General building inspector

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Berlin, model from 1939 for redesign according to Speer's plans. View from the planned Südbahnhof over the triumphal arch to the Great Hall ( north-south axis ).
Speer , Hitler , architect Ruff with building plans and models, approx. 1933/1934
Overlay drawing of the Great Hall on the Spreebogen between today's main train station at the top left and the Reichstag building at the bottom right
The Nazi party rally grounds in Nuremberg , around 1940

General building inspector for the Reich capital (GBI, GBI) was Albert Speer's title during the time of National Socialism and at the same time the designation of an authority subordinate to him. The general building inspector was supposed to reshape Berlin in line with the National Socialist representation of power. The agency was subordinate to the " Führer " Adolf Hitler with ministerial powers and was subordinate to all city authorities.

Creation of the GBI

After the death of Paul Ludwig Troost (1934), the Führer’s first “favorite architect”, Albert Speer quickly succeeded in gaining Hitler’s trust. Speer had already worked for Hitler on the buildings for the Nazi party rallies in Nuremberg (1934–1936) and was soon referred to as “the Führer’s architect”. Since 1936 - still in Speer's private office and under secrecy - concerned with drafts for the redesign of Berlin, his planning staff also prepared a work and personnel concept with which the construction plans were to be implemented. Planning progressed rapidly, so that on January 30, 1937, Hitler ordered Speer and his staff to set up a general building inspector for the Reich capital by means of a Führer decree . This was responsible for the lead of a project that was later programmatically titled "World Capital" or "Germania" (see article World Capital Germania ).

With the authority to draw up a “new overall construction plan for the Reich capital Berlin”, the GBI was entitled to prevent any changes it did not like in a unilaterally declared area of ​​interest that comprised around half of the city's area. He was entitled to veto all buildings, streets, parks, etc. that affected the cityscape in this area. In addition, he was entitled to take all measures and arrangements that were necessary to create a uniform overall picture. “The authorities of the Reich, the State of Prussia and the capital of the Reich also had to be available to him to carry out his tasks”. Since Speer was deployed directly by Hitler and was only responsible to him, his position was that of a minister.

Within a few months, these powers were specified, expanded and extended to other cities ( ordinances on the reorganization of the Reich capital Berlin of November 5, 1937; Second Decree on the General Building Inspector for the Reich Capital and First Order on the Execution of the Decree on the General Building Inspector for the Reich Capital from January 20, 1938).

With monumental projects such as the New Reich Chancellery from 1938/1939, Speer soon demonstrated the capabilities of the GBI and consolidated its position. The Germania plannings were withdrawn by the legal position of General Construction any other control; they were not subject to the Berlin regulations in terms of building planning or building regulations, nor were they integrated into the existing planning system. In 1940, when the Nazi mayor Julius Lippert refused to take unilateral instructions from the General Building Inspector and insisted on mutual coordination and cooperation, he was unceremoniously dismissed by Hitler at Speer's instigation.

Service building

The Palais Arnim, the seat of the general building inspector (photograph 1933, then Akademie der Künste)

On Speer's initiative, the office of the general building inspector was housed in the Palais Arnim at Pariser Platz  4, the seat of the Academy of Arts , which had to move to the Kronprinzenpalais . The advantage of the location on Pariser Platz was that Hitler could get to the palace on foot through the ministerial gardens, in order to discuss and inspect the models and plans for the planned conversion of Berlin into the ' world capital Germania ' unnoticed by the public . In addition, the GBI moved into rooms on Charlottenburger Chaussee in the house of the German Municipal Council , which was built in 1938/1939 on the newly designed east-west axis ; today this is the Ernst-Reuter-Haus on Strasse des 17. Juni . Another office building was on Alsenstrasse close to the Reichstag building ; it is no longer preserved today. After a bomb attack , the main office on Pariser Platz was relocated to a barracks camp on the AVUS south curve. After another bomb hit this barracks camp, the entire office was relocated to Hainspitz in Thuringia .


Since the new office was neither subject to political control by the NSDAP nor to the technical supervision of other administrations, Speer had a free hand for development and personnel policy. Within the GBI there was a further breakdown according to the task:

Within a very short time, contacts were established with well-known greats in German architecture - for example with Paul Bonatz , who received an order from the GBI for the High Command of the Navy , Wilhelm Kreis , who received orders for the High Command of the Army , the soldiers' hall and various museums, and Peter Behrens , who was to plan the new AEG administration building on the planned north-south axis. But younger, still unknown architects were also involved, such as Helmut Hentrich and Friedrich Tamms , whom Speer knew from his studies, or Theodor Dierksmeier , Friedrich Hetzelt , Herbert Rimpl , Heinrich Rosskotten and Karl Wach . Also Hanns Dustmann , the "Reich architect of Hitler Youth " should design for Berlin monumental assembly halls. ( See also: Architecture under National Socialism )

The office grew rapidly: in 1939 it already had 91 employees: 28 architects, 22 technicians, 41 office workers.


According to Speer's estimates, the building measures would have had a total volume of around four to six billion Reichsmarks , with attempts being made to spread the costs over as many budgets as possible. The general building inspector himself had received an annual budget of 60 million Reichsmarks for planning services alone. Even the Berlin city administration had to spend 90 million Reichsmarks for the implementation of the GBI plans in 1938, and other institutions were also supposed to finance the buildings they would use themselves in the future.

Speer agreed with Heinrich Himmler that the concentration camp inmates would manufacture and deliver building materials . The capital for the company " Deutsche Erd- und Steinwerke GmbH (DEST)" founded by the SS was provided from the budget of the GBI. The money flowed directly into the construction of the concentration camp system. The interest-free loan for the SS-Totenkopfverband was repayable to Speer's office in the form of stones and other building materials. That is why almost all concentration camps between 1937 and 1942 were built near clay pits or quarries . For the camps in Groß-Rosen in Silesia and Natzweiler-Struthof in Alsace , Speer even determined the locations himself in 1940 because of the granite deposits there. Specifically in the Vosges , after the occupation of France , the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp was settled there at Speer's suggestion in order to break the red granite found there.

Today, based on the files, it can be proven that the deportation lists were drawn up between October 1941 and March 1943 by Speer's GBI employees together with the Gestapo . Speer denied knowledge of this until his death. Nevertheless, he wrote in a letter of December 13, 1941 to Martin Bormann that the "action was in full swing" and complained that Bormann wanted to provide " Jewish apartments " to bombed Berliners, although he (Speer) was entitled to them.


In order to make room for the enormous number of planned new buildings in Berlin, entire districts had to be demolished. In 1937 a law was passed that made expropriation for the redesign of German cities possible. On this basis, the General Building Inspector set about tearing down buildings in the Spreebogen and Tempelhof in 1938 , although there was a need for more than 100,000 apartments. The demolitions were intended to create space for the new Great Hall and the South Station in Tempelhof. In 1941 the GBI planned to demolish a total of 52,144 apartments in Berlin for the redesign; that would have been 3.63% of the estimated housing stock in Berlin. Given the occupancy at the time, around 150,000 to 200,000 Berliners would have become homeless.

Eviction of Jewish tenants

Since the provision of replacement apartments was difficult and compensation for those obliged to evacuate expensive, from 1938 onwards the GBI initiated or promoted the annulment of leases for Jewish tenants, evictions and confessions in Jewish houses, as well as the Aryanization of Jewish property on the basis of the ordinance on the use of Jewish property . An estimated 15,000 to 18,000 homes were requisitioned in this way in the following months. The Jews displaced from their homes were increasingly prevented from emigrating, their property was confiscated and innumerable people were deported to concentration camps. In order to organize and accelerate the “evacuation” of Jews and the reallocation of apartments, a special agency was set up by the GBI under the direction of Karl Maria Hettlage .

After the start of the war in 1939, Speer ordered a general halt to the demolition of apartments - however, the evacuation of apartments of Jewish tenants and owners continued unabated.

Slave labor

Due to the amount of natural stone as well as the armaments efforts, a shortage of material and labor was felt in 1938, which worsened with the beginning of the war. At the time, the demolition work alone required an enormous amount of personnel, and the same applied to the construction work that was beginning. So from 1939 the general building inspector began to use foreign forced laborers . After the attack on the Soviet Union , more prisoners of war came to the workers. According to a planning by the GBI from 1940, the deployment of forced laborers and prisoners of war was to increase to over 180,000 people after the war.

The GBI played a major role in the planning, approval and construction of the approximately 1000 forced labor camps in and around Berlin - the actual number is now estimated at over 3000 - and operated several of them under its own management. Among other things, he employed “foreign workers” from Italy, prisoners of war from Eastern Europe and deported Jews, who, however , no longer appeared in the payrolls after the “ factory campaign ” of February 27, 1943. One of the camps was on Staakener Feldstrasse; it was to be used to build the Great Hall . Another camp, near the Wilmersdorfer ice stadium, served as a military hospital, and another was located in the Kaulsdorf hospital.

After Siemens and the Reichsbahn , the GBI was the third largest operator of forced labor camps in the Berlin area in 1942/1943. On the site of the former double camp 75/76 , at Britzer Straße 5 in Niederschöneweide , the Documentation Center for Nazi Forced Labor is now located . In the camp built in 1943 on behalf of the GBI for 2,000 inmates, Italian civilian workers were interned as well as female concentration camp inmates from a subcamp of Sachsenhausen and presumably other forced laborers from Western and Eastern Europe.

Nuremberg war crimes trials

Albert Speer as a defendant in the Nuremberg Trials, 1946

For his involvement in the deportation of Jews, the use of slave labor and his function as Reich Minister for Armaments and Ammunition, Albert Speer was tried in the Nuremberg Trial against the main war criminals for war crimes and crimes against humanity (see items 6a and 6a-c of the London Statute ) sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, which he served until 1966 in the Spandau war crimes prison. Whether this judgment also covered the GBI's involvement in the eviction of Jews (“renting out Jews”) was controversial. Friends of Speers feared new investigations by the Ludwigsburg Central Office of the State Justice Administrations to solve National Socialist crimes and a new charge.


Web links

Commons : General Building Inspector  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
  • - Decree on the General Building Inspector for the Reich capital of January 30, 1937
  • Susanne Willems - Speer's housing market policy towards Jews; further research results and documents on Speer
  • (PDF; 264 kB) - Berlin forced labor camp (also) of the GBI and other Speer authorities
  • - further warehouse locations in Berlin