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Goering's Last Stand

by: Cara Wides - Last updated: 2006-08-25

Of the 21 Nazis on trial in Nuremburg in 1946, Hermaan Goering was considered by the allies as the most evil. After Hitler he was the second most popular figure with Nazi supporters and played a key role in sending millions of Jews to their deaths.

Written by Peter Nicholson, 'Nuremberg: Goering's Last Stand' tells the story of Goering's imprisonment and trial, and focuses particularly on his battle of wills with American prison commander, Col Burton C. Andrus. Because Goering's capture was such a big prize for the allies, it was vital that they prevented him from committing suicide before his execution, thus regaining control of his fate.

This two hour docudrama explores a theory of how the Nazi came by the cyanide that enabled him to take his own life on the night of his execution. Goering, whose charm skills won him so much support in Germany, is seen befriending and manipulating one of his American guards, Lieutenant Jack G "Tex" Wheelis. It is thought that Wheelis brought Goering a pot of skin cream from among his confiscated possessions and hidden in it was the fatal cyanide capsule.

The Leiutenant was never officially questioned after the suicide but his son is interviewed during the programme (real footage is spliced between scenes recreated with actors, depicting Goering's final months). He says that his father was guilty of helping Goering and talks about the Leiutenant wearing a watch that was a gift from the Nazi. A photo exists of Goering and his guard smiling together -  which  the prisoner signed.

It is unbelievable that Wheelis developed a respect for Goering even though he attended the trial and knew about the blood on Goering's hands. In the docudrama there is also real footage from the Nuremberg trials, and most chilling is the part where Goering is shown shielding his vision when a film showing piles of Jewish corpses is played in court.

Little is said of the investigations that followed Goering's death, but it is implied that Andrus failed to be promoted because of it, and believed for the rest of his life that the suicide was a huge failure on his part. Hannes Hellmann (a very apt name!) portrays the Nazi as a man who was skilled at getting people to do what he wanted them to do, which gives us insight into how he was able to accumulate power within the Nazi party.

Nuremberg: Goering's Last Stand broadcast on Channel Four 24th August.