• Short Summary

    Rudolf Hess, former deputy to Adolf Hitler in the Nazi Third Reich, will be 80 years old next week (Friday, April 26) having spent 33 years of his life in prison.

  • Description

    Rudolf Hess, former deputy to Adolf Hitler in the Nazi Third Reich, will be 80 years old next week (Friday, April 26) having spent 33 years of his life in prison.

    He will spend his birthday in lonely isolation, for he is the only prisoner in the vast, red-brick prison at Spandau in West Berlin, still guarded by alternate detatchments of British, French, American and Soviet troops.

    For Hess, life behind bars began on May 10, 1941. On that day, he flew to Scotland in a stolen Messerschmidt fighter in a futile bid to negotiate an end to World War Two.

    That spectacular gesture remains inexplicable. Until then, he had been Hitler's loyal deputy leader of the Nazi Party, a friend and a firm supporter of the Fuehrer since they served in the same unit on the Western Front during World War One.

    After his abortive mission to Britain, Hitler disowned him. Hess was interned until the end of the war, when he was taken to Nuremburg to stand trial for war crimes with other Nazi leaders.

    He was sentenced to life imprisonment and taken to Spandau, and there he has remained. Since 1966, when Albert Speer, the German wartime armaments minister was released, he has been alone.

    It is estimated it costs GBP 60,000 sterling a year to run Spandau for its one inmate, but all attempts to have Hess released have been rejected by the Soviet authorities.

    Moscow insists that Hess's life sentence means exactly what it says, pointing out that he was jailed for "plotting against the peace and for planning, inciting and carrying through aggressive war."
    No move to free Hess can succeed without Soviet agreements, because Spandau is administered by a Four-Power treaty, the terms of which call for a unanimous vote on all decisions.

    Western diplomats, however, claim that the Soviets are using Hess merely to perpetuate their right of admission to West Berlin. For three months each year, they maintain a garrison at Spandau. The only other right they have to cross the Berlin border is to send a small unit to stand guard at the Soviet war memorial just inside West Berlin near the Brandenburg Gate.

    Hess himself is reportedly well preserved for his age. He spends him time in the prison garden and in his cell, which is covered with charts of the stars, reflecting his interest in astrology. He speaks English, French and Russian, but rarely converses with his guards. His continued imprisonment at the age of 80 may be viewed as no more than justice; or as something monstrous; or simbly absurd.

    But to Rudolf Hess, any view is only academic. For him, the man who helped make history, but for whom history has no real place, it seems likely that his only release from prison will be in death.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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