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The body of Hess, 93, was found in the grounds of Spandau Prison in West Berlin, where he had been held since his conviction in 1946 at the Nuremberg war crimes trial for crimes against humanity. Ever since there have been suspicions that he killed himself but several investigations came to no definite conclusion.

For more than 20 years, after the release of Albert Speer and Baldur von Schirach, in 1966 Hess was the only inmate at the prison as the Soviet Union – which had joint control of the prison with the US, Britain and France – would not agree to Hess being set free. They maintained that as one of the most senior figures in the Nazi regime he should have been executed. They were not alone in that belief but it also suited them that whilst Hess lived Spandau could not be closed down and they would have access to West Berlin.

Rudolf Hess was among the first to join the Nazi party in 1920. He took part in the abortive coup attempt in 1923 when Hitler tried to overthrow the Bavarian government and subsequently spent time in jail with the Nazi party leader. After they were released in 1925, Hess became Hitler’s personal assistant and private secretary. In April 1933 shortly after Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor, Hess was appointed Deputy Führer and a few month later was appointed to the cabinet, with the post of Reich Minister without Portfolio. He was given the rank of Obergruppenführer in the Schutzstaffel (SS) – the second highest rank.

Hess was responsible for several departments, including foreign affairs, finance, health, education, and law. All legislation passed through his office for approval and signature, except that concerning the army, the police, and foreign policy, and he wrote and co-signed many of Hitler’s decrees.

Hess was empowered to review all court decisions that related to persons deemed enemies of the Party. He was authorised to increase the sentences of anyone he felt got off lightly and was also empowered to take “merciless action” if he saw fit to do so. This often entailed sending the person to a concentration camp or simply ordering the person killed.

In 1941 Rudolf Hess secretly flew to Scotland to try and negotiate a peace treaty but was arrested when he had to parachute from his aircraft. He spent the rest of the war imprisoned in the UK, including time in the Tower of London.

In November 1945 Hess was one of the first group of twenty-three defendants at the Nuremberg war crime trials. All the defendants were charged with four counts—conspiracy to commit crimes, crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity—in violation of international laws governing warfare. Despite a spirited defence Hess was found guilty on all counts but to the surprise of most observers he was not sentenced to death but to life imprisonment, possibly because of his early escape from Germany.

 Category: Historic Events

2 Responses to “17th August 1987: Rudolph Hess, Adolf Hitler’s Deputy, Dies in Spandau Prison”

  1. Darwin says:

    Thanks for this ineresting article. You have a lot of knowledge about a wide range of subjects. The mark of an enquiring mind.

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