Hermann Goering, the second man in the Third Reich, was the son of a judge who had been sent by Bismarck to South-West Africa as the first Resident Minister Plenipotentiary, Goering entered the army in 1914 as an Infantry Lieutenant, before being transferred to the air force as a combat pilot. The last Commander in 1918 of the Richthofen Fighter Squadron, Goering distinguished himself as an air ace, credited with shooting down twenty-two Allied aircraft. Awarded the Pour le Merite and the Iron Cross (First Class), he ended the war with the romantic aura of a much decorated pilot and war hero. After World War I he was employed as a showflier and pilot in Denmark and Sweden, where he met his first wife, Baroness Karin von Fock-Kantzow, whom he married in Munich in February 1922. In 1923 he took part in the Munich Beer-Hall putsch, in which he was seriously wounded and forced to flee from Germany for four years until a general amnesty was declared. He escaped to Austria, Italy and then Sweden, was admitted to a mental hospital and, in September 1925, to an asylum for dangerous inmates, becoming a morphine addict in the course of his extended recovery. Returning to Germany in 1927, he rejoined the NSDAP and was elected as one of its first deputies to the Reichstag a year later. During the next five years Goering played a major part in smoothing Hitler`s road to power, using his contacts with conservative circles, big business and army officers to reconcile them to the Nazi Party and orchestrating the electoral triumph of 31 July 1932 which brought him the Presidency of the Reichstag. Following Hitler`s appointment as Chancellor on 30 January 1933, Goering was made Prussian Minister of the Interior, Commander-in-Chief of the Prussian Police and Gestapo and Commissioner for Aviation.On 1 March 1935 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force and, with Udet and Milch, was responsible for organizing the rapid build-up of the aircraft industry and training of pilots. In 1936 his powers were further extended by his appointment as Plenipotentiary for the implementation of the Four Year Plan, which gave him virtually dictatorial controls to direct the German economy. Appointed Reich Council Chairman for National Defence on 30 August 1939 and officially designated as Hitler`s successor on 1 September, Goering directed the Luftwaffe campaigns against Poland and France, and on 19 June 1940 was promoted to Reich Marshal.When Hitler declared that he would remain in the Berlin bunker to the end, Goering, who had already left for Bavaria, misinterpreted this as an abdication and requested that he be allowed to take over at once; he was ignominiously dismissed from all his posts, expelled from the Party and arrested. Shortly afterwards, on 9 May 1945, Goering was captured and put on trial at Nuremberg in 1946. He was found guilty of conspiracy to wage war, crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. No mitigating circumstances were found and Goering was sentenced to death by hanging. On 15 October 1946, two hours before his execution was due to take place, Goering committed suicide in his Nuremberg cell, taking a capsule of poison.
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