- Historical event:
- 4 September 1891
- The incredibly wealthy and powerful Fritz Todt participated in the construction of Nazi Germany's famous highway system (Reichsautobahnen). In 1938 the “Organization Todt” engineering group was founded, encompassing various state-owned and private companies, as well as the so-called Reich Labor Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst). According to some estimates, “Organization Todt” had as many as 1.4 million workers at its disposal at the peak of its power.
This day in 1891 marked the birth of Fritz Todt, one of the most influential people of Hitler’s Third Reich.
Todt was the head of the huge “Organization Todt” (OT), which employed over one million workers, many of whom were forced laborers or performing mandatory service. Fritz Todt simultaneously held the position of Hitler’s Arms and Munitions Minister (Reichsminister für Bewaffnung und Munition), and the ranks of SS Obergruppenführer and Luftwaffe General.
Todt earned a degree in civil engineering at the famed Technische Hochschule in Munich, where he also received his PhD (his title at the time was Doctor-Engineer). He was awarded the honorary Siemens Ring for his technical accomplishments.
Todt was one of the earliest members of the Nazi Party, and Hitler made him Inspector General for the German Roadways (Generalinspektor für das deutsche Straßenwesen). In this way Todt participated in the construction of Nazi Germany’s famous highway system (Reichsautobahnen). For his work on the highways, Hitler presented Todt with the German National Award for Art and Science (Deutscher Nationalpreis für Kunst und Wissenschaft), the German equivalent of the Nobel Prize (which the Germans were not allowed to receive during Hitler’s time).
“Organization Todt” was officially founded in 1938, and encompassed various state-owned and private companies, as well as the so-called Reich Labor Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst). Participation in the labor service was compulsory for young men before they did (also compulsory) military service (this arrangement was not exclusive to Nazi Germany). This allowed for the mobilization of a great number of people for projects of great military, strategic or economic significance.
Following the German conquest of their neighboring countries, the OT obtained access to a new pool of manpower. Workers from conquered or client states had to participate in some form of forced labor. According to some estimates, “Organization Todt” had as many as 1.4 million workers at its disposal at the peak of its power. Among many other projects, the OT built the famed “Atlantic Wall”, which was intended to protect the conquered countries in Western Europe (e.g. France) from seaborne invasions. The OT was organized along similar lines to an army, and even had its own system of ranks and insignia.
The powerful and influential Fritz Todt died in 1942 under rather suspicious circumstances, on his way back from the so-called “Wolf’s Lair” (Wolfsschanze), Hitler’s Eastern Front HQ. Namely, Todt’s plane mysteriously crashed soon after taking off from an airstrip near the “Wolf’s Lair”.
Marshal Göring, Todt’s rival, immediately visited Hitler, probably in the hope of inheriting Todt’s posts. Hitler, however, named the well-known architect Albert Speer as Todt’s successor. Todt was buried with all honors, and even became the first man to posthumously receive the German Order („Deutscher Orden“), the highest award of the Nazi Party (Reinhard Heydrich later also posthumously received the same award).