Hermann Wilhelm Göring (Georing) was a German politician, Nazi military leader, Commander of the Luftwaffe, President of the Reichstag, Prime Minister of Prussia and Adolf Hitler’s designated successor.
Together with Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Tristan Heydrich he created the secret police. The three men together set up the early concentration camps for political opponents, showing awesome energy in terrorising and crushing all resistance.
Next to Hitler he was the person who played the largest part in the making of the Nazi regime.
Following the Crystal Night [Kristallnacht] pogrom of 9 November 1938, it was Goering who fined the German Jewish community a billion marks and ordered the elimination of Jews from the German economy, the “Aryanisation” of their property and businesses, and their exclusion from schools, resorts, parks, forests, etc. On 12 November 1938 he warned of a “final reckoning with the Jews” should Germany come into conflict with a foreign power. It was also Goering who instructed Heydrich on 31 July 1941 to “carry out all preparations with regard to . . . a general solution [Gesamtlosung] of the Jewish question in those territories of Europe which are under German influence.. . .”
He was the oldest of five children of the former Commissioner of the Empire to German South-West Africa and German Consul General to Haiti.
The Görings were relatives of many well know Swiss and Germans, including the German aviation pioneer Ferdinand von Zeppelin; Swiss diplomat, historian and President of International Red Cross Carl J. Burckhardt; the Merck family the owners of the German pharmaceutical giant Merck amongst others.
The Göring family lived with the children’s aristocratic godfather of Jewish heritage, Ritter Hermann von Epenstein, in his Veldenstein and Mauterndorf castles. Von Epenstein was a doctor who acted as a surrogate father to the children, as Heinrich Göring was often absent from the family home due to his diplomatic duties.
Hermann’s brother Albert Günther Göring, was two years his junior and was completely different, though they were very close.
Albert was a person of deep moral conviction who soon became disenchanted with the Nazis and went to live in Austria on an allowance from his godfather, von Epenstein. He worked in a film studio in Vienna and was outspoken against Hitler and the Nazi regime. When the Germans marched in Austria his brother protected him from the Gestapo.
In Vienna, he came upon Nazis forcing some old Jewish ladies to scrub the cobbled streets on bare knees. A mob had assembled, lashing and mocking the women.
Albert took off his jacket, took a scrubbing brush from one of the women, and knelt down to take her place. The SS hauled him to his feet and asked him for his papers.
According to an observer:
‘When he showed him the papers, that was the end of that scene.’
This is the first recorded instance of Albert using his name to help others. For any other person, his actions would have been tantamount to suicide.
Soon after, Albert was arrested by the Gestapo for helping a 75-year-old grandmother. A group of thugs had put a sign round her neck proclaiming, ‘I am a Jewish sow’.
Fighting through the crowd, Albert freed the woman, punching two Gestapo officers in the process.
Again he was released on account of his name.
In his book The Devil’s Disciples, the author Anthony Read, tells that Albert Goering spent much of his time right through until 1945, doing what he could to help individual Jews to survive, often with his brother’s collusion.
The actress Henny Porten had been forced out of the German film industry because she was married to a Jew – Albert Goering was asked to intervene and he arranged a contract for Henny and when the Nazis threatened the famous composer Franz Lehar because his wife was Jewish, Albert Goering used his influence to get honorary Aryan status for Frau Lehar and had his brother guarantee the safety of Lehar’s wife.
Unsettled by the situation in Austria, Albert moved to Italy and began funnelling his own money into the underground movement of assistance for Jews and other refugees.
To a friend at Buchenwald concentration camp, he sent food and money; to a Jewish physician friend, he granted immunity from the Gestapo by attesting that he was his personal doctor.
He also began conveying information on German military strategy to the Resistance. Increasingly, the Goering name carried extraordinary weight among rank obsessed Nazis.
Eventually, Albert left fascist Italy for Prague. There, in May 1939, he took a job with Skoda Works, which provided a perfect front for more anti-Nazi work.
One manager said:
‘Goering always spoke out against Nazism. He never used, as far as I know, the Nazi greeting. Nor did he have Hitler’s picture in his study – even though that was mandatory.’
When one Dr Charvat was taken to Dachau, Albert wrote on letterheaded paper to the camp commander demanding Charvat’s release. He signed it simply ‘ Goering’. Honest, yet clearly designed to deceive.
Thinking the order came from his leader, the commander let two Dr Charvats, both of whom were incarcerated at Dachau, go free.
There were all the difference in the world between the two brothers, though they were very fond of each other.