Emmy Göring: First Lady of the Third Reich

In the middle 1930s, Adolf Hitler was romantically involved–inasmuch as he was capable of romantic involvement–with Eva Braun, the former assistant to his court photographer, Heinrich Hoffmann. But Hitler’s relationship with Braun was a closely guarded secret among the Nazi hierarchy. Goebbels thought that Hitler’s appeal to women was greater if they believed him single, and and idea that Hitler was putting aside personal interests to focus on the problems of the nation was felt to have great propaganda value for the Nazis. So Hitler was always photographed standing apart. Even in crowds, he was to be the man alone.

This left the job of official Third Reich hostess up for grabs. Initially, the position belonged to Magda Goebbels, who, like her husband, was close to Hitler. But just as Magda’s marriage to Josef Goebbels started to deteriorate because of his frequent infidelities, Hermann Goering married an former star of the Nation Theater of Weimar, Emmy Köstlin, who became the second Mrs. Göring. (The first, Carin, had died in 1931.) With her presence and bubbly personality, she quickly seized the role from Mrs. Goebbels, playing hostess to many of the Obersalzberg’s visitors in the years before the outbreak of war.

Goering showered his bride with gifts, including closets full of expensive gowns, jewelry, and the opportunity to decorate and furnish Göring’s many residences in Germany and Austria. Most of this loot came from the various bribes and kickbacks Göring received from officials who wanted to steal from property and bank accounts confiscated from Jews and intended for the treasury. (Göring also dipped his own bill in this pool.) Emmy Göring was frequently photographed at major social events, raising her celebrity to levels previously undreamt.

In 1938, Emmy Göring gave birth to a daughter, Edda, whom her husband nicknamed his “little lieutenant”.

Emmy Göring’s fast and exciting life, and claim of the title “First Lady of the Third Reich” provoked jealousy from Eva Braun, whose existence was often described as a taking place within a gilded cage.  Emmy Göring returned Braun’s envy with hatred and contempt, taking every opportunity to shun and belittle her. This led to tensions between Hermann Göring and Hitler. Eventually, Emmy Göring was banned from Hitler’s Berghof, and afterwards the Reichsmarschall was conspicuously absent from Berghof photos and movies–though Hitler still visited the Görings at their house up the hill.

After the war, Emmy Göring spent a year in prison as a Nazi sympathizer. A few years after her release, she and her daughter moved to Munich, where she took a small apartment in the Lehel neighborhood of Munich. There she lived out the rest of her days. Most of the loot her husband gave her was confiscated after the war, but she managed to exempt some of the paintings by claiming they were gifts from her husband to her daughter. She and Edda fought German authorities for the right to these treasures into the late 1960s.

Emmy Göring died in 1973.


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