Hermann Gring (or Goering) commanded the German air force (Luftwaffe) during World War II and was second only to Adolf Hitler
in the hierarchy of the Nazi Party. His relationship with Hitler and the National Socialists began in 1922. A decorated fighter pilot in World War I, Gring was valued by the Nazis for his organizational skills and his connections to the military and the German aristocracy. He participated in the 1923 Munich Beer-Hall Putsch and was badly wounded, but avoided arrest and fled the country. He lived in Austria, Italy and Sweden until 1927, when he was allowed to return to Germany. He was elected to the Reichstag in 1928 and helped the Nazis become Germany's ruling party. Ambitious and loyal to Hitler, Gring was entrusted with eliminating political opposition, rebuilding the air force (in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles) and putting the economy on a wartime footing. Because of his success he was promoted to the special rank of Reichsmarschall and named Hitler's successor in 1940. Hitler's faith in Gring lagged, however, after the failure of the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. When he didn't deliver on his promise to supply German troops on the Russian front, Gring's position with Hitler became even more precarious. As the Allied armies closed in on Hitler and Berlin in April of 1945, Gring made a clumsy and premature offer to take over as Germany's leader. Hitler reacted by charging Gring with treason and ordering his arrest. As it turned out, Gring surrendered to the Allies on 8 May 1945, and 17 months later he was convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg and sentenced to death. Hours before he was to be hanged, Gring killed himself with a poison capsule (potassium cyanide) he had somehow smuggled into his cell.