On critical anniversaries of World War Two I am posting various historical notes and reviews. Along those lines I obtained Kindle editions of biographies of Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Goering by Roger Manvell and Heinrich Fraenkel. This book is Goering: The Rise and Fall of the Notorious Nazi Leader. In discussing the book I’m going to deal a lot with the life and doings of Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, the leader of the German Luftwaffe during World War Two. I’m posting this on the 70th anniversary of the death of Hermann Goering.
The authors published their trilogy 15 years after the end of the war, and this was a critical time. The collapse of the Third Reich and the Nazi Party was so complete and so cataclysmic that comprehensive documentation was not immediately available. Important records were presented as evidence in the war crimes trials of 1946 and subsequently. In the mean time the Soviets had overrun the major institutions of Nazi power, and they were initially slow to disclose their holdings. Manvell and Fraenkel were able, by 1960, to obtain access to records not available to early writers.
This and the others of the trilogy offer detailed accounts of the lives of these top Nazis. Problems I have encountered with other legacy Kindle books plague these, as well. The use of OCR technology can result in unwarranted character substitution, leaving it to the reader to make the correction mentally. For example:
As the guards in the prison at the Palace of Justice peered through the trap door of cell number 5, they saw Goering poring over the document which summarized the record of the Nazi regime under the four headings which constituted the charges against him: the common plan or conspiracy, crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. It had been signed in October in Berlin by the chief prosecutors and had become the official indictment of a great international assembly of nations, since by then eighteen countries had adhered to the charter setting up the tribunal. The defendants were accused not only individually under these four main charges, but also as key members of one or more of the organizations through which the Nazi regime had operated: the Reich Cabinet, the Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party, the S.S. and the S.D., the Gestapo, the S.A., the High Command of the Army (O.K.H.) and the High Command of the Armed Forces (Q.K.W.). These organizations were themselves placed on trial as criminal groups.
Fraenkel, Heinrick; Manvell, Roger (2011-03-02). Goering: The Rise and Fall of the Notorious Nazi Leader (Kindle Locations 5817-5824). Frontline. Kindle Edition.
Obviously the authors wrote “O.K.W.,” not “Q.K.W.” O.K.W stands for Oberkommando [der] Wehrmact. It’s a small error, but representative of a number of glitches in this and many legacy ebooks.
Of all the Nazi villains, Goering may be the most curious. To track the trajectory of his life you will have to wonder, how did the son of an Imperial German consular official rise to the heights of war hero before plunging to the depths of depravity, only to rise again to the peaks of power in one of the most depraved military and political powers of the 20th century. You start by knowing he was not always destined for glory. He was once a problem child possibly headed nowhere.
By the time Hermann was conceived, Franziska, who needed all the toughness of her Austrian and Bavarian blood to lead this life of constant movement and rough, violent living, had already borne three children, Karl, Olga and Paula. Shortly before the birth of this fourth child she left Haiti and traveled home alone. When she returned to Haiti she left the six-week-old baby in Fürth, Bavaria, in the hands of a friend of the family, Frau Graf, whose daughters became his playmates and remember him today as a handsome, headstrong boy.
When the child was three years old his father returned to Germany to face retirement. Hermann Goering’s earliest recollection was of expressing his resentment toward his mother by hitting her in the face with his fists when she tried to embrace him after her prolonged absence. She was deeply upset.
Fraenkel, Heinrick; Manvell, Roger (2011-03-02). Goering: The Rise and Fall of the Notorious Nazi Leader (Kindle Locations 186-192). Frontline. Kindle Edition.
Heinrich Goering looked forward to maintaining his family on his meager pension. Salvation came in the person of his friend, Dr. Hermann Epenstein. Epenstein was a Jew, a bachelor and quite wealthy. He purchased a Mautern-dorf Castle in Austria and established himself there. He also purchased the Veldenstein Castle near Nuremberg in Germany. The Goering family was allowed to stay here. Part of the arrangement involved Frau Goering sharing a bed with Epenstein. This arrangement was subsequently to become a source of embarrassment to the Nazi Hermann Goering.
The irascible Hermann found his outlet in playing military, and at the age of 12 he was sent off to military school. Here he found comfort inn the rigid discipline and thrived. In 1912 he obtained a commission in the Prinz Wilhelm Regiment of the 112th Infantry. When war broke out in 1914 he proved to be an aggressive, if impetuous, fighter, almost leading his reconnoiter platoon to destruction in an early encounter with the French.
Early adventure succumbed to the horrors of trench warfare, and he was invalided back to the rear. A visit from life-long friend Bruno Loerzer, in training at a flight school, got Goering out of the trenches and into the air. There he found his true calling and quickly made a name for himself:
By 1917 , Goering’s reputation as a fighter pilot was fully established. In addition to the Iron Cross, he was to be awarded the Zaehring Lion with swords, the Karl Friedrich Order and the Hohenzollern Medal with swords, third class, all prior to his final award, Pour le Mérite. In May he was put in command of Squadron 27, which needed an improvement in morale. Goering was now responsible for both administration and strategy; he had to show inspiring leadership. He set about the immediate strengthening of the squadron, working day and night to ensure efficiency first on the ground and then in the air. In the summer the two squadrons , 26 and 27, were operating alongside each other, flying from the same airdrome on the Flanders front— at Iseghem, near Ypres. The air attacks on the Allies were now built up into a major offensive ; Goering’s squadron in particular had to help in the protection of the other planes, attracting enemy fire away from them. The Allies , meanwhile, were redoubling their efforts in the air, and the Germans countered by forming specially large composite squadrons, called Jagdgeschwader (pursuit squadrons), equaling four of the others; the first of these was commanded by Manfred von Richthofen. Goering and Loerzer were among those whose squadrons were merged to create the third of these major formations.
Fraenkel, Heinrick; Manvell, Roger (2011-03-02). Goering: The Rise and Fall of the Notorious Nazi Leader (Kindle Locations 371-380). Frontline. Kindle Edition.
When Richthofen, the “Red Baron,” was killed in April 1918, Goering took his place leading the famous “Flying Circus” squadron. It may be that was the true high point of Herman Goering’s life. He was then headed toward the lowest of the low from which few ever recover. Germany’s defeat and the Armistice in November 1911 dismantled his life of glory and set him on a course that would lead to his ultimate destruction:
Goering was demobilized, with the honorary rank of captain, in the old Bavarian town of Aschaffenburg, some thirty miles from Frankfurt There, it seems, he stayed, at the villa of the managing director of the Buntpapier A.G., a firm of paper manufacturers, and the actual disbanding of the Geschwader took place in the courtyard of the firm’s premises where the officers’ luggage was stowed before being sent on to their homes. Goering and his officers spent most of their time in the Stiftskeller, the best restaurant and drinking place in the town. They were determined to keep together as long as they could. On November 19 Goering finally said goodbye, and he discovered his gifts as a speaker in a speech he made at the Stiftskeller. He spoke of the history and the achievements of the famous Richthofen squadron, of the bitter times that Germany must now endure , and of the disgraceful behavior of the German people in their attitude to those who had, as officers, sacrificed themselves for their country. He was outraged by the revolt of soldiers against authority , and by the support the soldiers’ councils were receiving in many parts of Germany. “The new fight for freedom, principles, morals and the Fatherland has begun,” he said. “We have a long and difficult way to go, but the truth will be our light. We must be proud of this truth and of what we have done.
We must think of this. Our time will come again.” He gave the toast to the Richthofen Geschwader. solemnly they drank, then smashed their glasses.
Outside, crowds of civilians and ex-soldiers gathered in the streets to insult the officers, who, they were now led to think, had betrayed Germany and sacrificed the lives of their men in order to win for themselves decorations of the kind the Emperor had bestowed on Goering. The story goes that Goering was set on in the street and that with difficulty he prevented the mob from stripping the medals from his breast. He stayed in Aschaffenburg until early December, and then, without gratuity or pension, he went to Munich, where his mother was living. It was plain to him that he must make his own way in the world.
Fraenkel, Heinrick; Manvell, Roger (2011-03-02). Goering: The Rise and Fall of the Notorious Nazi Leader (Kindle Locations 450-466). Frontline. Kindle Edition.
Germany’s military failure produced a deep and lasting social rift. Civilians had suffered immense deprivations under the war, and they perceived the military had squandered German society in a vainglorious quest for valor. Many in the military, particularly in the officer corps, saw the revolution that overthrew the government during the last days as a betrayal of their blood sacrifice. Goering drifted into the morass of militarist coalitions seeking redress and a restoration of German honor. As Germany sank into economic, social and political chaos, Goering found himself among a group of former officers and soldiers that included Ernst Udet, another former fighter ace, and also General Erich Ludendorff and Adolph Hitler.
At a critical time, at a critical place, Goering found his voice in the advocacy of continued and renewed German militarism.
During these immediate postwar weeks, Goering found himself in a new and alien world. He was a Prussian officer whose only background was his military training and the sense of caste inspired by his father, and the traditions represented by his early life in the castles of the south. Now he was an unemployed man of twenty-five in search of work. Politically Germany had collapsed into a form of mob rule, owing to the weakness of the hastily established government set up to formulate some kind of peace treaty. In Munich the throne of Bavaria had collapsed and a republic had been proclaimed on November 8, a few days before the armistice. Wilhelm II, the Emperor of Germany, had fled to Holland, and General Ludendorff, Chief of the General Staff, had also disappeared. The German working class had turned on the men they felt to be responsible for the war, and the soldiers who remained in uniform regarded their officers as traitors. A Socialist revolution had been proclaimed officially in Berlin and in a number of other German cities.
The officers, meanwhile, banded themselves together to defend their caste. They organized the so-called Freikorps—“free corps” of volunteers— in an effort to keep the German Army in being. In December Goering attended an officers’ rally in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall at which the new Prussian Minister of War, General Walter Reinhardt, spoke, urging the packed audience to support the new government and obey its order that officers should discard the traditional insignia of their rank and replace their epaulets with stripes on their jacket sleeves. The General himself wore his three stripes; his epaulets and his medals were gone.
As Reinhardt was about to dismiss the meeting, Goering stood up in the body of the hall. He was wearing his full uniform, with his silver epaulets and the stars of his new rank of captain, and with the Pour le Mérite prominent among his medals and decorations. He stepped onto the platform, saying, “I beg your pardon, sir.” The large gathering of officers fell silent. Goering had discovered his ability as a speaker in Aschaffenburg; now, as one of the more famous of Germany’s young officers, he was forced to say what he felt. He began:
I had guessed, sir, that you, as Minister of War, would put in an appearance here today. But I had hoped to see a black band on your sleeve that would symbolize your deep regret for the outrage you are proposing to inflict on us. Instead of that black band you are wearing blue stripes on your arm. I think, sir, it would have been more appropriate for you to wear red stripes!
The officers broke into applause, but Goering held up his hand for silence and went on speaking.
We officers did our duty for four long years … and we risked our bodies for the Fatherland. Now we come home— and how do they treat us ? They spit on us and deprive us of what we gloried in wearing. And this I can tell you, that the people are not to blame for such conduct . The people were our comrades— the comrades of each of us, irrespective of social conditions, for four weary years of war … Those alone are to blame who have goaded on the people— those men who stabbed our glorious Army in the back and who thought of nothing but of attaining power and of enriching themselves at the expense of the people. And therefore I implore you to cherish hatrcd-a profound, abiding hatred of those animals who have outraged the German people . … But the day will come when we will drive them away out of our Germany. Prepare for that day. Arm yourselves for that day. Work for that day. 6
Then Goering left the hall,
Fraenkel, Heinrick; Manvell, Roger (2011-03-02). Goering: The Rise and Fall of the Notorious Nazi Leader (Kindle Locations 475-503). Frontline. Kindle Edition.
Good fortune came to Goering as his military contacts and his flying experience brought him financial success in the emerging aircraft industries in Germany and elsewhere. His return to Germany from Sweden soon led to him to Adolph Hitler.
One day , on a Sunday in November or October of 1922, the demand for the extradition of our military leaders was again placed in the foreground on the occasion of a protest demonstration in Munich. I went to this protest demonstration as a spectator, without having any connection with it. Various speakers from parties and organizations spoke there. At the end Hitler too was called for. I had heard his name briefly mentioned once before and wanted to hear what he had to say. He declined to speak, and it was pure coincidence that I stood nearby and heard the reasons for his refusal … He considered it senseless to launch protests with no weight behind them. This made a deep impression on me; I was of the same opinion.
I inquired and found that … he held a meeting every Monday evening. I went there, and Hitler spoke about that demonstration, about Versailles … and the repudiation of that treaty. He said that … a protest is successful only if backed by power to give it weight. As long as Germany had not become strong, this kind of thing was to no purpose. The conviction was spoken word for word as if from my own soul.
On one of the following days I went to the business office of the N.S.D.A.J.P. … I just wanted to speak to him at first to see if I could assist him in any way. He received me at once and after I had introduced myself he said it was an extraordinary turn of fate that we should meet. We spoke at once about the things which were close to our hearts— the defeat of our Fatherland …, Versailles. I told him that I myself, to the fullest extent, and all I was and possessed were completely at his disposal for this, in my opinion, most essential and decisive matter: the fight against the Treaty of Versailles.
Hitler spoke at length about his program and then offered Goering a position in the Nazi Party.
He had long been on the lookout for a leader who had distinguished himself in some way in the last war … so that he would have the necessary authority. … Now it seemed to him a stroke of luck that I in particular, the last commander of the Richthofen squadron, should place myself at his disposal I told him that it would not be so very pleasant for me to have a leading office from the very beginning, since it might appear that I had come merely because of this position. We finally reached an agreement: For one or two months I was to remain officially in the background, and take over the leadership only after that, but actually I was to make my influence felt immediately. I agreed to this, and in that way I joined forces with Adolf Hitler.
So Goering , well pleased with himself, joined the Nazi Party and at the age of twenty-nine assumed once more what he most desired, the command of men.
Fraenkel, Heinrick; Manvell, Roger (2011-03-02). Goering: The Rise and Fall of the Notorious Nazi Leader (Kindle Locations 592-613). Frontline. Kindle Edition.
Working against Goering’s new found success was the deepening decline in German society. Saddled with a weak government and burdened by the onerous terms of the Versailles Treaty, the German economy collapsed almost completely. Into the political vacuum of those years rose varied movements offering solutions and seeking real power. In addition to the ex-military groups prowling the streets of Germany a strong Communist element made itself felt. The clash between the militarists and the Communists was to be pivotal.
Communists march in Berlin (Wikipedia)
The various factions often clashed in the streets, violently. Confrontations rose from harassment to beatings to outright murder. Pitched gun battles erupted. The government was powerless to keep the peace.
From Google Images
Goering’s lurch to the brink came 9 November 1923 as he found himself alongside Hitler, facing armed police, in Hitler’s attempted coup d’etat. When the police opened fire Goering was wounded but escaped, just barely. A hunted man, he fled first to Austria and ultimately to Italy. His recovery was long, perilous and painful. The morphine that slaked his pain remained a life-long burden. He could have died, he could have settled into oblivion, or he could have rebounded as a remake of his former glory. The road to prominence and ultimately doom was through Hitler.
Adolph Hitler stood trial for his part in the Beer Hall Putsch, and used it as a sounding board for his political outlook. Hitler received a five-year sentence for treason, but served less than a year. Once out of prison he began to reform the National Socialist Party, which had been dismantled by the government. He now determined to obtain power without violent revolution, and he began to gather his previous followers.
Exile and addiction had left Goering at rock bottom, including confinement in a strait jacket at the Institute for the Cure of Nervous Diseases of Langbro, Sweden. When Hindenburg was elected German president in 1927 he proclaimed political amnesty, allowing Goering to return to Germany and to seek re-employment in the Nazi Party. Hitler and others were at first reluctant to accept Goering back. The Party was short on money to pay new workers, and Party principals, including Hitler, were unsure of Goering’s worth.
Even though money was scarce, Hitler was by no means impoverished. The Nazi press was gaining ground. There were steady profits coming in from the innumerable mass meetings, to which a small entrance fee was always charged. There were gifts from wealthy sympathizers . Hitler had an income; his tax records survive and prove that he was learning how to argue about expenses with the tax inspectors.
Goering gradually established himself during the winter months as a business agent in the aircraft industry. He was in touch with Erhard Milch, a senior executive in Lufthansa, which enjoyed a monopoly in German civil aviation. He acted as an agent in Berlin for the Bavarian Motor Works, which made aviation engines, and for the firm of Heinkel. He was also agent for the Swedish Tornblad parachute, and he worked from a small office in the Gaisbergstrasse, which he shared with Victor Siebel, who was later to become an aircraft manufacturer. 1 Heiden claims that the Bavarian Motor Works had been bought by Camillo Castiglioni, an Italian Jew from Trieste, who paid Goering generously to act as his representative, but that Goering achieved little for him. Heiden describes Goering as tireless in work and in the social round, turning night into day, working by candlelight in his flat, in front of him a picture of Napoleon, behind him a medieval sword. 2
In Berlin he was joined by Paul Koerner, another ex-officer, who became his partner. He began also to work upon his old social contacts, such as Bruno Loerzer and Prince Philipp von Hessen.
Early in 1928 Goering apparently decided to put pressure on Hitler. The elections were approaching in the spring, and he went to Munich to fight for the recognition he felt that he deserved. Together with Hanfstaengl, he walked in the snow to Hitler’s flat in the Thierschstrasse. Goering did not want to go in alone, but Hanfstaengl refused to accompany him. Later he gathered that Goering had lost his temper, but won his point; Hitler consented that he should be regarded as a Nazi candidate for the Reichstag. 3 Hanfstaengl says that he often heard Hitler express fears that Goering would fail to be of any use to the party; however, he copied Hitler’s style and delivery on the platform with remarkable effect.
Fraenkel, Heinrick; Manvell, Roger (2011-03-02). Goering: The Rise and Fall of the Notorious Nazi Leader (Kindle Locations 923-940). Frontline. Kindle Edition.
Acceptance back into the party and election to a seat in the Reichstag lifted Goering out of poverty and enabled him to bring his new wife from Sweden. The chain of events that followed compels the conviction that his return to prosperity fueled Goering with a driving lust for more. The remainder of his life, right up to the final few days, is the story of a relentless accumulation of wealth. Increased power brought increased opportunity.
When Goering became Premier of Prussia in April 1933, he was entitled to another official residence in addition to that of president of the Reichstag . But, like most men tasting the first fruits of power, he was dissatisfied with the stale palaces of a dead regime; he wanted to express himself through something new. While Goebbels, who had been appointed Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment in March 1933, was tearing down the stucco and changing the interior decoration of the Leopoldpalast on the Wilhelmplatz (“ I cannot work in the twilight,” he said), Goering decided to clear a site on the corner of Prinz Albrechtstrasse and Stresemannstrasse, the name of which he had had changed by the local authority to Hermann Goeringstrasse. Here he built himself a town house at the taxpayers’ expense next door to the new headquarters of the Gestapo, for whose activities Diels had commandeered the premises of the Berlin Folklore Museum. The new palace was completed early in 1934[.]
From this period, Goering’s financial status was inextricably entangled with the perquisites and prizes of office. His officially declared salaries were relatively small: president of the Reichstag, 7,200 marks a year; Cabinet minister, 12,000 marks; Air Commissioner, 3,000 marks; president of the Prussian State Council, 12,000 marks. Some of these offices carried expense allowances or exemptions from taxation. Hitler was always prepared to enable Goering to entertain lavishly when it was necessary. In addition, Goering began, by virtue of his powerful positon, to gather substantial business interests in the form of shares, and the influential newspaper, the Nationalzeitung of Essen, became his particular mouthpiece.
Fraenkel, Heinrick; Manvell, Roger (2011-03-02). Goering: The Rise and Fall of the Notorious Nazi Leader (Kindle Locations 1787-1799). Frontline. Kindle Edition.
Goering milked the cow of political power to a far greater extent than any other of his Nazi cohorts. In the years ahead he was to become the face of self-aggrandizement in the new order. As his position improved his grasp for wealth seemed to expand without bound. Eventually he was demonstrated to be an administrative hack, administrator of the German economy and commander of the German Luftwaffe in name only by 1943. That he retained position and nominal power right to the final fall can possibly be attributed to his decisive actions and tactical success in the final stages of the Nazis’ climb to power. The period leading into the first weeks of 1933 saw Goering’s supreme triumph. Franz von Papen was one of the last chancellors of the Weimar Republic and the final obstacle to Nazi power.
The next round of elections was announced for November 6, Meanwhile Papen continued in office by presidential decree. The Nazis had to some extent overplayed their hand. They lost over two million votes at the elections and the number of their deputies dropped from 230 to 196. Many people had ceased altogether to trust them, and they were short of money. Their tactics during the past few months and their attitude to both the President and his Chancellor did not please the industrialists on whom they still had mainly to rely for financial support. Also, the number of unemployed, on whose discontent the Nazis depended for their votes, had appreciably decreased ; it can be said that the genuine peak of the Nazi vote in Germany was attained when the unemployment figure was at its height, in July 1932. Time was running out.
The battle between Hindenburg and Hitler and the conspiracy behind it began immediately after the elections and lasted throughout the final tragic weeks of Germany’s tortured freedom. The decadent form of German democracy gradually petered out of existence, although Hitler was now supported by only 33.1 per cent of the total electorate, a fall of 4.2 per cent since the elections in July, The éminence grise behind Hindenburg was still Schleicher. On November 17 Papen resigned on his advice. According to Heiden, Goering was in Rome, sitting beside Mussolini at a banquet given in honor of the guests attending the European Congress of the Academy of Science, when news was brought to him of Papen’s defeat. Having assured Mussolini that fascism was now about to triumph in Germany, he flew back to Berlin in time to make the necessary arrangements with the President’s State Secretary, Otto Meissner, for a meeting between Hitler and Hindenburg. On November 19 Hitler met the President, and again on the twenty-first. Nothing came of it. Hitler was determined to be Chancellor, and Hindenburg would not allow this unless he could secure majority support in the Reichstag, which was now impossible.
The next stage came when Schleicher secured the chancellorship for himself. The Nazi leaders were divided as to whether they should or should not co-operate with him. They met on December 1 at Weimar, and again on December 5 at the Kaiserhof, to discuss the matter; Gregor Strasser, never really Hitler’s man, had been in direct touch with Schleicher and was, in fact, secretly ready to lead a faction of the party deputies into Schleichef’s trap in exchange for receiving the office of Vice-Chancellor. Goering, Goebbels and Hitler were utterly opposed to any compromise. Goering was left, aided possibly by Roehm and Frick, to negotiate with Schleicher along the line determined at the final conference. According to Heiden . Goering had already been instructed to approach Schleicher on December 3 to ask for the office of Premier of Prussia and had been told there was support among the center parties only for Strasser to become State Premier.
When the new Reichstag met on December 6, Goering was reelected president. He did all he could to bring the assembly into ridicule, and he told it bluntly that its life would be a short one. When he had sat down, the Reichstag continued with its business while Goering stared at the deputies through binoculars, comparing the faces that he did not know with a file of photographs on his desk. In particular, he stared at the men he suspected of complicity with Strasser, and at Strasser himself. Two days later Strasser quarreled violently with Hitler and then wrote him a celebrated letter of recrimination, resigned from the party and left for the south. Hitler, aware his future was in the balance, threatened to shoot himself if the party deserted him, while Goering threatened to break the neck of every follower of Strasser.
Fraenkel, Heinrick; Manvell, Roger (2011-03-02). Goering: The Rise and Fall of the Notorious Nazi Leader (Kindle Locations 1322-1349). Frontline. Kindle Edition.
Hard to reconcile with his professional life, which existed in contradiction to basic humanity, was Goering’s family life. He married a divorced woman, Carin von Kantzow in 1923, and following her death from tuberculosis in 1931 Goering continued to aid and assist her son, Thomas von Kantzow. After brief dalliances with other women, Goering married German actress Emma Sonnemann. They had a daughter, Edda, who is alive at the time of this writing. Considering all the excesses of the Nazi regime and its principals, no demonstration of marital infidelity regarding Goering has emerged. He was completely devoted to both of his wives. With his new wealth he constructed a magnificent home near Berlin and named it Karinhall. Goering made it into a shrine for his first wife, continuing expansion and embellishments to the property almost to the day he had it dynamited in 1945 as the Soviet Army approached. Goering built another home which was referred to as Emmyhall.
Nobody studying Goering’s career has credited him with the level of anti-Jewish sentiment expressed by his compatriots. However, nothing in this lack of enthusiasm thwarted his participation in the murder of European Jewry. He was equally callous with the scripted destruction of millions of lives in the conquered countries.
During May, June and July Goering authorized directives for his Economic Staff East which were so ruthless in their exploitation that they became some of the principal documents quoted by the prosecution in the Nuremberg trial. He gave detailed instructions for plundering Russia in the spirit of a memorandum issued on May 2, which opened: “The war can be continued only if all the armed forces are fed by Russia in the third year of the war. There is no doubt that as a result many millions of people will be starved to death if we take out of the country the things we need.” 27 These directives came to be known as the Green File or Portfolio.
A top-secret report for the staff on May 23 contained this statement:
The German Administration in these territories may well attempt to mitigate the consequences of the famine which undoubtedly will take place and accelerate the return to primitive conditions … However, these measures will not avert famine . Many tens of millions of people in this area will become [redundant] and will either die or have to emigrate to Siberia, Any attempts to save the population there from death by starvation by importing surpluses from the black-soil zone would be at the expense of supplies to Europe. It would reduce Germany’s staying power in the war, and would undermine Germany’s and Europe’s power to resist the blockade. This must be clearly and absolutely understood. 28
Fraenkel, Heinrick; Manvell, Roger (2011-03-02). Goering: The Rise and Fall of the Notorious Nazi Leader (Kindle Locations 4384-4395). Frontline. Kindle Edition.
So much for Goering’s good points.
The Allies can attribute an earlier victory over their enemies to Goering, himself. In a notorious case, Goering’s vanity severely challenged any shred of military judgment he may have possessed. When, in 1940, the Wehrmact had British and French troops penned against the English Channel, Goering convinced Hitler to allow his Luftwaffe to finish off the enemy (and capture the glory). While General Heinz Guderian’s tanks waited patiently a British fleet evacuated English and French troops across the Channel.
Additionally, Goering’s lack in vision resulted in an early concentration on production of short-range bombers of limited payload. Finally, when the German air war switched from one of offense to one of defense, Goering’s weakness of character rendered him unable to convince Hitler to shift emphasis to the production of fighters. Hitler insisted the production of fighters would be an admission of defeat.
The debacle continued, and by the time the end came Goering was a figurehead Reichsmarschall, though nominally second in command to Hitler. In the final hours of the Third Reich even this facade collapsed. Hitler’s control of power relied upon dilution of power among potential rivals. He kept underlings in competition with each other, and Nazi leadership was continually plagued by division of purpose and focus. A key enemy of Goering’s was Martin Bormann, Hitler’s secretary. With Hitler trapped in a bunker as Soviet Forces closed in, Goering sent off a message to inquire whether he should invoke a previous directive that he take over in such a situation. Bormann relayed the message as an attempt to usurp power, and Hitler ordered that Goering be arrested and executed. Before any such thing could happen Hitler killed himself (30 April 1945), and Bormann ended up dead in a Berlin street (2 May 1945).
In his deathless vanity, Goering imagined he could arrange reconciliation with Allied powers and place himself in power in a reconstructed Germany, and he surrendered himself to American forces in Austria. The troops who took him into custody at first basked in the celebrity of their acquisition, but news of this special treatment struck a sour note with people who mattered, and Goering was quickly relegated to the status of a P.O.W., albeit a valuable one. The rope to hang Goering was already in somebody’s supply depot.
Paul Roland’s book (see below) gets more into the attitude of the victors toward these Nazi survivors. (Besides Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler had already killed themselves.) The Brits, including Prime Minister Churchill, voted for summary execution. Surprisingly the Soviets were in favor of a trial. The trial began in November 1945, and in October the following year those convicted and sentenced to death were hanged. Some received only prison sentences, and a few, including von Papen, were acquitted and set free.
The hangman never got to Hermann Goering. Although the prisoners awaiting execution at the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg were not told in advance of the execution date, Goering may have sensed that the final hour had come. He was scheduled to be the first taken by the hangman, but two hours before his time he took poison and died in his cell.
Goering’s death did not interrupt the proceedings. Ten convicted Nazis went to the gallows in a period of less than two hours beginning at 1 a.m. on 16 October 1946. Following the executions Goering’s body was brought from his cell to the gallows room and formally identified for the death certificate. Writer Paul Roland relates the final journey of Hermann Goering.
Just before dawn the bodies were taken away in two trucks under heavy guard and driven to Dachau concentration camp, a short distance northwest of Munich, where the ovens had been relit for their cremation. The ashes were scattered in a nearby river.
There was no sense of triumph among the victors, only relief that this tragic and violent era had finally come to an end.
Roland, Paul (2012-06-26). The Nuremberg Trials: The Nazis and Their Crimes Against Humanity (Kindle Locations 2648-2651). Arcturus Publishing. Kindle Edition.