Hermann Goering

Hitler's greedy deputy, and head of the Luftwaffe

The early years

Hermann Goering was born in 1893, the son of a German diplomat. Following education in a military school he became an infantry officer, but during World War 1 he became a fighter pilot. Hermann Goering was a skilled and daring fighter pilot who scored 22 air victories. Goering was promoted to a squadron leader, decorated with the Iron Cross, and became famous, and when the famous "Red Baron" von Richthofen was killed in air combat, Hermann Goering replaced him in command of his elite fighter squadron.

After the war Hermann Goering worked as a pilot abroad, and one day, after flying a Swedish Baron home, he met the Baron's beautiful niece. They fell in love. She divorced her husband and married Hermann Goering.

Joining Hitler

Hermann Goering returned to Germany and became interested in politics. In 1922 he heard Adolf Hitler and it was, as he later said, "A political love at first sight". Goering became a member of the Nazi party leadership, where his personal charm, war hero fame, and aristocratic background, helped him recruit rich sponsors for the young party. Hitler also made him the head of the S.A, the Nazi party's violent militia, nicknamed the "Brown shirts".

In 1923, when Hitler attempted a coup, Hermann Goering lead a large force of S.A men, but the local police fired at them, the coup failed, and Goering, badly injured from shrapnel, was smuggled abroad. Goering's painful wound, from which he never fully recovered, made him addicted to Morphine. His addiction severed, and he was hospitalized. The costly treatment left Hermann Goering and his wife penniless, but with the help of his wife he overcame his addiction.

In 1927 Goering got amnesty and returned to Germany and to the leadership of the Nazi party. In 1928 Hermann Goering was one of the first 12 Nazis elected to the Reichstag. His wife got ill and in 1931 she died. After her death Goering totally dedicated himself to Nazi politics.

Top Nazi, a political mass-murderer

In 1933, the Nazi party got to power. Hermann Goering was appointed minister of the interior, in charge of the police. He very rapidly filled the police with Nazis, which followed his direct order to arrest or murder all opponents of the Nazi party, as it quickly abolished democracy and made Germany a totalitarian police state. Goering also instructed to open the notorious concentration camps where the masses of "Political opponents" of all kinds were imprisoned without a trial.

Hermann Goering's successor as head of the violent S.A militia, Ernst Rohm, became an increasing political problem to the Nazi leaders, and when he proposed that the 2-million strong violent Nazi S.A militia will replace Germany's regular military, Goering and Himmler convinced Hitler to get rid of him and of the S.A which was no longer needed.
So in June 1934, in what was later called "The night of the long knives", Rohm and hundreds of the S.A militia leaders, all enthusiast Nazis, were arrested and murdered by handwritten name lists without a trial, a typical example of how totalitarian regimes murder everyone including their most loyal members.

Hitler's deputy

Hitler then promoted Hermann Goering. He was now the minister of the interior, the prime minister of Prussia, the minister of aviation and head of the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force, and practically Hitler's deputy, ALL these jobs at the same time. As minister of aviation he was tasked with rebuilding Germany's air power for the war.
In 1935 Hermann Goering was also put in charge of the "4 years plan" which was intended to fully restore Germany's economy and industry and prepare it for war. This meant that he became the master of Germany's economy and industry. One of his "economic" decisions was to order the confiscation of all Jewish-owned businesses and property, instead of just destroying them. In 1938 Hitler officially made Hermann Goering his deputy and intended successor.

Extreme indulgence, corruption, and greed

As the extremely powerful totalitarian master of the national industry, Hermann Goering began to exploit his position to extremely enjoy life and accumulate immense personal wealth by corruption, bribes, etc. He began to wear expensive jewels, wore specially designed extravagant uniform, built a huge villa named Karinhall after his dead wife and filled it with priceless fine art. Goering arranged extravagant dinners and parties and lived in a palace in Berlin, which he made his official residence. He made the best restaurant in Berlin a restricted club for his Luftwaffe officers. Goering's extravagance and personal charm and his 2nd marriage to a famous actress made him a popular Nazi celebrity (well, those who disliked him were then dead or imprisoned anyway). Goering's new lifestyle resulted in a big overweight problem, which made everyone think of him as "Fat Hermann".

A short triumph and a long decline

Hermann Goering was worried that a war might only damage his personal situation, but did nothing to prevent it. When the war started, following Germany's initial victories in Poland and France, Hitler gave Goering the highest military rank of Reichsmarshal, but in the summer of 1940, in the Battle of Britain, it became clear that Goering's Luftwaffe had serious problems. Its fighters were too short-ranged, its bombers too vulnerable, and there were no heavy bombers. It suffered heavy losses and (because of Hitler's own command to shift the objective from destroying the Royal Air Force to terror-bombing London) the Luftwaffe failed to defeat the Royal Air Force.

In 1941, Hermann Goering signed the Nazi plan for "The final solution of the Jewish problem", which resulted in the arrest, deportation, imprisonment, starvation, forced hard labor, and eventual mass murder of nearly six millions of Europe's jews and of other groups the Nazis disliked. It was Hitler's anti-semitic vision, but Hermann Goering was the one who signed the official order to execute this organized genocide plan that was designed and carried out by the Nazi S.S organization.

As the war progressed Goering's credit with Hitler continued to decline. At the end of 1942, when a huge German force of 250,000 soldiers was encircled by the Russian army near Stalingrad, Hermann Goering, without consulting with his top officers, promised Hitler that the Luftwaffe can supply this huge encircled force by air. The results were catastrophic. The Luftwaffe could provide only a fraction of the needed transportation volume, the entire huge force was starved and decimated and later surrendered, and the Luftwaffe's losses of cargo aircraft and their pilots were massive.
Hitler was so angry that he refused to speak with Goering or even hear his name for weeks. He maintained Goering's rank and title, but Goering lost his previous power. His economic authorities were passed to Albert Speer, and Hitler directly commanded the Luftwaffe, as well as the entire military, until the end of the war.

Indulgence and greed to the end

With this loss of status and authority, Hermann Goering retreated to spending most of his time at home, continuing with his extravagant lifestyle, spending hours looking at his ever larger priceless collection of fine art which he robbed all over occupied Europe. He was back to Morphine.

Hermann Goering wanted to end the war, but again did nothing, knowing that going against Hitler can be fatal. Just before the end of the war, when Hitler was already trapped in his Berlin bunker, Hermann Goering was told that Hitler said "Hermann Goering might be a better person to end the war after me". With great worries, thinking that Hitler might be already dead, he eventually sent a message to Hitler's bunker asking whether he should take charge as Hitler's official successor, saying that he will interpret lack of response until night as a proof that Hitler is dead and that he's the new leader. Still alive in the bunker, Hitler was furious when he got Goering's message. He accused Goering of treason and had his S.S guards arrest him. Hitler then appointed Admiral Doenitz as his new successor and later committed suicide, and the war was soon over.

Hermann Goering was then imprisoned by The Allies. Goering expected a VIP treatment but was jailed like a common criminal for his trial for war crimes. In jail Goering lost 60 pounds of his overweight and stopped taking Morphine, and that fully recovered his mental and physical shape. Faced with the evidence of the results of their commands and acts, their mass war crimes, all the other captured top Nazis eventually admitted their guilt in crimes against humanity, but Hermann Goering totally refused to accept any guilt, personal or national. His testimony during the lengthy trial reveals an intelligent but brutal personality.

When he was sentenced to death for his major role in Nazi crimes, Hermann Goering said that in 50-60 years there will be statues of him all over Germany. He was wrong.

In the night before his hanging, in late 1946, Hermann Goering committed suicide with a cyanide pill.

Related essays:
Adolf Hitler - Biography
World War 2 leaders
The Battle of Stalingrad

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