Do you wish to fight? To kill?
To see streams of blood?
Great heaps of gold?
Herds of captive women?
Slaves? — Gabriele d'Annunzio
I am what I have always been: the last Renaissance man, if I may be allowed to say so. — Hermann Goring
At its roots National Socialist ideology contained only one tangible idea: the idea of struggle. This determined the classifications, the values and the terminology both of the early movement and of the Third Reich. It not only gave Hitler's written confession of faith its purposeful title but also so deeply marked the content and tone of the book that at times even the idea of race, the other cornerstone of National Socialist ideology, had to take second place. (1) All history is a story of struggles: thus Karl Marx's famous formula — forgetting its ideological slant — might be altered to define the National Socialist view of history and society. Struggle set the course of National Socialism throughout, and it supplied the most effective patterns for all its excursions into civil war, psychological and terrorist warfare, social imperialism, and finally total war followed by total collapse. Preference for violent methods is not to be explained by the impatient radicalism of a group of revolutionaries eager to implement an idea; violent struggle was itself an ideology, and if it had a goal above and beyond mere self-assertion it was the power that beckoned at its end.
Not everyone who joined Hitler's movement on its way to power accepted at first this renunciation of ideology for the sake of power. As always in times of upheavals, the widest variety of indictments and recipes for salvation were put forward and the mass party, as it grew, swallowed them all unselectively, planning gradually to neutralize them ideologically and subordinate them to the purpose of achieving naked power for a small, resolute elite. The top leadership of the party can be divided into two types according to the way they came to adopt a self-sufficient, completely unideological dynamic: those who were born National Socialists and those who became National Socialists. Joseph Goebbels was the prototype of the latter. At the beginning of their careers this type always longed, more or less articulately, to change existing conditions according to a preconceived ideological plan. Certainly they wanted to conquer and rule Germany, but they also wanted to bring her new codes of law, to 'redeem' her, however vague and confused their schemes for doing so may have been. They saw violence and struggle, fundamentally, as only the means to carry out this ideological re-education; they abhorred bloodshed, though they did not of course shrink back 'from the graves' at the crunch, when the revolutionary 'cause' was at stake. They were radical, but their radicalism had a definable goal. Hitler, however, soon gave them the choice: either be pushed into the group ironically referred to within this self-seeking Machiavellian community as the 'serious-minded', the 'bigots', or take the plunge with an opportunist about-face and become true National Socialists that is, supporters of the principle of struggle and power with only relatively binding ideological premises. Only then would the innermost circle of the party leadership be open to them.
In contrast to this type there were the 'born' National Socialists, men with a spontaneous urge to prove themselves in struggle, and an unreflecting, elemental hunger for power. Such men had never had any theoretical conceptions to give up. They were 'fighters' and in most cases marked by their experiences at the front during the war, modern mercenaries who would change flags and views for an appropriate 'reward'. For them there was now an opportunity extending beyond the war and the chaos of the collapse to use their military talents in civilian life, coupled with the promise of power. Ambitious, straightforward and ruthless, they did not suffer at the hands of the world like the ideological type, but wanted to possess or enjoy it. They did not, like the ideologist, think of future generations, but at best of the next day, or even the next hour. Their prototype was Hermann Goring; a contemporary called him 'the great representative of the National Socialist movement'. He said himself,
'I joined the party because I was a revolutionary, not because of any ideological nonsense.' (2)
Unlike those who had 'become' National Socialists, whose ideological impulses, even if concealed and sometimes unrecognizably distorted, always remained at work, so that after coming to power they returned restlessly to their old ideas and secretly longed to see them adopted, the more robust 'born' rational Socialists were for the most part quickly satisfied with the privileges of power. In this respect, too, Hermann Goring was true to type. What governed him from the beginning and led him to follow Hitler was simply his absolute will to power. He made his name and acquired his status because he knew how to fight resolutely for power as almost no one else did, and he almost lost them both because he enjoyed them as almost no one else did: shamelessly, naively and greedily, always in too large draughts. Pompous and on the verge of ridiculous, he was a mixture of condottiere and sybarite. He was as vain, cunning and brutal as any other follower of Hitler, and yet he was more popular than any of them and for a time actually more popular than Hitler himself. With some justice, he declared at Nuremberg:
'I was the only man in Germany besides Hitler who had his own, underived authority. The people want to love, and the Fuhrer was often too far from the broad masses. Then they clung to me.' (3)
In the eyes of the people he was what it was the limit of his ambition to be—the Second Man—long before Hitler officially appointed him so. And there he remained long after this election had been tacitly revoked and he had become merely a passenger, because the stir his fall would have caused had to we avoided in view of the tense war situation — the 'greatest failure', as Hitler called him. Corrupted by power and the temptations of good living, he lapsed visibly into the pitfalls of ageing rulers, indolence and megalomania. In the end he was incapable of initiative, not to be diverted from his gross pleasures by any military disasters, a 'perfumed Nero', (4) playing the lyre and withdrawn from reality while Rome was in flames.
His massive figure and extraordinary vitality suggested, even to contemporary writers, the attributes of classical heroes. A life written on his orders in 1933 praised his 'Cato-like inflexibility', and a biographical sketch from the same period called him a 'rare iron man of action of Caesarian calibre' and compared him to an 'iron knight', whose figure seemed to burst the walls of a room. (5) To be called 'iron' or 'the Iron Man' was to him the most moving confirmation of his popularity. It was the picture he tried to live up to. The more he sacrificed his former hardness and forceful delight in taking decisions to his passions, the more strenuous his efforts became to stimulate the old qualities in numerous heroic disguises. No longer the 'hero', as he had begun, winning the respect of the man in the street, he became no more than an actor playing the part. Devoid of all ideas except that of being the Second Man in the state, his blatantly personal ambition was quickly satisfied and he was happy and delighted simply to hold the insignia of power in his hands. (6)
He was popular mainly because he was the only leading figure in the Third Reich who had qualities with which the masses readily identified. He was manly, without seeming sombre or arrogant; intelligent and yet patently honest and without sophistry; and the inhumane traits of his personality lay concealed behind a moody jollity. His bluff equilibrium bore no trace of the complexities of a damaged personality structure of the sort that has rightly been seen behind the caustic temperament of Goebbels, the narrow-minded fanaticism of Himmler, or the sourness of Hess, Rosenberg or Ribbentrop. By the end of the war in 1918 he was commander of the Richthofen Fighter Squadron, which was rich in tradition. He combined the romantic aura of the much-decorated fighter pilot with the rough unaffected intimacy of the boon companion, at one and the same time hero and hail-fellow-well-met And although as an orator he lacked both propagandist subtlety and a feeling for the undefined emotions at work in a mass audience, he nevertheless knew how to take a crowd as it wants to be taken — roughly, humorously, without beating about the bush. His aristocratic background, which he emphasized with the deliberate intention of setting himself apart from the rest of Hitler's followers,(7) spared him any feelings of inferiority, the feelings of petty bourgeois who had come down in the world which were so characteristic of the men who later became the leaders of the National Socialist Party. Unlike them, he also proved himself at the end of the First World War perfectly capable of coping with the problems of civilian life, finding employment in Denmark and Sweden as a show flier and pilot. In the process he met the Baroness Karin von Fock-Kantzow, whom he married in February 1922 in Munich and who dominated his life, at first directly and later, after her early death, as a sentimental shadow. It was due not least to her influence, and not to 'ideological nonsense' that in the autumn of the same year he found his way to Hitler, who seemed to promise him what, as his life grew more bourgeois and settled, he longed for: freedom, action, comradeship and romanticism, as well as the satisfaction of his desire to be important. As for remarks like his 'ideological nonsense', they certainly covered something of the self-conscious charm of the swashbuckler, with his unconcern for the intellect. At the same time, they also conveyed the sober directness of the man of action who had always felt a total lack of contact with the world of ideas and regarded it with a mixture of admiration and dislike. At Nuremberg, Goring angrily demanded not to be questioned about the party programme, saying he did not know it (8); the verbal and intellectual poverty of an attempt which he made in 1933 to explain the National Socialist ideology may remove natural scepticism at such a remark.
How often I have been asked [says the central passage of this exposition], 'Well, what actually is your programme? I have been able to point full of pride to our simple and good SA men and say, 'There stand the bearers of our programme; they bear it upon their clear, free brows, and the programme is called: Germany! All the principles that can serve the rise and preservation of Germany are acknowledged as the only points in our programme. All others, which may damage the Fatherland, are rejected and are to be destroyed.' (9)
To begin with, however, it looked as if the link with the National Socialist movement was merely an episode in Goring's life. It is true that in 1923 Hitler had been able to obtain his services as leader of the SA and had exclaimed with calculating enthusiasm,
'Splendid! A war ace with the Pour le Mérite' — imagine it! Excellent propaganda! Moreover, he has money and doesn't cost me a cent!' (10)
But the march on the Feldherrnhalle, in the course of which Goring was wounded, temporarily brought their collaboration to an end, especially as the shattered movement no longer offered Goring any scope for action. After escaping into Austria he quickly went on to Italy, then to Sweden, and only when Hitler offered him a promising candidature before the Reichstag elections of 1928 did he once more, but this time resolutely, link his future with this man and this cause. Goring's assertion that he fell for Hitler 'from the first moment lock, stock, and barrel' (11) is therefore contradicted by events themselves. Doubtless it was said simply to support the general picture of a loyal follower of the Fuhrer. When he stated in 1933 that
'no title and no distinction can make me as happy as the designation bestowed upon me by the German people: "The most faithful paladin of the Fuhrer," ' (12)
there can be no doubt what he valued by far the most; the legitimation as Second Man which this formula afforded him in his struggle with his rivals Rohm and Goebbels. But it is also true that the backbone of his personality gradually disintegrated under Hitler's influence and he lapsed into undignified subservience. This, to begin with, he celebrated in wildly emotional terms. 'I have no consciences Adolf Hitler is my consciences' he once exclaimed. On another occasion he said:
If the Catholic Christian is convinced that the Pope is infallible in all religion and ethical matters, so we National Socialists declare with the same ardent conviction that for us too the Fuhrer is absolutely infallible in all political and other matters. It is a blessing for Germany that in Hitler the rare union has taken place between the most acute logical thinker and truly profound philosopher and the iron man of action, tenacious to the limit [And again] I follow no leadership but that of Adolf Hitler and of God! (13)
Such declarations, however, could never quite conceal the effort it cost Goring to copy Goebbels' extreme idolization of the Fuhrer, and it sounded totally implausible when this robust, burly man reflected 'It is not I who live, but the Fuhrer who lives in me.' (14) Nor did he ever quite lose is sense of humiliation at such self-abandonment, and after the period of triumphal joy in subservience was over, he suffered increasingly from his servile dependence on his Fuhrer. At the beginning he was making confessions like this one, to Hjalmar Schacht: 'Every time I face him [Hitler], my heart falls into my trousers',(15) and at the end there was the horror of those terrible stormy quarrels in the Fuhrer's headquarters, which he tried to avoid with school-boyish anxiety because, in the words of an eyewitness, he always came away from them 'utterly beaten down'.
'Often,' Goring said, 'I couldn't eat anything again until midnight, because before then I should have vomited in my agitation. When I returned to Karinhall at about nine o'clock I actually had to sit in a chair for some hours in order to calm down. This relationship turned into downright mental prostitution to me. (16)
Entirely consistent is State Secretary von Weizsacker's addition that Goring always 'puffed himself up' tremendously before these encounters. From another source comes evidence that his subservience finally took positively grotesque forms; he sometimes sprang to attention when he received a telephone call from the Fuhrer's headquarters; and he occasionally sent a liaison officer to the headquarters to bring him back a detailed account of everything Hitler had said, so that at the next meeting he could put Hitler's utterances forward as his own ideas. (17)
Such debasements doubtless arose out of the bitter realization that since his connection with Hitler he had abandoned every demand of his own personality or individuality.
'Anyone who knows how it is with us,' he remarked, 'knows that we each possess just so much power as the Fuhrer wishes to give. And only with the Fuhrer and standing behind him is one really powerful, only then does one hold the strong powers of the state in one's hands; but against his will, or even without his wish, one would instantly become totally powerless. A word from the Fuhrer and anyone whom he wishes to be rid of falls. His prestige, his authority are boundless.' (18)
Such humiliations were at first hidden under the impression created by the successes won jointly during the conquest of power, especially as it was Goring who decisively smoothed the path for the triumph of 30 January. It was no coincidence that it was he who on 29 January brought Hitler the news that agreement on the new cabinet had been reached. Hitler owed not only a decisive step on his path to Hindenburg but also his contacts, in particular with conservative circles, to Goring, who, to anyone who was deeply class-conscious, differed so pleasantly in his origins and 'way of life', and as an officer and a bearer of the Pour le Mérite, from the other 'nonentities' of the National Socialist leadership. Goring's energy was also responsible for certain important interim successes on the way to power. Hitler's reward for the 'movement's diplomatist' was a seat in the cabinet and the portfolio of Prussian Minister of the Interior. (19) While outwardly Goring continued to use his stout joviality to increase his popularity, he showed from day to day the most brutal energy in seizing power, blustering, terrorizing, crushing opposition, and creating order in accordance with his own ideas. His was the task of ruthlessly applying force, and hence that part in the National Socialist revolution which was concealed, with a profusion of words and gestures, behind bustling pseudo-legalities and Hitler's protestations that this was
'the most bloodless revolution in world history'.
A technically legal basis for 'the great clearing up', as Goring called it, (20) was provided by the 'Decree for the Protection of the German People', promulgated by the Reich President on 4th February and the 'Emergency Decree for the Protection of People and State' of 28th February (the Reichstag Fire Decree). Under the pretext of the threat of a Communist coup the party was paving the way for its own coup. Only one week after taking up office, Goring assured the Prussian police that 'during the next few months you must expect another hard struggle at the front'. Ten days later he ordered them, in the notorious shooting decree, 'to establish the best possible agreement with the nationalist formations' (SA, SS and Stahlhelm), but against the left,
'if necessary, to make ruthless use of your weapons. Every bullet' he said later in a speech expressly confirming his decree, 'that now comes out of the barrel of a police pistol is my bullet. If people call that murder, then I have murdered, I have ordered it all, I shall defend it, I bear the responsibility or it and have no need to shrink from it.' (21)
For the 'relief of the ordinary police in special cases' Goring arranged for the setting up of strong auxiliary police units made up of SA and SS, thus dropping the pretence of police neutrality and giving them terrorist duties in the service of he party. With rigorous consistency he personally combed through the ranks of the police force, so that, as a contemporary biography of Goring puts it,
'the System big shots were thrown out. This Ruthless cleansing process extended from the supreme police chief to the doorkeeper.' (22)
His speeches at that time, with their positively delirious profession of faith in violence, afford a graphic view of his convictions and measures, as for example when he declares:
My measures will not be enfeebled by any legalistic hesitations. My measures will not be enfeebled by any bureaucracy. Here I have not to exercise justice, here I have only to destroy and exterminate, nothing else!' (23)
on 11th May 1933 he said in a speech at Essen:
I have only just begun my purge; it is far from finished. For us the people are divided into two parts: one which professes faith in the nation, the other which wants to poison and destroy. I thank my Maker that I do not know what objective is. I am subjective. I repudiate the idea that the police are a defence force for Jewish department stores. We must put an end to the absurdity of every rogue shouting for the police. The police are not there to protect rogues, vagabonds, usurers and traitors. If people say that here and there someone has been taken away and maltreated, I can only reply: You can't make omelettes without breaking eggs. Don't shout for justice so much, otherwise there might be a justice that is to be found in the stars and not in your paragraphs! Even if we make a lot of mistakes, we shall at least act and keep our nerve. I'd rather shoot a few times too short or too wide, but at least I shoot . (24)
Carl Jacob Burckhardt, after a visit to Goring, aptly remarked that unrestrained outbursts were typical of 'the style of the whole National Socialist movement' and that frenzied raging, with a total loss of self-control, was considered masculine. (25) In fact much of the emphasis, many turns of phrase in such speeches, must be attributed to this perverted ideal of masculinity, whose adherents gained self-awareness only in unthinking frenzy. Goring's behaviour during the seizure of power really does not permit us to see him as 'this upright soldier with the heart of a child', which was the way Goebbels described him in a spirit of unmistakably malicious comradeship. (26) And if he had once been the object of a vague and imperceptive hope in conservative circles,(27) this hope now collapsed along with many other conservative illusions. Wherever his moderating influence might have been expected, Goring failed and increasingly left the field to the more radical Goebbels. He proved his aggressive brutality once again when, at the conclusion of the seizure of power, he appeared as an ambitious principal in the Rohm affair. Together with Heinrich Himmler he took control of the murders in North Germany and Berlin and, on his own admission, expanded the 'circle of duties' entrusted to him in order, as he thought, finally to ensure for himself that position as Second Man blocked for so long by Rohm. There is a revealing story that shows the sort of reputation he had at that time. It happened shortly after 30th June 1934. Goring arrived late for dinner with the British Ambassador, Sir Eric Phipps, explaining that he had only just got back from shooting. Sir Eric replied: 'Animals, I hope.' (28)
For Goring, the goal was now achieved. The myth of the strong but also popular man brought him official positions and tasks. One of the 'giants of jurisdiction' of the Third Reich, (29) he performed or assumed in the first two years alone the duties of President of the Reichstag as well as of Reich Minister for Aviation; he was Prussian Minister of the Interior, head of the Gestapo, President of the Prussian State Council, Reich Forestry Commissioner and Controller of the Hunt, Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe, and Commissioner for the Four-Year Plan. Yet in each of these positions, which formally gave him enormous power, he was soon interested only in the decorative side. After a few fitful efforts at the beginning he generally left his duties to their own devices, with the result that there was 'paralysing disorder'.(30) What had been intended as a concentration of forces turned out the exact opposite, and his hunger for office began to look like nothing more than an eccentric extension of his mania for collecting. He yielded himself ever more extravagantly to the enjoyment of power, which he understood mainly as a source of wealth; he organized feasts, state hunts and birthday celebrations of almost oriental splendour. He was forever bringing home to Karinhall, the imposing manor house in the Schorfheide named after his first wife, paintings, statues, jewels and tapestries. These were sometimes forced gifts from industrialists or the great German cities after he had specified the presents he expected on birthdays or other occasions. (31) And while he devoted himself more and more to self-gratification and pleasure, his cooler rivals — in particular Goebbels and Himmler, who was unmistakably on the way up — took over little by little the real power whose trappings he clung to so blindly and vainly. 'Let him be, he's a Renaissance man' Hitler used to say whenever his attention was drawn to Goring's compromising behaviour.(32) But he represented only one side of the Renaissance: the lack of scruple, the insatiable greed, the clear conscience of a beast of prey. In his beefy hedonism, however, there was more of the other side of Renaissance man: the supreme sense of style, the refined feeling for life. His first press officer at the Prussian Ministry of the Interior has recalled that Goring quickly began to hate the irksome routine of the Ministry and rarely turned up there. A biography published in 1938 by one of his closest colleagues nonchalantly lists the tailor, barber, art dealer and jeweller (in that order) as Goring's first visitors in the morning of a working day.(33) With a love of luxury like that of some voluptuous courtesan, he was always changing his suits and uniforms — as often as five times in a day. At a reception for the Diplomatic Corps in the Schorfheide, in the words of an eye-witness,
'he wore a rust-brown jerkin and high green boots and carried a six-foot spear'. (34)
According to another account:
Goring presents a grotesque picture. During the morning in a jerkin with white puffed short-sleeves, changing his clothes several times during the day, in the evening at table in a blue or violet kimono with fur-trimmed bedroom slippers. In the morning a gold dagger at his side that has been changed several times already, at his throat a brooch with gems that have also been changed, around his fat waist a broad belt also set with precious stones, to say nothing of the gorgeousness and number of his rings.
At a meeting in June 1937, Carl Jacob Burckhardt found him
'in a white uniform lying on an ottoman; he was already very corpulent in those days. His left leg, of which the trouser was rolled up above the knee, lay supported and raised on a cushion; he wore red silk stockings like a cardinal.'
Besides soft, lascivious costumes he affected, especially at his hunting parties, an archaic Old German style:
'Fifty foresters in parade uniform blew the hunting horns when the chief, in his fantastic hunting dress, entered the car with measured step. In green leather jackets and medieval peasant hats and armed with boar spears, whose flashing tips were protected by tasselled leather sheaths, the beaters and dog leaders with their dogs dragging at the lead marched past him in step.' (35)
The infantile side of his personality, to be seen in his naive mania for dressing up, his delight in medals and tinsel, his monstrous egocentricity and such transports of delight as those he showed over an electric railway installed at Karinhall, were clearly obstacles to his ambition. During the first phase of his career he had shown aggressive adroitness in violently seizing power, but asserting this power by intrigue and slowly and cautiously extending it would have been foreign to his temperament, which demanded distraction and stimulus and gorgeous display. What he was looking for now was not power but theatrical effect. As a result the areas of his influence were eroded away: the Prussian position, control of the police, and later also the authority which he tried to build up for himself over the economy and the Wehrmacht. In comparison with Hitler, his well-fed joviality did have the advantage of drawing attention away from the gloomy and neurasthenic obsessiveness of his partner in the leadership, and his popularity, which was at its peak shortly before the war, owed much to his weaknesses, behind which people imagined they could sense human warmth.(36) In a last acknowledgement of this popularity, which no longer represented his real influence, Hitler appointed him on 1st September 1939 his first successor and later President of the Reich Defence Council as well as Reich Marshal.
As Hitler awarded Goring these nominal marks of distinction, relations between the two men were steadily growing cooler. At the end of 1936, Hitler had still been able to say of Goring's work in carrying out the Four-Year Plan:
'The words "It can't be done" do not exist for him. He is the best man I have for this task.' (37)
About a year later, however, he refused to allow him to enjoy the fruits of an intrigue that would have brought him once more to the top. Contrary to Goring's hopes, he was not appointed to succeed the Reichswehr Minister von Blomberg, whom he had helped to bring down. Even behind Goring's very amateurish efforts to avoid war at the last moment, Hitler so clearly sensed the wish to be left in undisturbed enjoyment of his personal gains that it only increased their incipient estrangement. (38) The first failures, which soon occurred, did the rest. Goring's biographer of 1938 tells how when playing with lead soldiers the young Goring tried to increase the apparent number of his troops by the clever use of mirrors. In much the same way now, after the first quick triumphs in Poland and France, he tried to make up for the success that had been expected with a grandiose pose instead. After his boasting had actually contributed to the successful British withdrawal from Dunkirk, (39) his arrogant predictions about the air battle over Britain and then the bombing attacks on Germany were also proved wrong at great cost. He himself declared at Nuremberg, referring to the catastrophe of Stalingrad, which was also a catastrophe for the Luftwaffe and the turning-point in its supremacy, that 'since 1942 I have been a scapegoat for Hitler'. Yet there is a good deal of evidence that Hitler had dropped him considerably earlier. (40) Even the plans for the Russian campaign were revealed to him at a comparatively late stage. By the end of 1942 he found himself in a position of complete isolation and had lost to the steadily advancing Bormann such territory as had been left to him by his rivals Goebbels, Himmler and Speer. The rare sallies in which something of his old brutal consistency seemed to flare up, as for instance in his so-called 'plunder speech' before the Reich Commissioners for Occupied Territories, (41) could not hide his growing attitude of resignation. When the bombing of Germany, the danger of which he had so provocatively denied, began to show devastating effects he let things drift, and even in spring 1943, as Goebbels noted with amazement,
'was still not fully aware of the extent of the damage to property and life'. (42)
Because of his preoccupation with external show, the Luftwaffe, which idolized him, got little more than purely decorative benefit from the much vaunted 'comradeship'. He would visit airfields and front-line units, slapping backs, beaming, confident; at the same time there would be mounting disorganization in neglected offices, and all the efforts of his colleagues to check the chaos and mount a new programme of technical development came to grief through his incorrigible illusions and lack of foresight. Deeply entangled in his romantic 'archaic ideals of life', he was sceptical of all technical developments and liked to think that ramming enemy aircraft was really 'the most dignified way of fighting'. (43) Neither General Ernst Udet's suicide nor that of General Jeschonnek, whose despair was largely attributable to Goring's indolence, could wrench him out of his self-deceptions. When General Galland informed him in 1943 that enemy fighters were accompanying the bomber squadrons further and further into German territory, Goring forbade him to report the matter. (44) He rarely took any part now in strategic or other conferences and was often sought in vain when his chief of staff required instructions. Instead he devoted himself as before to his pastimes and private passions. The Essen Gauleiter Terboven tells of a visit to Karinhall:
'It was Sunday and the sky over Germany was once more black with American bombers. Goring merely made sure from his duty adjutant that there was no air-raid warning in force for Karinhall and then remarked, 'Fine, let's go hunting.' (45)
At the height of the war, when Goebbels tried to enlist the Reich Marshal's prestige and authority for the efforts of a group that was trying to curb the excessive influence of Bormann, he found to his amazement that 'Goring's prestige with the Fuhrer had suffered immensely'. Nevertheless he did not abandon his efforts until he realized the hopeless lethargy into which Goring had sunk. Finally, faced with the ruins of Dresden, he demanded angrily that 'this stupid and useless Reich Marshal' should be brought before the court.(46) Goring soon became isolated, even his most minor requests brusquely rejected. Significantly, his last personal achievement was to stop the intended closing of the Berlin luxury restaurant Horcher in 1943. (47) Henceforth not a trace remained of his former power and authority within the top leadership. When he fell ill in 1944 Hitler, to his chagrin, paid no attention. He was finally out of the game; he was left his rank and position solely as an act of charity.
An analysis of his inability to fill responsible positions purposefully must take account not only of the corrupting effect of good living but also of that wasting away of the personality which began at an early stage, leaving only the heavy and bloated shadow of his former self. The significance of his drug addiction, a consequence of the wounds he received during the war and later at the Munich Feldherrnhalle, is all the more difficult to assess because personal deterioration was not confined to Goring alone but spread like a disease among almost all Hitler's closer entourage. Only Goring's profound self-deception concealed from him the extent of his individual regression. There remains, of course, the question how far the one affected the other. Undoubtedly his hankering for self-display reflected a deep need of his theatrical temperament. But beneath this may have lain an unadmitted desire to conceal the progressive disintegration of his personality behind baroque ostentation. He may have attempted to use his boisterous way of life to camouflage his own atrophy, of which he was aware at the unconscious level and which reacted upon his consciousness in the form of restlessness. His unreflective nature rendered him incapable of subjecting his personal life to an act of conscious stocktaking, facing up to his failures, and the bitterness of continual self-reproach for his own weakness and willingness to capitulate. So he sought and found in a thousand disguises a means of hiding from himself the steady shrinking of his own stature. And, if his facility in self-deception could not prevent occasional humiliating flashes of insight, it became second nature to live in his own counterfeit world.
In the final phase of his life he suffered from profound illusion. In April 1945 he had been dismissed with ignominy from all his posts, arrested, and bequeathed a curse. But when he heard of Hitler's death, he was, his wife recalled, 'close to despair' and exclaimed, 'He's dead, Emmy. Now I shall never be able to tell him that I was true to him till the end!' (48) In much the same way as Himmler, he hoped to be accepted by the Allies as a partner in negotiations. As General Bodenschatz has testified, soon after his capture by the Americans his main concern was the proclamation which he intended to make to the German people as soon as he had reached a satisfactory agreement with Eisenhower. (49) His claim to the leadership of the Reich after Hitler's death was indisputable in his view. Even at Nuremberg he compelled his fellow prisoner the Grand Admiral Donitz to admit that he owed his own 'nomination as the Fuhrer's successor solely to coincidence'. (50) And if Goring defended himself before the International Court of Justice with striking skill and some aggressiveness, behind which some of the old elemental force of his personality could be felt, it was because of his conviction that his role as leader placed greater responsibility upon him than upon the other prisoners. Obstinately and at times not without success, he tried to command them, to influence their statements, and to establish a regime which Speer referred to angrily as 'Goring's dictatorship'. At last, after so many years, so many blows and humiliations, for a brief and fruitless span he had reached his goal: to be the First Man and 'Nazi Number One', as he called himself. (51)
The conditions of his personal rise to power were at the same time those of his failure. His rise and fall were rooted in an egocentricity devoid of all control mechanisms, an ego-centricity that knew no criteria of behaviour beyond the satisfaction of its own desires and, in all its naive greed, gave him the character of a large and dangerous child. In a speech which in its way is a contribution to the psychology of totalitarian government, he explained to one of the Nuremberg defence lawyers:
If you really want to do something new, the good won't help you with it. They are self-satisfied, lazy, they have their God and their own pigheadedness—you can't do it with them; 'Let me have men about me that are fat' An anointed king can say that, but not a leader who has made himself. Let me have men about me that are arrant knaves. The wicked, who have something on their conscience, are obliging, quick to hear threats, because they know how it's done, and for booty. You can offer them things, because they will take them. Because they have no hesitations. You can hang them if they get out of step. Let me have men about me that are utter villains - provided that I have the power, absolute power over life and death. The sole and single leader, whom no one can interfere with. What do you know of the possibilities in evil! Why do you write books and make philosophy when you only know about virtue and how to acquire it, whereas the world is fundamentally moved by something quite different? (52)
Possibly this is the key to his stubborn hope for posthumous fame. Germany needed for the future
'a personality that is strong enough to provide a focal point for the Germans', he said. 'Then people will think of me again! But by then unfortunately I shall be dead.'(53)
But even his death he wanted to see only as the vehicle for his historical resurrection. All his utterances in the Nuremberg cell were pervaded, in a final act of illusory self-overvaluation, by the idea that he would one day be celebrated as a martyr. He was glad he had been condemned to death, he stated shortly before the end, because the man condemned to life imprisonment had no chance of becoming a martyr.
'In fifty or sixty years there will be statues of Hermann Goring all over Germany,' he remarked, and added, 'Little statues, maybe, but one in every German home.' (54)
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