September 4th in German History: Fritz Todt is Born

Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1969-146-01, Fritz Todt.jpg
Fritz Todt.

A few days ago, I discussed Albert Speer. Speer was catapulted to the height of his power by the death of another man, Fritz Todt. Todt was the Minister for Armaments and Production before his death in 1942. He was born on September 4th, 1891.

Todt was born in Baden, in the south of Germany, to a small-scale factory owner and his wife. He studied engineering from 1911 to 1914 and during WWI served first in the infantry and second in the airforce, where he earned an Iron Cross. In 1922 he joined the Nazi Party and quickly rose through the ranks of the SA, the party’s paramilitary wing. In 1933, after Hitler became Chancellor, he was given authority over all German roads. He was outside the general bureaucratic system and was under the direct authority of Hitler. As long as the infrastructure projects he headed were successful, he would keep his position; his neutrality in party politics kept him out of the cross hairs of many of the most powerful Nazis. In the late 1930s he gained ever more power over the German economy, particularly in the armaments industry. In 1940 he was appointed Minister for Armaments and Munitions and so managed the German war economy. However, he became less popular than Hitler throughout 1941 as Germany experienced shortages of equipment and resources. After a tour of the Eastern Front, Todt told Hitler that unless more equipment could be produced, peace should be made with the USSR. Nevertheless, he continued to manage the economy until 1942 when he died in a plane crash at the age of fifty.

There is some speculation that Todt was assassinated by Hitler. The investigation into the cause of the crash was ended quickly and his position was filled by Albert Speer, a man who Hitler had grown to like more than Todt. Regardless of the cause of his death, Todt is interesting in that he is remembered primarily as the man who died so that Speer could gain prominence. While it may be appropriate, it is unfortunate that his achievements, although they were generally negative, are forgotten in favor of a more notable individual.

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