The captured German Luftwaffe commander committed suicide by ingesting potassium cyanide while imprisoned at Nuremberg. According to a guard, Goering bit down on a small glass capsule containing the poison.

At the Miami Beach ROADSHOW in July 2010, a guest named Pam brought a unique scrapbook of signatures by prominent German officials, compiled by her father, Lt. Jean P. Willis, between 1945 and 1946 while serving as a guard for the Nazi defendants during the Nuremberg trials.

Among the 21 signatures, which Lieutenant Willis obtained by trading cigarettes to the prisoners, is that of Hermann Goering, one of Hitler's top lieutenants and commander of the German Luftwaffe. Like most of the other Nazi defendants, Goering was ultimately convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Nuremberg court and sentenced to be hanged.

On October 15, 1946, the night before he was to be executed, Goering committed suicide. During the on-air appraisal of the signatures, Pam mentioned to appraiser Gary Piattoni that her father had been the first officer to respond when the nearest guard reported that Goering was not moving, and that her father remembered noticing particles of glass on Goering's lips.

What was the glass from?

Goering committed suicide by ingesting potassium cyanide, and according to Pam's father, who died in 2004, Goering had bitten down on a small glass capsule containing the poison in order to release it. When Lieutenant Willis arrived and observed Goering unconscious in his cell, particles of glass from the crushed capsule were visible on his lips.


For more on how ANTIQUES ROADSHOW deals with this sensitive area of the collecting world, see:

For more information about the Nuremberg trials and the Nazi defendants, see:

  • The Nuremberg Trials (American Experience)
    The companion website to the 2006 American Experience film The Nuremberg Trials has extensive information about the defendants and events surrounding the trials, a timeline, photo gallery, and other special features.

  • Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial (BBC)
    This BBC History site provides an overview of the Nuremberg trials and in-depth information on the 21 Nazi defendants.

  • Army Private: "I Helped Goering Escape Hangman" (The Times Online)
    This 2005 article from the Times of London details the story of a young Army private named Herbert Stivers, who served as a guard at the Nuremberg trials just after the war, then broke his silence decades later to claim that he was the one who, unwittingly, smuggled the poison into Goering's cell.

Author Luke Crafton
Luke Crafton is ANTIQUES ROADSHOW's director of digital content.