|The Reich Air Ministry (RLM - German: Reichsluftfahrtministerium) was a government department during the period of Nazi Germany (193345). It is also the original name of a building in Wilhelmstraße in central Berlin, the capital of Germany, which now houses the German Finance Ministry (see Reich Air Ministry Building).|
The Reich Air Ministry Building, December 1938The Air Ministry was in charge of development and production of aircraft, primarily for the German Air Force (the Luftwaffe). As was characteristic of government departments in the Nazi era, the Ministry was personality-driven and formal procedure was often ignored in favour of the whims of the Minister, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring. As a result, development progressed only slowly and erratically during the war.
The Ministry was formed in April 1933 from the Reich Commissariat for Aviation (Reichskommissariat für die Luftfahrt), which had been established two months earlier with Göring at its head. In this early phase the Ministry was little more than Göring's personal staff. One of its first actions was to requisition control of all patents and companies of Hugo Junkers, the German aeronautical engineer. These included all rights to the Junkers Ju 52 aircraft.
Defence Minister General Werner von Blomberg decided that the importance of aviation was such that it should no longer be subordinate to the Army. In May 1933 he transferred the Luftschutzamt, the army's Department of Military Aviation, to the Air Ministry. This is often considered the birth of the Luftwaffe. The Ministry was now much larger, consisting of two large departments: the military Luftschutzamt (LA) and the civilian Allgemeines Luftamt (LB). Erhard Milch, the former head of Lufthansa, was placed in direct control of the LA, in his function as State Secretary for Aviation.
In September 1933, a reorganization was undertaken to reduce duplication of effort between departments. The primary changes were to move the staffing and technical development organizations out of the LB, and make them full departments on their own. The result was a collection of six: Luftkommandoamt (LA), Allgemeines Luftamt (LB), Technisches Amt (LC, but more often referred to as the T-amt) in charge of all research and development, Luftwaffenverwaltungsamt (LD) for construction, Luftwaffenpersonalamt (LP) for training and staffing, and the Zentralabteilung (ZA), central command. In 1934, an additional department was added, the Luftzeugmeister (LZM) in charge of logistics.
With the rapid growth of the Luftwaffe following the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Ministry grew so large that Göring was no longer able to maintain control. This period was marked by an increasing inability to deliver the new aircraft designs that were desperately needed, as well as continued shortages of aircraft and engines. In 1943 Albert Speer took over from Milch, and things immediately improved. He was able to cut through the rigid hierarchy and make needed changes almost overnight. Aircraft production shot up, and projects that had been hampered for political reasons, like the Heinkel He 219 Uhu were finally able to proceed.