Times Online

'I helped Goering escape hangman'

By James Bone
February 08, 2005

US guard claims he smuggled in the poison that Hitler’s henchman used to kill himself

A FORMER American guard at the Nuremberg Tribunal claimed yesterday that he had smuggled in the poison that allowed Hermann Goering, Hitler’s second-in-command, to escape the hangman’s noose.

Herbert Lee Stivers, 78, a retired sheet-metal worker from Hesperia, California, broke almost six decades of silence to appear to solve one of the great mysteries of the Second World War.

“I gave it to him,” Mr Stivers, a former US Army private, told the Los Angeles Times. He said he smuggled the cyanide capsule to Goering after befriending a beautiful, dark-haired German woman outside the court.

Goering committed suicide in his cell in a military prison on October 15, 1946, just hours before he was to be executed for war crimes. The commission that investigated his death found that he had taken his own life by swallowing potassium cyanide.

Rival theories have swirled for decades about how the Reichsmarshal got hold of the vial that killed him. It has been suggested that the poison was concealed under a gold dental crown or in a hollowed-out tooth, hidden under sagging skin in his navel or inserted into his rectum.

Speculation focused on the possible role played by a US Army officer who took a watch from Goering, on the German doctor who regularly examined him and on a Nazi SS officer who might have passed the poison to him in a bar of GI soap. In the popular imagination it was thought that Goering’s wife, Emmy, might have slipped him the vial in a “kiss of death” in her final prison visit. The inquiry concluded that Goering had the cyanide all the time he was in military custody.

Although impossible to verify, Mr Stivers’s confession upsets all of the theories and suggests that a war criminal cheated justice because a 19-year-old private was trying to impress a woman. Mr Stivers was one of the white-helmeted soldiers who guarded the 22 Nazis on trial at Nuremberg. The guards were free to talk to the prisoners and even collect their autographs.

“Goering was a very pleasant guy,” Mr Stivers said. “He spoke pretty good English. We’d talk about sports, ball games. He was a flier, and we talked about Lindbergh.”

One day a young, dark-haired beauty who called herself Mona approached Mr Stivers outside a hotel housing an officers’ club.

“She asked me what I did, and I told her I was a guard,” Mr Stivers said. She said, ‘Do you get to see all the prisoners?’ ‘Every day,’ I said. The next day I guarded Goering and got his autograph and handed that to her. She told me that she had a friend she wanted me to meet. The following day we went to his house.”

There, Mr Stivers was introduced to two men — “Erich” and “Mathias” — who told him that Goering was “a very sick man” who was not getting the medicine he needed in prison. Twice he took notes to Goering that Erich had hidden in a fountain pen. The third time, Erich put a capsule into the pen.

“He said it was medication, and that if it worked and Goering felt better, they’d send him some more,” Mr Stivers said. After delivering the “medicine” to the Nazi leader, he returned the pen to the woman.

“I never saw Mona again,” he said. “I guess she used me. I wasn’t thinking of suicide when I took it to Goering. He didn’t seem suicidal. I would have never knowingly taken something in that I thought was going to be used to help someone cheat the gallows.”

When Goering killed himself two weeks later, Mr Stivers decided to keep silent for fear of facing prosecution. He went public only at the urging of his daughter, Linda Dadey, who told him he owed it to history.


# The founder of the Gestapo, Goering was born in Rosenheim, Bavaria, in 1893

# The most senior figure in the Nazi hierarchy to authorise the “Final Solution” in writing

# Hitler named him as his successor in a 1941 decree, but retracted this in his will

# Captured by American troops in Austria after Hitler’s suicide

# Convicted of crimes against humanity at Nuremberg

# Found dead hours before he was due to be executed


“It’s probably the most plausible explanation to date. To say any more would be going too far”
Paul Weindling, author of Nazi Medicine and the Nuremberg Trials

“It doesn’t sound like something made up. It sounds even more believable than the story about the poison in the dental crown”
Cornelius Schnauber, University of Southern California

“[His story] is crazy enough to be true. But there’s no way it can be proven. Nobody really knows except the person who did it.”
Aaron Breitbart, Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Los Angeles

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