HERMANN WILHELM GöRING (or GOERING; German: ( listen ); 12
January 1893 – 15 October 1946) was a German politician, military
leader, and leading member of the
Nazi Party (NSDAP). A veteran World
War I fighter pilot ace , he was a recipient of the coveted Pour le
Mérite , also known as the "Blue Max". He was the last commander of
Jagdgeschwader 1 , the fighter wing once led by Manfred von Richthofen
A member of the NSDAP from its earliest days, Göring was wounded in
1923 during the failed coup known as the
Beer Hall Putsch . He became
addicted to morphine after being treated with the drug for his
injuries. After helping
Adolf Hitler take power in 1933, he became the
second-most powerful man in Germany. He founded the
Gestapo in 1933,
and later gave command of it to
Heinrich Himmler . Göring was
appointed commander-in-chief of the
Luftwaffe (air force) in 1935, a
position he held until the final days of World War II. Before the
Allied bombing campaign, he enjoyed widespread popularity among the
German public. By 1940, he was at the peak of his power and influence;
as minister in charge of the
Four Year Plan , he was responsible for
much of the functioning of the German economy in the build-up to World
Hitler promoted him to the rank of Reichsmarschall, a rank
senior to all other
Wehrmacht commanders, and in 1941 Hitler
designated him as his successor and deputy in all his offices.
Göring's standing with
Hitler was reduced by the beginning of 1943,
Luftwaffe failed to stop the Allied bombing of German cities
and was unable to resupply German forces trapped in the Battle of
Stalingrad . Göring largely withdrew from the military and political
scene and focused on the acquisition of property and artwork, much of
which was taken from Jewish victims of the Holocaust . Informed on 22
April 1945 that
Hitler intended to commit suicide, Göring sent a
Hitler requesting permission to assume control of the
Reich. Considering it an act of treason,
Hitler removed Göring from
all his positions, expelled him from the party, and ordered his
After World War II, Göring was convicted of war crimes and crimes
against humanity at the
Nuremberg trials . He was sentenced to death
by hanging, but committed suicide by ingesting cyanide the night
before the sentence was to be carried out.
* 1 Early life
World War I
World War I
* 3 After
World War I
World War I
* 4 Early Nazi career
* 6 Second marriage
* 7 Nazi potentate
World War II
World War II
* 8.1 Success on all fronts
* 8.2 Decline on all fronts
* 8.3 War over
* 8.4 End of the war
* 9 Trial and death
* 10 Personal properties
* 11 Complicity in the Holocaust
* 12 Support of anti-Nazi brother
* 13 Decorations and awards
* 13.1 German
* 13.2 Foreign
* 14 See also
* 15 References
* 15.1 Explanatory notes
* 15.2 Citations
* 15.3 Sources
* 16 Further reading
* 17 External links
Göring was born on 12 January 1893 at the Marienbad Sanatorium in
Bavaria . His father,
Heinrich Ernst Göring (31 October
1839 – 7 December 1913), a former cavalry officer, had been the
first Governor-General of the German protectorate of South-West Africa
Namibia ). Heinrich had five children from a previous
marriage. Göring was the fourth of five children by Heinrich's second
wife, Franziska Tiefenbrunn (1859–15 July 1943), a Bavarian peasant.
Göring's elder siblings were Karl, Olga, and Paula; his younger
brother was Albert . At the time that Göring was born, his father was
serving as consul general in
Haiti , and his mother had returned home
briefly to give birth. She left the six-week-old baby with a friend in
Bavaria and did not see the child again for three years, when she and
Heinrich returned to Germany.
Göring's godfather was Dr. Hermann Epenstein, a wealthy Jewish
physician and businessman his father had met in Africa. Epenstein
provided the Göring family, who were surviving on Heinrich's pension,
first with a family home in Berlin-Friedenau, then in a small castle
called Veldenstein, near
Nuremberg . Göring's mother became
Epenstein's mistress around this time, and remained so for some
fifteen years. Epenstein acquired the minor title of
von Epenstein through service and donations to the Crown.
Göring in 1907, at age 14
Interested in a career as a soldier from a very early age, Göring
enjoyed playing with toy soldiers and dressing up in a
his father had given him. He was sent to boarding school at age
eleven, where the food was poor and discipline was harsh. He sold a
violin to pay for his train ticket home, and then took to his bed,
feigning illness, until he was told he would not have to return. He
continued to enjoy war games, pretending to lay siege to the castle
Veldenstein and studying Teutonic legends and sagas. He became a
mountain climber, scaling peaks in Germany, at the
Mont Blanc massif ,
and in the
Austrian Alps . At sixteen he was sent to a military
Berlin Lichterfelde , from which he graduated with
distinction. (During the
Nuremberg war-crimes trials In 1946,
Gustave Gilbert measured him as having an intelligence
quotient (IQ) of 138.) Göring joined the Prince Wilhelm Regiment
(112th Infantry) of the Prussian army in 1912. The next year his
mother had a falling-out with Epenstein. The family was forced to
leave Veldenstein and moved to
Munich ; Göring's father died shortly
World War I
World War I began in August 1914, Göring was
Mulhouse with his regiment.
WORLD WAR I
Play media Film clip of Göring in the cockpit of a Fokker
D.VII during World War I.
During the first year of World War I, Göring served with his
infantry regiment in the area of
Mülhausen , a garrison town less
than 2 km from the French frontier. He was hospitalized with
rheumatism , a result of the damp of trench warfare. While he was
recovering, his friend
Bruno Loerzer convinced him to transfer to what
would become, by October 1916, the
Luftstreitkräfte ("air combat
force") of the German army, but his request was turned down. Later
that year, Göring flew as Loerzer's observer in Feldflieger Abteilung
25 (FFA 25) – Göring had informally transferred himself. He was
discovered and sentenced to three weeks' confinement to barracks, but
the sentence was never carried out. By the time it was supposed to be
imposed, Göring's association with Loerzer had been made official.
They were assigned as a team to FFA 25 in the Crown Prince 's Fifth
Army. They flew reconnaissance and bombing missions, for which the
Crown Prince invested both Göring and Loerzer with the
Iron Cross ,
After completing the pilot's training course, Göring was assigned to
Jagdstaffel 5 . Seriously wounded in the hip in aerial combat, he took
nearly a year to recover. He then was transferred to
Jagdstaffel 26 ,
commanded by Loerzer, in February 1917. He steadily scored air
victories until May, when he was assigned to command
Jagdstaffel 27 .
Serving with Jastas 5, 26, and 27, he continued to win victories. In
addition to his Iron Crosses (1st and 2nd Class), he received the
Zaehring Lion with swords, the
Friedrich Order , the House Order of
Hohenzollern with swords third class, and finally, in May 1918, the
Pour le Mérite . According to
Hermann Dahlmann , who knew
both men, Göring had Loerzer lobby for the award. He finished the
war with 22 victories . A thorough post-war examination of Allied
loss records showed that only two of his awarded victories were
doubtful. Three were possible and 17 were certain, or highly likely.
On 7 July 1918, following the death of Wilhelm Reinhard , successor
Manfred von Richthofen
Manfred von Richthofen , Göring was made commander of the famed
"Flying Circus", Jagdgeschwader 1 . His arrogance made him unpopular
with the men of his squadron.
In the last days of the war, Göring was repeatedly ordered to
withdraw his squadron, first to
Tellancourt airdrome, then to
Darmstadt . At one point, he was ordered to surrender the aircraft to
the Allies; he refused. Many of his pilots intentionally crash-landed
their planes to keep them from falling into enemy hands.
Like many other German veterans, Göring was a proponent of the
Stab-in-the-back legend , the belief which held that the German Army
had not really lost the war, but instead was betrayed by the civilian
leadership: Marxists, Jews, and especially the Republicans , who had
overthrown the German monarchy.
AFTER WORLD WAR I
Göring remained in aviation after the war. He tried barnstorming and
briefly worked at
Fokker . After spending most of 1919 living in
Denmark , he moved to Sweden and joined
Svensk Lufttrafik , a Swedish
airline. Göring was often hired for private flights. During the
winter of 1920–1921, he was hired by
Count Eric von Rosen to fly him
to his castle from Stockholm. Invited to spend the night, Göring may
at this time have first seen the swastika emblem, which Rosen had set
in the chimney piece as a family badge.
This was also the first time that Göring saw his future wife; the
count introduced his sister-in-law, Baroness Carin von Kantzow (née
Freiin von Fock). Estranged from her husband of ten years, she had an
eight-year-old son. Göring was immediately infatuated and asked her
to meet him in Stockholm. They arranged a visit at the home of her
parents and spent much time together through 1921, when Göring left
Munich to take political science at the university. Carin obtained
a divorce, followed Göring to Munich, and married him on 3 February
1922. Their first home together was a hunting lodge at Hochkreuth in
Bavarian Alps , near
Bayrischzell , some 80 kilometres (50 mi)
from Munich. After Göring met
Adolf Hitler and joined the Nazi Party
(NSDAP) in 1922, they moved to Obermenzing, a suburb of Munich.
EARLY NAZI CAREER
Göring (left) stands in front of
Hitler at a Nazi rally in
Nuremberg (c. 1928)
Göring joined the
Nazi Party in 1922 after hearing a speech by
Hitler. He was given command of the
Sturmabteilung (SA) as the
Führer in 1923. He was later appointed an
Gruppenführer (Lieutenant General) and held this rank on the SA
rolls until 1945. At this time, Carin—who liked Hitler—often
played hostess to meetings of leading Nazis, including her husband,
Rudolf Hess ,
Alfred Rosenberg , and
Ernst Röhm . Hitler
later recalled his early association with Göring:
"I liked him. I made him the head of my SA. He is the only one of its
heads that ran the SA properly. I gave him a dishevelled rabble. In a
very short time he had organised a division of 11,000 men."
Hitler and the
Nazi Party held mass meetings and rallies in Munich
and elsewhere during the early 1920s, attempting to gain supporters in
a bid for political power. Inspired by
Benito Mussolini 's March on
Rome , the Nazis attempted to seize power on 8–9 November 1923 in a
failed coup known as the
Beer Hall Putsch . Göring, who was with
Hitler heading up the march to the War Ministry, was shot in the leg.
Fourteen Nazis and four policemen were killed; many top Nazis,
including Hitler, were arrested. With Carin's help, Göring was
Innsbruck , where he received surgery and was given
morphine for the pain. He remained in hospital until 24 December.
This was the beginning of his morphine addiction, which lasted until
his imprisonment at Nuremberg. Meanwhile, the authorities in Munich
declared Göring a wanted man. The Görings—acutely short of funds
and reliant on the good will of Nazi sympathizers abroad—moved from
Venice . In May 1924 they visited Rome, via
Siena . Göring met Mussolini, who expressed an interest in meeting
Hitler, who was by then in prison.
Personal problems continued to multiply. By 1925, Carin's mother was
ill. The Görings—with difficulty—raised the money in the spring
of 1925 for a journey to Sweden via Austria,
Czechoslovakia , Poland,
and Danzig (now Gdańsk). Göring had become a violent morphine
addict; Carin's family were shocked by his deterioration. Carin, who
was ill with epilepsy and a weak heart, had to allow the doctors to
take charge of Göring; her son was taken by his father. Göring was
certified a dangerous drug addict and was placed in Långbro asylum on
1 September 1925. He was violent to the point where he had to be
confined to a straitjacket , but his psychiatrist felt he was sane;
the condition was caused solely by the morphine. Weaned off the drug,
he left the facility briefly, but had to return for further treatment.
He returned to
Germany when an amnesty was declared in 1927 and
resumed working in the aircraft industry. Hitler, who had written
Mein Kampf while in prison, had been released in December 1924. Carin
Göring, ill with epilepsy and tuberculosis, died of heart failure on
17 October 1931.
Meanwhile, the NSDAP was in a period of rebuilding and waiting. The
economy had recovered, which meant fewer opportunities for the Nazis
to agitate for change. The SA was reorganised, but with Franz Pfeffer
von Salomon as its head rather than Göring, and the Schutzstaffel
(SS) was founded in 1925, initially as a bodyguard for Hitler.
Membership in the party increased from 27,000 in 1925 to 108,000 in
1928 and 178,000 in 1929. In the May 1928 elections the party only
obtained twelve seats out of an available 491. Göring was elected as
a representative from Bavaria. The
Wall Street Crash of 1929 led to a
disastrous downturn in the German economy, and in the next election ,
the NSDAP won 6,409,600 votes and 107 seats in the Reichstag . In May
Hitler sent Göring on a mission to the Vatican , where he met
Pope Pius XII .
In the July 1932 election , the Nazis won 230 seats to become far and
away the largest party in the Reichstag. By longstanding tradition,
the Nazis were thus entitled to select the President of the Reichstag,
and were able to elect Göring for the post.
Reichstag fire occurred on the night of 27 February 1933. Göring
was one of the first to arrive on the scene. Marinus van der Lubbe
—a communist radical—was arrested and claimed sole responsibility
for the fire. Göring immediately called for a crackdown on
The Nazis took advantage of the fire to advance their own political
Reichstag Fire Decree , passed the next day on Hitler's
urging, suspended basic rights and allowed detention without trial.
Activities of the German Communist Party were suppressed, and some
4,000 communist party members were arrested. Göring demanded that
the detainees should be shot, but
Rudolf Diels , head of the Prussian
political police, ignored the order. Some researchers, including
William L. Shirer and
Alan Bullock , are of the opinion that the NSDAP
itself was responsible for starting the fire.
Nuremberg trials , General
Franz Halder testified that Göring
admitted responsibility for starting the fire. He said that, at a
luncheon held on Hitler's birthday in 1942, Göring said, "The only
one who really knows about the Reichstag is I, because I set it on
fire!" In his own
Nuremberg testimony, Göring denied this story.
During the early 1930s, Göring was often in the company of Emmy
Sonnemann , an actress from
Hamburg . They were married on 10 April
1935 in Berlin; the wedding was celebrated on a huge scale. A large
reception was held the night before at the Berlin Opera House. Fighter
aircraft flew overhead on the night of the reception and the day of
the ceremony. Göring's daughter, Edda , was born on 2 June 1938.
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Hitler was named chancellor of
Germany in January 1933, Göring
was appointed as minister without portfolio , Minister of the Interior
for Prussia, and Reich Commissioner of Aviation.
Wilhelm Frick was
named Reich Interior Minister. Frick and head of the Schutzstaffel
Heinrich Himmler hoped to create a unified police force for all
of Germany, but Göring on 30 November 1933 established a Prussian
police force, with
Rudolf Diels at its head. The force was called the
Geheime Staatspolizei, or
Gestapo . Göring, thinking that Diels was
not ruthless enough to use the
Gestapo effectively to counteract the
power of the SA, handed over control of the
Gestapo to Himmler on 20
April 1934. By this time, the SA numbered over two million men.
Hitler was deeply concerned that
Ernst Röhm , the chief of the SA,
was planning a coup. Himmler and
Reinhard Heydrich plotted with
Göring to use the
Gestapo and SS to crush the SA. Members of the SA
got wind of the proposed action and thousands of them took to the
streets in violent demonstrations on the night of 29 June 1934.
Hitler ordered the arrest of the SA leadership. Röhm was
shot dead in his cell when he refused to commit suicide; Göring
personally went over the lists of detainees—numbering in the
thousands—and determined who else should be shot. At least 85 people
were killed in the period of 30 June to 2 July, which is now known as
Night of the Long Knives .
Hitler admitted in the Reichstag on 13
July that the killings had been entirely illegal, but claimed a plot
had been under way to overthrow the Reich. A retroactive law was
passed making the action legal. Any criticism was met with arrests.
One of the terms of the
Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles , which had been in
place since the end of World War I, stated that
Germany was not
allowed to maintain an air force. After the 1926 signing of the
Kellogg–Briand Pact , police aircraft were permitted. Göring was
appointed Air Traffic Minister in May 1933.
Germany began to
accumulate aircraft in violation of the Treaty, and in 1935 the
existence of the
Luftwaffe was formally acknowledged, with Göring as
Reich Aviation Minister. Göring during the Grüne Woche in
During a cabinet meeting in September 1936, Göring and Hitler
announced that the German rearmament programme must be sped up. On 18
Hitler named Göring as
Plenipotentiary of the Four Year Plan
to undertake this task. Göring created a new organisation to
administer the Plan and drew the ministries of labour and agriculture
under its umbrella. He bypassed the economics ministry in his
policy-making decisions, to the chagrin of
Hjalmar Schacht , the
minister in charge. Huge expenditures were made on rearmament, in
spite of growing deficits. Schacht resigned on 8 December 1937, and
Walther Funk took over the position, as well as control of the
Reichsbank . In this way, both of these institutions were brought
under Göring's control under the auspices of the Four Year Plan. In
July 1937, the
Reichswerke Hermann Göring was established under state
ownership – though led by Göring – with the aim of boosting steel
production beyond the level which private enterprise could
economically provide. Göring with Lord Halifax at Schorfheide,
20 November 1937
In 1938, Göring was involved in the
Blomberg–Fritsch Affair ,
which led to the resignations of the War Minister, Field Marshal
Werner von Blomberg , and the army commander, General Werner von
Fritsch . Göring had acted as witness at Blomberg's wedding to
Margarethe Gruhn, a 26-year-old typist, on 12 January 1938.
Information received from the police showed that the young bride was a
prostitute. Göring felt obligated to tell Hitler, but also saw this
event as an opportunity to dispose of the field marshal. Blomberg was
forced to resign. Göring did not want Fritsch to be appointed to that
position and thus be his superior. Several days later, Heydrich
revealed a file on Fritsch that contained allegations of homosexual
activity and blackmail. The charges were later proven to be false, but
Fritsch had lost Hitler's trust and was forced to resign.
the dismissals as an opportunity to reshuffle the leadership of the
military. Göring asked for the post of War Minister, but was turned
down; he was appointed to the rank of field marshal.
Hitler took over
as supreme commander of the armed forces and created subordinate posts
to head the three main branches of service. Main article:
As minister in charge of the Four Year Plan, Göring became concerned
with the lack of natural resources in Germany, and began pushing for
Austria to be incorporated into the Reich. The province of
rich iron ore deposits, and the country as a whole was home to many
skilled labourers that would also be useful.
Hitler had always been in
favour of a takeover of Austria, his native country. He met on 12
February 1938 with Austrian chancellor
Kurt Schuschnigg , threatening
invasion if peaceful unification was not forthcoming. The Nazi party
was made legal in Austria to gain a power base, and a referendum on
reunification was scheduled for March. When
Hitler did not approve of
the wording of the plebiscite, Göring telephoned Schuschnigg and
Austrian head of state
Wilhelm Miklas to demand Schuschnigg's
resignation, threatening invasion by German troops and civil unrest by
Nazi Party members. Schuschnigg resigned on 11 March and
the plebiscite was cancelled. By 5:30 the next morning, German troops
that had been massing on the border marched into Austria, meeting no
Adolf Hitler with Göring on balcony of the
Chancellery, Berlin, 16 March 1938 Main article: German occupation
Joachim von Ribbentrop had been named Foreign Minister in
February 1938, Göring continued to involve himself in foreign
affairs. That July, he contacted the British government with the idea
that he should make an official visit to discuss Germany's intentions
Neville Chamberlain was in favour of a meeting,
and there was talk of a pact being signed between Britain and Germany.
In February 1938, Göring visited Warsaw to quell rumours about the
upcoming invasion of Poland. He had conversations with the Hungarian
government that summer as well, discussing their potential role in an
invasion of Czechoslovakia. At the
Nuremberg Rally that September,
Göring and other speakers denounced the Czechs as an inferior race
that must be conquered. Chamberlain met with
Hitler in a series of
meetings that led to the signing of the
Munich Agreement (29 September
1938), which turned over control of the
Sudetenland to Germany. In
March 1939, Göring threatened Czechoslovak president
Emil Hácha with
the bombing of
Prague . Hácha then agreed to sign a communique
accepting the German occupation of the remainder of
In the pre-war years, Göring enjoyed widespread personal popularity
among the German public because of his perceived sociability, colour
and humour. As the Nazi leader most responsible for economic
matters, he presented himself as a champion of national interests over
allegedly corrupt big business and the old German elite. The Nazi
press was on Göring's side. Other Nazi leaders, such as Hess and
Ribbentrop, were envious of his popularity. Even in the political
circles of Britain and the United States, there were those who viewed
Göring as more acceptable than the other Nazis, and as a possible
mediator between the western democracies and Hitler.
WORLD WAR II
SUCCESS ON ALL FRONTS
Göring and other senior officers were concerned that
Germany was not
yet ready for war, but
Hitler insisted on pushing ahead as soon as
possible. The invasion of Poland, the opening action of World War II,
began at dawn on 1 September 1939. Later in the day, speaking to the
Hitler designated Göring as his successor as
all Germany, "If anything should befall me." Big German victories
followed one after the other in quick succession. With the help of the
Polish Air Force
Polish Air Force was defeated within a week. The
Fallschirmjäger seized vital airfields in
Norway and captured Fort
Eben-Emael in Belgium. Göring's
Luftwaffe played critical roles in
the Battles of the Netherlands , Belgium and France in May 1940.
Fall of France ,
Hitler awarded Göring the Grand Cross of
Iron Cross for his successful leadership. During the 1940 Field
Marshal Ceremony ,
Hitler promoted Göring to the rank of
Reichsmarschall des Grossdeutschen Reiches (Reich Marshal of the
Greater German Reich), a special rank which made him senior to all
field marshals in the military, including the Luftwaffe. As a result
of his promotion, he was then the top ranking soldier of all Germany
until the end of the war. Göring had already received the Knight\'s
Cross of the
Iron Cross on 30 September 1939 as Commander in Chief of
The UK had declared war on
Germany immediately after the invasion of
Poland. In July 1940,
Hitler began preparations for an invasion of
Britain. As part of the plan, the
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force (RAF) had to be
neutralized. Bombing raids commenced on British air installations and
on cities and centres of industry. Göring had by then already
announced in a radio speech, "Wenn auch nur ein feindliches Flugzeug
unser Reichsgebiet überfliegt, will ich Meier heißen!" ("If as much
as a single enemy aircraft flies over German soil, my name is
Meier!"), something that would return to haunt him, when the RAF
began bombing German cities on 11 May 1940. Though he was confident
Luftwaffe could defeat the RAF within days, Göring, like Admiral
Erich Raeder , commander-in-chief of the
Kriegsmarine (Navy), was
pessimistic about the chance of success of the planned invasion
Operation Sea Lion ). Göring hoped that a victory in the
air would be enough to force peace without an invasion. The campaign
failed, and Sea Lion was postponed indefinitely on 17 September 1940.
After their defeat in the
Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain , the
to defeat Britain via strategic bombing . On 12 October 1940 Hitler
cancelled Sea Lion due to the onset of winter. By the end of the
year, it was clear that British morale was not being shaken by the
Blitz , though the bombings continued through May 1941.
DECLINE ON ALL FRONTS
Hitler meeting Göring and automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche
at the Wolf\'s Lair in 1942
In spite of the
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact , signed in 1939, Nazi
Operation Barbarossa —the invasion of the Soviet
Union—on 22 June 1941. Initially the
Luftwaffe was at an advantage,
destroying thousands of Soviet aircraft in the first month of
Hitler and his top staff were sure that the campaign would
be over by Christmas, and no provisions were made for reserves of men
or equipment. But, by July, the Germans had only 1,000 planes
remaining in operation, and their troop losses were over 213,000 men.
The choice was made to concentrate the attack on only one part of the
vast front; efforts would be directed at capturing Moscow. After the
long, but successful, Battle of Smolensk ,
Hitler ordered Army Group
Centre to halt its advance to Moscow and temporarily diverted its
Panzer groups north and south to aid in the encirclement of Leningrad
Kiev . The pause provided the Red Army with an opportunity to
mobilize fresh reserves; historian Russel Stolfi considers it to be
one of the major factors that caused the failure of the Moscow
offensive, which was resumed in October 1941 with the Battle of Moscow
. Poor weather conditions, fuel shortages, a delay in building
aircraft bases in Eastern Europe, and overstretched supply lines were
Hitler did not give permission for even a partial
retreat until mid-January 1942; by this time the losses were
comparable to those of the
French invasion of Russia in 1812.
Hitler decided that the summer 1942 campaign would be concentrated in
the south; efforts would be made to capture the oilfields in the
Caucasus . The
Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad , a major turning point of the
war, began on 23 August 1942 with a bombing campaign by the
Luftwaffe. The Sixth Army entered the city, but because of its
location on the front line, it was still possible for the Soviets to
encircle and trap it there without reinforcements or supplies. When
the Sixth Army was surrounded by the end of November in Operation
Uranus , Göring promised that the
Luftwaffe would be able to deliver
a minimum of 300 tons of supplies to the trapped men every day. On the
basis of these assurances,
Hitler demanded that there be no retreat;
they were to fight to the last man. Though some airlifts were able to
get through, the amount of supplies delivered never exceeded 120 tons
per day. The remnants of the German Sixth Army—some 91,000 men out
of an army of 285,000—surrendered in early February 1943; only 5,000
of these captives survived the Russian prisoner of war camps to see
WAR OVER GERMANY
Albert Speer , 10 August 1943
Meanwhile, the strength of the American and British bomber fleets had
increased. Based in Britain, they began operations against German
targets . The first thousand-bomber raid was staged on Cologne on 30
May 1942. Air raids continued on targets further from Britain after
auxiliary fuel tanks were installed on American fighter aircraft .
Göring refused to believe reports that American fighters had been
shot down as far east as
Aachen in winter 1943. His reputation began
P-51 Mustang , with a combat radius of over 1,800 miles
(2,900 km) when using underwing drop tanks , began to escort the
bombers in large formations to and from the target area in early 1944.
From that point onwards, the
Luftwaffe began to suffer casualties in
aircrews it could not sufficiently replace. By targeting oil
refineries and rail communications, Allied bombers crippled the German
war effort by late 1944. German civilians blamed Göring for his
failure to protect the homeland.
Hitler began excluding him from
conferences, but continued him in his positions at the head of the
Luftwaffe and as plenipotentiary of the Four Year Plan. As he lost
Hitler's trust, Göring began to spend more time at his various
D-Day (6 June 1944), the
Luftwaffe only had some 300
fighters and a small number of bombers in the area of the landings;
the Allies had a total strength of 11,000 aircraft.
END OF THE WAR
Göring Telegram Göring in captivity 9 May 1945
As the Soviets approached Berlin, Hitler's efforts to organize the
defence of the city became ever more meaningless and futile. His last
birthday, celebrated at the
Führerbunker in Berlin on 20 April 1945,
was the occasion for leave-taking for many top Nazis, Göring
included. By this time,
Carinhall had been evacuated, the building
destroyed, and its art treasures moved to
elsewhere. Göring arrived at his estate at
Obersalzberg on 22 April,
the same day that Hitler, in a lengthy diatribe against his generals,
first publicly admitted that the war was lost and that he intended to
remain in Berlin to the end and then commit suicide. He also stated
that Göring was in a better position to negotiate a peace settlement.
In 1941—a week after the start of the Soviet invasion—
issued a decree naming Göring his successor in the event of his
OKW operations chief
Alfred Jodl was present for Hitler's rant, and
notified Göring's chief of staff, Karl Koller , at a meeting a few
hours later. Sensing its implications, Koller immediately flew to
Berchtesgaden to notify Göring, who feared being accused of treason
if he tried to take power. On the other hand, if he did nothing, he
feared being accused of dereliction of duty. After some hesitation,
Göring reviewed his copy of the 1941 decree naming him Hitler's
successor. It not only placed Göring first in the line of succession,
but also stated that, if
Hitler ever lost his freedom of action,
Göring had complete authority to act on Hitler's behalf as his
deputy. After conferring with Koller and
Hans Lammers , the state
secretary of the Reich Chancellery, Göring concluded that, by
remaining in Berlin to face certain death,
Hitler had incapacitated
himself from governing. All agreed that Göring therefore had a clear
duty to take power in Hitler's stead. He was also motivated by fears
that his rival,
Martin Bormann , would seize power upon Hitler's death
and would have him killed as a traitor. With this in mind, Göring
sent a carefully worded telegram asking
Hitler for permission to take
over as the leader of Germany, stressing that he would be acting as
Hitler's deputy. He added that, if
Hitler did not reply by 22:00 that
night (23 April), he would assume that
Hitler had indeed lost his
freedom of action, and would assume leadership of the Reich.
The telegram was intercepted by Bormann, who convinced
Göring was a traitor and that the telegram was a demand to resign or
Hitler sent a reply to Göring—prepared with
Bormann's help—informing him that, unless he resigned immediately,
he would be executed for high treason. Soon afterward,
Göring from all of his offices and ordered Göring, his staff, and
Lammers placed under house arrest at Obersalzberg. Bormann made an
announcement over the radio that Göring had resigned for health
By 26 April, the complex at
Obersalzberg was under attack by the
Allies, so Göring was moved to his castle at Mauterndorf . In his
last will and testament ,
Hitler expelled Göring from the party and
formally rescinded the decree making him his successor. He then
Karl Dönitz , the Navy's commander-in-chief, as president
of the Reich and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Eva Braun , committed suicide on 30 April 1945, a few hours
after a hastily arranged wedding. Göring was freed on 5 May by a
Luftwaffe unit, and he made his way to the American lines in
hopes of surrendering to them rather than to the Russians. He was
taken into custody near
Radstadt on 6 May by elements of the 36th
Infantry Division of the
United States Army
United States Army . This move likely saved
Göring's life; Bormann had ordered him executed if Berlin had fallen.
TRIAL AND DEATH
Göring was flown to
Camp Ashcan , a temporary prisoner-of-war camp
housed in the Palace Hotel at
Mondorf-les-Bains , Luxembourg. Here he
was weaned off dihydrocodeine (a mild morphine derivative)—he had
been taking the equivalent of three or four grains (260 to 320 mg) of
morphine a day—and was put on a strict diet; he lost 60 pounds (27
kg). His IQ was tested while in custody and found to be 138. Top Nazi
officials were transferred in September to
Nuremberg , which was to be
the location of a series of military tribunals beginning in November.
Göring (first row, far left) at the
Göring was the second-highest-ranking Nazi official tried at
Nuremberg, behind Reich President (former Admiral) Karl Dönitz. The
prosecution levelled an indictment of four charges, including a charge
of conspiracy; waging a war of aggression; war crimes, including the
plundering and removal to
Germany of works of art and other property;
and crimes against humanity, including the disappearance of political
and other opponents under the
Nacht und Nebel (Night and Fog) decree;
the torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of war; and the murder and
enslavement of civilians, including what was at the time estimated to
be 5,700,000 Jews. Not permitted to present a lengthy statement,
Göring declared himself to be "in the sense of the indictment not
guilty". The trial lasted 218 days; the prosecution presented their
case from November through March, and Göring's defence—the first to
be presented—lasted from 8 to 22 March. The sentences were read out
on 30 September 1946. Göring, forced to remain silent while seated
in the dock, communicated his opinions about the proceedings using
gestures, shaking his head, or laughing. He constantly took notes and
whispered with the other defendants, and tried to control the erratic
behaviour of Hess , who was seated beside him. During breaks in the
proceedings, Göring tried to dominate the other defendants, and he
was eventually placed in solitary confinement when he attempted to
influence their testimony. Göring told American psychiatrist Leon
Goldensohn that the court was "stupid" to try "little fellows" like
Funk and Kaltenbrunner instead of letting Göring take all the blame
on himself. He also claimed that he had never heard of most of the
other defendants before the trial.
Gustave Gilbert , a German-speaking American intelligence
officer and psychologist, interviewed Göring and the others in prison
during the trial. Gilbert kept a journal, which he later published as
Nuremberg Diary . Here he describes Göring on the evening of 18 April
1946, as the trials were halted for a three-day Easter recess:
"Sweating in his cell in the evening, Göring was defensive and
deflated and not very happy over the turn the trial was taking. He
said that he had no control over the actions or the defense of the
others, and that he had never been anti-Semitic himself, had not
believed these atrocities, and that several Jews had offered to
testify on his behalf." — Cpt.
On several occasions over the course of the trial, the prosecution
showed films of the concentration camps and other atrocities. Everyone
present, including Göring, found the contents of the films shocking;
he said that the films must have been faked. Witnesses, including Paul
Erhard Milch , tried to portray Göring as a peaceful
moderate. Milch stated it had been impossible to oppose
disobey his orders; to do so would likely have meant death for oneself
and one's family. When testifying on his own behalf, Göring
emphasised his loyalty to Hitler, and claimed to know nothing about
what had happened in the concentration camps, which were under
Himmler's control. He gave evasive, convoluted answers to direct
questions and had plausible excuses for all his actions during the
war. He used the witness stand as a venue to expound at great length
on his own role in the Reich, attempting to present himself as a
peacemaker and diplomat before the outbreak of the war. During
cross-examination, chief prosecutor
Robert H. Jackson read out the
minutes of a meeting that had been held shortly after
a major pogrom in November 1938. At the meeting, Göring had plotted
to confiscate Jewish property in the wake of the pogrom. Later, David
Maxwell-Fyfe proved it was impossible for Göring not to have known
Stalag Luft III murders
Stalag Luft III murders —the shooting of fifty airmen who
had been recaptured after escaping from
Stalag Luft III —in time to
have prevented the killings. He also presented clear evidence that
Göring knew about the extermination of the
Hungarian Jews .
Göring at the
Göring was found guilty on all four counts and was sentenced to
death by hanging. The judgment stated:
There is nothing to be said in mitigation. For Göring was often,
indeed almost always, the moving force, second only to his leader. He
was the leading war aggressor, both as political and as military
leader; he was the director of the slave labour programme and the
creator of the oppressive programme against the Jews and other races,
at home and abroad. All of these crimes he has frankly admitted. On
some specific cases there may be conflict of testimony, but in terms
of the broad outline, his own admissions are more than sufficiently
wide to be conclusive of his guilt. His guilt is unique in its
enormity. The record discloses no excuses for this man.
Göring made an appeal asking to be shot as a soldier instead of
hanged as a common criminal, but the court refused. Defying the
sentence imposed by his captors, he committed suicide with a potassium
cyanide capsule the night before he was to be hanged.
One theory as to how Göring obtained the poison holds that U.S. Army
Lieutenant Jack G. Wheelis, who was stationed at the
retrieved the capsules from their hiding place among Göring's
personal effects that had been confiscated by the Army and handed them
over to the prisoner, after being bribed by Göring, who gave him his
gold watch, pen, and cigarette case. In 2005, former U.S. Army
Private Herbert Lee Stivers, who served in the 1st Infantry Division
26th Infantry Regiment —the honour guard for the Nuremberg
Trials—claimed he gave Göring "medicine" hidden inside a fountain
pen that a German woman had asked him to smuggle into the prison.
Stivers later said that he did not know what was in the pill until
after Göring's suicide.
Göring's body, as those of the other executed men, was displayed at
the execution ground for the witnesses of the executions. The bodies
were cremated at Ostfriedhof , Munich, and the ashes were scattered in
Nazi plunder Göring's
Reichsmarschall baton and
Smith "> Göring's uniform on display at the Luftwaffenmuseum der
Göring was known for his extravagant tastes and garish clothing. He
had various special uniforms made for the many posts he held; his
Reichsmarschall uniform included a jewel-encrusted baton. Hans-Ulrich
Rudel , the top
Stuka pilot of the war, recalled twice meeting Göring
dressed in outlandish costumes: first, a medieval hunting costume,
practicing archery with his doctor; and second, dressed in a red toga
fastened with a golden clasp, smoking an unusually large pipe. Italian
Galeazzo Ciano once noted Göring wearing a fur coat
that looked like what "a high grade prostitute wears to the opera".
He threw lavish housewarming parties each time a round of construction
was completed at Carinhall, and changed costumes several times
throughout the evenings.
Göring was noted for his patronage of music, especially opera. He
entertained frequently and sumptuously, and hosted elaborate birthday
parties for himself. Armaments minister
Albert Speer recalled that
guests brought expensive gifts such as gold bars, Dutch cigars, and
valuable artwork. For his birthday in 1944, Speer gave Göring an
oversize marble bust of Hitler. As a member of the Prussian Council
of State, Speer was required to donate a considerable portion of his
salary towards the Council's birthday gift to Göring without even
Erhard Milch told Speer that similar
donations were required out of the Air Ministry's general fund. For
his birthday in 1940, Italian Foreign Minister Count Ciano decorated
Göring with the coveted Collar of Annunziata . The award reduced him
to tears. Standard, on display at the Musée de la Guerre in Les
Invalides , Paris
The design of the
Reichsmarschall standard, on a light blue field,
featured a gold
German eagle grasping a wreath surmounted by two
batons overlaid with a swastika . The reverse side of the flag had the
Großkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes ("
Grand Cross of the Iron Cross ")
surrounded by a wreath between four
Luftwaffe eagles. The flag was
carried by a personal standard-bearer at all public occasions.
Though he liked to be called "der Eiserne" (the Iron Man), the once
dashing and muscular fighter pilot had become corpulent. He was one of
the few Nazi leaders who did not take offense at hearing jokes about
himself, "no matter how rude", taking them as a sign of popularity.
Germans joked about his ego, saying that he would wear an admiral's
uniform to take a bath, and his obesity, joking that "he sits down on
his stomach". One joke claimed that he had sent a wire to Hitler
after his visit to the Vatican: "Mission accomplished. Pope unfrocked.
Tiara and pontifical vestments are a perfect fit."
COMPLICITY IN THE HOLOCAUST
Göring's July 1941 letter to
Goebbels and Himmler were far more antisemitic than Göring, who
mainly adopted that attitude because party politics required him to do
so. His own deputy,
Erhard Milch , had a Jewish parent. But Göring
Nuremberg Laws of 1935, and later initiated economic
measures unfavourable to Jews. He required the registration of all
Jewish property as part of the Four Year Plan, and at a meeting held
Kristallnacht was livid that the financial burden for the Jewish
losses would have to be made good by German-owned insurance companies.
He proposed that the Jews be fined one billion marks.
At the same meeting, options for the disposition of the Jews and
their property were discussed. Jews would be segregated into ghettos
or encouraged to emigrate, and their property would be seized in a
programme of Aryanization . Compensation for seized property would be
low, if any was given at all. Detailed minutes of this meeting and
other documents were read out at the
Nuremberg trial, proving his
knowledge of and complicity with the persecution of the Jews. He told
Gilbert that he would never have supported the anti-Jewish measures if
he had known what was going to happen. "I only thought we would
eliminate Jews from positions in big business and government," he
In July 1941, Göring issued a memo to
Reinhard Heydrich ordering him
to organise the practical details of a solution to the "Jewish
Question". By the time that this letter was written, many Jews and
others had already been killed in Poland, Russia , and elsewhere. At
Wannsee Conference , held six months later, Heydrich formally
announced that genocide of the Jews of Europe was now official Reich
policy. Göring did not attend the conference, but he was present at
other meetings where the number of people killed was discussed.
SUPPORT OF ANTI-NAZI BROTHER
Göring's younger brother Albert despised
Nazism , and offered active
resistance to the regime, including helping prisoners escape from
concentration camps. He was arrested four times, but Hermann secured
his release each time. Hermann's daughter Edda told
The Guardian that
Albert "could certainly help people in need himself financially and
with his personal influence, but as soon as it was necessary to
involve higher authority or officials, then he had to have the support
of my father, which he did get."
DECORATIONS AND AWARDS
* 2nd Class on 15 September 1914
* 1st Class on 22 March 1915
* Clasp to the
* 2nd Class on 30 September 1939
* 1st Class on 30 September 1939
* Knight\'s Cross of the
Iron Cross on 30 September 1939
Grand Cross of the Iron Cross for "the victories of the Luftwaffe
in 1940 during the French campaign" (the only award of this decoration
– 19 July 1940)
Golden Party Badge
Pour le Mérite (May 1918)
* Knight of the
House Order of Hohenzollern
House Order of Hohenzollern
* Knight of the
Military Karl-Friedrich Merit Order
Blood Order (Commemorative Medal of 9 November 1923)
Danzig Cross , 1st and 2nd class
* Grand Cross of the
Order of Saints Cyril and Methodius (Kingdom of
* Grand Cordon of the
Order of the Rising Sun
Order of the Rising Sun (Japan) (1943)
* Member First Class of the
Order of Michael the Brave (Kingdom of
* Knight of the Order of St Stephen (Kingdom of Hungary)
* Commander Grand Cross of the
Order of the Sword
Order of the Sword (Kingdom of
* Grand Cross of the Order of Yoke and Arrows (Spain) (1939)
* Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus
(Kingdom of Italy) (1938)
* Knight of the
Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation (Kingdom
of Italy) (1940)
* Knight Grand Cross of the
Order of the Crown of Italy (Kingdom of
Order of the White Rose of Finland , Commander grade
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* ^ Göring is the German spelling, but the name is commonly
transliterated Goering in English and other languages, using ⟨oe ⟩
to replace the umlaut in ⟨ö ⟩.
* ^ The swastika was a badge which the count and some friends had
adopted at school, and he adopted it as a family emblem. See Manvell
these were controversial and some appointments are not recognised by
* ^ Kershaw 2008 , p. 284.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , p. 21.
* ^ Block & Trow 1971 , pp. 327–330.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , pp. 21–22.
* ^ Freitag 2015 , pp. 25–45.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , pp. 22–24.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , pp. 24–25.
* ^ A B Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , pp. 24–28.
* ^ Maser 2004 , p. 392.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , pp. 28–29.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , pp. 31–32.
* ^ Franks 1993 , pp. 95, 117, 156.
* ^ Franks 1993 , p. 117.
* ^ Kilduff 2013 , pp. 165–166.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , pp. 31–33.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , p. 403.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , pp. 34–36.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , p. 39.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , pp. 39–41.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , pp. 41, 43.
* ^ A B Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , pp. 45, 47.
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* ^ Kershaw 2008 , p. 131.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , pp. 57–58.
* ^ Speer 1971 , p. 644.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , pp. 59–60.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , p. 61.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , p. 404.
* ^ Manvell & Fraenkel 2011 , p. 62, 64.
* ^ Kershaw 2008 , p. 160.
* ^ Shirer 1960 , p. 146.
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* ^ A B Stolfi 1982 .
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to HERMANN GöRING .
Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Vol. 9 Transcript of Goering's
testimony at the trial
* "Lost Prison Interview with Hermann Goring: The Reichsmarschall\'s
Revelations" published by
World War II
World War II Magazine
* Göring at Långbro asylum
* The Goering Collection: online database (in German as Die
Kunstsammlung Hermann Göring) of 4263 artworks in Hermann