This Day In History: Rudolf Hess Dies- Hilter’s last Henchman (1987)

Advertisement

On this day in history Rudolf Hess,  Adolf Hitler’s former deputy  and most ardent supporter was found dead in what remains controversial circumstances. Hess was found strangled to death in Spandau Prison in Berlin. He was 93 and had been in the prison since 1940. It appeared that he had killed himself or so it is believed. Hess was the last surviving member of Hitler’s inner circle. Hess had been the sole prisoner on the Spandau prison since 1966.

Hess was one of Hitler’s early supporters and he participated in the Putsch of 1923 in Munich. He was imprisoned with Hitler and he served eight months with him and he acted as his secretary. Hitler dictated Menin Kampf to Hess. In 1933, Hess became deputy Nazi party leader, however,  it was soon made clear that he was not up for the job. He lacked any ability and his only quality was his unquestioned loyalty to Hitler. Goering was made Hitler’s heir apparent and Hess was marginalized.

Hess continued to serve as Hitler’s Deputy until the start of the war, but he had no real role in the government.

In May 1941, Hess did something remarkable and which is still the subject of debate and controversy. He stole an airplane and landed it in Scotland  and claimed that he could negotiate a peace between Germany and Britain. However, the British rejected his peace overtures. It was soon apparent that Hess was working on his own initiative and that he was possibly unbalanced.  He was immediately arrested by British authorities. Hess had offered the British the same terms as Hitler had offered. Some believe that Hess was really trying to regain his old position by brokering a peace agreement. The British at this stage were in a strong position as they had defended their island successfully during the Battle fo Britain in  1941.  Hitler stated that Hess was insane and that he was suffering from delusions. Hess was beginning to show signs of mental illness and they were to persist for the rest of his life.

KarlHaushofer_RudolfHess
The young Hess (on the right) with his professor (1920)

Held in Britain until the end of the war, Hess was tried at Nuremberg after the war with other top Nazis. At his trial his behavior was eccentric and he was seen as being a bit mad. He remained an unrepentant Nazi and was to remain one all his life. Hess was sentenced to life in prison. He was spared the death penalty as he had sought peace and had not participated in any way in the Holocaust.

Hess remained in Spandau for decades. The Prison was overseen by French, British, American and Soviet wardens.

On August 17, 1987, he was found dead from strangulation at Spandau Prison. It seemed that the old man had managed to strangle  himself to death with an electrical cord he found there. Some believe that he had been murdered so that the allies could close the costly. prison or that the Soviets had him murdered because he was a Nazi.

Advertisement