|Rudolf Hess’s grave had become a neo-Nazi shrine.|
Remains of Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess, secretly exhumed and cremated
BERLIN - The bones of Adolf Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess were exhumed under cover of darkness, cremated, and secretly scattered at sea, a cemetery administrator in the Bavarian town of Wunsiedel said yesterday.
Workers crept in before dawn Wednesday - the 67th anniversary of a failed assassination attempt on Hitler’s life - to remove Hess’s remains from his family’s grave, cremate, and disperse them, Andreas Fabel said.
“The grave is now empty,’’ Fabel said. “The bones are gone,’’ he said.
Hess was captured in 1941 when he parachuted into Scotland saying he wanted to negotiate peace between Britain and Germany.
The attempt was denounced by Hitler, and Hess later told British authorities that the Nazi leader knew nothing of it. Hess spent the rest of his life as a prisoner of the World War II allies. Since his death in 1987, he became a martyr for the far right. Thousands of neo-Nazis have used the anniversary of his death as an occasion to hold large rallies, with Wunsiedel - near the Czech border - often a focal point.
Many such rallies have been banned since stricter laws were implemented in 2005, but the grave continued to attract far-right extremists to the town.
With the lease on the burial plot coming up for renewal in October, Hess’s relatives and Lutheran church authorities in the town decided it was best to remove the remains, Fabel said.
“Both sides were in favor of it,’’ he said.
Charlotte Knobloch, a German Jewish community leader, said the move sends a clear message.
“I’m happy that the Nazi shadow over Wunsiedel has finally come to an end,’’ she said.
Holocaust survivors also welcomed the move.
“There is now one less place of evil in the world,’’ said Elan Steinberg of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants in New York.
Hess was an early confidant of Hitler’s, and, while Hitler was imprisoned in the 1920s, the Nazi leader dictated much of his infamous manifesto “Mein Kampf,’’ or “My Struggle,’’ to him.
Hess eventually rose to the position of deputy Nazi party leader, but by 1941 his influence with Hitler was waning. His flight to Scotland is widely seen by historians as an attempt to restore his importance.
Instead, Hitler said he was delusional, and the British treated him as a prisoner of war.
Hess was the last inmate at Spandau Prison in then-West Berlin when he died on Aug. 17, 1987, at age 93. Allied authorities said he hanged himself with an electrical cord. The prison was demolished shortly afterward.