Speer was born into, and raised in a conservative middle-class family, which stressed the unquestioning acceptance of the existing social and political system, typical of Imperial German education. Speer was never encouraged to the think about the problems of society, and any discussion of political matters was looked down upon, for which Speer claims to be the reason for his lack of interest in politics.
While teaching at the Institute of Technology in Berlin, Speer recalls discussing politics with many of his students, in which he says his students would be able to counter any point that he would make. This displays that because of his upbringing he was uneducated about the political structure or situations in Germany. Speer was soon persuaded by his students into attending one of Hitler’s speeches. Speer states that at this oration he was drawn in by Hitler’s “magnetic force”, and he often says that he joined “Hitler’s Party” as opposed to the Nazi Party. The importance of this, is it displays Speer’s lack of interest in the Party’s policies but more his interest in Hitler himself.
Speer claimed that up until 1942, when he was appointed Minister of Armaments, his role within the Nazi party was purely of being Hitler’s “Personal Architect”. Speer states that one of the reasons Hitler liked his company was because of their shared interest in architecture, and because he never talked about personal politics with Hitler. Speer sustains that he was completely involved in his architectural career and remembers one of Hitler’s assistants telling him not bring any more plans as it was distracting Hitler from his real duties. However, Speer’s close connection with Hitler, and his association with the Nazi inner circle would most certainly mean he had knowledge of the major developments that led to WWII, and most substantially to the invasion of Russia. This is displayed in 1941 while Speer was having supper with Hitler and other members of the Nazi elite, when Hitler finds out via telegram that Russia and Germany had signed a non-aggression pact. Hitler was quoted saying “I have them”. This comment was followed by Hitler talking about the effectiveness of the Red Army, which should have made it evident to all present what Hitler was planning. In being so closely connected to Nazi activity it is almost impossible for Speer not to know that Germany was planning a war, however he no role in the creation of such plans.
Upon becoming a member of the Nazi party Speer soon gained many valuable connections and was asked to undertake many architectural assignments for them, such as painting the interior of Goebbels house. His tasks were from minor alterations and decorating jobs to large political rally organisation, through his hard work in his early years in the party he gained the title “Commissioner for the Artistic and Technical Presentation of Party Rallies and Presentations”. His designs were very much accepted by the Nazi leaders and Hitler himself as they portrayed the “Greatness” and “Strength” of the Nazi’s. These presentations had the ability to gain the support of the people just a successfully as the propaganda which was created by Goebbels.
Speer’s ability to manipulate the decisions made by Hitler and other party members in order to further his career in the Nazi party is indicative of his understanding of “political chess” and supports the idea that Speer was not apolitical. Speer was quoted as being “Hitler’s loyal paladin and minister and he masterfully manipulated the instruments of power politics in the National Socialist state.” This can be supported by Speer’s ability to manipulate Hitler, through his unlimited access to him, especially after his appointed to the position of “Inspector General of Construction of the Reich Capital”, where he was able to gain Hitler’s approval to be exempt from having to inform the government officials about plans, including the destruction of central parts of the city and the movement of the railways. This shows that Speer was actively involved in political manoeuvres to consolidate power “within” his jurisdiction.
Speer also used political decrees and documents that were vaguely worded and easily manipulated to fulfill his objectives at certain periods in his career. The most prominent example of this use of political manipulation is shown in 1942 when Speer is able to diffuse a conflict between himself and Goering over his appointment as “Minister of Armaments”. The hostility between the two started as Goering believed that Speer’s appointment would mean he would be impeding on his control regarding the Four Year Plan. Speer however, offered to sign a document which made him subordinate to Goering and his “Chief Representative for Armaments within the Four Year Plan”. However, this document was worded in such a way that it gave Speer almost total autonomy. Speer then released this statement to the media with an old photo of Goering congratulating Speer. This was a deliberate move which shows Speer’s political cunningness. After this announcement, he made Hitler sign a decree to prevent Goering from trying to regain his powers, the decree stated that, “the requirements of the German economy as a whole must be subordinated to the necessities of armaments production”. Speer states that this document basically gave him “dictatorial powers” over the German economy, and shows Speer’s political skill and the extent to which he was willing to increase his power within the Nazi party.
As the end of the war was near, Hitler demanded that a Scorched Earth policy be enacted in Germany. However Speer claims that he ignored Hitler’s demands and says that he did as much as possible to prevent the destruction of German industry, but instead instructed that industry be “crippled”. This move was in deliberate opposition to Hitler’s orders and Speer knew that he could face death because of his treasonous acts. To many this may present Speer as being loyal and dedicated to the German people, however it does suggest that he may have had his own political agenda. It may be likely, and is highly argued, that Speer did what he did in the last months of Third Reich in order to portray himself as being the “Good Nazi”, and also to consolidate a place in the next German government.
Speer claims that he was apolitical for his time in the Nazi party, and says that he had no interest in politics at all. In 1944 Speer wrote a letter to Hitler in which he said “The task i have to fulfill in an unpolitical one”. This was to be the foundation of his defence at Nuremberg in 1946. However, Speer’s ability to rise to the highest position in the Nazi party, through exploiting and manipulating party members, and documents displays high degree of political intelligence which opposes his claims that his intentions were purely career based. Speer claims that he had no knowledge of the activities of the Nazi party, such as the “Final Solution” may also be questioned, as he was one of the highest ranked Nazi officials, and so would have been present at meetings in which party politics were discussed. Speer’s claims that he was “non-political” is unlikely to be true, as it is evident that a high level of political manipulation was needed in order to consolidate power within the Nazi Party, therefore on the premise that Nazi leaders had to “political players”, Albert Speer’s career was not apolitical.