Albert Speer opens his memoirs, Inside the Third Reich, with the statement that if Hitler had had any friends, "I would have been his friend. I owe to him the enthusiasm and glory of my youth as well as belated horror and guilt" (Foreword). It is with a mixture of enthusiastic idealism and introspective regret that Speer assesses his life as Hitler's chief architect and armaments minister. Speer was instrumental in building the glory and shame that were the Third Reich, as well as being a surviving spokesman for those who chose death rather than retribution. He himself tells his story after spending twenty years in jail as a result of the Nuremberg trials.
Speer was born into a prosperous home in Mannheim in 1905. His father was a successful architect whose business was thriving in the booming industrial town. He and his siblings attended a distinguished private school. Music, the arts, and mathematics meant a great deal to the young Speer. Later, he would help Hitler attempt to put into architectural reality the grandiose vision that was the Third Reich. Cities had to be rebuilt, museums and opera halls had to be refashioned, and German culture had to become predominant in all the world.
Speer attended at the Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe, near Mannheim. He had great respect for his professor of architecture, Daniel Krenkler, who was an Alsatian by birth. In preparing a report on architecture delivered for Krenkler's class, based upon Albrecht Haupt's book on Germanic architecture, he told his fiancee:
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 ha...