Goering, Hermann Wilhelm°

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GOERING, HERMANN WILHELM ° (1893–1946), Nazi leader. A fighter pilot during World War i, Goering was awarded the highest military decoration ("Pour le Mérite"). In 1922 he joined the Nazi Party, becoming the first leader of its storm troops (sa). He was at Hitler's side during the Munich putsch of Nov. 9, 1923, and suffered a thigh wound, which caused his life-long drug addiction. He stood by Hitler through all the party's vicissitudes, boasting of being his leader's most faithful paladin. He participated in the intrigues that brought the Nazis to power and was appointed Hitler's minister of air transport and Prussian prime minister. In the latter capacity he formed the *Gestapo. Goering created the Nazi Air Force (Luftwaffe) and planned its strategies; he was as much responsible for its initial successes as for its later failures. In 1936 he was appointed "Plenipotentiary for the Four-Year Plan" to prepare Germany economically for war. Goering decided to use the property of German Jewry for financing Germany's rearmament, and he utilized his office to organize its expropriation. In the spring of 1938 he promulgated a set of orders obliging German Jewry, which by then included the Jews of Austria, to declare and register their property. The *Kristallnacht in 1938 gave him the opportunity to realize his plans and set his "aryanization" into action to expropriate Jewish businesses and property. On Nov. 12, 1938, Goering convened a conference of Nazi officials and experts, including Josef *Goebbels and Reinhard *Heydrich. The conference decided to impose a fine of a billion marks on Germany's Jews to expiate the murder of vom Rath. Furthermore, all Jewish property was to be taken over by the Reich and the owners indemnified with government low-interest bonds at a price lower than the real value. Goering's expropriation methods later served as a pattern for looting Jewish property in the countries occupied during World War ii. Continuing the policy set by the November Conference, on Jan. 24, 1939, Goering appointed Heydrich head of the newly formed central organization for Jewish emigration, the "Zentralstelle fuer juedische Auswanderung." At the start of World War ii, Goering was appointed Hitler's successor. He organized the plunder of the occupied countries, especially the Soviet Union. He collaborated with Alfred *Rosenberg in confiscating Jewish collections of art and used the loot to enlarge his own private collection. On July 31, 1941, Goering charged Heydrich with the implementation of Hitler's decision on the "Final Solution" (see *Holocaust, General Survey). He sent a representative to attend the *Wannsee Conference. He was involved in every phase of the destruction of European Jews and knew their fate. He was a fanatical antisemite (see his remarks at the Nov. 12, 1938 conference), but according to some authorities he saved individual Jews, at least before the start of the destruction process. With the decline of Germany's fortunes, Goering's influence waned. The failures of his Luftwaffe and his indolence and corruption made Hitler lose faith in him. Before committing suicide, Hitler stripped him of all his offices and had him arrested. Goering was condemned to death by the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal as a major war criminal, specific reference being made to his decisive role in the extermination of the Jews. He poisoned himself before the execution could take place.


The Trial of the Major War Criminals (1947), index; Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression (1949; includes indictment of Goering); W. Frischauer, Rise and Fall of Hermann Goering (1951); R. Manuell and H. Fraenkel, Hermann Goering (1962); E. Davidson, Trial of the Germans (1966), ch. 3; C. Bewley, Hermann Goering and the Third Reich (1962), 337–54; G.M. Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary (1947), 185–216.

[Yehuda Reshef]

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