World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

Hermann Göring

From Wikipedia

 Hermann Wilhelm Göring, (or Goering; German pronunciation; 12 January 1893 – 15 October 1946) was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and 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, "The Red Baron".
In 1935, Göring was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe (German: Air Force), a position he held until the final days of World War II. By mid-1940, Göring was at the peak of his power and influence. Adolf Hitler had promoted him to the rank of Reichsmarschall, making Göring senior to all other Wehrmacht commanders, and in 1941 Hitler designated him as his successor and deputy in all his offices. By 1942, with the German war effort stumbling on both fronts, Göring's standing with Hitler was very greatly reduced. Göring largely withdrew from the military and political scene to enjoy the pleasures of life as a wealthy and powerful man. 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 cyanide ingestion two hours before he was due to be hanged just after midnight.

 Early life
Göring was born on 12 January 1893 at the Marienbad sanatorium in Rosenheim, Bavaria. His father Heinrich Ernst Göring (31 October 1839–7 December 1913) had been the first Governor-General of the German protectorate of South West Africa (modern-day Namibia) as well as being a former cavalry officer and member of the German consular service. Göring had among his paternal ancestors Eberle/Eberlin, a Swiss-German family of high bourgeoisie.

Göring was a relative of such Eberle/Eberlin descendants as the German aviation pioneer Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin; German romantic nationalist Hermann Grimm (1828–1901), an author of the concept of the German hero as a mover of history, whom the Nazis claimed as one of their ideological forerunners; the industrialist family Merck, the owners of the pharmaceutical giant Merck; German Baroness Gertrud von Le Fort, one of the world's major Catholic writers and poets of the 20th century, whose works were largely inspired by her revulsion against Nazism; and Carl J. Burckhardt, Swiss diplomat, historian, and President of the International Red Cross.

In a historical coincidence, Göring was related via the Eberle/Eberlin line to Jacob Burckhardt (1818–1897), a great Swiss scholar of art and culture who was a major political and social thinker as well an opponent of nationalism and militarism, who rejected German claims of cultural and intellectual superiority and predicted a cataclysmic 20th century in which violent demagogues, whom he called "terrible simplifiers", would play central roles.

 Göring's mother Franziska "Fanny" Tiefenbrunn (1859–15 July 1923) came from a Bavarian peasant family. The marriage of a gentleman to a lower class woman occurred only because Heinrich Ernst Göring was a widower. Hermann Göring was one of five children; his brothers were Albert Göring and Karl Göring, and his sisters were Olga Therese Sophia Göring and Paula Elisabeth Rosa Göring, the last of whom were from his father's first marriage. Although antisemitism had become rampant in Germany at that time, his parents were not antisemitic[citation needed.

Göring's younger brother Albert Göring was opposed to the Nazi regime and helped Jews and dissidents in Germany during the Nazi era, much like Oskar Schindler. In one instance, Albert helped Hermann himself by intervening on behalf of one of his wife’s film colleagues, Henny Porten. Henny, an erstwhile sweetheart of German cinema, found herself professionally ostracised after she refused to divorce her Jewish husband, Dr. William von Kaufman. After meeting Henny in a Hamburg hotel and learning of her predicament, Emmy Göring pleaded with Hermann to call his younger brother Albert, who was, at the time, the technical director of Tobis-Sascha Filmindustrie AG in Vienna. Hermann made the call, and Albert duly arranged Henny a film contract in Vienna, ensuring her a livelihood.

Göring's nephew—Hans-Joachim Göring—was a pilot in the Luftwaffe with III Gruppe./ZG 76, flying the Messerschmitt Bf 110. Hans-Joachim was killed in action on 11 July 1940, when his Bf 110 was shot down by Hawker Hurricanes of No. 78 Squadron RAF. His aircraft crashed into Portland Harbour, Dorset, England.

 Possible responsibility for the Reichstag fire


Marinus van der Lubbe—an ex-Communist radical—was arrested on the scene and claimed sole responsibility for the Reichstag fire. But many observers believed that the Nazis set the fire to justify the subsequent crackdown. Göring in particular was suspected: he was first on the scene, and both Hitler and Goebbels were apparently surprised by the news. At Nuremberg, General Franz Halder testified that Göring admitted responsibility:
At a luncheon on the birthday of Hitler in 1942... [Göring said]... "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.

William L. Shirer in his seminal study The Rise and Fall Of The Third Reich states that all of the evidence points strongly to the most unusual of possible scenarios being what actually happened, that Van der Lube coincidentally was present to start another fire at the same time that Göring and his accomplices also went into the Reichstag to start a different fire. While admitting how strange it sounds, the evidence that Shirer presents in his book makes a compelling case for this unusual situation.

Göring in his own Nuremberg testimony denied this story. It remains unclear whether Göring was responsible for the fire, although it seem fairly certain that van der Lubbe did enter the Reichstag with the intent to commit arson. The following is a transcript excerpt from the Nuremberg Trials:

GOERING: This conversation did not take place and I request that I be confronted with Herr Halder. First of all I want to emphasize that what is written here is utter nonsense. It says, "The only one who really knows the Reichstag is I." The Reichstag was known to every representative in the Reichstag. The fire took place only in the general assembly room, and many hundreds or thousands of people knew this room as well as I did. A statement of this type is utter nonsense. How Herr Halder came to make that statement I do not know. Apparently that bad memory, which also let him down in military matters, is the only explanation.

MR. ROBERT JACKSON: You know who Halder is?

GOERING: Only too well. GOERING: That accusation that I had set fire to the Reichstag came from a certain foreign press. That could not bother me because it was not consistent with the facts. I had no reason or motive for setting fire to the Reichstag. From the artistic point of view I did not at all regret that the assembly chamber was burned – I hoped to build a better one. But I did regret very much that I was forced to find a new meeting place for the Reichstag and, not being able to find one, I had to give up my Kroll Opera House, that is, the second State Opera House, for that purpose. The opera seemed to me much more important than the Reichstag.

MR. ROBERT JACKSON: Have you ever boasted of burning the Reichstag building, even by way of joking?

GOERING: No. I made a joke, if that is the one you are referring to, when I said that, ′after this, I should be competing with Nero and that probably people would soon be saying that, dressed in a red toga and holding a lyre in my hand, I looked on at the fire and played while the Reichstag was burning′. That was the joke. But the fact was that I almost perished in the flames, which would have been very unfortunate for the German people, but very fortunate for their enemies.

MR. ROBERT JACKSON: You never stated then that you burned the Reichstag?

GOERING: No. I know that Herr Rauschning said in the book which he wrote, and which has often been referred to here, that I had discussed this with him. I saw Herr Rauschning only twice in my life and only for a short time on each occasion. If I had set fire to the Reichstag, I would presumably have let that be known only to my closest circle of confidants, if at all. I would not have told it to a man whom I did not know and whose appearance I could not describe at all today. That is an absolute distortion of the truth.

 

Nazi potentate

When Hitler was named chancellor of Germany in January 1933, Göring was appointed as minister without portfolio. He was one of only two other Nazis named to the Cabinet (the other being Wilhelm Frick) even though the Nazis were the largest party in the Reichstag and nominally the senior partner in the Nazi-DNVP coalition. However, in a little-noticed development, he was named Interior Minister of Prussia — a move which gave him command of the largest state police force in Germany. Soon after taking office, he began filling the political and intelligence units of the Prussian police with Nazis. On 26 April 1933, he formally detached these units from the regular Prussian police and reorganized them under his command as the Gestapo, a secret state police intended to serve the Nazi cause.


Adolf Hitler with Göring, 16 March 1938
Göring was one of the key figures in the process of Gleichschaltung ("forcible coordination") that established the Nazi dictatorship. For example, in 1933, Göring banned all Roman Catholic newspapers in Germany, not only to suppress resistance to National Socialism but also to deprive the population of alternative forms of association and means of political communication.


Göring's uniform on display at the Luftwaffenmuseum der Bundeswehr.
In the Nazi regime's early years, Göring served as minister in various key positions at both the Reich (German national) level and other levels as required. For example, in the state of Prussia, Göring was responsible for the economy as well as re-armament.

In 1934/35, Göring, acting as Prussian Prime Minister, was intimately involved in the dubious acquisition of the Guelph Treasure of Brunswick (the so-called "Welfenschatz") - a unique collection of early medieval religious precious metalwork, at that time in the hands of some persecuted German-Jewish art dealers from Frankfurt, and one of the most important church treasuries to have survived from medieval Germany.

On 20 April 1934, Göring and Himmler agreed to put aside their differences (largely because of mutual hatred and growing dread of the SA or Sturmabteilung) and Göring transferred full authority over the Gestapo to Himmler, who was also named chief of all German police forces outside Prussia. With the Gestapo under their control, Himmler and Heydrich plotted—with Göring—to use it with the SS to crush the SA. Göring retained Special Police Battalion Wecke, which he converted to a paramilitary unit attached to the Landespolizei (State Police), Landespolizeigruppe General Göring. This formation participated in the Night of the Long Knives, when the SA leaders were purged. Göring was head of the Forschungsamt (FA), which secretly monitored telephone and radio communications, the FA was connected to the SS, the SD, and Abwehr intelligence services.


Göring in Berlin, 1937
In 1936, he became Plenipotentiary of the Four Year Plan for German rearmament, where he effectively took control of the economy — as economics minister Hjalmar Schacht became increasingly reluctant to pursue rapid rearmament and eventually resigned. The vast steel plant Reichswerke Hermann Göring was named after him. He gained great influence with Hitler (who placed a high value on rearmament). He never seemed to accept the Hitler Myth quite as much as Goebbels and Himmler, but remained loyal nevertheless.

In 1938, Göring forced out the War Minister, Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg, and the Army commander, General von Fritsch. They had welcomed Hitler's accession in 1933, but then annoyed him by criticising his plans for expansionist wars. Göring, who had been best man at Blomberg's recent wedding to a 26-year-old typist, discovered that Frau Blomberg had a criminal record for posing for pornographic photos in 1932, which Göring misrepresented as being for prostitution as a way of smearing her husband. This led to Blomberg's resigning. Fritsch was accused of homosexual activity and, though completely innocent, resigned in shock and disgust. He was later exonerated by a "court of honor" presided over by Göring.

Also in 1938, Göring played a key role in the Anschluss (annexation) of Austria. At the height of the crisis, Göring spoke on the telephone to Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg. Göring announced Germany's intent to march into Austria, and threatened war and the destruction of Austria if there was any resistance. Schuschnigg collapsed, and the German army marched into Austria without resistance.

 

Second World War

Göring's Reichsmarschall baton and Smith & Wesson revolver. To the left is the silver-bound guest book from Karinhall. (West Point Museum)
Göring was skeptical of Hitler's war plans. He believed Germany was not prepared for a new conflict and, in particular, that his Luftwaffe was not yet ready to beat the British Royal Air Force (RAF).
However, once Hitler decided on war, Göring supported him completely. On 1 September 1939, the first day of the war, Hitler spoke to the Reichstag. In this speech, he designated Göring as his successor "if anything should befall me."
Initially, decisive German victories followed quickly one after the other. The Luftwaffe destroyed the Polish Air Force within two weeks. The Fallschirmjäger seized key airfields in Norway and captured Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium. German air-to-ground attacks served as the "flying artillery" of the Panzer troops in the blitzkrieg of France. "Leave it to my Luftwaffe" became Göring's perpetual gloat.
After the defeat of France, Hitler awarded Göring the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross for his successful leadership. By a decree on 19 July 1940, 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 other Army and Luftwaffe Field Marshals. It also reinforced his status as Hitler's chosen successor, as a result of which the Führer gave Göring personal use of Kransberg Castle.
Göring's political and military careers were at their peak. Göring had already received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 30 September 1939 as Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe.[42]
Göring promised Hitler that the Luftwaffe would quickly destroy the RAF, or break British morale with devastating air raids. He personally directed the first attacks on Britain from his private luxury train. But the Luftwaffe failed to gain control of the skies in the Battle of Britain. This was Hitler's first defeat. Britain withstood the worst Luftwaffe bombers could do for the eight months of "the Blitz" without being cowed by circumstances. However, the damage inflicted on British cities largely maintained Göring's prestige. The Luftwaffe conducted bombings of Belgrade in April 1941, and Fallschirmjäger captured Crete from the British Army the following month.


Eastern front

If Göring had been skeptical about war against Britain and France, he was absolutely certain that a new campaign against the Soviet Union was doomed to defeat. After trying, completely in vain, to convince Hitler to give up Operation Barbarossa, he embraced the campaign. Hitler still relied on him completely. On 29 June, Hitler composed a special 'testament', which was kept secret till the end of the war. This formally designated Göring as "my deputy in all my offices" if Hitler was unable to function as dictator of Germany, and his successor if he died. Ironically, Göring did not know the contents of this testament, which was marked "To be opened only by the Reichsmarschall", until after leaving Berlin in April 1945 for Berchtesgaden, where it had been kept.


Göring with Adolf Hitler and Albert Speer, 10 August 1943


The Luftwaffe shared in the initial victories in the east, destroying thousands of Soviet aircraft. But as Soviet resistance grew and the weather turned bad, the Luftwaffe became overstretched and exhausted.
Göring by this time had lost interest in administering the Luftwaffe. That duty was left to others like Udet and Jeschonnek. Aircraft production lagged and Udet killed himself in November 1941. Yet Göring persisted in outlandish promises. When the Soviets surrounded a German army in Stalingrad in 1942, Göring encouraged Hitler to fight for the city rather than retreat. He asserted that the Luftwaffe would deliver 500 short tons (450 t) per day of supplies to the trapped force. In fact, no more than 100 short tons (91 t) were ever delivered in a day, and usually much less. While Göring's men struggled to fly in the savage Russian winter, Göring celebrated his 50th birthday.
Göring was in charge of exploiting the vast industrial resources captured during the war, particularly in the Soviet Union. This proved to be an almost total failure, and little of the available potential was effectively harnessed for the service of the German military machine.

Bomber war

On 9 August 1939, Göring boasted "The Ruhr will not be subjected to a single bomb. If an enemy bomber reaches the Ruhr, my name is not Hermann Göring: you can call me Meier!" ("I want to be called Meier if ..." is a German idiom to express that something is impossible. Meier [in several spelling variants] is the second most common surname in Germany.) He also said he would eat his hat.
But as early as 1940, British aircraft raided targets in Germany, debunking Göring's assurance that the Reich would never be attacked; the British were—throughout the war—destined to be his personal undoing. However, the initial raids were unsuccessful in inflicting significant damage to German infrastructure, allowing Göring to reassure the public especially as the German air defense network improved. However, in 1942 the British Area Bombing Directive was issued, the main workhorse aircraft of the later part of the war came into service (the Halifax and Lancaster made up the backbone of the Command, and had a longer range, higher speed and much greater bomb load than the earlier aircraft; the classic aircraft of the Pathfinders, the de Havilland Mosquito, also made its appearance) and America began transferring long-range strategic bombers to England for further air raids.
By 1942, hundreds of Allied bombers were bombing Germany; occasionally, there were as many as 1,000. The Luftwaffe responded with night fighters and anti-aircraft guns, but entire cities such as Cologne (Köln) and Hamburg were destroyed anyway. Göring was still nominally in charge, but in practice he had little to do with operations. When Göring visited the devastated cities, civilians called out "Hello, Mr. Meier. How's your hat?" By the end of the war, Berlin's air raid sirens were bitterly known to the city's residents as "Meier's trumpets", or "Meier's hunting horns". Civilians would also call the bomber war "a defeat in every city".


A museum-preserved example of a "welded-together" DB 610 engine as Goering called them, used on later versions of the Heinkel He

The Luftwaffe's own efforts at having a strategic bomber force had been crippled even before the war began, from the death in 1936 of General Walter Wever, the Luftwaffe's primary promoter for Germany to have a strategic bombing capability, and a subsequent placement of greater value on medium bombers such as the Heinkel He 111, and Schnellbomber fast medium bombers, such as the Junkers Ju 88. Belated efforts in replacement designs of greater performance in altitude, speed and range, such as the Bomber B development program and Amerika Bomber trans-oceanic range strategic bomber design competition, either never worked out due to inadequate powerplants or the inability to complete the development of new airframe designs from the constantly worsening war and aircraft production facility situation. These problems led to the Luftwaffe continuing to primarily use the pre-war origin medium bomber designs, or barely upgraded versions of them. The only German aircraft design of a comparable capability and size to Allied heavy bombers such as the B-17 to see wartime service, the troubled Heinkel He 177 Greif, had been afflicted with having to use a set of four DB 601 engines paired up into twin "power systems" as the "DB 606", partly due to its mis-assignment as a "giant Stuka" from its beginnings heavily influencing its design. By September 1942, Goering had roundly derided the DB 606, and its later development, the DB 610, as fire-prone, monstrous zusammengeschweißte Motoren, or "welded-together engines", that could not be properly maintained in service as installed in the He 177A, the one German aircraft design that Goering is said to have despised the most during the war years.
Göring's prestige, reputation, and influence with Hitler all declined, especially after the Stalingrad debacle. Hitler could not publicly repudiate him without embarrassment, but contact between them largely stopped. Göring withdrew from the military and political scene to enjoy the pleasures of life as a wealthy and powerful man. His reputation for extravagance made him particularly unpopular as ordinary Germans began to suffer deprivation.
End of the war

In 1945, Göring fled the Berlin area with trainloads of treasures for the Nazi alpine resort in Berchtesgaden. Soon afterward, the Luftwaffe's chief of staff, Karl Koller, arrived with unexpected news: Hitler—who had by this time conceded that Germany had lost—had suggested that Göring would be better suited to negotiate peace terms. To Koller, this seemed to indicate that Hitler wanted Göring to take over the leadership of the Reich.

Göring was initially unsure of what to do, largely because he did not want to give Martin Bormann, who now controlled access to Hitler, a window to seize greater power. He thought that if he waited he'd be accused of dereliction of duty. On the other hand, he feared being accused of treason if he did try to assume power. He then pulled his copy of Hitler's secret decree of 1941 from a safe. It clearly stated that Göring was not only Hitler's designated successor, but was to act as his deputy if Hitler ever became incapacitated. Göring, Koller, and Hans Lammers—the state secretary of the Reich Chancellery—all agreed that Hitler faced almost certain death by staying in Berlin to lead the defence of the capital against the Soviets. They also agreed that by staying in Berlin, Hitler had incapacitated himself from governing and Göring had a clear duty to assume power as Hitler's deputy.

On 23 April, as Soviet troops closed in around Berlin, Göring sent a carefully worded telegram by radio to Hitler, asking Hitler to confirm that he was to take over the "total leadership of the Reich." He added that if he did not hear back from Hitler by 22:00, he would assume Hitler was incapacitated, and would assume leadership of the Reich. A few minutes later, he sent a radio message to Ribbentrop stating that if the foreign minister got no further word, he was to come to Berchtesgaden immediately.
However, Bormann received the telegram before Hitler did. He portrayed it as an ultimatum to surrender power or face a coup d'état. The message to Ribbentrop, suggesting that Göring was already acting as Hitler's successor, provided further ammunition for Bormann. On 25 April, Hitler issued a telegram to Göring telling him that he had committed "high treason" and gave him the option of resigning all of his offices in exchange for his life. However, not long after that, Bormann ordered the SS in Berchtesgaden to arrest Göring. In his last will and testament, Hitler dismissed Göring from all of his offices and expelled him from the Nazi Party.

Shortly after Hitler completed his will, Bormann ordered the SS to execute Göring, his wife, and their daughter (Hitler's own goddaughter) if Berlin were to fall. But this order was ignored. Instead, the Görings and their SS captors moved together, to the same Schloß Mauterndorf where Göring had spent much of his childhood and which he had inherited (along with Burg Veldenstein) from his godfather's widow in 1938. (Göring had arranged for preferential treatment for the woman, and protected her from confiscation and arrest as the widow of a wealthy Jew.)

Capture, trial, and death

Göring (first row, far left) at the Nuremberg Trials.

Göring surrendered to U.S. soldiers on 9 May 1945 in Bavaria. He was flown by United States Army pilot Mayhew Foster from Austria to Germany, where he was debriefed and then in November of that same year tried in Nuremberg for war crimes. He was the third-highest-ranking Nazi official tried at Nuremberg, behind Reich President (former Admiral) Karl Dönitz and former Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess. Göring's last days were spent with Captain Gustave Gilbert, a German-speaking American intelligence officer and psychologist, who had access to all the prisoners held in the Nuremberg jail. Gilbert classified Göring as having an I.Q. of 138, the same as Dönitz. 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.

In taking the witness stand during his part of the trial, Göring claimed that he was not antisemitic; however, Albert Speer reported that in the prison yard at Nuremberg, after someone made a remark about Jewish survivors in Hungary, he had overheard Göring say, "So, there are still some there? I thought we had knocked off all of them. Somebody slipped up again." Despite his claims of non-involvement, he was confronted with orders he had signed for the murder of Jews and prisoners of war.

Though he defended himself vigorously, and actually appeared to be winning the trial early on (partly by building popularity with the court audience by making jokes and finding holes in the prosecution's case), he was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. The judgment stated that:
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, offering to accept the court's death sentence if he were 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. Göring—who suffered from dermatitis—had hidden two cyanide capsules in jars of opaque skin cream. It has been claimed that Göring befriended U.S. Army Lieutenant Jack G. Wheelis, who was stationed at the Nuremberg Trials and helped Göring obtain cyanide which had been hidden among Göring's personal effects when they were confiscated by the Army. In 2005, former U.S. Army Private Herbert Lee Stivers claimed he gave Göring "medicine" hidden inside a gift fountain pen from a German woman the private had met and flirted with. Stivers served in the 1st Infantry Division's 26th Infantry 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. Göring's biographer, David Irving, has dismissed this claim as pure fabrication.[48] Because he committed suicide, his dead body was displayed by the gallows for the witnesses of the executions.

After their deaths, the bodies of Göring and the executed Nazi leaders were cremated in the East Cemetery, Munich (Ostfriedhof). His ashes were disposed of in the Isar river in Munich.