During the last days of his reign, Hitler had decided that he would “take the whole world” with him when he died. On March 19, 1945, he passed the Nero decree which stipulated that all bridges, dams, factories, and utility complexes were to be destroyed as the German army retreated. The decree was named after the Roman Emperor Nero, who, according to an apocryphal account, had orchestrated the great fire of Rome in 64 AD.
The responsibility for implementing the decree fell on Albert Speer, Hitler’s Minister of Armaments and War Production, who was appalled by the order and disobeyed it. In April 1945, days before Hitler’s suicide, Speer visited Hitler in his bunker. He confessed that the Nero decree was not implemented. Hitler was furious but he allowed Speer to leave the bunker. Speer was prosecuted at Nuremberg and sentenced to 20-years in prison.