arrived at the hospital, my newly appointed personnel chief, Erwin Bohr, telephoned me, quite excited. There was a locked filing case in his office, he said. Dorsch had ordered this case transported at once to the Todt Organization headquarters. I instantly countermanded this, saying that it was to stay where it was. A few days later representatives of the Berlin Gauleiter’s headquarters appeared, accompanied by several moving men. They had orders, Bohr informed me, to take the filing case with them, for it was party property along with its contents. Bohr no longer knew what to do. I managed to postpone this action by telephoning one of Goebbels’s closest associates, Naumann. The filing case was sealed by the party officials—but the seal was placed only on its door. I then had it opened by unscrewing the back. The next day Bohr came to the hospital with a bundle of photocopied documents. They contained dossiers on a number of my time-honored assistants—adverse reports almost without exception. Most of the men were charged with attitudes hostile to the party; in some cases it was recommended that they be watched by the Gestapo. I also discovered that the party had a liaison man in my Ministry: Xaver Dorsch. The fact surprised me less than the person.

Since the autumn I had been trying to have one of the officials in my Ministry promoted. But the clique which had recently taken shape in the Ministry did not like him. My then personnel chief had resorted to all sorts of evasions, until I finally forced him to nominate my man for promotion. Shortly before my illness I had received a sharp, unfriendly rejection from Bormann. Now we found a draft of that sharp note among the documents in this secret file, composed, as it turned out, by Dorsch and Personnel Chief Haasemann (whom I had replaced by Bohr). Bormann’s text followed it word for word.*

* According to the “Report to the Fuehrer,” No. 5, January 29, 1944, Dorsch was the “Special Department Supervisor of the League of German Officials.” From the letter to the party secretariat: “Birkenholz … displayed uncomradely behavior, arrogance, etc., conduct that cannot be condoned in a high official who ought to stand solidly behind the National Socialist State. In character also he seems unsuitable for promotion to the rank of Ministerialrat. … For these reasons I cannot support the promotion. Moreover, certain internal events in this office militate against it.” The party secretariat had the right to decide on the promotion of all ministerial officials. I wrote to Hitler on January 29, 1944: “The devastating report which without my knowledge was sent as a political evaluation to the party secretariat and to the Gau was jointly composed by Herr Dorsch and the former director of my personnel section, Herr Haasemann. It is thus established that behind my back these two men tried to block an official order of mine. They underhandedly prejudiced the political branches of the Gau and the party secretariat against the proposed candidate by writing a devastating report. In this way they betrayed me as a Minister of the Reich.” Because of its personal nature I had this memo for the Fuehrer sent directly to Hitler’s adjutant corps.

From my sickbed I telephoned Goebbels. As Gauleiter of Berlin he was head of all the party representatives in the Berlin ministries.

Goebbels agreed at once that my old assistant Gerhard Frank was the man for this post in my Ministry. “An impossible state of affairs! Every minister is a party member nowadays. Either we have confidence in him or he must go!” Goebbels said. But I could not find out who the Gestapo’s agents in my Ministry were.

The effort to maintain my position during my illness proved almost too much for me. I had to ask Bormann’s state secretary, Gerhard Klopfer, to instruct the party functionaries to stay within their bounds. Above all I asked him to look out for the industrialists working for me and to see that no obstacles were placed in their way. For I had no sooner fallen sick than the district [Gau] economic adviser of the party had begun making inroads into my system. I asked Funk and his assistant Otto Ohlendorf, whom he had borrowed from Himmler, to take a more affirmative attitude toward my principle of industrial self-responsibility and to back me against Bormann’s district economic advisers.

Sauckel, too, had already taken advantage of my absence to “make a general appeal to the men involved in armaments for an ultimate commitment.” Faced with these effronteries from all sides, I turned to Hitler to tell him of my woes and ask his help. My letters—twenty-three typewritten pages that took me four days—were a sign of the funk I was in. I protested against Sauckel’s arrogation of power and against the thrusts of Bormann’s district economic advisers, and I asked Hitler for a statement of my unconditional authority in all questions that fell within my jurisdiction. Basically, I was asking for the very thing I had unsuccessfully demanded in such drastic language at the conference in Posen, to the indignation of the Gauleiters. I further wrote that our total production could be carried out rationally only if the “many offices which give directions, criticism, and advice to the plant managements” were concentrated in my hands.1

Four days later I appealed to Hitler again, with a candor that really was no longer in keeping with our present relationship. I informed him about the camarilla in my Ministry which was undermining my program. I said there was treachery afoot; that a certain small clique of Todt’s former assistants, led by Dorsch, had broken faith with me. I therefore considered myself forced, I wrote, to replace Dorsch by a man who had my confidence.2

This last letter, with its news that I was dismissing one of Hitler’s favorites without asking him beforehand, was particularly imprudent.

For I was violating one of the rules of the regime: that personnel matters must be broached to Hitler at the right moment and by skillful insinuation. Instead, I had bluntly come at him with charges of disloyalty and questionable character in one of his men. That I also sent Bormann a copy of my letter was either foolish or challenging. In doing this I was running counter to all I knew about the nature of Hitler’s intriguing entourage. I was probably acting out of a certain attitude of defiance, forced upon me by my isolated position.

My illness had removed me too far from the true focus of power: Hitler. He reacted neither negatively nor positively to all my suggestions, demands, and complaints. I was addressing the empty air; he sent me no answer. I was no longer counted as Hitler’s favorite minister and one of his possible successors—a few whispered words by Bormann and a few weeks of illness had put me out of the running. This was partly due to Hitler’s peculiarity, often noted by everyone around him, of simply writing off anyone who vanished from his sight for a considerable time. If the person in question reappeared in his entourage after a while, the picture might or might not change. It disillusioned me and snapped some of my ties of personal feeling toward Hitler. But most of the time I was neither angry nor in despair over my new situation. Physically weakened as I was, I felt only weariness and resignation.

In roundabout ways I finally heard that Hitler was unwilling to part with Dorsch, his party comrade of the twenties. During these weeks he therefore rather ostentatiously honored Dorsch by making time for confidential talks with him and thus strengthening Dorsch’s position vis-à-vis me. Goering, Bormann, and Himmler understood how the center of gravity had shifted and took this occasion to destroy my position completely. Undoubtedly each of them was working for himself, each from different motives, and probably each without communicating with the others. But any chance for getting rid of Dorsch was scuttled.

For twenty days I lay on my back, my leg immovable in a plaster cast, and had plenty of time to brood over my resentment and disappointments. A few hours after I was allowed to stand again, I felt violent pains in my back and chest. The blood in my sputum suggested a pulmonary embolism. But Professor Gebhardt diagnosed muscular rheumatism and massaged my chest with bee venom (forapin), then prescribed sulfanilimide, quinine, and various pain killers.3 Two days later I suffered a second violent attack. My condition seemed critical, but Gebhardt continued to insist on muscular rheumatism.

At this point my wife went to Dr. Brandt, who immediately sent Dr. Friedrich Koch, internist at Berlin University and one of Sauerbruch’s assistants, to Hohenlychen. Brandt, who was not only Hitler’s personal physician but also the commissioner for public health, explicitly charged Professor Koch with sole responsibility for my treatment and forbade

Dr. Gebhardt to issue any medical orders in my case. On Brandt’s instructions Dr. Koch was assigned a room near mine and was to stay at my side day and night for the time being.*

* On February 11, 1944, Dr. Gebhardt tried to force Dr. Koch out of the case by writing to Hitler’s personal physician, Brandt’s rival, Dr. Morell. He invited Morell for a consultation as an internist. Morell could not be spared from his other duties, but he had the case described to him by telephone and, sight unseen, prescribed vitamin K injections to stop me from spitting blood. Dr. Koch rejected this suggestion and a few weeks later described Morell as a total incompetent.

For three days my condition remained, as Koch stated in his report, “distinctly critical: extreme respiratory difficulty, intense blue coloration, considerable acceleration of the pulse, high temperatures, painful cough, muscular pain, and bloody sputum. The development of the symptoms could be interpreted only as the result of an embolism.”

The doctors prepared my wife for the worst. But in contrast to this pessimism, I myself was feeling a remarkable euphoria. The little room expanded into a magnificent hall. A plain wardrobe I had been staring at for three weeks turned into a richly carved display piece, inlaid with rare woods. Hovering between living and dying, I had a sense of wellbeing such as I had only rarely experienced.

When I had recovered somewhat, my friend Robert Frank told me about a confidential talk he had had one night with Dr. Koch. What he related sounded somewhat sinister: During my critical state Gebhardt kept recommending a small operation which in Koch’s view would have been far too perilous. When Koch at first refused to see the need for the operation and then flatly forbade it, Gebhardt had clumsily backed out of the whole thing, alleging that he had only wanted to test his opinion.

Frank begged me to keep the matter confidential, since Dr. Koch was afraid he would vanish into a concentration camp and my informant would certainly have trouble with the Gestapo. And in fact the story had to be suppressed, since I could scarcely have gone to Hitler with it. His reaction was predictable: In an access of rage he would have called the whole thing absolutely impossible, would have pressed that special button of his summoning Bormann, and would have ordered the arrest of these slanderers of Himmler.

At the time this affair did not strike me as quite so much like a cheap spy novel as it may sound today. Even in party circles Himmler had a reputation for ruthless, icy consistency. No one dared quarrel with him seriously. Moreover, the opportunity was made to order: The slightest complication of my illness would have carried me off, so that there would have been no grounds for any suspicion. The episode has its place in a chapter on the struggles for the succession. My position was, it indicated plainly, still powerful, although already so imperiled that further intrigues could be expected.

When we were together in Spandau prison, Funk told me the details of an incident which he had only dared hint at in 1944. Sometime in the autumn of 1943 the staff of Sepp Dietrich’s SS army had held a drinking bout. Dr. Gebhardt was among the guests. Funk himself had heard about it through his friend and former adjutant Horst Walter, who at the time was Dietrich’s adjutant. It seemed that Gebhardt had remarked to this circle of SS leaders that in Himmler’s opinion Speer was dangerous; he would have to disappear.

My uneasiness in this hospital was mounting, and I wanted desperately to be out of it, though the state of my health was still far from encouraging. Rather precipitately, on February 19, I set my people to finding a new place to convalesce. Gebhardt tried to dissuade me with all sorts of medical reasons, and even after I got up again at the beginning of March he tried to prevent my departure. Ten days later, however, when a nearby hospital was struck in the course of a heavy attack by the American Eighth Air Force, Gebhardt became convinced that I was the target. Overnight he changed his mind about my ability to be moved, and on March 17 I was at last able to leave this oppressive place.

Shortly before the end of the war I asked Dr. Koch what had really gone on at the time. But he would only tell me what I already knew, that he had had an angry dispute with Gebhardt over my case, in the course of which Gebhardt had remarked that it was Koch’s business to be not only a physician but a “political physician.” The one thing that was really clear, Koch said, was that Gebhardt had done his utmost to keep me in his hospital as long as possible.4

On February 23, 1944, Milch visited me in my sickroom. He informed me that the American Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces were concentrating their bombing on the German aircraft industry, with the result that our aircraft production would be reduced to a third of what it had been, at least for the month to come. Milch brought with him a proposal in writing: Inasmuch as the Ruhr Staff had successfully dealt with the bomb damage in the Ruhr area, we needed a “Fighter Aircraft Staff” which would pool the talents of the two ministries (Air Ministry and Ministry of Armaments) in order to overcome the crisis in aircraft production.

With things as they were, it would have been prudent of me to stave off such proposals. But I wanted to leave nothing untried which would help the hard-pressed Luftwaffe and therefore consented. Both of us, Milch and I, fully realized that this Fighter Aircraft Staff represented the first step toward incorporation into my Ministry of Armaments production for the one branch of the services whose armaments work I had not yet taken over.

From my bed I telephoned Goering, who for his part refused to enter into such a partnership. As he saw it, I would be interfering in his domain. I did not accept this veto. Instead, I telephoned Hitler, who thought the idea good, but he turned cool and negative as soon as I said we had been thinking of Gauleiter Hanke to head the new staff. “I made a great mistake when I appointed Sauckel to take charge of labor assignment,” Hitler answered on the telephone. “As a Gauleiter he should be in a position to make irrevocable decisions, and instead he is always having to negotiate and make compromises. Never again will I let a Gauleiter become involved in such tasks!” As he spoke Hitler had grown steadily angrier. “The example of Sauckel has had the effect of diminishing the authority of all the Gauleiters. Saur is going to take over this job!” After this Hitler abruptly ended the conversation. For the second time in a short while he had overruled me on an appointment. I had also noticed how cold and unfriendly Hitler’s voice had been throughout the latter part of our telephone conversation. Perhaps some other matter had put him in an ill humor. But since Milch also favored Saur, whose power had grown during my illness, I accepted Hitler’s order without more ado.

From years of experience I knew the distinctions Hitler made when his adjutant Schaub reminded him of the birthday or illness of one of his numerous associates. A curt “flowers and letter” meant a letter with a fixed text which was presented to him only for signature. The choice of flowers was left to the adjutant. It counted as an honor if Hitler added a few words in his own hand to the letter. If he were particularly concerned, however, he would have Schaub hand him the card and a pen and would write a few lines. Sometimes he even specified what flowers were to be sent. In the past I had belonged among those who were most conspicuously honored, along with movie stars and singers. Therefore, when shortly after the crisis of my illness I received a bowl of flowers with a standard typewritten note, I realized that I had been dropped to the lowest rung in the hierarchy, even though I had meanwhile become one of the most important members of his government. As a sick man I undoubtedly reacted more sensitively than was necessary. For Hitler also telephoned me two or three times to ask about my health. But he blamed me for having brought about my own illness. “Why did you have to go skiing up there! I’ve always said it’s madness. With those long boards on your feet! Throw the sticks into the fire!” he would add every time in a clumsy attempt to conclude the conversation with a joke.

Dr. Koch did not think I should expose my lung to the strain of Obersalzberg’s mountain air. In the park of Klessheim Palace, Hitler’s guest house near Salzburg, the prince-bishops of Salzburg had commissioned the great baroque architect Fischer von Erlach to build a charmingly curved pavilion now called the Cloverleaf Palace. On March 18 the renovated building was assigned to me for my convalescence. At the same time Admiral Horthy, the Regent of Hungary, was engaged in negotiations in the main palace which led to Hitler’s last bloodless march into a foreign country, Hungary. On the evening of my arrival Hitler paid a visit to me during a pause in the negotiations.

Seeing him again after an interval of ten weeks, I was for the first time in all the years I had known him struck by his overly broad nose and sallow color. I realized that his whole face was repulsive—the first sign that I was beginning to attain some perspective and see him with unbiased eyes. For almost a quarter of a year I had not been exposed to his personal influence but instead to his insults and reprimands. After years of frenzy and fever I had for the first time begun to think about the course I was pursuing at his side. Previously, he only needed to say a few words or to make a gesture in order to banish my states of exhaustion and release extraordinary energies in me; now, I felt—in spite of this reunion and in spite of Hitler’s cordiality—just as weary and done in as I had before. All I wanted, all I was longing for, was to go to Meran with my wife and children as soon as possible; I wanted to spend many weeks there, to recover my strength. But I did not really know what I wanted my strength for, because I no longer had a goal.

Nevertheless, my self-assertiveness stirred again when I was forced to realize, during those five days in Klessheim, that my enemies were using lies and intrigues to eliminate me once and for all. The day after Hitler’s visit Goering telephoned to congratulate me on my birthday. When I took occasion, overstating somewhat, to give him a favorable report on my health, he answered me in a cheerful rather than regretful tone: “But come now, what you’re saying isn’t true at all. Dr. Gebhardt told me yesterday that you’re suffering from serious heart disease. Without any prospects for improvement, let me tell you! Maybe you don’t know that yet!” With many words of praise for my previous achievements, Goering went on to hint at my impending demise. I told him that X-rays and electrocardiograms had found nothing wrong with me.*

* Dorsch also told Zeitzler: “Speer is incurably ill and will therefore not be coming back.” (Jotting by Zeitzler, May 17, 1944.) Afterward, Zeitzler informed me of this as an interesting sidelight on all the intrigues. According to Dr. Koch’s “Supplementary Report,” May 14, 1944: “On May 5, X-ray and electrocardiographic examinations were undertaken. All three sections of the latter revealed no pathological conditions. The X-ray showed a completely normal heart.”

Goering replied that I had obviously been misinformed and simply refused to accept my account. But it was Gebhardt who had misinformed Goering.

Hitler too, visibly downcast, told his cronies when my wife happened to be within hearing: “Speer won’t be recovering!” He too had spoken to Gebhardt, who had pronounced me a wreck incapable of further work.

Perhaps Hitler was thinking of our joint architectural dreams which I now would be prevented from carrying out by an incurable cardiac defect; perhaps he was also thinking of the early death of his first architect,

Professor Troost. At any rate, that same day he dropped in on me at Klessheim with a surprise—a wreath of flowers so gigantic that his orderly could barely stagger in with it—a gesture really unusual for him. But a few hours after Hitler’s departure Himmler called and officially informed me that Hitler had ordered Dr. Gebhardt to take over the responsibility for my safety in his capacity as an SS group leader and for my health as a physician. Thus Dr. Koch was excluded from my case. Instead I was now attended by an SS escort squad, which Gebhardt assigned to protect me.5

On March 23, Hitler came once again to pay a farewell visit, as if he sensed the estrangement which had taken place within me during my illness. And, in spite of his repeated evidences of the old cordiality, my feelings toward Hitler had altered by a distinctly perceptible nuance. I was lastingly stung by the fact that he recalled my former closeness to him only because he was now seeing me again, whereas my achievements as an architect and as a minister had not been important enough to bridge a separation of several weeks. Naturally, I understood that a man as overburdened as Hitler, working under the most extreme pressure, could be excused for neglecting those of his associates who were temporarily out of his sight. But his general conduct during the past weeks had demonstrated to me how little I really counted for in the group that formed his entourage and also how little he was prepared to accept reason and objective facts as the basis for his decisions. Perhaps because he sensed my coolness, perhaps also in order to console me, he said gloomily that his health too was in a bad way. In fact there were strong indications that he would soon be losing his eyesight. He had nothing to say to my remark that Dr. Brandt would inform him of the sound condition of my heart.

Castle Goyen was situated on a height of land above Meran. Here I spent the six loveliest weeks of my time as Minister of Armaments, the only weeks I had with my family. Dr. Gebhardt had taken up quarters in a distant part of the valley and scarcely made use of his right to regulate my appointments.

During these weeks I was staying in Meran, Goering, without asking me or even informing me, took my two assistants Dorsch and Saur to several conferences with Hitler. For Goering this was an altogether unusual outburst of activity. Evidently he felt this was his chance to establish himself once more as the second man after Hitler, after his many setbacks in the past few years. He was using my two assistants, who were not dangerous to him, to strengthen himself at my expense. Furthermore, he spread the word that my departure from office could be expected, and during these weeks he asked Gauleiter Eigruber of the Upper Danube District what the party thought of General Manager Meindl. Goering, who was friendly with Meindl, explained that he was thinking of mentioning Meindl to Hitler as a possible successor to me.6 Ley, already a Reichsleiter saddled with many official duties, likewise put in his claim. If Speer were going, he volunteered, then he would take on this work as well; he’d manage somehow!

Meanwhile Bormann and Himmler were trying to undermine Hitler’s confidence in the rest of my department heads by making grave accusations against them. By roundabout ways—Hitler did not think it necessary to inform me—I heard that he was so annoyed with three of them—Liebel, Waeger, and Schieber—that they were as good as ousted. All it had taken was a few weeks for Hitler to forget what had seemed to be a renewal of our intimacy at Klessheim. Aside from Fromm, Zeitzler, Guderian, Milch, and Doenitz, only Minister of Economics Funk remained among the small group of top people who had shown some friendliness toward me during my weeks of illness.

For months Hitler had been demanding that industry be transferred to caves and huge shelters so that production would continue despite the bombing. I had always answered that bombers could not be combated with concrete; it would have taken many years of work before our plants could be placed underground or behind massive concrete. Moreover, we were lucky in that the enemy’s attacks on armaments production resembled strikes at the wide delta of a river which flowed into many subsidiary channels. If we started protecting this delta, we could only force him to attack where the industrial stream was concentrated in a deep narrow stream bed, I argued. In saying this I was thinking of the chemical industry, coal mines, power plants, and other of my nightmares. There is no doubt that at this time, in the spring of 1944, England and America could have completely shut off one of these production streams and thus made a mockery of all of our other efforts to protect industry.

On April 14, Goering seized the initiative and summoned Dorsch. The huge shelters Hitler was demanding could only be constructed by the Todt Organization, so far as he could see, he said significantly. Dorsch pointed out that the Todt Organization was specifically confined to the occupied territories; it had no right to operate within the territory of the Reich. Still, he did have on hand a design for the kind of shelter wanted, although it had been projected for construction in France.

That same evening Dorsch was summoned to Hitler. “You alone will be authorized to carry out the building of such major structures inside the Reich as well as outside,” Hitler said to him. By the next day Dorsch was able to propose several suitable locations and to explain the administrative and technical requirements for erecting the six planned underground industrial sites, each with an area of over one million square feet. The structures would be finished in November 1944, Dorsch promised.7

In one of his dreaded impulsive decrees Hitler made Dorsch his direct subordinate and gave the big shelters so high a priority that all other construction projects would have to yield to them. Nevertheless it was fairly easy to predict that these six gigantic underground shelters would not be ready in the promised six months, in fact, that they could no longer even be started. It was not at all difficult to recognize the right course when the wrong one was so wrong.

Before this, Hitler had not thought it necessary to tell me anything about these measures which cut so sharply into my powers. My injured self-esteem, the sense of having been personally offended, was certainly operative on April 19 when I wrote him a letter frankly questioning these decisions. This was the first of a long series of letters and memoranda in which, frequently concealed behind disagreements on matters of fact, I began to show some independence. It had taken long to evolve, after years of subjugation to Hitler’s suggestive powers, and my insights were still murky. Nevertheless I spoke out rather clearly on the matter at hand. To begin such major building projects now, I told Hitler, was sheer delusion, for “there is already difficulty enough in meeting the minimal requirements for sheltering German industrial workers and the foreign labor force and in simultaneously restoring our armaments factories. Any plans for launching construction for the long run have had to be shelved. What is more, I must constantly stop work on armaments plants already under construction in order to provide the basic necessities for maintaining German armaments production during the months immediately to come.”

Along with arguments of this sort, I also reproached Hitler for having acted behind my back. “I have always, even in the days when I was your architect, followed the rule of letting my assistants work independently. I grant that this principle has often brought me severe disappointments, for not everyone is worthy of such trust, and some men, after having acquired sufficient prestige, have been disloyal to me.” Hitler would not find it difficult to gather from this sentence that I was referring to Dorsch. My tone became definitely chiding as I continued: “But be this as it may, I will go on following this principle with iron consistency. In my view it is the only one that permits a man to govern and create. The higher the position, the more true this is.”

Construction and armaments, I pointed out, were at the present stage an indivisible whole. It would be well for Dorsch to remain in charge of construction work in the occupied territories, but in Germany itself we needed a separate director for these operations. I proposed one of Todt’s former assistants, Willi Henne, for the job. Both men would have more than enough to do. They could administer their separate tasks under the direction of a loyal associate, Walter Brugmann.8

Hitler rejected this proposal. Five weeks later, on May 26, 1944, Brugmann was killed like my predecessor Todt in an unexplained plane crash.

The letter was handed to Hitler on the eve of his birthday by my old assistant Gerhard Frank. I ended it with an offer to resign if my views were unacceptable to Hitler. As I learned from the best possible source in this case, Hitler’s chief secretary Johanna Wolf, Hitler displayed extraordinary annoyance at my letter. Among other things he spluttered: “Even Speer has to find out that there is such a thing as politics.”

He had had a similar reaction six weeks before when I called off the building of Berlin bunkers for prominent members of the regime in order to take care of severe damage from an air raid. Evidently, he had gained the impression that I was becoming headstrong. Or, at any rate, this is what he accused me of. In the affair of bunkers, he had Bormann inform me very sharply, without consideration for my illness, that “the commands of the Fuehrer are to be carried out by every German; they cannot be ignored or postponed or delayed at will.” At the same time Hitler threatened “to have the Gestapo instantly arrest the responsible official for acting contrary to an order from the Fuehrer and taken to a concentration camp.”9

No sooner had I learned of Hitler’s reaction to my letter—again by roundabout ways—than Goering telephoned me from Obersalzberg. He had heard about my intention to resign, he said, but must inform me from the very highest source that the Fuehrer alone could dictate when a minister might depart from his service.

Our conversation went angrily back and forth for half an hour until we agreed on a compromise action: “Instead of resigning I shall prolong my illness and silently disappear as a minister.”

Goering was in hearty agreement: “Yes, that’s the solution. That’s the way we can do it. The Fuehrer will surely accept that.”

In unpleasant situations Hitler always tried to avoid confrontations. He did not dare send for me and tell me to my face that after all that had happened he would have to draw the necessary conclusions and request me to leave my post. Out of similar pusillanimity, a year later, when we had reached an open break, he again did not attempt to force my resignation. But in retrospect I must admit that it was certainly possible to make Hitler so angry that dismissal would inevitably result. In other words, those who remained members of his entourage did so voluntarily.

Whatever my motives may have been at the time, in any case, I liked the idea of resigning. For I could see omens of the war’s end almost every day in the blue southern sky when, flying provocatively low, the bombers of the American Fifteenth Air Force crossed the Alps from their Italian bases to attack German industrial targets. Not a German fighter plane anywhere in sight; no antiaircraft fire. This scene of total defenselessness produced a greater impression upon me than any reports. Although we had so far succeeded time and again in replacing the weapons lost in our retreats, that would soon have to stop, I thought pessimistically, in the face of this air offensive. How tempting to follow the line suggested by Goering and, given the inexorably approaching disaster, not stand in a responsible position, but quietly disappear. But it did not occur to me to resign my post in order to put an end to my contribution and thus hasten the end of Hitler and his regime. In spite of all our dissensions that thought did not come to me then and in a similar situation probably would not come to me today.

My escapist notions were interrupted on April 20 by a visit from one of my closest associates, Walter Rohland. For in the meantime word had seeped through to industry about my intention to resign, and Rohland had come to plead with me. “You have no right to put industry, which has followed you loyally to this day, at the mercy of those who will come after you. We can well imagine what they will be like! For us, the thing that matters from now on is what can we hang on to which will carry us through the period after a lost war. To help us with that, you have to stay at your post!”

So far as I recollect, this was the first time that the specter of “scorched earth” loomed before me. For Rohland went on to speak of the fear that a desperate top leadership might order wholesale destruction. Then and there, on that day, I felt something stirring within me that was quite apart from Hitler: a sense of responsibility toward the country and the people to save as much as possible of our industrial potential, so that the nation could survive the period after a lost war. But for the present it was still a vague and shadowy sense.

Only a few hours later, toward one o’clock at night, Field Marshal Milch, Karl Saur, and Dr. Frank called on me. They had been traveling since the late afternoon and had come directly from Obersalzberg. Milch had brought me a verbal message from Hitler: He wanted to tell me how highly he esteemed me and how unchanged his relationship to me was. It sounded almost like a declaration of love. But, as I heard from Milch twenty-three years later, the statement had been more or less extorted from Hitler by Milch himself.

Only a few weeks earlier I would have been touched and flooded with happiness to have received such a distinction. Now, however, my response to the declaration was: “No, I’m sick of it. I want nothing more to do with it all.”*

* Field Marshal Milch maintains today that I used the famous rough quotation from Goethe’s Götz von Berlichingen, “Kiss my——.”

Milch, Saur, and Frank argued with me. I fended them off for a long time. Hitler’s conduct seemed to me foolish and unaccountable, but after all I did not want to abandon my ministerial post now that Rohland had pointed out where my new responsibility lay. After hours of argument I yielded on condition that Dorsch would be placed under me again and the previous order of command restored. On the question of the giant shelters, however, I was now prepared to give in, feeling that it no longer mattered.

The very next day Hitler signed a directive as I had drafted it that night: Dorsch would now build the shelters under my authority, though with the highest priority rating.10

Three days later, however, I realized that I had been hurried into an untenable arrangement. There was nothing to do but write to Hitler again. The program, as it now stood, was bound to cast me in an altogether ungrateful role. For if I supported Dorsch in building those underground hangars by supplying him with materials and labor, I would be forever in difficulties with other enterprises whose needs I could not meet. If I stinted Dorsch, on the other hand, I would be involved in everlasting complaints and endless “covering letters.” It would therefore be more consistent, I told Hitler, if Dorsch should also assume responsibility for the other construction projects which competed with the building of the underground hangars. Under present circumstances, I concluded, the best solution might be to divorce the entire construction area from armaments and war production. My new proposal was that Dorsch be appointed Inspector General for Building and made Hitler’s direct subordinate. Any other arrangement, I said, would be complicated by the difficulties in my personal relationship with Dorsch.

At this point I broke off my letter, for in the course of it I began to feel that this was something which had to be threshed out with Hitler personally. I wanted to fly to Obersalzberg. But obstacles arose. Dr. Gebhardt reminded me that he was there to supervise my health and safety and would not permit me to leave. On the other hand Dr. Koch had already told me a few days before that I need have no worry about flying.*

* I had privately invited Dr. Koch to Meran. Gebhardt complained to Brandt that Koch was persona non grata; he would see and hear too many things that were supposed to be kept secret. Koch then left Meran on April 20. In his affidavit Koch wrote: “I had a second clash with Gebhardt when Speer was already in Meran. At that time Speer asked me whether I considered him well enough to fly to Obersalzberg—probably to see Hitler. I approved the trip, with the proviso that the airplane not fly above sixty to sixty-five hundred feet. When Gebhardt heard of my decision he made a scene. He again accused me of not being a political doctor.’ Here, as in Hohenlychen, I had the impression that Gebhardt wanted to keep Speer in his clutches.”

Gebhardt finally telephoned Himmler, who agreed to my flying provided that I saw him first, before my conference with Hitler.

Himmler spoke frankly, which in such cases is always preferable. It seemed that conferences had already been held on the matter, with Goering present, and the decision already sealed that a separate agency should be set up for construction, to be headed by Dorsch and to be quite independent of the Armaments Ministry. Himmler wanted to ask me to make no more difficulties. Everything he said was a piece of effrontery; but since I had already come to the same conclusion, the conversation went off pleasantly enough.

No sooner had I arrived in my house at Obersalzberg than Hitler’s adjutant invited me to join the circle at teatime. But I wanted to talk with Hitler on an official plane. The intimate teatime atmosphere would undoubtedly have smoothed over the ill feeling which had been accumulating between us, but that was exactly what I wished to avoid. I therefore refused the invitation. Hitler understood this unusual gesture, and shortly afterward I was given an appointment to see him at the Berghof.

Hitler had donned his uniform cap and, gloves in hand, posted himself officially at the entrance to the Berghof. He conducted me into his salon like a formal guest. All this made a strong impression on me, because I had no idea what the psychological purpose of this little scene was. From this point on there began, on my part, a period of an extremely schizoid relationship to Hitler. On the one hand he conferred distinctions upon me, gave me all sorts of signs of special favor which could not fail to affect me; on the other hand I was slowly growing aware that his actions were proving more and more dire for the German nation. And although the old magic still had its potency, although Hitler continued to prove his instinct for handling people, it became increasingly hard for me to remain unconditionally loyal to him.

The fronts were curiously reversed not only during this cordial welcome but also in our subsequent conversation: It was he who was courting me. For instance, he would not hear of construction’s being removed from my jurisdiction and turned over to Dorsch. “I am determined not to separate these fields. You know I have nobody I can turn building over to. Such a misfortune that Dr. Todt was killed. You know what building means to me, Herr Speer. Please understand! I will approve sight unseen all the measures you think necessary for the construction area.”11

In saying this Hitler was flatly reversing himself, for as I knew from Himmler, he had decided only a few days before that Dorsch would be entrusted with this work. As so often, he brushed aside the view he had only recently expressed and ignored Dorsch’s feelings as well. This inconsistency was still another proof of his profound contempt for people. Moreover, I had to take into consideration the possibility that this new change of mind would not last. Therefore, I replied that this was something which had to be settled on a long-term basis. “It will put me in an impossible position if this matter comes up for discussion again.”

Hitler promised to remain firm: “My decision is final. I will no longer consider changing it.” He even went on to make little of the charges against my three department heads who had been, I knew, already slated for dismissal.*

* Hitler hinted that Himmler suspected Schieber, my department head, of planning to flee Germany, that Mayor Liebel had political enemies, and that General Waeger was considered unreliable.

When we had finished our conversation, Hitler led me to the cloakroom again, took his hat and gloves, and prepared to accompany me to the door. This seemed to me a little too much officiality, and in the informal tone of his intimate circle I said that I had made an appointment upstairs with Below, his air force adjutant. That evening I sat in the group at the fireplace as in the past, with him, Eva Braun, and his court. The conversation trickled along dully; Bormann proposed that records be played. A Wagner aria was put on, and soon afterward Die Fledermaus.

After the ups and downs, the tensions and agonies of the recent past, I felt cheerful that evening. All the woes and causes of conflicts seemed cleared away. The uncertainty of the past weeks had deeply depressed me. I could not work without friendliness and appreciation. I felt I had come out victorious in a power struggle with Goering, Himmler, and Bormann. They were no doubt grinding their teeth now, for they must surely have thought they had finished me off. Perhaps—I was already speculating—Hitler had just realized what sort of game was being played and recognized who had misled him and whom he could really trust.

When I analyzed the complex of motives which so surprisingly led me back to this intimate circle, I realized that the desire to retain the position of power I had achieved was unquestionably a major factor. Even though I was only shining in the reflected light of Hitler’s power—and I don t think I ever deceived myself on that score—I still found it worth striving for. I wanted, as part of his following, to gather some of his popularity, his glory, his greatness, around myself. Up to 1942, I still felt that my vocation as an architect allowed me a measure of pride that was independent of Hitler. But since then I had been bribed and intoxicated by the desire to wield pure power, to assign people to this and that, to say the final word on important questions, to deal with expenditures in the billions. I thought I was prepared to resign, but I would have sorely missed the heady stimulus that comes with leadership. The deep misgivings I had been having lately were, moreover, put to rout by the appeal from the industrialists, as well as by Hitler’s magnetic power, which he could still radiate with virtually undiminished force. To be sure, our relationship had developed a crack; my loyalty had become shaky, and I sensed that it would never again be what it had been. But for the present I was back in Hitler’s circle—and content.

Two days later I went to see Hitler again, accompanied by Dorsch, to present him as the newly appointed head of my construction sector. Hitler treated this occasion as I had expected: “I leave it entirely to you, my dear Speer, what arrangements you wish to make in your Ministry. Whom you assign is your affair. Of course I agree about Dorsch, but the responsibility for construction remains entirely yours.”12

It looked like victory; but I had learned that victories did not count for much. Tomorrow the whole picture might be changed.

I informed Goering of the new situation with deliberate coolness. I had actually gone over his head when I decided to appoint Dorsch my representative in construction matters within the Four-Year Plan because, as I wrote with a note of sarcasm, “I assumed you would unquestionably be fully in accord.” Goering replied curtly and rather angrily: “Very much in accord with everything. Have already placed entire construction apparatus of the air force under Dorsch.”13

Himmler showed no reaction; in such cases he could be as slippery as a fish. In the case of Bormann, however, the wind began visibly turning in my favor for the first time in two years. For he instantly realized that I had carried off a considerable coup and that all the deep-dyed plots of the past several months had failed. He was neither man enough nor powerful enough to cultivate his grudge against me in the face of such a reversal. Visibly pained by my conspicuous manner of ignoring him, he assured me at the first opportunity—on one of the group walks to the teahouse—with excessive cordiality that he had not had any part in the grand intrigue against me. Perhaps it was true, although I found it hard to believe him; and at any rate in so saying he was admitting that there had been a grand intrigue.

Soon afterward he invited Lammers and me to his home at Obersalzberg. I was at once struck by its lack of any personal character. Abruptly and rather importunately, he insisted on our drinking, and after midnight he offered to exchange the familiar Du of intimacy with Lammers and me. The very next day, however, I pretended that this attempt at rapprochement had never happened, while Lammers made a point of using the familiar form of address. That did not keep Bormann from ruthlessly driving Lammers into a comer shortly afterward, while he accepted my snub without any reaction, or rather with increasing cordiality—at any rate as long as Hitler was obviously well disposed toward me.

In the middle of May 1944, during a visit to the Hamburg shipyards, Gauleiter Kaufmann confidentially informed me that even after half a year the resentment over my speech to the Gauleiters had not yet subsided. Almost all the Gauleiters disliked me, he said; and Bormann was encouraging this attitude. Kaufmann warned me of the danger that threatened me from this side.

I thought this hint important enough to mention it to Hitler in the course of my next conversation with him. He had again conferred a distinction upon me by a little gesture, inviting me for the first time up to his wood-paneled study on the second floor of the Berghof, where he generally held only extremely personal and intimate discussions. In his private tone, almost like an intimate friend, he advised me to avoid doing anything that would arouse the Gauleiters against me. I should never underestimate their power, he said, for that would complicate things for me in the future. He was well aware of their shortcomings, he said; many were simple-hearted swashbucklers, rather rough, but loyal. I had to take them as they were. Hitler’s whole tone suggested that he was not going to let Bormann influence him in his attitude toward me. “I certainly have received complaints, but the matter is settled as far as I am concerned,” he said. Thus this part of Bormann’s offensive had also failed.

Hitler, too, had probably become entangled in contradictory feelings. For he now informed me, as if asking me not to take it amiss, of his intention to confer the Reich’s highest distinction upon Himmler. For the Reichsführer-SS deserved it for some very special services, he added almost apologetically.*

* The decoration in question was the Teutonic Order, whose holders were supposed to form a confraternity. Hitler never carried out his plan; Himmler was not given the decoration, which had previously been awarded only posthumously. The decoration for which I had expressed my preference was the National Prize. It was thickly encrusted with diamonds and so heavy that the wearer had to have a pendant inside his dinner jacket to carry the weight.

I replied good-humoredly that I would wait until after the war when I hoped to receive the no less valuable decoration for art and science for my achievements as an architect. Nevertheless, Hitler seemed to have been worried about how I would react to this show of favor for Himmler.

What was really bothering me on that day was that Bormann might show Hitler an article from the British newspaper The Observer (of April 9, 1944) in which I was described as a foreign body in the party-doctrinaire works. I could easily imagine him doing so, and even the caustic remarks he would make. In order to anticipate Bormann, I myself handed Hitler the translation of this article, commenting jokingly on it as I did so. With considerable fuss Hitler put on his glasses and began to read:

Speer is, in a sense, more important for Germany today than Hitler, Himmler, Goering, Goebbels, or the generals. They all have, in a way, become the mere auxiliaries of the man who actually directs the giant power machine-charged with drawing from it the maximum effort under maximum strain. … In him is the very epitome of the “managerial revolution.”

Speer is not one of the flamboyant and picturesque Nazis. Whether he has any other than conventional political opinions at all is unknown. He might have joined any other political party which gave him a job and a career. He is very much the successful average man, well dressed, civil, noncorrupt, very middle-class in his style of life, with a wife and six children. Much less than any of the other German leaders does he stand for anything particularly German or particularly Nazi. He rather symbolizes a type which is becoming increasingly important in all belligerent countries: the pure technician, the classless bright young man without background, with no other original aim than to make his way in the world and no other means than his technical and managerial ability. It is the lack of psychological and spiritual ballast, and the ease with which he handles the terrifying technical and organizational machinery of our age, which makes this slight type go extremely far nowadays… . This is their age; the Hitler’s and Himmlers we may get rid of, but the Speers, whatever happens to this particular special man, will long be with us.

Hitler read the long commentary straight through, folded the sheet, and handed it back to me without a word but with great respect.

During the following weeks and months I became more and more aware, in spite of everything, of the distance that had grown up between Hitler and me. It increased steadily. Nothing is more difficult than to restore authority after it has been shaken. After my first experiment in opposing Hitler, I had become more independent in my thinking and acting. And Hitler, instead of being enraged, had seemed only rather perplexed by my new attitude and tried to propitiate me, even to the point of retracting a decision he had made with Himmler, Goering, and Bormann. Although I too had given way, I had learned the valuable lesson that a resolute stand against Hitler could achieve results.

Nevertheless, even this episode did not shake my faith in Hitler. At best it made me begin to doubt the rectitude of this system of rule. Thus, I was outraged that the leaders continued to exempt themselves from any of the sacrifices they expected of the people; that they recklessly expended lives and property; that they pursued their sordid intrigues, showing themselves as totally unethical even toward each other. Thoughts of this sort may have contributed to my slowly freeing myself. Still hesitantly, I was beginning to bid farewell, farewell to my previous life, tasks, ties, and to the thoughtlessness that had brought me to this pass.

24. The War Thrice Lost

ON MAY 8, 1944, I RETURNED TO BERLIN TO RESUME MY WORK. I SHALL never forget the date May 12, four days later. On that day the technological war was decided.*

* There had certainly been critical situations before this—the bombings of the Ruhr reservoirs, for instance, or of the ballbearing plants. But the enemy had always demonstrated a lack of consistency; he switched from target to target or attacked in the wrong places. In February 1944 he bombed the enormous airframe plants of the aircraft industry rather than the engine factories, although the most important factor in airplane production was the number of engines we were able to turn out. Destruction of the plants making these would have blocked any increase in aircraft manufacture, especially since, in contrast to the airframe plants, engine factories could not be dispersed among forests and caves.

Until then we had managed to produce approximately as many weapons as the armed forces needed, in spite of their considerable losses. But with the attack of nine hundred and thirty-five daylight bombers of the American Eighth Air Force upon several fuel plants in central and eastern Germany, a new era in the air war began. It meant the end of German armaments production.

The next day, along with technicians of the bombed Leuna Works, we groped our way through a tangle of broken and twisted pipe systems. The chemical plants had proved to be extremely sensitive to bombing; even optimistic forecasts could not envisage production being resumed for weeks. After this attack our daily output of five thousand, eight hundred and fifty metric tons dropped to four thousand, eight hundred and twenty metric tons. Still, together with our reserve of five hundred and seventy-four thousand metric tons of aircraft fuel, that could see us through more than nineteen months.

On May 19, I944, after I had taken measure of the consequences of the attack, I flew to Obersalzberg, where Hitler received me in the presence of General Keitel. I described the situation in these words: “The enemy has struck us at one of our weakest points. If they persist at it this time, we will soon no longer have any fuel production worth mentioning. Our one hope is that the other side has an air force General Staff as scatterbrained as ours!”

Keitel, who was always trying to please Hitler, hastened to say that he would be able to bridge the gap with his reserves. He concluded with Hitler’s standard argument: “How many difficult situations we have already survived!” And turning to Hitler, he said: “We shall survive this one too, mein Führer!”

But this time Hitler did not seem to share Keitels optimism. Along with Goering, Keitel, and Milch, four industrialists, Krauch, Pleiger, Bütefisch, and E. R. Fischer, as well as Kehrl, chief of the Planning and Raw Materials Department, were called in for a further discussion of the situation.*

* Krauch was the director of the chemical industry, Pleiger was Reich Commissioner for Coal and also the manager of important fuel plants, Bütefisch was head of the Leuna Works, and Fischer was Chairman of the Board of I. G. Farben.

Goering tried to keep out the representatives of the fuel industry. Such important matters had better be discussed in privacy, he said. But Hitler had already settled on the participants.

Four days later we were all waiting in the inhospitable entrance hall of the Berghof for Hitler, who was conducting a conference in the salon. Beforehand, I had asked the fuel industry people to tell Hitler the unvarnished truth. But Goering used the last few minutes before the beginning of the meeting to exhort the industrialists not to say anything too pessimistic. He was probably afraid that Hitler would place the blame for the debacle chiefly on him.

Several high-ranking military men, participants in the preceding meeting, hurried past us. We were immediately called in by one of the adjutants. Although Hitler shook hands with each of us, his welcome was terse and absent-minded. He asked us all to sit down and declared that he had called this meeting in order to be informed about the consequences of the latest air raids. Then he asked the representatives of industry for their opinion. Speaking as sober, statistically minded businessmen, they all testified to the hopelessness of the situation if the raids were continued systematically. Hitler, to be sure, at first tried to dispel such pessimistic verdicts by stereotyped interjections such as: “You’ll manage it somehow,” or, “We’ve been through worse crises.” And Keitel and Goering instantly seized upon these cues, going even beyond Hitler in their confidence in the future and trying to blur the effect of our factual arguments. Keitel, in particular, harped upon his fuel reserve. But the industrialists were made of sterner stuff than Hitler’s entourage. They held fast to their verdicts, supporting them by data and comparative figures.

All at once Hitler executed one of his sudden turns and began to urge them to evaluate the situation in the most objective terms. It seemed as if at last he wanted to hear the unpleasant truth, as if he were tired of all the concealments, the false optimism, and the lying servilities. He himself summed up the result of the conference: “In my view the fuel, Buna rubber, and nitrogen plants represent a particularly sensitive point for the conduct of the war, since vital materials for armaments are being manufactured in a small number of plants.”1

Torpid and absent-minded though he had seemed at the beginning, Hitler left the impression of a sober, intense man of keen insight. The only trouble was that a few months later, when the worst had already happened, he no longer wanted to acknowledge these insights. On the other hand, Goering scolded us as soon as we were back in the anteroom for having burdened Hitler with anxieties and pessimistic nonsense.

The cars drove up. Hitler’s guests went to the Berchtesgadener Hof for some refreshments. For on such occasions Hitler regarded the Berghof merely as a conference site; he felt no obligations as a host. But now, after the participants in the meeting had left, members of his private circle poured out of all the rooms on the upper story. Hitler had withdrawn for a few minutes; we waited in the vestibule. He took his cane, hat, and black cape; the daily tramp to the teahouse began. There we were served coffee and cake. The fire crackled in the fireplace; trivial talk was made. Hitler let himself be wafted into a friendlier world. It was all too clear how much he needed that. To me, too, he said not another word about the danger hanging over our heads.

After sixteen days of feverish repairs we had just reached the former production level when the second attack wave struck on May 28-29, 1944. This time a mere four hundred bombers of the American Eighth Air Force delivered a greater blow than twice that number in the first attack. Concurrently, the American Fifteenth Air Force struck at the principal refineries in the Rumanian oil fields at Ploesti. Now production was actually reduced by half.2 Our pessimistic statements at Obersalzberg had thus been fully confirmed only five days later, and Goering’s bold bluster had been refuted. Occasional remarks of Hitler’s subsequently suggested that Goering’s standing had sunk to a new low.

It was not only for utilitarian reasons that I moved quickly to take advantage of Goering’s weakness. Having done so well in the production of fighter planes we had, to be sure, every reason to propose to Hitler that my Ministry take charge of all air armaments.3 But my motive was largely a desire to pay Goering back for his treacheries during my illness.

On June 4, I requested Hitler, who was still directing the war from Obersalzberg, “to influence the Reich Marshal so that he will call upon me of his own accord, and the proposal to incorporate production of air armaments in my Ministry will proceed from him.”

Hitler did not object to my challenging Goering in this way. Moreover, he understood that this little strategem of mine would spare Goering’s pride and prestige. He therefore took up my suggestion, saying with considerable forcefulness: “Air armaments must be incorporated into your Ministry; that is beyond discussion. I’ll send for the Reich Marshal at once and inform him of my intentions. You discuss the details of the transfer with him.”4

Only a few months before Hitler had gone to great lengths to avoid saying anything outright to his old paladin. He had, for example, sent me to see Goering in his hideaway in the remote Rominten Heath to discuss some third-rate unpleasantness that I have long since forgotten. Goering must have guessed my assignment, for contrary to his usual custom he treated me like a highly honored guest, had horses and carriage readied for a tour of the huge hunting preserve that went on for hours, and chattered away without pause or point, so that in the end I returned to Hitler having accomplished nothing. I never had a chance to say a word about my mission. Hitler knew Goering well enough to sympathize with my plight.

This time Goering did not try to dodge the issue by pretending cordiality. Our discussion took place in the private study of his house at Obersalzberg. Hitler had already told him what was in question. Goering complained bitterly about Hitler’s somersaults. Only two weeks ago, Goering said, Hitler had wanted to take the construction industry away from me; it had all been settled, and then, after a short talk with me, he had undone it all. That was how things always were. Unfortunately the Fuehrer was all too frequently not a man of firm decisions. Naturally, if that was how Hitler wanted it, he would turn air armaments production over to me, Goering said resignedly. But it was all very baffling, since only a short while ago Hitler had thought that I had too many jobs on my hands as it was.

Although I too had begun to notice these sudden alternations of favor and disfavor and recognized them as dangerous to my own future, I confess that I found a certain justice in seeing Goering’s and my roles exchanged. On the other hand I did not try to humble Goering publicly. Instead of preparing a decree for Hitler, I arranged to have Goering himself transfer the responsibility for air armaments to my Ministry. He issued the decree.5

My takeover of the air armaments industry was a minor matter compared with the havoc being wrought in Germany by the enemy air forces. After a pause of only two weeks, during which their air strength was mostly used for supporting the invasion, the Allies staged a new series of attacks which put many fuel plants out of action. On June 22, nine-tenths of the production of airplane fuel was knocked out; only six hundred and thirty-two metric tons were produced daily. The attacks then lessened somewhat, and on July 17, we once more attained two thousand three hundred and seven metric tons, forty percent of our original production. But on July 21, only four days later, we were down to one hundred and twenty tons daily production—virtually done for. Ninety-eight percent of our aircraft fuel plants were out of operation.

Then, the enemy permitted us to restore the great Leuna chemical works partially, so that by the end of July our production of airplane fuel was up to six hundred and nine tons again. By now we considered it a triumph to reach at least a tenth of our former production. The many attacks had taken such a toll of the piping systems in the chemical plants that direct hits were no longer required to do extensive damage. Merely the shock of bombs exploding in the vicinity caused leaks everywhere. Repairs were almost impossible. In August we reached ten percent, in September five and a half percent, in October ten percent again—of our former capacity. In November 1944 we ourselves were surprised when we reached twenty-eight percent (one thousand six hundred and thirty-three metric tons daily).6

“In view of the highly colored reports from Wehrmacht sources, the Minister fears that the extent of our critical situation has not been fully recognized,” my Office Journal for July 22, 1944, records. The “Minister” therefore sent a memorandum to Hitler six days later on the fuel situation. Passages of this memorandum agreed almost word for word with the first memorandum of June 30.*

* On May 22, I had obtained the appointment of my friend Colonel von Below, Hitler’s air force adjutant, as my liaison man to Hitler. According to Point 8 of the Führerprotoko ll, May 22-25, 1944, Below’s assignment was “to keep me constantly informed about the Fuehrer’s remarks.” This system was intended to forestall any further surprises of the land that had beset me during my illness. Von Below was also to deliver my memoranda to Hitler in the future. It was useless for me to hand them to Hitler in person because he usually demanded that I summarize them for him and then interrupted before I had finished. Von Below reported that Hitler read this memorandum and the succeeding ones carefully, even underlining certain points and writing marginal comments.

Both documents stated plainly that the outlook for July and August was such that we would have to consume most of our reserves of aircraft and other fuels, and that, afterward, there would be a gap we could no longer close, which would inevitably lead “to tragic consequences.”7

Along with these grim predictions I proposed various alternatives which might help us avoid these consequences, or at least postpone them. Above all, I asked Hitler for power to declare a total mobilization of all our resources. I suggested that Edmund Geilenberg, the successful head of our munitions organization, be given every opportunity to restore fuel production by ruthlessly confiscating materials, cutting down on other manufacturing, and drawing on skilled workers. At first Hitler refused: “If I give him such powers, first thing you know we’ll have fewer tanks. That won’t do. I can’t allow that under any condition.”

Obviously he had still not grasped the gravity of the situation, even though in the meantime we had talked about the emergency often enough. Again and again, I had explained to him that it would be pointless to have tanks if we could not produce enough fuel. Hitler gave his consent only after I had promised him high tank production and Saur had confirmed this promise. Two months later a hundred and fifty thousand workers had been assigned to rebuilding the hydrogenation plants. A large percentage of these constituted skilled workers whose labor was indispensable for armaments production. By the late fall of 1944 the number had risen to three hundred and fifty thousand.

Even as I was dictating my memorandum, I was aghast at the incomprehension of our leadership. On my desk lay reports from my Planning Department on the daily production losses, on plants knocked out, and the time required for starting them up again. But all these projections were made on the dear premise that we would manage to prevent or at least reduce enemy air raids. On July 28, 1944, I implored Hitler in my memorandum to “reserve a significantly larger part of the fighter plane production for the home front.”8 I repeatedly asked him in the most urgent terms whether it would not be more useful “to give sufficiently high priority to protecting the home hydrogenation plants by fighter planes so that in August and September at least partial production will be possible, instead of following the previous method which makes it a certainty that in September or October the Luftwaffe both at the front and at home will be unable to operate because of the shortage of fuel.”*

* According to Galland, at that time there were only about two hundred fighter planes on Reich territory available for repelling daytime attacks.

This was the second time I had addressed these questions to Hitler. After our Obersalzberg conference at the end of May he had agreed to a plan drawn up by Galland providing that out of our increased production of fighter planes an air fleet would be assembled which would be reserved for defense of the home industry. Goering, for his part—after a major conference at Karinhall where the representatives of the fuel industry had again described the urgency of the situation—had solemnly promised that this “Reich” air fleet would never be diverted to the front. But once the invasion began, Hitler and Goering had the planes committed in France. There the entire fleet was knocked out within a few weeks without having done any visible good. Now, at the end of July, Hitler and Goering renewed their promise. Once more a force of two thousand fighter planes was set up for home defense. It was to be ready to start in September. But once again the basic failure to comprehend the situation made a farce of this provision.

With benefit of hindsight I stated to an armaments conference on December 1, 1944: “We must realize that the men on the enemy side who are directing the economic air raids know something about German economic life; that there—in contrast to our bombings—wise planning exists. Fortunately for us the enemy began following this strategy only in the last half or three-quarters of a year… . Before that he was, at least from his standpoint, committing absurdities.” When I said that I did not know that as early as December 9, 1942, a good two years before, a working paper of the American Economic Warfare Division had stated that it was “better to cause a high degree of destruction in a few really essential industries or services than to cause a small degree of destruction in many industries.” The effects of such selective bombing, the experts pointed out, were cumulative, and they argued that the plan once adopted should be pursued with unyielding resolution.9

The idea was correct, the execution defective.

As early as August 1942, Hitler had assured the naval leadership that the Allies could not make a successful invasion unless they were able to take a sizable port.10 Without one, he pointed out, an enemy landing at any point on the coast could not receive sufficient supplies long enough to withstand counterattacks by the German forces. Given the great length of the French, Belgian, and Dutch coasts, a complete line of pillboxes spaced close enough to offer mutual protection would have far exceeded the capacity of the German construction industry. Moreover, there were not enough soldiers available to man such a large number of pillboxes. Consequently, the larger ports were ringed with pillboxes, while the intervening coastal areas were only protected by observation bunkers at long intervals. Some fifteen thousand smaller bunkers were intended to shelter the soldiers during the shelling prior to an attack. As Hitler conceived it, however, during the actual attack the soldiers would come out into the open, since a protected position undermines those qualities of courage and personal initiative which were essential for battle.

Hitler planned these defensive installations down to the smallest details. He even designed the various types of bunkers and pillboxes, usually in the hours of the night. The designs were only sketches, but they were executed with precision. Never sparing in self-praise, he often remarked that his designs ideally met all the requirements of a frontline soldier. They were adopted almost without revision by the general of the Corps of Engineers.

For this task we consumed, in barely two years of intensive building, seventeen million three hundred thousand cubic yards of concrete11 worth 3.7 billion DM. In addition the armaments factories were deprived of 1.2 million metric tons of iron. All this expenditure and effort was sheer waste. By means of a single brilliant technical idea the enemy bypassed these defenses within two weeks after the first landing. For as is well known, the invasion troops brought their own port with them. At Arromanches and Omaha Beach they built loading ramps and other installations on the open coast, following carefully laid-out plans. Thus they were able to assure their supplies of ammunition, implements, and rations, as well as the landing of reinforcements.*

* According to W. S. Roskill, The War at Sea (London, 1961), Vol. I’ll, Part 2, the landing could never have been carried out without these harbors. Some four hundred ships with a total displacement of a million and a half tons were used; some of them were sunk to form a breakwater. The construction time was doubled because of storms; yet after ten days the harbors began to take shape, and from July 8 on the British harbor at Avranches handled six thousand tons daily, whereas the American harbor was not yet completed.

Our whole plan of defense had proved irrelevant.

Rommel, whom Hitler had appointed inspector of the coastal defenses in the west at the end of 1943, showed more foresight. Shortly after his appointment Hitler had invited him to the East Prussian headquarters. After a long conference he had accompanied the Field Marshal outside his bunker, where I was waiting since I had the next appointment. Apparently the discussion they were having flared up once more when Rommel bluntly told Hitler: “We must repulse the enemy at his first landing site. The pillboxes around the ports don t do the trick. Only primitive but effective barriers and obstacles all along the coast can make the landing so difficult that our countermeasures will be effective.”

Rommel went on in a succinct, firm manner: “If we don’t manage to throw them back at once, the invasion will succeed in spite of the Atlantic Wall. Toward the end in Tripoli and Tunis the bombs were dropped in such concentrations that even our best troops were demoralized. If you cannot check the bombing, all the other methods will be ineffective, even the barriers.”

Rommel spoke courteously, but aloofly; he noticeably avoided the formula, “mein Führer” He too had acquired the reputation of being a technical expert; in Hitler’s eyes he had become a kind of specialist in combating Western offensives. That was the only reason Hitler received Rommel’s criticism calmly. But he seemed to have been waiting for the last argument about the concentrated bombings. “Here is something I wanted to show you today in that connection, Field Marshal.” Hitler led the two of us to an experimental vehicle, a completely armored truck on which an 8.8 centimeter antiaircraft gun was mounted. Soldiers demonstrated