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Nazi Party pin for Labor Day 1934 given to Jack Wheelis by Herman Göring

Object | Accession Number: 2014.309.1

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    Brief Narrative
    Nazi Party Labor Day 1934 pin, likely given to Lieutenant Jack Wheelis by Herman Göring during his imprisonment at Nuremberg from 1945-1946. Labor Day (also known as May Day) takes place on May 1 to celebrate laborers and the working classes. In April 1933, after the Nazi party took control of the German government, May 1 was appropriated as the “Day of National Work,” with all celebrations organized by the government. On May 2, the Nazi party banned all independent trade-unions, bringing them under state control of the German Labor Front. This style of mass-produced, die stamped pin is often referred to colloquially as a tinnie. Soon after the defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945, Göring was arrested by American troops. Göring became the highest-ranking of the 22 defendants of the Nuremberg Trial of Major German War Criminals. While imprisoned at Nuremberg, Göring met Wheelis, an American soldier assigned to the 6850th Internal Security Detachment (ISD) on November 26, 1945. The ISD was responsible for guarding the Nazi prisoners, and escorting them to and from the courtroom. Each prisoner was under constant observation, with a guard stationed facing each cell door, and guards freely conversed with the prisoners. Wheelis often engaged in conversation with Göring, and was one of multiple guards that Göring gifted personal items to. The verdicts were delivered on October 1, 1946, and 12 defendants, including Göring, were sentenced to death. The night before his scheduled execution, Göring committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide capsule. Several theories arose about how Göring obtained the capsule while imprisoned, one of which suggested that Wheelis helped him retrieve it from the Nazi’s stored belongings. None of the theories have been proven.
    commemoration:  1934
    received:  after 1945 November 26-before 1946 October 15
    issue:  1934
    acquired: Nuremberg (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Peter B. Goldman
    front, top, embossed : TAG DER ARBEIT [LABOR DAY]
    front, bottom center, embossed : 1934 / RK
    back, bottom left, embossed : SCHWÄB GMÜND 11
    Designer: Richard Klein
    Subject: Hermann W. Göring
    Original owner: Hermann W. Göring
    Subject: Jack G. Wheelis
    Previous owner: Jack G. Wheelis
    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.
    Jack George Wheelis (1913-1954) was born in Mart, Texas, to Benjamin Burnett (1876-1956) and Dora (nee Tait, 1876-1954) Wheelis. He had six siblings: Martha Virginia (1901-1975), Burnice (later Hodges, 1904-1996), William Hugh (c. 1907-1959), Roy (1910-1973), Reuben Eugene (1915—1979), and Thomas Vollie (1918-?). The family lived on a farm, which the boys worked on as soon as they were old enough. Jack was extroverted and gregarious, making friends wherever he went. He graduated from high school in 1931, and enrolled at Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) on a football scholarship. After a year, he left school and joined the Marine Corps, which stationed him in various places across the country, including Texas, Virginia, Maryland, New York, and Florida. Jack returned to Texas Tech in 1937, married his high school sweetheart, Merle Dark (later, Merle Townes,1915-1978), and graduated in 1941. He began working as a county farm agent, and his and Merle’s first child, James, was born in January 1942. Jack was drafted into the Army, and officially enlisted on November 30, 1943.

    In the army, Jack was assigned to the 26th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division. When he joined the ranks, the division was in England, preparing for the Normandy campaign. On June 6, 1944, they landed on Omaha Beach. Following Normandy, the division participated in campaigns in Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe. Following the end of the war, on November 26, 1945, Jack was re-assigned to the 6850th Internal Security Detachment (ISD), under the command of Colonel Burton C. Andrus. The ISD guarded high-ranking Nazi prisoners housed at the Palace of Justice during the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany. The guards were ordered to treat the prisoners humanely and with dignity, but managed a rigorous security protocol for the prison. Each prisoner was under constant observation, with a guard stationed facing each cell door, and guards freely conversed with the prisoners. Guards were only allowed to carry blackjack clubs, and shifts lasted for 24 hours, followed by 24 hours off. During the trials, the guards escorted the prisoners to and from the courtroom, and stood at parade rest throughout the proceedings. To keep the guards alert throughout the sessions, they were rotated every two hours, and each guard was given four hours off.

    The first trial, the Nuremberg Trial of Major German War Criminals, began on November 20, 1945. There were 22 defendants, the highest-ranking of which was Hermann Göring (1893–1946). While serving as guard, Jack often engaged in conversation with Göring, particularly about their shared love for hunting. Göring gifted him several personal items, including an engraved wristwatch, a gold pen, a gold cigarette case, and a pair of suede gloves. On July 4, 1946, Jack was appointed assistant operations officer, and was in charge of the baggage room in which the prisoners’ belongings were stored. At the conclusion of the trial on October 1, Göring and 12 other defendants were sentenced to death. On October 15, the night before his scheduled execution, Göring committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide capsule.

    Jack remained in the army after returning to the United States. He and his wife had another child, Janet, in 1949, and Jack never discussed the war criminal executions with his family. After serving in the Korean War (1950-1953), Jack worked as a staff air intelligence officer at Fort Sam Houston in Texas until his death.

    Physical Details

    Identifying Artifacts
    Object Type
    Lapel pins (aat)
    Jewelry. Badges.
    Physical Description
    Circular, bronze-colored, metal pin with an embossed design. The top center has a head of a man flanked by a hammer on the left and a sickle on the right. Below the head is a Parteiadler, a stylized eagle with its head turned to the right, holding in its claws a wreath with a swastika in its center. German text is around the border above the hammer and the sickle, with numbers at the bottom split by the wreath. A horizontal pin with a looped, c-style catch soldered to the upper center on the back. There is a maker’s mark to the right of the sickle’s handle, and manufacturing information along the back, bottom edge. The pin may be made from a bronze alloy known as tombac, a mixture of copper and zinc.
    overall: | Depth: 0.250 inches (0.635 cm) | Diameter: 1.375 inches (3.493 cm)
    overall : metal

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name
    Europe. Nuremberg (Germany)

    Administrative Notes

    The lapel pin was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2014 by Peter B. Goldman.
    Record last modified:
    2023-11-16 11:16:15
    This page:

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