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Hechler to talk about Goering book

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Humanities Council is hosting a talk by Ken Hechler about his book, "Goering and His Gang: My Interrogation of Nazi Germany's Top Officials."

Georing was second-in-command under Hitler during World War II. Hechler's talk will begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building in Hurricane.

Hechler's book contains transcripts of 80 interviews with captured Nazi military and civilian leaders conducted between July 1945 and May 1946, when Hechler was serving in the U.S. Army. He was part of a five-man team that interviewed German prisoners in Mondorf, Luxembourg.

"During World War I, Hitler was a very insignificant corporal. Goering was a lot smarter," Hechler said this week. "After the Munich Putsch, Hitler made a written agreement with Goering that he would take over if Hitler died."

Hitler and Nazi party leaders took over the German government in the mid-1930s. But by the end of World War II, Hechler said, Hitler did not want Goering to become president.

In April 1945, when the Soviet Army was taking over Berlin and marching toward the bunker where Hitler was hiding, Goering suggested to Hitler it might be time to let him become the leader of the Third Reich.

"Hitler then sent out an execution squad to find Goering, before he killed himself," Hechler said. "Goering then decided it would be safer to surrender to the Americans. The 36th Infantry captured him and sent him to Luxembourg, where I interrogated him."

Many of the German prisoners Hechler interviewed, including Goering, were sent to Nuremburg and tried for war crimes.

Goering was sentenced to be hanged. But shortly before his execution was scheduled to take place, he committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide capsule.

Hechler will have copies of "Goering and His Gang" on sale at Thursday's event, as well as some of his other books, including:

| "The Bridge at Remagen," his first book, published in 1957, about battles at the end of World War II in Germany.

| "Soldier of the Union," about his grandfather, George Hechler, who fought as a Union soldier during Civil War battles in Lewisburg and Antietam.

| "The Fight for Coal Mine Health and Safety," about his key role in helping pass the historic Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, 13 months after an explosion killed 78 miners at Consolidation Coal's No. 9 Mine in Mannington.

Hechler, who will turn 98 on September 20, began his political career working as a White House staff member for President Harry S. Truman, who became president after Roosevelt died in 1945. Hechler served in the House of Representatives between 1959 and 1977 and as West Virginia's secretary of state from 1985 to 2001.

Hechler plans to answer questions for the audience after his talk. Admission is free and open to the public.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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