Fritz Todt was an German engineer and senior Nazi figure, the founder of Organisation Todt.
He was born in Pforzheim, Germany on September 4, 1891, the son of a small factory owner. He studied engineering in Karlsruhe and the School for Advanced Technical Studies in Munich. He took part in WW I, initially with the infantry and then as an observer with the airforce, winning the Iron Cross.
After the war, he finished his studies in 1920 and joined the civil engineering company Sager & Woerner, which specialized in building roads and tunnels. He joined the NSDAP in 1922 and later the Schutz Staffeinel (SS). He was appointed an SS Colonel on Himmler's staff in 1931 and also completed his doctorate (on "Fehlerquellen beim Bau von Landstraßendecken aus Teer und Asphalt").
In 1930, Todt published a paper, “Proposals and Financial Plans for the Employment of One Million Men.” Adolf Hitler was impressed by the paper and when he came to power in 1933 he appointed Todt as head of the new state-owned Reichsautobahnen Corporation and was given the task of building a national highway system and ultimately was responsible for the creation of the Autobahnen.
He later became Leiter des Hauptamts für Technik in der Reichsleitung der NSDAP and Generalbevollmächtigter für die Regelung der Bauwirtschaft. In 1938, he founded Organisation Todt, joining together government firms, private companies and the Reichsarbeitsdienst. Todt was also assigned the task of constructing the Western Wall (known to the Allies as the Siegfried Line).
In 1940, he was appointed Reich Minister for Munitions and oversaw the work of Organisation Todt in the occupied west. The following year he was given responsibility for restoring the road and rail system in the Soviet Union. Todt's growing importance in the party hierarchy brought him into conflict with Hermann Goering and Martin Bormann.
Todt also helped to establish the Nationalsocialisticher Bund Deutscher Technik that helped to organize engineers and managers in the German construction industry. He also built the great defensive systems, the Atlantic Wall and a chain of concrete U - boat shelters along the French Atlantic coast. Entrusted within the Party organization with the Head Office for Technology, all the major technical tasks of the Third Reich concerning Germany's war effort were in his hands. In all these massive communications works, SS General Todt had at his disposal a vast army of slave labor as well as several divisions of troops.
Todt had frequently clashed with Goering, but he enjoyed the high respect of Hitler who made him Inspector-General of roads, water and power in 1941. After an inspection tour of the Eastern Front, he complained to Hitler that without better equipment and supplies it would be better to end the war with the USSR.
In reward for building the motorways and the Western Wall, he was the first German to receive the “German Order” created by Hitler for individuals who had rendered “special services to the German people.”
On February 8, 1942, while flying away from a meeting with Hitler at Rastenburg, his aircraft exploded and crashed. He was succeeded as Reichsminister by Albert Speer, who had narrowly missed being on the same aircraft.
Sources: What-Means.Com; Spartacus; Wistrich, Robert S. Who's Who in Nazi Germany. NY: Routledge Press, 1995.