Murder he Said

Who Murdered my Father, Rudolph Hess? (Reporter Press, P.O. Box 726, Decatur, Alabama 35602 U.S.A. No price given)

THE TITLE OF THIS BOOK makes it clear what it is about as does the subtitle: "My Father's Mysterious Death in Spandau". In fact the death of Rudolph Hess, by "asphixiation" at a time when his release was becoming more and more probable, was indeed most mysterious. Not the most passionate devotee of the allied cause could doubt that. Bernard Levin's bumptious piece on the suject of Hess in The Times of 4th September 1989 in which he takes exception to being called Jewish (he has no qualms about calling Hess German) -"I will thank Ruediger Hess to keep his grubby fingers off my Jewishness") is an exception. His article and the Ruediger Hess's reply to it is reprinted at the end of this book.

On the flyleaf we read that "On August 17th, 1987, the news was broadcast that in the early afternoon, Rudolph Hess had committed suicide in Spandau at the age of 93. The media in Germany reported that he had died of old age. Within a few days, the Allied prison governors came up with four (sic) different versions of the alleged suicide. Ruediger Hess puts the case, which seems pretty convincing to me, that his father was murdered by two agents of the S.A.S. The British government was fearful of the consequences of his possible release: until the beginning of Perestroika the Allies had used the Soviet Union as the "fall guy" in the Hess case: but the possibility of release had come up on the agenda during discussions between Moscow and Bonn about the abolition of the German Democratic Republic. In a way, it was hardly necessary to write the book: the onus is surely on someone to prove it was suicide not murder. (Why on earth should a man of 93 kill himself when the possibility of release was in sight after all those years? It defies logic.) But in addition to outlining the case for arguing that Hess was murdered, the book reminds us of a host of other issues and the entire mystery of what has been dubbed "the Hess affair". Why did Hess attempt to contact Lord Hamilton, not known for his pro- German sympathies? (Confusion with Lord Halifax?) Did Hitler know of the flight to Britain and if he did, why did German propaganda persue the line that Hess was insane, an argument which played into the hands of the British government and saved the Allies from an excrutiatingly embarrassing situation? (Imagine Lord Haw-Haw repeatedly asking at the end of his broadcasts: "Why won't Churchill talk to Rudolph Hess?")

Have we heard the last of the Hess affair? Yes, if the powers-that-be get their way. Finally, if it is true that Hess was murdered, what on earth for? The book makes little or no attempt at answering these questions but it inevitably raises them. Perhaps part of an answer to the last question lies in the fact that Hess has acquired something of the status of a martyr for many people on what is called the "far right" of the political spectrum. But much more serious than that was that his release would unavoidably have brought to the attention of a young generation which has been kept in ignorance, the essential facts of the case, and it might have led the more inquiring minds among them to ask some questions. If it became generally known that Hess flew on his own initiative during the war to try and stop war between Britain and Germany (and even the usually glib Bernard Levin floundered trying to explain away that one), then his status might escape the far- right ghetto where the Allies and their lap-dog government in Bonn have been so anxious to confine it all these years.

The most depressing aspect of this whole business for me is not so much the probable murder itself as the fact that most young people in Germany are so ignorant of everything concerning Hess that many of them hardly know how or when Hess died, let alone whether or not he was murdered. In fact, many Germans of school age do not even know that Hess flew to Britain at all. A good little counter propaganda bomb to drop among German school children is simply to inform them that this was so. Despite the enormous amount of time devoted (literally!) in German school classrooms to the "lessons to be learned" from 1933-45 teachers apparently omit to mention such trivial events of the last world war as the Second-in-Command flying solo to a belligerent power to sue for peace. (Incidentally, as a peace envoy, Rudolph Hess was protected under the Geneva Convention from imprisonment. "Geneva how much?")

I do not wish to imply that the government which Hess represented was beyond reproach itself: far from it. Hitler's government never showed the least regard for the personal liberties its modern admirers always demand so vociferously as their own right, and while accusations about the SS and the GESTAPO have certainly been exaggerated at times, a close encounter with either of these illustrious organizations from the wrong side of the fence so to speak, is an experience I count myself blessed not to have had to undergo. None of this alters the fact that Hess was probably murdered and if so, suspicion increases concerning other unexpected deaths, such as those of Ulricke Meinhoff and Rudi Dutschke, whose politics were light years from those of Rudolph Hess but who shared one political instinct with him: the hypocrisy and smugness of the Bonn government made them want to retch. (Ulricke Meinhoff's was that memorable sobroquet for West Germany, das Erdbeer Reich: the Strawberry Reich). A Democratic government fears such "instinctive" people for the potential general and instinctive sympathy they may arouse as martyrs in the real sense of the word- witnesses to the truth for whom truth is more important than life. It then becomes important that they die at their own hand or of natural causes if die they must, for Democracies are well aware how fertile a martyr's blood may be. Certainly, they do not execute opponents so high- handedly or so cruelly as totalitarians do/did, but in the words of the poet, nor do they "strive officiously to keep alive" those who pose a threat to their stability.

Dominic Campbell

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