Albert Speer was born on March 19, 1905, to an upper middle class family in Manhein, Germany. The second of three sons, he followed the family tradition when, in 1925, he enrolled at the Institute of Technology in Berlin-Charlottenburg and became a third-generation Neo-Classical architect. He was greatly influenced by his professor at that time, Heinrich Tessenow, and upon graduation, two years later, became his assistant. Speer later remarked that the educational system existing at that time emphasised uncritical acceptance of authority and formed the basis for an easily manipulated society.
After reading Spengler's 'Decline of the West', Speer became greatly discouraged, convinced that Germany was in a similar state of decay to that of the late Roman Empire. Then, in 1931, he heard Adolf Hitler addressing college students at a beer hall. Although initially sceptical of Hitler's reputation and his rough followers, the enthusiasm of the crowd, Hitler's respectable and calm appearance and the historical lecture he delivered impressed Speer immensely. Within weeks, he had joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) and shortly after became a member of the Schutz Staffeinel (SS).
Although an intelligent man, Speer appears to have been politically naive, always maintaining that he joined Hitler's party, as distinct from the Nazi party. He believed that he had to make the choice between a Nazi and a communist Germany and that Hitler only intended to reduce the number of Jews in key occupations to a level consistent with their percentage of population. These reasons perhaps help explain, why Speer so readily embraced Hitler's ideology. He later claimed that " if he had known that Hitler intended to start a world war, kill all of the Jews and his political opponents then he, and many others would have resigned from the party".
His first commission as a Party member came in 1933 when Joseph Goebbels asked him to renovate the Propaganda Ministry. Goebbels was impressed with his work and recommended him to Hitler, who assigned him to help Paul Troost renovate the Chancellery in Berlin. Speer's most notable work on this assignment was the addition of the famous balcony. Hitler had a great interest in architecture and considered himself, at heart, to be an architect first and a politician second. He showed great respect towards Paul Troost who he felt was a superior professional.
The year 1933 was to be a turning point for Albert Speer. No longer just a promising architect, he assumed a role where his actions and advice could arguably have changed the political direction Germany was taking. He was in constant and close contact with Hitler, often eating lunch and dinner with him. Hitler would often ring Speer late at night and invite him to accompany him to a favourite cafe where they would often stay and talk until two or three in the morning. Hitler avoided cultivating similar friendships with party leaders such as Goering and Hess as he was suspicious of their motives. Speer wrote, "There were very few persons beside myself who had been so favoured. Hitler had undoubtedly taken a special liking to me. If Hitler had actually had friends, I would certainly have been one of his closest friends."
Speer's prominence as a member of Hitler's inner sanctum strengthened when Troost died in 1934, and Speer was appointed to replace him as the Party's chief architect. One of his first commissions after his promotion was perhaps the most familiar of his designs: the Nuremberg parade grounds seen in Leni Riefenstahl's propaganda masterpiece, 'Triumph of the Will'....