Wilhelm Göring (also Goering or Goring in English)
12, 1893 – October 15, 1946) was an early member of the Nazi party,
founder of the Gestapo, and one of the main perpetrators of Nazi Germany.
He was tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg
Trials in 1945-1946 and sentenced to death, but he avoided execution
by committing suicide in his cell, a few hours before the sentence was
to be carried out
was born in Rosenheim, Bavaria to Heinrich Ernst Göring, a lawyer
and colonial bureaucrat, and Franziska. Often apart from his parents,
he was tutored at home before attending cadet schools at Karlsruhe and
War I he was commissioned in the infantry, then became a pilot. He flew
reconnaisance and bombing missions before becoming a fighter pilot.
By the end of the war he was a highly decorated "ace" and
commanded the famed Richthofen Squadron.
Goering began his pilot training at Freiburg, and on completing the
course he was posted to Jagdstaffel 5. He was soon shot down and spent
most of 1916 recovering from his injuries. On his return in November
1916 he joined Jagdstaffel 26, before being given his first command.
In 1917 he was awarded the Pour le Mérite. On July 7, 1918, after
the death of Manfred von Richthofen, he was made commander of Jagdgeschwader
Freiherr von Richthofen (Jasta 11). He finished the war as an "ace,"
with 22 confirmed kills. Incidentally, he was the only veteran of Jasta
11 to have never been invited to the squadron's post-war reunions.
In June 1917, after a lengthy dogfight, Göring shot down a novice
Australian pilot named Frank Slee. The battle is recounted flamboyantly
in The Rise and Fall of Hermann Goering. Göring landed and met
with the Australian, and presented Slee with his Iron Cross. Years after,
Slee gave Göring's Iron Cross to a friend, who later died on the
beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
He remained in flying after the war, worked briefly at Fokker, tried
"barnstorming," and in 1920 he joined Svenska Lufttrafik.
He was also listed on the officer rolls of the Reichswehr, the post-World
War I peacetime army of Germany, and by 1933 had risen to the rank of
Generalmajor. He was made a Generalleutnant in 1935 and then a General
in the Luftwaffe (German air force) upon its founding later that year.
In Stockholm he met Karin von Kantzow (née Fock, 1888-1931),
whom he later married. She died in 1931, and soon after he married actress
As early as 1922, Göring joined the Nazi Party and initially took
over the SA leadership as the Oberste SA-Führer. After stepping
down as the SA Commander, he was appointed an SA-Gruppenführer
(Lieutenant General) and held this rank on the SA rolls until 1945.
Having been a member of the Reichstag since 1928, he became the parliament's
president from 1932 to 1933, and was one of the key figures in the process
of Gleichschaltung that established the Nazi dictatorship.
In its early years, he served as minister in various key positions at
both the Reich level and in Prussia, being responsible for the economy
as well as the build-up of the German military in preparation for the
war. Among others, he was appointed Reichsluftfahrtminister in 1935,
head of the Luftwaffe. In 1939, he became the first Luftwaffe Field
Marshall (Generalfeldmarshal) and by a decree on 29 June 1941, Hitler
appointed Göring his formal successor and promoted him to the rank
of Reichsmarshall, the highest military rank of the Greater German Reich.
Reichsmarshall was a special rank intended for Göring and which
made him senior to all Army and Air Force Field Marshals.
The Reichstag Fire, according to the Nuremberg testimony of General
Franz Halder, was the handiwork of Göring, not of 'Communist instigators.'
"At a luncheon on the birthday of Hitler in 1942..." Halder
testifies, "[Göring said]...The only one who really knows
about the Reichstag is I, because I set it on fire!" "With
that," said Halder, "he slapped his thigh with the flat of
his hand." Goering in his own Nuremberg testimony denied this story.
The following quotation is held to be oft-stated by Göring: "When
I hear the word culture, I reach for my Browning". Whether he used
this phrase often or not, he did not originate it. The quote comes from
German playwright Hanns Johst's play Schlageter, "Wenn ich Kultur
höre ... entsichere ich meinen Browning," "Whenever I
hear of culture... I release the safety-catch of my Browning!"
(Act 1, Scene 1). Nor was Göring the only Nazi official to use
this phrase: Rudolf Hess used it as well
Göring was known for his extravagant tastes and garish clothing.
As the only major Nazi with a prominent World War I record, he was a
key connection between the former corporal Hitler and the traditional
military elite. Göring, married to a Swedish baroness, exulted
in aristocratic trappings and built up a considerable estate, Karinhall,
in Prussia during the Nazi period. Handsome and athletic in his youth,
a painful injury sustained during the Beer Hall Putsch left Göring
dependent on narcotic painkillers, particularly morphine, and contributed
to his later obesity.
Once World War II started, Göring became the driving force behind
the failed attempt to force Britain's surrender (or at least acquiescence)
by air battle in the Battle of Britain. After that campaign he lost
much of his influence in the Nazi hierarchy, exacerbated by the Luftwaffe's
failings in Russia and against the Allied bomber raids. His reputation
for extravagance made him particularly unpopular as ordinary Germans
began to suffer deprivations.
Göring was the only WWII recipient of the Grand Cross of the Iron
Cross, awarded to him by Hitler for his leadership of the Luftwaffe
during the conquest of France and the Low Countries. He avidly pursued
additional decorations, in marked contrast to Hitler, who wore only
what he earned in WWI.
Göring also sponsored a ground combat unit, the eponymous Hermann
Göring Division, which fought on various fronts with mixed success.
Göring was also placed in charge of exploiting the vast industrial
resources captured during the war, particularly in the Soviet Union.
This proved to be an almost total disaster and little of the available
potential was effectively harnessed for the service of the German military
machine. However, Göring became notorious among the Nazi elite
for pilfering art and other valuables from occupied Europe.
Göring was the highest figure in the Nazi Hierarchy who had authorized
on paper the 'final solution of the Jewish Question', when he issued
a memo to SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich to organize the
practical details (which culminated in the Wannsee Conference). It is
almost certain however that Hitler issued a verbal order to Göring
in the fall of 1941 to this effect.
In his political testament just before his own suicide, Hitler expelled
Göring and Heinrich Himmler from the party and from all offices
of State for disloyalty to him, for negotiating with the enemy without
his knowledge and against his wishes, and for illegally attempting to
seize power in the State for themselves. This referred to a telegram
which Göring sent from Berchtesgaden to Hitler in Berlin on April
23, 1945, in which he offered to take command of the Reich as Hitler's
designated successor. Hitler accused Göring of high treason, stripped
him of all his offices, and had him placed under arrest by the SS on
trial and death
Göring in his cell after committing suicide by cyanide
Göring surrendered to American troops on May 8/9, 1945 in Austria
and was the highest ranking Nazi official brought before the Nuremberg
Trials. Though he defended himself vigorously, he was sentenced to death;
the judgement stated that "his guilt is unique in its enormity".
One of his last acts was to ask his brother Albert Göring to look
after his wife and daughter. Defying the sentence imposed by his captors,
he committed suicide with a cyanide capsule the night before he was
supposed to be hanged. Where Göring obtained the cyanide, and how
he had managed to hide it during his entire imprisonment at Nuremberg,
remains unknown. In the 1950s, Erich von dem Bach would claim that he
had given Göring the cyanide shortly before Göring's death;
however, this claim is most often dismissed. Modern day theories speculate
that Göring had befriended a U.S. Army Lieutenant, stationed at
the Nuremberg Trials, who had aided Göring in obtaining cyanide
which had most likely been hidden in Göring's personal effects
confiscated by the Army. In 2005, a retired Army private, Herbert Lee
Stivers, claimed that he delivered "medicine" hidden inside
a fountain pen to Göring from a German woman he had met and flirted
with. Stivers served in the US 1st Infantry Division's 26th Regiment,
who formed the honor guard for the Nuremberg Trials. Stivers claims
to have been unaware of what the "medicine" he delivered actually
was until after Göring's death. After his suicide, Hermann Göring
was cremated and his ashes were scattered into the Isar river.
Göring's last days were spent with Gustave Gilbert, a German-speaking
intelligence officer and psychologist who was granted free access by
the Allies to all the prisoners held in the Nuremberg jail. Gilbert
kept a journal of his observations of the proceedings and his conversations
with the prisoners, which he later published in the book Nuremberg Diary.
The following quotation was a part of a conversation Gilbert held with
a dejected Göring in his cell 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 in his behalf.
Later in the conversation, Gilbert recorded Göring's observations
that the common people can always be manipulated into supporting and
fighting wars by their political leaders:
Göring: Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some
poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that
he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece?
Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor
in England, nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is
understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine
the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along,
whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament,
or a communist dictatorship.
Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy the people have some
say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the
United States only Congress can declare wars.
Göring: Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to
the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell
them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of
patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same
in any country.
Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe,
President of the Reichstag,
Prime Minister of Prussia
and Hitler's designated successor.was born in Rosenheim on 12 January
The son of a judge
who had been sent by Bismarck to South-West Africa as the first Resident
Minister Plenipotentiary, Goering entered the army in 1914 as an Infantry
Lieutenant, before being transferred to the air force as a combat pilot.
WW I - Richthofen
The last Commander in 1918 of the Richthofen Fighter Squadron, Goering
distinguished himself as an air ace, credited with shooting down twenty-two
Allied aircraft. Awarded the Pour le Merite and the Iron Cross (First
Class), he ended the war with the romantic aura of a much decorated
pilot and war hero. After World War I he was employed as a showflier
and pilot in Denmark and Sweden, where he met his first wife, Baroness
Karin von Fock- Kantzow, whom he married in Munich in February 1922.
Joins the Nazi
Goering's aristocratic background and his prestige as a war hero made
him a prize recruit to the infant Nazi Party and Hitler appointed him
to command the SA Brownshirts in December 1922. Nazism offered the swashbuckling
Goering the promise of action, adventure, comradeship and an outlet
for his unreflective, elemental hunger for power.
In 1923 he took
part in the Munich Beer-Hall putsch, in which he was seriously wounded
and forced to flee from Germany for four years until a general amnesty
was declared. He escaped to Austria, Italy and then Sweden, was admitted
to a mental hospital and, in September 1925, to an asylum for dangerous
inmates, becoming a morphine addict in the course of his extended recovery.
Returning to Germany
in 1927, he rejoined the NSDAP and was elected as one of its first deputies
to the Reichstag a year later. During the next five years Goering played
a major part in smoothing Hitler's road to power, using his contacts
with conservative circles, big business and army officers to reconcile
them to the Nazi Party and orchestrating the electoral triumph of 31
July 1932 which brought him the Presidency of the Reichstag.
Following Hitler's appointment as Chancellor on 30 January 1933, Goering
was made Prussian Minister of the Interior, Commander-in-Chief of the
Prussian Police and Gestapo and Commissioner for Aviation. As the creator
of the secret police, Goering, together with Himmler (q.v.) and Heydrich
(q.v.), set up the early concentration camps for political opponents,
showing formidable energy in terrorizing and crushing all resistance.
Under the pretext
of a threatened communist coup, Prussia was 'cleansed' and hundreds
of officers and thousands of ordinary policemen were purged, being replaced
from the great reservoir of SA and SS men who took over the policing
of Berlin. Goering exploited the Reichstag fire - which many suspected
that he had engineered - to implement a series of emergency decrees
that destroyed the last remnants of civil rights in Germany, to imprison
communists and Social Democrats and ban the left- wing press. He directed
operations during the Blood Purge, which eliminated his rival Ernst
Rohm and other SA leaders on 30 June 1934.
Reins of Power
On 1 March 1935 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force
and, with Udet and Milch, was responsible for organizing the rapid build-up
of the aircraft industry and training of pilots. In 1936 his powers
were further extended by his appointment as Plenipotentiary for the
implementation of the Four Year Plan, which gave him virtually dictatorial
controls to direct the German economy. The creation of the state-owned
Hermann Goering Works in 1937, a gigantic industrial nexus which employed
700,000 workers and amassed a capital of 400 million marks, enabled
him to accumulate a huge fortune.
Goering used his position to indulge in ostentatious luxury, living
in a palace in Berlin and building a hunting mansion named after his
first wife Karin (she had died of tuberculosis in 1931) where he organized
feasts, state hunts, showed off his stolen art treasures and uninhibitedly
pursued his extravagant tastes. Changing uniforms and suits five times
a day, affecting an archaic Germanic style of hunting dress (replete
with green leather jackets, medieval peasant hats and boar spears),
flouting his medals and jewellery, Goering's transparent enjoyment of
the trappings of power, his debauches and bribe-taking, gradually corrupted
his judgement. The 'Iron Knight', a curious mixture of condottiere and
sybarite, 'the last Renaissance man' as he liked to style himself with
characteristic egomania, increasingly confused theatrical effect with
real power. Nevertheless, he remained genuinely popular with the German
masses who regarded him as manly, honest and more accessible than the
Fuhrer, mistaking his extrovert bluster and vitality for human warmth.
The Jewish Question
Goering's cunning, brutality and ambition were displayed in the cabal
he engineered against the two leading army Generals, von Fritsch and
von Blomberg, whom he helped to bring down in February 1938, in the
misplaced hope that he would step into their shoes. Following the Crystal
Night pogrom of 9 November 1938, it was Goering who fined the German
Jewish community a billion marks and ordered the elimination of Jews
from the German economy, the 'Aryanization' of their property and businesses,
and their exclusion from schools, resorts, parks, forests, etc. On 12
November 1938 he warned of a 'final reckoning with the Jews' should
Germany come into conflict with a foreign power. It was also Goering
who instructed Heydrich on 31 July 1941 to 'carry out all preparations
with regard to . . . a general solution [Gesamtlosung] of the Jewish
question in those territories of Europe which are under German influence..
Battle of Britain
Goering identified with Hitler's territorial aspirations, playing a
key role in bringing about the Anschluss in 1938 and the bludgeoning
of the Czechs into submission, though he preferred to dictate a new
order in Europe by 'diplomatic' means rather than through a general
European war. Appointed Reich Council Chairman for National Defence
on 30 August 1939 and officially designated as Hitler's successor on
1 September, Goering directed the Luftwaffe campaigns against Poland
and France, and on 19 June 1940 was promoted to Reich Marshal.
In August 1940 he
confidently threw himself into the great offensive against Great Britain,
Operation Eagle, convinced that he would drive the RAF from the skies
and secure the surrender of the British by means of the Luftwaffe alone.
Goering, however, lost control of the Battle of Britain and made a fatal,
tactical error when he switched to massive night bombings of London
on 7 September 1940 just when British fighter defences were reeling
from losses in the air and on the ground. This move saved the RAF sector
control stations from destruction and gave the British fighter defences
precious time to recover. The failure of the Luftwaffe (which Hitler
never forgave) caused the abandonment of Operation Sea Lion, the planned
invasion of England, and began the political eclipse of Goering. Further
failures of the Luftwaffe on the Russian front and its inability to
defend Germany itself from Allied bombing attacks underlined Goering's
incompetence as its supreme commander . Technical research was run down
completely, not surprisingly with a Commander-in-Chief who prized personal
heroism above scientific know- how and whose idea of dignified combat
was ramming enemy aircraft.
Fall from Grace
Goering rapidly sank into lethargy and a world of illusions, expressly
forbidding General Galland to report that enemy fighters were accompanying
bomber squadrons deeper and deeper into German territory in 1943. By
this time Goering had become a bloated shadow of his former self, discredited,
isolated and increasingly despised by Hitler who blamed him for Germany's
defeats. Undermined by Bormann's intrigues, overtaken in influence by
Himmler, Goebbels and Speer, mentally humiliated by his servile dependence
on the Fuhrer, Goering's personality began to disintegrate. When Hitler
declared that he would remain in the Berlin bunker to the end, Goering,
who had already left for Bavaria, misinterpreted this as an abdication
and requested that he be allowed to take over at once; he was ignominiously
dismissed from all his posts, expelled from the Party and arrested.
Shortly afterwards, on 9 May 1945, Goering was captured by forces of
the American Seventh Army and, to his great surprise, put on trial at
Nuremberg in 1946.
During his trial Goering, who had slimmed in captivity and had been
taken off drugs, defended himself with aggressive vigour and skill,
frequently outwitting the prosecuting counsel. With Hitler dead, he
stood out among the defendants as the dominating personality, dictating
attitudes to other prisoners in the dock and adopting a pose of self-conscious
heroism motivated by the belief that he would be immortalized as a German
martyr. Nevertheless, Goering failed to convince the judges, who found
him guilty on all four counts: of conspiracy to wage war, crimes against
peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. No mitigating circumstances
were found and Goering was sentenced to death by hanging. On 15 October
1946, two hours before his execution was due to take place, Goering
committed suicide in his Nuremberg cell, taking a capsule of poison
that he had succeeded in hiding from his guards during his captivity.
Gave a spiffy medal to Charles Lindbergh.
Committed suicide before the hangman could do his work.
12 Jan 1893 Hermann Goering born, Rosenheim, Bavaria.
1904 Sent to boarding school, Ansbach, Franconia.
1914 Enters the Wehrmacht.
1918 Becomes commander of the Red Baron's former squadron.
3 Feb 1922 Hermann Goering and Baroness Karin von Fock-Kantzow marry,
Dec 1922 Hermann Goering appointed to lead the S.A. (Brownshirts.)
Aug 1923 Mother dies.
1925 Becomes a morphine addict.
Sep 1925 Enters Långbro mental hospital, Sweden.Sep 1925 Becomes
a morphine addict.
1927 Returns to Germany.
1928 Wins a seat in the Reichstag.
17 Oct 1931 Wife Carin dies of tuberculosis.26 Oct 1933 Elected President
26 Apr 1933 Hermann Goering founds the Gestapo.30 Jun 1934 Hermann Goering
assists in the Night of the Long Knives.
19 Apr 1935 Harmann Goering and actress Emmy Sonnemann marry.
2 Jun 1938 Daughter Edda born, only child.
19 Jun 1940 Becomes Reichsmarschall.
31 Jul 1941 Orders Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich to bring "about
a complete solution of the Jewish question in the German sphere of influence
9 May 1945 Captured by the American Seventh Army.
Mar 1946 Wife Emmy Sonnemann released from prison, Straubing.
15 Oct 1946 Commits suicide with a poison capsule, on the day he is
to be hanged.1967 Contents of a note released, explaining that the poison
capsule was hidden in a pomade container.
8 Jun 1973 Wife Emmy Sonnemann dies, Munich. Attorney Melvin Belli handles