Hermann Göring (1893–1946) was the highest-ranking Nazi official tried during the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. A decorated fighter pilot during World War I, Göring joined the Nazi party in 1923 after hearing a speech by Adolf Hitler. He eventually found his way into the inner circles of Nazi power.
After Hitler's appointment as Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Göring took on many positions of power and leadership within the Nazi state: Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force), Director of the Four Year Plan in the German economy, and, at the outbreak of war in Europe, Hitler's acknowledged successor. It was Göring who ordered Security Police chief Reinhard Heydrich to organize and coordinate a "total solution" to the "Jewish question."
The International Military Tribunal charged Göring on all four counts (crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and conspiracy to commit crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity). He was convicted and sentenced to death. On the eve of his scheduled execution, he committed suicide in his prison cell.
Critical Thinking Questions
- What qualities and characteristics of leadership did Göring seem to have and to demonstrate?
- How did Goering defend his actions and choices at the International Military Tribunal? How do leaders of governments and organizations accused of mass atrocities rationalize their choices?
- What pressures and motivations may have affected Goering’s choices?