|Born||4 Sep 1891|
|Died||8 Feb 1942|
Contributor: Alan Chanter
ww2dbaseA brilliant engineer, World War One veteran, Dr. Fritz Todt, was an early recruit to the Nazi party. He had joined the party in 1923, and, since June 1933, as Inspector-General of German Roads, had devised the construction of Germany's planned 6,000-kilometer new Autobahn road network. A Hitler favourite, in 1934 he was made responsible directly to Adolf Hitler for all questions of technology; his formal post as General-Plenipotentiary for construction gave him a central role in the physical remodelling of the new order in all its aspects. He also headed a new corporate organization of engineers, the Main of Office of Technology, which drew under its umbrella the company's 300,000 engineers. Todt's view of technology was entirely consistent with the Nazi's views of a society that would be based on achievement for the community rather than class ascription, German technology would become "a pillar of the total state", supplying the technical means to ensure national survival and development while, at the same time, healing the modernist rift between technique and culture.
ww2dbaseOn 28 May 1938 Hitler ordered Todt to build the Westwall (Siegfried Line), a line of 5,000 concrete blockhouses, along the border with the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France, to be completed by 1 October, in time to repel any French attack that might materialise in response to Hitler's planned invasion of Czechoslovakia. To complete the massive task Todt mobilized, on 22 June, 1,000 private construction companies employing half a million workers which he organised into twenty-two brigade-status Construction Management formations (Oberbauleitungen). In a speech on 18 July, Hitler christened them as Organization Todt. During the winter of 1938-9 the Westwall fortifications would consume one-third of all German cement production. The work would continue through to the French surrender in June 1940. Todt's engineers would build not only roads but many other infrastructure facilities and, later, military fortifications, frequently using penal labour battalions to do the work.
ww2dbaseOn 9 December 1938, Todt was appointed Commissioner-General of Construction Industries and on 4 September 1939 he declared that Organization Todt would function as a fortress construction organization, employing building firms organised on military lines, with chief engineer, Xaver Dorsch (1899-1986), as his deputy and operational commander.
ww2dbaseIn Poland some 40,000 Organization Todt personnel were employed as road construction troops (Strassenbautrupps) and bridge construction companies (Br├╝ckenbautrupps) repairing and upgrading communications damaged in the fighting. They also cleared sites and built administrative and living quarters for the German occupation forces, using Jewish battalions recruited by Polish Jewish Councils.
ww2dbaseOn 17 March 1940, Todt, although he had no experience in the military field, gained more power when Hitler appointed him to be Reichminister for Armaments and Munitions to try to bring some organization to the production of army weapons, but he had no say in aircraft production (which was jealously guarded by the incompetent Ernst Udet), and his relationships with army leaders and industrialists were ill defined and fractious.
ww2dbaseFor the seven-week Western campaign, Westwall Oberbauleitungen were reformed as mobile front units (Frontoberbauleitungen) and assigned to Field Army Engineer Staffs. Todt's 13,500 front workers (frontobeiter) in the eight units under Army Group A built 324 bridges and repaired 3,000 kilometers of roads in northern France, hiring 1,600 French labourers (at three Reichmarks per day). In eastern France 8,650 workers in the five units attached to Army Group C built 157 bridges, often under fire from guns on the Maginot Line, and replaced road signs that had been destroyed by retreating French troops.
ww2dbaseIn November 1940, a few days after Vyacheslav Molotov returned to Moscow, Hitler authorised Todt to commence work in a 250 hectare area in a forest close to the East Prussian town of Rastenburg. Work began at once on a vast complex of offices, bunkers and conference rooms, masquerading as a chemical works - Askania Nord. Hitler chose the name Wolfschanze (Wolfs Lair) to be his headquarters for the intended invasion of Russia.
ww2dbaseOn 8 February 1942 Todt was killed in an air crash near Hitler's Eastern Front Headquarters. His duties would be assumed by Hitler's architect and confident, Albert Speer, who happened to be passing through the headquarters just hours after Todt's death.
Edward Davidson and Dale Manning: World War Two - The Personalities (Arms and Armour Press, 1997)
Richard Overy: The Dictators - Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia (Penguin Books Ltd., 2004)
Chris McNab (Editor): Hitler's Armies - A History of the German War Machine 1939-45 (Osprey Publishing, 2011)
Last Major Revision: Aug 2020
Fritz Todt Timeline
|4 Sep 1891||Fritz Todt was born in Pforzheim, Grand Duchy of Baden, Germany.|
|28 May 1938||Adolf Hitler ordered Fritz Todt to build the Westwall on Germany's borders with the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France.|
|22 Jun 1938||1,000 private construction companies employing half a million workers were organized into 22 construction brigades by Fritz Todt for the construction of the Westwall.|
|18 Jul 1938||Adolf Hitler gave the name Organization Todt to the half a million workers under the command of Fritz Todt.|
|9 Dec 1938||Fritz Todt was made the Commissioner-General of Construction Industries.|
|4 Sep 1939||Fritz Todt declared that Organization Todt would function as a fortress construction organization with Xaver Dorsch as his deputy and operational commander.|
|17 Mar 1940||Fritz Todt, although he had no experience in the military field, was made the Reichminister for Armaments and Munitions by Adolf Hitler.|
|20 Mar 1941||Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf He├č, Fritz Todt, Reinhard Heydrich, and other top Nazi German official met in Berlin, Germany to discuss plans for resettling Eastern Europe with Germans.|
|8 Feb 1942||In Germany, Albert Speer was appointed the Minister of Armaments and Munitions to succeed Fritz Todt who was killed when his aircraft exploded shortly after take off near Rastenburg, Ostpreu├čen (East Prussia), Germany.|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945
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