Hermann Wilhelm Göring (12 January 1893 – 15 October 1946) was a World War I fighter pilot ace, a leading member of the NSDAP, and a commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe. 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 War II. 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. However, he lost influence during the later stages of the war. After the war, he was the most prominent defendant at the Nuremberg Show Trials.
Göring was born in Rosenheim, Bavaria to Heinrich Ernst Göring, a lawyer and colonial officer (in South-West Africa), and his wife Franziska. Often apart from his parents, he was tutored at home before attending cadet schools at Karlsruhe and Lichterfelde.
In World War I he was commissioned in the infantry, then became a pilot. He flew reconnaissance and bombing missions before becoming a fighter pilot. By the end of the war he was a highly decorated "ace" and commanded the famed Jasta 11.
In mid-1915 Göring 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 Wilhelm Reinhard, the successor of Baron Manfred von Richthofen (The Red Baron), he was made commander of Jagdgeschwader Freiherr von Richthofen (Jasta 11). He finished the war as an "ace," with 22 confirmed kills. Incidentally, his appointment as commander had not been well received and he was the only veteran of Jasta 11 to have never been invited to the squadron's post-war reunions.
He remained in flying after the war, worked briefly at Fokker, tried "barnstorming," and in 1920 he joined Svensk Lufttrafik, a Swedish airline based in Stockholm. 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.
As early as 1922, Göring joined the NSDAP 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. In the Munich Putsch 8. November 1923, he was heavily wounded after the attempt, to take over the authority over the state in Munich. He was handled in Austria using Morphium, that made him addict.
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 National Socialist rule in Germany.
In its early years, he served as minister in various key positions at both the Reich level and as Prime Minister of Prussia, being responsible for the economy as well as the build-up of the German military. Among others, he was appointed 'Reichsluftfahrtminister' in 1935, head of the Luftwaffe. In 1939, he became the first Luftwaffe Field Marshal ('Generalfeldmarschal') and by a decree on 29 June 29, 1941, Hitler appointed Göring his formal successor and promoted him to the rank of Reichsmarschall, the highest military rank of the Greater German Reich. It was a special rank created for Göring which made him senior to all Army and Air Force Field-Marshals.
World War II
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 'Fall Gelb' - the conquest of France and the Netherlands.
Göring also sponsored a ground combat unit, the Hermann Göring Division, an elite unit which fought on various fronts with success. His other units on the eastern front were not so successful. At the Oder front, he had 2 fallschirmjäger (airborne) divisions, which were partially composed from Luftwaffe's officers without any ground combat experience.
Near the end of the war, as the Red Army closed in around the German capital on April 23, 1945, Göring sent a telegram from Berchtesgaden to Berlin in which he proposed to assume leadership of the Reich as Hitler's designated successor. Hitler considered this disloyalty and high treason, especially because Göring mentioned a time limit after which he would consider Hitler incapacitated. Hitler had Göring placed under arrest by Bernhard Frank on April 25 and in his political testament. Hitler dismissed Göring from all his sundry offices and expelled him from the party.
Capture and show trial
Göring surrendered on 8 May 1945 by Altenmarkt im Pongau in southern Germany to Brigadier General Robert I. Stack together with Waldemar Fegelein, Bernd von Brauchitsch, Franz Ritter von Epp (de), his wife Emmy, his daughter Edda, his sister-in-law Ilse, his adjudant, his bodyguards, and many more, who were traveling with him. He was the highest ranking party member brought before the Nuremberg Trials. Though he defended himself vigorously and brilliantly, he was sentenced to death.
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 potassium 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 although speculation abounds. After his suicide, Hermann Göring was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Wenzbach in Munich, which runs into the Isar river.
Göring and the Holocaust
- "with the exception of Kaltenbrunner and perhaps one or two others, these high ranking German officials did not understand the catastrophic conditions in the camps that accompanied the German collapse, and which were the cause of the scenes that were exploited by the Allied propaganda as "proof" of exterminations. This may appear at first a peculiar claim, but consultation of Gilbert's book shows it to be unquestionably a valid one (the only other possibility is that some merely pretended to misunderstand the situation). The administration of the camps was far removed from the official domains of almost all of the defendants and they had been subjected to the familiar propaganda since the German surrender. To the extent that they accepted, or pretended to accept, that there had been mass murders, for which Hitler and Himmler were responsible, they were basing their view precisely on the scenes found in the German camps at the end of the war, which they evidently misunderstood or pretended to misunderstand. [...]
- Speer also passes along Göring's private remark just before the IMT trial about Jewish "survivors" in Hungary: "So, there are still some there? I thought we had knocked off all of them. Somebody slipped up again." Such a sarcastic crack was understandable under the circumstances, because Göring never conceded the reality of any extermination program and insisted that he had known only of a program of emigration and evacuation of Jews from the German sphere in Europe. [...]
- Unlike the other defendants, Göring assumed throughout the trial that he was to be sentenced to death, and his testimony appears to be the approximate truth as he saw it. Although he never conceded the existence of a program of extermination of Jews, we have seen that he misunderstood what had happened in the German camps at the end of the war and assumed that Himmler had, indeed, engaged in mass murder in this connection. However, he never conceded any number of murders approaching six millions."
31 July 1941 directive
Göring was at the IMT alleged to have ordered Reinhard Heydrich to implement the Holocaust on 31 July 1941. Thus, on 31 July 1941, a directive signed by Göring stated to Heydrich that
- "As supplement to the directive already given to you by the edict of Jan. 14, 1939, to solve the Jewish question through emigration or evacuation in a most favorable way according to the prevailing conditions, I hereby instruct you to make all necessary organizational and material preparations for an overall solution to the Jewish question in the German sphere of influence in Europe. Insofar as the responsibilities of other authorities are affected, they are to be involved. I further instruct you to promptly provide me with an overall conceptual plan regarding the organizational and material requirements for carrying out the desired final solution to the Jewish question.”
The IMT and many other non-revisionists have argued that the "final solution" referred to in the directive was a new policy of extermination, ultimately ordered by Hitler. See Holocaust intentionalism and Holocaust functionalism on more recent mainstream "Holocaust functionalism" views implying that Göring was falsely convicted for this at the IMT, since "functionalists" now allege that Hitler made the decision to kill all Jews at a later date (or not at all).
See World War II statements argued to support Holocaust revisionism on general Holocaust revisionist views on the events before and after this directive. For example, the phrase "final solution" had been used before the 31 July 1941 directive and in contexts where it was clearly not a "code word" for genocide.
See Meanings and translations of German words and Holocaust revisionism: Code words on the phrase "final solution of the Jewish question" being used already in 1897 and 1899 by the very prominent Jewish Zionist Theodor Herzl, who described Zionism as the "final solution of the Jewish question". Revisionists have argued that there is no mention of a new extermination policy and that
- "To the contrary: Governmental policy from Jan. 14, 1939, until the summer of 1941 was in fact directed towards emigration and deportation. Heydrich’s original mission was not superseded by his new directive but rather “supplemented,” that is to say, expanded territorially. In 1939 his activities had been restricted to the Reich, but after the summer of 1941 they were extended to nearly all of Europe. This is exactly what the Göring directive prescribes: develop an expanded plan that provides for emigration and evacuation of all the Jews from the German sphere of influence in Europe."
Another revisionist view:
- "This document is in full conformity with the Madagascar Plan. The instructions from Göring issued as “[s]upplementary” to those already given to Heydrich in the order of January 14, 1939, in fact consisted exclusively in the accomplishment of the solution of the Jewish problem “in the form of emigration or evacuation” of the Jews from the Reich, while at the same time a territorial ‘final solution’ for all Jews in the German-occupied European nations, by means of forced resettlement to Madagascar, was the aim. Precisely because it included all Jews of the occupied European nations, this solution was designated as the “Gesamtlösung” (complete solution). By virtue of the fact that Heydrich wrote on November 6, 1941, that he had already been charged for years with the preparation for the ‘final solution’ in Europe, he himself was clearly referring to the task assigned to him by the order of January 14, 1939, and identified the ‘final solution’ with the “solution in form of an emigration or evacuation,” which Göring had specified as the goal in the letter of July 31, 1941. In the same context belongs an order, which was transmitted to the Foreign Office by Adolf Eichmann on August 28, 1941, and which prohibited “an emigration of Jews out of the territories occupied by us, in consideration of the final solution of the issue of European Jews, which is in preparation and is approaching.”"
Also, Göring testified that he had never read the document. Göring's diary indicated that he spent only 10 minutes with Heydrich. Göring also signed other documents. Heydrich is argued to have had the document prepared on a letterhead, which Heydrich himself had typed. This is argued to indicate that it was one of several documents quickly signed by Göring, without reading them in detail, making no lasting impression on Göring, and that it thus could not have been part of a dramatically new policy ordered by Göring and other top German leaders. The document has been argued to have been a bureaucratic convenience for Heydrich, since he could refer to it and state he was acting on the authority of Göring and the very influential Four-year plan Göring was in charge of. Heydrich referred to this document when calling for the Wannsee conference.
Stolen art allegations
Regarding stolen art allegations, see the article Degenerate art.
It was clear from the outset that a death sentence would be pronounced against me, as I have always regarded the trial as a purely political act by the victors, but I wanted to see this trial through for my people's sake and I did at least expect that I should not be denied a soldier's death. Before God, my country, and my conscience I feel myself free of the blame that an enemy tribunal has attached to me.—Herman Göring.
- Awards and decorations (small selection in German)
- NOT GUILTY AT NUREMBERG: The German Defense Case - detailed descriptions and criticisms of the alleged evidence against each of the accused at the IMT
- Ritter des Ordens „Pour le Mérite“ mit dem Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes
- Arthur R. Butz. The Hoax of the Twentieth Century - ”The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry. 4th, corrected and expanded edition. Holocaust Handbooks. http://holocausthandbooks.com/index.php?page_id=7
- Holocaust Handbooks, Volume 15: Germar Rudolf: Lectures on the Holocaust—Controversial Issues Cross Examined. http://holocausthandbooks.com/index.php?page_id=15
- Carlo Mattogno, Jürgen Graf. Treblinka Extermination Camp or Transit Camp? http://holocausthandbooks.com/index.php?main_page=1&page_id=8
- Chapter "David Irving" in 'Did Six Million Really Die?' Report of the Evidence in the Canadian 'False News' Trial of Ernst Zündel -- 1988. Edited by Barbara Kulaszka. Available online at Institute for Historical Review: http://www.ihr.org/books/kulaszka/35irving.html
- Reconsidering the Nuremberg Trials http://codoh.com/library/document/231