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Tuesday, February 8, 2005
Göring in happier days
Göring his poison pill, says American
Catherine Elsworth in Los
AN American yesterday
to have unwittingly helped Hermann
Göring to commit suicide and cheat the
hangman at Nuremberg. The former GI said he slipped
Hitler's number two a phial of cyanide.
For decades, historians have pondered how the
art-loving war criminal managed to kill himself
hours before he was supposed to be executed. One
theory states that he hid the poison throughout his
trial, another that Göring's wife passed it to
him in a kiss.
Herbert Lee Stivers, a 78-year-old
retired sheet metal worker from southern
California, has now volunteered a new explanation:
he handed Göring the deadly capsule in the
belief that it was medicine. In 1946, Mr Stivers
was a 19-year-old private assigned to an honour
guard that escorted defendants in and out of the
courtroom. He told the Los Angeles Times he
agreed to take the phial to the Nazi to impress a
local girl, who called herself Mona.
EVERY NOW and then they
come out of the woodwork, these befuddled
elderly gentlemen who believe they were
One advantage of
running a popular website -- as a result
of my posting a link to ousted cheerleader
Marilou Bresswell's webpage
yesterday she got a thousand extra hits --
is that strangers constantly contact me
with documents, names, and links. (More,
In 2003 one Herb
Mosher told me of a guy in Florida, a
Mr Ned Putzell, who was also a
chronic Göring-suicide-helper. He too
claimed to be the mystery man who slipped
to the Reichsmarschall the means to
I told Mosher what I
shall repeat below, and Mosher gratefully
acknowledged on July 10, 2003: "Mr.
Irving, as a follow up on the Goering
suicide . . . I've touched base
with some former OSS members who served at
Nuremberg with General Bill Donovan
. . . and their consensus is
that Ned Putzell, although a former OSS
member, was not at
Nuremberg . . . and
apparently has a fantasy of "giving
Goering the cyanide".
Yes, it is a jungle out
there, and full of former GIs who believe
they were there, winning medals,
liberating camps, and . . . in
this case helping the famous Hermann
Göring to die.
THE unquestionably true story was first
uncovered by my good friend, the fine
Texan researcher Ben Swearingen,
now alas passed on. He wrote a complete
book on the Göring suicide.
He interviewed the widow
of the Texan US army Lieutenant Jack
Wheelis, and she showed him the fine
pen Göring had given him -- a fellow
huntsman -- as a reward. Wheelis had
access to the property vault at Nuremberg
where Göring's effects were
Göring told him
where the capsule was hidden, Wheelis gave
it to the German prison doctor, Dr
Pflücker, who brought it in to
the Reichsmarschall on his final visit.
See my Hermann
Göring biography for more.
THE real mystery of course is this: Why
do serious newspapers believe this latest
garbage? A moment's thought would have
helped. The standard-issue Nazi glass
cyanide capsule was housed in a
screw-capped brass cartridge case, 3.5 cm
long; try getting that inside a fountain
pen! There is a photograph of it, next to
a ruler, in my book; that photo was an
annex to the official US Army Board of
The brass casing was
found clutched in Göring's hand. Was
the US army private so dim that he did not
realise what was in it?
Why do the newspapers
contact second-raters for their views,
when they know full well that my own
Hermann Göring biography was the
first to investigate the death in full on
the basis of secret reports, including his
last handwritten letters, which I
published exclusively in 1987 -- letters
which the Allied Control Commission had
ruled in 1946 should never be allowed to
see the light of day.
The director of the
Berlin Document Center, David Marwell
(later chief of the OSI) was a friend who
gave me privileged access to these rare
letters, which were in his safe at the
BDC, and in these Göring gave his own
cynical version of how he got the cyanide
capsule, hoping to get his own back on the
hated prison commandant Burton C
Andrus ("I had the capsule with me all
the time" -- not so, Fatso).
newspaper's report ("In a note he claimed
that he had the cyanide with him all
along") indicates that they have relied on
my book, without crediting me; mine is the
only book to reproduce those letters.
After completing work on
my Hermann Göring biography, I
donated a copy of the full top secret US
Army Board of Inquiry Report to the
Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Munich
and to other archives, along with all the
other relevant papers, and I am pretty
certain that there was no mention of any
Mr Stivers in the very complete listing of
all the US military personnel who had
access to Göring in his cell.
JUST as a small postscript: it is
amusing to see that The Daily
Telegraph asked Ann Tusa,
author (we are now told) of the book
The Nuremberg Trial, to comment.
What could she possibly know? Did she
investigate the Göring suicide in any
depth at all? (No). Well, her husband
John Tusa (a surprisingly
English-sounding name for a Czech Jewish
immigrant) happens to be close to the
When my own book,
the Last Battle" came out, the
Telegraph obligingly asked Ann Tusa to
review it: she did so scathingly, without
of course hinting that she had published a
rival (and greatly inferior) work.
It all belongs in the
file, "How They Do It." And it is another
of a growing list of examples of why
people now should go to the Internet, and
use search engines, to find out What
Really Happened -- i.e., Real History --
and not trust the old fashioned printed
newspapers any more.
back in print! £27.90 plus
to order] Many
full colour photos of the trial and
She approached him in the street, was interested
when he produced an autograph from another
prisoner, Baldur von Schirach, and asked to
keep it. "The next day I guarded Göring and
got his autograph and handed that to her," Mr
Stivers told the newspaper. "She told me that she
had a friend she wanted me to meet. The following
day we went to his house."
The woman introduced him to two men, apparently
called Erich and Mathias. They told Mr Stivers that
Göring was "a very sick man" and needed
medicine that prison officials were not providing.
Mr Stivers, a member of the 1st Infantry Division's
26th Regiment, said he twice took notes from the
men to Göring, concealed in a fountain pen.
Then one of them gave him the capsule to
"He [Erich] said it was medication, and
that if it worked and Göring felt better,
they'd send him some more," Mr Stivers
Two weeks later, hours before his execution on
Oct 15 1946, Göring committed suicide. In a
note he claimed that he had the cyanide with him
all along. "I wasn't thinking of suicide when I
took it to Göring," said Mr Stivers, who was
not interrogated by Army investigators after the
death but was merely asked if he had seen anything
"He was never in a bad frame of mind. I would
have never knowingly taken something in that I
thought was going to be used to help someone cheat
A military investigation concluded that the
commander-in-chief of the Nazi air force had the
cyanide throughout his trial and hid it in "the
cavity of the umbilical," "in his alimentary tract"
and behind the rim of his cell lavatory. But Mr
Stivers said he always doubted that.
"I felt very bad after his suicide. I had a
funny feeling; I didn't think there was any way he
could have hidden it on his body."
Mr Stivers, from Hesperia in San Bernardino
County, said he had been haunted by the death but
kept his involvement secret as he feared he could
be charged by the military.
It was only at the prompting of his daughter,
Linda Dadey, that he agreed to speak out.
Her father felt he had "made peace with God" by
coming forward, she said.
Many have questioned the Army version and
suggested the poison was smuggled into the prison.
In his 1984 book The Mystery of Hermann
Göring's Suicide, Ben Swearingen
speculated that Lieut Jack Wheelis, who
accepted a watch from Göring, allowed the Nazi
to retrieve the phial from luggage kept in a prison
Military records indicate that Mr Stivers was a
guard at the Nuremburg trials. His version of
events cannot be proved but several experts said it
had a ring of truth.
However, Ann Tusa, the British historian
who wrote the book The Nuremberg Trials with
her husband John, said: "It's possible but I
would be cautious. There have been several people
over the years who have come forward [to claim
involvement]. "Nobody really knows. One
questions this man's motives, why he's been so
quiet so long. I'm just terribly puzzled why he
should suddenly come forward."© Copyright of
Telegraph Group Limited 2005.
here's the original Associated Press dispatch on
which the above is based:
February 7, 2005
Man Says He
Helped Göring Commit Suicide: Former Prison
Guard Says He Gave Nazi 'Medicine'
A former prison guard
says he felt "very bad" after the suicide of Nazi
LOS ANGELES (Feb. 7) - A former
guard at the Nuremberg trials has come forward to
say he believes he provided the poison that Nazi
Hermann Göring used to commit suicide hours
before his scheduled execution for war crimes, the
Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
Herbert Lee Stivers, now 78, was a 19-year-old
Army private when he took notes and a capsule
hidden inside a fountain pen to Göring at the
request of two men who said the notorious Nazi
general was "a very sick man" who needed medicine,
the newspaper said.
Stivers said he is now convinced the "medicine"
was the cyanide that killed Göring on Oct. 15,
1946, the night before he was to be executed. The
commander of the German air force had been
convicted at the Nuremberg trials the previous
"I felt very bad after his suicide. I had a
funny feeling; I didn't think there was any way he
could have hidden it on his body," Stivers
Stivers had agreed to pass on the items after
being introduced to the men, who called themselves
Erich and Mathias.
"(Erich) said it was medication, and that if it
worked and Göring felt better, they'd send him
some more," Stivers said. "I wasn't thinking of
suicide when I took it to Göring. He was never
in a bad frame of mind."
A military investigation concluded that
Göring had the cyanide all along and that a
vial of poison was at various times in a body
cavity or behind the rim of his cell toilet.
The Army's explanation never rang true to him,
Stivers said, noting that Göring "was there
over a year. Why would he wait all that time if he
had the cyanide?"
It was impossible to independently verify
Stivers' claim. But military records do show that
Stivers was a guard at the Nuremberg trials, the
An Army spokeswoman at the Pentagon declined to
comment to the Times.
Stivers, a retired sheet-metal worker from
Hesperia, said he broke his silence at the urging
of his daughter.
At the trial, he said, the guards were free to
chat with the prisoners and even collect their
autographs, and he recalled Göring as "a very
pleasant guy" who spoke fairly good English. He
said he was introduced to the two men by a pretty
woman who had approached him.
After the suicide, he said, the guards were
grilled but were asked only if they had seen
Aaron Breitbart, a researcher at the
Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said Stivers'
story "is crazy enough to be true," but there's no
way to prove it. "Nobody really knows who did it
except the person who did it," he told the
Copyright 2005 The