With the beginning of World War II, the OT provided the German army with engineers and construction specialists involved in the building and repair of bridges, dams, airfields, and fortifications, as well as factories. In March 1940, Todt became the Reich's minister of arms and munitions. The OT was in fact the only organization in the Third Reich, apart from the Hitler Youth, that bore the name of a member of the governing elite.
Following the German invasion of the Balkans in the spring of 1941, the OT was in charge of extracting minerals there and shipping them to the Reich. With the invasion of the Soviet Union, it took on the great responsibility of reconstructing and maintaining the Soviet transportation network. OT also made use of vast numbers of conscript laborers throughout German-occupied Europe. In all, the OT mobilized some 1.4 million people, 80 percent of whom were non-Germans (many were prisoners of war).
OT's most ambitious task was the construction of the Atlantic Wall, the German defenses against an invasion of France by the Western Allies; it ran from Norway to the Bay of Biscay. On this effort, the OT expended some 13.3 million tons of concrete and 1.2 million tons of steel in 3,000 fortifications. The ruins of many of these may still be seen today. The OT also built the submarine pens in France that proved so difficult for Allied aircraft to destroy.
Following Todt's death in an airplane crash in February 1942, his assistant, Albert Speer, took over the organization, and under him, it reached its greatest extent. Increasingly, the OT was involved in cleaning up bomb damage from Allied air raids on Germany. In autumn 1944, the organization was renamed the Front-OT, when it was armed and enlisted in the defense of German territory.
Spencer C. Tucker
Guse, John C. "The Spirit of the Plassenburg: Technology and Ideology in the Third Reich." Ph.D. diss., University of Nebraska, Lincoln, 1983.; Seidler, Franz Wilhelm. Die Organisation Todt: Bauen für Staat und Wehrmacht, 1938–1945. Koblenz, Germany: Bernard and Graefe, 1987.