Hermann Goering

Hermann Goering

Hermann Goering was born in Rosenheim, Bavaria on 12th January 1893. The son of a senior army officer, he was educated at a military school and became a member of the Prussian Cadet Corps.

Goering joined the German Army in June, 1912. He served with the infantry during the first few months of the First World War but was hospitalized with rheumatoid arthritis of the knees. After recovering, he transferred to the German Army Air Service.

At first Goering was an observer for his friend and war ace, Bruno Loerzer, but eventually became a fighter pilot and scored his first victory on 16th November 1915. After the death of Manfred von Richthofen Goering became the leader of his JG 1 squadron. By the end of the war Goering had achieved 22 victories and had been awarded the Iron Cross and the Pour le Merite for bravery.

After the war, Goering earned his living as a pilot working for the Fokker company based in Holland. While there he met and married Baroness Karen von Fock-Kantzow.

Goering returned in 1923 and after hearing Adolf Hitler speak joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). He later admitted: "it was political love at first sight". Hitler also admired Goering and appointed him as head of Sturm Abteilung (Storm Section). The SA (also known as stormtroopers or brownshirts) were instructed to disrupt the meetings of political opponents and to protect Hitler from revenge attacks. Captain Ernst Roehm of the Bavarian Army played an important role in recruiting these men.

On 8th November, 1923, the Bavarian government held a meeting of about 3,000 officials. While Gustav von Kahr, the leader of the Bavarian government was making a speech, Goering, Hitler and the SA entered the building. Hitler jumped onto a table, fired two shots in the air and told the audience that the Munich Putsch was taking place and the National Revolution had began.

Leaving Goering and the SA to guard the 3,000 officials, Adolf Hitler took Gustav von Kahr, Otto von Lossow, the commander of the Bavarian Army and Hans von Seisser, the commandant of the Bavarian State Police into an adjoining room. Hitler told the men that he was to be the new leader of Germany and offered them posts in his new government. Aware that this would be an act of high treason, the three men were initially reluctant to agree to this offer. Hitler was furious and threatened to shoot them and then commit suicide: "I have three bullets for you, gentlemen, and one for me!" After this the three men agreed.

Soon afterwards Eric Ludendorff arrived. Ludendorff had been leader of the German Army at the end of the First World War. He had therefore found Hitler's claim that the war had not been lost by the army but by Jews, Socialists, Communists and the German government, attractive, and was a strong supporter of the Nazi Party. Ludendorff agreed to become head of the the German Army in Hitler's government.

While Hitler had been appointing government ministers, Ernst Roehm, leading a group of stormtroopers, had seized the War Ministry and Rudolf Hess was arranging the arrest of Jews and left-wing political leaders in Bavaria.

Hitler now planned to march on Berlin and remove the national government. Surprisingly, Hitler had not arranged for the stormtroopers to take control of the radio stations and the telegraph offices. This meant that the national government in Berlin soon heard about Hitler's putsch and gave orders for it to be crushed.

The next day Goering, Adolf Hitler, Eric Ludendorff, and 3,000 armed supporters of the Nazi Party marched through Munich in an attempt to join up with Roehm's forces at the War Ministry. At Odensplatz they found the road blocked by the Munich police. As they refused to stop, the police fired into the ground in front of the marchers. The stormtroopers returned the fire and during the next few minutes 21 people were killed and another hundred were wounded, included Goering, who had two granite splinters (from a building) in his groin.

To avoid arrest Goering fled to Sweden. Goering, who lived in Stockholm for the next four years, was in a poor physical state because of his morphine addiction. He also suffered from obesity and weighed 280 pounds.

In 1927 President Paul von Hindenburg granted Goering an amnesty and he returned to Berlin. The following year he was one of the twelve members of the Nazi Party elected to the Reichstag and on 30th August, 1932, became its president.

When Adolf Hitler became chancellor in January, 1933, he made Goering a cabinet minister without portfolio. Later he became minister of the interior and prime minister of Prussia. He immediately replaced 22 of Germany's 32 police chiefs with SA and SS officers. He also appointed Rudolf Diels as chief of the political police, the Gestapo.

After the Reichstag Fire on 27th February, 1933, Goering launched a wave of violence against members of the German Communist Party and other left-wing opponents of the regime. He also joined with Heinrich Himmler, head of the Schutz Staffeinel, in setting up Germany's concentration camps.

Goering agreed that the Sturm Abteilung (SA) posed a threat to the German Army and in June 1934 arranged the Night of the Long Knives. He also purged Werner von Blomberg and Werner von Fitsch from the high command of the army.

In February, 1938, Goering became head of Germany's armed forces,. The following year he officially became Hitler's deputy and legal heir. He obtained a vast income from his various official posts and converted an old Berlin palace into his official residence. Goering also made money from his own newspaper, Essener National Zeitung and from stock in the aircraft industry.

After the outbreak of the Second World War Goering was placed in charge of the Luftwaffe and took credit for the quick defeat of France, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg in the summer of 1940. However, he failed to stop the British evacuation of Dunkirk.

Goering organized the German war effort during the Battle of Britain and made the crucial mistake of changing his tactics and launching the Blitz in September, 1940. He was criticized for the failings of the Luftwaffe during Operation Barbarossa.

When the Red Army made advances into Germany, Goering moved his headquarters to Berchesgaden. After the suicide of Adolf Hitler Goering surrendered to the US Army in Austria on 8th May, 1945.

Hermann Goering was found guilty at Nuremberg War Crimes Trial but avoided execution by swallowing potassium cyanide on 15th October, 1946.

Primary Sources

(1) Hermann Goering explained about his role in Hitler's government in his book Germany Reborn (1934)

I became commissioner of the Interior in Prussia and at the same time Minister of the Reich. I had taken on a heavy responsibility and a vast field of work lay before me. It was clear that I should be able to make a little use of the administrative system as it then was. I should have to make great changes. To begin with, it seemed to me of the first importance to get the weapon of the criminal and political police firmly into my own hands. Here it was that I made the first sweeping changes of personnel. Out of 32 police chiefs I removed 22. New men were brought in, and in every case these men came from the great reservoir of the Storm Troops.

I gave strict orders and demanded that the police should devote all their energies to the ruthless extermination of subversive elements. In one of my first big meetings in Dortmund I declared that for the future there would be only one man who would bear the responsibility in Prussia, and that one man was myself. Every bullet fired from the barrel of a police pistol was my bullet. If you call that murder, then I am the murderer.

Finally I alone created, on my own initiative, the State Secret Police Department. This is the instrument which is so much feared by the enemies of the State, and which is chiefly responsible for the fact that in Germany and Prussia today there is no question of a Marxist or Communist danger.

(2) Henry (Chips) Channon, diary entry (13th August, 1936)

Goering, wreathed in smiles and orders and decorations received us gaily, his wife at his side. There is something un-Christian about Goering, a strong pagan streak, a touch of the arena, though perhaps, like many who are libidinous-minded like myself, he actually does very little. People say that he can be very hard and ruthless, as are all Nazis when occasion demands, but outwardly he seems all vanity and childish love of display.

(3) Hermann Goering, statement at Nuremberg War Crimes Trial (October 1946)

When the civil war broke out in Spain Franco sent a call for help to Germany and asked for support, particularly in the air. Franco with his troops was stationed in Africa and he could not get his troops across, as the fleet was in the hands of the communists. The decisive factor was, first of all, to get his troops to Spain. The Führer thought the matter over. I urged him to give support under all circumstances: firstly, to prevent the further spread of communism; secondly, to test my young Luftwaffe in this or that technical respect.

(4) Conference on the Jewish Question between Hermann Goering, Reinhard Heydrich and Joseph Goebbels (12th November 1938)

Reinhard Heydreich: In almost all German cities synagogues are burned. New, various possibilities exist to utilize the space where the synagogues stood. Some cities want to build parks in their place, others want to put up new buildings.

Hermann Goering: How many synagogues were actually burned?

Reinhard Heydreich: Altogether there are 101 synagogues destroyed by fire, 76 synagogues demolished, and 7,500 stores ruined in the Reich.

Hermann Goering: What do you mean "destroyed by fire"?

Reinhard Heydreich: Partly they are razed, and partly gutted.

Joseph Goebbels: I am of the opinion that this is our chance to dissolve the synagogues. All those not completely intact shall be razed by the Jews. The Jews shall pay for it. There in Berlin, the Jews are ready to do that. The synagogues which burned in Berlin are being leveled by the Jews themselves. We shall build parking lots in their places or new buildings. That ought to be the criterion for the whole country, the Jews shall have to remove the damaged or burned synagogues, and shall have to provide us with ready free space. I deem it necessary to issue a decree forbidding the Jews to enter German theaters, movie houses and circuses. I have already issued such a decree under the authority of the law of the chamber for culture. Considering the present situation of the theaters, I believe we can afford that. Our theaters are overcrowded, we have hardly any room. I am of the opinion that it is not possible to have Jews sitting next to Germans in varieties, movies and theaters. One might consider, later on, to let the Jews have one or two movie houses here in Berlin, where they may see Jewish movies. But in German theaters they have no business anymore. Furthermore, I advocate that the Jews be eliminated from all positions in public life in which they may prove to be provocative. It is still possible today that a Jew shares a compartment in a sleeping car with a German. Therefore, we need a decree by the Reich Ministry for Communications stating that separate compartments for Jews shall be available; in cases where compartments are filled up, Jews cannot claim a seat. They shall be given a separate compartment only after all Germans have secured seats. They shall not mix with Germans, and if there is no more room, they shall have to stand in the corridor.

Hermann Goering: In that case, I think it would make more sense to give them separate compartments.

Joseph Goebbels: Not if the train is overcrowded!

Hermann Goering: Just a moment. There'll be only one Jewish coach. If that is filled up, the other Jews will have to stay at home.

Joseph Goebbels: Furthermore, there ought to be a decree barring Jews from German beaches and resorts. Last summer.

Hermann Goering: Particularly here in the Admiralspalast very disgusting things have happened lately.

Joseph Goebbels: Also at the Wannsee beach. A law which definitely forbids the Jews to visit German resorts.

Hermann Goering: We could give them their own.

Joseph Goebbels: It would have to be considered whether we'd give them their own or whether we should turn a few German resorts over to them, but not the finest and the best, so we cannot say the Jews go there for recreation. It'll also have to be considered if it might not become necessary to forbid the Jews to enter the German forest. In the Grunewald, whole herds of them are running around. It is a constant provocation and we are having incidents all the time. The behavior of the Jews is so inciting and provocative that brawls are a daily routine.

Hermann Goering: We shall give the Jews a certain part of the forest, and the Alpers shall take care of it that various animals that look damned much like Jews -the elk has such a crooked nose - get there also and become acclimated.

(5) General Franz Halder, provided evidence on the Reichstag Fire at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial in 1946.

At a luncheon on the birthday of Hitler in 1942 the conversation turned to the topic of the Reichstag building and its artistic value. I heard with my own ears when Goering interrupted the conversation and shouted: "The only one who really knows about the Reichstag is I, because I set it on fire!" With that he slapped his thigh with the flat of his hand.

(6) Hermann Goering provided evidence on the Reichstag Fire at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial in 1946.

I had nothing to do with it. I deny this absolutely. I can tell you in all honesty, that the Reichstag fire proved very inconvenient to us. After the fire I had to use the Kroll Opera House as the new Reichstag and the opera seemed to me much more important than the Reichstag. I must repeat that no pretext was needed for taking measures against the Communists. I already had a number of perfectly good reasons in the forms of murders, etc.

(7) (7) Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich (1970)

After 1933 there quickly formed various rival factions that held divergent views, spied on each other, and held each other in contempt. A mixture of scorn and dislike became the prevailing mood within the party. Each new dignitary rapidly gathered a circle of intimates around him. Thus Himmler associated almost exclusively with his SS following, from whom he could count on unqualified respect. Goering also had his band of uncritical admirers, consisting partly of members of his family, partly of his closest associates and adjutants. Goebbels felt at ease in the company of literary and movie people. Hess occupied himself with problems of homeopathic medicine, loved chamber music, and had screwy but interesting acquaintances.

As an intellectual Goebbels looked down on the crude philistines of the leading group in Munich, who for their part made fun of the conceited academic's literary ambitions. Goering considered neither the Munich philistines nor Goebbels sufficiently aristocratic for him and therefore avoided all social relations with them; whereas Himmler, filled with the elitist missionary zeal of the SS felt far superior to all the others. Hitler, too, had his retinue, which went everywhere with him. Its membership, consisting of chauffeurs, the photographer, his pilot, and secretaries, remained always the same.

(8) Hermann Goering, order to Reinhard Heydrich (31st July, 1941)

Complementing the task that was assigned to you on January 24, 1939, which dealt with carrying out by emigration and evacuation a solution of the Jewish problem as advantageous as possible, I hereby charge you with making all necessary preparations with regard to organizational and financial matters for bringing about a complete solution of the Jewish question in the German sphere of influence in Europe.

Whatever other governmental agencies are involved they will cooperate with you. I request furthermore that you send me before long an overall plan concerning the organizational, factual and material measures necessary for the accomplishment of the desired final solution of the Jewish question.

(9) Joseph Goebbels, diary (13th March, 1945)

This evening's Mosquito raid was particularly disastrous for me because our Ministry was hit. The whole lovely building on the Wilhelmstrasse was totally destroyed by a bomb. The throne-room, the Blue Gallery and my newly rebuilt theatre hall are nothing but a heap of ruins. I drove straight to the Ministry to see the devastation for myself. One's heart aches to see so unique a product of the architect's art, such as this building was, totally flattened in a second. What trouble we have taken to reconstruct the theatre hall, the throne-room and the Blue Gallery in the old style! With what care have we chosen every fresco on the walls and every piece of furniture! And now it has all been given over to destruction. In addition fire has now broken out in the ruins, bringing with it an even greater risk since 500 bazooka missiles are stored underneath the burning wreckage. I do my utmost to get the fire brigade to the scene as quickly and in as great strength as possible, so as at least to prevent the bazooka missiles exploding.

As I do all this I am overcome with sadness. It is 12 years to the day - 13 March - since I entered this Ministry as Minister. It is the worst conceivable omen for the next twelve years.

The Führer telephones me immediately after the raid on the Ministry. He too is very sad that it has now hit me. So far we have been lucky even during the heaviest raids on Berlin. Now, however, we have lost not only a possession but an anxiety. In future I need no longer tremble for the Ministry.

All those present at the fire voiced only scorn and hatred for Goring. All were asking repeatedly why the Führer does not at last do something definite about him and the Luftwaffe.

The Führer than asks me over for a short visit. During the interview I have with him he is very impressed by my account of things. I give him a description of the devastation which is being wrought and tell him particularly of the increasing fury of the Mosquito raids which take place every evening. I cannot prevent myself voicing sharp criticism of Goring and the Luftwaffe. But it is always the same story when one talks to the Fuhrer on this subject. He explains the reasons for the decay of the Luftwaffe, but he cannot make up his mind to draw the consequences therefrom. He tells me that after the recent interviews he had with him Goring was a broken man. But what is the good of that! I can have no sympathy with him. If he did lose his nerve somewhat after his recent clash with the Führer, that is but a small punishment for the frightful misery he has brought and is still bringing on the German people.

I beg the Führer yet again to take action at last, since things cannot go on like this. We ought not, after all, to send our people to their doom because we do not possess the strength of decision to root out the cause of our misfortune. The Führer tells me that new fighters and bombers are now under construction, of which he has certain hopes. But we have heard it so often before that we can no longer bring ourselves to place much hope in such statements. In any case it is now plenty late - not to say too late - to anticipate any decisive effect from such measures.

(10) Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich (1970)

I witnessed a dramatic scene between Goering and General Galland, who commanded his fighter planes. Galland had reported to Hitler that day that several American fighter planes accompanying the bomber squadrons had been shot down over Aachen. He had added the warning that we were in grave peril if American fighters, thanks to improved fuel capacity, should soon be able to provide escort protection to the fleets of bombers on flights even deeper into Germany. Hitler had just relayed these points to Goering.

Goering was embarking for Rominten Heath on his special train when Galland came along to bid him good-by.

"What's the idea of telling the Fuehrer that American fighters have penetrated into the territory of the Reich?" Goering snapped at him.

"Heir Reichsmarschall," Galland replied with imperturbable calm, "they will soon be flying even deeper."

Goering spoke even more vehemently: 'That's nonsense, Galland, what gives you such fantasies? That's pure bluff!"

Galland shook his head. "Those are the facts. Herr Reichmarschall!" As he spoke he deliberately remained in a casual posture, his cap somewhat askew, a long cigar clamped between his teeth. "American fighters have been shot down over Aachen. There is no doubt about it!"

Goering obstinately held his ground: "That is simply not true, Galland. It's impossible."

Galland reacted with a touch of mockery: "You might go and check it yourself, sir; the downed planes are there at Aachen."

Goering tried to smooth matters over: "Come now. Galland, let me tell you something. I'm an experienced fighter pilot myself. I know what is possible. But I know what isn't, too. Admit you made a mistake."

Galland only shook his head, until Goering finally declared: "What must have happened is that they were shot down much farther to the west. I mean, if they were very high when they were shot down they could have glided quite a distance farther before they crashed."

Not a muscle moved in Galland's face. "Glided to the east, sir? If my plane were shot up..."

"Now then, Herr Galland," Goering fulminated, trying to put an end to the debate, "I officially assert that the American fighter planes did not reach Aachen."

The General ventured a last statement: "But, sir, they were therel"

At this point Goering's self-control gave way. "I herewith give you an official order that they weren't there! Do you understand? The American fighters were not there! Get that! I intend to report that to the Fuehrer."

Goering simply let General Galland stand there. But as he stalked off he turned once more and called out

threateningly: "You have my official order!"

With an unforgettable smile the General replied: "Orders are orders, sir!"

(11) Gustave Gilbert, an intelligence officer, interviewed Hermann Goering at Nuremberg on 18th April, 1946.

We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

"Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "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."

"There is one difference," I pointed out. "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."

"Oh, that is all well and good, but, 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 exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

(12) Edward Heath, The Course of My Life (1988)

I looked towards the dock. In two rows often they sat: Goring, reduced to wearing a plain, ill-fitting grey uniform - no medals now - alert and attentive, vigorously nodding his head in agreement or shaking it in denial; Hess, with his pale pinched face; von Ribbentrop, always busy writing notes; Keitel and Jodi, the soldiers, staring silently and sullenly ahead; Schacht, the businessman, whose relationship with the Nazis had been more turbulent, and who had distaste etched into his face at having to sit in public with such unpleasant people; von Papen and von Neurath, politicians both but still the diplomats, polished and immaculate. These all stood out. But how unimpressive were Seyss-Inquart, who had betrayed Austria and ruled occupied Holland; Rosenberg and Fritsche, the propagandists; and von Schirach, formerly a fanatical and dangerous young zealot, but now a visibly broken man. For a time, the whole free world had quaked before these men. Ultimately, however, they had brought not glory, but ruin and misery, to their own land and its people. We had lived in their shadow for a decade, but now history was free to deliver a final verdict upon them.

When the court adjourned for a quarter of an hour, I saw the Nazi leaders arguing heatedly among themselves about the evidence they had heard: evidence which had been gathered from every corner of Europe, from the Chancelleries and concentration camps, from the occupied countries and from Germany itself, of how the Nazis plunged the world into war, led Germany to its undoing and brought themselves, at last, into the dock in that Court House in Nuremberg.