Back to May 8th, 1945

The Capture of Göring.

From Russ Folsom and the US 36th Division veteran association.

The Capture of Göring.


Brigadier General Robert I.Stack 36th. Division - Assistant Div. Commander



On 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.


This 36th. 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!


I thought "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.


Shortly after 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 25 miles.


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.


Finally, about 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 General.


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. Hitler became 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.


36th. 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. We did.


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