The Göring family name is indelibly associated with Hermann Göring (1893 – 1945). Hermann was one of the leading lights of the National Socialist movement, and, until the regime was consumed and destroyed in the reaping hubris of Allied military advances, held some of the highest offices of state in Nazi Germany.
The Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremburg saw the trials of 24 of the most important captured leaders of Nazi Germany. Following the suicides of Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and Josef Goebbels, Hermann Göring was perhaps the highest ranking survivor of the regime.
He was one of Nazi Germany’s most senior military commanders. He had been Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe since 1935 and was made Reichsmarschall of the entire armed forces in 1940 by a grateful Führer . His power was not confined to military matters, and his civilian portfolio of positions includes the Presidency of the Reichstag and he was Minister President of the Free State of Prussia, Reichsstatthalter of Prussia and Reich Minister of Aviation and Forestry.
The hangman was cheated of this most glittering of the golden pheasants (Goldfasanen was a derogatory term used by many Germans for high-ranking Nazi Party members inspired by their brown and red uniforms draped with golden braid and medals) when Hermann committed suicide by consuming cyanide on the night preceding his execution.
But this is not the story of Hermann Göring. It is the story of Albert Göring – the good brother who defied the Nazi regime and may one day be honoured at the Yad Vashem memorial as righteous amongst the gentiles.
Albert had shared Hermann’s privileged upbringing. Albert was one of five children of Heinrich and Franziska Göring. Because their father spent much of his time abroad, they were largely brought up with their godfather of Jewish heritage, Ritter Hermann von Epenstein, in his Veldenstein and Mauterndorf castles.
Whilst Hermann went on to become a leading figure in the National Socialist movement, his younger brother developed an antipathy to the regime which developed into active resistance. His familial connections with one of the most powerful figures in Germany gave him the ability to resist from the inside, and, amongst his reported endeavours, included
- Inducing and permitting acts of sabotage at the Škoda Works in Czechoslovakia;
- Forging his brother’s signature on transmit papers to allow the escape of dissidents;
- Sending trucks to concentration camps with request for labourers, and then letting the prisoners escape into isolated areas; and
- facilitating the freeing and flight from Germany of his former boss, the Jewish film financier Oskar Pilzer and his family.
His notorious family name ensured he was investigated for war crimes, first during the Nuremburg Trials and later in Czechoslovakia. Both times he was freed following widespread and spontaneous testimony that highlighted his brave and resolutely anti-Nazi activities.