Hermann Wilhelm Göring
12, 1893 - October 15, 1946) was a prominent and early member of the Nazi
party and one of the main architects of Nazi Germany. During World War
II he acted as commander of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force), and was the
driving force behind the failed attempt to force Britain's surrender (or
at least acquiescence) by the air battle known as the Battle of Britain.
After that campaign he lost much of his influence in the Nazi hierarchy,
exacerbated by the Luftwaffe's failings in Russia and against the Allied
bomber raids. He was captured by American troops on May 8/9 1945 in Austria
and he was taken before the Nuremberg Trials for war crimes, and despite
defending himself vigorously he was sentenced to death; "His guilt is unique
in its enormity" stated the judgement. He managed to commit suicide with
a smuggled cyanide capsule the night before he was supposed to be hanged.
During World War I he flew in the Luftwaffe together with Manfred von
Richthofen, the famous "Red Baron". He was the last commander of the Richthofen
Fighter Squadron and finished the war as an 'ace', with twenty-two confirmed
kills and the medals Pour le Merite and the Iron Cross.
It was Göring who is said to have originated the famous quote, "When
I hear the word culture, I reach for my gun"; the version "When I hear
the word culture, I reach for my Browning" has a subtle shift in just who
in the dialogue has the potential to be the Philistine.
Another famous quote, said by Goering during his trial in Nuremberg,
follows: "Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor
slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get
out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common
people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America,
nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of
the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag
the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship,
or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice the people
can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All
you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the
pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It
works the same in any country."
In his political testament Hitler expelled Goering and Heinrich Himmler
from the party and from all offices of State for disloyalty to him and
negotiations with the enemy without his knowledge and against his wishes,
and for illegally attempting to seize power in the State for themselves.