Hermann Wilhelm Göring (or Goering; German ; 12 January 1893 – 15 October 1946), was a German politician, military leader, and leading member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP). A veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, he was a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as the “Blue Max”. He was the last commander of Jagdgeschwader 1, the fighter wing once led by Manfred von Richthofen, the “Red Baron”.
A member of the NSDAP from its early days, Göring was wounded in 1923 during the failed coup known as the Beer Hall Putsch. He became permanently addicted to morphine after being treated with the drug for his injuries. He founded the Gestapo in 1933. Göring was appointed commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe (air force) in 1935, a position he held until the final days of World War II. By 1940 he was at the peak of his power and influence; as minister in charge of the Four Year Plan, he was responsible for much of the functioning of the German economy in the build-up to World War II. Adolf Hitler promoted him to the rank of Reichsmarschall, a rank senior to all other Wehrmacht commanders, and in 1941 Hitler designated him as his successor and deputy in all his offices.
Göring’s standing with Hitler was greatly reduced by 1942, with the Luftwaffe unable to fulfill its commitments and the German war effort stumbling on both fronts. Göring largely withdrew from the military and political scene and focused on the acquisition of property and artwork, much of which was confiscated from Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Informed on 22 April 1945 that Hitler intended to commit suicide, Göring sent a telegram to Hitler asking to assume control of the Reich. Hitler then removed Göring from all his positions, expelled him from the party, and ordered his arrest.
After World War II, Göring was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg Trials. He was sentenced to death by hanging, but committed suicide by ingesting cyanide the night before the sentence was to be carried out.
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