Rudolf Hess

Rudolf Walter Richard Heß , often written Hess ( Alexandria , 26 of April of 1894 – Spandau , Berlin West , 17 of August of 1987 ) was a military and political German , a key figure of Nazi Germany .


He was born in the Egyptian city of Alexandria on April 26, 1894. He was solitary, reclusive and educated in a strict and Spartan environment by a very disciplined father. He was first instructed by private tutors and then at the German school in his hometown until Age 14, age at which he entered a juvenile boarding school in Bad Godesberg .

He received training for business, a profession his father desired for his son; Then studied Political Science, as his father, who had thought of the laws for him. He later attended the High School of Commerce of Neuchatel in Switzerland , in order to acquire the necessary knowledge to take over the family business.

At the beginning of World War I , about to enter the University of Oxford , enlisted in the German army as a volunteer of the 7th Battalion of Bavarian artillery and in his first combats obtained the Iron Cross for two wounds, one of them grave In the left lung. Then he served in the 34th Squadron Bavarian hunting, and reached the rank of lieutenant .

After the war he enrolled at the University of Munich to study economics, where he used to distribute anti- Semitic pamphlets . The 1 of May of 1919 participated with the Freikorps in the violent fight against the ephemeral Soviet Republic of Bavaria and was wounded in a leg.

Political trajectory

In 1919, in a rally he met Adolf Hitler and was very impressed with the future Führer . For his part, Hess would present to Hitler the geopolitical scientists Karl Haushofer and Albrecht Haushofer , who would exert a great influence on the future dictator. Member of the Thule Society , on 1 July 1920 he joined the NSDAP and took part in the Putsch in Munich in 1923, for which he went to prison. He shared cell with Haushofer and Hitler, in which he collaborated with the latter in the writing of the book Mein Kampf .

Later it was commander of a battalion of the SA . In 1925 he began his political activities as Hitler’s political secretary; In addition, he wrote about it an essay entitled How must man lead Germany to its former greatness . In 1927, he married Lise Pröhl , with whom he had his only son, Wolf Rüdiger Hess .

Five years later, he was appointed President of the Nazi Central Committee and, in 1933, elected parliamentary of the Reichstag (German parliament) .When Hitler ascended to power as Führer, he was appointed head of the Nazi Party and Minister of State : he handled almost all wallets except war and foreign policy, and became second in the Nazi hierarchy, even before Joseph Goebbels ; Despite these charges, he never presented a leader profile. It was considered the “kind face” of the Nazi regime. It organized the Olympic Games of Berlin in 1936 and maintained close friendship with Leni Riefenstahl , the documentaryista of Hitler.

Flight to Scotland

Remains of the plane with which Rudolf Hess flew to Great Britain.

The Second World War began in 1939. At the time when Germany was preparing the assault on the USSR and which also lost in the month of May 1941 in the Atlantic Ocean one of his best battleships, the Bismarck , Hess flew solo A twin-engined Bf 110 bound for Scotland . He managed to circumvent the surveillance of the RAF patrols and parachuted, where he was taken prisoner despite allegations that he had gone there to start peace talks.

There are many reasons for this. Some argue strongly that it was a premeditated plan of Adolf Hitler himself to seek peace with the United Kingdom , since after Operation Barbarossa he would have to deal on two fronts. Others believe that it was an initiative of its own, of which the Führer had some knowledge and, although he remained on the sidelines, did not hamper it either.

Airplane employee

Schematic of a Bf 110 , similar to the one used by Hess.

Hess expertly piloted a Messerschmitt Bf 110 , BJ-OQ type D license plate and specially modified by the manufacturer (a heavy-duty two-seater and twin engine), whose maximum speed was 600 km / h . The modifications consisted of a compartment containing a fully equipped inflatable raft, a Lorenz receiver, a radio adapted to be operated by the pilot, wingspan extended and a fuselage 50 centimeters longer. It was not armed or contained bombs or other defensive or offensive elements.

Chronology of the flight

On May 10, 1941, Hess and Alfred Rosenberg had lunch together in private in Augsburg , and from there Rosenberg went to meet Hitler in Berchtesgaden . Hess’s service staff said that he was absolutely calm and that he took a nap, got up at approximately 3:00 pm and later went to visit his wife Lise and his son. He later headed to the Luftwaffe track in Augsburg, about 5:00 p.m. The truth is that Hess flew in Messerschmitt Bf 110 from Augsburg, heading for Scotland , on May 10, 1941: took off at 17:45 in a northwesterly direction to overcome the coastline of the Netherlands at 19:28 to The height of Texel; There it turned 90 ° to the right and flew in that direction for about 30 minutes and then turned 90 ° to the north in the same direction as it initially brought low on the North Sea , completely overnight at that time.

At approximately 20:50 it intercepted the radionavigation lines from Denmark- based radars with the Lorenz receiver , and made a zigzag flight covering 20-minute parallel flight paths until finally heading for Scotland at 21:52 to transfer The coast line about 22:12 over the Scottish town of Embleton . He had only 30 minutes of fuel left. He was spotted by a Royal Observer (ROC) post in Newcastle upon Tyne and Royal Air Force planes took off to unsuccessfully intercept him.

After his arrival in Scotland he hoped to land in the Dungavel house, owned by the Duke of Hamilton , who had a private lane. Hess flew very close to that property looking for the supposed clue that this property had. By 22:45 the fuel was only about 5 to 7 more minutes away, but he flew over that property without finding the clue (it was with its lights off) and it passed in the direction of the west coast of Scotland. When he reached the sea again, he got rid of the additional fuel tanks, turned 180 °, returned to look for Dungavel House and passed it again, but the lights were still off.

Remains of Hess’s plane at the Imperial War Museum in London .

Around 22:50 hours, when the fuel was exhausted, he was forced to parachute at Eaglesham , near Glasgow , reversing the plane to launch from the cabin of the Bf 110. Upon landing, Hess damaged an ankle and A Scottish farmer cautiously assisted him and took him to a military garrison where Hess tried to convince him that he was a friend of the Duke of Hamilton under the false name of Captain Hauptmann, Alfred Horn. In the Imperial War Museum in London you can see the tail and the engine of the plane piloted by Hess.

Hitler’s emissary

The duke came the next morning and Hess came by his real name, although the duke had recognized him because they had first met at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 .

The Duke declared that he had no business with Hess, who communicated his desire to reach a peace agreement with the British and that he had a message from the Führer. He was immediately taken prisoner by the Home Guard and subsequently held in the Tower of London until the end of the war. All his attempts were unsuccessful and led to his failure.

Both parties, British and German, did publish quickly their ignorance of previous contacts.

Theories, repercussions and controversies

See also: Karl Wolff
The Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff , in uniform of the Waffen-SS , circa 1937.

The reasons for doing so have been and are very much discussed and mysterious. On the one hand, some argue that Hess himself knew in advance that Germany could be defeated on the Allied and Soviet fronts, a concern Karl Haushofer had also expressed. Other reasons for his flight were the differences he maintained, not only with Hitler, but with other leaders of the NSDAP such as Goebbels and, above all, with Martin Bormann and Heinrich Himmler regarding the questions of succession to the Fuehrer. The thing is that the flight had been prepared a few months in advance.

Another hypothesis holds that Hess left as Hitler’s secret emissary to contact senior British pro-Nazi characters of a possible future government, since there were premises in the German government that British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill could be overthrown and this would free Germany to have to fight on two fronts if a peace was negotiated with the British. One testimony that would corroborate this hypothesis is Karl Wolff’s statements when he was Hitler’s unofficial emissary for Operation Dawn , where Hitler hoped to side with the highest bidder in a supposed break-up of the Anglo-American alliance and the USSR . In one of his statements, Wolff recounts that Hitler told him after learning of Wolff’s negotiations with American emissaries in Italy :

Well, I accept your presentation. You are very lucky. If you had failed, I would have had to discard you as I did with Hess.

Adolf Hitler , according to Karl Wolff 1

Heinz Linge , his valet left a testimony 2 of Hitler’s reaction, made Hess’s helpers stop for not reporting that Hess had built a specially designed apparatus and had a fit of fury over Hess’s action. Who thought he would betray his plans to the enemy:

“They deceive me! … Everyone betrays me! … I do not have one friend I can trust! And he went on: “Up to that idiot! That crazy idiot I imagined submissive! That idiot, idiot, idiot, is false to me! The idiot, idiot, idiot was, of course, Hess. – Impossible to do projects! Impossible to calculate anything! Said Hitler at other times. For what if they will be transmitted to my enemies immediately? … I am surrounded by traitors!

Heinz Linge, Hitler interview in 1955.

The German reaction did not wait, because Goebbels, as Minister of Propaganda of the regime, cataloged on the 12th the performance worthy of an unreasonable madman. Hours later, the BBC announced the capture of Hess, who would be replaced in office by Martin Bormann , one of his most fearsome opponents.

According to some historians, for Hitler it was an act of vile treason, for he feared that the secrets of the attack on the Soviet Union would be revealed; For this last nation was an act that prevented the pardon in Nuremberg .

Rudolf Hess reading Jugend while awaiting his trial in Nuremberg in 1945 .

Judgment, prison and death

After his stay in the United Kingdom , Hess had to be returned to his country at the end of the war, not as a hero, but as a war criminal .

He was tried at Nuremberg because of all the decisions he made and signed in his position of minister during the Nazi regime, and was sentenced to life imprisonment on 1 of October of 1946 and held in Spandau Prison in the allied area of Berlin . Decayed and physically emaciated, he was inconsistent 3 and repeatedly exhibited mental loopholes.

After Albert Speer was released in 1966, Hess remained the only prisoner in Spandau Prison for more than 20 years, until his death. In the 1980s, the Hess case divided British public opinion about its possibility of release, but justice turned a deaf ear to these currents of opinion, insisting on keeping Hess in prison in spite of the expenses that the Crown caused Maintain it and that of the prison infrastructure.

His guardians said that his mental health was very deteriorated and he had lost his memory. In the last years of his life the debate about his release for humanitarian reasons intensified, but the British government maintained his decision not to grant him freedom. Hess died suddenly on August 17, 1987, at the age of 93. The autopsy determined that it had been suicide by strangulation. 4 The family doubted the official thesis and ordered a second autopsy, which determined that his death was by asphyxia and not by suspension. The mystery surrounded the death of Rudolf Hess, doubting between the official thesis (the suicide) or the murder. 5

On July 20, 2011, his tomb was dismantled in the Bavarian town of Wunsiedel , after the local evangelical Christian community denied to his relatives the prolongation of the lease of his tomb. 6 The bones were cremated and their ashes scattered on the high seas to prevent their tomb from becoming a place of pilgrimage.


  • S HIRER , William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich . New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960.


  1. Back to top↑ Toland, 2006: 480.
  2. Back to top↑ Excerpts from Hitler’s private life
  3. Back to top↑ Interrogatories of Nuremberg – Richard Overy (2009).
  4. Back to top↑, ed. (August 20, 1987). “The autopsy confirms that he died of suffocation (20/08/1987)” .
  5. Back to top↑ ABC, ed. (2 March 1989). “The British police question the suicide of Rudolf Hess (02/03/1989)” .
  6. Back to top↑ ” The tomb of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s lieutenant ” was dismantled . The Country .