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Hermann Göring

Military Leader / World War II Figure

Born: 12 January 1893
Died: 15 October 1946 (suicide)
Birthplace: Rosenheim, Bavaria, Germany
Best known as: Commander of the Nazi Luftwaffe in World War II

Hermann Göring (or Goering) commanded the German air force (Luftwaffe) during World War II and was second only to Adolf Hitler in the hierarchy of the Nazi Party. His relationship with Hitler and the National Socialists began in 1922. A decorated fighter pilot in World War I, Göring was valued by the Nazis for his organizational skills and his connections to the military and the German aristocracy. He participated in the 1923 Munich Beer-Hall Putsch and was badly wounded, but avoided arrest and fled the country. He lived in Austria, Italy and Sweden until 1927, when he was allowed to return to Germany. He was elected to the Reichstag in 1928 and helped the Nazis become Germany's ruling party. Ambitious and loyal to Hitler, Göring was entrusted with eliminating political opposition, rebuilding the air force (in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles) and putting the economy on a wartime footing. Because of his success he was promoted to the special rank of Reichsmarschall and named Hitler's successor in 1940.

Hitler's faith in Göring lagged, however, after the failure of the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. When he didn't deliver on his promise to supply German troops on the Russian front, Göring's position with Hitler became even more precarious. As the Allied armies closed in on Hitler and Berlin in April of 1945, Göring made a clumsy and premature offer to take over as Germany's leader. Hitler reacted by charging Göring with treason and ordering his arrest. As it turned out, Göring surrendered to the Allies on 8 May 1945, and 17 months later he was convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg and sentenced to death. Hours before he was to be hanged, Göring killed himself with a poison capsule (potassium cyanide) he had somehow smuggled into his cell.

Extra credit:

Göring famously collected art treasures and used war spoils to line his own pockets, even as the war drew to a close and the German people were being deprived of basic necessities... An ace pilot in World War I, Göring was credited with 22 kills, and in July of 1918 he was given command of the late Manfred von Richthofen's famous fighter squadron, Jagdgeschwader 1... It is said Göring was the mastermind behind the Nazi secret police (Gestapo), and he is considered one of the architects of the concentration camp system that murdered millions of Jews.

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