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Plaid handkerchief monogrammed HG given by Hermann Goering to an American guard at Nuremberg

Object | Accession Number: 1988.175.3

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    Brief Narrative
    Handkerchief embroidered HG and given by Hermann Goering to Herbert C. Durkee, an American guard at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany, between August 1945 and January 1946. Herbert guarded Goering and helped him control his drug dependency to paracodeine. Goering gave Durkee the handkerchief, one of his last personal possessions, in appreciation of Durkee’s kindness. During the war, 2nd Lt. Durkee was a platoon officer in a field artillery unit and fought in France. The war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. In August, 1st Lt. Durkee was transferred to serve as an escort guard with the 6850th Internal Security Detachment at the Major German War Criminals Trial in Nuremberg. Durkee was responsible for guarding the prisoners and escorting them to court. The trial began on November 20. Goering and 23 other defendants were charged with crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and conspiracy to commit those crimes. In January 1946, Durkee completed his service in Nuremberg and returned to the US in March. On October 1, 1946, Goering was convicted on all four counts and sentenced to death. He committed suicide by cyanide on October 15, the night before his execution.
    received:  1945 August-1946 January
    received: International Military Tribunal; Nuremberg (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Elizabeth L. Durkee
    Subject: Herbert C. Durkee
    Subject: Hermann W. Göring
    Original owner: Hermann W. Göring
    Herbert Charles Durkee was born on June 14, 1916, in Brooklyn, New York, to Joseph Sealy and Fannie L. Hoyt Durkee. He had one sister, Edith. His father Joseph was born in Brooklyn and owned an insurance agency. His mother Fannie was from Connecticut. Durkee attended four years of college and worked as an office clerk in an insurance agency, then as an auditor.

    On December 8, 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered World War II. Durkee was inducted into the US Army. On January 5, 1943, he attended Officer’s Training School at Camp Davis in North Carolina and on Janaury 21, entered active service as a second lieutenant. Durkee deployed to Europe on February 28, 1944. He was a platoon officer and fought in France as part of a field artillery unit. The war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. On May 16, Durkee was promoted to first lieutenant.

    In August 1945, the United Nations War Crimes Commission authorized a military tribunal to be convened by eighteen Allied Nations, and conducted by the four major powers, the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union in Nuremberg, Germany. The purpose of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) was to seek justice for crimes against humanity, evidenced by the Holocaust, perpetrated by Nazi Germany. On August 6/7, Durkee was reassigned from regular army service as a platoon officer, as a prison guard officer with the security detachment of the IMT. Before arriving in Nuremberg, Durkee escorted Albert Speer, the German Minister of Armaments and War Production, to Paris. On August 12, Durkee started working as a prison officer in Nuremberg. He was transferred to the 6850th Internal Security Detachment, formed on September 20, which was responsible for security at the IMT. His commanding officer was Colonel Andrus. In October, twenty-four defendants were indicted for the first trial, the Major German War Criminals trial. The defendants included Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, Alfred Rosenberg, Julius Streicher, and Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Durkee also escorted prisoners from their cells to medical appointments. On November 3, Durkee escorted the prisoners to the prison dentist, Captain Edward Olchowski. Durkee and Captain Olchowski had each prisoner sign a piece of paper and kept the papers with 81 signatures as souvenirs. On November 10, Durkee became an escort guard officer, responsible for guarding the prisoners, escorting them to court, and guarding the court. The trial began on November 20. Durkee's IMT service ended on January 15, 1946.

    On March 1, 1946, Durkee returned to the US. He became inactive on May 16 and was discharged from the Army in 1953. Durkee married Elizabeth Emma Lange (1917-2001). The couple had four children. Durkee was a reinsurance broker. Durkee, age 70, died on February 16, 1987, in Pompano Beach, Florida.
    Hermann Wilhelm Göring (1893-1946) was born in Rosenheim, Germany, to Heinrich Ernst (1839-1913) and Franziska (Fanny) Tiefenbrunn (1859-1923). He had three siblings, Karl Ernst, Albert, and Olga and one half-sister, Paula, from his father’s first marriage. Göring’s father Heinrich was born to an upper-class family. Heinrich was a judge and the first Governor-General of the German protectorate of South West Africa, as well as a cavalry officer. Göring’s mother, Fanny, was born to a Bavarian peasant family. Göring attended a military academy from 1905 to 1911. He was a fighter pilot in World War I (1914-1918), and was awarded the Pour Le Merite and Iron Cross, First Class. In 1921, he began studying history and political science at a university in Munich. In February 1922, Göring married Swedish Baroness Carin von Fock-Kantzow (1888-1931).

    Göring met Adolf Hitler at a Nazi party rally in November 1922, and joined the Nazi Party. In December, Hitler appointed Göring to command the Sturmabteilung (SA) Brownshirts, the party's paramilitary wing. On November 9, 1923, Göring marched with Hitler during the Beer Hall Putsch, an attempted coup against the Weimar government. Göring was severely wounded in the hip and fled with his wife to Italy, where he developed a morphine addiction while recovering from his wounds. In 1927, Göring returned to Germany after the government declared amnesty for political refugees. In 1928, Göring was elected to the Reichstag (German parliament). Göring’s wife died in October 1931, after suffering from epilepsy and tuberculosis. After the Nazi party won 230 seats in July 1932, Göring became president of the Reichstag. Göring was Hitler’s adviser and political deputy, and he was instrumental in establishing the Nazi dictatorship. On January 30, 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. Göring was given several major positions: Minister of the Interior of Prussia, Commander-in-Chief of the Prussian police and Gestapo, and Commissioner for Aviation. Along with Himmler and Heydrich, Göring set up the early concentration camps for political opponents. In March 1935, Göring became Commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force). On April 10, Göring married Emmy Sonnermann, a theater actress. In 1936, he was appointed Commissar for Raw Materials and Foreign Currency and Commissioner of the Four Year Plan, an economic plan with the goal of preparing the country for war. He had almost complete control over the German economy. He created the state-owned Hermann Göring Works in 1937, and amassed a large fortune. On June 2, 1938, Göring’s daughter Edda was born. Göring was integral in removing Jews from the German economy. Following the Kristallnacht pogrom on November 9 and 10, 1938, Göring fined the German Jewish community one billion marks. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Göring was closely involved in overall military planning and directed the successful Luftwaffe campaign. On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, and Göring directed the Luftwaffe campaign. On July 19, Hitler named Göring his formal successor and promoted him to Reich Marshall of the Greater German Reich, the highest military rank in Germany. On July 31, 1941, Göring ordered Security Police chief Reinhard Heydrich to organize and coordinate a “final solution to the Jewish question.” Göring had an enormous art collection at his estate that included art looted from museums and Jewish collectors before and during the war.

    Göring lost Hitler’s favor with every failure of the Luftwaffe. Hitler blamed Göring personally when the Luftwaffe failed to subdue the Soviet Air Force and adequately defend Germany from Allied attacks. On April 23, 1945, Hitler was cut off in Berlin when Soviet forces surrounded the city. Göring sent a telegram to Hitler, requesting authorization to take over as Hitler’s successor. Hitler declared Göring a traitor, stripped him of his positions, and ordered his arrest. On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered to the Allies. Göring was arrested by American troops southeast of Salzburg, Austria.

    In August 1945, Göring was brought to Nuremberg, Germany, to be tried in the International Military Tribunal (IMT). The IMT was convened by eighteen Allied Nations and conducted by the four major powers, the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. The first trial, the Major German War Criminals Trial began on November 20. Göring was the highest-ranking Nazi official tried at Nuremberg. The 22 defendants were charged with crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and conspiracy to commit these crimes, as evidenced by the Holocaust. The verdicts were delivered on October 1, 1946. Twelve defendants, including Göring, were sentenced to death by hanging. On October 15, the night before his scheduled execution, Göring committed suicide by cyanide in his prison cell.

    Physical Details

    Dress Accessories
    Object Type
    Handkerchiefs (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Large, square, white cotton handkerchief with a black, white, and gray plaid border with 6 woven gray stripes overlaid with stitched black and white lines. The hemmed edges are reinforced with white thread. HG is embroidered in the front lower right corner.
    overall: Height: 18.375 inches (46.673 cm) | Width: 18.625 inches (47.308 cm)
    overall : cloth, thread
    front, lower right corner, embroidered, black thread : H.G. [Hermann Goering]

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The handkerchief was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1988 by Elizabeth L. Durkee, the wife of Herbert C. Durkee.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-25 17:32:01
    This page:

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