Hermann Göring artefact for Heritage Malta

A silver goblet, probably from the personal collection of Hermann Göring (1893-1946), was recently donated to the National Collection by Mr Joseph Said, a former chairman of Heritage Malta.

Polished back inscriptionIt is historically recorded that Göring owned a remarkable silver collection part of which was kept at his fabulous country estate, Carinhall. This estate was subsequently destroyed upon Göring’s orders in 1945 after he had transferred his massive art collections from the estate because of the advancing Soviet armies.

Göring was a leading member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and an ace fighter pilot and veteran of World War I. A member of the NSDAP as from its earliest days, he helped Adolf Hitler in taking power in 1933 thus becoming the second-most powerful man in Germany. In the same year he founded the Gestapo, subsequently handing over its command to Heinrich Himmler.

He was appointed commander-in-chief of the German air force, the Luftwaffe in 1935, a position he held until the final days of World War II. Hitler promoted him to the rank of Reichsmarschall, a rank senior to all other Wehrmacht commanders, and in 1941 Hitler designated Göring as his successor. However, by 1942 as a consequence of the Luftwaffe’s failings on various fronts, Göring’s standing with Hitler was tested. Göring somewhat withdrew from the military and political scene and focused on the acquisition of property and artwork. When on 22 April 1945 he was informed that Hitler intended to commit suicide, Göring asked Hitler permission to assume control of the Reich. Considering it an act of treason, Hitler removed Göring from all his positions, expelling him from the party, and ordered his arrest.

At the Nuremburg Trials he was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity sentenced to death by hanging. However he escaped execution by committing suicide the night before the date set.

The goblet was awarded to the Luftwaffe bomber pilot, Joachim Helbig (1915-1985) a recipient of the Knights Cross. HelbigFor the purposes of the award the mid-19th century goblet was decorated with a silver wreath of oak leaves with a Luftwaffe eagle clutching a swastika. On the back, the inscription in German reads “Ded[icated to] Major Jochen Helbig on 28.9.42 through Reichsmarshall and Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe Goring” was engraved. The base of the goblet was also engraved with the conventional Luftwaffe honour (translated) “For Great Success in the Air War 1942”

On the date of the award Helbig also received his Swords to the Knights Cross. He was a bomber pilot and is credited with the destruction of 182,000 gross register tons of Allied shipping accomplished in 480 flown missions. He participated in the invasions of Norway, Belgium and France and was subsequently posted to the Mediterranean where he operated bombing missions against Malta and in support of the Afrikakorps. He became the 20th recipient of the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. When in 1942 Göring was falling out of Hitler’s favour, he must have considered men like Helbig as trustworthy and their accomplishments and missions somewhat saved his reputation with Hitler. 

This historic artefact will be permanently displayed at the World War II sections of the National War Museum at Fort St Elmo. It will highlight the importance given by the Axis powers, in this case by none other than Göring himself, to the Axis bombing campaign over Malta during the said war. The museum holds only a few memorabilia directly related to Axis pilots who flew over Malta and this prestigious goblet, be it in terms of craftsmanship and historical significance, adds to the ever growing collection, mainly through donations, of the National War Museum.