Rudolf Hess reburied 24 years on
THE body of Hitler's former deputy, Rudolf Hess, has been secretly disinterred in Germany, with his remains cremated and scattered at sea, after his grave site became a place of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis.
The remains of the war criminal who was sentenced to life in prison by the Nuremberg tribunal in 1946 were removed in secrecy before dawn on Wednesday. Relatives of Hess, believed to include his son Wolf-Rudiger, gave their permission for the removal and closure of the grave.
Hess was deputy Fuhrer until his 1941 flight to Scotland, when he parachuted into Renfrewshire, apparently in a personal bid to negotiate Britain's surrender with the Duke of Hamilton, in one of the strangest stories of the Second World War.
A recent book by Scotsman journalist Stephen McGinty revealed he had plans to build a baronial home here if Germany won the war.
A prison in Britain til the end of the war, Hess stood trial in 1946 and was sent to Spandau Prison in then West Germany, where he remained - for his last two decades the only prisoner there - until his death in 1987, aged 93. He took his own life.
Hess was buried in Wunsiedel, Bavaria, near the Czech border, where his parents had a holiday home. He was buried in the family plot at his own request.
Over the years the grave has drawn neo-Nazis paying homage. It was the only known resting place of any member of the Nazi inner circle that also included propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, SS chief Heinrich Himmler and Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goering.
Every year on the anniversary of his death police had to mount a large-scale operation to prevent phalanxes of neo-Nazis from marching to his grave, despite a 2005 ban.
The local Lutheran church council persuaded the municipal authorities to extend a lease on the site when it came up for renewal. Media reports said the family opposed the removal of his body at first, but later agreed.
Documents recently surfaced in Russia which suggested Hitler may have known about Hess's mission to Scotland, despite Hess claiming his attempt to open peace talks with Winston Churchill were solely his idea. Hitler was even supposed to have scrambled aircraft to try to stop Hess leaving Germany.
Yesterday cemetery administrator Andreas Fabel confirmed Hess's remains had been removed.
"The grave is now empty," he said. "The bones are gone."
Charlotte Knobloch, a German Jewish community leader, said: "I'm happy that the Nazi shadow over Wunsiedel has finally come to an end."
Holocaust survivors also welcomed the move.
"There is now one less place of evil in the world," said Elan Steinberg of the New York-based American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants.
Hess was an early confidant of Hitler's - while Hitler was imprisoned in the 1920s, the Nazi leader dictated much of his manifesto Mein Kampf to Hess.
At the Nuremberg Trials Hess was found not guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against peace and conspiracy to commit crimes against peace.
Shortly after his death, Spandau Prison was demolished and the rubble secretly disposed of.
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