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Hitler’s Managers

Time: 5 hours

This fall on The Military Channel

Five fascinating hour-long episodes examine, in rewarding depth, the relationships the führer had with key figures of the Reich. Instead of focusing on Nazi princes, this series explains how vital technocrats dealt with the dictator and made—or tried to make—things work more efficiently to produce results in their areas of expertise. The episode subjects: Wernher von Braun (“The Rocket Man”), Ferdinand Porsche (“The Engineer”), Gen. Alfred Jodl (“The Officer”), Albert Speer (“The Architect”), and Karl and Albert Krupp (“The Weapons Builder”).

Each episode confronts and clarifies significant issues: Von Braun’s complicity in using slave labor (and Operation Paperclip’s whitewash of Nazi technocrats the U.S. wanted for their expertise). Speer’s economic “miracles” and the absolute centrality of slave labor to the development and expansion of the Nazi economy, despite his later protests that he wasn’t involved in the process. Porsche’s invention of the Volkswagen, and his obsession with designing the best to the exclusion of virtually all else, including any awareness of how Hitler used his designs. The Krupps’ long history of arms-making and Prussian honor, concluding in an ambivalent pact with the devil that ruined them. And Jodl as lapdog, with his blinkered way of dealing with Hitler’s goals and increasingly incongruous orders to field commanders.

Shining light into these dark psyches, the series illustrates the murky allegiances and counterplots battling within the Nazi edifice, where Social Darwinist ideology promoted constant infighting as well as its corollary, systemic chaos due to lack of coordination and information-sharing. It reminds us that, powerful and monolithic as the Reich appeared, even its leading lights were ultimately circumscribed by its insidious culture of fear, which twisted and stunted their talents— luckily for the Allies.


Originally published in the October 2010 issue of World War II Magazine. To subscribe, click here.