Hermann Wilhelm Göring (Rosenheim, January 12, 1893 – Nuremberg, October 15, 1946) was a German politician, military leader and a leading member of the NSDAP.
As a pilot in World War I, he shot down 22 enemy aircraft and received the award Pour le Mérite.
Göring participated in the Bierkellerputsch and received a bullet in his groin. He was transported to his godfather and doctor in Austria, seriously injured, and then to Sweden, the native country of his then wife. He was given morphine to relieve the pain and would develop a lifelong addiction to it.
In 1935 Göring became commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe (air force), a position he held until April 23, 1945. In 1940, Adolf Hitler promoted him to Reich Marshal, making Göring superior to all Wehrmacht commanders, and on September 1, 1939, at the time of the German invasion of Poland, Hitler designated him as his successor and deputy to all his powers. By 1942, as the German war effort deteriorated on both fronts, Göring”s standing in relation to Hitler had been greatly diminished. Göring largely withdrew from the military and politics to enjoy the pleasures of a rich and powerful man”s life.
After World War II, Göring was sentenced to death by hanging at the Nuremberg Trials for war crimes and crimes against humanity, but he committed suicide by ingesting cyanide the night before the sentence was carried out.
On January 12, 1893, Hermann Wilhelm Göring was born in the Mariënbadsanatorium just outside Rosenheim, a town about sixty-five kilometers south of Munich. His father, Ernst Heinrich Göring, was a chief official in the German consular service. He served in the German War and Franco-German War in the cavalry. In 1885 he married Franziska Tiefenbrunn and a few months later he left for Southwest Africa (today Namibia). There he became the first governor general (Kaiserlicher Kommissar) and had to see to it that the peace agreements between the indigenous peoples themselves and with the new colonizer were fulfilled. He was also charged with acquiring exploitation rights for mining and had to organize the arms and liquor trade. However, in 1888 he had to leave Southwest Africa in a hurry after the leader of the Ovaherero, Maharero, cancelled the treaty with the Germans. Göring initially left for Walvis Bay in Britain, only to leave Southwest Africa in August 1890 for Haiti, where he was appointed consul. In 1896 he retired and returned to Germany.
Göring”s mother, Franziska “Fanny” Tiefenbrunn was from a farming family from Bavaria. She left for Southwest Africa with Heinrich Göring in 1885. In that country she gave birth to Olga Therese Sophie Göring with the help of Hermann Epenstein Ritter von Mauternburg, a German physician. In the intervening years, the Görings maintained contact with this doctor and for the delivery of her fourth child, Hermann, she went to the Mariënbad sanatorium on his advice. Hermann Göring was named after Epenstein, who also became his godfather.
Because his mother left Germany after a few months to rejoin her husband in Haiti, Hermann was placed with a foster family in Fürth for three years. When his father retired in 1896, Hermann returned to his parents. When the Görings returned from the Caribbean, Hermann greeted his mother by biting her. His father he completely ignored. Hermann had a hard time forgiving his parents for leaving him with a foster family. He was especially disrespectful to his father, who became addicted to alcohol after he retired.
Hermann Göring had two brothers and two older sisters, Olga Therese Sophie and Paula Elisabeth Rosa. Hermann Göring”s older brother, Karl-Ernst, emigrated to the United States at an early age. Karl”s son, Werner Göring, became a captain in the United States Army Air Forces and fought during World War II against the Luftwaffe, which was led by his uncle. Among other things, he took part in bombing raids on German cities. Göring”s younger brother, Albert, was an opponent of the Nazi regime and helped many Jews and other dissidents in Germany during the Nazi regime.
A cousin of Göring, Hans-Joachim was a pilot in the Luftwaffe. He was assigned to Zerstörergeschwader 76 and flew a Messerschmitt Bf 110. Hans-Joachim was shot down by Hawker Hurricanes of No. 78 Squadron RAF during a flight on July 11, 1940.
After three years, Hermann was reunited with his family. When they returned to Germany, the Göring family lived in Hermann Epenstein”s house at Fregestraße 19 in Berlin-Friedenau. Franziska became Epenstein”s mistress. Franziska Göring slept with him when he visited, while her legal husband stayed elsewhere. Epenstein was a wealthy man who often resided in aristocratic circles.
Heinrich Göring became ill in 1899, suffering from bronchitis. At the invitation of Epenstein, the family left for the sake of Heinrich”s health to his castle Burg Veldenstein in Neuhaus an der Pegnitz near Nuremberg. The Görings were allowed free use of this castle by Epenstein. An exact date cannot be traced, but it is assumed that during the time Heinrich Göring was ill, Franziska Göring had become the mistress of Epenstein.
In 1904, at the age of eleven, Hermann Göring attended a boarding school in Ansbach, Franconia, at Epenstein”s expense. Göring, who was stubborn, conceited and bossy, came into emphatic contact with other children for the first time. He disliked the school. The discipline there was strict, the food bad, and during music lessons he had to play the violin, an instrument he detested. Outside of school Göring also took some piano lessons. After they had to write an essay about the person they admired most in the world, he had had it with the school. Göring had written an essay on Epenstein, whereas the school expected the boys to write about their father, Wilhem II, Otto von Bismarck or Frederick the Great. Hermann Göring was taken to task by the rector who found out that his godfather was of Jewish descent. At that time Jews were despised by many citizens. Göring was given penance and that was the end of the matter for the school. However, the following day Göring went to school, smashed his violin and returned home.
Prompted by his mother, his father and godfather, both former cavalrymen, succeeded in obtaining a place for Hermann at the military academy in Karlsruhe. After four years at the military academy, Göring left school at the age of sixteen with excellent grades in history, French, English, horseback riding, and music. Because of his good grades at the academy in Karlsruhe, it took no effort for him to be admitted to the Preußische Hauptkadettenanstalt, a cadet school for future officers, in Berlin-Lichterfelde.
Göring, an admirer of military uniforms and medieval rituals since childhood, enjoyed them fully during his time at the cadet school. The cadets” uniforms were chic and colorful, and their behavior was grounded in medieval precepts. Hermann Göring graduated magna cum laude in almost all subjects at age nineteen. He was inducted into the Prinz Wilhelm Regiment as a lieutenant and placed at the headquarters in Mülhausen. Before taking up residence there, he was allowed to return home on leave for a period of time. Once there, Göring saw that things were going considerably less well than before he left. The relationship between his mother and godfather was over when Epenstein married a 26-year-old in 1913 at age 62, and the Göring family was evicted from Veldenstein Castle. They moved to Munich and shortly thereafter Heinrich Göring died.
Hermann, who by then was serving again with his regiment, returned home on special leave and used the day and evening before the funeral to help his mother go through the papers. While going through the papers, Hermann saw what a great career his father had had and has since regretted his poor relationship with his father. Heinrich Göring was buried at the Waldfriedhof in Munich.
Hermann Göring was 21 years old when World War I began. With the war, he saw his desire to show his courage and manhood fulfilled. Moreover, he had grown up with the idea that he should contribute to the “glory of the fatherland” through battle. Göring continued the family”s military tradition during the war. He served first in the infantry and then in the air force.
Just hours after the outbreak of World War I, the Prinz Wilhelm Regiment was already making contact with the enemy. The regiment”s garrison town, Mulhouse lay on the French bank of the Rhine in Alsace-Lorraine, annexed by the Germans after the Franco-German War in 1870. The Prinz Wilhelm Regiment withdrew to the German bank of the Rhine immediately after the French declared war. Immediately after that German retreat, a French outpost led by General Paul Pau settled here. They raised the flag at City Hall and declared that from that moment on the citizens were French. In the midst of the festivities, a platoon of German troops, led by Lieutenant Hermann Göring, rode back across the Rhine in an armored train. The French, weak on the ground, hastily retreated to the main positions. Göring personally seized the French flag and had his troops remove all French billboards. Just before nightfall, the Germans rode back to the German bank and they took four French cavalry horses that remained behind.
The next day the Germans could not repeat their action with the armored train, because the French had taken the city again during the night and this time had the railroad guarded. The French flag again flew above the town hall. Göring organized a patrol of seven men. With bicycles they were put across the Rhine and rode to Mulhouse under Göring”s direction. The Germans knew the area better than the French. Shortly after dawn they overran a French outpost. After this, they cycled to the center of town and tried to get as close as possible to the town square, where a crowd of people were welcoming the French troops. Göring saw that little General Pau was at the center of the festivities. He devised a daring plan and informed his men. Göring would grab the nearest horse and mount it. Then he would ride straight through the crowd to General Pau, pick him up and place him crosswise in front of him on the saddle and ride back with him to the German position. His men were to cover him during this daring action. At the moment Göring wanted to grab the rein of the horse, someone from his platoon nervously pulled the trigger and fired a shot. The French sounded the alarm and Göring had to retreat with his men. Göring then ambushed a French outpost and the Germans captured four French soldiers. For this action, Hermann Göring was mentioned for the first time in the Army Bulletin and praised for his daring and initiative.
Soon Göring was introduced to the other side of the war. When the first heavy rains and snows fell on the Western Front and the front began to buckle, the Prinz Wilhelm Regiment went into the trenches. Months of tedious, muddy and bloody trench fighting began. Göring had to leave the immobile front after only a few weeks. He struggled with a rheumatic attack and was transported to a hospital in Freiburg im Breisgau. As a result, he missed the Battle of the Marne, in which many of his colleagues were killed.
During his recovery in Freiburg, he received a visit from his friend Bruno Loerzer, whom he had met in Mulhouse. This visit would give his military career a drastic turn. Shortly after the outbreak of war, the two had separated. In Freiburg they met again. Loerzer was there training to be a pilot for the newly established German Air Force. Göring had become disillusioned with the infantry war during his recovery and feared that little room remained for individual initiative. At the same time, the newspapers were full of heroic stories about German pilots flying over the Western Front. Göring was told a great deal about the plans of the Luftstreitkräfte.
Out of his desire for fame, he wrote to his commanding officer to ask for permission and admission to the flying school in Freiburg. When Göring had not received a reply after two weeks, he managed to obtain the necessary papers from a barracks nearby. He filled out the transfer papers, signed them, and trusted that he would receive permission. If he still wanted to go into battle together with Loerzer, he had to start training soon. Göring himself had already taken care of his equipment and had already started as an observer in Loerzer”s plane. Suddenly he received a message from the regiment; his transfer was refused and Göring was ordered to join his regiment as soon as the medical service had declared him healthy.
Göring did not want to return to the regiment. He only communicated to Loerzer the command of his regiment. Meanwhile, he spent every moment that a plane was available in the air with his friend learning the trade he had decided he wanted to pursue, that of operator-observer. If he wanted to train as a pilot, he would miss the first part of the air war and that was not an option for Göring. Meanwhile, the regiment had heard that he had discharged himself from the hospital and he was again ordered to report to his regiment. Göring disregarded this. When his friends told him, that the colonel was furious and threatened to drag him before a court martial, Göring sent a letter to his godfather, Hermann Epenstein, who was a physician and wrote for him a medical certificate of unfitness for further service in trench warfare. In addition, Epenstein arranged for Göring and Loerzer to be permanently assigned to the Air Force.
The charges against Göring were suddenly reduced and he got off with the minor punishment of 21 days of chamber arrest. Before the sentence could be carried out, higher orders came between the two. Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia was a staunch supporter of the new air force and he wanted Göring to be immediately inducted into the new unit.
In the spring of 1915, Göring and Loerzer were transferred to Stenay, and they did mostly reconnaissance work at first. Göring”s work as an operator-observer was difficult to perform. He flew in a two-seater Albatross, whose lower wing fell exactly into his field of vision. He therefore had to hang over the side of the plane, and meanwhile Loerzer had to tilt the plane so that Göring could take a picture.
The commander of the Fifth Army, to which Göring”s unit belonged, demanded aerial photographs of the fortified city of Verdun every day. However, the concentration of fire in the fortress was so great that cameras or aircraft were regularly shot down. Göring and Loerzer volunteered to take reconnaissance photographs over Verdun. They immediately began preparations and spent three days flying low over the fortress. During the flight, Loerzer made the plane take a glide and Göring hung over the side of his cabin and took several pictures with his camera. The photos were so accurate and sharp that Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm rewarded both men with the Iron Cross 1st Class.
During the flights they were fired upon by troops from the ground, and Göring had devised a solution for this. On the next reconnaissance flight he installed a machine gun in his cockpit and fired at the troops on the ground. Göring”s action was adopted by the Germans and French, and in the air some planes were now armed with a machine gun. In April, there was a turn in the air battle. Frenchman Roland Garros fired on a group of four German planes, all unarmed, and managed to destroy two of them. Garros had pointed his machine gun straight ahead and protected his propeller with metal plates. The Germans were surprised, because up to that point the air war had been conducted with respect for other people”s pilots. The Germans called in Anthony Fokker, who built an improved version of Garros” invention, in which a steel pin blocked the machine gun when the propeller blade came in front of the barrel. The German Air Force soon ruled the skies and the fighter planes were in full use from then on.
Names like Von Richthofen, Immelmann and Boelcke were the heroes of Germany at that time. The honorable Göring thereupon also began pilot training in Freiburg in June 1915. He had mastered flying from the very beginning and passed without difficulty. In October 1915, he was assigned to Jagdstaffel 5, a group of twin-engine fighter planes, which were deployed on the Western Front. After three weeks of flying, Göring had an encounter with the new British Handley Page bombers. Göring wanted to attack the bombers, but seemed to have forgotten that the colossal planes were always protected by a group of fighters. Where the rest of his group had already retreated, Göring had to face a group of Sopwith fighters alone. Göring was shot at from several sides and his wings, as well as his gas tank, were pierced with bullets. He himself was also hit by several bullets and briefly lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness he directed his plane into German territory and made an emergency landing near an emergency hospital. He was immediately operated on and after the operation he was transferred to a hospital further behind the lines. Göring continued to recover there for several months before being sent home in the summer of 1916. During this time, he became engaged to Marianne Mauser.
On November 3, 1916, Göring reported for duty again and was assigned to Jagdstaffel 26, of which Loerzer was the commander. Göring was a fairly successful pilot and by 1917 he had already shot down several aircraft and, in addition to the Iron Cross, had won two more medals. Because of his achievements, he was promoted to commander of the new squadron Jagdstaffel 27, which together with Loerzer”s unit had its base in Izegem. Meanwhile, the Allies had also begun to arm themselves better and better and received support from the American Air Force. This brought the air war back into balance.
Göring was a successful squadron commander. The military training he had received served him well in the administrative and strategic side of his job; he led his unit punitively and efficiently. Although his pilots did not always agree with his policies, they noticed during the fighting that it had an effect. Leading Jagdstaffel 27 did Göring so well that he was awarded the highest German award of the time, the Pour le Mérite. This award was normally given only to pilots who had shot down more than twenty-five enemy aircraft, but Göring had only shot down fifteen at that time. He was personally presented with the award by the Emperor in Berlin.
Shortly after his return in June 1917, the Germans merged several squadrons into so-called Jagdgeschwaders. The most famous Jagdgeschwader was Jagdgeschwader 1, which was commanded by Manfred von Richthofen. The Red Baron, as von Richthofen was also called, brought down a total of eighty enemy aircraft before he himself was hit. Command passed to Wilhelm Reinhard.
On July 3, 1918, several squadron leaders were brought together at Berlin-Adlershof to test a new series of fighters. Göring flew the Dornier D.I and did some acrobatics in the air and then landed again. Reinhard then wanted to do a test flight as well. He went almost vertically into the air from the takeoff. Due to the pressure, the support of the upper wing broke and the upper wing came loose. The plane crashed and Reinhard was instantly dead.
Jagdgeschwader 1, also known as Jagdgeschwader Richthofen 1 since Von Richthofen”s death, had once again lost its commander. On July 4, Ernst Udet was temporarily appointed commander of the unit, but this was revoked a day later. On July 7, the men of the unit were informed that Hermann Göring was the new commander.
Göring”s start at his new unit was difficult, partly because the men were initially horrified at having chosen an outsider. Göring complained to headquarters that they had to take to the air five times a day and that neither the men nor the machines could keep this up. Meanwhile, he did let the commanders of various squadrons know that discipline needed to be tightened. The German commanders were in Göring”s eyes too much in competition with each other instead of colleagues. He decided that on the next flight the commanders would fly under his command, while handing over the leadership of their squadrons to the second-in-command. After this flight, the Jagdgeschwader was much more led by teamwork.
By early August 1918, Göring was convinced he could go on temporary leave and handed over command to Lothar von Richthofen, Manfred von Richthofen”s brother. Göring returned to Munich and spent some time with his godfather. After his return to the front, World War I was nearing its final phase. Göring”s unit was soon short of fuel and pilots. On October 7, the Germans received a proposal for an armistice. The Germans did not want to know about an armistice right away and hoped that the chances of war would still turn. On the Western Front, however, the Germans were pushed into defense everywhere. Göring”s unit had to retreat a few days after this, as the Allies had already crossed the Meuse River. Göring set up his headquarters at Tellancourt, although the area was unsuitable for combat. Flying was almost impossible and only a few flights were still being carried out. On November 9, Göring was ordered to keep all aircraft on the ground. A day later Göring was ordered to surrender with his unit to the nearest Allied unit. Göring, against all orders, withdrew with his unit to Darmstadt. Five men had to voluntarily fly to Strasbourg and destroy the aircraft there and then surrender to the French. Meanwhile, the rest of the unit left for Germany. Arriving in Germany, all pilots deliberately destroyed their aircraft. Shortly thereafter the unit was officially disbanded. Göring hung around with Udet in Berlin for some time before he left for Munich.
In December 1918, after arriving in Munich, it became apparent that much had changed since his last visit to the city, in August 1918. For example, King Louis III of Bavaria had been deposed from the throne during the Bavarian Revolution and Kurt Eisner had taken over. However, Eisner”s government was soon coming to an end and in January 1919 the Socialists won the elections in the Bavarian capital and were preparing to take power.
The Socialist Party promised to offer workshops to the returned soldiers, but for Göring, the party”s ideas did not match his own. Göring joined one of the free corps in early 1919, which was now springing up all over Germany. These free corps consisted of former officers, non-commissioned officers, and professional soldiers. When Eisner was assassinated on February 21, the socialists dragged various members of free corps, student groups, and the Thule-Gesellschaft (whose members included Rudolf Hess and Alfred Rosenberg), into court. Many were sentenced to death and Göring also suspected that he was on a death list. He therefore decided to go into hiding with Frank Beaumont, a captain in the RAF. Beaumont enabled Göring to leave Munich and join a free corps sent south from Berlin. This volunteer corps had huddled together in the suburb of Dachau and its goal was to destroy the Munich commune. A few days after Göring”s arrival, the attack was launched and within a few days all opposition had been crushed and the main strongholds of the “reds” destroyed. The Free Corps marched in parade stride down Ludwigstrasse to the city center. Then began their raids against the socialists.
However, Göring did not wait for the battle and purges and was deeply disillusioned with the German people. He wanted to get away from the fratricide that was going on. However, he had no money to leave for another country. He hoped to join the Reichswehr, but that did not happen either. An air force was banned by the Allies, so a career as an air force officer was also out of the question.
However, the Allies had not banned the building of aircraft and a number of manufacturers were still at work, most of whom worked for the foreign market. One of these manufacturers was Anthony Fokker, who also had a factory in Amsterdam. Göring and Fokker had met in World War I, and the German had been one of the best demonstrators of Fokker”s new aircraft. Fokker therefore asked Göring to demonstrate a new commercial model, a Fokker F.VII, in Denmark. Göring”s performance was so impressive that Fokker decided to loan Göring the aircraft permanently, in the hope that Göring”s art would convince potential buyers.
Göring toured Denmark and Sweden with his aircraft and invariably announced himself at his performances as the commander of Jagdgeschwader Richthofen 1. In addition, he pretended that the aircraft in which he flew was the same as the one in which he had flown during the war. Göring was particularly popular in Sweden and he appeared regularly in the media. However, the former Luftwaffe pilot realized that his current job was temporary and dangerous. He had to perform increasingly dangerous stunts to keep the crowd enthralled. This had already cost him the undercarriage once. He therefore decided to seek a job in civil aviation in Sweden. After all, he was still disappointed with the situation in Germany and had no intention of returning. He was told by the Svensk-Lufttrafik company that he had been approved and was placed on the waiting list, waiting for a vacancy.
During that time when he was waiting for a vacancy, something happened that changed his whole life. The season for stunt flying was over, so Göring often used his plane as an air cab. He earned a little extra in this way. In the winter of 1920, the weather was very bad and most people decided to use the old-fashioned methods of travel. However, Count Eric von Rosen, who had missed the train and was looking forward to a quick way to get from Stockholm home to Rockelsta, dared to travel by air in the harsh winter weather. Von Rosen decided to fly home on Göring”s plane. After a long trip, during which they lost their way several times, they arrived at Von Rosen”s medieval castle late in the day. Göring was allowed to stay the night and during his stay there met Carin von Kantzow, sister of the castle lady.
Von Kantzow had married Captain Nils von Kantzow ten years earlier. Together they had had one child, Thomas. During Göring”s stay at the castle, Göring and Carin von Kantzow began a relationship. Hermann Göring”s mother opposed their relationship, although she herself had had an extramarital affair with Hermann Epenstein. Not long after, Göring asked her to marry him, but she refused because she knew her husband would not accept the divorce. Moreover, Nils von Kantzow had pointed out to his wife that Göring had no steady job and only a small income. He would wait until the affair ended. However, Carin von Kantzow and Hermann Göring continued to see each other often and lived together in a flat for some time. Nils von Kantzow continued to send Carin money to ensure her well-being.
In 1921 Göring decided to leave Sweden because he could no longer get a job. At the same time, in doing so, he put Carin”s love to the test. Göring was aware that he would not find it much easier to get a job abroad because he had no education. Carin therefore decided to take Göring to art dealers and museums. This awakened in him the enthusiasm for art, which would one day become the consuming passion of his life. At the same time, Göring had become interested in Germany again and he read the newspapers from Berlin and Munich to keep abreast of the situation. He also learned that he had received a scholarship to study history and political science at the University of Munich. Göring then left for Germany as soon as possible, but Carin stayed behind in Sweden and would follow him after he bought a house. Within a month, however, Göring received a telegram that she was on her way to Munich.
Soon Carin returned to Sweden to settle the divorce. Nils von Kantzow was even willing to give her alimony and allowed her to visit her son freely. After an emotional farewell, she returned to Germany. Carin von Kantzow married Hermann Wilhelm Göring on February 3, 1923 at the Munich City Hall.
Sturmabteilung en Bierkellerputsch
When Göring returned to Munich from Sweden, peace had returned somewhat to Bavaria and its capital. The communist revolt had been put down and the right-wing repression that followed was over. Most of the war veterans, including Göring, and students believed that Germany had not been defeated, but had been attacked in the back, the so-called daggerhead legend. Several nationalist parties were founded, many of which disappeared after a short existence.
Three well-organized patriotic groups, meanwhile, were building a private army: the nationalists, who were anti-left but favored a gradual rapprochement. The center was ostensibly working with the current government, but had been in the process of its fall for some time. As a third group of these patriotic parties, there were the National Socialists; a combative group with far-right and racist views consisting of the National Socialist German Workers” Party (NSDAP) and its supporters.
The last group, the National Socialists, was one of the few groups at this time that turned an incoherent collection of like-minded people, into a punishingly managed political organization. The Nazis” main spearheads were to expel the “November criminals,” to get the people behind the party to build a proud and national Germany, and to tear up the Treaty of Versailles, whether by force or not. In the winter of 1922, during a demonstration against the Treaty of Versailles, Hermann Göring met the leader of the NSDAP, Adolf Hitler. Göring was impressed by meeting Hitler, and for Hitler, Göring was the World War I hero he needed. The former commander of Jagdgeschwader Richthofen 1 was an excellent propaganda tool for the Nazi party. In addition, Hitler believed that Göring, with his experience and intelligence, could do much for the NSDAP. It was therefore not surprising that Göring joined that organization. Soon Hitler appointed him commander of the Sturmabteilung (SA), of which he had to make a strong private army within a short time. Upon Göring”s appointment, the SA lacked discipline, cohesion, and drive. Göring”s military past would give the SA the corps spirit it needed.
Göring asked for a two-month postponement after Hitler”s request to become SA commander. This was because he first wanted to settle some private matters, including marrying Carin on February 3, 1923. After two months, he took office as leader of the paramilitary organization. Göring worked hard at first to give the collection of men the proper corps spirit and training. Soon the unruly gangs, which had previously acted as guards at party meetings, had turned into smooth, efficient groups. In addition, Göring put together groups that were to continuously protect Hitler and his supporters from attacks by the “reds”; at the same time, it seemed to Göring a good plan to disrupt the meetings of the Communists and Socialists. Weekly marches were organized and all members received a uniform from Hugo Boss that looked like this: a cap with a flap, brown shirt, riding breeches and boots. Around the arm they wore a band with the Nazi logo, the swastika. Despite this professionalization by Göring, the SA was still far from strong enough to stage a coup. Its size was about 11,000 men and there was only a limited number of guns available.
On May 1, 1923, the SA carried out its first major action. That was the day the Munich Socialists held their traditional reunion. Göring gathered the members of the Sturmabteilung, and together with Hitler, a large counter-demonstration was staged. Adorned in his military uniform, Göring would lead the demonstration against the socialists, but also against the humiliations of recent times, including the French occupation of the Ruhr. The counter-demonstration ended in a painful but instructive confrontation with the authorities. Otto von Lossow, commander of the Reichswehr in Bavaria, threatened harsh intervention if the demonstration continued.
Hitler decided to cancel the demonstration, although this was against Göring”s wishes. Hitler then took some time off; he left for the mountains to recharge his batteries. Soon Hitler returned and several party conferences were held that summer. During these conferences, which frequently took place at Göring”s villa in Munich, the Nazi leaders came to the conclusion that the time had come to make a grab for power. They also agreed that they could only accomplish this if they had the support of the police and the army. To get that support, they had to persuade Von Lossow. Although he had “abandoned” the Nazis on May 1, the Nazis approached him again, convinced that he would cooperate. Von Lossow turned down the offer, the future position of Reich Minister of Armaments. He did not join in the conspiracy.
Göring and Hitler were nevertheless of the opinion that Von Lossow and the Reichswehr would look the other way in the event of an armed uprising. With this in mind, the Nazi leaders proceeded with the actual preparations. Göring was mainly in charge of preparing the SA. He had to provide sufficient weapons and the corps spirit had to be good. Privately, things were going less well for Göring during this period. Carin”s health had deteriorated. Nevertheless, for Göring this was not a brake on his activities for the party.
Meanwhile, the new government in Berlin announced that resistance in the Ruhr had to end, as the French threatened reprisals. There were strong protests from both the Nazis and the anti-Berlin government in Bavaria. Expecting an uprising of nationalists, the Bavarian government appointed Gustav von Kahr as state commissar general with all powers to maintain order. Von Kahr”s separatist movement had received the blessing of Von Lossow and there was an important meeting on November 8 between Von Kahr, Von Lossow and Hans von Seißer, commander of the Bavarian police. At this meeting it was to be discussed in what way the government in Berlin could be deposed.
The Nazis decided to use this opportunity for the coup. On the evening of November 8, Hermann Göring went to pay a last visit to the ailing Carin before preparing for the coup. Hitler talked down a police officer, who then cleared the crowded street. Hitler, along with other Nazi leaders, including Rudolf Hess, entered the Bürgerbräukeller. At the same time, trucks of SA men, including Göring, arrived at the scene in front of the beer cellar. The police did not respond to the apparition, leaving the storm troopers free. Afterwards, the police officers present reported that because of the Stahlhelmen, they thought they were regular Reichswehr soldiers.
Soon the Nazis took the beer cellar and the leaders of the meeting, Von Kahr, Von Lossow and Von Seisser, were captured and forced to cooperate with the coup. In doing so, Hitler did need the support of Erich Ludendorff, a World War I general. Göring was charged with calming and quieting those present in the beer cellar. Von Kahr, Von Lossow and Von Seisser decided to cooperate and let everyone present know. Soon Von Kahr, Von Lossow and Von Seisser were released at Ludendorff”s request, as they had given their word as soldiers. Soon after their release they withdrew their pledge and orders were sent out to stop the Nazis.
Then the Nazis left the beer cellar and formed a column on the square. After the signal was given the column was set in motion and in front walked the leaders: Ludendorff in the middle, Hitler to his right and Göring to his left, then Ulrich Graf, Max von Scheubner-Richter and Ludendorff”s aide-de-camp, Hans Streck.
Soon a first problem arose with the Landespolizei, who had been ordered to obstruct the passage on the Ludwigsbrücke. Where Hitler and Ludendorff were confident that the column could reach its destination without too much trouble, Hermann Göring was afraid of the attitude of the Reichwehr. With the Bavarian Landespolizei he managed to deal easily. As the column stopped, Göring went forward and talked to the commander of the unit on the bridge, Georg Köfler. He pointed to the group of ministers and police commanders, whom they had captured the night before, and threatened to shoot the hostages dead if the police opened fire. The police withdrew and the Nazis were able to cross the bridge into the city. The Nazis were greeted positively by the people of Munich, and they moved quickly up Residenzstrasse. The narrow street ended in Odeonsplatz, an open square. There, a second police unit blocked the way. Ulrich Graf was ordered to run forward to let the commander know that Ludendorff and Hitler were coming. However, the commander, Michael Freiherr von Godin, had been ordered to obstruct the Nazis” passage at all costs. When the column got close, they opened fire. It is unclear who fired the first shot, presumably it was an SA man. Scheubner-Richter was struck by a bullet and fell dead in front of Hitler, who in turn stumbled over the body. Göring immediately ducked, but suddenly felt a burning pain in his thigh and fell down on the street. The Nazis fired back briefly, but soon the National Socialists retreated to safe territory. Only Ludendorff and his adjutant Streck continued their march. Believing that no one would shoot him, he walked straight toward the police, who took him into custody.
Göring, who was bleeding heavily because of the bullet that had entered his groin and hip, was carried into the house of a furniture dealer by some SA men. The lady of the house, Ilse Ballin, and her sister had gained some experience in nursing during World War I. They were not allowed to go into the house. They immediately took off Göring”s riding breeches, cleaned the wound as far as possible and stemmed the blood. Ironically, the Ballins were Jews and knew who Göring was and how his party felt about them. They also knew that Göring was wanted, but nevertheless they tried to take care of him as best they could. At Göring”s request, they contacted Alwin Ritter, a Nazi supporter, who worked in a clinic in the center of town. Later that evening, Göring was taken to the clinic, where his wounds were cleaned. During Kristallnacht, the Ballin family was arrested and imprisoned in a concentration camp. At the time, Göring arranged for their release.
The government had begun a raid on the participants of the putsch and Göring had to be helped out of the country as quickly as possible. Some SA men managed to smuggle him out of Munich already the day after the putsch. He was temporarily housed with friends of Carin in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. He stayed there for two days, but then had to leave because it had become known in the town that Hermann Göring was hiding there. On November 13, 1923, Carin attempted to cross the border into Austria with Göring. However, at the border they were arrested by the police and taken back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Göring was taken back to a police guarded hospital and his passport was taken away. In the hospital, however, some Nazi policemen and disguised SA men prepared a false passport for him and worked out an escape plan. A few hours later Göring had still crossed the border into Austria, where he was admitted to the hospital in Innsbruck. The wound recovered slowly, he suffered excruciating pains and was administered daily injections of morphine. At Christmas 1923 Göring was finally allowed to leave the hospital, but he still had to walk on crutches for a while. Meanwhile, the von Kahr government was preparing for the trial of Hitler and Ludendorff. Hitler”s lawyer had already visited Göring several times to speak with him and receive help for the defense. After Rudolf Hess, who had also fled to Austria, surrendered to the German authorities, Göring felt great urge to do the same. However, at the request of Hitler, who kept in touch with Göring in prison through smugglers, he remained in hiding in Austria. He stayed at his godfather Hermann Epenstein”s Burg Mauterndorf castle in Mauterndorf.
Despite the Nazis” failed attempts to seize power, the Nazis continued to gain popularity in Germany. In some places they were the second largest party after the Social Democrats, and they managed to win some seats in the Reichstag. Despite the disappointment that Göring could not attend, these reports did him good. Still receiving morphine for the pain, he often moved between Innsbruck, Vienna, and Salzburg, conferring with various Nazis visiting from Germany. After the elections, the party treasury was empty, but money was needed for the trial of Hitler and Ludendorff. Many lawyers offered their services for free, but the Nazis wanted to make propaganda and get the people behind them during the trial. Göring was asked to approach wealthy Austrians, especially those who had interests in German business. However, the Austrian government did not feel that Austrian money was benefiting a foreign party. Soon Göring was visited by investigators and urged to leave the country and return to Germany as soon as he had recovered. Göring first awaited the trial of Hitler, which began on February 23, 1924 and lasted over a month, and then wanted to decide whether to return to Germany or to go to Sweden via Italy. Since it soon became clear that Göring was not obtaining a political amnesty, the Görings decided not to return to Germany. After the verdict against the Nazi leaders, Hitler and Hess were sentenced to five years in prison, Göring suffered a setback in his health. His leg suddenly ached again and he suffered from depression. The Görings needed money to travel to Sweden via Italy. Carin decided that Göring should stay in the hospital and that there his wound should be examined again. She herself, although also wanted, went back to Munich in mid-April to collect money for their trip. This succeeded in part by selling the Görings” car, on which the attachment had meanwhile been lifted.
Upon Carin”s return, Göring was already better on his feet and they quickly left for Italy. On May 4, 1924, they arrived in Venice, from where they left for Rome. There Göring met with the new Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, but the conversation did not help the Nazi who had fled. Meanwhile Göring grew steadily fatter and became addicted to morphine. Carin, too, was ailing with her health and often had to stay in bed for days at a time. If they still wanted to leave for Sweden, they had to do so quickly. Their savings were running out and they could not live on Carin”s parents” money forever. Göring decided that the party should make him a gift, but just at that moment it suddenly appeared that the connection between Göring and the party had been severed. While Hitler was in captivity, the philosopher Alfred Rosenberg had taken over. Göring had regularly criticized Rosenberg in the past, upon which the latter decided almost immediately after his appointment as interim leader that Göring should be placed on the list of inactives and later removed all such “inactives” from the membership list.
Göring himself found it impossible to return to Germany and the letters he wrote to the party received no reply. Carin, although ill, had to return to Munich to oversee the situation and to get money for their trip to Sweden. In the meantime, Adolf Hitler had also come out of prison again and after some detours Carin met him. Hitler was stunned that Göring was no longer on the membership list and immediately reinstated him. He also gave Carin a pile of money for their trip to Sweden. Within a month, the Görings had arrived in Sweden via Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.
Soon after arriving, Carin”s health continued to deteriorate. Göring, on the other hand, tried to kick his morphine addiction in Sweden. He limited the number of injections to two per day. However, he could not find a job in the country and soon longed to return to Germany. However, his connections to the party were totally severed and everything he learned about the Nazis came from the anti-Nazi Swedish newspapers. Soon the number of morphine injections increased again to six a day. Carin”s family had Göring admitted to a rehab clinic, which he was only too happy to attend. He was also aware that his addiction would eventually get him killed. The amount of morphine in the clinic decreased drastically from the start, after which Göring attacked a nurse. He was then put in a straitjacket, examined by doctors who declared him insane and taken to the psychiatric institution Långbro sjukhus. After three months of being completely deprived of morphine, Göring was kicked out. He returned home, but when he noticed that Carin had gotten even sicker and again there was no job waiting for him, he became addicted again. He went back to the asylum and two months later he was again in rehab. Göring would never use morphine again. When he returned home and joined his ailing wife in the summer of 1926, he longed more and more to return to Germany. However, he did not yet have amnesty and thus still had to wait in Sweden before he could return to Germany.
In the fall of 1927, a large-scale demonstration took place in Tannenberg, East Prussia. Following the demonstration, President Paul von Hindenburg delivered a speech that marked the first step toward amnesty for political persons in exile. Shortly after the demonstration, a petition was filed by the right-wing parties to grant amnesty and release political prisoners. The request was supported by the enemy of the right-wing parties, the Communists, since that party also had a lot of prisoners. Shortly thereafter, Göring returned to Germany, initially without Carin, who was too ill to travel.
Rise of the Nazis
Upon his return, he was not received as a former hero. The party and its leaders had changed considerably and Hitler had decided that the NSDAP should come to power through a political route. After talks with Hitler, Göring was told that he first had to find a job in the business world and regain contact with the party. Thus, Göring went looking for a job. He worked as a representative for the Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW). When Carin had recovered and returned in the spring of 1928, Hitler also showed interest in Göring again to get him back into the party leadership.
Hitler”s interest stroked Göring”s ego. He went down all the influential relationships he had known during and after the war and used them for his own purposes. For example, he used Paul Körner”s car and Körner himself served as a driver. Bruno Loerzer was married to a wealthy woman and she paid lunches for potential buyers of the BMW motorcycles. He also used Prince Philip of Hesse-Kassel as bait for customers. Göring also boosted party funds by warming up businessmen from Krupp, BMW, and Heinkel for the NSDAP. He had almost completely recovered and in the intoxication he was in, Carin also flourished. Because of his good work in and with the business world and the regained confidence of Hitler, he decided to put him on the list for the upcoming elections. A seat in the Reichstag would bring Göring a good, steady salary and would thus be back in the highest circles of the party in one fell swoop.
Göring”s campaign in Berlin was short, but noisy. Where he used to calmly address the crowd and be able to convince them well, this election campaign was completely different. The crisis that had arisen in Germany made the population restless, and the Nazis played on this. Göring knew how to stir up the crowd and insulted his opponents. These were turbulent elections in which many people were killed and wounded. The elections ended in defeat for the Nazis. The Social Democrats and Communists together won no less than 207 of the 608 seats in the Reichstag. The Nazis obtained only 810,000 votes, or twelve seats. Göring, however, was one of the twelve Nazis who took their seats in the Reichstag. For Göring, the results were quite favorable. Along with the other eleven, including Joseph Goebbels and Gregor Strasser, he was now among the top of the party.
After this, a busy period began for Göring. He moved to Berlin and had a permanent job. There were also many party meetings and Göring served as the party”s most important speaker after Hitler. His salary of eight hundred marks a month plus expenses was more than enough to live on. Göring had to travel to all parts of the country to address the people and to win supporters for the NSDAP. Money also came in from various other sources. Fritz Thyssen, the industrialist, also gave the Göring family money and, through Göring”s position in the Reichstag, gave him more influence in commercial matters. In addition, Göring had made a lucrative deal with Erhard Milch of Lufthansa; he was going to earn a thousand marks a month there.
Now that Göring was in the Reichstag, it was his duty to join Goebbels and other party representatives as much as possible in organizing matters that contributed to the disruption of the state system. Göring initially concentrated mainly on the fact that more funds should go to civil aviation. In time, Göring believed, Germany would then be able to rebuild an air force. He left Nazi radicalism to individuals like Goebbels and himself concentrated on the social class, to which he counted himself. This was exactly why Hitler wanted him in the Reichstag: Göring”s conduct indicated that the NSDAP was a politically correct party.
In the 1930 election period, the Nazis had to deal with the first real internal power struggle. Otto Strasser had supported a strike against Hitler”s orders and had repeatedly spoken negatively about the party and Hitler. He was expelled from the party by Hitler, after repeated insistence by Göring and Goebbels, and founded a splinter party called the Die Schwarze Front. Göring was not so much bothered by Strasser as by Ernst Röhm, who had returned from Bolivia. Röhm assumed command of the Sturmabteilung, which at that time numbered one hundred thousand men. Göring feared that in time the SA would also split off or be used by Röhm to take over power in the party. However, Hitler needed the SA to make the party”s strength in the state highly visible. Göring wanted him to take back control of the SA in order to implement the discipline Hitler desired. Hitler refused, probably because otherwise Göring would have too much power. There were other tensions surrounding the elections within the party. There was discontent within the SA. In the run-up to the election, the SA men had worked hard for the party, and the SA leader in Prussia and East Prussia, Walther Stennes, demanded that the SA men receive more money from the party. Moreover, he agreed with Otto Strasser that a violent uprising could bring the Nazis to power. Stennes, however, remained loyal to the party, but there was a perception among the average SA member that some senior Nazis, including Rosenberg and Goebbels led lazy lives. Göring, thanks in part to his past, stayed out of harm”s way and was still immensely popular with the SA”ers.
Meanwhile, Göring was busy organizing the election campaign. He went all over the country to speak to groups of people. The Nazi election campaign, partly due to the situation of the global crisis, was a success this time. On September 14 the Reichstag elections were held and after the votes were counted it turned out that 6,409,600 people had voted for the Nazis. This yielded one hundred and seven seats, making it at once the second largest party in the country. This effectively began the NSDAP”s political ascendancy in Germany. The Nazis now had to concentrate on two goals: one was to woo the growing number of unemployed, who had emerged after the Stock Market Crash in the United States, and the other was to woo the bankers, including Hjalmar Schacht, and industrialists, who were not yet affiliated with the Nazis. The latter were the kind of people with whom Göring had to gain confidence. Hitler, as party leader, was now forced to enter into conversations with bankers neatly dressed. Through Göring”s intervention, he and Göring met with Schacht in early 1931. His joining the Nazis was an important step for the National Socialists. He was a skilled economist and had a good understanding of political possibilities. Göring”s powers of persuasion were the deciding factor for Schacht in this meeting.
The year 1931 was a difficult one worldwide, but Germany was hit extra hard by the crisis. For the NSDAP, the crisis was a propaganda tool par excellence and it therefore frequently played on the bad situation in which many people lived at that time. Every step forward taken by the party and Göring was overshadowed by Carin”s major health problems. In the spring of 1931 she often spent hours in bed in a kind of coma and the doctor said she was beyond saving and would soon die. Hard times were ahead for Göring, who was now under constant pressure as leader of the opposition. Although he was a Protestant, during this time Göring was asked by Hitler to travel to Rome, where he would convince the Vatican that the Nazis had good intentions. He reported that, in the event that the Nazis came to power, the position of the church would not change. In return, he said that the high-ranking people at the church should not interfere in political affairs.
Upon returning, the battle in the Reichstag became increasingly fierce. The coalition of Social Democrats had to be destroyed. To speed up this process, Göring led the Nazi delegates out of the Reichstag in February 1931 and they did not return until September 1931. Göring tried to make an alliance with General Kurt von Schleicher to form a coalition. He also managed to arrange a meeting in October 1931 between Hitler and Hindenburg, who did not favor each other on a personal level. For Göring, this was a tough time psychologically. He had to return from Sweden because of the meeting between Hitler and Hindenburg, at which he himself would be present, where his wife was lying in bed deathly ill. Carin had attended her mother”s funeral a few days earlier. On October 17, 1931, Göring received word from Sweden that his wife had died. He immediately returned to Sweden and found Carin”s body laid out in the small garden chapel of the family residence. He attended his wife”s funeral and immediately afterwards he left for Germany again and threw himself into preparing for the elections, which took place in 1932.
The year 1932 was an extremely important one for the Nazis. The crisis was felt worse than ever in the country and elections for the Reichstag and the presidency were held. In March and April the two consecutive presidential elections took place, in which Hitler was one of the candidates. Later that year, in July and November, were the elections for the Reichstag. Göring, who worked hard for the party, overcoming his grief, worked hard during the election campaign. He traveled all over Germany making speeches to win votes for the upcoming elections. The Nazi campaign was a success. Although Paul von Hindenburg remained well ahead of his rival Hitler, eleven million people had still voted for Hitler in the first round of the election. In the second round, Hitler gained an additional two million votes, bringing the total to thirteen million Nazi voters. The Social Democrats feared that the Nazis were planning another coup with the SA and the SA was banned on April 13. Behind the scenes Göring managed to get Kurt von Schleicher to force Heinrich Brüning, the chancellor, to resign. In a meeting between Franz von Papen, Hitler and Göring, Von Papen was put forward as the new chancellor on the condition that the ban on the SA was lifted. This took place quite soon after Von Papen”s appointment in June 1932.
The Nazis, led by Göring, began campaigning for the Reichstag elections. Whereas in the presidential election the popular Von Hindenburg snatched a lot of votes from Hitler, in the Reichstag election the National Socialists went for the win. In the July elections the party gained 230 seats, which was almost an absolute majority. Von Hindenburg refused to accept Hitler for ministerial office, but the NSDAP leader knew that the chancellorship was within reach. He ordered Göring to get rid of Von Papen as soon as possible. After the first meeting in August 1932, Göring”s position of power increased considerably. He had gathered enough votes to become president of the Reichstag. This position enabled him to control the whole affair and manipulate it in such a way that Von Papen”s position became more and more oppressive. The struggle between Göring and Von Papen became increasingly fierce. Göring”s only goal was to remove Von Papen from office, with the support of the Reichstag, which forced Von Hindenburg to look for a new chancellor. He would then automatically end up with Adolf Hitler. Von Papen in turn complained to Von Hindenburg about Göring”s behavior and plans. He wanted the Reichstag dissolved, which would allow him to act freely, without having the support of the Reichstag. Meanwhile, because of Göring”s repetitive behavior, the Communists had given up confidence in Von Papen and submitted a vote of no confidence. The Nazis supported this motion, after which a vote on whether or not to retain Von Papen soon took place. Even before the vote took place, Von Papen submitted the resolution of dissolution. Göring, however, ignored it and proceeded to the vote. This vote showed that Göring had performed his task with verve. 513 delegates, an overwhelming majority, voted against Von Papen. Göring, as president of the Reichstag, was able to invalidate the order to dissolve the Reichstag because it bore the signature of a man who was not chancellor. The Nazis had been ahead of the wily Von Papen, who left the Reichstag with his supporters.
Von Hindenburg, however, dissolved the Reichstag anyway. There would be another election in November 1932. The Nazis lost two million votes in these elections and fell below two hundred seats. Göring was again elected president of the Reichstag. He was convinced that the Nazis should use this period to take over total power in Germany. If that failed, then the only remaining option was a coup. This was something Göring absolutely wanted to avoid and he had to stop the Nazi leadership from doing so several times. To prevent this, he put even more time into his work and even approached Von Hindenburg”s son to get Hitler elected chancellor. Meanwhile, some tensions had arisen within the party. Gregor Strasser, the brother of the previously departed Otto Strasser, believed that he could become the new Nazi leader. He sought support from Von Schleicher, but Hitler found out about Strasser”s plans and forced him to leave the party. This also marked the end of the alliance between the NSDAP and Von Schleicher.
For Göring it was now a matter of getting Von Papen, together with Hitler, excited again about a political alliance with the Nazis. On January 4, 1933, the political leaders met and Von Papen decided to support Hitler. The exhausted Von Hindenburg was convinced by Von Papen to appoint Hitler as Chancellor, after Von Schleicher had failed to gather sufficient support in the Reichstag, had resigned. Hitler”s position was not yet so strong that he could demand that the entire cabinet consist of Nazis. On the contrary, in fact. Von Papen decided to support the Nazis on the condition that he himself became vice-chancellor and that two-thirds of the cabinet members consisted of non-partisans. This meant that Hitler could only choose two party members as ministers. Hitler agreed, provided Göring was one of these two and he was given the posts of “Minister of the Interior in Prussia” and “Minister without Portfolio.” This would give the Nazis enough power on their way to dictatorial power. The third member of the Nazi cabinet was Wilhelm Frick. Von Papen and Von Hindenburg thought that the limited number of Nazi members meant that they were in charge and not the Nazis.
Period 1933 – 1935
Hitler and Göring soon came to the conclusion that quick action was required. A majority had to be obtained in the Reichstag, otherwise there was a possibility that Hitler would be voted out as Chancellor. The day after Hitler”s appointment, the Reichstag was dissolved and elections were called for March 5, 1933. Göring was a powerful man within Germany at this time. In addition to his job as president of the Reichstag, he held three other offices, namely: in the Hitler Cabinet, he was minister without portfolio; in the Reich, minister for aviation affairs; in the powerful Prussian state, minister of the interior. This last office was the most important, since Göring had control of the police in this important state. Since Prussia covered a large part of Germany, this office was essential to the Nazis. Göring therefore made quite a few changes to the Prussian police personnel to ensure that Nazi control of the police was guaranteed.
Meanwhile, a new woman had also crept into Hermann Göring”s life. The actress Emmy Sonnemann and Göring had met in 1931, and a love affair had slowly developed after Carin”s death.
For Göring and Hitler, the question was how to achieve a landslide election victory in March. Göring was busy making speeches all over the country. At a party organized by Göring, the party coffers were heavily padded by industrialists.
The communists, but certainly also the social democrats, found that they were not protected by the police if their meetings were disrupted. In addition, the regular police were not allowed to take hostile action against the SA, SS, and Stahlhelm. On February 22, 1933, Göring established so-called auxiliary police corps, consisting of members of the SA and SS. According to official reports, this was because the police needed reinforcement in these dangerous times. In fact, it came down to the fact that the SA and SS were more fanatical and cracked down harder on opponents” party rallies. Göring had the Communists” headquarters raided in the run-up to the election and reported that documents for an uprising had been found. He forbade the Communists from holding any further party meetings. This was of decisive importance in the election campaign. He thus eliminated the Communists in one fell swoop for victory.
On February 27, 1933, the Nazis received what Hitler called a “gift from heaven.” On this day, after nine o”clock in the evening, the Reichstag fire took place. Göring rushed to the fire. He was in the Prussian Ministry of the Interior at the time of the outbreak. Upon Göring”s arrival, his office was already completely destroyed, including his many memories of Carin and some heirlooms. While the fire was still raging, the twenty-four-year-old Dutchman, Marinus van der Lubbe, was arrested. He immediately confessed to having set the fire. It turned out that he belonged to a Trotskyist group. The Nazis immediately thought of a communist conspiracy and an attack on the new government. They were convinced that Van der Lubbe had not acted alone. It was notable that immediately upon arrival, Göring was ordered by Hitler to arrest the communists and he already had the lists of names ready for that purpose. Three others were arrested in addition to Van der Lubbe, namely: Georgi Dimitrov, Blagoi Popov, Wassil Tanev (all Bulgarian). A fourth, Ernst Torgler, the German Communist Party leader, turned himself in after hearing the news that he was wanted because he was the last to leave the building. Their trial was to take place in September 1933, and Göring wanted to make a show of it, giving the Communists” name in Germany the final blow. However, it became his first major political blunder in his career. Göring shouted and ranted at the trial against the defendants, but Dimitrov served him with a reply. After that, Göring stayed away from the trial. During the trial only Van der Lubbe was found guilty, because the others could simply prove that they were in another place at the time of the fire. Van der Lubbe received the death penalty and was beheaded on January 10, 1934.
The Reichstag fire was met with dismay in Germany and abroad. Many were convinced that this was an action of the Nazis themselves, with Göring as its creator. After all, Göring”s presidential palace was connected to the Reichstag by an underground passage and he would have ordered some SA men to set fire to the Reichstag, to leave Van der Lubbe there with the burning torch and to disappear again via the underground passage. Göring, however, always swore that he knew nothing about the fire. Loerzer stated on February 28, 1933, in a conversation with Albrecht Freiherr von Freyberg-Eisenberg-Allmendingen:
I don”t understand all the nonsense people are spreading about the Reichstag fire. I was ordered by my friend Goering, together with a group of SA men, to set fire to the Reichstag.
General Franz Halder stated under oath at the Nuremberg trials that Göring had said at Hitler”s birthday party on April 20, 1942:
The only one who really knows what happened in the Reichstag is me, because I set it on fire.
Göring felt the pressure on his person ease slightly and had a friendly meeting with the fascist Mussolini, who told him that he was not fond of the extreme anti-Semitism of the Nazis. Upon his return, it appeared that Göring had taken over the office of Prime Minister, or Kommissar, of Prussia from Von Papen, who had been persuaded to resign. On April 26, 1933, Göring renamed Germany”s security police “Geheime Staatspolizei,” or Gestapo. During this time Göring was persuaded several times by Emmy Sonnemann to release prisoners from concentration camps. This he continued to do for quite some time, something that later earned him a reprimand from Hitler. On Göring”s orders, however, some camps, so-called “wild camps,” established by the SA were closed. Göring also wanted to close an SS camp in Osnabrück, but Himmler denied the police access and the SS actually opened fire on them. Göring was furious with Himmler and stamped on Hitler. The latter decided to close the camp and thus prevented a personal war between Göring and Himmler, his two biggest followers. Göring believed that the concentration camps did not serve as horrible places where people had to be mistreated, but he ordered the leaders of the SA and SS, Röhm and Himmler, to re-educate the prisoners and apply rehabilitation: the prisoners had to return to society as good Germans. In practice, the leaders of the paramilitary movements showed little concern for this.
When Hitler formed his first coalition cabinet, Göring was assigned the office of “Reichskommissar für die Luftfahrt”. He retained this position even after Hitler”s total seizure of power, following the death of President Hindenburg. No one, except Göring and Hitler, took this job seriously at first. After all, according to the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was not allowed to build up an air force. However, despite the ban, Göring intended to eventually rebuild a strong air force. Not for nothing had he been advocating since 1929 for more financial support for Lufthansa, from which he would later take many of his pilots.
Meanwhile, Göring had his large estate north of Berlin built from party funds. This estate bore the name of his late first wife Carin Göring, the Carinhall. At the same time, he built a large chalet on the Obersalzberg, the Nazi stronghold near Berchtesgaden. His drive for property would only increase in the coming years.
In April 1934, Hitler instructed Göring to hand over command of the police to Heinrich Himmler, who as a result was in charge of the police, Gestapo and SS. In May, his position as “Reichskommissar für die Luftfahrt” was upgraded to a ministerial post. He immediately began to make propaganda for the establishment of an air force. Stories of Russian aircraft over German territory soon circulated at home and abroad. The British themselves sent an envoy to Göring to discuss the sale of some military aircraft. Meanwhile, Göring had approached Erhard Milch and Karl-Heinrich Bodenschatz, his former comrades in the air force, about a position in his ministry. Milch, a half-Jew, something Göring never bothered with, became secretary of state. Bruno Loerzer, also an old acquaintance of Göring, was made head of the “Air Sports Club.” This organization was a secret training group for German pilots. Ernst Udet was brought in by Göring as an advisor.
Soon after his appointment, Göring informed some aircraft manufacturers that he was making substantial credits available for the aircraft industry and that production of Junkers Ju-52, Focke-Wulf Fw 200, Heinkel He 70, and Dornier airboats could begin fairly soon. For the training of the air force, Göring took several non-commissioned officers away from the Reichswehr. They were to teach the pilots the discipline of a military force.
In 1934 Göring was given another ministry. Namely, he had been appointed Reichsjägermeister and Reichsforstmeister. These two offices were transformed into one ministry in 1934. Göring”s reforms, especially those of the hunting laws, were very helpful for the balance of nature. Among other things, he banned vivisection and cruel traps.
In 1934, all the senior Nazis, Göring, Röhm, and Goebbels, as well as Himmler and Heydrich, were amassing power. In the struggle for power, all but SA leader Röhm were too busy to conspire against Hitler. The SA believed they should be rewarded for supporting Hitler, but the latter had more important things on his mind. He had to win over the Reichswehr. Under the leadership of Göring a conspiracy was forged against Röhm. Other important players in this were Himmler and Goebbels. They believed that Röhm was out for power. He would like to merge the SA with the army and, as commander-in-chief of the army, stage a coup. Hitler, who included Röhm in his cabinet, was aware of the danger but saw no immediate reason to eliminate Röhm. Göring, however, did see that. Together with the other Nazi leaders, they complemented Röhm”s dossier. Göring played a major role in the plot against the SA leader. In particular, he played an important role in convincing Hitler that Röhm was planning a coup in the near future. Through Göring”s powers of persuasion and the files that had been compiled, the Führer was convinced that it was necessary to eliminate Röhm and the other SA leaders. This took place on the night of June 30, 1934. This night is better known as the “Night of the Long Knives.” During this night, 1124 people were taken into preventive custody by order of Göring. Röhm and other SA leaders were assassinated, leaving the brown shirts decapitated and no longer a danger to the Nazi leadership. Kurt von Schleicher was also killed, as he had tried to sow discord among the NSDAP in the previous years. Hitler also wanted Vice Chancellor Von Papen assassinated because he had spoken negatively about the Nazis two weeks earlier. However, Göring managed to convince Hitler that it would cause unrest among the population and President Von Hindenburg.
During the “purges,” 74 deaths were officially reported. Virtually the entire population supported the measures taken by the Nazis. Göring received personal compliments from President Paul von Hindenburg. The telegram he sent stated:
Herrn Ministerpräsident Göring Berlin088 Teleg. 4012Acccept my approval and congratulations for your successful action in suppressing the treason of the countryWith comradely thanks and regards.Hindenburg
Partly because of his actions during this event, Göring rose further in Hitler”s esteem. This caused Hitler to issue a secret decree on December 7, 1934, making Göring “his deputy for all matters of national administration” should he himself be unable to fulfill his duties. Göring”s position as second-in-command of the Third Reich was ratified a few days later, on December 13, by another law in which Hitler appointed Göring as his successor and ordered the civil service, the army, the SA, and the SS, immediately upon his death, to swear an oath of personal loyalty to Göring.
By 1935, it was clear to Göring: the existence of the Luftwaffe had to be made public. The Deutscher Luftsportverband had grown into a sizeable organization by now. On February 26, 1935, at Göring”s request, Reichsverteidigungsminister Von Blomberg hinted that an air force had been built up in secret, against the Versailles Treaty. By March 1935, the Luftwaffe had 1888 aircraft and over 20,000 officers and men at its disposal. Under Göring”s watchful eye, all the highly disciplined “flying clubs” and “police formations” were transferred to the new Luftwaffe. Göring was assigned the supreme command of the Luftwaffe as agreed.
At his wedding to Emmy Sonneman, on April 10, 1935, the Luftwaffe made its first public appearance. At least two hundred military aircraft hovered above the couple. Later that year, in September 1935, the Luftwaffe was publicly displayed during Party Day, and developments were viewed with suspicion elsewhere in Europe. The Western Allies, France and Britain, were also beginning to modernize the army. In addition to Milch, Göring also appointed General Walther Wever to a leadership position. Göring believed that the experienced Wever could infuse the officer corps with the proper National Socialist mentality.
In late 1935 and early 1936, the first test flights of the second generation of German fighter planes, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the Messerschmitt Bf 110, began. Göring was very pleased with the first test results and had quite a few produced. After the death of General Wever – he was killed in an air crash – Göring appointed Albert Kesselring as the new commander. The Luftwaffe was expanded in the coming years and would soon go into action for the first time.
Period 1936 – 1939
Ever since the existence of the Luftwaffe had been publicly announced and Göring had been appointed commander-in-chief, he had dreamed of having the most powerful air force in Europe. Göring was busy expanding the Luftwaffe, and although he had Hitler”s support, raw materials and financial resources were scarce. He wanted a greater share of spending to be devoted to the Luftwaffe.
Hitler had informed Göring that the Rhineland was to be occupied in 1936 and that in doing so the Luftwaffe had to make a strong impression. Göring thought it was a bit early for that, because his air force was not yet modernized. To obtain more funds, he had to venture into the economic field. He contacted Hjalmar Schacht, the Minister of Economic Affairs, for this purpose. However, Schacht soon let it be known that the people had already made great sacrifices and the proverbial lemon had been completely squeezed by now. Göring told Schacht that he was convinced that the people were ready to make even greater sacrifices in favor of rearmament. By means of a speech he managed to get the people behind him and thereupon the Führer ordered that more funds should go to rearmament; Schacht reluctantly gave in. Partly because of this, Göring was recommended by Schacht on April 16, 1936, to assume the position of Reichskommissar für Rohstoffe und Devisen. In this way, Schacht thought he would have a solution for the disagreements in the armaments sector and have more time himself for the “important” economic matters. However, Schacht did not take into account the fact that the economy in the Third Reich was largely armament-oriented.
Soon after his appointment, Göring began expanding his powers. Göring had Hitler”s full support and on May 1, 1936, established a new, independent authority and gave himself the title Ministerpräsident Generaloberst Göring, Rohstoffe und Devisen. Schacht protested in vain to Hitler against this unauthorized exercise of office. Instead of limiting Göring”s powers, Hitler expanded them significantly over the next few months.
In October 1936, while walking with Hitler, Göring was told that he was being given the position of Beauftragter für den Vierjahresplan. As leader of the Four Year Plan, he became at once the most powerful man in Germany in the economic field. He had control over all agencies involved in the (war) economy. Among other things, he had to ensure ”food freedom of the German people” and more raw materials and foreign exchange for armaments. He was also charged with conducting a ”war during peace”. According to a secret memorandum from Hitler in 1936, only the conquest of new Lebensraum could permanently eliminate the shortages of raw materials. To achieve this goal, Göring had to have the economy and the army ready for war within four years.
This “war during peace” method also affected everyday life. Göring put all the money into armaments and this was at the expense of housing and food supplies. The pressure was put on so high by Göring that soon there were acute shortages of raw materials and labor. The iron ore program in particular caused problems. From 1937 onwards, iron and steel became increasingly scarce, and at the same time the private economy threatened to be unable to cope with the crisis. To avert an economic crisis, Göring accelerated the Nazification of industry in the Ruhr area. At the same time, he founded a steel concern in Salzgitter under the name Reichswerke Hermann Göring, which soon became the largest in Europe. He had an associated town built with the name Hermann Göring Stadt.
In November 1937, Schacht stepped down as Minister of Economic Affairs; he could no longer stand the armament frenzy. His resignation was accepted on December 8 and Göring was temporarily appointed as his successor. Because of Göring”s seizure of power within the economic sector, speculation abounded, particularly about his position within the Third Reich. Numerous observers, including those from abroad, saw in Göring the de facto Reich Chancellor of Germany, working under Hitler”s sovereignty. Since Hitler rarely called the Reich government together – all decisions were made by the Nazis – Göring, as Prime Minister of Prussia, took over many of his tasks. During the meetings of the Prussian Council of Ministers, relatively many laws were prepared. Often ministers of the imperial government, such as Gürtner (Justice) and Von Neurath (Foreign Affairs) also took part in discussions, when topics from their fields were discussed.
Göring also used his newly acquired position of power for personal purposes. Many industrialists tried to obtain lucrative armament contracts through donations. In this way Göring channelled millions of Reichsmark into his private account. It was clear that Göring had worked his way up to become the second-in-command of the Reich.
After the presentation of the Luftwaffe and the silence of the Allies, the German air force had expanded considerably in the following months. The first “victory” over the Allies had been won. At a meeting between General Von Blomberg, Hitler and Göring, it was decided that Germany would help the Spanish rebel forces, led by General Francisco Franco, with weapons, troops and aircraft. Göring insisted on a large-scale deployment of the Luftwaffe so that it would undergo a proper test and any defects would be revealed on that basis.
Starting in June 1936, support was provided by Germany to Franco, who was fighting against the socialist government of Spain. Soon the first fighters and bombardment planes came into action. Göring wanted to try all possible weapons and attack tactics, which led to the bombing of Guernica on April 26, 1937. Göring had ordered that some bridges and important intersections be attacked, but instead the bombs were released exactly over the center; ninety inhabitants were killed. Göring, as leader of the Luftwaffe, was held responsible. It led to criticism particularly from the British Parliament. Göring was therefore not – as had originally been intended – invited to the coronation of King George VI. Instead of Göring, the Minister of War, Von Blomberg was invited. This did not go down well with Göring and he now wanted to quickly carry out what he had been planning for a long time: to overthrow Von Blomberg and take his place himself.
Göring began to bring down von Blomberg”s reputation soon after he returned from London. Werner von Blomberg, sixty years old, was about to remarry. Since Göring knew that von Blomberg”s future wife had been in prison for pornographic photos and that she was thirty years younger, he immediately said that remarriage was pointless. He would even, along with Hitler, witness it. Soon after Von Blomberg was married, the true nature of his wife was widely publicized by the media. Von Blomberg”s good reputation was gone at a stroke and he submitted his resignation. Göring wanted to assume the supreme command of the armed forces, but among the officers a lobby went for Werner von Fritsch. However, due to quick work by Göring and Himmler, von Fritsch also became involved in a scandal. He was said to be in a homosexual relationship. Although he was rightly acquitted – this was what the Nazis had planned – his name was considerably tarnished and he could forget the position as commander-in-chief.
The way had been cleared to place a Nazi at the top of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht. Göring was convinced that because of his great war record, he was the right person to take charge. Hitler found himself in a dilemma. On the one hand, Hitler knew that if he appointed a general of the land forces to succeed von Blomberg, Göring, as commander-in-chief of the air force, would not agree to be subordinate to a general of the land forces. On the other hand, Hitler did not feel comfortable giving in to Göring”s quest for power. To circumvent both situations, Hitler announced on February 4 that it was not Göring but himself who would become the supreme commander of the armed forces. Göring did not even have a place as second-in-command in the army, as Hitler put the compliant Walther von Brauchitsch in that position. However, Göring was appointed Generalfeldmarschall.
Since the Germans wanted to add Austria to the empire, it was waiting for a suitable moment. On March 9, 1938, that moment had arrived. Austrian Chancellor von Schuschnigg announced a referendum, asking whether Austria should be annexed to Germany. Göring was now charged with organizing the Anschluss. First, he wrote a letter to von Schussnigg, demanding his resignation. At the same time, he informed the Austrian Nazi Arthur Seyss-Inquart that he should be part of the new Austrian government. According to Göring, this new government had to ask for the entry of German troops.
On March 11, Göring arranged the course of annexation through twenty-seven telephone calls between Berlin and Vienna. However, Austrian President Miklas refused to install a National Socialist in Von Schuschnigg”s place. Göring then threatened to invade Austria through Seyss-Inquart, but again the president would not be intimidated. From this point Göring took over the initiative. It ordered in the name of the führer to invade Austria and to act harshly where necessary. At 9 p.m., Göring received word that President Miklas had received his message properly and had ordered Austrian troops to offer no resistance. The annexation was a fact.
After the annexation of Austria, Hitler immediately turned his attention to the next target: Sudetenland. On April 20, the Wehrmacht was ordered to prepare for Fall Grün, an invasion of Czechoslovakia. Göring was a lot more cautious in this matter. He believed that the Wehrmacht was not yet ready for such actions. He did know through his own intelligence that France and Britain were not keen on a war, but he was still not comfortable with it. Therefore, Göring urged Hitler to solve the issue of Czechoslovakia by force just like Austria. Göring wanted to divide Czechoslovakia between Germany, Poland, and Hungary. A violent solution, according to Göring, could draw the Western powers onto the battlefield.
Hitler, however, wanted to know nothing of these plans. In a secret conference of the Reich Chancellery, Hitler announced that he was going to attack. Göring did raise the objection that the Westwall was not sufficient to stop the French troops, but Hitler again brushed his objections aside. From this point on, Göring distanced himself from Hitler”s race to war. However, Göring decided that going against Hitler would not strengthen his position, so he looked for other solutions to prevent the almost inevitable war. He contacted the governments in London and Paris and expressed his willingness to negotiate. He tried by coercion and seduction to persuade the Western powers to remain calm.
When it came to foreign policy, Göring quickly lost his position of power to Joachim von Ribbentrop, who had succeeded Konstantin von Neurath as foreign minister in early 1938. Von Ribbentrop was an extremely docile person and that was what Hitler needed at the time. The Sudeten Germans were called upon to distance themselves from the Prague government, and the Wehrmacht was put on alert on October 1, 1938. Göring, who frequently negotiated with British and French diplomats, tried in many ways to prevent war. Göring invited British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to discuss the Sudeten issue. The meeting, which took place on September 15, only made the situation more grim. Chamberlain and Göring did want peace, but Hitler demanded the return of the Sudetenland.
Göring continued to try in many ways to reach an agreement that would keep the peace. Eventually Mussolini offered to mediate the issue and this led to the Munich Conference. Göring had little part in the conference itself, but had carefully prepared everything beforehand. It soon became clear that France and Britain did not want to risk war on behalf of Czechoslovakia. They therefore agreed to almost all German demands. Indeed, in the months before, Göring had shown a member of the French embassy, Paul Stehlin, the strength of the current German army. Édouard Daladier had convinced himself by Paul Stehlin, who was shown only the strengths of the army, that a war against Germany would be very tough. Thereupon he decided to offer hardly any resistance to the Germans. Although Göring”s part in the conference itself was minimal, he had to a large extent predetermined the outcome. Although the outcome was extremely positive for the Germans, with the Sudetenland to be handed over to Germany by October 10, Hitler proved dissatisfied with Göring”s “cowardly” attitude. In the months that followed the relationship between Germany”s first and second in command cooled considerably.
In March 1939, Göring was appointed by Hitler to annex the remaining part of the Czech Republic. Czechoslovak President Emil Hácha would not voluntarily hand over his country to the Germans and thereupon Göring threatened to heavily bomb Prague. The president succumbed to the pressure and agreed to a German occupation, after which the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was created.
In the evening of November 9, 1938, two days after the attack on German diplomat Ernst vom Rath, it was announced that vom Rath had died of his injuries. Led by Joseph Goebbels, riots, initiated by SA members, broke out throughout Germany. Göring and Himmler had been told by Hitler not to interfere in anything. Yet Himmler deployed SS units in Berlin, Bremen, Hanover and Vienna to protect Jewish life and property. Göring also later ordered police units and members of the Allgemeine-SS to act against the violence.
On the afternoon of November 10, Hitler ordered Göring to ban all Jews from business. Göring, who did not agree with these measures, then entered into a personal conversation with Hitler. During this conversation, Hitler made it clear that the Jews were also no longer allowed to participate in cultural events and to enter the “German forests. In addition, he demanded that the Jews pay for the damage caused by Kristallnacht and set the amount to be paid at 1 billion Reichsmark.
Two days after Kristallnacht, on November 12, 1938, Göring called a meeting in the Reichsluftfahrtsministerium for about a hundred people. Göring wanted to take stock of the November Progrom, as Kristallnacht was also called. The extensive damage that had been inflicted on stores and the like had generated a lot of insurance claims, which in turn had a major impact on Göring”s economic plan. He made the following statement about this:
I would have preferred that you had slain 200 Jews and not destroyed such values.
At the end of the meeting, Göring reported on the measures to be taken: the Jews had to pay a fine of one billion Reichsmark, were excluded from business, and were responsible for the damage done to their own property.
Seven weeks after these decrees were issued, Göring again tried to spare the Jews some harassment. Among other things, he prevented the abolition of rent protection for Jews altogether and, just under nine months before the outbreak of World War II, he demanded that the emigration of Jews be supported, especially helping the less fortunate in their efforts.
On September 1, the day the Germans opened the attack on Poland, Hitler publicly named Göring as his successor.
Göring held the following public offices:
Göring caused quite a stir as the Reich”s hunter master. Göring, who was fond of hunting, was the chief of all hunters in the German Reich. He organized large drive hunts and, as Minister of Forestry, ensured exemplary hunting laws.
The height of his power came after England and France declared war on Germany in 1939, when Hitler created the post of Reich Marshal especially for him. Because the Air Force had successfully contributed to the Blitzkrieg against the Netherlands, Belgium and the armies of Britain and France, Göring was awarded the ”Grand Cross of the Iron Cross” specially created for him in 1940.
After the annexation of Austria, Göring was satisfied with the result achieved. He did prepare the economy and his air force for war in 1940, but his main concern was to consolidate the position of political power – primarily conceived by himself and – achieved in the winter of 1939-1940. He was therefore one of the driving forces behind finding a diplomatic solution to the Sudeten crisis. According to some readings, although Mussolini had proposed a conference, the idea had come from Göring. In a sense, the outcome was a triumph for Göring, but this was the last time Hitler would listen to him on foreign policy matters.
During the crisis following the declaration of independence of the First Slovak Republic in March 1939, Göring participated with Ribbentrop in the harassment of Czechoslovak President Dr. Emil Hácha. Göring”s threat to have his air force bomb Prague caused the 67-year-old, heart-disordered president to faint; an injection by Dr. Morell brought him to whereupon he signed the surrender.
As Hitler prepared to attack Poland, Göring, who balked at this and pointed out to Hitler the dangers of a war against France and the United Kingdom, was sent on vacation to the Italian Riviera. By 1939, the Luftwaffe, the Kriegsmarine, and the German economy were inadequately prepared for a protracted war, and Göring realized this. Nevertheless, Hitler appointed Göring as his deputy should anything happen to him. When Göring learned on September 3, 1939, that Britain and France had declared war on Germany, he spoke the following words:
“If we lose this war, may God have mercy on us.”
Despite all these reservations, he ended up fully supporting Hitler”s wars.
Göring nevertheless contributed to the downfall of Nazi Germany by:
Göring promised the German people that “if even one bomb fell on Germany, they could call him Meier. In early September 1940, a few British planes bombed Berlin, to which some cynical Berliners ”wondered where Meier was anyway”. Göring was taken to task by an angry Hitler (who was visiting Molotov at the time) and had to deploy his Luftwaffe in a retaliatory bombing of an English city. This strategic blunder gave the British the dreamed-of excuse to replenish their pressing pilot shortage and inflict losses on the Luftwaffe over England and the North Sea. After the U.S. entered the war, bombing raids on Germany and occupied territory increased in full force, in raids sometimes involving more than 1,000 aircraft, and ultimately killing 1 million Germans, most of them women, children and the elderly. Göring”s Luftwaffe fought back bravely and doggedly, but was no match for this superiority and so his image suffered heavy damage.
Nonetheless, Göring as head of the Luftwaffe was responsible for the terror bombings carried out by Germany including:
Since 1936 Göring was director of the “Four-Year Plan of Armament” in order to thus prepare Germany for war. This brought him into conflict with Hjalmar Schacht who wanted less emphasis on autarchy and the military. Göring eventually managed to win the argument. Finally, he controlled much of the German economy and became the boss of the so-called, “Hermann Göring Werke” which was larger than Krupp, and through corrupt practices one of the richest people in the Third Reich. He owned several castles and estates. During the war, nothing curbed his urge to own; Göring confiscated a gigantic amount of art objects, mostly from wealthy Jews and museums in German-occupied countries, including part of the trading stock of Jewish millionaire and art dealer Jacques Goudstikker. Of all the Nazis at the top, however, Hermann Göring was the one who saved the most Jews who appealed to him, and in the summer of 1939 he sighed to an employee
“I wouldn”t like to be a Jew in this country anyway.
And when someone from the Gestapo made it clear to him that Field Marshal Milch had a Jewish father, he snapped at the man
“Who is a Jew in this country I decide, you have no business interfering in that!”
However, the loss of the Battle of Britain and other losses such as at Stalingrad in which the Luftwaffe played a leading role deprived him of much of his prestige, not least with Hitler himself.From 1943 Göring was no longer prominent in the foreground and was still predominantly occupied with his private affairs. Toward the end of the war, Göring had much of his looted treasures stored in caves with the plan of dragging them to a safer place or selling them after the war. Soon these caves were discovered by the Allies. Thus, these artifacts were preserved for posterity.In the Nuremberg prison, he hummed to a fellow inmate:
“What, You are complaining? You have had nothing, think of all I have lost…”
Nevertheless, Göring was one of the Nazis who possessed great popularity among the population alongside Hitler. This was probably due to the fact that he was a brave and very famous war hero and to his handsome and later good-natured appearance. He was therefore affectionately called Der Eiserne or Der Dicke, and it was often said that the very jovial Dicke did not mean such a bad thing.
Although Göring had been a fighter pilot himself, he lived at odds with his pilots. When the British bombed Berlin, Hitler was furious, especially because a bombing coincided with Molotov”s visit to Berlin. Göring transferred Hitler”s wrath to his pilots, calling them cowards.In the summer of 1943, USAAF fighters appeared in German airspace for the first time. Adolf Galland and Erhard Milch asked for more fighters to maintain a superiority over the attackers. Göring preferred more bombers until the fall of 1943 to maintain the initiative on all fronts.On January 13, 1945, Göring removed Adolf Galland from his position as general of fighter pilots.On January 17, a group of decorated pilots including Johannes Steinhoff and Günther Lützow went to Göring to present their demands. Göring shouted and ranted about this mutiny and threatened to call for the firing squad. Göring suspected Galland as the instigator. Heinrich Himmler wanted him court-martialed for treason. The SS and Gestapo launched an investigation. Galland retreated to the Harz Mountains under house arrest. Hitler learned of this from Albert Speer and ordered that “all this nonsense” must stop immediately. Göring invited Galland to Carinhall and offered him command of the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters.
The end of the war was fast approaching. The Western Allies had already crossed the Rhine and Soviet troops had penetrated the outskirts of Berlin. On April 20, 1945, Göring left his beloved Carinhall for the last time. Göring had the house guarded by a unit of the Luftwaffe and his art treasures were transferred by train to his residence in Berchtesgaden. The moment the Red Army would approach, the unit had to blow up the building with eighty aircraft bombs. Göring went from the Carinhall directly to Berlin, to attend Hitler”s fifty-sixth birthday.
This was the last time the leaders of the Third Reich were together. Hitler had come from the führerbunker to the damaged Reich Chancellery especially for this occasion. Hitler had determined the night before that he would stay in the capital. During Hitler”s long speech, Göring realized that he was still formally the second-in-command of the German Reich. Göring quickly went to Hitler after the speech and still tried to convince the führer for an “escape” to Berchtesgaden. When the latter declined, Göring said he had some pressing business to attend to in southern Germany. Göring left still at night along the ever narrowing escape route.
On his way out of Berlin, Göring was hampered several times by enemy bombing. Several times he had to take cover in public shelters. Whereas the other Nazi leaders were by now unpopular, Göring remained a popular figure among the people. The Reich Marshal even went into some bunkers to support the people. Göring arrived at the Luftwaffe Wildpark-Werder headquarters with some delay. From there Göring flew to the south of Germany. Arriving in Berchtesgaden, Göring moved into his home on the Obersalzberg.
On April 22, 1945, Adolf Hitler announced in the führerbunker that he would stay in Berlin and shoot himself. The news that Hitler had collapsed spread quickly and in the evening it also reached Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe Karl Koller. Koller flew to Berchtesgaden that same night to inform Göring of this. On the afternoon of April 23, he arrived and broke the news to the Reich Marshal. Hitler had also said that when it came to negotiating with the Allies, Göring was more capable of doing so than himself.
Göring doubted, whether he could still take charge of Germany. His main concern was whether Hitler had not in the meantime appointed his archrival Bormann as his successor. Göring took the decree of June 29, 1941, out of a steel case, read it again, and had it checked by the chief of the presidential chancellery, who declared it valid. After this, Göring was convinced that he had to take charge of Germany. Later that afternoon, Göring sent the following telegram to Hitler:
My Fuehrer, do you agree that after your decision to remain in the command post of Fortress Berlin, I, in accordance with your decree of 29.6.1941, as your deputy, immediately assume the overall leadership of the Reich with full freedom of action internally and externally? If there is no reply by 10 p.m., I shall assume that you have been deprived of your freedom of action. I will then consider the conditions of your decree to be fulfilled and act for the good of the people and the fatherland. What I feel for you in these difficult hours of my life, you know, and I cannot express through words. God bless you and let you come here as soon as possible in spite of everything. Your faithful Hermann Göring.
To ensure proper transmission, Göring appointed a major as a marconist. In the führerbunker, Von Below, Hitler”s Luftwaffe adjutant, was instructed to personally ensure that the führer received the telegram word for word. In addition to his telegram to Hitler, Göring also sent messages to Wilhelm Keitel and Joachim von Ribbentrop. In it he mentioned that if they had not received a direct message from Hitler by midnight, they should come to Göring immediately by plane. He also sent a telegram to Bormann, stating that he was making a final attempt to convince the Führer to leave Berlin.
After this, Göring immediately began to put his plans on paper. He was forming a new cabinet, in which Von Ribbentrop no longer had a place and he himself took on the position of the foreign minister. In addition, Göring wanted to have “man-to-man” talks with Eisenhower about peace with the Western Allies, while in the East he wanted to continue the struggle unabated.
Meanwhile, the telegram had arrived in the führerbunker. It was Göring”s enemy Bormann who had gotten hold of the telegram. Göring had already been afraid of this, and Bormann brought the telegram directly to Hitler and gave it his own interpretation. Hitler, however, was immune to Bormann”s poking around, accusing Göring of high treason. The führer reacted apathetically and, according to him, there was no disloyalty. However, when Bormann came up with another telegram from Göring, summoning Von Ribbentrop to come and see him immediately if he had not received orders from the führer or Göring by midnight, Hitler”s mood changed completely. Hitler accused Göring of being responsible for the defeat of the Luftwaffe, called him corrupt and fumed about Göring”s drug addiction. When Hitler had lapsed back into his listlessness, he said that Göring should just arrange the surrender, since it didn”t matter anymore who did it anyway and he was probably the best at it.
However, Hitler did have Bormann send a telegram. It stated that Göring”s action was high treason and that it was actually punishable by death. Because of his past merits this would be waived, provided Göring relinquished all his functions. Also, all actions in the indicated direction were prohibited. Bormann, without Hitler”s knowledge, sent a second telegram to the SS commanders on the Obersalzberg, Bernhard Frank and Kurt von Bredow. In it he ordered them to arrest Göring immediately for high treason.
Immediately after receiving the telegram from Bormann, Göring took some steps, which indicated that he was still loyal to Hitler. He immediately telegraphed to all the other Nazi leaders, with whom he was in contact, that Hitler still had freedom of action and he rescinded the telegram he had sent to them this afternoon.
Shortly after this, Göring was arrested. The Reich Marshal did not want to believe it and was convinced that it was a misunderstanding. He was immediately banned from contact with his wife Emmy and his daughter Edda. The next morning – Göring still could not believe it at the time – the Obersalzberg was bombed. Göring”s residence was also hit and they were taken to a large shelter deep in the mountain. SS-Obersturmbannführer Frank, meanwhile, had received a new telegram from Berlin stating that, if Berlin fell, Göring should be executed. Frank was stunned and came to the decision that, if Hitler and the other Nazi leaders were killed in Berlin, Hermann Göring was the only Nazi left who could help them negotiate with the Allies. Frank therefore refused to carry out the order, should it come to that. At his own request, Göring was transferred by the SS to Mauterndorf, the castle where he grew up as a child.
On April 29, 1945, Hitler had his last will drawn up, in which he expelled Göring from the party and also deprived him of all state functions. It also invalidated the decree of June 29, 1941. He accused him of unlawfully attempting to seize power for himself.
From his castle in Mauterndorf, Göring tried to contact the Americans to arrange a meeting with Eisenhower. When this failed, he surrendered to American troops on May 9, 1945.
At the postwar Nuremberg Trial, Göring, like all the other prisoners, took an IQ test where he came in third with a score of 138 behind Hjalmar Schacht and Seyss-Inquart. Here Göring cast himself as the ringleader of the accused. Göring was prosecuted on all four counts. The evidence shows that, after Hitler, he was the most important man in the Nazi regime. He was commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, creator and executor of the four-year plan, and had a great influence on Hitler, at least until 1943, after which the relationship between the two diminished and ended with his arrest in 1945. He stated that Hitler kept him informed of all important military and political problems.
Having recovered from his morphine addiction, lost a considerable amount of weight and now much fitter, Göring was able to defend himself excellently in cross-examination. Among other things, when the point of German terror bombing of defenseless cities was raised, he claimed that his Luftwaffe had followed the same strategy as the RAF and USAAF. On the other hand, his part in the planning and execution of Nazi Germany”s wars of aggression, his personal shameless predatory intent, and also his cooperation in the organization of the Holocaust were so obvious that he was found guilty on all counts of the indictment. For example, an order signed by him personally in 1941 to Reinhard Heydrich to begin the Endlosung der Judenfrage emerged as evidence. Therefore, Göring was sentenced to death by the noose. His judges declared that his guilt was “unique simply because of its magnitude.
Immediately after hearing the verdict, Göring submitted a request to be allowed to die like a soldier before the firing squad and not suffer the ignominy of death by noose. He was soon told that his request was not granted and that he would be hanged, just like the other people sentenced to death.
On October 7, Emmy Göring received a phone call informing her that she could pay a final visit to her husband. Through glass and ironwork, Göring and his wife and daughter were kept apart. He promised Emmy that the Americans would not hang him because they had no right to judge him.
The Allies decided that the execution would take place on October 16 at two o”clock in the night. This time was chosen to keep it hidden from the press, but already in the evening groups of reporters and photographers began to gather in front of the prison. On that same evening, there was hammering from the gymnasium, noise from cars driving by, and a lot of light visible. These factors alerted the inmates that this would be the night of execution.
Göring seemed to be more down in the dumps this day than he had been in the whole of the preceding one. He again criticized the method of execution, but to no avail. His entire cell was searched again that day, but nothing was found that would allow Göring to commit suicide. As the day progressed, however, Göring”s mood improved and in the evening he was even cheerful. In his cell, Göring lay tossing and turning from about ten o”clock. He waited for the guard”s change at ten thirty. After this he waited another fifteen minutes to give the impression that he was not planning anything. At exactly 10:46 p.m. Göring took a pill of cyanide. Soon he began to stiffen and a distressed sound came over his lips. Johnson, his guard, immediately alerted the corporal of the guard, who arrived with Lieutenant Cromer, the prison officer, and Reverend Gerecke. Göring”s left hand hung over the side of the bed. Reverend Gerecke felt the pulse and concluded that Göring had died.
After the others were executed, the bodies of Göring and the other Nazi leaders were transferred to Munich at four o”clock. Under heavy guard, the bodies were cremated there. After Göring”s cremation, his ashes were scattered in a narrow river in Munich that flows into the Isar.
The question of how Göring had managed, despite numerous searches, to withhold the poison capsule containing cyanide that all top Nazi members carried with them was resolved only after many years. At first there were several different interpretations as to the origin of the poison.
The pill would have been under a gold crown in his mouth, in a hollow molar, hidden in the folds of skin above his navel, or in his anus. Others argued that the German doctor who examined him regularly had given him the pill, or that it would have been hidden in a bar of soap given to him by a German officer. It was also long suspected that Göring”s wife Emmy had given him the pill during her last visit, via a so-called “kiss of death.” The investigation into Hermann Göring”s death concluded that he had been in possession of a pill containing cyanide throughout the period of his detention.
Colonel Andrus, the U.S. Army governor of Nuremberg Prison, published the letter Göring wrote just before his death in September 1967. It read:
Nuremberg October 11, 1946
In 2005, however, the then 78-year-old Lee Stivers claimed that he had delivered the suicide pill to Göring via a ballpoint pen. According to Stivers, Göring eventually escaped the gallows because, as a 19-year-old guard at the Nuremberg trial, he smuggled the “medicine” in a pen to the Nazi. This was done at the request of an unknown, cute, young girl he had just met. Later it dawned on him that he had been framed. The fact that Stivers only disclosed it after all possible witnesses from that time had died, and therefore the story can no longer be proven, is said to stem from fear of still being prosecuted by the U.S. Army. Stivers” story is therefore questioned. Most historians hold to the situation described by Göring.
According to several historians who studied his life, Göring would not have been a convinced Nazi like Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler, although he pretended to be one, but was the example of a purebred opportunist.
Göring, by his own admission, did believe that there were two exalted peoples: the Germans and the Jews, but that there was only room in Europe for one of these two.The combination of Göring”s extraordinary intelligence with his opportunism and vain lust for wealth made him a war criminal, even though he was not convinced of the “sense” of the persecution of the Jews, and more particularly not convinced of the usefulness of declaring war on the United States.
Furthermore, Göring was firmly against a pre-emptive war against the Soviet Union. However, the considerations for this were not merely humanitarian, but merely motivated by the fear that Germany would be drawn into an unwinnable protracted war and Göring would eventually lose everything. Göring himself is said to have been concerned numerous times about Hitler”s plans to launch Operation Barbarossa. However, Hitler was supported in his Lebensraum views by Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, and Von Ribbentrop, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Evidently, these two were able to exert a more decisive influence on Hitler than Göring himself: they generally vindicated Hitler in everything. Moreover, Göring had already lost much credit at the beginning of the war due to the disappointing performance of the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain.
Göring was an ambitious and talented young man. After World War I he worked as a stunt pilot and civil aviation pilot in Sweden from 1919 to 1921 where he seduced the wealthy, married and aristocratic Carin von Kantzow (born Baroness von Fock) and married her after her divorce. The couple remained childless. Von Kantzow died of tuberculosis in 1931, leaving a deeply grieved widower. Even in his second marriage Göring surrounded himself with paintings of his first wife, named his country house Carinhall, and his luxury yacht Carin II.
Hermann Göring met Emmy Sonnemann (1893-1973) in 1931. At that time he was still married to Carin. When Carin died in 1931, Emmy and Hermann saw each other more often and a love affair developed. In 1934, Göring granted her the title of Staatsschauspieler, the highest attainable for a stage actor. In 1935 she stopped acting. Her last play was Minna von Barnhelm oder das Soldatenglück. In 1935 they married in the Berlin Cathedral. Hitler was one of the witnesses. The wedding on April 10, 1935 was a big celebration. The streets were decorated, downtown Berlin was closed to traffic, and more than two hundred planes of the newly established Luftwaffe circled above the couple.
From their marriage, a daughter, Edda Göring (same first name as Benito Mussolini”s daughter), was born on June 2, 1938. Edda”s birth was remarkable because her mother was already 45 and Hermann Göring had suffered a gunshot wound to the groin during the Bierkellerputsch. Der Spiegel wrote about an immaculate conception. In 1940 Julius Streicher wrote in Der Stürmer that Edda had been conceived by artificial insemination. Hermann Göring asked the Chief Justice of the party Walter Buch for action, but Hitler intervened and Streicher was allowed to continue publishing Der Stürmer from his place of exile Cadolzburg near Nuremberg.Edda figures among others in the 1990 book Hitler”s children: Sons and daughters of leaders of the Third Reich talk about their fathers and themselves, in which she indicates having many fond memories of her father.
Hermann Göring acquired a number of decorations during World War I. During his tenure in the Third Reich, the German and numerous other governments granted the vain Prime Minister of Prussia and later Reich Marshal their knighthoods and other decorations. Often having Göring “ask” for decorations, when he received them he ignored the legal rule that every German had to ask the Reich Chancellor for permission before accepting decorations from foreign governments.
In some science fiction books whose story is set in a world with an alternate history, Göring appears: