Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hermann Göring captured by U.S. 7th Army - May 9, 1945

Göring (first row, far left) at the Nuremberg Trials.
Göring (first row, far left) at the Nuremberg Trials.

Göring surrendered on 9 May 1945 in Bavaria. He was the third-highest-ranking Nazi official tried at Nuremberg, behind Reich President (former Admiral) Karl Dönitz and former Deputy Führer Hess. Göring's last days were spent with Captain Gustave Gilbert, a German-speaking American intelligence officer and psychologist (and a Jew), who had access to all the prisoners held in the Nuremberg jail. Gilbert classified Göring as having an I.Q. of 138, the same as Dönitz. Gilbert kept a journal which he later published as Nuremberg Diary. Here he describes Göring on the evening of 18 April 1946, as the trials were halted for a three-day Easter recess.

"Sweating in his cell in the evening, Göring was defensive and deflated and not very happy over the turn the trial was taking. He said that he had no control over the actions or the defence of the others, and that he had never been anti-Semitic himself, had not believed these atrocities, and that several Jews had offered to testify on his behalf."

Despite claims that he was not anti-Semitic, while in the prison yard at Nuremberg, after hearing a remark about Jewish survivors in Hungary, Albert Speer reported overhearing Göring say, "So, there are still some there? I thought we had knocked off all of them. Somebody slipped up again." Despite his claims of non-involvement, he was confronted with orders he had signed for the murder of Jews and prisoners of war.

Göring dressed for display, along with the other war criminals, after committing suicide by cyanide.Though he defended himself vigorously, and actually appeared to be winning the trial early on (partly by building popularity with the audience by making jokes and finding holes in the prosecution's case) he was sentenced to death by hanging. The judgment stated that:

There is nothing to be said in mitigation. For Goering was often, indeed almost always, the moving force, second only to his leader. He was the leading war aggressor, both as political and as military leader; he was the director of the slave labour programme and the creator of the oppressive programme against the Jews and other races, at home and abroad. All of these crimes he has frankly admitted. On some specific cases there may be conflict of testimony, but in terms of the broad outline, his own admissions are more than sufficiently wide to be conclusive of his guilt. His guilt is unique in its enormity. The record discloses no excuses for this man.

Göring made an appeal, offering to accept the court's death sentence if he were shot as a soldier instead of hanged as a common criminal, but the court refused.

Defying the sentence imposed by his captors, he committed suicide with a potassium cyanide capsule the night before he was to be hanged (15 October 1946). Göring obtained the cyanide from his skin cream jars (he had interigo) and he had hidden two cyanide capsules in his opaque skin cream that no one found until after his death because he had written a note to Colonel Andrus mocking him and his inability to find Goering's cyanide capsules.. It has been claimed that Göring befriended U.S. Army Lieutenant Jack G. Wheelis, who was stationed at the Nuremberg Trials and helped Göring obtain cyanide which had been hidden among Göring's personal effects when they were confiscated by the Army. In 2005, former U.S. Army Private Herbert Lee Stivers claimed he gave Göring "medicine" hidden inside a gift fountain pen from a German woman the private had met and flirted with. Stivers served in the 1st Infantry Division's 26th Regiment, who formed the honor guard for the Nuremberg Trials. Stivers claims to have been unaware of what the "medicine" he delivered actually was until after Göring's death. Because he committed suicide, his dead body was displayed by the gallows for the witnesses of the executions.

After his death, the bodies of Göring and the other executed Nazi leaders were cremated in the East Cemetery, Munich Ostfriedhof (München). His ashes were scattered in the Conwentzbach in Munich, which runs into the Isar river.

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)

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