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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.