Hermann Goering, C-in-C of the German Luftwaffe, was a larger-than-life character in the first decade of the Nazi regime. Widely seen as Hitler's deputy, his very flamboyance and extravagance made him seem more 'human' than the other Nazi leaders such as Goebbels, Himmler or even Hitler himself. Goering with his love of beautiful women, fast cars, yachts and aircraft was someone many could identify with. He also admired for his evident competence as the rapid expansion and successes of the Luftwaffe followed his spectacular performance as Minister of Economics overseeing the apparent wonder of economic recovery it he mid-1930s.
In this excerpt, Herman Goering has come to visit a frontline Stuka Group during the early days of the Battle of Britain.
Goering came and went in a whirlwind. He flew in with what seemed like a huge entourage. He waddled (that was really the only word for it) over to Jako, who stood in front of his pilots saluting. He patted him on the shoulder, apparently cracked a joke, and everyone within hearing laughed with him. Klaudia, Rosa and Brigitte weren’t close enough to hear, but they watched it all from the Communications Center (or CC) along with the NCOs on duty.
Was it less than a fortnight since Klaudia had been excited by the thought of seeing Goering personally? Was it less than a fortnight since she had been thrilled to think she knew a man who could ask favours of a man so powerful and favoured that the Reichstag had created a new rank just for him, “Reichsmarschall”? It seemed a lifetime ago. The intervening fortnight had been such a roller-coaster of alternating ecstasy and despair. The expected roses and proposal had not come, but then Jako was the Gruppenkommandeur of a crack Luftwaffe unit in the midst of war. Klaudia kept telling herself she should not expect too much. He had sent for her a couple of times after duty, and his ardour and compliments reassured her again of her place in his heart. And yet…
Now, as she watched Jako grinning and nodding beside the Reichsmarshall, she felt intense – almost unbearable – pride. That was her man that the Reichsmarshall was jesting with like an old friend! Nor had Jako ever looked more splendid than now in his tailored uniform, grey gloves and leather riding boots that gleamed in the sun.
“He’s coming this way!” someone called out.
Instantly the personnel of the CC bolted back to their respective places. By the time the Reichsmarshall reached the door, they were all intent upon their respective tasks. A loud “Achtung!” preceded the C-in-C into the room. Everyone sprang to attention.
Staff officers poured in, and then came Goering himself with Paschinger still beside him. He greeted the staff of the CC by touching his glittering marshal’s baton to the peak of his cap. He was smiling and nodding, and then he caught sight of the Helferinnen. “Ah, so you have some of our charming, brave Helferinnen here! How are they working out?”
“Jawohl, Herr Reichsmarschall. Very well, so far. May I introduce the Herr Reichsmarschall?” Jako led Goering directly to Klaudia.
There she stood, rigidly at attention, hardly daring to breathe. What could be a better sign of Jako’s good intentions than the fact that he brought the Reichsmarshall himself over to introduce him to her? She sucked in her stomach and kept her chin up; she wanted to do Jako proud. “This here is Klaudia von Richthofen.”
“Ah ha!” Goering was delighted. “I didn’t realise Wolfram had a niece! How do you like it here, Fräulein? Are my young eagles treating you properly?”
Klaudia couldn’t help smiling. “Jawohl, Herr Reichsmarschall.”
“Good, good. Glad to hear it.” Already Goering was moving on. Turning away from Klaudia and addressing Jako, he remarked, “Seeing these lovely girls reminds me of your own charming wife, Jako. How is she doing these days?”
“In her seventh month now, Herr Reichsmarshall,” Jako answered happily, his back to Klaudia as if she didn’t exist.
“Ha!” Goering laughed approvingly. “A Christmas leave baby.”
“Jawohl, Herr Reichsmarshall,” Jako agreed, “and I hope we will have tamed the English lion in time for me to be with her at the birth.”
“Certainly, certainly,” Goering agreed as they moved away. Klaudia wanted to scream – or just fade away into nothingness. He was married. He had been married the whole time. Not once, not even for a moment, had his intentions been honourable. He had used her. That was all. Used her like a common whore! Rosa had been right about him the whole time. She couldn’t cope with the implications. She was ruined! Absolutely ruined. She could never go home and face her parents.