It was Hermann Goering, head of the German Luftwaffe, who invited Charles Lindbergh and Gill Robb Wilson to view the aeronautical achievements and power of Germany in 1936. Goering grew up in German castles. His childhood was different from that of American farm boys, Lindbergh and Wilson. Goering was born on January 12, 1893, eight months before Wilson and nine years before Lindbergh.
Goering’s father, Heinrich Ernst Goering, served in the German military as a cavalry officer, and later as a civil servant in the German consular service, assigned to important positions overseas. The German government sent Heinrich Goering to London, England to study British colonial administration methods so he could apply them in Germany’s colonies. It was in London in 1885 that he married his second wife, Hermann Goering’s mother, a German woman, Franziska Tiefenbrunn from Bavaria. After he studied in London a few months, the consular service assigned him as Minister-Resident of German Southwest Africa. Under his leadership and diplomacy, working with the African chiefs, he built the colony and made it safe for German trade. It was here that he met Dr. Hermann Epenstein, of Jewish descent, who befriended the family, and would later become Hermann Goering’s godfather.[i]
Heinrich Goering applied for another post overseas. The government appointed him as the German Counsel General of Haiti. Just before Hermann Goering was born, his mother left Haiti to have her baby in Germany. When he was six weeks old, his mother left him with a family friend in Bavaria, Frau Graf, whose two daughters became Goering’s first playmates. His mother then traveled back to Haiti to rejoin her husband and three other children. She did not see baby Hermann Goering again until the family came back to Germany upon Heinrich’s retirement. Hermann Goering was then three years old, and resented his mother for deserting him when he was a baby. When she tried to embrace him, he hit her with his fists.[ii]
Heinrich Goering’s friend, Dr. Epenstein, who he had met in Haiti, was a wealthy bachelor. He dressed in a flamboyant fashion, changing clothes often, and wore outlandish jewelry.Young Hermann Goering developed his flamboyant way from Epenstein’s influence. Epenstein purchased, restored, and furnished a medieval Austrian castle called Mauterndorf, on the Bavarian border. He also bought a smaller Castle called Veldenstein, located near Nuremberg, which he offered as a home to the Goering family. Hermann Goering developed an aristocratic way, growing up in these romantic, medieval castles among the splendid scenery of the Bavarian mountains. Goering’s father told stories of his time in the Calvary and of German military legends. When Goering played with his toy soldiers, he piled up the carpet to look like mountains, and used mirrors to enlarge his forces. He developed a childhood ambition to become a German army officer. When his father entertained military guests, Goering would play with their swords and service hats. He received a hussar’s uniform from his father when he was five years old.
At the castle, Veldenstein, the bedroom of Goering’s father was on the first floor, and his mother’s bedroom was on an upper floor, where she lived as Epenstein’s mistress.[iii]
Hermann Goering was a disobedient and wild boy. When he was seven years old, he failed at his first school, and ran away from a boarding school when he was eleven. His interest was in the legends of Charlemagne and Frederick the Great, not in his school work. Goering also loved the mountains surrounding the castles where he lived. He became a skilled mountain climber very early. Finally, when he was twelve, his father and Epenstein enrolled him in the Karlsruhe Cadet School, a military academy where the discipline was strict in the hope that the Academy would bring him under control. Goering liked this school; he applied himself to his studies. and did well. When he was 16, he entered the military training college, just outside of Berlin at Lichterfelde, where he graduated with distinction.
Goering was 19 years of age when he received his army commission, in 1912. His assignment was to the 112nd Infantry Regiment Headquarters at Mulhouse, a border town just about a mile from France. When Goering began his army career, Gill Robb Wilson was about to start his second year at the Washington and Jefferson College, in western Pennsylvania, where he was studying to become a Presbyterian minister. That summer, Charles Lindbergh attended the Army Aeronautical Trials at Fort Myer in Virginia, just outside of Washington DC. He was ten years old. Half a dozen airplanes stood before the crowd tuning up their engines. One plane raced a motor car around a track.The experience caused Lindbergh to want to learn to fly. [iv]
Goering was proud of his membership in the military, enjoyed the traditions of Frederick the Great, and spent a lot of his free time in the mountains. A fellow officer, Lieut. Bruno Loerzer, became his best friend, and they maintained contact throughout Goering’s life. In his new uniform, Goering told his friends and family,
If war breaks out, you can be sure I will give a good account of myself and live up to the name of Goering.
When the First World War started in August 1914, Lieut. Goering, moved with his regiment, further eastward, behind the Rhine River. His first orders were to advance his platoon for reconnaissance of the enemy, find their positions, estimate the strength of the units he observed, and report to his headquarters. As he advanced toward Mulhouse, he learned from civilians that the French army had penetrated into Germany and had occupied the Mulhouse town hall. Forgetting his reconnaissance orders, Goering advanced his platoon toward Mulhouse, and found that the French no longer occupied the town hall where they had put up posters proclaiming the city was under French martial law. He ordered his men to tear down the posters, advanced toward the French, engaged in a firefight with them, captured four French horses, and returned to his base with a report of his successful engagement with the enemy. Already his service displayed initiative and quick thinking aggressiveness.
At dawn, the next day Goering again set out for Mulhouse, with six of his men, all on bicycles, pedaled right into the center of the city that the French had reoccupied. He immediately commandeered a horse, planned to race through the men who guarded French General Paul Pau, grab the general, and charge back to his base, with the general as a prisoner. However, one of Goering’s men accidentally fired his rifle, putting an end to Goering’s plan by alerting all the French, and causing Goering and his men to race their bicycles back to the German lines. There they arrived completely out of breath, but unharmed. Later, the same day, Goering was in the high church tower of the village of Illzack, as the French entered the streets below. Again, Goering and his platoon escaped, this time with some French prisoners.
He received a wound during his service with the infantry on the front lines, but it was a later case of rheumatism, caused by warfare in the damp trenches, that sent him to the hospital. His friend, Lieut. Loerzer, assigned to a Luftwaffe air training school in the same town as the hospital, made Goering envious with adventurous flying stories.
Goering applied for a transfer to the Luftwaffe when still in the hospital. However, higher headquarters denied his application. When Loerzer completed his flight training, Goering transferred himself, without authorization, and he flew with Loerzer as an observer. Because of his insubordination, flying without orders, a military court sentenced Goering to confinement in the barracks for three weeks. However, due to the imprecise organization of the Luftwaffe, Loerzer and Goering, taking an aircraft not assigned to them, used the plane to qualify for assignment as a team to the 25th Field Air Detachment of Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm’s Fifth Army. The three-week assignment to barracks sentence was not enforced, and Goering’s successful flying career began.
Loerzer and Goering flew reconnaissance missions during the spring of 1915. As Loerzer piloted their plane over the front lines, Goering would photograph enemy gun emplacements, infantry unit locations, and make sketches of the enemy positions for their reconnaissance reports. Goering did not simply press a button or throw a switch to take the photographs. It was not easy to use the heavy cameras in World War I airplanes. He had to point the camera vertically down, leaning far out of the cockpit to take photograph after photograph. Goering also fired his pistol at enemy airplanes and soldiers on the ground, and dropped bombs over the side of the cockpit. He was the first German flight crew member who placed a machine gun in his airplane.
The senior German officers learned of the reliability and accuracy of Goering’s reports and his skill in directing artillery bombardment. Military use of aerial reconnaissance was relatively new and provided import tactical information that was of immediate use to officers commanding ground forces. Loerzer and Goering attended senior staff meetings, briefing generals on the military intelligence they obtained from their reconnaissance flights. Normally, the staff did not allow junior officers, especially lieutenants, to attend these meetings. Goering was very pleased with his job. He loved to fly; he enjoyed the challenge of gathering valuable intelligence, the senior officers’ attention to his information, and their readiness to listen to his recommendations. Crown Prince Friedrick Wilhelm became aware of this valuable reconnaissance work and awarded the Iron Cross, first class, to both Goering and Loerzer.
Goering wanted to become a fighter pilot. He entered a Luftwaffe flying school and completed the flying lessons quickly, graduated in October 1915, and boasted that he had never had a flying accident during his training. The ability to fly became important to Goering after the war. He could afford to leave the military and earn his living in aviation. Had he not become a pilot, the only background he would have had at the end of the war was that of a soldier, unable to support himself in Germany’s repressed economy without staying in the military, as Rommel did. If he had not received the aviation training and thereby the ability to support himself without remaining in the army, Goering may never have entered politics.
Goering’s first assignment as a fighter pilot was to Jagdstaffel 5, a newly formed squadron equipped with new twin-engine fighter planes. His friend Loerzer was a member of the same squadron. On one of Goering’s first missions in November 1915, he marveled at a huge British Handley- Page bomber and moved in to get a good look as other squadron members flew away because there were many British fighter planes in the area. Goering observed the big bomber’s fuselage and tail guns and moved in for the kill. He silenced two of the gunners and set one of the bomber’s engines on fire. The British fighters then attacked Goering, damaging his engine, causing a fuel tank leak and wounding him. His airplane was spinning down over enemy territory, with fuel pouring into the cockpit, and he was having trouble maintaining control. Recovering from the spin, drawing fire from ground machine guns and flying toward German territory, Goering, with very little fuel left, crash-landed next to a church which the Germans used as a hospital. The surgeons operated on him immediately. Had he crash-landed elsewhere he could have died from loss of blood. Ground crews counted sixty bullet holes in his airplane.
Goering was convalescing for almost a year. When he left the hospital, the Army assigned him to Field Squadron 26, commanded by his friend Loerzer at Mulhouse. Goering came to Loerzer’s rescue one day, fighting off a swarm of attacking enemy fighters. During another air battle, Loerzer aided Goering by chasing away attacking French fighter aircraft. Again, the fuselage of Goering’s aircraft contained many bullet holes.
His successful combat experience made him well-known as a German fighter pilot. He received many military decorations after the Iron Cross: the Zaehring Lion with swords, the Karl Friedrich Order, the Hohenzollern Medal with swords third class, and the highest German decoration of them all, the Pour le Merite, informally called the “Blue Max”.
Goering became commander of Squadron 27, in May 1917. He was now responsible for both combat operations and administration. The squadron was troubled with low morale when Goering assumed command. He worked around-the-clock, with inspired leadership and improved the efficiency of ground and air operations.
Loerzer’s squadron 26 and Goering’s squadron 27 were flying out of the same airport in Flanders near Ypres, at Iseghem. They were operating side-by-side. Goering’s leadership invigorated his junior officers, they respected him, and he traveled to units with more low morale to inspire the pilots. Germany reorganized its fighter squadrons into larger composite squadrons named “Jagdgeschwader”. Baron Manfred von Richthofen commanded the first of these units, called the “Flying Circus” because their airplanes were painted bright colors, red, yellow, etc. to be easily seen, daring the French and British to engage in combat. Richthofen’s Flying Circus became famous and respected by all the belligerents because it contained the best of the German pilots, was quick to engage the enemy, and was successful. Richthofen was shot down in early 1918 and replaced by Capt. Reinhardt who also was killed. By this time, Goering had achieved an outstanding service record and his superiors recognized him as a very capable officer. The Luftwaffe selected him to command the elite fighter squadron, Richthofen’s Flying Circus.
The squadron’s adjutant, Lieut. Bodenschatz said that Goering looked tough, as reported in his book,”Jagd in Flanders Himmel”:
You could see this in his movements and the way he spoke. Lieut. Von Wedel introduced him to the men, and Goering replied in a strangely insistent tone of voice, the words informal and unprepared. He said it was a special honor to be made commandant of such a unit as this, and he spoke of the men who had died to make the fame and spirit of the squadron what it was, a spirit they would all need to remember in the grave days ahead.
Goering wrote in his first squadron report on July 17, 1918:
The British single-seaters are giving us as good an account of themselves as ever, but the French fighters rarely penetrate beyond the frontline; they usually avoid serious encounters. On the other hand, the French two-seaters usually appear in close formation, pushing home their bombing attacks ruthlessly and from low level. For this they usually employed twin-engine Coudrons whose armor is proof against our ammunition. I myself, attacking a Coudron at close distance on July 15, 1918, wasted almost my entire ammunition; the Coudron simply flew on, completely ignoring me. Those well-armed and well-armored machines, should be attacked by antiaircraft guns. Flying in close formation, they offer good targets for our flak… Many (of our) pilots have to take to the air up to five times a day. In the long run, neither the men nor the engines can stand up to such strain… Lack of direct telephone communication between squadron and fighter groups add to our difficulties. Imperative to have new telephone lines completed.
In the morning of the next day, Goering got into a dogfight with a group of English fighter aircraft. He shot one of them down, bringing his total of enemy aircraft shot down to twenty-two. He reported:
At 8:15 AM, I attacked several Spads. One of them I forced down and after some spiraling, shot down. It fell into the woods at Brandry. [v]
Goering was now a famous war hero, whose photograph sold throughout Germany. However, the war was not going well for Germany. The supreme commander, Gen. Erich von Ludendorff, had confidence at the beginning of 1918. The achievements by the British in 1917, by the introduction of tank warfare, were not long-lasting. The tanks were slow, breakdowns were frequent, and many could not navigate through the mud of the Western front lines. The German army developed a form of defense whereby they would retreat before an allied assault until the attack stalled, trap the allied soldiers with machine gun fire, and then counter-attack with veteran German troops and artillery. Sustained advancement would exhaust the allied soldiers, leaving them no power to resist a strong German counterattack; at the end of the battle, they would be right back where they started. The inability to break the trench warfare stalemates with the introduction of the tank disheartened the Allied Command, and gave Ludendorff hope for success; however, ferocious Allied counterattacks stopped German assaults, in early 1918. Ludendorff launched other massive blows, during May and June, but the French and the American troops defeated the German offenses. Allied aircraft and artillery bombed bridges, destroying the German supply lines. The Germans suffered high casualties, were losing battles, suffering low morale, and 300,000 more Americans deployed to France monthly.
The German military had proclaimed that the French would be bled white; however, the Germans were also bled white, suffering unsustainable casualties while the British, Australian, Canadian, and American forces were increasing. By the end of July, Ludendorff had lost the initiative, his forces fought less ferociously, and the rate of German troops surrendering increased.
The German people did not realize the precarious position of their armed forces. The armies were fighting in France; no Allied soldier had stepped on German soil. The German media continuously issued propaganda that Germany was winning the war. The public did not understand the true situation. Adolf Hitler, then an army Corporal, recipient of the Iron Cross because of his battlefield heroics, thought that Germany was winning, as he lay in his hospital bed with temporary blindness caused by a gas attack.
The United States First Army fought with courage and professionalism, assaulting the Meuse-Argonne in September. The French recaptured Sedan, and the British, with American help, penetrated the Hindenburg Line in the first week of October. 1918, and continued to drive forward. A state of panic penetrated the German high command. On October 27th, Ludendorff resigned. Units of the German Navy mutinied on the 29th. The German armies were retreating. On November 9th, Goering had to move his squadron to an airport further east.Because of the English blockade, the German people were starving. The German government was in chaos and revolutions broke out across the country.
Goering received orders to surrender to the Americans at Darmstadt, and then a staff officer arrived at his headquarters with directions that Goering should surrender his squadron to the French in Strasbourg. He refused to surrender to the French, and on November 10 made the following report:
By order of the commander, Fifth Army Air Force, aircraft flying to Darmstadt, the more valuable equipment to be sent on by road transport…2 columns of eight trucks each. Tents and
some useless machines and equipment left. Men moved partly by truck and partly on foot to be entrained. Food supplies were adequate.
And on November 11, he reported:
Armistice. Squadron flight in bad weather to Darmstadt. Mist. Since its establishment the Geschwader has shot down 644 enemy planes. Death by enemy action reached 56 officers and non-commissioned pilots, six men. Wounded 52 officers and non-commissioned pilots, seven men.
Lieutenant O.C. Geschwader. [vi]
Goering, whose father had taught him the Prussian military traditions, whose dream from the beginning was to be a successful soldier, who played “Germans and Frenchmen” when the American boys were playing “Cowboys and Indians,” considered it hateful to surrender. In his farewell address to the veteran flying officers of the Richthofen Group, as crowds of German citizens gathered outside of the meeting place to insult military officers who they believed sacrificed the lives of their subordinates to gain military decorations and betrayed Germany, Goering said:
The new fight for freedom, principles, morals, and the Fatherland has begun. We have a long a difficult way to go, but the truth will be our light. We must be proud of this truth and of what we have done. We must think of this. Our time will come again! [vii]
Goering, promoted to the grade of Capt. and discharged from the Army, had to decide how to support himself. His only training was that of a soldier and a fighter pilot. During the war, Goering’s policy was to treat Allied flying prisoners in courteous fashion. This was the case when Capt. Frank. Beaumont, an English fighter pilot, engaged in a dogfight, shot down two German planes before he had to do an emergency landing because of damage he received during the fight. Goering, who felt a comradeship with all pilots made sure that the Army did not treat Beaumont as a common prisoner of war. After the armistice, the English Captain Beaumont, stationed in Munich, was responsible for determining the best method to break up the Luftwaffe. Goering and German fighter ace Ernst Udet visited Beaumont, who received them graciously as Goering had received him when he was a prisoner, and acting as their host, allowed them to live with ease while they decided what to do.
Goering attended a speech by the new Prussian Minister of War, General Walter Reinhardt, at the Berlin Philharmonic Hall in December 1918. The new government had ordered German military officers to replace their traditional insignia of grade, and epaulets, with stripes on their uniform jacket sleeves. The General, urging support of the new government, was wearing three stripes, his medals and epaulets were not on his uniform. As the meeting was about to end, Goering stepped on the platform, dressed in his full uniform, complete with his medals and his epaulets, displaying his new grade of Captain. As the young officers fell silent, Goering said:
I beg your pardon, sir. I had guessed, sir, that you, as Minister of War, would put in an appearance today. But I had hoped to see a black band on your sleeve that would symbolize your deep regret for the outrage you are proposing to inflict on us. Instead of that black band, you are wearing blue stripes on your arm. I think, sir, it would have been more appropriate for you to wear red stripes![viii]
We officers did our duty for four long years… and we risked our bodies for the Fatherland. Now we come home –– and how do they treat us? They spit on us and deprive us of what we gloried in wearing. And this I can tell you, that the people are not to blame for such conduct. The people were our comrades – the comrades of each of us, irrespective of social conditions, for four weary years of war… Those alone are to blame who have goaded on the people –– those men who stabbed our glorious Army in the back and who thought of nothing but attaining power and of enriching themselves at the expense of the people. And therefore I implore you to cherish hatred –– a profound, abiding hatred of those animals who have outraged the German people….But the day will come when we will drive them away out of our Germany. Prepare for that day. Arm yourselves for that day. Work for that day.[ix]
He spoke these words to the applause of the young officers before the Army discharged Adolph Hitler, and long before Hitler became a politician.Both Goering and Hitler felt the same way about the German surrender four years before they met. Goering considered the surrender of Germany to the allied powers a disgrace, and used Ludendorff’s words that the Army was stabbed in the back. He wanted to get away from the disrespect of the German people, and the disgrace of Germany’s defeat.
The German aircraft manufacturers were still in business and knew Goering well. He had visited their factories during the war, and had made test flights in their airplanes. Fokker asked him to demonstrate their model F7, in Copenhagen, Denmark, at an aeronautical display. Goering was famous throughout the aviation community in Europe and his endorsement of the Fokker was valuable. As compensation and favorable publicity, Fokker gave him the airplane. Goring flew the airplane to Kastrop airport, Copenhagen, and demonstrated its maneuverability by performing aerobatics. His fame as a flying ace during the war, while not an advantage in Germany because of all the public’s bad feelings toward the military, benefited his business and social life in Denmark. He was able to earn a reasonable living by giving airplane rides and charter flights, and he did nothing to stop the public from thinking that he was giving rides in an airplane that he had flown on missions during the war.
That same year, Lindbergh entered the University of Wisconsin as an engineering student; he would not be involved in aviation for two more years. Gill Robb Wilson left the ministry to become a fighter pilot, and after World War I, returned to the ministry. Lindbergh started his aviation career by barnstorming, giving airplane rides throughout the Midwest United States and then went into the military for fighter pilot training. Goering started his aviation career in the military and then, after the war, barnstormed in Denmark
Goering was only in his mid-20s, handsome, single, a celebrity, and invited to many dinner parties while in Copenhagen. Hostesses were pleased to have him as a guest until the day he read in the newspapers the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles, published by the Allied powers, and presented to Germany for signature. That evening, at a large dinner party with 20 or more guests, he shouted “One day we will come back to write another treaty!” He thought the treaty so unfair he became obsessed with it. The young, good-looking, interesting aviator, considered so attractive to the ladies of Copenhagen, was becoming a boor. Thereafter, Goering, highly irritated at the terms of the treaty, unable to control himself and keep up the social graces, lost his acceptance as a suitable dinner companion. [x]
He was not the only German who disliked the treaty of Versailles and thought it unfair. All Germans had disdain for the treaty. The Catholics hated it, the Protestants hated it, the élite hated it, the middle class hated it, the nationalists hated it, the communists hated it, the workers hated it the liberals hated it, the conservatives hated it, the military hated it, and all the politicians of the many political parties hated it.
To Goering, giving airplane rides and demonstrating aerobatics no longer seemed a suitable occupation. He desired a more professional place in aviation, and obtained a position as pilot with a new airline, Svensk-Lufttrafik in Stockholm, Sweden. While waiting for the new airline to begin operations, Goering flew as a commercial charter pilot out of Stockholm.
In February 20, 1920, the Swedish Count, Erich Von Rosen, was in Stockholm, looking for transportation home to his castle, Rockelstad. The roads were snow packed, causing travel by automobile to be very slow and hazardous. He decided that flying home would be easier, take much less time, and went to the airport seeking a commercial pilot willing to fly on that cold afternoon. It was still snowing, with poor visibility. Goering agreed to make the flight and wanted to take off immediately because of the few hours of day light remaining.
Von Rosen’s home, Rockelstad, a medieval castle on Lake Baven near Sparreholm, Sweden, had belonged to Swedish royalty or their officers for many centuries. In 1900, Von Rosen had received the castle and surrounding farmlands from his father as a twentieth birthday gift.
Goering and Von Rosen departed in the snowstorm and were lost soon after take-off. Goering was scud running, flying over the terrain at very low altitude, with poor visibility, straining to see forward through the falling snow. He finally found a railroad track and followed it easterly to the village of Sparreholm. Flying low, dipping over trees and hills, they spotted Lake Baven and landed on the frozen lake close to the castle just before dark. Both men were very cold and the Count was nauseous.
Since it was obvious, because of the weather, that Goering would not be able to return to Stockholm that day, the Count invited him to stay as his guest at the castle until the sky cleared. Von Rosen’s wife and daughter Mary met them at the door; they had some drinks and warmed themselves by the roaring fire in the fireplace of the great hall of the castle. Goering and von Rosen discussed politics, and discovered that they were both conservative nationalists, had the highest regard for the Nordic-Germanic culture, and believed in old-fashioned chivalry. Von Rosen liked Goering’s aristocratic demeanor. They became lifelong friends.
Blue swastikas adorned the ironwork decorating the fireplace in the hall at Rockelstad. It may have been the first time Hermann Goering had seen a swastika. Von Rosen’s family considered the swastika a good luck symbol, and displayed it, long before Adolph Hitler adopted it as an emblem of the NAZI party.
Goering felt relaxed and comfortable; he had the feeling of accomplishment that experienced pilots sense when they complete a flight with unusual hazards to overcome. He enjoyed the castle’s great Hall with its heavy wooden moldings and medieval furnishings. While Von Rosen, his wife and Goering were chatting, a beautiful woman, tall, with blond hair and a noble bearing, started descending the wide staircase, along the wall across the room from the fireplace, to a landing, about six feet from the floor, and then turned into the room with about six steps. This beauty was the Baroness Carin Von Kantzow, Von Rosen’s sister-in-law, who was at the castle keeping her sister company while Von Rosen was traveling. To Goering she looked like a goddess. He later wrote that her blue eyes struck him like lightning.
It was a long, fun-filled, and emotional evening, starting with Goering recounting his flying experiences during the war, the group singing songs while von Rosen played his lute. The partying went on until the wee hours. Hermann Goering, 27 years old, found Carin very attractive. She was 32 years old and responded with like feelings for him.[xi]
Anna Maria Sigmund reports their activities of the next day in her book Women of the Third Reich:
On the morning of February 21, 1920, Goering took Carl-Gustav Rosen, the son of his host and an airplane fanatic—who later built the Ethiopian Air Force and was killed while on a “mission of mercy” for the Red Cross — for a short ride in his airplane. His entry in the guestbook read as follows: “21. 2. 1920– Hermann Goering, commander, fighter squadron Freiherr von Richthofen ….Goering then bade them farewell, but he arranged to meet Carin again. There was little doubt that this married woman and mother of an eight-year-old son completely reciprocated Goering’s feelings. Carin von Kantzow was only too willing to enter into a passionate romance that was soon to develop in February 1920. After 10 years of marriage, the beautiful Swede was having serious doubts about the meaning of her life with the professional soldier Nils Gustav Baron von Kantzow and longed for a knight in shining armor for adventure. Bored, Carin complied with the well-ordered professional career of her husband but knew it held no other promise than a monotonous failure of moving from one provincial garrison town to the next, a lonely and empty existence.[xii]
Goering visited Carin at her parents’ home in Stockholm. Her father, Baron Karl von Fock was an officer in the Swedish Army, her brother-in-law, count Richard vonWilamowitz-Moellendorff, died during World War I serving as a German officer. The women in Carin’s family were sentimentally religious; Carin’s grandmother founded the Edelweiss Society a special Christian sisterhood that maintained a small chapel in a garden behind the home. (The sisterhood and the chapel still exist.) After the visit, Goring wrote Carin’s mother:
I should like to thank you from my heart for the beautiful moment which I was allowed to spend in the Edelweiss Chapel. You have no idea how I felt in this wonderful atmosphere. It was so quiet, so lovely, that I forgot all the earthly noise, all worries, and felt as if in another world. I closed my eyes and absorbed the clean, celestial atmosphere which filled the whole room. I was like a swimmer resting on a lonely island to gather new strength before he throws himself once more into the raging stream of life. I thanked God, and sent up warm prayers.
Goering’s career in aviation was less appealing to him now. He was in love. He wanted to marry Carin and return to Germany. His main problems were an uncertain income and Carin’s negative attitude toward divorce. Goering decided that he needed to prepare for work other than commercial aviation or the military. In 1921, he left Carin in Stockholm, returned to Germany, and enrolled at the University in Munich, studying history and economics, to prepare for a political career. Carin traveled to Munich, pretentiously to visit Goering’s mother, there she decided that she wanted to be Hermann Goering’s wife, and asked her husband, Nils von Kantzow, for a divorce. He not only agreed to the divorce, he gave her enough money to marry and set up a home in Germany. Carin’s letters to her mother, in Sweden, told of her happiness.
One February 3, 1922 the Goering’s were married and moved into a hunting lodge in the Bavarian mountains 50 miles from Munich.
When Goering had been flying as a commercial pilot in Denmark and Sweden, Adolf Hitler was in Munich building the National Socialist German Workers Party (NAZI).
At the end of World War I Hitler, hospitalized because of temporary blindness caused by a gas attack, remained in the German army. Upon his recovery, the Army assigned him to a surveillance and propaganda group. He attended meetings of political parties, noted the attendance, the points of the main speaker, the agreement of the members with the speaker’s points, etc., and wrote a report to his army unit. The Army was functioning as a police force, maintaining order, and concerned about the growth of communist organizations. Hitler attended Army courses in anti-Bolshevism and German history achieving good grades. Later, the Army assigned him to an instructor’s course. Practicing lectures in this course, Hitler discovered his ability to speak.
The Army assigned him to attend a meeting of the German Workers Party in 1919 and make the usual report. Hitler was not very impressed with this small political party; however, he saw in it a place where he could do the political activity he desired. He joined the party and quickly became one of its favorite speakers. People would pay admission to attend the party meetings where Hitler spoke. He became the party’s leader, adopted the swastika as the party’s insignia,changed the party’s name, developed it into a major political party, and eventually took control of the German government.[xiii]
During Goering’s testimony before the International Military Tribunal, at Nuremberg, after WWII, he spoke of how he met Adolf Hitler:
One day, on a Sunday in November or October 1922, the demand for the extradition of our military leaders was again placed in the foreground on the occasion of a protest demonstration in Munich. I went to this protest demonstration as a spectator, without having any connection with it. Various speakers from parties and organizations spoke there. At the end, Hitler too was called for. I had heard his name briefly mentioned once before and wanted to hear what he had to say. He declined to speak, and it was coincidence that I stood nearby and heard the reasons for his refusal.… He considered it senseless to launch protests with no weight behind them. This made a deep impression on me; I was of the same opinion.
I inquired and found out…. He held a meeting every Monday evening. I went there, and Hitler spoke about that demonstration, about Versailles… And the repudiation of that treaty. He said that… A protest is successful only if backed by power to give it weight. As long as Germany had not become strong, this kind of thing was to no purpose. The conviction was spoken word for word as if from my own soul.
On one of the following days, I went to the business office of the N.S.D.A.P. (National Socialistic German Workers Party, NAZI)…. I just wanted to speak with him at first to see if I could assist him in any way. He received me at once and after I had introduced myself he said that it was an extraordinary turn of fate that we should meet….We spoke at once about the things which were close to our hearts—the defeat of our Fatherland….Versailles. I told him that I myself, to the fullest extent, and all I was and possessed were completely at his disposal for this, in my opinion, most essential and decisive matter: the fight against the Treaty of Versailles.
He had long been on the lookout for a leader who had distinguished himself in some way in the last war… So that he would have the necessary authority….Now it seemed to him a stroke of luck that I in particular, the last commander of the Richthofen squadron, should place myself at his disposal. I told him that if would not be so very pleasant for me to have a leading office from the very beginning, since it might appear that I had come merely because of this position. We finally reached an agreement: for one or two months, I was to remain officially in the background, and take over the leadership only after that, but actually, I was to make my influence felt immediately. I agreed to this, and in that way I joined forces with Adolf Hitler.[xiv]
Goering was glad that he had joined the Nazi party. Hitler wanted revenge for the German defeat in World War I, and so did Goering. Hitler thought that the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which the allied powers imposed against Germany at the end of World War I, were an outrage, and so did Goering. Hitler was nationalistic in his policies, against communism, and so was Goering.
German political parties had groups of ruffians who protected party leaders and made sure that an opposing political party did not disrupt meetings. However, they would disrupt opposing political parties’ meetings. For example, the Nazis would attend a communist party meeting just to disrupt it. For these purposes, Hitler had organized the Nazi storm troopers (S.A.). Political parties fighting in the streets, during political campaigns, was a normal occurrence.
The command of the SA was a welcome task for Goering, he worked hard at it, and Hitler was pleased with his performance. As Goering said:
At first it was important to weld the S.A. into a stable organization, to discipline it, and to make it a completely reliable unit which had to carry out the orders which I or Adolf Hitler should give it… I strove from the beginning to bring into the S.A. those members of the party who were young and idealistic enough to devote their free time and their entire energies to it… In the second place, I tried to find recruits among laborers.
Hitler, commenting about Goering’s first party assignment, said:
I liked him. I made him the head of my S.A. He is the only one of its heads that ran the S.A. properly. I gave him a disheveled rabble. In a very short time he had organized a division of 11,000 men.[xv]
There was no question that Hitler was the undisputed leader of the Nazi party. All party members were subordinate to him; however, Goering quickly rose to Hitler’s deputy and played an important role in helping Hitler build the party. He, and his baroness wife, Carin, had moved from the Bavarian mountains to Munich. Adolf Hitler felt uncomfortable in a tuxedo and was ill at ease at formal functions. He left it to Goering to entertain industrialists and financiers to raise funds for the party. Goering, with his wife Carin, entertained members of German society who were important to the growth of the Nazi party. He was successful in fund-raising, and convincing industrialists that the Nazi party would be a good bulwark against the communists.
Leaders of the Nazi party held meetings at the Goering home. Ernst Hanfstaeng, a German businessperson, educated at Harvard and a friend of Adolf Hitler, commented that Goering was attractive and intelligent, with:
….a much broader fund of common sense than the other Nazis.[xvi]
Roger Manvell, in his introduction of the book: Goering, by Manville and Fraenkel wrote:
In the fat, ungainly body of this man of brutal humor and vulgar self display, there existed also a man of genuine knowledge and some taste in art, a man who appreciated books and read widely, a man who enjoy for several years the company of diplomats and aristocrats and charmed them into recording many tributes to him both as host and has negotiator. Such men as Halifax and Henderson of Britain, Francois-Poncet of France, Sumner Welles of America and Dahlerus of Sweden all stated that they were, at the time of meeting him, convinced of his sincerity and of his probable goodwill. Both of Goering’s wives were devoted to him, as he was to them.[xvii]
Some referred to Goering as “salon Nazi” and the “ambassador of Hitler.” He enjoyed working for the Nazi party because it gave him a chance to thumb his nose at the Treaty of Versailles and help Hitler gain control of the government to revenge Germany’s defeat in World War I.
For 18 years, after becoming a Nazi in 1922, Goering became a close confidant of Hitler and continued to rise in the party organization. He became one of Germany’s most senior politicians second only to Adolf Hitler, who designated Goering as his successor with a promotion to the grade of Reichsmarschall, a rank created just for him, placing him above all other military leaders in Germany.
However, in 1940, Goering’s reputation began to fall, and in 1945 Hitler ordered Goering executed, along with his wife and little daughter.
[i] Roger Manvell and Heinrich Frankel, GOERING (Greenhill Books, 2005), 24.
[ii] Ibid., 22.
[iii] Ibid., 23.
[iv] A. Scott Berg, Lindbergh (New York: G. P. Putman’s Sons, 1998), 43.
[v] Manvell and Frankel, GOERING, 33-35.
[vi] Ibid, 36.
[vii] Ibid, 36-37.
[viii] The author speculates that the “red strips” are a reference to the red banners of the Communists.
[ix] Manvell and Frankel, GOERING, 39.
[x] Ibid, 40.
[xi] Ibid, 41.
[xii] Anna Maria Sigmund, Women of the Third Reich (NDE Publishing, 2000), 26
[xiii] Thomas Childers, A History of Hitler’s Empire, 2nd Edition (The Great Courses, 2001), 39-42.
[xiv] Manvell and Frankel, Goering, 45.
[xvii] Goering’s first wife, Carin, died in 1931. He married Emmy Sonnemann in 1935.