No Peace for Rudolf Hess
Richard A. Widmann
In July news circled the globe that the body of Rudolf Hess, the one-time deputy to Adolf Hitler, was exhumed from a family funeral plot. His bones were cremated and scattered at an undisclosed location at sea. Karl-Willi Beck, the mayor of the Bavarian town of Wunsiedel where Hess was buried, justified the action by asserting that the grave had become a site of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis.1
Apparently Hess had requested in his will that he be buried in Wunsiedel with his parents in their family plot. At the time of his burial, the local Lutheran church, which supervises the graveyard, did not object and said the wishes of the deceased could not be ignored.2 The removal of Hess’s body and the subsequent disposal of his corpse in a method reminiscent of the recent burial of Osama bin Laden invites a reconsideration of both his life and the death.
Rudolf Hess was born in Alexandria, Egypt on 26 April 1894. The young Hess volunteered to fight for Germany during the First World War and as early as November 1914 had taken part in trench warfare on the Somme. Hess was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class for his bravery and suffered two severe wounds during the conflict.3