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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February, 2005, 17:10 GMT
Guard 'gave Goering suicide pill'
Hermann Goering (left) and Rudolph Hess at the Nuremberg trials
Hermann Goering (left) claimed he had his suicide pill all along
A former US guard says he unwittingly gave Nazi leader Hermann Goering the poison he used to commit suicide.

Goering killed himself only hours before he was scheduled to be hanged in 1946, following his conviction for war crimes at the Nuremberg trials.

Now Herbert Lee Stivers, who was a 19-year-old guard at the trials, says he agreed to carry "medicine" to the imprisoned Nazi air force chief.

He said he was talked into it after meeting a flirtatious local girl.

He said he met the girl in the street, and she appeared impressed by his role as a guard at the trials.

I would have never knowingly taken something in that I thought was going to be used to help someone cheat the gallows
Herbert Lee Stivers

She introduced him to two men, who asked him to take messages to Goering hidden inside a fountain pen.

The third time, he said, the pen hid a pill.

"[One of the men] said it was medication and that if it worked and Goering felt better they'd send him some more," Mr Stivers told the Los Angeles Times.

He never saw the girl again after delivering the capsule.

"I guess she used me," he said.

"I would have never knowingly taken something in that I thought was going to be used to help someone cheat the gallows."

Troubled conscience

Historians have long questioned how Goering managed to evade his execution, scheduled for 15 October 1946.

The Luftwaffe head left a suicide note claiming he had had the pill during his entire 11-month war crimes trial.

An army investigation decided he must have hidden the pill on his body and in his cell.

There is no proof of Mr Stivers' story, but several historians are tempted to believe him.

Aaron Breitbart, a researcher at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said the story "is crazy enough to be true", adding: "Nobody really knows who did it except the person who did it."

Mr Stivers, 78, a retired sheet metal worker from southern California, said he was finally convinced to go public by his daughter, to ease his conscience after nearly 60 years.

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