Goering, Hermann Wilhelm

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Goering, Hermann Wilhelm

Hermann Wilhelm Goering (both: hĕr´män vĬl´hĕlm gö´rĬng), 1893–1946, German National Socialist leader. In World War I he was a hero of the German air force. An early member of the Nazi party, he participated (1923) with Hitler in the Munich "beer-hall putsch" and after its failure escaped eventually to Sweden, where he stayed until 1927. On his return he reestablished contact with Hitler and was elected (1928) to the Reichstag, of which he became president in 1932. When Hitler came to power (1933) he made Goering air minister of Germany and prime minister and interior minister of Prussia. Until 1936 Goering headed the Gestapo (secret police), which he had founded. He became director of Hitler's four-year economic plan in 1936, supplanted Hjalmar Schacht as minister of economy in 1937, and was virtual dictator over the German economy until 1943. Goering was responsible for the German rearmament program and especially for the creation of the German air force. In 1939 Hitler designated Goering as his successor and in 1940 made him marshal of the empire, a unique rank. Goering was notorious for his love of high-sounding titles, of extraordinary uniforms, of pageantry, and of voluntary or enforced gifts. In later years he spent more and more time at his palatial estate and was addicted to narcotics. Behind his facade of good humor he hid a vindictive temperament. In World War II he was responsible for the total air war waged by Germany; his immense popularity in Germany declined after the Allied air forces, contrary to Goering's emphatic predictions, began to lay Germany to waste. From 1943 on, Hitler deprived him of all formal authority and finally dismissed him shortly before the end of the war, when Goering attempted to claim his right of succession. He surrendered (May, 1945) to American troops and was the chief defendant at the Nuremberg trial for war crimes (1945–46). He defended himself with brilliant cynicism but was convicted and sentenced to death. Two hours before his scheduled hanging, he committed suicide by swallowing a poison capsule.

See biographies by C. H. Bewley (1962), R. Manvell, and H. Fraenkel (1962, repr. 1972), A. Lee (1972), and L. Mosley (1974).

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