Calif. Man: I Helped Goering Commit Suicide

A former guard at the Nuremberg trials (search) has come forward to say he believes he provided the poison that Nazi Hermann Goering (search) used to commit suicide hours before his scheduled execution for war crimes, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

Herbert Lee Stivers, now 78, was a 19-year-old Army private when he took notes and a capsule hidden inside a fountain pen to Goering at the request of two men who said the notorious Nazi general was "a very sick man" who needed medicine, the newspaper said.

Stivers said he is now convinced the "medicine" was the cyanide that killed Goering on Oct. 15, 1946, the night before he was to be executed. The commander of the German air force had been convicted at the Nuremberg trials the previous month.

"I felt very bad after his suicide. I had a funny feeling; I didn't think there was any way he could have hidden it on his body," Stivers said.

Stivers had agreed to pass on the items after being introduced to the men, who called themselves Erich and Mathias.

"(Erich) said it was medication, and that if it worked and Goering felt better, they'd send him some more," Stivers said. "I wasn't thinking of suicide when I took it to Goering. He was never in a bad frame of mind."

A military investigation concluded that Goering had the cyanide all along and that a vial of poison was at various times in a body cavity or behind the rim of his cell toilet.

The Army's explanation never rang true to him, Stivers said, noting that Goering "was there over a year. Why would he wait all that time if he had the cyanide?"

It was impossible to independently verify Stivers' claim. But military records do show that Stivers was a guard at the Nuremberg trials, the newspaper said.

An Army spokeswoman at the Pentagon declined to comment to the Times.

Stivers, a retired sheet-metal worker from Hesperia, said he broke his silence at the urging of his daughter.

At the trial, he said, the guards were free to chat with the prisoners and even collect their autographs, and he recalled Goering as "a very pleasant guy" who spoke fairly good English. He said he was introduced to the two men by a pretty woman who had approached him.

After the suicide, he said, the guards were grilled but were asked only if they had seen anything suspicious.

Aaron Breitbart, a researcher at the Simon Wiesenthal Center (search) in Los Angeles, said Stivers' story "is crazy enough to be true," but there's no way to prove it. "Nobody really knows who did it except the person who did it," he told the newspaper.