the collector: “our Hermann”

Or so he was called by the die-hards. Hermann Goering functioned as a leading symbol of all the perversity modernity could bring to bear and a living 3-D demonstration of the power of instrumental reason over our lives. The Nuremberg prisoner trudged into gaol, heaving a total of forty-nine suitcases filled with personal belongings: gem-encrusted jewelry, gold cigarette cases, expensive watches and an enormous inventory of the narcotic paracodeine. One can see the need to be around beauty, the distinction of the predator and the spoils of the hunt.

But it was Hitler who was mainly responsible for promoting the cheap aesthetics of the spectacular; the aesthetic sense of fascism, its alchemic yearnings of purity,all abetted by the power of design and symbols creating a psychology of the fetish. Hitler was on top, but Goering was second in command of ersatz art direction. They eliminated the concept of choice and crushed liberal sensibility; why worry about fashion and modernity?

John Frankenheimer. Director. The Train. 1964---great, gritty, all-but-forgotten thriller: The Train, directed in 1964 by John Frankenheimer. Imagine you are French. And imagine this is August 1944 and the Germans are pulling out of Paris. In the general chaos, a colonel of the Wehrmacht takes a particular interest in the art treasures of France. He’s having them loaded onto a train bound for the fatherland. The crates, hundreds of them, are filled, nailed shut, stenciled: 4 RE ... Read More:

As Hitler’s right-hand man, Goering enacted some of the most appalling crimes in history. Ironically, he encircled himself with beauty, using his power and position, he looted some of the world’s most cherished works of art and used them to to decorate the walls of his retreat near Berlin.He second dibs after Hitler, who didn’t have much taste so…

The question of Hermann Goering’s motivations in assembling his art collection is often raised. There are many impulses behind collecting, running the gamut from genuine love of art to calculated financial investment. In Goering’s case it seems clear that to him, a premier art collection was a necessary attribute of the civilized and sophisticated man he so desired to be. ….Read More:

---Yet he deluded himself that he wasn’t stealing. “During a war, everybody loots a little bit,” Goering said in the Nuremberg interviews with the psychiatrist. “None of my so- called looting was illegal.” He also tried to make his plundering look like legitimate transactions, Yeide says. He asked dealers to send him bills he never paid or pretended works were on loan. “A characteristic of his seems to be this disconnect between his actions and his statements,” she says. “That does seem to be part of his nature -- denial.” Hitler’s Gift The catalog features works that Hitler gave to Goering, including an official portrait of the Fuehrer and a watercolor Hitler painted himself. Hitler also gave him one of the best- known paintings in the collection, “The Beautiful Falconer” by Hans Makart. --- Read More:

…She established that two works stolen by Goering – Matisse’s Still Life with Sleeping Woman and Pianist and Checker Players – were traded for Reclining Nude with Cupid by a minor 17th-century Dutch painter called Jan Van Neck. “There were a disproportionate number of nudes in Goering’s collection,” she added. Both Matisse works, originally looted from the Paris dealer Paul Rosenberg, are now owned legitimately by the National Gallery of Art in Washington….

---Adolf Hitler’s right-hand man in the Nazi party and a morphine addict with opulent tastes, Goering liked portraits of German generals and political heroes, Dutch Old Masters and paintings of women, preferably unclothed. He amassed some 50 works by Lucas Cranach the Elder and 30 by Peter Paul Rubens. He wasn’t interested in the monumental, bland contemporary art that Hitler promoted.--- Read More: image:

…Other works Goering traded away were, famously, Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr Gachet, which has disappeared since it was auctioned in Tokyo in 1990 for a then record $82.5m, and Degas’s Madame Camus, now legitimately in a Zurich art foundation.Read More:



The emphasis on excess shouldn’t be surprising in a man who kept pet lions, had two private trains, jingled emeralds in his pockets like coins and “liked to recline in an enormous red silk kimono weighed down with heavy gold trim,” as historian Robert Edsel, the catalog’s publisher, writes in the preface….

---Kelley found Goering’s results surprising, given the wartime propaganda that the Nazi leaders had to be madmen. Goering’s responses to the Rorschach images demonstrated “normal basic personality,” Kelley wrote, although they also revealed “marked egocentricity and powerful emotional drives.” They showed nothing seriously wrong with Goering’s mind. Nevertheless, Kelley considered the test results a good first step toward gaining insight into Goering’s thinking. He used intelligence testing to assign Goering an IQ of 138, third highest among the incarcerated Nazis. (This score delighted the vain Goering.) Kelley further noted that the prisoner was “cynical and filled with a mystic fatalism,” which explained why he would not take responsibility for such wartime conduct as his murder of political opponents and complicity in genocide. In his initial neurological and psychiatric report on Goering (a record hidden among Kelley’s personal papers for the past 65 years), the psychiatrist observed Goe­ring’s emotional volatility and narcissistic fixation on what the prisoner perceived as the beauty and strength of his body. Kelley, concerned about the health of Goering’s heart, took advantage of this latter obsession to convince Goering to trim down. “When I pointed out that he would make a better appearance in court should he lose some weight, he agreed and ate abstemiously,” Kelley wrote.--- Read More: image:

…Photos show that the paintings hung haphazardly, almost on top of each other, at Goering’s enormous home, which was fitted with an indoor swimming pool, casino and offices for his doctor.

“It doesn’t seem too symmetrical, or thematic or art- historical,” Yeide explains. “It just seems to be excessive.”

Convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg trials, Goering took potassium cyanide hours before he was due to be hanged. The Reichsmarschall described himself as a “Renaissance Man” and told an American psychiatrist present in Nuremberg that “I am so artistic in my temperament that masterpieces make me feel alive and glowing inside.” Read More:
Goe­ring planned his courtroom strategy accordingly. “Time and again,” Kelley wrote, “he said to me boastfully: ‘Yes, I know I shall hang. You know I shall hang. I am ready. But I am determined to go down in German history as a great man. If I cannot convince the court, I shall at least convince the German people that all I did was done for the Greater German Reich. In 50 or 60 years there will be statues of Hermann Goering all over Germany. Little statues, maybe, but one in every German home.’ ” Goering bemoaned the last-minute wavering of some of his fellow Nazi defendants. “Not me!” he declared. Kelley frankly admired this forthright stand, and he also respected what he called Goering’s “extreme fondness for and tenderness toward his family and friends.” Read More:

…When Kelley published his findings about Goe­ring and the other Nazi defendants a couple of years later, he drew from the essentially normal Rorschach results he had interpreted. He believed that Goering and his cohorts were commonplace people and that their personalities “could be duplicated in any country of the world today.” In the years before and during World War II, the opportunity to obtain power led them to embrace a chilling political philosophy. In other words, the Holocaust and the war’s other heinous crimes were the products of healthy minds. [For more recent research on the nature of evil, see “The Psychology of Tyranny,” by S. Alexander Haslam and Stephen D. Reicher; Scientific American Mind, October/November 2005.]

Kelley, who went on to teach at the University of California, Berkeley, and work as a consulting criminologist for the city of Berkeley police, eventually spun off balance. He began drinking and frequently lost his temper during arguments with his wife. After one such fracas on New Year’s Day in 1958, Kelley, aged 45, clenched a cyanide capsule between his teeth and threatened to bite down. Then he did bite down—his son, Doug, a witness, believes it was an accident—and died within seconds. The death he shared with Hermann Goering may be coincidental. ( ibid.)

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