British attempts to free Hess from Spandau thwarted by Russians

Britain made repeated efforts to free Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler's one-time deputy, from Spandau prison but each time were thwarted by the Russians, show newly released documents on the internment of Adolf Hitler's former deputy.

Letters sent by the British military in Berlin also accuse Hess's Soviet guards of mental cruelty. Several times in the 1970s, British officials tried to persuade the Russians to try to persuade them to release Hess or relax his harsh conditions. But each time they were rebuffed.

The story of Rudolf Hess is one of the strangest to emerge from the Second World War.

The former First World War soldier, who joined the Nazi Party in 1920, was captured after flying alone to Scotland in May 1941 to seek an Anglo-German peace deal. Hitler said he had gone mad, but Josef Stalin, the Soviet dictator, suspected some sort of deal was being done with Britain and Nazi Germany, hence the later rough treatment.

In 1946, Hess was sentenced to life at the Nuremberg war trials and later transferred to Spandau in the British-controlled sector of Berlin. The four occupying powers, the US, Britain, France and the Soviet Union took turns to guard him.

After 1966, when Baldur von Schirach, the Hitler Youth leader, and Albert Speer, Hitler's armament minister, were released, Hess was alone. By 1974, several governments, including Britain, America and France, were calling for his release on humanitarian grounds.

The correspondence, released under the Freedom of Information Act, shows the Queen wrote to the former German chancellor, Willi Brandt, saying Britain was doing all it could to try to free him. These efforts were stepped up as Hess approached his 80th birthday. But by May 1974 all hope had faded. Of pressing concern was the increasingly cruel treatment by the Soviets.

In a letter by a senior official in the British Military Government to the British ambassador in Bonn paints a particularly bleak picture. Robert de Burlet, who had diplomatic responsibility for Spandau and visited Hess several times, wrote: "now that the possibility of a tripartite démarche to the Russians to appeal for Hess's release ... seems to have receded ... I think I should bring up to date on the current situation at the prison."

Mr de Burlet said the Russian governor at Spandau has demanded that Hess be deprived of his glasses between 10pm and 7am every night. The Russians also insisted Hess burn his notebook before being allowed a new one, restricted his access to the prison garden and refused him physical contact with any visitor, including his wife and son.

Mr de Burlet wrote: "This new Russian turn of the screw, is particularly unpleasant and amounts to the infliction of mental torture on the prisoner. It is made more blatant by the fact that since November 1959 when Hess cut his wrists with a fragment of glass from his spectacles he has been given ones with plastic lenses."

Mr de Burlet says that in the "course of argument" with the Soviet governor, whom he describes as "short, fat and sinister", he pointed this out but "he refused to listen".

He adds: "It is strange but true, that the Allies, and in particular the British, now have a dual role at Spandau. On the one hand we are carrying out the sentence passed on Hess and on the other hand we are additionally forced into the role of his protectors against the grosser Soviet violations of his minimal privileges.

Mr de Burlet goes on: "We might, of course, tell the Russians to go jump in the Volga ... but this might lead to violent protests and ... physical confrontations with the Soviet warders."

Hess hanged himself at 93, having been a prisoner for 46 years, 40 of them in Spandau, the last 23 in solitary confinement.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice