Written July 2011 (for school assignment)
A study of two brothers, one who stole the other’s rightful place in history with his villainy
Hermann Goering, an infamous name and face, a man involved in the Nazi atrocities. Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, President of the Reichstag, founder of the Gestapo, one of the main architects of the concentration camps, Prime Minister of Prussia and Hitler’s designated successor, Goering was a man who was deeply loathed and feared. Born in Rosenheim on the 12th of January 1893, Hermann was going to grow up to become one of the most hated figures in history.
Two years later, on March the 9th, Hermann’s little brother Albert was born (perhaps the love child of their mother Fanny and his godfather von Epstein, which may explain why the brothers don’t look alike). Being the two youngest children in a family of five kids, Hermann and Albert grew fairly close. They were quite different, in appearance and personality. Hermann sported the traditional Aryan looks with blonde hair and blue eyes, whereas Albert had dark hair and dark eyes. Albert was intellectual and reserved, whilst Hermann was slightly hyperactive and loved the outdoors. Hermann told a psychiatrist about his brother, when being interviewed during the Nuremburg trials, “He was always the antithesis of myself. He was not politically or militarily interested; I was. He was quiet, reclusive; I like crowds and company. He was melancholic and pessimistic, and I am an optimist. Be he’s not a bad fellow, Albert.” Article continues; just click ‘Read More’ at the bottom…
When National Socialism arose, the brothers’ conflicting beliefs made them drift from each other. Hermann joined the Nazi Party, and quickly moved up the ranks due to his aristocratic upbringing and patriotic involvement in WWI. Albert, on the other hand, was disgusted by the Nazis, even before their repulsive mistreatment of Jews became apparent. Albert once commented to a close friend “Oh, I have a brother in Germany who is getting involved with that bastard Hitler, and he is going to come to a bad end if he continues that way.”1 Hermann later said, “We never spoke to each other because of Albert’s attitude toward the party. Neither of us was angry at the other. It was a separation due to the situation.”1
Eventually, Albert was prompted to save Jews and others who were persecuted by the Nazis. The similarities between Albert Goering and Oscar Schindler are incredible, yet Albert’s story is rarely told. Albert was shoved into the shadows due to the enormity of his brother’s crimes. After all these years, testimonies of survivours and a report, buried until recently in British archives, documents that Albert Goering actually saved numerous innocent people during the Holocaust, and finally, some attention is being given to his brilliant deeds.
When overwhelmed by the Nazi presence in Germany, Albert moved to Austria, where he openly disapproved of Hitler and the state of modern Germany. He would’ve been in serious trouble for his unpatriotic opinions when the Germans invaded Austria, but luckily, his brother was able to protect him from the Gestapo. This was the first of many times that being related to the President of the Reichstag proved to be a benefit for Albert.
Eventually, the brutality of the Nazis became clear to Albert, and when some of his friends and acquaintances were deported to concentration camps, Albert felt he needed to do something to help. This is when having the last name ‘Goering’ became incredibly useful for him. He managed to attain travel documents for Jews under his brother’s name so they could escape from Austria. Sometimes he would even call up officials and put on his brother’s voice, and manage to arrange ways out for victimized folk.
Soon, the Nazi influence consumed Austria, and Albert fled. During the war, he lived in Vienna, Paris, Rome, Prague and Bucharest trying to outrun Nazism. From each location, Albert continued to use his relation to Hermann to save Jews and dissidents and send aid to refugees across Europe. Albert’s ability to perform good deeds and become apt at espionage was further enhanced by the fact that he was that he was the Export Director of the then munitions conglomerate, Skoda.
As soon as the Germans invaded Austria, Albert managed to save the Archduke Josef Ferdinand of Austria, the last Habsburg Prince of Tuscany, who had been imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp. “Hermann was very embarrassed. But the next day the imprisoned Habsburger was free,”1 Albert recollected to his old friend Ernst Neubach.
Albert continued to save people directly from concentration camps, using Hermann masterfully. His big brother’s power soon got to his head, and he felt like he needed to show off to his younger brother. Albert, ever the clever little faux sycophant, would praise Hermann immensely, inflate his ego and then ask him to free some Jews from the concentration camps. Hermann would insist every time that it was the absolute last time that he would free Jews for his brother but Albert kept coming back and Hermann kept signing those papers. Hermann had an insatiable desire to keep proving how big and powerful he was. A list of those saved using this method, well over a hundred people, has recently been found. All these people lived because Albert was so stubborn and because Hermann was so eager to assume his superiority and felt pressured under familial duty.
Numerous anecdotes of Albert Goering’s rescues abide to his valour. Everything from his little gestures of defiance to open disobedient acts have been recorded and testified to. Once, he convinced the SS Chief Heydrich to release some Czech resistance fighters who were in the hands of the Gestapo. Another time, Albert saw some elderly women being forced to scrub the streets as a form of public humiliation, and immediately put his jacket aside and joined them in the labour. The SS official who was overseeing the punishment immediately called the whole thing off, for he couldn’t bear to see Albert, one of such noble heritage, labouring away. This way, the old Jewish women escaped from more slave work. He forged passports with his own hand for a Jewish family he befriended. He even saved the famous composer Franz Lehar’s Jewish wife. Several other incidents have been recorded, where Albert refused to greet Nazis with the customary salute and ‘Heil Hitler!’ Once, he denied a high ranking Nazi official from entering his office, because of the arrogant manner in which he strutted in. He then spent the next 40 minutes calmly going through his photo albums with a colleague, then finally allowed the official to come and meet him. Another time he was said to have replied to a ‘Heil Hitler’ from some German soldiers with “You can kiss my arse.”
Sadly, this life of saving the unjustly persecuted put him on the Gestapo’s hit list. Four arrest warrants were issued in his name, and by 1944, he had to run for his life. Here, he relied on Hermann once more to get him out of trouble. Australian writer William Hastings Burke1 even claims that the Gestapo were given an ‘execute on sight’ order, which Albert managed to evade only because of his brother’s influence.
Soon enough, Albert was arrested by the Allies, suspected of being linked to war crimes because of his brother. The brothers met for the last time in May 1945, in a transit gaol in Augsburg. In the courtyard of the gaol, they embraced and Hermann said, “I am very sorry, Albert, that it is you who has to suffer so much for me. You will be free soon. Then take my wife and child under your care. Farewell!”1 Then in 1946, Hermann was finally convicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He consumed a smuggled cyanide pill in his cell, and cheated the executioner. Poor, innocent Albert spent two years in prison, unable to convince his interrogators that he was not involved in his brother’s line of work, and didn’t even condone the behaviour.
Albert survived the war, but life after the Nazis were eliminated wasn’t much better. After being imprisoned and interrogated at Nuremberg and Prague, he was banished to Argentina for his own safety and condemned by his last name, unfairly blacklisted by a new Germany that couldn’t bear to be reminded of its past wrongdoings. The surname that once enabled Albert to save hundreds of victims of Nazism became an agonizing burden. His wife and daughter left him in 1947, and he never heard from them again. He plunged into alcoholism and depression.
Albert Goering died on December 20th, 1966, broke, alone, a pariah, his chest unrecognised by the medals he deserved. He was buried in the Goering family plot, an honour that Hermann didn’t receive. Hermann’s ashes were scattered in a nondescript muddy river somewhere in Munich, the exact location unbeknownst to the world. There are no memorials dedicated to Albert Goering, no mention of his kindness, no salute to his selfless acts and no honours given out to him. No clear figures show how many people Albert saved, but estimates range in the hundreds. Some historians claim he saved over a thousand people. Many of those he saved are still alive, and hold Albert in their hearts fondly. A petition is currently circulating around the internet, urging Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, to grant Albert Goering the Righteous Among the Nations award, a recognition long overdue.
The story of Albert Goering is not a simple tale of a man saving innocent people. The whole situation poses many questions and thoughts to analyse.
It is puzzling to wonder why nobody knows about Albert Goering and his subtle yet heroic acts. Sadly, his brother’s infamy overshadowed his own good deeds, and the Goering name will always be tainted. Albert Goering has practically been ignored in the history books and is not even mentioned in schools. Instead, his demonic big brother steals the limelight, and his evil acts are focused on more than Albert’s heroism. Even from beyond the grave (or muddy creek where his ashes were disposed of), Hermann continues to infect the Goering family name, preventing Albert from being fully recognised for his actions. After almost 70 years, Albert Goering is finally being distinguished from Hermann and is now unaffiliated with National Socialism.
When contrasting Albert and Hermann, another curious question strikes: how can two brothers who were so close take such different paths in life? It is natural for different people to have different opinions, regardless of whether they are related, but the sheer parallel between Hermann and Albert’s views are stunning. The fact that Albert wasn’t influenced by his brother’s success to join the Nazi Party, even though he knew he would make rapid progress through the ranks due to Hermann’s status, shows the incredible strength of his compassionate character. The fact that Hermann was unable to be swayed from his wrongful path despite seeing how determined Albert was to save lives and how pleased he was doing that goes to show what an unwavering, callous and foul entity he was.
Through Albert, Hermann’s hypocrisy has also become clear. The Nazis had a strong emphasis on imprisoning or even killing dissidents, yet Hermann kept letting his little brother get away with it. This shows that he chose not to act on the orders that he himself gave his men! Perhaps it was due to the natural love he held for his brother, or perhaps it was due to his secretive irresolute beliefs and possible doubt about Nazi ideology and rules.
Slowly, over time, Albert Goering is being unveiled to the world, and one day, he will be held in the same regard as Oscar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg. Schoolchildren will learn about him instead of only ever learning about the other Goering brother, and Albert Goering, the humble businessman, will be considered a true hero.
- William Hastings Burke (2010). Thirty Four. London: Wolfgeist.
- James Wyllie (2006). The Warlord and the Renegade. London: The History Place Limited.
- Emmy Goering (1972). My Life With Goering. 2nd ed. London: David Bruce and Watson Limited. (note: this book is written in favour of Hermann Goering by his widow. It attempts to paint a picture of him as a good man. The information I have taken from this book are just the basics of his life. The other information in this book is biased and untrue, an attempt by his widow to clear up her family’s reputation.)
- Albert, The Good Brother by Wilfrid Renaud (manuscript available on http://albert-goering-english-version.blogspot.com)
- Holocaust Memorial Page, Louis Bulow. (2010). Albert Goering, the Good Brother. Available: http://www.auschwitz.dk/albert.htm. Last accessed 4 July 2011.
- Sarah Ruszkowski. (2011). Albert Goering: The Other Goering Brohter. Available: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/8065959/albert_goering_the_other_goering_brother.html?cat=37. Last accessed 4 July 2011
- Robert S. Wistrich. (2010). Hermann Goering. Available: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/goering.html. Last accessed 4 July 2011.
- Thirty Four by William Hastings Burke