Pat Speer

Pat Speer

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Patrick Speer was born in Los Angeles in 1961. After attending California State University, Northridge, he settled into a career in the entertainment industry. In 2003, he began studying the assassination of President John F. Kennedy full-time. He did so for 3 years, and continues studying the case, and writing about the case, part-time.

In 2004, and then again in 2005, Speer presented his findings on the medical evidence at the November in Dallas conference. In 2007, The Mysterious Death of Number 35, a 4-part video series written by and featuring Speer, debuted on Youtube. In part 1 of this series, Speer demonstrated that Dr. Michael Baden, the spokesman for the House Select Committee on Assassinations' Forensic Pathology Panel - the last government panel to study the Kennedy assassination medical evidence - was confused by the evidence and testified with a key autopsy photo upside down.

It is Speer's contention that Baden was confused because the medical evidence, as interpreted by his panel, made little sense, and was at odds with articles and textbooks written by the very members of his panel.

On his website,, and in numerous posts found online, Speer discusses a number of aspects beyond the medical evidence. Among the topics of discussion are the eyewitness evidence, the paraffin cast of Oswald's cheek, and the paper bag purportedly used by Oswald to transport his rifle into the building.

Speer made an appearance at the 2009 COPA Conference in Dallas, and continues to be an active presence on the JFK forums online.

Now how can this be? Does it make any sense whatsoever that, of the six pathologists to enter the archives on 9-17-77 and review the medical evidence, four - Dr.s Petty, Baden, Coe, and Loquvam - had contributed to a book written for the Justice Department only months before? And that this book was edited by the prestigious Dr. Fisher, whose findings they would be reviewing? And that of the remaining two, one - Dr. Joseph Davis - was both trained under Stanley Durlacher, an early protege of Fisher's, and a former co-worker with Dr. Petty in the New Orleans coroner's office, and the other - Dr. Earl Rose - was the Medical Examiner for Dallas in 1963, and highly unlikely to say anything that might suggest a conspiracy, and cast doubt upon the "innocence" of his former home?

And what about the second part of the panel, made up of those who'd already studied the evidence? Does it make any sense whatsoever that Dr. Wecht was deliberately isolated on a panel in which the other two members - Dr.s Spitz and Weston - were not only close associates of Dr. Fisher's, but had already gone on record as saying the evidence supported Fisher's findings?

The answer, of course, is that it does make sense--but only if you accept that the membership of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel and its organization was designed to protect the reputations of Dr. Russell Fisher and the Clark Panel.

Guinn's treatment of the copper test in Chemistry and Crime was even more curious. While acknowledging that the wrist fragment had far more copper than the other fragments, he claimed this indicated it was "probably contaminated with imbedded copper jacket material," and that this invalidated the test. He discusses this on pages 74-75. Well, on pages 70-71, he claims that in the FBI Laboratory specimens "are examined under magnification to ascertain whether there is any visible evidence of adhering jacket material. If there is, one attempts to remove the jacket material with a surgical scalpel." He then proceeds "In our laboratory, such samples are then further processed by immersing each sample in concentrated nitric acid for 10 minutes at room temperature. This procedure will dissolve away any specks of adhering jacket material without dissolving any measurable amount of the lead material. However, even this acid treatment procedure fails if there are jacket particles completely imbedded in the lead and inaccessible to attack by the nitric acid." Now, the largest wrist fragment, the only one tested, was tiny, only 16.4 mg. (It would take 632 fragments of this size to make a 160 grain bullet like the one purportedly killing Kennedy.) This tiny fragment, moreover, supposedly fell from the bullet as it traversed Connally's wrist. There was no copper missing, at least that anyone described, from the tail end of the bullet. So how, presuming Guinn actually performed the inspection described both above and in his September 1978 report to the HSCA, did copper get "imbedded" within the lead of this tiny fragment?

Well, on page 76 he offers up a theory. Sort of. Basically, he throws out a little fact (which turns out not to be a fact) which those reading his chapter can then use to make sense of the copper mystery. He writes that the so-called magic bullet "left no particles along the wound track in either the President or the Governor, and hence was not damaged (even though it broke one of the Governor's ribs with a glancing blow) until it struck the Governor's right wrist. Here, it suffered a dent in its nose and lost about 1% of its lead." Yep, he proposed, albeit in a roundabout way, that the copper imbedded in the wrist fragment came from the nose of the so-called magic bullet. Well, there's two problems with this: 1) the dent on the bullet nose was created by the FBI subsequent to the shooting, and 2) he knew the lead in the wrist fragment came from the back of the bullet. Yes, when asked in his HSCA testimony if it was his testimony that the magic bullet and wrist fragments came from the same bullet, he testified "Yes. One, of course, is almost a complete bullet so it means that the (wrist) fragments came from, in this case, the base of the bullet." gosh, it appears from this that Guinn was trying to sell that a nearly pristine bullet hit Connally's wrist, and lost some copper from its nose, and that this copper then somehow got imbedded within a tiny speck of lead squeezed from the base of the bullet upon impact, so much so that the copper was imperceptible to the human eye... even under magnification. Yeah, okay... We have a magic bullet and now we have a magic fragment from this bullet.

Let's note here that in Chemistry and Crime Guinn admitted that he'd studied Mannlicher-Carcano bullet lead even before being hired by the HSCA, and that he'd found the range of copper among this lead to be from 10 to 370 ppm. Let's note as well that in Activation Analysis Vol. 2, he admitted that he'd studied the lead of other bullets as well, and had found the range for copper to be between 1 and 1500 ppm. Now, let's recall that the wrist fragment was 994 ppm copper. This means that Guinn knew, as soon as he'd performed his test, that he'd PROVED the wrist fragment did not derive from the magic bullet, or any other bullet fired from Oswald's rifle, and that the single-bullet and single-assassin theories he'd clearly subscribed to were thereby kaput...UNLESS he could find some reason--any reason--to invalidate his own test.

Well, the quickest way to do that was to claim jacket material had thrown off his count for copper. So far, so good. But there was no copper missing, as far as could be determined, from the base of the bullet. Well, that's okay, there was a dent on the bullet nose; perhaps it came from there. Only the FBI admitted they'd made the mark on the nose while performing spectrographic tests in the FBI Crime Lab...

Now, is it reasonable to assume Guinn didn't know this? I don't think so. It seems hard to believe that in his many discussions with the HSCA he would never have inquired about the nick on the bullet nose, and have been informed it had been created by the FBI.

Well, then, is it possible he just...lied? Yes, I now think so. The final paragraph of Guinn's chapter in Chemistry and Crime reads not like the conclusions of a serious scientist, but the bragging of a politician. He writes: "My findings, of course, neither prove nor disprove the various conspiracy speculations, such as someone, in addition to Oswald, firing from some other location such as the 'grassy knoll.' They do show that if any other persons were firing, they did not hit anyone or anything in the President's limousine."

Now, this, of course, is nonsense. Even if one accepts Guinn's analysis of the bullet fragments, his findings "showed" no such thing. But he didn't stop there. In 1986, in sworn testimony taken as part of a televised mock trial, Guinn actually repeated this nonsense. When asked by his fellow Vincent, Bugliosi, "What you're saying is that from your neutron activation analysis, there may have been fifty people firing at President Kennedy that day--is that correct--but if there were, they all missed--ONLY bullets from Oswald's Carcano rifle hit the President--is that correct?" Guinn eagerly responded "That's a correct statement, yes!"

Well, I'll be! Could he really have forgotten he'd found no evidence suggesting the magic bullet had created Kennedy's back wound? Or throat wound? Could he really have forgotten that at least one of the bullets was never found? Well, then, how could he claim that tests never performed on this bullet proved it hadn't hit Kennedy, or anything else in the limo for that matter?

He couldn't, and what's worse, he knew he couldn't. Here is how he summed up his findings in Analytical Chemistry, written but 4 years before Guinn wrote his chapter in Chemistry and Crime, and 7 years before he testified in the mock trial: "The new results can not prove the Warren Commission's theory that the stretcher bullet is the one that caused the President's back wound and all of the Governor's wounds, but the results are indeed consistent with this theory."

And here is how Guinn testified before the HSCA, only 8 years before he testified in the mock trial: "These results only show that the CE 399 "pristine" bullet, or so-called stretcher bullet, matches the fragments in his wrist. They give you no information whatsoever about whether that bullet first went through President Kennedy's body, since it left no track of fragments and, for that matter, it doesn't even say that it went through Governor Connally--through his back, that is--because it left no track of fragments there. At least I have never seen or heard of any recovered lead fragments from either of those wounds. The results merely say that the stretcher bullet matches the fragments in the wrist, and that indicates indeed that that particular bullet did fracture the wrist. It unfortunately can't tell you anything else because there were no other bits and pieces along the other wounds."

Guinn had completely reversed himself for the mock trial!

And this wasn't the only point on which Guinn's mock trial testimony was suspect. Upon cross-examination, Oswald's defense attorney Gerry Spence pointed out that there were at least thirty bullet fragments in Kennedy's head, and that Guinn had examined but two. He thereby raised the possibility that, in opposition to what Guinn had just told Bugliosi, another bullet was involved. When then asked by Spence if he knew the composition of the fragments he'd never examined, Guinn testily replied "Yes!" When then asked if he'd actually tested these fragments, Guinn fought back, showing what one assumes were his true colors. He snapped "No, but I know what they are!"

Well, how could he know that? And, what's more, what kind of scientist would claim, in a court of law, (even a mock court of law) that he knows the results of tests he'd never conducted?
This suggests to me that Guinn knowingly misrepresented his test results to the HSCA, knew it was only a matter of time before his fellow scientists caught on, and attempted to obfuscate the issue by further misrepresenting the case for a single-assassin in articles like the one in Analytical Chemistry, in books such as Chemistry and Crime, and in public appearances like his testimony in the 1986 mock trial.

Let's put this in its proper perspective. Lyndon Johnson was a real person, and a real politician, with real ambitions. In 1960, he had run for the Democratic nomination for President against Kennedy, and had unleashed a series of vicious attacks on Kennedy when it looked as though Kennedy was gonna win. (Adlai Stevenson was later to say that these were the most vitriolic attacks on Kennedy he'd ever heard.) As part of his campaign strategy, Johnson had even tried to cast doubt on Kennedy's fitness for office. To do this, Johnson's campaign manager hired private investigators to uncover the truth about Kennedy's health problems. He then began a rumor campaign designed to make people wonder if Kennedy wasn't too sick to serve out his term. (One source, Kenneth O'Donnell, in his 7-23-69 interview for the Johnson Library, put it a little more bluntly. He claimed that LBJ's campaign manager had put out the word that Kennedy "had Addison's disease and couldn't serve out the term" and that "if he was elected he was going to die.") As the situation grew increasingly desperate in the Johnson camp, moreover, one of his mouthpieces, India Edwards, publicly proclaimed what Johnson had--according to writer Gore Vidal, who'd met with Johnson at the Democratic Convention --been saying in private, namely that "Kennedy was so sick from Addison's disease that he looked like a spavined hunchback." This, no surprise, prompted a response from the Kennedy camp. They issued a series of statements claiming that Kennedy's adrenal dysfunction-- which they'd correctly claimed was not what was classically known as Addison's disease--was in fact under control, with an occasional need for medication.

But there's no evidence Johnson believed this. Perhaps then, when Johnson ultimately accepted Kennedy's offer of the Vice-Presidency at the convention, he believed the words of his campaign manager and felt certain Kennedy was on borrowed time. If so, then perhaps, just perhaps, by November 1963 he'd grown tired of waiting for Kennedy to die. These thoughts were undoubtedly on the minds of more than a few...

Particularly as Johnson's campaign manager in 1960, the man who'd conducted an investigation into Kennedy's health problems, and who'd predicted Kennedy's imminent demise, was, in 1963, Kennedy's host on his fatal trip to Dallas, the Governor of Texas, John Connally...

On June 5, 1960, Kermit Speer and Keith Beaird founded Rural King Supply in Mattoon. [4] The original store was started in a former implement building of 7,200 square feet. [5]

The company started with two employees, besides the owners. In 1963, an addition to the main building was added. In 1966, a warehouse was built, and in 1970, a second addition was added to the store.

A new building was finished and opened in September 1976. In 1999, a new store, warehouse and corporate office consisting of 210,000 square feet was opened across the highway from the old store. The old store and warehouse were donated to the Catholic Charities.

In 2003, a 94,000-square-foot addition was added to the warehouse. In 2007, another 96,000 square feet were added to the warehouse. In 2010, a third warehouse expansion was started that will add 104,000 square feet.

In 1962, Speer and Beaird opened another store in Paris, Illinois, in an old packing house with eight rooms. In 1970, land was purchased across from the Edgar County Fairgrounds and the new Paris Rural King was constructed. In 2001, that building was torn down and the current 55,000-square-foot Paris Rural King was built. Paris was Kermit and Pat Speer's home for 15 years.

The Vandalia, Illinois, Rural King was opened in 1966 in an old building on U.S. Highway 40 East. A new Rural King was built in November 1973 on Van Tran Avenue, which has been renamed Veterans Avenue. An addition to that building was completed in 1983.

In 1979, Gary Melvin, nephew of Kermit Speer, purchased an interest in Rural King. Gary began his career working in the store, learning the products and serving customers.

Bruce Speer, nephew of Kermit Speer, purchased an interest in Rural King in 1982, with the opening of the Litchfield, Ill., store. Bruce began his career as the manager of the Litchfield store. In 1985, he and his family moved to Terre Haute, Ind., where he opened and managed that store for five years. In 1990, Bruce moved to the Mattoon corporate office to help with purchasing and expansion of the Rural King stores. [6]

In December 2015 Rural King announced they had reached, for the first time, $1 Billion in total sales. [7]

In 2017, Rural King purchased the Cross County Mall in Mattoon, Illinois. In July 2018, Rural King finalized their plans for the mall and decided to move the Mattoon Rural King store location into the former Sears space to drive more traffic to the mall and other businesses in the area. The location opened January 16th, 2019. The current facility, located at 4216 Dewitt Avenue, will continue to serve as a distribution center, and the headquarters will be expanded into the current Rural King store space.

Rural King sells work clothing and work boots, equine and pet supplies, live chicks and rabbits, hunting equipment and supplies, firearms and ammunition, tractor/trailer parts and accessories, lawn and garden supplies, sprinkler/irrigation parts, power tools, fencing, welding and pump supplies, riding mowers, agricultural chemicals and many other farm and home supplies. Rural King also sells toys, especially around the holidays. [8] One of Rural King's notable sales tactics is offering free coffee and popcorn to customers inside their stores.


Richard "Dick" Speer (1915-1994) possessed a remarkable talent for things mechanical. He was a machinist at Boeing Aircraft's Seattle plant when he realized that his brother Vernon's success in the component bullet business (Speer) meant there was money to be made in reloading.

There were many proprietary rifle cartridge designs like the Weatherby and Newton that were not supported by the big ammo companies. Dick decided to make cases to service this small but active market. He left Seattle and joined Vernon in Lewiston, Idaho. In a small room at the Speer plant, he began production of these special cases using an impact extrusion process.

After two name changes, Speer and his partner, Arvid Nelson, settled on the name Cascade Cartridges, Inc., or CCI.

Although Speer's case-making process was sound, the quality of the raw material was not. In the years after WWII, most stocks of cartridge brass had been depleted for the war effort. Faced with an untenable situation, Speer turned to a different path. Component primers for reloaders were in short supply. Some war surplus primers were showing up, but the supply and choice was limited. Speer decided to get into the component primer business.

Speer intended to build primers for hobby reloaders, however, CCI's first shipment was to fulfill a military contract using the chlorate FA-70 formula. He then turned to non-corrosive, non-mercuric formulas for sporting cartridges. Reloaders now had a steady supply of rifle and pistol primers that was unheard of previously.

To handle the new business, Speer bought a 17-acre chicken ranch next to the Lewiston Gun Club, just a mile south of brother Vernon's bullet works. The farmhouse doubled as an office and warehouse, and production began in a renovated chicken coop. He quickly erected modern labs and manufacturing buildings, gaining him room to expand the product line. When the gun club moved, Speer bought the adjoining property for future expansion. The CCI plant still occupies that property today.

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Oswald's Mother

I’ve been following Pat Speer’s web site for a while now. I admire his work. His web site is laid out like an online book (which it is) with chapters loaded down with illustrations and photographs. As an independent researcher he is thoughtful and well reasoned in dealing with the confusing mess that makes up the Kennedy assassination. He delves into that happened rather than conspiracy theories.

The fur started to fly when Speers did a chapter on his site entitled, Chapter 12c: Animania. Here, he takes on Dale Myers, an Emmy award winning animator who is most famous in recent years for his recreations of the Warren Commission’s SBT—single bullet theory for network TV documentaries. Myers has been at this for years starting out with test dummies and moving on to computer simulations. You can see Myers work in Beyond Conspiracy and Beyond the Magic Bullet.

Frankly, I would not want to be in Myers’ position here. There are numerous conflicts in the evidence from over 40 years ago and that carries over into the animation as well. For example in one animation, which is supposed to be correct in every detail, we are shown a red line depicting the bullet passing through Kennedy’s back and entering Connolly’s back. However, the line exits Kennedy’s chest, not the neck, which is an error Myers never addresses.

Pat Speer’s analysis of Myers’ animations have led him to conclude that his work fraudulent. Strong words. Myers has issued several rebuttals on an Internet forum and on his web site and the fur has flown. The resulting tit-for-tat is far too involved to go into here see both men’s sites (see links below) for the blow-by-blow details.

Speer does bring up some valid issues with Myers’ work. The placement of the jump seat relative to the door, the relative seat heights, the exact positions of both men to allow the passage of the single bullet, and how much foliage was present on Elm Street that Oswald had to shoot through. He does a decent job of finding flaws with animations and raises some valid issues.

Speer however, does falter on one issue and that is Myers’ placement of Kennedy and Connally in the limousine. Myers has Connally sitting low enough to be the floor. Myers’ response is to blame it on the distortion of the digitally generated camera wide-angle view. I am a photographer and have used wide-angle lenses for years. This simply cannot happen. Oddly, the side view from the animation showing Connally seated well below Kennedy. Myers’ explanation is odd, as he could have made a better response here. There are numerous photographs shot that day showing Connolly seated lower. Other photographs at apparently different angles show them seated on the same level (see examples below). In fact there is one I found of the limo door opened showing the jump seat positioned much lower than the rear seat. All Myers has to do is show the photos. Obviously, the President should sit taller, right?

Conversely, Speer had to know these photographs exist as well. But for the sake argument, or whatever, chooses not to address them.

In Dale Myers defense, I do not think he is out to deceive the public. Pat Speer does and calls him a liar. I think Myers’ intentions are sincere though he seems content with what data is at hand, which is a flawed mess to begin with. For example, what we know as the SBT comes to us from a lawyer—not ballistics experts or engineers. Myers seem unconcerned with that and ends up doing what the original investigation did, which in some areas is to jury-rig the evidence to fit the theory. What Myers does is no different than Gerald Ford moving the President’s back wound to the back of the neck to be more “precise” in the final report. That way, everything works out right for the narrative. (And ironically, Myers does position the back wound in his animations inches above where the autopsy photos and measurements show the injury.)

I think a lot serious researchers such as Myers goes for the lone gunman theory because the bad reputation that conspiracy researchers have been pegged with. Even with Pat Speers who is reasonable and not a conspiratorialist, with his simple questioning of the official scenario, finds himself placed in that camp.

At last count Myers has retired from the field of debate with Speer. Good for him. He needs to heal up from the bruises. Speer lets Myers have the final word:

“Forget about convincing Mr. Speer that one cannot draw a rational conclusion from an irrational premise I’ve tried. Suffice it to say that Mr. Speer prefers to live in a land of illusion where physical realities don’t hold a candle to obsessive conspiracy theories.”

Myers only rejoinder is that he has tried to talk sense to a mule. As if that is smart to begin with. What Speer has done is to carefully dissect Myers’ recreation of the STB in painful detail. Speer paints Myers in a corner due largely due to his own numerous errors in his data. Of course in time, the paint will dry and Myers will escape to find a friendly venue for his theories and recreations. A stage where he will not be asked hard questions and be allowed to promote his version of what happened on that tragic day in November.

The Speer Family

Speer Family George Thomas "G. T." Speer was born to James J. and Emma Speer on March 10, 1891, in Fayette, Georgia. Speer's musical aptitude can be traced to his father, who played the fiddle. The family moved first to Cullman County and then to a farm near Double Springs, Winston County. Emma Speer died soon after her fifth child, daughter Pearl, was born in 1902. James Speer remarried Mary Estes Seymour and had nine more children. G. T., known as Tom growing up, soon became adept at playing the organ and giving music lessons to his younger siblings.

The Speer Family was inducted into the Alabama Hall of Fame in 1997 and into the Gospel Music Association's Hall of Fame in 1998, following individual inductions for "Dad" Speer (1971) "Mom" Speer (1972) Brock Speer (1975) and Ben Speer (1995).

Becker, Paula. Let the Song Go On: Fifty Years of Gospel Singing with the Speer Family. Nashville, Tenn.: Impact Books, 1971.

The Candor and Lies of Nazi Officer Albert Speer

Adolf Hitler and Albert Speer in 1943. Photo: Wikipedia

On April 30, 1945, as Soviet troops fought toward the Reich Chancellery in Berlin in street-to-street combat, Adolf Hitler put a gun to his head and fired. Berlin quickly surrendered and World War II in Europe was effectively over. Yet Hitler’s chosen successor, Grand Admiral Karl Donitz, decamped with others of the Nazi Party faithful to northern Germany and formed the Flensburg Government.

As Allied troops and the U.N. War Crimes Commission closed in on Flensburg, one Nazi emerged as a man of particular interest: Albert Speer, the brilliant architect, minister of armaments and war production for the Third Reich and a close friend to Hitler. Throughout World War II, Speer had directed an “armaments miracle,” doubling Hitler’s production orders and prolonging the German war effort while under relentless Allied air attacks. He did this through administrative genius and by exploiting millions of slave laborers who were starved and worked to death in his factories.

Speer arrived in Flensburg aware that the Allies were targeting Nazi leaders for war-crimes trials. He—like many other Nazi Party members and SS officers—concluded that he could expect no mercy once captured. Unlike them, he did not commit suicide.

The hunt for Albert Speer was unusual. The U.N. War Crimes Commission was determined to bring him to justice, but a U.S. government official hoped to reach the Nazi technocrat first. A former investment banker named Paul Nitze, who was then vice chairman of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, believed it was imperative to get to Speer. As the war in Europe was winding down, the Americans were hoping that strategic bombing in Japan could end the war in the Pacific. But in order to achieve that, they hoped to learn more about how Germany had maintained its war machine while withstanding heavy bombing. Thus Nitze needed Speer. In May 1945, the race was on to capture and interrogate one of Hitler’s most notorious henchmen.

Speer is arrested along with members of the Flensburg Government in May 1945. Photo: Wikipedia

Just after Hitler’s death, President Donitz and his cabinet took up residence at the Naval Academy at Murwik, overlooking the Flensburg Fjord. On his first evening in power, the new leader gave a nationwide radio address though he knew German forces could not resist Allied advances, he promised his people that Germany would continue to fight. He also appointed Speer his minister of industry and production.

On May 15, American forces arrived in Flensburg and got to Speer first. Nitze arrived at Glucksburg Castle, where Speer was being held, along with the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who was also working for the Strategic Bombing Survey, and a team of interpreters and assistants. They interrogated Speer for seven straight days, during which he talked freely with the Americans, taking them through what he termed “bombing high school.” Each morning Speer, dressed in a suit, would pleasantly answer questions with what struck his questioners as remarkable candor—enough candor that Nitze and his associates dared not ask what Speer knew of the Holocaust, out of fear that his mood might change. Speer knew his best chance to survive was to cooperate and seem indispensable to the Americans, and his cooperation had a strange effect on his interrogators. One of them said he “evoked in us a sympathy of which we were all secretly ashamed.”

He demonstrated an unparalleled understanding of the Nazi war machine. He told Nitze how he had reduced the influence of the military and the Nazi Party in decision-making, and how he had followed Henry Ford’s manufacturing principles to run the factories more efficiently. He told his interrogators why certain British and American air attacks had failed and why others had been effective. He explained how he’d traveled around Germany to urge his workers on in speeches he later termed “delusional,” because he already knew the war was lost.

Paul Nitze of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey interrogated Speer in May 1945. Photo: Wikipedia

In March 1945, he said, with the end in sight, Hitler had called for a “scorched earth” plan (his “Nero Decree”) to destroy any industrial facilities, supply depots, military equipment or infrastructure that might be valuable to advancing enemy forces. Speer said he was furious and disobeyed Hitler’s orders, transferring his loyalty from der Fuhrer to the German people and the future of the nation.

After a week, Nitze received a message from a superior: “Paul, if you’ve got any further things you want to find out from Speer you’d better get him tomorrow.”  The Americans were planning on arresting the former minister of armaments and war production, and he would no longer be available for interrogation. Nitze did have something else he wanted to find out from Speer: He wanted to know all about Hitler’s last days in the bunker, since Speer was among the last men to meet with him. According to Nitze, Speer “leaned over backwards” to help, pointing the Americans to where they could find records of his reports to Hitler—many of which were held in a safe in Munich. Nitze said Speer “gave us the keys to the safe and combination, and we sent somebody down to get these records.”  But Speer was evasive, Nitze thought, and not credible when he claimed no knowledge of the Holocaust or war crimes against Jews laboring in his factories.

“It became evident right away that Speer was worried he might be declared a war criminal,” Nitze later said. On May 23, British and American officials called for a meeting with Flensburg government cabinet members aboard the ship Patria and had them all arrested.  Tanks rolled up to Glucksburg Castle, and heavily armed troops burst into Speer’s bedroom to take him away. “So now the end has come,” he said. “That’s good. It was all only kind of an opera anyway.”

Nitze, Galbraith and the men from the bombing survey moved on. In September 1945, Speer was informed that he would be charged with war crimes and incarcerated pending trial at Nuremberg, along with more than 20 other surviving members of the Nazi high command. The series of military tribunals beginning in November 1945 were designed to show the world that the mass crimes against humanity by German leaders would not go unpunished.

As films from concentration camps were shown as evidence, and as witnesses testified to the horrors they endured at the hands of the Nazis, Speer was observed to have tears in his eyes. When he took the stand, he insisted that he had no knowledge of the Holocaust, but the evidence of slave labor in his factories was damning. Speer apologized to the court and claimed responsibility for the slave labor, saying he should have known but did not. He was culpable, he said, but he insisted he had no knowledge of the crimes. Later, to show his credentials as a “good Nazi” and to distance himself from his co-defendants, Speer would claim that he’d planned to kill Hitler two years before by dropping a poison gas canister into an air intake in his bunker. On hearing that, the other defendants laughed in the courtroom.

In the fall of 1946, most of the Nazi elites at Nuremberg were sentenced either to death or to life in prison. Speer received 20 years at Spandau Prison in Berlin, where he was known as prisoner number 5. He read continuously, tended a garden and, against prison rules, wrote the notes for what would become bestselling books, including Inside the Third Reich. There was no question that Speer’s contrition in court, and perhaps his cooperation with Nitze, saved his life.

After serving the full 20 years, Speer was released in 1966. He grew wealthy, lived in a cottage in Heidelberg, West Germany, and cultivated his image as a “good Nazi” who had spoken candidly about his past. But questions about Speer’s truthfulness began to dog him soon after his release. In 1971, Harvard University’s Erich Goldhagen alleged that Speer had been aware of the extermination of Jews, based on evidence that Speer had attended a Nazi conference in 1943 at which Heinrich Himmler, Hitler’s military commander, had spoken openly about “wiping the Jews from the face of the earth.” Speer admitted that he’d attended the conference but said he had left before Himmler gave his infamous “Final Solution” speech.

Speer died in a London hospital in 1981. His legacy as an architect was ephemeral: None of his buildings, including the Reich Chancellery or the Zeppelinfeld stadium, are standing today. Speer’s legacy as a Nazi persists. A quarter-century after his death, a collection of 100 letters emerged from his ten-year correspondence with Helene Jeanty, the widow of a Belgian resistance leader. In one of the letters, Speer admitted that he had indeed heard Himmler’s speech about exterminating the Jews. “There is no doubt—I was present as Himmler announced on October 6 1943 that all Jews would be killed,” Speer wrote. “Who would believe me that I suppressed this, that it would have been easier to have written all of this in my memoirs?”

Books: Nicholas Thompson, The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War, Henry Holt and Company, 2009. Donald L. Miller, Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany, Simon & Schuster, 2006. Dan Van Der Vat, The Good Nazi: The Life and Lies of Albert Speer, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997.

Articles: “Letter Proves Speer Knew of Holocaust Plan,” By Kate Connolly, The Guardian, March 12, 2007. “Wartime Reports Debunk Speer as the Good Nazi,” By Kate Connolly, The Guardian, May 11, 2005. “Paul Nitze: Master Strategist of the Cold War,” Academy of Achievement,  ”Speer on the Last Days of the Third Reich,” USSBS Special Document, “The Long Arm of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey,” by Rebecca Grant, Air Force Magazine, February, 2008.

Film: Nazi Hunters: The Real Hunt for Hitler’s Henchmen, The “Good” Nazi? History Channel, 2010, Hosted by Alisdair Simpson

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One Gateway Center, 19th Floor
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222


Public Company
Incorporated: 1988 as Carbon/Graphite Group, Inc.
Employees: 907
Sales: $207.36 million (2000)
Stock Exchanges: NASDAQ
Ticker Symbol: CGGI
NAIC: 335991 Carbon and Graphite Product Manufacturing 324199 All Other Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing 32512 Industrial Gas Manufacturing 325188 All Other Basic Inorganic Chemical Manufacturing

Company Perspectives:

The Carbide/Graphite Group is a major U.S. manufacturer of graphite electrode products and calcium carbide products. Graphite electrodes are used as conductors of electricity, and are consumed, in the electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmaking process common to all minimill steel producers. Calcium carbide and derivative products, primarily acetylene, are used in the manufacture of specialty chemicals, as a fuel in metal cutting and welding and for iron and steel desulfurization. Carbide/Graphite Group is the only manufacturer of graphite electrodes that produces its own requirements of needle coke, the principal raw material used in the manufacture of graphite electrodes. The Carbide/Graphite Group also sells needle coke to other manufacturers of graphite products.

Key Dates:

1899: Speer Carbon is founded in St. Mary's, Pennsylvania.
1920: Speer begins manufacturing graphite electrodes for steel production.
1961: Airco purchases Speer Carbon and renames it Airco Speer.
1966: Airco Speer purchases National Carbide, a maker of calcium carbide.
1978: British BOC Group acquires Airco Speer, which becomes its Carbon/Graphite Division.
1982: BOC launches $250 million expansion of Carbon/Graphite operations.
1988: Management of BOC's Carbon/Graphite Division lead a leveraged buyout.
1992: Company becomes known as the Carbide/Graphite Group, Inc.
1995: Stock is offered on the NASDAQ exchange specialty graphite business is sold.
1997: U.S. Justice Department investigates major electrode makers for price fixing.
1998: Carbide/Graphite sets aside $38 million to settle potential claims from lawsuits, taking an additional charge of $7 million the following year for the same purpose.
1999: Company restructures, lays off more than 20 percent of its workforce.
2000: Joint ventures with Austrian and Pittsburgh-based companies are launched.

The Carbide/Graphite Group, Inc. produces massive graphite electrodes for use in steel manufacturing needle coke, a raw ingredient used to form these electrodes and calcium carbide and related products for use as fuel, in chemical manufacturing, and for other specialized applications. The company's sales are primarily to U.S. customers, with approximately a quarter of its revenues derived from sales to European, Asian, and Central and South American countries. A downturn in demand for electrodes, and the costs associated with antitrust charges levied against the company, have forced a recent restructuring and cuts in both staff and operations.

The origins of the present-day Carbide/Graphite Group extend back to 1899, when the Speer Carbon Company was founded in St. Mary's, Pennsylvania, by chemist John Speer and financier Andrew Kaul. Speer Carbon began operations as a producer of carbon brushes for electric motors and generators. In 1920 a plant was added in Niagara Falls, New York, to graphitize carbon electrodes that were being made at the Pennsylvania facility. These electrodes were used as consumable tools in the electric manufacturing of steel, which was then a relatively new process. Twelve years later another unit, Speer Resistor Corporation, was established to manufacture carbon resistors for radios.

In 1961 Speer Carbon was purchased by Airco, a producer of gases for industrial and healthcare use, and renamed Airco Speer. Speer and Airco both sold their products to the same types of industrial customers. The following year Airco began a $47 million modernization and expansion of Speer's carbon and graphite operations, and Airco Speer soon became the second largest company in its field. In 1966 Airco acquired National Carbide, which had been formed before World War II to produce calcium carbide at a plant in Louisville, Kentucky, and had later acquired a government-built acetylene plant. Calcium carbide, made from lime and coke, became acetylene gas when mixed with water, which was used for a variety of industrial purposes such as chemical manufacturing and welding.

In 1978 Airco was acquired by British industrial gas giant BOC Group, and four years later BOC launched a new $250 million upgrade program. An electrode manufacturing plant in Ridgeville, South Carolina, and a petroleum needle coke plant in Seadrift, Texas, were built, with the latter producing the raw material used to make carbon electrodes.

A decline in steel production led to a drop in electrode prices during the early 1980s, and in 1988 BOC sold its calcium carbide and graphite producing operations to management and an outside investment group in a $150 million leveraged buyout. As part of the arrangement the electrode plant in South Carolina was sold to Showa Denko of Japan. The newly created company was named the Carbon/Graphite Group, Inc., which was changed slightly to the Carbide/Graphite Group, Inc. in 1992. By this time the company had become the leading U.S.-based maker of graphite and calcium carbide products for industrial use, and the only one producing its own needle coke, which it also sold to outside companies. Graphite products, primarily electrodes, accounted for more than two-thirds of revenues.

A Delayed IPO in the 1990s

In 1992 Carbide/Graphite announced plans to issue three million shares of common stock, but later postponed the offering, citing unfavorable market conditions. In 1995 the company sold its specialty graphite producing operations to competitor SGL Carbon AG of Germany for $62 million, a third of which would be plowed back into plant upgrades. Manufacturing facilities in St. Mary's, Pennsylvania Dallas, Texas Kitchener, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec, were given up in the deal.

The initial public offering (IPO) was revived soon afterward, following a successful stock offering from Carbide/Graphite's top competitor, UCAR International. At this time the company's largest stockholder, Centre Capital Investors, sold its 58 percent stake in the company. Former CEO James Baldwin and several others also sold their shares, with a total of 5.4 million put on the market. Carbide/Graphite's revenues at the time of the IPO stood at $240 million, with half derived from foreign sales. The resurgence of the steel market in the early 1990s had seen the cost of electrodes reach $1.33 a pound, up more than a third from the 1990 price. The company was doing well enough to repurchase substantial chunks of its debt.

The main products manufactured by Carbide/Graphite, massive graphite electrode rods, were now in high demand in the steel industry for use in 'minimill' steel mills. Unlike the traditional steelmaking process in which oxygen was blown through iron that had been separated from ore in a blast furnace, minimills used scrap metal that was melted down by a huge infusion of electricity conducted by graphite electrodes. These electrodes, as large as nine feet long and two tons in weight, were themselves consumed in the process of steelmaking, lasting only about eight hours before they were burned up. The electrodes were manufactured in a time-consuming process in which coal tar pitch and needle coke, a petroleum byproduct, were mixed and formed into rods. They were then baked, with more pitch added, and cooked again in a 5,000 degree oven. This step converted them to graphite, a heat resistant electrical conductor. The entire process took as long as three months to complete.

In 1997 the company named Walter B. Fowler, Jr., president and CEO, replacing Nicholas Kaiser, who had served as CEO since 1994 and president since 1991. Fowler previously had headed Carbide/Graphite's electrode operations. The company was continuing to thrive at this time, reporting annual sales of $259 million and profits of $12.1 million. Its stock price had been climbing steadily as well, topping $29 in early 1997, up from the offering figure of $15 less than two years before. A $28 million efficiency-improvement program was now in the works.

Charges of Price Fixing in 1997

In the spring of 1997 the U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation of the major graphite electrode makers for evidence of price fixing, with subpoenas issued to UCAR International, SGL Carbon, Carbide/Graphite Group, and two others. Executives of Carbide/Graphite were offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony before a grand jury in Philadelphia. The company also participated in the Department of Justice's Corporate Leniency Program with its promise of full cooperation in the ongoing investigation. Electrode prices had been escalating at a rate greater than inflation, and the U.S. Justice Department alleged that meetings had been held in which the companies agreed to raise prices, restrict manufacturing capacity, withhold technology from other competitors, and split up the world market among themselves.

On the heels of this probe, a group of U.S. steel manufacturers joined a class-action lawsuit against the top electrode companies, seeking damages for the alleged price fixing. In early 1998 Showa Denko Carbon of Japan agreed to pay a $29 million fine to the United States in an admission of guilt in the case, quickly followed by UCAR, which paid a record $110 million. UCAR also later settled a lawsuit brought by 27 steelmakers for $80 million.

Despite the investigation, Carbide/Graphite continued paying down its debt and arranged for $120 million in revolving credit, while initiating a $10 million stock repurchase program. The company also set aside $38 million for potential fine and lawsuit payments. In the aftermath of the antitrust investigation, sales of the company's electrodes began to taper off, mainly because of an influx of lower-cost imported steel, and Carbide/Graphite announced that it was expecting lower earnings figures for the foreseeable future. The company subsequently laid off 100 workers at its St. Mary's, Pennsylvania plant, closed its graphitizing and baking operations there, and postponed plans to spend $40 million to upgrade its Niagara Falls plant.

More bad news came in November 1998 when Dow Chemical Co. closed a magnesium production plant in Texas that used Carbide/Graphite-manufactured graphite anodes, thus canceling contracts worth $11 million to the company. A total of 230 additional layoffs, representing 20 percent of Carbide/Graphite's workforce, was announced in February 1999. Shortly after this, SGL Carbon AG agreed to pay a $145 million fine, eclipsing UCAR's as the largest in U.S. antitrust history. The amount included $10 million paid by SGL CEO Robert J. Koehler. By some accounts SGL had been the driving force in the price fixing conspiracy, and several SGL executives were given prison terms. SGL's U.S. operating unit had filed for bankruptcy protection the previous December.

Carbide/Graphite continued to soldier on, reducing inventory levels and further improving the efficiency of its operations. A total of 180 employees were temporarily laid off while this took place, but they were called back ahead of schedule. In the spring of 1999 a reorganization of the company's graphite electrode operations was begun in which several top executives were replaced, operations were consolidated, and 35 additional jobs were eliminated through an early retirement and severance program. Business conditions remained difficult, however, with electrode prices hitting a low of $1.13 a pound. Fiscal 2000 figures showed a loss of $9.7 million for the year, mainly attributed to costs associated with plant closings and an additional amount of money set aside for legal costs. A $30 million hydrosulfurization complex planned for the Seadrift coke plant was put on hold. By this time the company had paid out much of the money it had earmarked for lawsuit settlement costs, for an estimated 96 percent of its total liability. Other cases were still pending in Canada and Europe, and the company was cooperating with European investigations into the antitrust situation.

A joint venture was launched by Carbide/Graphite in 2000 with MetallpulverGesellschaft mbH & Co. KG of Austria. The 50/50 venture involved international magnesium production and utilized Carbide/Graphite's calcium carbide production capacity. Initial plans for the venture's purchase of Reactive Metals and Alloys Corp. were canceled, however. A second joint venture was formed with Pittsburgh-based Power Quality Systems, Inc. to jointly market electric-arc furnace efficiency optimization systems made by the two companies.

Although it was still recovering from the legal troubles of the late 1990s, Carbide/Graphite Group, Inc. was looking to the future with several new joint ventures and a more efficient, slimmed-down organization. The company's fortunes continued to rise and fall on the somewhat mercurial steel market, however, and the graphite electrode business, upon which Carbide/Graphite was still in large part dependent, appeared likely to remain erratic.

Principal Subsidiaries: C/G Specialty Products Management Corp. Carbide/Graphite Management Corp. Carbon/Graphite International.

Principal Competitors: Conoco, Inc. Nippon Carbon Co., Ltd. SGL Carbon AG Showa Denko K.K. Superior Graphite Co. Tokai Carbon Co., Ltd. UCAR International, Inc.

Boselovic, Len, 'Asia's Woes Dog Carbide/Graphite,' Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 25, 1999, p. F4.
------, 'Carbide/Graphite Lays Off 100 in Elk County,' Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 7, 1998, p. D1.
------, 'The Carbide/Graphite Group Stirs Up Steel Refining with Electrodes,' Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 1, 1997, p. C4.
Burgert, Philip, and John E. Sacco, 'Investigators Probe Electrode Sales,' American Metal Market, June 9, 1997, p. 1.
'Electrode Suppliers Investigated for Price-Fixing,' New Steel, August 1, 1997, p. 14.
Fox, Lauren, 'Graphite Electrode Makers Face Price-Fixing Probe,' Dow Jones News Service, June 5, 1997.
Houser, Mark, 'Steelmakers Going Wild for Electric Furnaces,' Tribune Review, October 8, 1995, p. 1.
'IPO Spotlight Recommendation: Carbide/Graphite Group Buy,' Emerging & Special Situations, August 14, 1992, p. 8.
'Minimills Look to Recoup Overcharges for Electrodes,' Iron Age New Steel, October 1, 1998, p. 60.
'New Issues--Carbide/Graphite Group Avoid,' Emerging & Special Situations, September 18, 1995, p. 17.
'Price Fixing Fallout Tars Graphite Firms,' Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, February 24, 1998, p. E1.
Sacco, John E., 'Carbide/Graphite Will Throttle Back Output,' American Metal Market, October 27, 1999, p. 1.
------, 'Exec Shake-Up Under Way at Carbide/Graphite Group,' American Metal Market, April 12, 2000, p. 3.
Ward, Joe, 'Management Officials Buy Out BOC's Airco Carbide Division,' Courier-Journal, March 8, 1988, p. 8.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories , Vol. 40. St. James Press, 2001.

Pat Speer - History

By Blaine Taylor

On October 6, 1943, Dr. Albert Speer, Reich minister of armaments and war production for the Third Reich, gave a 50-minute address to the assembled top officials of Nazi Germany at Posen Castle in occupied Poland’s Reich Gau (Region) of Wartheland on the critical state of World War II at that point.

Nazi Propaganda Minister Dr. Josef Goebbels later noted in his diary entry, “Speer told them very bluntly that no protests and no arguments would deter him [from converting all plants to war production]. He is, of course, right….”

But that is not how the “Golden Pheasants” of the Nazi Party—the Reichsleiters (national leaders) and Gauleiters (regional leaders)—or secretary to the Führer Martin Bormann (already a deadly Speer foe) saw it, as they sat stunned in the sumptuous Golden Hall of the castle, summoned especially for the occasion.

They took special umbrage at Speer’s next words, which they correctly viewed as a direct threat to their domains: “You will please take note of what I am saying. The manner in which some of the Gaue have hitherto obstructed the shutdown of consumer goods production will no longer be tolerated…. I am prepared to apply the authority of the Reich Government at any cost. I have discussed this with Reichsführer-SS [National administrator of the SS] [Heinrich] Himmler, and from now on, districts that do not carry out within two weeks the measures I request will be dealt with firmly.”

Was Speer grand-standing, claiming more power for himself than he should have? Whatever the case, he ruffled many Nazi feathers with his speech.

Bormann, who was also present, returned to Adolf Hitler with this information in a successful attempt to undermine Speer’s standing with his Führer. Himmler had also spoken at Posen, and it was on this notorious occasion that he told the assembled guests about what the SS had been doing “in the East” to the Jews and others since the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

This was “part of Hitler’s determination to make sure that his supporters were all implicated in the catastrophe he was bringing on Germany,” wrote Gitta Sereny in her excellent revisionist 1995 work, Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth.

Speer later claimed that he wasn’t there—that he’d left before Himmler spoke—and that, therefore, he didn’t know about the terrible realities of “the Final Solution of the Jewish Question.” He did, of course, know of the slave-labor conditions in use at the underground V-2 rocket factory at Nordhausen/Dora in the rugged Harz Mountains of Germany that was under his direct control.

An Opportunist With No Principles

How did a talented, intelligent architect from an upper-middle-class family in Mannheim, educated at the Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe and universities in Munich and Berlin, find himself in this situation?

In his best-selling biography, Speer: The Final Verdict, published in 2003, the late German author Joachim C. Fest included much interesting detail on young Albert’s early family life. The son of an architect, Albert grew up to be a man of no fixed principles and an opportunist––the type who can be found in virtually any American corporate boardroom today. On the other hand, as Fest pointed out, “Unlike nearly all the members of Hitler’s close entourage, Speer was never servile or undignified,” which probably gained him a measure of respect in the Führer’s eyes. His demeanor would also impress the Allied court during the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg in 1945-1946.

Hitler is accompanied by Albert Speer (right), general building inspector for Berlin, as well as Hermann Esser (center), vice president of the Nazi Reichstag in January 1937.

Not only did Fest himself grow up during the Nazi period in Germany, but––following Speer’s release from prison–– worked closely with the new memoirist as his editor on his first two best-selling volumes, Memoirs: Inside the Third Reich and Spandau: The Secret Diaries.

In 1933, Hitler, who had once dreamed of an architectural career himself, met Speer and was impressed by the young architect and his monolithic designs that would become the template for “Fascist” architecture. Hitler gave Speer some “small” initial projects, such as Nazi monuments, but the scope of his work quickly grew.

The Nuremberg Spectacle

Speer’s career was profoundly influenced not only by his most famous patron, Hitler, but also by the timely deaths of two men. The first––Dr. Paul Ludwig Troost–– the Führer’s original main (but not only) architect, died suddenly in 1934. Speer, then 29, succeeded him and took over most of Hitler’s grandiose building projects, such as the parade grounds at Nuremberg where the 1934 Nazi Party Congress would be held (captured by Leni Riefenstahl in her iconic and powerful film, Triumph of the Will).

In fact, it was Speer who was responsible for orchestrating Nuremberg’s spectacular setting—the gigantic Nazi eagles and emblems, the striking lighting effects, the sea of swastika-emblazoned flags, the stirring military bands, and the tens of thousands of uniformed marchers. Remarking on the frenzy of the crowds at Nuremberg, the American journalist William L. Shirer wrote that Hitler “was restoring pageantry to the drab lives of Germans.” He, of course, did not know that it was Speer who was behind the magic curtain. Speer had even bigger dreams plans for a 400,000-capacity stadium at Nuremberg were also in the works.

While churning out designs for the Reich, Speer was also working as a freelance architect. The workload was crushing. Joachim Fest reported that Speer “was stupefied by the never-ending flood of inquiries, commissions, journeys, and administrative duties, often coming home late in the evening, ‘speechless with exhaustion.’ To begin with, he had refused to accept a fee for his official work, but he increasingly got into difficulties. Only toward the end of 1935, when Göring assured him with his constantly cheerful greed, ‘They’re all nonsense, your ideals. You’ve got to make money!’ did Speer accept a fee of 30,000 marks for his work up until then.”

The Grand Architectural Plans of the Nazi Party

On January 30, 1937—the fourth anniversary of his being appointed Reich chancellor—Hitler elevated his young protégé to the position of general building inspector of the Reich. This made Speer a state secretary in the Reich cabinet, which meant that he was, in effect, serving as the Führer’s own deputy in all matters architectural, reporting to him alone.

The young man of 32 had arrived. He and his patron immediately meshed, asserted author Fest, because Hitler was “always ready to take the most eccentric ideas seriously and put them into effect with that fearlessness with which he etched himself so indelibly on the world’s memory.”

Soon Hitler began entrusting more and more projects to Speer, including the German pavilion at the 1937 Paris Exposition (see WWII Quarterly, Winter 2011), a number of government buildings (including the new Reich chancellery in 1939), and the greatest plum prize of all: turning Hitler’s dream of converting dowdy Berlin into the shimmering Welthauptstadt Germania––the capital of a Nazi-dominated Europe––into reality. Numerous buildings from the overall plan were erected in the prewar years.

His biographer also noted that it was Speer who was given the task of “arranging a harvest festival on the Buckeberg near Hameln” that annually drew over a million peasants and farmers in their colorful garb, no mean feat. Fest pointed out that Speer was not the Führer’s sole architect––that Hermann Giesler (whom Hitler took with him to Paris along with Speer on June 28, 1940, for his only tour thereof) was his great rival, a fact that Speer never acknowledged in his own trio of postwar volumes.

Thus, only Nuremberg and Berlin were solely Speer projects, while Bormann—Speer’s most malevolent enemy—saw to it that Giesler got the much sought-after commissions of buildings on both the Obersalzberg in Bavaria and at Linz. The latter was the projected site of Hitler’s planned tomb in Austria, which would never be built, just like most of the other grandiose Nazi prewar structures.

Still, Speer sought to build the “highest skyscraper for Hamburg, the greatest seaside resort for the island of Rugen, and the world’s most powerful radio transmitter.”

The Death of Fritz Todt and the Armament Miracle

As the war clouds over Europe gathered in 1939, Speer was not shy about siding with those who favored going to war. With its coming, ironically, Speer’s rising star in Nazi Germany started to peak—if not to fall—because his role as a majordomo in the building sphere gained him no laurels at Hitler’s military conference tables at the various Führer headquarters spread out across German-occupied Europe.

But Speer’s life would take a dramatic turn before long.

Then the second of two men who would propel Speer’s career into the heights died. On February 8, 1942, engineer Dr. Fritz Todt, head of Organization Todt––the construction arm of the Third Reich and pre-war builder of the autobahns (the world’s first true automobile expressways)––and Nazi Germany’s initial wartime arms tsar––was killed in a mysterious airplane crash that Speer, in his memoirs, implied may have been an assassination. Hitler, in a stunning rebuke to Reich Marshal Göring (who coveted the post himself), appointed Speer to succeed Todt––despite Speer’s protestations that he knew nothing about armaments production.

According to Speer in 1970, Hitler said merely, “I know you will manage it,” and he knew his man well enough. By the end of the war three years later, Speer had not only returned production to private industry from the bungling of Nazi Party bureaucrats and regulators, but actually managed to produce more planes, tanks, and guns in the last year of the conflict. This, ironically, was as the Nazis were losing the war, rather than had been done under Todt, when they were winning. Allied historians thus credited Speer with prolonging the war by at least a year.

In the course of this truly phenomenal achievement, Speer employed millions of foreign slave laborers, including Jews—thousands of whom died—and thus began his road to eventual imprisonment and possible eternal damnation in history. As he plainly acknowledged—although he lied about explicitly knowing during the war of the extermination of the Jews and others—“It will be my stamp.”

Speer Rises Through the Third Reich’s Ranks

On the purely military side of the ledger, Joachim Fest asserted, “After the conclusion of the Norwegian campaign [in 1940] Hitler commissioned [Speer] to take on the plans for the new town that was to arise near Trondheim, Norway. With shipyards, docks, and a quarter of a million inhabitants, it was to be the largest naval base of the future Reich,” most likely for the planned naval war with the United States’ Atlantic Fleet.

Continued Fest, “Although he was one of the producers, Speer himself was undoubtedly gripped by these overwhelming emotions: seducer and seduced at the same time. ‘I was swept away,’ he admitted, adding that he would not have hesitated to follow Hitler ‘blindly … anywhere.’ He always insisted that the relationship that had developed between them had resembled that of an architect toward an admired patron rather than of a follower toward a political leader.”

“Not until much later did [Speer] realize that whenever the regime was accused of persecution or breaking treaties, he subconsciously began to search for justifications, and that soon he had joined the chorus of yes-men.”

Two Nazi guards stand in front of the New German Reich Chancellery, designed for Hitler by Speer and built during 1938-1939.

Whatever else can or cannot be said of Adolf Hitler, he never did anything by halves, and thus Speer emerged as the handmaiden of his will in many of his better-known projects, such as their joint buildings that can still be seen in both actuality (among other things, the street lamps he designed for Berlin are still there) and also in models in period prewar and wartime films today.

Indeed, more than 40 “Führer cities” across Germany were slated for rebuilding by the dynamic architectural duo of Hitler and Speer. By 1940, Speer had emerged as a major power player within the Third Reich.

Speer’s Health Problems

It was in his new role that Armaments Minister Speer would take his place on the world stage, becoming as familiar to Western newsreel audiences as he was at home in the Reich.

In effect, by reversing Göring’s earlier blunders made during the latter’s Four Year Plan economic dictates of 1936-1942, Speer returned armaments (and later war production) to the private-sector captains of German industry––mainly by ousting the Party’s own bureaucrats. These men knew what they were doing, and Speer allowed them to do it with a minimum of oversight and supervision. As long they met his and Hitler’s production-quota demands, he was happy––and so was his grateful Führer.

In the midst of his two unsettling dilemmas—the requirement to increase industrial output during the increasingly heavy Allied air raids and his use of slave labor in the armaments industries to achieve that increase––plus his almost by now certain knowledge that Germany had lost the war in terms of production against the Allies—Speer decided to spend Christmas 1943 in German-occupied Lapland in the far north with his personal secretary, Annemarie Kempf, and one of his top aides, Rudolf Wolters—rather than with his family, or even with Hitler.

It was in Lapland that he developed a swollen left knee and, later, leg, which by January 18, 1944, left him at age 38 in a state of collapse and overwork. He asked his friend SS Dr. Karl Brandt—Hitler’s own surgeon and commissioner for public health—for advice. The latter recommended to him SS Dr. Karl Gebhardt, a leading orthopedic surgeon with a hospital of his own outside Berlin, who was also a personal friend of Himmler.

Speer later claimed that he did not know that this hospital at Hohenlychen was an SS facility, but this is difficult to believe in the light of his detailed knowledge of virtually everything in Nazi Germany. And, after the war it was revealed that SS criminal medical experiments were performed there as well.

The Plot to Remove Speer

Speer was now in the clutches of the SS and Himmler, another of his rivals for the eventual succession to Hitler as Führer. Himmler was a certain plotter during 1944 and planned to inaugurate an SS state with himself as Führer in the spring of 1945 in an alliance with the Western Allies to continue the war against the Russians.

But first, in that scenario, Speer must go. If the new patient at Hohenlychen were to die conveniently under SS medical care, Speer as a rival would disappear, and Himmler could concentrate next on the man closest to Hitler, Martin Bormann.

Bormann, on May 10, 1941, had succeeded Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess in his duties––if not his title––as head of the Nazi Party when the latter had flown to Scotland on a supposed “peace” mission and was incarcerated for the duration.

One of Bormann’s operatives was a spy within Speer’s own ministry—Franz Xaver Dorsch, head of Organization Todt, which was tasked with building the “West Wall” (Siegfried Line) and the “Atlantic Wall” fortifications to repel the forthcoming Allied invasion of western Europe. Dorsch was an admirer of the late Dr. Todt and had hopes of succeeding him as armaments minister until Hitler named Speer instead to the coveted post.

For the 10 weeks that Speer lay in the hospital at Hohenlychen, Dorsch was the linchpin behind the secret cabal to overthrow him that included not only his own shadowy, secret boss Bormann, but also the duplicitous Dr. Goebbels, German Labor Front Leader Dr. Robert Ley (who wanted Speer’s job outright), and also Reich Marshal Hermann Göring, who had lost many of his previously held economic Four Year Plan powers to Speer in 1942.

Diagnosing Speer’s Condition

Indeed, within the Third Reich, the ambitious (some said arrogant) Speer had developed a powerful host of enemies who were now determined to bring him down once they clearly saw their opportunity—as they now did.

Both Speer himself and Annemarie Kempf said after the war that they believed Himmler was out to assassinate him medically. The secretary even claimed to have overheard a conversation between Himmler and Dr. Gebhardt that concluded with the words to the doctor, “Well, then, he’ll just be dead!” Himmler was already making inroads into Speer’s domain, according to the latter’s 1981 book Infiltration: How Heinrich Himmler Schemed to Build an SS Industrial Empire, his third and last volume of personal memoirs.

Gitta Sereny wrote, “On admission, January 18, 1944, Gebhardt’s clinical notes say, ‘The patient appeared exhausted. Exceptionally taut swelling of the left knee joint. We immobilize the leg and apply arnica poultices. Diet: vegetarian and fruit.’

“When there was no improvement after five days, he ordered massive doses of sulfa. Eight days after admission, although Speer showed general cold symptoms—bronchitis, hoarseness, and nasal catarrh—and although the consultant’s registrar suspected pleurisy, Gebhardt stuck to his diagnosis of rheumatoid inflammation of the left knee.

“Although a retrospective study of Gebhardt’s clinical reports clearly establishes that he misdiagnosed his patient—who either already on arrival had the beginnings of an embolism, or developed it in the course of that week—it is highly doubtful that, given Speer’s determination to continue working, any physician could have done much better.”

In this photo published in Signal magazine in August 1943, Albert Speer is shown at the wheel of a prototype tank.

Meanwhile, while the palace revolt went on within Speer’s ministry at Berlin, during his absence, Fraulein Kempf remained at his side constantly. When it appeared that Speer had taken a turn for the worse and might actually die, it was she who called his wife, Margarete, urging her to come at once, and also to get another doctor for a second opinion. Margarete did so, bringing onto the case Professor Friedrich Koch.

Under Koch’s care, the crisis passed on the night of February 11-12, 1944, leaving the patient in what seems to be described as a drug-like trance. He himself later stated, “I’ve never been afraid of death since I’m certain it will be wonderful.” Noted Dr. Koch, “An astonishing recovery on the 15th … breathing normal, no other physical symptoms.”

The origin of the inflammation of the knee and then the left lung remained “a mystery,” though. Dr. Gebhardt had wanted to perform an operation to puncture the left lung, but Dr. Koch declined. Speer also thought that the SS doctor wanted to poison him.

Speer’s Resignation Letter

Speer was then moved to the grounds of Castle Klessheim in Austria, the German Foreign Office’s lavish, Baroque guest facility near Salzburg for heads of state who came to see Hitler. It was there—after a 10-week-long recuperation—that he again saw his Führer for the first time since his illness began, when the latter came to visit him. Their reunion was a cold affair, though, with both men noticing the difference from former times when their being together as “fellow architects” had been so warmly anticipated.

Now, Speer would recall later, he believed Hitler to be a criminal who was bringing death and destruction to Germany, and the end to all their joint building plans as well––not to mention the lost war and the Holocaust in the East for which the entire leadership corps of the Third Reich would one day have to pay with their necks.

From Salzburg, the entire Speer family left for an additional six-week recuperation stay at Castel Goyen near Merano, Italy, where Speer mused over the past decade of his life—and decided to resign from his post as minister of armaments and war production. He submitted his resignation to Hitler on April 19, 1944, the day before the latter’s 55th birthday. While Göring fumed that he simply could not do this, Hitler raged to his own secretary Johanna Wolf that it was “impertinent.” At Merano, Speer was “guarded” by 25 SS men.

It was at this point that a delegation headed by Speer’s ally, Luftwaffe Field Marshal Erhard Milch, arrived unexpectedly to plead with him not to resign and to reassure Speer that he still retained Hitler’s favor. An enraged Speer blurted out, “The Führer can kiss my ass!” to which the shocked marshal replied, “You are much too insignificant to use such language toward the Führer!” in an attempt to cut him down to size.

Earlier that same day, April 20, industrialist Walter “Panzer” Rohland arrived from Hitler’s birthday party at the Berghof—the Führer’s alpine retreat at Berchtesgaden—to also beg Speer to remain at his post, using for the first time the words “scorched earth,” which Soviet dictator Josef Stalin had employed to halt the German drive outside Moscow in 1941, and that had so impressed Hitler at the time. Would the Führer use the same methods in regard to the Reich? Rohland believed that he would, and for this reason alone, Speer must remain at his post, he asserted.

Speer decided to reconsider his position. Meanwhile, Dr. Gebhardt had told everyone that Speer was incapable of returning to work, Hitler told Frau Speer her husband might die (as Göring also intimated to the patient), and the Reich marshal was gleefully shopping around for a successor to boot!

Later, Speer decided to fly directly to see Hitler at the Berghof. Dr. Koch approved the flight on medical grounds, but Gebhardt balked. Koch recalled later, “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.”

At the Berghof, Speer was received, curiously, by the Führer as a “visiting head of state,” as he noted in his best-selling Memoirs: Inside the Third Reich: “Hitler had donned his uniform cap and, gloves in hand, posted himself officially at the entrance…. He conducted me into his salon like a formal guest…. 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.”

Albert Speer: An Apolitical Technocrat?

According to a well-researched and tautly written account by Dr. Matthias Schmidt, Albert Speer: The End of a Myth, Speer gave his all to prolonging the war and encouraging the German people to “stick it out,” even though––asserted Dr. Schmidt––he must have known that it was hopelessly lost long before his famed March 1945 memo to Hitler stating as much. Far from seeking to limit the Führer’s “scorched-earth” policy to provide a postwar life for the Germans, Schmidt translated this as merely Speer’s desire to maintain the Reich’s industry as the basis of his own, personal power in a new life after Nazism was defeated.

It is Dr. Schmidt’s last thesis that—far from being an “apolitical technocrat”—Speer participated up to the hilt in Nazi grand power politics to the best level that he could and strove to succeed Hitler himself as Führer. Moreover, Speer worked in tandem with Himmler to first build, and maintain, the extermination camps that promulgated the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” across German-occupied Europe during the latter years of the war.

Speer protects his eyes while inspecting the process of pouring molten steel in his role
as German minister of armaments and war production.

Nevertheless, whatever differences there were between the two men were papered over—at least for the next year, that is, when the threatened scorched-earth policy that Rohland had mentioned became a dire possibility. Dorsch was restrained and placed once more under Speer’s complete control. Speer said, “I had learned the valuable lesson that a resolute stand with Hitler could achieve results” [in suppressing the Dorsch revolt]. Martin Bormann was defeated on this and other issues as well, and tried unsuccessfully to cultivate a friendship with Speer that was doomed from the start, because the men loathed each other.

Göring retreated to his hunting preserve at Karinhal outside Berlin, and Dr. Ley’s plan to succeed Speer was aborted. The wily Goebbels realigned himself with Speer in time for the July 20, 1944, German Army bomb plot explosion designed to kill Hitler at the Wolf’s Lair in East Prussia. Indeed, on that very day, the two men were together in Berlin.

Oddly, for Speer himself the danger was not yet over, as his own subordinate, Walter Brugmann, died in a mysterious plane crash on May 26, 1944, very similar to that of Speer’s own predecessor, Dr. Todt. Had someone sent him yet another warning of his mortality?

As Speer noted in his memoirs, his absolute loyalty to the Führer and the Nazi Party had been shaken by these events: “I was beginning to bid farewell.”

Albert Speer at Nuremberg

In April 1945 the Nazi empire was on its last legs. Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz was appointed by Hitler to become head of government in the event of his demise. Named Reich minister of economy and production by Dönitz, Speer sought to buy time under this “operetta government,” stated Schmidt, until the Western Allies themselves would name him to head the new Reich under their aegis (a vain hope also shared by Hess, Himmler, and Göring all, by the way).

But it was too late. Germany’s army, navy, and air force were defeated. The cities were rubble, the infrastructure destroyed. Millions were dead or homeless. And the hunt was on for the perpetrators of the war crimes in order to bring them to justice.

Taken prisoner by the Americans in Flensburg along with Dönitz and a few others in the “new” Nazi government, Speer was transported to a castle in Mannheim that had once been a headquarters for Göring and would serve as a temporary holding facility until he was taken to Nuremberg to await trial.

Placed in the Nuremberg dock full of accused war criminals in November 1945, Speer was very nearly hanged for his crimes. Based on what has been revealed since his death in 1981, it is fair to assert that, had these revelations of the true state of his knowledge of war crimes been known to the tribunal, Speer most likely would have been hanged.

The only image of Speer (fourth from right) visiting a concentration camp (Mauthausen). Speer claimed not to know about the existence of Hitler’s “Final Solution.”

At the tribunal, Speer denied all knowledge of the planned destruction of the Jews and others during the Holocaust, but nevertheless accepted full responsibility before an outraged humanity and the sober judgment of posterity for his role as a top figure in one of history’s most grisly epochs. As William L. Shirer observed at the trial, “Speer would distinguish himself by being the only defendant to show remorse for his crimes.”

Found guilty on September 30, 1946, for his use of slave labor in the armaments factories, he avoided the hangman and was sentenced to 20 years in Berlin’s Spandau prison.

Speer as Historian

The last stage of his career––as historian (some say apologist) for the Nazi regime––evolved from his enforced confinement at Spandau. During his two decades there, Speer secretly worked on three books, all with the continuing aid of a prewar, wartime, and even postwar associate whose name never once appears in any of Speer’s own writings: Dr. Rudolf Wolters. Wolters knew Speer from their student days in 1924, and kept the originals of the formal Speer Office Journal during the war.

Speer produced the first of his postwar books––Inside the Third Reich, published in the United States in 1970––at least in part in prison, where the first draft was written, done on toilet paper and cigarette packs, and then smuggled out by friendly guards. This was later revised into proper book form upon his release. It was and remains an unrivaled, close-up view of the top stratum of the Nazi leadership corps in both victory and defeat.

The second tome––Spandau: The Secret Diaries (1976)––was essentially more of the same, interspersed with self-debates over the moral questions posed by the fate of the Jews, and his own sellout to Hitler for a top spot among the chosen. The last book, Infiltration (1981), was a detailed account of how the SS successfully invaded his production turf over the years.

Speer would outlive virtually all of the Third Reich potentates. Hitler, Bormann, Himmler, and Drs. Goebbels and Ley all died in 1945, while the captured Göring took a cyanide capsule in his Nuremberg jail cell on October 16, 1946. Of the two SS doctors involved in the Speer case, both Karl Brandt and Karl Gebhardt were tried, convicted, and hanged by the Allies in 1948 for their roles in crimes against humanity.

Unlike many other convicted German war criminals whose sentences were later reduced, Speer remained locked up for his entire 20-year sentence.

A frail and white-haired Albert Speer died while on a visit to London, ironically, on September 1, 1981, the 42nd anniversary of the German invasion of Poland.

A man of subtle irony, Dr. Speer would have appreciated that––in death as well as in life––he has remained a controversial figure: damned by many, understood by some, and acknowledged by most historians today as the preeminent memoirist of his era in history.

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