Brigadier General Robert I. Stack
Assistant Division 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 SperrIe and Admiral Horthy, today was to take the biggest prize of World War
II, Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, 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 Napoleon 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 Goering. This had been brought into our
lines under a flag of truce by Colonel von Brauschitz. Von Brauschitz was Goerings
senior aide-de-camp and a son of Marshal von Brauschitz 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 enemys language if they are not aware of that
fact. In the letter, Goering 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 Corps 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 Brauschiz as to where Goering was and whether he wanted to
surrender. He replied that Goering 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, lets 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 Kitzbuhel and very shortly ran into
German road blocks and sentries. When von Brauschitz 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;
its generals were probably on leave. But no Goering.
When von Brauschitz asked about
Goering, the S.S. Colonel said he knew nothing of his whereabouts.
When von Brauschitz explained our
purpose was to accept Goerings 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 Brauschitz found some telephones and
began trying to locate Goering. We had lunch and hours went by but the German telephone
system was in such bad shape that he was unable to contact Goering.
Finally, about 5.00 P.M., I
became exasperated and asked him if he knew where Goering 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 aides jeep and my sedan.
Von Brauschitz 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 Goerings 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. Goering 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
United States lines so I agreed. We talked through my Sergeant-Interpreter although
Goering 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
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. Goerings 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
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 Goerings headquarters commandant to bring all their weapons to the room my
aide and I were to share and he did. Goerings 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. Tr. which I had
left at the manor. Goering 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 Brauns sister. Goering and Himmler were
bitter enemies and Goering 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
Goering back alive so I let him have the pistols overnight. Goering 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 Goering would ever get to the American lines. But it was
just drunken talk; they made no overt acts.
I told Goerings aide that I
wanted the Reichsmarschall in my room at 9:00 A.M. the next morning. The aide was shocked
and said Goering 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. Goering feared capture by the Russians, the Austrian Communists, and the
Schutzstaffel, all of whom would probably kill him out of hand.
I questioned Goering 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.
Goering 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.
Goering told me he saw Hitler
last on 22 April 1945. He said Hitler was very sick when he left him. Goering went to
Berchtesgaden via Pilsen. On the 23rd April, Goering learned that Berlin was completely
surrounded by the Russians. So he telephoned Hitler and advised him that, as
"Nachfolger" according to the testament, he, Goering, should assume authority
over the Reich and negotiate a peace. Hitler became infuriated and said that Goering had
broken faith, was disloyal to the Fuhrer, and deserved death. Goering denied this and
tried to calm Hitler down. Finally, Hitler agreed that if Goering surrendered all his
offices and authority, he would permit him to live. Goering was Chief of the Air Force,
President of Prussia, Reichsmarschall, "Successor" and much else.
Goering was put under arrest and
guarded by an SS unit. In a few days, telegraphic orders were received to shoot Goering,
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
Goering 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.
Goering 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 wurst." Literally this means,
"thats goose liver bologna to me" but it is German slang for "I
dont give a damn." As this was the first Goering knew I spoke German, he was a
bit surprised and startled.
When we started back for the
American lines, I took only Goering, 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 Kitzbuhel where I turned Goering over
to the Division Commander, General Dahlquist. After another interrogation and lunch,
Goering 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 Goering and fed him a
chicken dinner. Neither General Dahlquist nor I shook hands with Goering. 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.