Hermann Wilhelm Göring

(b. 1893)

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(b. Rosenheim, 12 Jan. 1893; d. Nuremberg 15 Oct. 1946)

German; head of government of Prussia 1933–45, Commander-in-Chief of German air force 1935–45, Plenipotentiary of Four-Year Plan 1936 The son of a colonial official, Göring ended the First World War as the much decorated commander of the famous Richthofen air squadron. He then worked as a show and transport flyer before starting his climb in the NSDAP. He took part in Hitler's failed Munich putsch (1923) and was elected to the German parliament in 1928. When the NSDAP became the largest party in the Reichstag in 1932 he was elected its president. Once Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, he appointed Göring Minister without Portfolio, Reich Commissar for Aviation, and Prussian Minister of the Interior. Göring ruthlessly exploited these positions in the Nazi cause. On 22 February he appointed the SA, SS, and their Stahlhelm allies police auxiliaries. He later boasted to General Halder that it was he who had set fire (27 February) to the Reichstag. This was blamed on the Communists and was made the excuse for initiating a reign of terror against the left. He set up the first concentration camps in Prussia, arresting 4,000 Communists and banning the left-wing press. From April 1933 he also served as head of the Prussian government. Acting for Hitler, he carried through the bloody purge of the SA in Berlin and north Germany on 30 June 1934. He was by then the second most important man in Germany.

As Plenipotentiary for the Four-year Plan Göring helped to prepare the economy for war in 1939, stripped the Jews of their property, and used his position to amass a personal fortune. He was best known for the part he played in building up the German air force in contravention of the Versailles Treaty. It was first used in Spain to back Franco, 1936–9, and subsequently became an integral part of all Nazi aggressive plans. Göring's most decisive failure was his inability to destroy the British air force in 1940. As the war continued, Germany lost air supremacy to the Allies. Göring also lost ground in the Nazi hierarchy especially to Himmler and Goebbels.

Göring's death was as dramatic as his life had been. He cheated the hangman two hours before his planned execution at Nuremberg after being sentenced to death by the International Military Court in 1946.

Subjects: Politics.

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