Friday, June 18, 2021

Holocaust and Aviation - Part II, Chapter 12 - Herman Goering the Emperor of the Air

Herman Goering was a celebrated fighter pilot, "Ace" who took down twenty-two enemy airplanes  in the First World War. He was the successor of Manfred von Richthofen "the Red Baron", perhaps the greatest pilot ever, who fell in battle after being credited with taking down of about 300 of Allied airplanes. The Richthofen Squadron was called the "Flying Circus" and was an elite unit of the German Air Force and Army.

The clause in the Versailles Agreements in which the Germans were required to hand over to the Allies all the advanced D-7 poker planes with which Goering fought, was a major factor in the German protest against the agreement. Goering ordered his pilots to take all of the squadron's planes and destroy them.

He met Hitler in 1922. Hitler immediately noticed Goering's value as a famous commander and pilot. Goering was impressed by Hitler's political skills. A fruitful collaboration began between them, which lasted until the defeat of the Nazis. It was a partnership and a personal friendship.

For Goering the ambitious Hitler was an extraordinary political opportunity. As a young man with a relatively junior rank he could not fit into a high rank in any of the other parties. The ideas of the Nazi party matched his views. What was left for him was to shift this party course so that it would fit in with his plans to advance aviation and to lead the party and Germany in this way.

In 1932 Goering became President of the German Parliament. He also served as the political ambassador of the Nazis. Involved and best known of all, he became the number one electoral asset, the most popular figure in Germany. He linked the Nazi Party to the leaders of the conservative parties, who wanted nothing to do with Hitler.

In 1933, when the first Nazi-led government was formed, Goering was appointed to hold three ministerial portfolios: Prussia's interior minister - in this capacity he brought about the unification of all German federal police into one force under Himmler's command. Minister of Aviation - a position that was tailor-made for him and pointed out the importance of the issue. Minister of the Environment - Goering was the first Minister of the Environment in the world. He was an ardent supporter of the subject, which was one of the most important in the platform of the neo-pagan Nazi party.

In 1934, Goering actually took over the Nazi party on "Night of the Long Knives," in which Ernest Roham and his men, who were his friends with whom he had built a popular large militia, were murdered. The Nazi party finally became a jealous dictatorship, dominated by the black color of SS clothes. The world was shocked, but moved on to the agenda.

In 1935 Goering strated the rapid establishment of the new Air Force. The terms of the Treaty of Versailles were: if the Allies discovered that the Germans were developing fighter airplanes they had the right to attack. But Goering's charismatic personality played a key role in convincing the entire world that no evil would happen. The British were silent when he announced that he was going to develop a large air force. The German Air Force quickly became the central player of international politics and later brought the Nazis victories without bloodshed. At the same time, the airforce was used for the purpose of identifying the Nazi movement with the most modern and spectacular military branch.

In parliament that year, Goering passed the Nuremberg Laws. The laws forbade marriage or extramarital relations between Jews and citizens of the Reich of German descent. The decision was unanimous. Goering has signed all of these laws as Speaker of Parliament.

In 1936, the Rhine area was conquered, mainly through an air force demonstration. Goering was also appointed to the very important position of Commissioner of the Four-Year Economic Plan. In fact he became the head of the German economy. Nazism began as a struggle of the lower classes, but soon made Germany ruled by a small group of industrialists with huge factories. Goering made a crucial contribution to this. His original intention was slightly different, to nationalize the industry.

Goering took advantage of this role: He ransfered unlimited budgets to the aviation sector. He  nationalize factories in a systematic program, particularly in the occupied countries. He established an economic empire under his control and name, centered on all the steel production of the Reich. His factories began employing forced laborers. 

Goering, who had economic thinking, was against any waste. He therefore opposed the elimination of the skilled labor force in the occupied lands, in which countless factories operated. His economic trademark was maximum use of resources. His orders to the SS were always combined with a warning: "Do not waste anything of what is usable''.

In 1938, after "Kristallnacht", Goering enthusiastically created the legal system for the theft of Jewish property, a model that Eichmann later used in Vienna. Goering ordered that all resources in the occupied lands be confiscated and that the population be left with only the minimum necessary for subsistence. He thought of looting as the normal way of waging war. This approach shaped the final solution. The sorting of the Jews for life and death was done on the basis of the economic calculation of their usefulness. From the bodies of the murdered everything that was valuable was taken.

In 1939, World War II broke out, in fast wars the Germans conquered Poland, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium and France. The Nazi Air Force was the deciding factor in these victories. Following the victories in the air, the mobile ground forces and the "assault units" of the SS at their head, advanced rapidly, killing systematicly all the Jews and others who were on their way.

In 1940 the battle for Britain began and the German Air Force lost about a third of its power in a stubborn and continuous attack on the island, which was protected by air defense radar, a method that Goering underestimated the information about. The airforce has not recovered from this damage.

One week after the beginning of the invasion of Russia, on June 29, 1941, Hitler officially appointed Goering as his successor. These were the heydays of him and of Nazi regime in general. A month later, on July 31, 1941, on the eve of the date  of Tisha B'Av in the Jewish calendar, Goering signed the "Final Solution" order.

Many people, ideas and events in Nazi Germany pushed directly and indirectly for the final solution. In the end, it was an initiated and calculated decision by Goering, the most powerful man in the Reich. This was in the capacity of his position as "the commissioner of Jewish Affairs''. As early as May 1941, he issued an order banning the emigration of Jews from the Reich.

During the spring of 1941 Goering lost a lot of prestige and status, as a result of various and cumulative failures: On May 10, 1941, Rudolf Hess took off for his solo flight to England, thus beginning an endless saga of defection and betrayal. The flight was a huge blow to Goering's prestige, also because it took place at the end of the Battle of Britain, in which he lost a third of his airplanes. At the end of May 1941 another problem was discovered which cast a heavy shadow over all his plans. Ernest Udet, a close friend of him from the Flying Circus, was appointed by him, although lacking administrative skills, to be in charge of the fighting airplanes production. Udet and his friends have turned the Air Force's armament plan into chaos. He forged reports on the manufacturing and presented numbers that were much higher than reality. In all, Goering was suddenly missing about 3,000 aircraft, compared to his original design. This is according to the following calculation: about 1500 as a result of Udet's fabrications, about 1,200 that he lost in the battle over Britain and about 300 that he lost in the battle over Crete that ended in those days. He had just over 2,000 aircraft left, ahead of the war in Russia and the continuation of the war in other fronts. In addition, following the omissions of Udet, who committed suicide, he lost control of the aviation industry, which was handed over to Albert Spir, the Minister of Armament.

The entanglement into which Goering had to go had to be resolved immediately. He was an action man, with an iron will. He knew that he was starting to lose control. He had to take a decisive counter-action. Why then, he thought, not to act against the Jews. Goering thought that in this way he would create a renewed dynamic, in which the totality of the ups and downs would be balanced. He will compensate for the loss of the airplanes with the extermination of Jews, precisely according to Nietzsche's vertical dialectics. He thought that in way he would continue to hold on to everything.

On the evening of Tisha B'Av, July 31, 1941, Goering sent a letter to Reinhard Heydrich instructing him to begin preparations for a solution to the problem of European Jewry. This was the main order for the complete extermination of the Jews. It was a fateful moment, which marked a decisive turn in the fate of the Jewish people, who experienced throughout history the heights of calamity on this fateful date. The order created a chain reaction in the Nazi domination hierarchy. At the Vanza conference, a few months later, Heydrich planned the practical steps for its implementation.

The order, which symbolizes the peak of humiliation, did not help Gering re-establish himself. In 1942 his status finally waned, after failing to fulfill his promise of air supplies to the besieged Sixth Army in Stalingrad. Hitler increasingly took over the various fields of aviation, from the development of wonder weapons to the management of air defense. Goering found himself outside the circle he had established. He lost control of his drug addiction and spent a lot of time in his estate with the private nature reserve. He became notorious for looting art works for his private collection. His official status remained the same, as Hitler continued to rely on his coolness in times of crisis and saw in him the person he would have wanted by his side at such a time.

The senior status of Goering in the Nazi regime is undisputed. Yet he is often seen as a secondary figure to Hitler. This is not the case and he was the actual leader of Nazi Germany most of the time. Given the importance of militarism in Germany, Goering, the party's most senior officer, actually dictated many events. He sought, with the help of other young pilot officers who belonged to his circle, such as Hess and Heydrich, to become Hitler's successor. He strengthened his political status through his connections with the nobility and the capitalists. His status in the eyes of the far right front of the party was reinforced by his extreme antisemitic measures, culminating in the final solution order.