At the time of researching this latest article, most of the news is saturated with the shooting/assassination of Osama Bin Laden. Yet within hours of those events in Pakistan, the conspiracy theories have abounded on the Internet: ‘Bin Laden was not dead’ suggested some. ‘He had been dead for ten years.’ It was a double that took the bullet from the Navy Seals.’ ‘This is all a fake, a drama….it was a devised death hoax’ and I have to suggest that these and other rumours will continue to circulate in the years to come over the possible demise of the late unlamented OBL.
However 65 years ago in Nuremberg, Germany, rumours swirled around that city like a fog on the moors how had, asked the press, Hermann Goring-the star prisoner of the allies no less-somehow managed to conceal the poison cyanide pill in his cell and then swallow it and astonishly under the noses of the military in a prison fitted with the highest security and with constant military surveillance at that time. What was going on many asked? Some accusing fingers quickly started to point at various suspects. Today they are still pointing.
It should also be remembered that before the demise of Goring two other prominent Nazis also took that desired doorway. These being Dr. Robert Ley (supremo of the Nazi Labour front condemned for its brutal methods of slave labour) and Dr. Leonardo Conti (the former Reich Minister for health). This devilish doctor had amongst other arranged methods used prisoners forcibly in Dachau for testing the results of prolonged malaria injections into the human body. The Nazis had planned later after the war to conquer Africa and plunder its many recourses for the Reich. But for the poor victims, it was a hideous way to expire.
Both doctors would later hang themselves with twisted towels in their cells in 1945. Security in the prison and the permanent inspection of prisoners came under Col. Burton C. Andrus (a career officer since 1917.) His regime argued the inquiring press, was far too negligent and the press would continue to be frequently critical of the Colonel and his administration. So by the time Goering had successfully committed suicide this fragile relationship between the media and Andrus was stretched to breaking point. (Incidentally, there had been a failed assassination attempt on Goering’s life inside the Nuremberg courthouse whilst his trial was then in progress. It seems an American Sgt. had attempted to gain access to the building carrying a loaded 45mm automatic. Fortunately, a vigilant MP on guard refused the soldier entry and confiscated the weapon. He would later confess: “I wanted to look Hermann Goering in the eye and shoot him dead.” However, no charges were proffered against the soldier and he later returned to his unit. This method of death would certainly have suited Goering’s wish, he had after all requested death by the bullet and not the rope. The Judges, of course, refused this).
On September 30th-October 1st 1946, Hermann Goering was found guilty of the indictment on all four counts. All of these crimes he had frankly admitted, claimed the court later that day he was informed officially that: “The International Military Tribunal sentences you to death by hanging.”
Then alone in his cell, he could be heard saying, “Death. Death.” The verdict had been handed down. But one day a higher reckoning will arrive and all will be judged and on that terrible day will indeed be much “wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Early the next day he requested the court to allow him to be executed by a firing squad. Naturally, the request was refused. I believe from that moment on and over the next 13 days Goering had decided how he and he alone would exit this world on his terms. The courts ruling had nothing to do with his request. I believe that even if his plea to die by the bullet had been granted Goering would have bitten on the cyanide pill anyway. All of his life it had been his way or nothing at all.
It has to be remembered that the elite of the Nazi party was quickly supplied with potassium cyanide capsules in the dying days of the war by Himmler. Goering would be no exception in quickly requesting such a phial of poison. Indeed none of these men wished to fall into the hands of the Red Army as it advanced on Berlin. And I have to suggest the capsules would have been certainly tested on inmates in SS medical laboratories to test their duration. Hundreds must have died-slowly in these evil experiments before they would be issued to the Nazi elite.
It is claimed that to obtain the maximum results from poison it takes 9/20 seconds to cause death. This affects the oxygen flowing ability into the bloodstream. It would have a more desired effect on an empty stomach. Goering I suspect would have known this. I believe he was well prepared for his final performance on this earth. Indeed 2/3 of the phials were secreted into the prison in his luggage. “Goering had brought with him sixteen matched monogrammed suitcases, a red hat box, and his valet (Robert!”)
So remembered Col. Andrus in his memoirs.
However, Goering had a few windows of opportunities to commit the perfect suicide. He had been fortunate in being able to bring into the prison 2/3 capsules of cyanide. Amongst those boxes was a portmanteau and concealed in a jar of face cream, Albert Speer theorized that the poison may have been hidden in Goering’s long tobacco pipe. Another hiding place was in a tube of toothpaste or perhaps under the rim of the toilet bowl. Dr Pflucker floated this absurd idea in his memoirs as well!
All of his and the other prisoners’ personal items would be stored in the secured prison luggage room. After October 1st or maybe later when his sentence was announced, Goering was quietly relocated to the bottom floor of the prison (a lucky break indeed for him.) Because now his cell would be just two cubicles away from the luggage room! But how to retrieve those phials from his vanity case he must have ruminated and then remove them into his cell. That could be a problem he would have to solve and quickly if he were to cheat the hangman.
During those long cold evenings alone in his cell he must have agonized about how to retrieve that golden bullet cased capsule and if nothing else Goering was persistent; hadn’t he once remarked as a boy: “….. Any danger is worthwhile if by risking it you reach the top of the mountain.” This would be the tallest peak Goering would ever attempt to scale if indeed his plan were to succeed.
In examining the “ethnic mix” of the Nuremberg village, it was then mainly staffed by American soldiers, German workers and others of the conquering tribes. It certainly was a potpourri of people. (Many ordinary Germans were just about surviving above starvation levels in those post-war years and I do remember, as a six-year-old boy, being given Red Cross parcels to my family by the British Army, to distribute in the Hamburg station to hundreds of hungry children with stretched out hands).
Albert Speer remembered the German workers especially in the prison with deep gratitude: “They managed to whisper to us a good many bits of news from the papers as well as good wishes and encouragement.” Others were just as touched by this devotion from them. And indeed one Sgt. always suspected the poison Goering used had arrived into prison compound from the Germans. He was wrong in his suggestion about placing the blame on many, rather the spotlight could and should have been directed at just one man.
But there were Germans, librarians, cooks, kitchen workers and others toiling in the prison. So the Sgt. might have had some basis for his suspicions.
Indeed Goering’s own cell was conveniently swept daily by a German servant.
The suspicious role of Doctor Ludwig Fflucker (Goering’s physician for 15 months) was also in daily attendance to deal with Goering and the others medical problems. Col. Andrus remembered him: “As sleepy-eyed, one of our POWs who had been conscripted into the Wehrmacht (army) as a Major and had a thorough distaste for the Nazis. He was absolutely trustworthy.” And he will be one of the main suspects in Goering’s assisted poisoning that we will examine.
Later it would come out that indeed the “good doctor” had a great deal of admiration for Goering and perhaps was not as hostile to the Nazi cause as Andrus always maintained. In his own memoirs, the doctor confessed: “It was natural that we Germans stuck together in the bad times.” He would proudly proclaim year’s later to anyone who would listen. Many Germans I suspect would share this view of the doctors but perhaps not too publicly.
The doctor had become a frequent visitor and welcomed friend when he visited Goering’s cell. Apparently, they discussed everything. The doctor had great sympathy for the former Reich Marshall. Later Goering would show his affection and gratitude to him by presenting a signed portrait of himself and his family to Pflucker. This he treasured and allowed it to be printed years later in his memoirs.
So if Goering was a popular guy with the doctor and the German employees how was he with the Americans and others who came into daily contact with him in those months before his arranged his death by his own hand.
Some quotes offered here concerning Goering are in my opinion uncomfortable to read but what do you think?
“Murderer he might have been but he was a brave bastard too.” Airey Neave former MP and confidant of Mrs Thatcher. He was murdered by the IRA.
“History may well show that Goering won out in the end, even though condemned by the high court of the Allied powers.” Dr Douglas Kelly, American Psychiatrist.
“Goering would take some secrets to the grave.” Dr Gustave Gilbert, prison psychologist and later a suspect.
Col Andrus: “harboured dark suspicions about this doctors role in Goering’s suicide.”
“Goering was very popular with the American GIs and officers of lower ranks.” Albert Speer recalled about his old mate, from the good old days!
“Goering never refused to give autographs. Especially when a new GI came on duty for the first time-usually on a dollar bill!” John Pearsall, a former guard at Nuremberg.
“American guards were wax in his hands,” confessed another guard.
“I never had any problem with him. Most of the Guards developed the feeling that Goering really was not such a bad guy….hey he’s a nice person…” So spoke Sergeant Raabe, another Nuremberg guard.
Even the clergy took a spiritual shine to him. For example, Chaplain Eggers would later recall: “He had a great personal charm, perfect manners, a good sense of humour. He knew the Bible too, which surprised me. He was always interesting. A good-natured charmer.”
A Catholic priest, Sixtus O’ Conner, also fell under the oily Goering charm as well, for example, he remembered: “Of all the doomed men, he impressed me the most.”
And it seems the two men also hit it off when discussing of all things baseball: “Who are these dodgers. Is there money in it. Maybe I should have gone into that business,” Goering joked to the Chaplain. I did find another quote attributed to Goering concerning soccer: “War is like a football game. Whoever loses gives his opponent his hand, and everything is forgotten.”
Yet Goering it was said had the patience of a snake; he could wait years if necessary to settle a score.
Emma Hayes who was in charge of one of the courtrooms where defendants could confer with clients remembered him well, “Many Americans in Nuremberg, including myself, developed a feeling of grudging admiration for Goering.” Good old Hermann!
The Court photographer, Ray D Addario, recalled: “Goering would always pose for me when I would ask him to. He really was a personable fellow.”
Later some Army photographers were brought in to take the final photographs of Goering stretched out in his coffin. Mr D’Addarion remarked about this: “I’m glad I didn’t have to do it. We had been with those men for nine months…..a lot of people were happy when Goering didn’t hang.
This false adulation is a far cry from the warning in Psalm 9:17: “The wicked shall be turned into hell.” And Goering was wicked in what he had allowed to happen during the Nazi era.
If the security in the prison was a leaky as a proverbial sieve and two previous suicides confirm how serious this was, how was Goering able to get his hands on the poison capsule and later swallow it with ease. Surely the mistakes of previous suicides were more than enough to tighten up the prison daily routine ordered by Andrus you have to ask.
How did he get it? Where was it hidden and who assisted him in this act? Even he in Nuremberg could not achieve this on his own!
Before any theory can be offered I was interested to learn that one of the visitors or suspects to Goering’s cell was Wild Bill Donovan or to give him his correct title: Col William J. Donovan, flamboyant wartime director of the OSS (the forerunner of the CIA.) He was at the time a special assistant to Robert Jackson the United States Chief Prosecutor. (Jackson would refer to Goering as half militarist, half gangster. Later Goering would get his own back in the courtroom against Jackson).
Bill Donovan, as OSS supremo, would during the war encourage his staff to “hatch” any wild idea that might aid the allied war effort. I rather liked the project of producing a female sex hormone to inject into Hitler’s vegetables so that his moustache would fall out and his voice go soprano. Even Alan Dulles had the same crazy idea in the 1960s, when he was Director of the CIA, to invent an exploding cigar then leaving it in Castro’s cigar box. Not sure if either was ever used or not? Nothing surprises me in the murky world of espionage!
“Goering made a deal with Wild Bill Donovan,” informed a high-ranking prison official to author Ben E. Swearingen. This is interesting because Alan Dulles, who was under the loose command of Donovan, was very much involved in espionage in Europe during the War and its dying days he also seemed to freely travel in and out of enemy occupied territories with much ease and of course Dulles certainly knew where the bodies and deep pools of Nazi gold were buried. Sadly much of this information is still classified. (General Eisenhower was still convinced that the Nazis would make one last stand against the allies, perhaps in the Bavarian Alps. Maybe also on the Nazis agenda, he reckoned was the release of the Nuremberg Nazis. It all seems absurd now of course but years later in his memoirs, Eisenhower would write: “The Nazis intended to make the attempt, I decided to give him no opportunity.” One can only wonder if perhaps Donovan, on Eisenhower’s strict orders, was dispatched to wheedle any information about this suspected last stand from prisoner Goering. Others have suggested this story emanated from Allen Dulles’ imagination but what his motive was we don’t know).
However what is intriguing is that the arranged encounter, however brief between Goering and Donovan, was a success, as far as the Americans were concerned. We cannot know the full facts of this plausible scenario but as the author Ben Swearingen records, “Donovan got his promotion and Andrus didn’t.” And why was this? It is a good question and I feel I must inquire how Goering benefited out of this meeting. Well perhaps it concerns one of the main suspects from Texas and this seems a good time to introduce him. He was an Army officer no less and maybe he too was just obeying orders from above, rather like Wild Bill Donovan. Who knows, maybe they even originated from the White House no less.
Goering’s final day on earth was October 15th 1946, a Tuesday in fact. He was now confined to cell number 5. A mere two rooms away from the luggage room. The newly made coffins had arrived including his and were waiting for their future occupants to occupy them. The allotted time for the executions was to commence was to be the midnight hour-few on the staff had been informed of this but someone would impart this information to Goering during I believe that last day. I suspect that it was a German doctor who warned him of that approaching midnight hour. Now he would have to put into first gear his own flight plan, that of retrieving the hidden phials of poison or he may even have been fortunate to have snatched them the previous day. For him, there was no going back for him.
To assist him in this suicide scheme were two opposing soldiers of the War-now they would certainly add their contribution in assisting the Ex-Reich Marshals suicide.
The first suspect is Ludwig Pfluecker, a German urologist (many top Nazis had a close relationship with this kind of doctor.) He was then a recent POW then freely assisting the allies as one of the medical officers in Nuremberg. He would offer a deferential respect for Goering at all times during his regular medical visits. The other accused was an army lieutenant later promoted to Captain. He was Jack Wheelis hailing from the great state of Texas. He had been posted to Germany in 1944/5 and would be later assigned to the 685th Internal Security Detachment. This would somehow place him the position of guarding the Nazis in Nuremberg. One witness to his personality at that time recalled that he was: “a rather flamboyant character.” Another describes him as: “tall, good-looking, good old boy Texan, the sort who would give you the proverbial shirt of their back.” And when not posting a guard over Hitler’s fallen elite he would relax in the local officers drinking den affectionately known as the “snake pit,” a popular watering hole then provided for the military and the international press pack then covering the “Trial of the Century.”
But what makes Wheelis one of our suspects was that amongst his other duties was that he was the officer in charge of the luggage room and possessed the “golden key” to the locked door. This, of course, was where Goering had concealed his “golden bullet.” Now Goring’s phial could be pocketed by him and placed in a safe place for him to swallow at his own convenience in his condemned cell-all it would need would be a brief visit by him for a few minutes. The accompanying officer, probably Wheelis would simply look the other way. (Years later the widow of Wheelis confessed to author Ben E. Swearingen “My husband liked Goering, they became friends…..they claimed that my husband gave Goring the poison.” She did not elaborate on who they were to the author.)
Goring had always seen himself as the great hunter yet so beloved in Nazi folklore. He prided himself of being a great animal conservesanist even prohibiting Vivisections in German when he awarded himself the title “Master of the Forests of the Reich.” (These people love giving themselves these grandiose titles don’ they.)
In introducing this parliamentary act he boasted: “He who tortures an animal, hurts the feelings of the German people.” How rich this sounds because all animals may have been safe from the Nazis but the doctors would discover many terrible methods to experiment on the weak of the Third Reich. The animals were the fortunate ones in Germany in those days.
One thing about all hunters is they do seem to recognize a kindred spirit in others. Goering would certainly recognise this obvious trait in Jack Wheelis and used it to his full advantage.
“Both were ardent hunters and would engage in long conversations about the joys of hunting,” so remembered a female friend of Jack Wheelis. But I suspect now Goering was gunning for larger prey, didn’t his life depend on it.
Later he would present Wheelis with an adorned signed photo of himself with the personal inscription on the back: “The great hunter from Texas” and later I suggest to seal this pact he had negotiated with Wheelis another gift of a large silver watch with Goring’s names engraved on the back of it. By now the chemistry between the two hunters must have been very intense and following in the gift department for the Texan was a gold pen-again engraved.
On September 28th with a little over a few weeks to live, Goering presented a book to the Texan and again Goering would scribble on the flyleaf: “In sincere appreciation of your human kindness and best wishes for the future.” Goering’s charm seems to have infected both the willing doctor and soldier. Both will someday be judged for these deeds of assisted homicide.
And what of the good Doctor Pflueckers pivotal role in the matter. I believe he acted as a go-between for Goering and the Texan. I believe he served Goering as a matter of a false sense of loyalty and respect, he had after all survived through the turmoil of Germany after the First World war and witnessed Hitler as the oncoming “saviour” of Germany. (We see him more as an antichrist template still yet to enter the worlds waiting stage.) The doctor also was not too ashamed to apparently accept a signed picture from Goering as well. This he would later flourish when his memoirs were published. How many more of these keepsakes are hidden in the houses of ageing men who stood guard at the prison all those years ago I wonder.
On his last day, Goring seems relaxed. The guards who look in on his behaviour note this detail. At one point he is seen reading a book: “With the birds of passage to Africa.” A strange choice for a man facing imminent death. Other men might request a Holy Bible and not waste those last few hours dreaming of a faraway continent. Later in the day, Pflucker is in and out of his cell. I believe only then does he inform a nervous Goering of the times of execution, including Goering’s own. Hermann it seems is to be the first to mount the scaffold steps. Later that evening Chaplain Gerecke pays a pastoral visit to Goering. They go over the same theology yet again. Goering protests: “Pastor I do believe in God.” Gerecke dismisses this attitude and the prisoner’s final request for partaking in the last supper. This Gerecke explains, “Denies the divinity of the Saviour who initiated this rite.” Now before he leaves the cell Gerecke offers a prayer devotional in German to him. Goering who is now seated on his khaki cot accepts it. Gerecke can only hope the condemned man will read and meditate on those printed words. He then leaves quietly, sometime later he will come running into the cell at the request of a panicking guard.
Later that evening I believe Goering has the concealed poison phial now in his possession. This he has managed to acquire with the assistance of Lt. Wheelis. Maybe the day before he visited the luggage room and retrieved the poison. (Years later in his memoirs Pflucker hints that Goering had the opportunity to withdraw the poison while taking clothes out of his luggage. I believe this statement confirms that he did indeed know that Goering had obtained the poison all along. He then waited years later to reveal this morsel of information.) Whilst Wheelis looks the other way Goering quickly acts then returns to his cell with the phial concealed in a brass cartridge. He then conceals it in his anus and uncomfortably waits for the appropriate moment to skilfully remove it. Later after his death, there is found a presence of excreted material on the brass capsule. This, as Ben Swearingen discloses, is evidence he did indeed place it in his rectum. Later under the blanket and now dressed in his silk pyjamas he removes it – a difficult painful task I suggest. He then conceals it quickly in the folds of his mattress. Later he will bite down hard on its tip but for now, Goring can only compose his thoughts and wait. The difficult part he has successfully accomplished. D-day has now arrived. Now all he can do is wait. Soon he will be gone with the wind. (Suicide is never an option to the Christian. To the unsaved, it’s irrelevant because he is lost already and will die in his sin. The Bible has severe words about suicide especially in the Old Testament: Exodus 20: “Thou shalt not kill” and the episodes of Samson and Saul suggest they committed suicide. As regards the New Testament the fate that Judas Iscariot prepared for himself is a prime example. Also in Revelation 9:1-10 we learn that many will seek the means of suicide to end their plight.)
Later somewhere in the prison near to Goring’s cage the two army chaplains O’Connor and Gerecke are listening to a baseball game on the radio. Both men unfortunately have a small bet on its outcome. Suddenly a guard rushes in shouting, “Goering is having a little fit.” O’Connor turns to Gerecke and says: “That’s your man-not mine.” He then turns and runs into Goering’s cell. Dr Pflucker is a close second.
Amazingly the body is still warm. Gerecke acts quickly and I suspect Goring is aware of his presence even his identity. Now Gerecke kneels and whispers in Goring’s ear: “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7.) These are now precious seconds for the dying man to repent. We can never know if indeed he responds or is unable to.
Now amazingly one of the perpetrators in his death is Dr Pflucker. He “took Goering’s wrists and found that the pulse was fading away….he lay back and managed one short expiration. Goering’s face was already turning blue green. It appeared to the doctor as though it were bathed in artificial blue light.”
The time is 10.45 pm approx. Hermann Goering is dead. He has finally cheated the hangman. How he had managed it at all would be his secret that would accompany him to his grave. Perhaps somewhere in Valhalla? (There is no Valhalla of course. The Nazis saw it as something somewhere symbolizing the final destination of the noble warrior.)
Hermann Goering’s 15 months prison confinement was over. Now the theories of how he managed it would begin.
“And it is appointed unto men once to die, after this the judgment.”
Neither Jack Wheelis or Ludwig Pflucker, who’s role in the matter was in fact secondary, would be charged although there would be suspicions about theirs and others in Goering death. Amazingly Chaplain Gerecke would become a suspect. The Russians insisted that the Chaplain had given the poison to Goering. After two weeks of house arrest, the army were satisfied that he had no part in Goering’s suicide. He would be promoted to Major on the day the investigation ceased. Col. Burton Andrus “must have realized that his military career was near an end,” reported another officer soon after Goering’s demise. Soon after the enquiry he was removed from the prison and returned to the United States. His son would later remark on the effect the death had on his father: “I think that it haunted him his entire life. In his very last hours, he was still anguishing over what happened. Goering has committed suicide. I must report it to the commission he said. I told him it was the middle of the night and it could wait until morning. Four hours later my Father died.”
“We are all just fragments….We are nothing.” (Hermann Goering 1893-1945).
PPS. The body of Hermann Goering after death, with one eye still open, it seems had been undressed from silk pyjamas and in to his uniform jacket, not sure what trousers he was wearing. One wonders what the purpose of this was all about. Amazingly the Russians wanted to go ahead and hang the corpse anyway. Perhaps they though it more official if he was dressed in a uniform instead of pyjamas, who knows. Either way, they were eventually talked out of this outlandish performance.
Used reference books
Goring a Biography, David Irving
Hermann Goering the man and his work, Erich Gritzbach
The mystery of Hermann Goering’s suicide, Ben E. Swearingen (excellent book)
Goering, Wolfgang Paul
The Reich Marshall, Leonard Mosley (very informative and the author actually met Goering several times)
The Infamous of Nuremberg, Col. Burton C. Andrus
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