Rudolf Hess – While Adolf Hitler's deputy, he parachuted into Scotland to propose a peace agreement but was arrested
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer hesitated (Rudolf Hess) before deciding to jump into Scotland.
Rudolf Hess is remembered principally for two things: firstly, as the high-ranking Nazi who, bizarrely, parachuted into Scotland in 1941 to negotiate peace between Germany and Britain; and, secondly, as the sole inmate of Spandau Prison, Berlin, for many years until his death in 1987.
Hess joined the Nazi party in 1920 and quickly became Hitler's confidant. Hitler and Hess were both jailed for their parts in what was known as the Beer Hall Putsch – an attempted coup, or forceful takeover of power, in Munich in 1923. While in Landsberg prison, Hess wrote down and edited much of Hitler's famous book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle).
In 1933 Hess became deputy leader of the Nazi party and in 1939 – the year World War II started – Hitler declared him second to Hermann Göring in the Nazi line of succession.
However, Hess's power waned as the war progressed, and he felt he was being undermined by other senior Nazis.
In the spring of 1941, Hess decided to try to bring the war between Germany and Britain to an end and thereby restore his flagging prestige. On May 10 he flew alone from Augsburg, Bavaria, and landed by parachute in Scotland with peace proposals. He demanded a free hand for Germany in Europe and the return of former German colonies as compensation for Germany’s promise to respect the integrity of the British Empire.
Hess’s proposals met with no response. The British government treated him as a prisoner of war and held him for the remainder of World War II.
After the war, Hess was tried at the Nuremberg war crimes trials. He was convicted and given a life sentence.
Hess served his sentence at Spandau prison in Berlin. From 1966 onwards, he was the sole inmate of the prison.
In 1987, Hess, aged 93 and still at Spandau, committed suicide, hanging himself with the extension cord from a lamp. He was buried in Wunsiedel, Bavaria. His grave became a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis. In 2011 his body was removed and cremated and his ashes were scattered in an unidentified lake.
Interesting fact: While Hess was in British custody, psychiatrists who treated him noted that while he was not insane, he was mentally unstable, with tendencies toward hypochondria and paranoia.