Review by Gerhard L. Weinberg
The distinguished British author Richard Overy published a fine biography of this key figure in Nazi Germany in 1984. It is a real service to have the book republished with a new preface by the author that reviews some of the literature on Goering which has appeared in the intervening years. This is important because the author correctly asserts that Goering’s significant role in the economy, rearmament and persecution of Jews has too often been minimized in the literature and in popular views of the Third Reich. Instead the emphasis has been on the failure of the German air force that he created and commanded, his extraordinary dress and lifestyle, and his cheating the hangman in Nuremberg by committing suicide. While these facets of his career are significant, they do not provide a full view of the role actually played by the man second only to Hitler in the critical years from 1933-1943.
The reader can see here how Goering came to be close to Hitler and acquired increasing power because of that close association. His part in the consolidation of Nazi rule in its early years included his control of the Prussian Ministry of the Interior and the creation of the Gestapo, the Secret State Police. In a series of calculated moves, Goering gained increasing power over parts of the economy, shoving old elites aside, and being placed in charge of the Four-Year-Plan authority that played a key role in preparing Germany for the wars that he, like Hitler, anticipated.
Whether it was persecution of Jews inside and outside Germany, integrating the countries of Southeast Europe into a German economic empire, or taking control of the economies of states conquered by Germany in the early part of World War II, Goering was invariably extremely active. He was also busy looting works of art, but Overy slights this subject. What is presented here very clearly is how Goering simultaneously built up the German air force but also created a complicated bureaucracy that tended to stifle its own efficiency.
Goering’s strategic and tactical failures in the direction of the German air force would play a major role in the decline of his power as well as his early popularity. The inability of the air force to follow its bombing of other countries’ cities by protecting German cities from Allied bombers made him the butt of jokes, while the failure of the airlift to the German army in Stalingrad cost him much of Hitler’s confidence—the basis of his status. As Overy shows, other Nazi leaders, especially Albert Speer and Heinrich Himmler, were increasingly successful in encroaching on Goering’s empire by utilizing the same methods he had deployed in building it. At the end, he had only his gaudy clothes and estate, a prominent role in the Nuremberg trial, and suicide, a step that ironically mirrored the act of two of his most important appointees during the war.
Hardcover Book : 336 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press Inc. ( January 31, 2012 )
Item #: 13-532595
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 0.84inches
Product Weight: 15.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)