|Born||12 Jan 1893|
|Died||15 Oct 1946|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseHermann Wilhelm Göring (sometimes Anglicized as "Goering") was born in Rosenheim, Bavaria, Germany in 1893 to Heinrich Ernst Göring, a lawyer and high-ranking colonial official (of Namibia in Africa) and mother Franziska. Because his father was often not home, he spent significant parts of his childhood in a castle near Nuremberg, Bavaria, which was the home of his wealthy godfather Hermann Epenstein, who was a Christian but of Jewish descent, who was very much a father figure to Göring. He attended a boarding school and later a military academy, all recommended and paid for by Epenstein. During WW1, he was initially a junior infantry officer, but severe arthritis removed him from the front lines. Eager to return to the fight, he requested to become a pilot, was accepted, and was engaged in many types of aerial missions. He was awarded the Pour le Mérite in 1917. On 7 Jul 1918 he was named the commander of Jagdgeschwader I Freiherr von Richthofen, also known as the "Flying Circus", after the death of "Red Baron" Manfred von Richthofen, the famed "Red Baron". He completed WW1 with 22 official victories in the air and came with top 50 German fighter aces of WW1. After WW1, he was a test pilot with Svenska Lufttrafik and a student to Munich University while remaining on the active roster of the post-war Germany military. In 1922, he met Adolf Hitler, joined the Nazi party, and eventually became the commander of the SA. During the 1923 Nazi coup d'etat attempt, he was seriously injured. He was evacuated to Austria to receive treatment and to avoid arrest, and he became addicted to morphine as a side effect of his treatment (obesity later in his life was a result of this addiction). In 1927, he returned to Germany after he was granted amnesty for his participation in the coup d'etat attempt. In 1928, Göring was elected to the Reichstag and was the President of the Reichstag from 1932 to 1933. In 1933, he was named the Prussian Minister of the Interior in Hitler's government; he was the only Nazi Party member to be selected by Hitler. He was responsible for the plotting of the Reichstag Fire incident in Feb 1933. In the same year, he became the Minister of the Interior with a military rank of major general after Hitler's rise to power. He'd later be named Prussian Prime Minister and Air Commissioner. In 1935, he was responsible for creating the German Air Force Luftwaffe with the rank of lieutenant general. In 1939, he was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal.
ww2dbaseGöring upbringing alongside of his godfather Epenstein brought back a preference for luxurious now that he was in a position of power. Through his high salary, bribes, and confiscated Jewish property, he purchased grand estates, hunting lodges, and a large art collection. He also owned a personal train that was complete with separate sleeping coaches for him and his wife and a car that was set up as a cinema.
ww2dbaseOn the eve of the European War, Göring was opposed of invading Poland, as he knew Germany was not yet strong enough to stand up to the Western Allies. Once the war began, the Luftwaffe achieved tremendous success in Poland, Norway, and France. His airborne troopers also achieved great successes. Some of the Luftwaffe's first major failures, however, also took place around this time. In late May 1940, as Hitler became weary of losing too many tanks, held back the army and instead relied on the Luftwaffe to prevent an Allied evacuation from Dunkirk, something the Göring promised would be a simple task but ended up to be something that he was not able to deliver. Next came the Battle of Britain in which the Luftwaffe suffered serious losses that it would be unable to replace. Finally, despite his promises, his aircraft were unable to supply the beleaguered German army at Stalingrad in southern Russia. Nevertheless, on 29 Jun 1941, Göring was named by Hitler as the successor with a promotion to the rank of Reichsmarschall, a rank created just for him, placing him above all other military leaders in Germany. As the war went on, Allied bombers devastated German cities, and Luftwaffe's inability to counter these bombing campaigns finally caused Hitler to doubt Göring. He slowly began to fade away from making operational decisions, leaving that task to his subordinates.
ww2dbaseMany of Göring's high-ranked subordinates also thought little of his leadership over the Luftwaffe. Colonel General Robert von Greim, for example, said to Otto Skorzeny in 1944 that the "Luftwaffe has been resting on the laurels it deservedly won in 1939 and 1940. It has not been thinking of the future." He went on to complain that Göring had the opportunity to start jet production as early as 1942, but he failed to recognize the potential until it was too far too late.
ww2dbaseOn 20 Apr 1945, Göring destroyed his lavish Carinhall estate near Eberswalde, Prussia, loading all his treasures (most of which plundered from across occupied Europe) onto 24 heavy trucks and several train cars; the particular estate was named after his first wife. While the train and trucks transported his treasures westward, the rest of his country, including the armed services, suffered a severe fuel shortage.
ww2dbaseOn 23 Apr 1945, Göring sent this telegraph to Hitler, probing whether Berlin had fallen and whether he should take over command of the German forces to continue the fighting:
ww2dbaseAlthough Göring had checked in with many top leaders, including Hans Lammers, Hitler's closest legal advisor, before sending out this message, he still wrongfully predicted Hitler's reaction. The German leader grew suspicious of Göring's intentions; Martin Bormann added fuel to the fire, convincing Hitler that Göring was attempting to usurp power for himself. Hitler sent an order to have Göring arrested by the SS, and all of Göring's titles were stripped from him.
ww2dbaseGöring surrendered to the Allies on 8 May 1945 in Austria. At the Nuremberg Trials, he was sentenced to death by hanging for his role in the anti-Semitic "Final Solution". He requested the court to give him a soldier's death by firing squad, but the court denied the request. On 15 Oct 1946, hours before his scheduled execution by hanging, he committed suicide by ingesting cyanide.
Kate Moore, The Battle of Britain
Anthony Read and David Fisher, The Fall of Berlin
Otto Skorzeny, Skorzeny's Special Missions
Last Major Revision: Jun 2010
- "My Luftwaffe is invincible...And so now we turn to England. How long will this one last - two, three weeks?"
» 1 Jun 1940
Hermann Göring Timeline
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939