Back to May 8th, 1945
The Capture of Göring.
From Russ Folsom and the US 36th Division veteran association.
The Capture of Göring.
General Robert I.Stack 36th. Division
- Assistant Div. Commander
7 May 1945, the Command Post of the United States 36th.
Infantry Division was located at Kufstein, Austria, on the Danube. This
Division, already fortunate in the capture of Marshal von Rundstedt, Air Marshal
von Sperrle and Admiral Horthy, today was to take the biggest prize of World War
II, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, Chief of the German Air Force, President of
Prussia,"Nachfolger vom Reich," successor to
Hitler according to his
Testament of 1939.
Division, (Texas), had made the assault landing on the beach at Salerno, Italy,
and had fought their way north through Naples, Anzio, the capture of Rome, as
far as Piombino. They had participated in the assault beach landing in Southern
France, near Nice, and had fought their way up the Route Napoléon to north of
Strasburg, crossed the Rhine and the Danube, and were now battling with
retreating German forces in Northern Austria.
To me, as Assistant
Division Commander, that morning, the Division G-2, (Staff Officer for Enemy
Information), brought a letter, purportedly from Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring.
This had been brought into our lines under a flag of truce by Colonel von
Brauschitz. Von Brauschitz was Göring's senior aide-de-camp and a son of
Marshal von Brauchitsch who had been in command of the German Armies in 1939.
The letter was sealed and addressed to General Eisenhower, Commander of the
Allied Armies. The messenger had told G-2 that he expected to deliver the letter
personally to General Eisenhower!
I had von Brauschitz,
who spoke English, brought in and told him that this was as far as he was going.
That I would read the letter and then decide whether or not to forward it
through our XXVIth. Corps and Seventh Army. Although I speak German, I had a
Sergeant-Interpreter read the letter aloud. It is an advantage when you speak
the enemy's language if they are not aware of that fact. In the letter, Göring
stated that he recognized that Germany had lost the war, and offered his
services to General Eisenhower in effecting the capitulation of the German Army
and in reorganizing the German Reich!
"Ike" was doing all right but told von Brauschitz that I would forward
the letter. After having copies made, I sent the letter by Cub airplane to
XXVIth. Corp's Headquarters.
this, General John E. Dahlquist, the 36th.
Division Commander, returned from visiting some of our regimental Command Posts.
I told him about the letter and my actions which he approved. I then questioned
Colonel von Brauchitsch as to where Göring was and whether he wanted to
surrender. He replied that Göring was at a country estate near Brucht, about 30
miles inside the German lines and that he did want to surrender to American
troops. I said to General Dahlquist, "John, let's go get him." General
Dahlquist replied, "You go get him." So I was stuck with the job.
I took my sedan, a
jeep with my aide-de-camp, Captain Harry Bond, and a half-platoon of our
Division Reconnaisance Troop in their jeeps and reconnaisance cars. Colonel von
Brauschitz led the way in his German touring car. We passed through the American
Lines near Kitzbühl and very shortly ran into German road blocks and sentries.
When von Brauchitsch explained the situation, they made no difficulty and we
continued on, over the Pass of Thum and down into the valley of Brucht, perhaps
Near this small
village, there was a gateway to a driveway leading up to a modest country
estate. On arrival at the house, we were met by Waffen S.S. officers, a Colonel
and a Major; one looked like a gangster and the other like a pervert. The manor
was occupied by the remains of the Florian Geyer S.S. Division which had been
badly mauled in Russia. It was here for rest, recuperation and replacement. The
S.S. Colonel was Chief of Staff of this division; it's generals were probably on
leave. But no Göring.
When von Brauchitsch
asked about Göring, the S.S. Colonel said he knew nothing of his whereabouts.
When von Brauchitsch
explained our purpose was to accept Göring's surrender, the Colonel said he
knew nothing of any surrender plans and certainly his division was not going to
capitulate. Their discussion was becoming heated when I told my
Sergeant-Interpreter to interrupt them, tell them I wanted to bottle of wine
right now, and some lunch as soon as it could be prepared.
Speaking German, I had
understood their argument and I know the best way to handle Germans is to get
"tough" with them; - give them orders, make demands on them. The wine
was brought by an orderly and the S.S. Colonel departed to see about lunch. Von
Brauchitsch found some telephones and began trying to locate Göring. We had
lunch and hours went by but the German telephone system was in such bad shape
that he was unable to contact Göring.
5.00 P.M., I became exasperated and asked him if he knew where Göring might be,
or his intended route. He said "Yes", so we started on the probable
route. I left the half-platoon of the 36th.
Reconnaisance Troop at the manor and took only my aide's jeep and my sedan. Von
Brauchitsch rode with me as his German touring car had "conked out".
We drove southeast over another mountain pass down into Radstaat, (probably).
Here we found hundreds of Allied Prisoners of War whose guards had left them. I
told them to stay put, that United States troops would be there in two days. I
also told them I would be returning a little later with a German convoy and that
they must not touch these Germans or the vehicles as they were mine.
We drove on another 5
miles or so through many German troops bivouacked alongside but off the road. We
finally came to a detachment of about 25 vehicles, halted on the road and facing
in the direction from which we were coming. This was Göring's personal convoy.
He had with him his wife, his sister-in-law, his daughter, General von Epp, (the
Gauleiter of Bavaria), his chef, valet, butler, aides, headquarters commandant,
guards, etc, -altogether about 75 persons.
He and I got out of
our vehicles and von Brauschitz introduced us. Göring gave me the old German
Army salute, not the "Heil Hitler," and I returned it. I asked him if
he wished to surrender unconditionally and he said "Yes" but that he
would request my promise that his family would be brought inside the American
lines. I hoped we would all get back inside UnitedStates lines so I agreed. We
talked through my Sergeant-Interpreter although Göring said he spoke English
but that he had not had much practice in the last five years. He did not wish to
speak English as he might misunderstand or be misunderstood. His wife was crying
so he comforted her saying everything was all right now as this was an American
I told him I would
lead the column, then his automobile, then the rest of his detachment, and that
my aide, Captain Bond, in his jeep would bring up the rear. Göring's automobile
was a large Mercedes-Benz with bullet-proof glass and steel body: I kept it a
week or so but it was so heavy that it was a "white elephant" on
country roads. I presented it to the Commanding General Seventh Army. I believe
it is now in the Museum of our Military Academy at West Point. Unfortunately his
pistol, which I took, was not the gold one he was reputed to possess.
We drove back to
Brucht and here at the gateway to the manor was a fantastic sight, an American
soldier as guard on one side and a German on the other! It was nearly midnight
and I decided to spend the night there. I knew our troops would have advanced
during this long day but I had no way of knowing how far. I did not want some
trigger-happy G.I. to shoot me up in the darkness. I ordered Göring's
headquarters commandant to bring all their weapons to the room my aide and I
were to share and he did. Göring's people prepared him a dinner, I suppose, and
the Florian Geyer S.S. Division brought food for us.
The remains of
this division had surrendered to the lieutenant in command of the section of the
36th. Rcn. which I had left at the
manor. Göring had noticed this S.S. Colonel, who was Chief of Staff of this
division when we entered the building, and had seemed a bit startled. This man
was Colonel Fegelein, a brother of S.S. Gruppenfuhrer Hermann Fegelein, who was
Liaison Officer for Himmler with
Hitler, and married to Eva Braun's sister. Göring
and Himmler were bitter enemies and Göring was fearful of what Fegelein might
do that night. He sent his aide to ask for the return of four machine pistols to
protect him. I wanted to bring Göring back alive so I let him have the pistols
overnight. Göring said four of his men stood guard on his room all night. The
lieutenant of our reconnaissance section, who also understood German, told me
that Fegelein and the Adjutant got drunk later and they said that neither
General Stack nor Göring would ever get to the American lines. But it was just
drunken talk; they made no overt acts.
I told Göring's aide
that I wanted the Reichsmarschall in my room at 9:00 A.M. the next morning. The
aide was shocked and said Göring always slept late and that 11:00 A.M. would be
a better hour. I said, "He will not sleep late tomorrow morning. I want him
in my room at nine." He was there on time. Göring feared capture by the
Russians, the Austrian Communists, and the Schutzstaffel, all of whom would
probably kill him out of hand.
I questioned Göring
at length that morning, particularly about the "Austrian Redoubt." Our
Intelligence,including Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, were
convinced that the die-hard Nazis had constructed underground factories,
hangars, armories, etc., in the Austrian Alps and that they would carry on a
last ditch stand there, perhaps for years. Göring said, "No, there had
been some talk of such a plan a year before but that nothing at all had been
done to implement the plan." He was telling the truth although our
Intelligence had been completely taken in by the story.
Göring told me he saw
Hitler last on 22 April 1945. He said
Hitler was very sick when he left him. Göring
went to Berchtesgaden via Pilsen. On the 23rd April, Göring learned that Berlin
was completely surrounded by the Russians. So he telephoned
Hitler and advised
him that, as "Nachfolger" according to the testament, he, Göring,
should assume authority over the Reich and negotiate a peace.
infuriated and said that Göring had broken faith, was disloyal to the Fuhrer,
and deserved death. Göring denied this and tried to calm
Hitler down. Finally,
Hitler agreed that if Göring surrendered all his offices and authority, he
would permit him to live. Göring was Chief of the Air Force, President of
Prussia, Reichsmarschall, "Successor" and much else.
Göring was put under
arrest and guarded by an SS unit. In a few days, telegraphic orders were
received to shoot Göring, his family and all his staff. This was a large order,
even for Nazi Germany, and the S.S. commander sought assurance the order was
really from Hitler. Then Berchtesgaden was bombed by the British so they moved
him south of Salzburg, into Austria, still under arrest. Then two companies of
Luftwaffe, (Air Force), troops rescued and released him. Then he started
northwest in an attempt to contact American troops. All very dramatic and some
of it was true.
Göring was not as fat
as the cartoons made him although he was very corpulent. He was perfectly
healthy and his own people, the Luftwaffe, liked him very much. I am not a
doctor but I could not recognize any signs that he was under the influence of
drugs, nor of drug addiction. He was sober.
Göring seemed to have
no idea that he would be considered a "war criminal." When I dismissed
him after this talk and told him to be ready to leave in half an hour, he said
to my Sergeant-Interpreter, "Ask General Stack if I should wear a pistol or
my ceremonial dagger when I appear before General Eisenhower." I knew he
would never see the Allied Commander so I said, "Das ist mir ganz würst."
Literally this means, "that's goose liver bologna to me" but it is
German slang for "I don't give a damn." As this was the first Göring
knew I spoke German, he was a bit surprised and startled.
When we started back
for the American lines, I took only Göring, General von Epp, Colonel Fegelein
and the Adjutant, leaving the rest of the party and the Florian Geyer Division
in charge of the half platoon of the Rcn.Tr. I took Fegelein and the Adjutant
because they might make trouble for the lieutenant. I had no difficulty being
recognized at the American lines but
the S.S. Adjutant went
nuts and attempted to escape. One of the drivers killed him.
Division Headquarters had moved forward and was located in the Grand Hotel in
Kitzbühl where I turned Göring over to the Division Commander, General
Dahlquist. After another interrogation and lunch, Göring was sent by Cub plane
to Headquarters Seventh Army, then in Augsburg. We had doubts he would fit in
the miniature plane but we stuffed him in.
Shortly after this
incident, some United States columnists ran stories that we had shaken hands
with Göring and fed him a chicken dinner. Neither General Dahlquist nor I shook
hands with Göring. We fed him a chicken dinner because that was all we had,
chicken and rice out of a tin can. The people making the criticism never saw any
Germans with weapons, never killed any Germans, never took any German prisoners.
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