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The Good Nazi

The subject of our blog today is about one of the top Nazi leaders and a defendant in the International Military Tribunal commonly known as the main Nuremberg Trial. Our last two blogs dealt with two topics that will forever be associated with the city of Nuremberg: the Nazi Party Rally Grounds (blog: Zeppelin Field) and the Nuremberg Trials (blog: Courtroom 600).

In my opinion, one of the sad outcomes of what became the greatest mass murder in the history of mankind is the fact that most of the Nazi criminals who carried out these crimes were either never held accountable or punished. For most of those who were punished, they were likely to suffer lightly with commuted sentences, outright release, or time served. Many who received death sentences were given early release as evidenced by the Einsatzgruppen Trial (Case 9) during the subsequent American Military Tribunal Nuremberg Trials.

Albert Speer at the Nuremberg trial. Photo by Charles Alexander/US Army (c. 1946). PD-US Government. Wikimedia Commons.
Albert Speer at the Nuremberg trial. Photo by Charles Alexander/US Army (c. 1946). PD-US Government. Wikimedia Commons.

I decided to write this blog on Albert Speer because he is the “poster child” for someone who got off with a relatively light sentence (20-years) when in fact, he should have hanged on 16 October 1946 with the other ten former Nazi leaders. Instead, he died a multi-millionaire, a media star, and a world celebrity almost fifteen years after his release from Spandau Prison.

Did You Know?

The English music group, The Cut, was formed in 1979 and eventually the group changed its name to Spandau Ballet after someone saw the term Spandau Ballet scribbled on the wall of a club bathroom. Many people think it refers to Spandau Prison and the “ballet” portion refers to the movement of feet and legs of the condemned struggling at the end of the rope. The term actually originated with Allied soldiers and refers to the German Spandau machine gun and the little dance the soldiers did as the bullets whizzed by their legs.

Let’s Meet “The Good Nazi” 

Born in Mannheim, Germany, Albert Speer (1905−1981) followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps by becoming an architect (Speer’s son, Albert Jr., also became an architect). He married Margarete Weber (1905−1987) in 1922 and they had six children. While pursuing his post-graduate degrees, Speer attended a Nazi rally in December 1930 which changed his life.

Speer always maintained he was apolitical even when he joined the Nazi party in March 1931 as member number 474,481. Recommended to Hitler by Joseph Goebbels, Speer’s first job for the Nazis was to renovate the party headquarters in Berlin. His next major assignment was to design and build the Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg. By 1934, Speer had become Hitler’s favorite architect and would consult on all of Hitler’s grand building ideas. Watch Nuremberg Now and Then. Read More The Good Nazi

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Courtroom 600

Nuremberg Palace of Justice
View of East Wing of the Palace of Justice. Courtroom 600 is behind the three large windows on the second floor. Photo by Sandy Ross (2017).

After visiting the Zeppelin Field, our last stop in Nuremberg was the Palace of Justice. Located to the east of the “old (medieval) city,” the building was one of the few in Nuremberg to survive the Allied bombings of early 1945. The Allies chose the small east wing of the Palace of Justice to hold what are now referred to as “The Nuremberg Trials.”  (Learn more.)

Despite what many people feel are the symbolic reasons for choosing Nuremberg to hold these trials, the real reason for their choice was much more pragmatic.

Iconic photographs of the first International Military Tribunal trial are well known and show the interior of the courtroom during the ten-month trial held between 20 November 1945 and 1 October 1946. The courtroom, open to the public (when not being used for trials), is known today as “Courtroom 600” and is easily recognizable even though it has been restored to its pre-trial appearance.


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Why The Palace of Justice?

Yes, Nuremberg was a symbolic city to hold the trials of Nazi leaders and their accomplices. It was the site each year between 1927 and 1938 where the Reichsparteitage (Reich Party Congress) met and between 1933 and 1938 the annual National Socialist Party or Nazi rallies were held on the Party Rally Grounds (read the blog Zeppelin Field). It was also here that the Nuremberg Laws were passed representing the first formal actions against Jews and a precursor to the Holocaust.

Palace of Justice 1945
Aerial view of The Palace of Justice shortly after the war ended. Notice the five radiating prison buildings behind the Palace of Justice. Only one remains. The wall circling the compound is no longer in existence. Photo by anonymous (c. 1945). PD-US Government. Wikimedia Commons.

However, there were other pragmatic issues that made the city ideal for the trials. First, it was one of the only buildings still standing large enough to hold the trial as well as accommodating the staffs of the court and prosecution teams. Second, the complex included a prison adjacent to the Palace of Justice. A circular wall surrounded the prison complex added additional security. Next to the prison was a gymnasium where on 16 October 1946, the condemned men were hanged (executions arising from verdicts of the subsequent Nuremberg Trials were carried out at Landsberg Prison in Bavaria). Read More Courtroom 600