Rudolf Hess

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Rudolf Hess

Born April 26, 1894
Alexandria, Egypt
Died August 17, 1987 (aged 93)
Spandau, West Berlin

Rudolf Hess (1894 - 1987) was a high-ranking Nazi official. Hess was born in Alexandria, Egypt; his father was a German wholesale merchant. When he was young, his family moved to Germany, where he fought in World War I and was wounded twice serving as an infantryman. He was awarded the Iron Cross, second class. In the fall of 1918, he was allowed to train as a pilot. However, the war ended before he saw any action as a flyer. In 1920 he heard Hitler speak, became an instant follower and party member. He soon became Hitler's personal secretary and close associate. In 1923 he participated in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, after which he was arrested and imprisoned with Hitler and other Nazi leaders at that time. While incarcerated at Landsberg Fortress Prison, Hitler dictated Mein Kampf to Hess.

After the Nazis assumed power in Germany, Hess was made Deputy Führer (a largely ceremonial position) and was placed in charge of the Party organization. Hess, however, lacked the intelligence and leadership of other prominent Nazis, and his influence waned in proportion to men such as Goering, Himmler, and Goebbels. He also took a keen interest in the supernatural, astrology, the occult and evil spirits. He was a vegetarian, like Hitler. Unlike other top Nazis, Hess did not use his position to gain power or personal wealth. He was loyal to Hitler and desired to be useful.

In the Spring of 1941, in the midst of World War II, Hess conceived a secret plan to travel of Britain in an effort to negotiate peace, lacking any authority to do so. On 10 May, he made a solo flight to Scotland, hoping to secure a meeting with the Duke of Hamilton, and, through him, Churchill and the King. The British authorities arrested Hess on his arrival, and Hitler condemned him as a traitor. Hess remained in prison at the Tower of London throughout the war, and was one of the principal defendants at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946. Though there were questions about his sanity during the trial, he was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for life. He served his sentence in Spandau Prison in Berlin. By the time of his death by suicide in 1987, he was the prison's sole inmate.


  • Hamilton, Charles. Leaders and Personalities of the Third Reich, Vol. 1 (1984).
  • Snyder, Louis. Encyclopedia of the Third Reich (1994) [1976]