Göring Telegram

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The Göring Telegram was a message sent by Adolf Hitler's designated successor—Hermann Göring—on 23 April 1945 asking for permission to assume leadership of the crumbling Third Reich. The telegram caused Hitler to strip his hand-picked successor of power and appoint new political successors, Joseph Goebbels and Karl Dönitz.

Göring as Hitler's political heir[edit]

Hermann Göring had been the second most-powerful man in the Nazi Party for some time before Hitler came to power in 1933. During the early years of the Hitler regime, Göring continued to pile on titles at will, including President of the Reichstag, Minister-President and acting Reichsstatthalter (governor) of Prussia and Reich Minister of Aviation, and commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe.

On 1 September 1939, Hitler made a speech stating that Göring would succeed him "if anything should befall me." This status was underscored in a 1940 decree naming Göring as Reichsmarschall des Grossdeutschen Reiches (Reich Marshal of the Greater German Reich), a specially-created rank second only to Hitler's rank of Supreme Commander.

On 29 June 1941, one week into Operation Barbarossa, Hitler issued a secret decree which formally named Göring his successor in the event of his death. It stated that if Hitler ever lost his freedom of action–by way of incapacity, disappearance or abduction–Göring was to act as Hitler's deputy, with full power to act on Hitler's behalf.

April 1945 – Göring's "duty"[edit]

Following the Red Army advance into Berlin on 21 April 1945, Hitler, his personal secretary Martin Bormann and Joseph Goebbels remained in the Führerbunker to lead the defense of the capital against the Soviets. Göring left Berlin and moved to the south, reaching his estate at Obersalzberg on 22 April. That same day, Hitler in a lengthy diatribe against his generals first publicly admitted that the war was lost. Hitler announced that he intended to remain in Berlin to the end and then commit suicide.[1][2] He also stated that Göring was in a better position to negotiate a peace settlement.[3]

When the Luftwaffe's chief of staff, Karl Koller, heard this from OKW operations chief Alfred Jodl, he immediately flew to the Nazi alpine resort in Berchtesgaden to notify Göring of the news. If Göring was indeed to lead peace negotiations, Koller felt that there was no time to waste. Additionally, he didn't want to chance the Allies intercepting a radio message.

Although Göring had been looking forward for some time to the day he would succeed Hitler, he was taken by surprise at this development. Göring feared being branded a traitor if he tried to take power, but also feared being accused of dereliction of duty if he did nothing. Göring reviewed his copy of the 1941 decree, which designated him as Hitler's successor. It also vested Göring with complete authority to act on Hitler's behalf, if Hitler ever lost his freedom of action. After conferring with Koller and Hans Lammers, the state secretary of the Reich Chancellery, Göring concluded that by remaining in Berlin to face certain death, Hitler had incapacitated himself from governing. All agreed that under the terms of the decree, Göring had a duty to take power in Hitler's stead.[4]

On 23 April, Göring sent a carefully worded telegram asking Hitler to confirm that he was indeed to become the leader of Germany, in accordance with the 1941 decree. Göring added that if Hitler did not reply by 22:00 that night, he would assume Hitler had lost his freedom of action and would assume leadership of the Reich as Hitler's deputy.[5]

Hitler's reaction[edit]

Upon the telegram's arrival by radiogram from Obersalzberg at 00:56 on 23 April 1945, Martin Bormann, who controlled access to Hitler, seized upon it as evidence of "treason" and Göring's attempt to launch a coup d'etat. He claimed that the telegram was not a request for permission to assume power in accordance with the decree, but a demand to resign or be overthrown. While Walther Hewel (Joachim von Ribbentrop's liaison and a personal friend of Hitler's) attempted to justify Göring's action by saying the bunker's communications system could fail at any time and thus sever the command structure, Goebbels reinforced Bormann's argument by agreeing that it smelled of a coup.

According to Albert Speer, the Göring Telegram initiated a crisis in the form of Hitler's psychological breakdown, which precipitated the political disintegration of military command and control in the ultimate stage of the destruction of Nazi Germany. A number of telegrams from Göring to various officers which referred to his invocation of Hitler's secret testament, sent Hitler into a rage. Speer noted one in particular in which Göring directed Ribbentrop to report to him if neither he nor Hitler sent further communication before midnight.[6]

On 25 April, Hitler issued a telegram to Göring telling him that he had committed "high treason" and gave him the option of resigning his offices in exchange for his life. However, not long after that, Bormann ordered the SS in Berchtesgaden to arrest Göring. On 28 April, Hitler discovered that Heinrich Himmler was trying to discuss surrender terms with the western Allies.[7] He ordered Himmler's arrest and had Hermann Fegelein (Himmler's SS representative at Hitler's HQ in Berlin) shot.[8]

The last will and testament of Adolf Hitler was written on 29 April, prompted by Hitler receiving the telegram from Göring, combined with news of Himmler's attempted negotiations of surrender with the western Allies and reports that Red Army troops were within a block or two of the Reich Chancellery.[9] In the document, Hitler dismissed Göring from all of his offices, canceled his succession rights, and expelled him from the Nazi Party. It was dictated by Hitler to his secretary Traudl Junge in his Berlin Führerbunker, the day he and Eva Braun married.[10] They committed suicide the next day, on 30 April.[11]

The new political succession divided power between Goebbels and Grand Admiral (Großadmiral) Karl Dönitz, the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy (Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine) and chief of the Naval High Command (Oberkommando der Marine), who would become President (Reichspräsident) of Nazi Germany.[12]

Post-war discovery of the Göring Telegram[edit]

The copy found by Captain Bradin

Upon its reception in the Führerbunker, the Göring Telegram was typed onto a Marinenachrichtendienst (Naval Intelligence) form with a carbon copy and classified "Geheim!" (Secret!).

After the Soviet capture of Berlin, American officials entered the Führerbunker and took away papers and documents that were analyzed by historians.

In July 1945, Captain Benjamin M. Bradin entered the Führerbunker and discovered an original carbon copy of the Göring Telegram marked with an 'F' in a group of Hitler's papers that in later years were given to Robert W. Rieke, a professor of history at the Citadel.[13]

Trevor-Roper's translation[edit]

A British historian, Hugh Trevor-Roper, published an early English translation of the Göring Telegram in his book, The Last Days of Hitler.

My Führer:

General Koller today gave me a briefing on the basis of communications given him by Colonel General Jodl and General Christian, according to which you had referred certain decisions to me and emphasized that I, in case negotiations would become necessary, would be in an easier position than you in Berlin. These views were so surprising and serious to me that I felt obligated to assume, in case by 2200 o’clock no answer is forthcoming, that you have lost your freedom of action. I shall then view the conditions of your decree as fulfilled and take action for the wellbeing of Nation and Fatherland. You know what I feel for you in these most difficult hours of my life and I cannot express this in words. God protect you and allow you despite everything to come here as soon as possible.

Your faithful Hermann Göring.[14]

2015 purchase[edit]

On 7 July 2015 at the Alexander Historical Auction in Stamford, Connecticut, an unnamed buyer purchased the telegram for $54,675.[15]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ Beevor 2002, pp. 255, 256, 278.
  2. ^ Evans 2008, p. 723.
  3. ^ Shirer 1960, pp. 1115–1116.
  4. ^ Shirer 1960, p. 1116.
  5. ^ "Goering telegram picture". Boston.com. Retrieved 2015-07-28.
  6. ^ Speer, Albert (1971) [1969]. Inside the Third Reich. New York: Avon. pp. 571–572. ISBN 978-0-380-00071-5. }}
  7. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 923–925, 943–945.
  8. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 943–947.
  9. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 943-949, 953.
  10. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 947–949.
  11. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 953–955.
  12. ^ Kershaw 2008, pp. 949–950.
  13. ^ Dr. Robert W. Rieke, "Goering Telegram," unpublished
  14. ^ Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Last Days of Hitler, 1947
  15. ^ "Goering Telegram sold at auction". NY Daily News. NY Daily News. Retrieved 2015-07-28.

Bibliography