Hermann Goering

Hermann Goering (1893-1946) served as a leading pilot in the German air force in World War I. After the war he joined the Nazi Party (NSDAP). He was wounded in 1923 during the failed Nazi coup, known as the Beer Hall Putsch. He became addicted to morphine as a result of his injuries. Goering was one of Hitler’s inner circle as a result of the support he gave Hitler in the latter’s rise to power. He established the Gestapo (Secret State Police) in 1933, and in due course handed its command over to Himmler. Goering was given the rank of Field Marshall and appointed Commander-in-Chief of the German Luftwaffe (air force), a rank he held until the end of World War II.

In 1936 Goering was appointed as the head of Hitler’s Four-Year Plan, an economic program aimed at rapidly strengthening the German army and boosting the German economy in anticipation of war. Consequently, Goering was given wide-ranging powers within the German economic sphere. One of his responsibilities was the confiscation of assets owned by Jews.

When war broke out, Hitler designated Goering as his successor. In July 1941, shortly after the commencement of the German military campaign against the Soviet Union, Goering was ordered by Hitler to set in motion the process that culminated in the Final Solution of the Jewish Question (the mass murder of 6 million Jews). Goering appointed Reinhard Heydrich to implement this order.

By 1942, Goering had fallen out of Hitler’s favour. Goering’s Luftwaffe had lost the Battle of Britain in 1940 and 1941 and had failed to protect Germany itself from aerial attack by Allied planes. The German war effort was stalling on both the eastern and western fronts. Goering retreated from public life, and spent the rest of the war on his estate focusing on appropriating the property and artwork of Jews who had been deported. In the last days of the war, learning that Hitler intended to commit suicide, Goering informed Hitler of his intention of assuming control of the Reich. Considering this an act of treason, Hitler removed him from all his positions, and ordered his arrest. Goering was convicted of war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials. He received a death sentence, but committed suicide by ingesting cyanide, hours before his scheduled execution.