The Italian delegation to the Four-Power Munich Conference leaving the train station at rear, 29 September 1938. From left to right: Goering, Italian Fascist Foreign Minister since 1936 Count Ciano, Hitler, Mussolini, and an unknown German Army officer giving a military hand salute. The officer third from right in the back row is Hitler’s Army Personnel Officer and military adjutant Col. Rudolf Schmundt, while second from right is Army Gen. Keitel. Blaine Taylor / mediadrumworld.com

By Mark McConville

THE events in the year leading up to the beginning of World War Two have been recalled in a new book from the perspective of one of Hitler’s closest confidants, Hermann Goering. Goering was a Nazi political and military leader and in effect, Hitler’s second in command.

In 1935, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe (air force), a position he held until the final days of the regime.

The year 1938–39 was when Hitler set out on the road of pre-war bloodless conquests, which led to the actual shooting combat over Poland in September 1939.

The two major discussants at the 12 November 1938 post-Kristallnacht Conference were Dr Goebbels (left) and Goering (center), seen here at a Nazi rally at Berlin’s famed Sportpalast arena. Blaine Taylor / mediadrumworld.com

 

Both willing and unwilling, Hermann Goering was his main acolyte in achieving the peaceful military occupations of Austria and the Czech–German Sudetenland in 1938, followed by that of Bohemia and Moravia. Blaine Taylor / mediadrumworld.com

As minister in charge of the Four Year Plan, Goering became concerned with the lack of natural resources in Germany, and began pushing for Austria to be incorporated into the Reich.

Hitler had always been in favour of a takeover of Austria, his native country. He met on February 12, 1938 with Austrian chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg, threatening invasion if peaceful unification was not forthcoming.

Field Marshal Goering salutes a happy crowd in Austria on 25 March 1938. His electoral swing through Austria took place during 25 March to 2 April 1938 and included Wels, Linz, Vienna, Wiener-Neustadt, Eisenerz, Graz, Bleiberg, Tamswegg, Mautenberg, Mauterndorf, and Salzburg. Blaine Taylor / mediadrumworld.com

 

The Nazi party was made legal in Austria to gain a power base, and a referendum on reunification was scheduled for March. When Hitler did not approve of the wording of the plebiscite, Goering telephoned Schuschnigg and Austrian head of state Wilhelm Miklas to demand Schuschnigg’s resignation, threatening invasion by German troops and civil unrest by the Austrian Nazi Party members.

Schuschnigg resigned on 11 March and the plebiscite was cancelled. By 5:30 the next morning, German troops that had been massing on the border marched into Austria, meeting no resistance.

Many welcomed the coming of the Nazis as liberators and the troops were greeted by cheering German-Austrians citizens with Nazi salutes, flags and flowers.

Mother Emmy cradles her daughter for their Führer to get a better look, as Hermann sits at left. Continued Butler and Young post-war: “In the Berlin nursing home that Emmy had chosen for her confinement, notices posted in the corridors informed visitors and staff that, ‘Frau Goring requests the utmost quiet before, during, and after the birth of her son!’ Yet the baby was a girl, and her parents christened her Edda, after Mussolini’s daughter. Blaine Taylor / mediadrumworld.com

 

As a result, the Nazi annexing of Austria is sometimes called the Blumenkrieg (war of flowers), though the official name was Unternehmen Otto. For the Germans, it was seen as the first big test of their war machine although as it turned out, no actual fighting took place.

The Nazis had won their first battle without a bullet being fired and Goering received huge credit and adulation for his success.

Goering’s personal photograph albums help to illustrate the Nazi’s last year in power before the war broke out in American author Blaine Taylor’s new book, Hermann Goering: Blumenkrieg, from Vienna to Prague 1938-39, published by Fonthill Media.

“As the fateful year of 1938 opened, Hermann Goering was well and truly master of all his domains, both personal and political,” wrote Taylor in the book’s introduction.

To celebrate the Third Reich’s bloodless reoccupation of the former German Rhineland, Goering embarked on a combined automobile–Rhine River cruise on 17 March 1936. Here—just under the overhead banner that reads “A victory hail for Our Hermann”—he stands at center in the lead vehicle of the motorcade of at least a dozen cars. Blaine Taylor / mediadrumworld.com

 

“His closest associates—such as his former press secretary Martin Sommerfeldt—had been amazed at the change in his personality all for the worse after but one year in office, January 1933–January 1934.

“Indeed, on his forty-fifth birthday on 12 January 1938—a date also fateful in another connection, as we shall see—the annual practice of enforced gift-giving and outright graft to him from both Nazi Party and German State offices began that continued unabated right into the final period of the regime in 1945.

“Other than in the person of Adolf Hitler alone, there were no checks of any kinds on the power and desires of Hermann Goering.”

Prior to this, Goering played perhaps the key role in the Nazi overthrow of the Third Reich’s conservative military and foreign services, being named field marshal as his reward.

On 16 January 1938, Goering as Commander-in-Chief of the German Air Force (second from right) stands between two Luftwaffe sentries with rifles at Shoulder Arms at the main entrance to his country estate 35 miles from Berlin, Carinhall, named in honor of his first wife, Swedish Countess Carin von Fock Goering (1888–1931). Blaine Taylor / mediadrumworld.com

 

A major factor in making the Allies back down to Germany at the infamous Munich Pact Conference, Goering’s Luftwaffe was the key bargaining chip that gained these unprecedented territorial acquisitions for Hitler—all without a shot being fired.

He also helped achieve alliances with Fascist Slovakia and Italy. The year 1938 also witnessed Goering’s role in the aftermath of the Kristallnacht action against German Jews that was a notable way station on the road to the Holocaust.

In the pre-war years, Goering enjoyed widespread personal popularity among the German public because of his perceived sociability, colour and humour.

Hermann Goering: Blumenkrieg, from Vienna to Prague 1938-39, by Blaine Taylor and published by Fonthill Media is available now. RRP £25.

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