Germany destroys Hess’s grave to stop neo-Nazi pilgrimages

Resting place of one-time Hitler deputy had become subject to neo-Nazi demonstrations; body exhumed, ashes to be scattered at sea.

July 21, 2011 23:26
2 minute read.
Nazi Rudolf Hess at Nuremberg Trial in 1945

Rudolf Hess 311. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)


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The grave of Rudolf Hess, once the third-most powerful man in Nazi Germany, was destroyed on Wednesday and his remains were exhumed after the site had become a place of pilgrimage for neo- Nazis, the Munich-based newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

Since 1987, when Hess killed himself in Spandau Prison for war criminals in Berlin, neo-Nazis have held an annual commemoration at the grave on the anniversary of his death on August 17, raising their hands in the Nazi salute and laying wreaths on his gravestone, which bore the epitaph “I dared.”

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The commemoration marches drew large numbers of German and European neo-Nazis every year, with as many as 7,000 marching on the 2004 anniversary, after which they were banned.

The cemetery in Wunsiedel, in northeast Bavaria, contains the burial plot of Hess’s parents, and the Nazi war criminal had expressed a desire to be buried there in his will.

Hess’s granddaughter had initially objected to the exhumation of her grandfather’s bones, but the board of the Wunsiedel Evangelical Church, which is responsible for the cemetery, convinced her to withdraw a lawsuit against the move.

The Hess family decided to burn his bones and then scatter the ashes in a burial at sea.

In 1941, Hess flew to Scotland in a rogue attempt to negotiate peace with the United Kingdom, but instead was arrested and held in captivity for the rest of the war. Hess was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to life in prison.

Hess was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Nuremberg trials in 1946 and hanged himself with an electrical cord in Spandau on August 17, 1987, aged 93. The prison was destroyed to prevent it from being turned into a neo-Nazi pilgrimage site.

There are approximately 25,000 members of right-wing extremist organizations in Germany, according to official German statistics on political extremism in 2010, and 5,600 members of specifically neo- Nazi groups.

In 2010, there were 762 incidents of politically motivated violent crime in Germany perpetrated by right-wing extremists and more than 11,000 incidents of right-wing propaganda and incitement to hatred and violence.

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