Scots minister recounts his brush with Nazi deputy Rudolf Hess

Rev Peter Sutton was a young officer responsible for guarding Hess.
Rev Peter Sutton was a young officer responsible for guarding Hess.
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Looking into the room where senior Nazi Rudolf Hess had killed himself the day before was “the closest I have ever felt to real evil”, a Church of Scotland minister has said.

Rev Peter Sutton was a young officer in the Black Watch and responsible for guarding Spandau Prison in Berlin, where Adolf Hitler’s deputy was being held in 1987.

He was on duty the day after Hess, who was captured near Eaglesham in East Renfrewshire in 1941 after his Messerschmitt crash landed, committed suicide aged 93.

Mr Sutton, 52, the new minister at St Cuthbert’s Parish Church in Edinburgh, said he would never forget the “eerie and chilling” experience.

He said: “Most of the senior Nazis after the Nuremberg trials, who were not executed, were sent to Spandau and Hess was the last one there.

“The British, Americans, French and Russians took it in turns to guard the perimeter of Spandau Prison.

“The day after he killed himself, another officer and I were able to walk through the huge gardens because the German wardens had gone.

“We approached a white cabin and the front of it was all glass. This was Hess’s summer house and inside, as I remember it, there was a rocking chair, books, an oxygen cylinder on a trolley and I could see the noose that he used to hang himself.

“My fellow officer and I just stopped talking and for some reason we just had to get out of there as fast as we could. I will never forget it.”

Hess was Deputy Fuhrer of Nazi Germany from 1933 until his doomed flight to Scotland to hold peace talks with the Duke of Hamilton.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Nuremberg trials in 1946 for crimes against peace and taken with six other Nazis to Spandau allied military prison in the British sector of Berlin.

Mr Sutton, who was a 19-year-old Second Lieutenant at the time, said: “Standing in the place where the last Nazi had killed himself the day before was very eerie and chilling, it was the closest I have ever felt to real evil.

“It was almost tangible, it surrounded you.

“It was a tranquil and peaceful garden but its connection to such horrors and evil is what grabbed me most.”

Spandau Prison was demolished shortly afterwards.

Mr Sutton was ordained as an elder in the Black Watch Kirk Session, which was connected to the Presbytery of Perth at the time, while serving as Operations Officer in Hong Kong in 1993.

He left the army in 1994 and went on to serve as Chaplain at Loretto School in Musselburgh and Gordonstoun School near Elgin in Moray and as headmaster of Ardvreck School in Crieff, Perthshire.

The married father of five was ordained as a minister this summer and took up his first position as a Kirk Minister at St Cuthbert’s in June.

The church, in Princes Street Gardens, is where writer Agatha Christie married her second husband.