hitler and speer

Mead03_3803_01Jonathan Meades at The London Review of Books:

Speer was lucky not just in his looks. His life was a succession of felicitous opportunities which came his way without obvious effort. Of course he strove to make his luck. But he had too great a sense of entitlement to allow himself to be seen to scramble for preferment. He gave the impression that he was the insouciant recipient of chance’s beneficence. He was, however, genuinely lucky to be rejected as a student by the great Expressionist Hans Poelzig. He was obliged to study, initially reluctantly, under the super-twee Heinrich Tessenow, whose precursively völkisch, Arts and Crafts saccharine he was indifferent to, even though it would become the almost invariable idiom of bucolic settlements, agrarian expansion and, on a larger scale, of the Ordensburgen and Napola – schools for the Nazi elite. Unastonishingly, Tessenow was keenly anti-modernist, going on Luddite. Speer was impressed. He acquired a cast of mind and a gamut of tastes which would soon allow him to ingratiate himself with Hitler, whose ranting in a Berlin beerhall prompted him to join the National Socialists in January 1931, two years before they seized power. During that period Speer became, faute de mieux, the impecunious party’s interior designer of choice. His initial willingness to work without a fee eased his way. He was also lucky enough to be the only party member in Wannsee who owned a car, a prized asset during the constant electioneering and manifestations of that time. His first client was the future SS general Karl Hanke, then a local party organiser. As soon as the NSDAP was in power he received a further commission from Goebbels. Which in turn led to what would be the first step towards the mise en scène of the Nuremberg rallies, a May Day 1933 mass meeting at Templehof decorated with flags the size of sails and illumined by searchlights.

more here.