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Nazi Rudolf Hess’ grave exhumed to prevent pilgrimage

Bones exhumed from Hess's grave to prevent annual neo-Nazi march.
By: Sarah Bauder
Published: July 21st, 2011 in News » World
Rudolf Hess's gravesite

The bones of Adolf Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess, were exhumed from the graveyard in Wunisiedel, Germany early Wednesday morning. His remains were immediately cremated and will be scattered at sea.

Rudolf Hess’ gravesite has become a popular pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis over recent years. Each year, on August 17th (the anniversary of his death), sympathizers march and lay wreaths at his graveside. The annual march always disrupted the small town, attracting a large police presence. In order to prevent the marches and demonstrations from continuing, the church that oversees the cemetery granted permission for his body to be removed.

The church initially agreed to bury Hess’ body in the cemetery because they believed the deceased’s wishes should never be ignored. But once the site became a regular meeting place for Nazi sympathizers, the local people became concerned. In 2005, the townspeople took out a court injunction to prevent the march, but Hess’ followers continued to gather. Although the march was banned, far-right groups such as the National Democrats were still permitted to organize large-scale events on other issues. Therefore, the church decided that terminating the lease on the grave was the only solution.

Hess joined the Nazi party in 1920, and was imprisoned alongside Hitler three years later. After the rise of the Nazi party in 1933, Hess became Hitler’s deputy. During the early part of World War II, Hess became disillusioned and took off on a solo flight to Scotland, in hopes of making peace with Britain. Although Hitler didn’t agree, Hess wanted Britain as an ally. During his flight over, Hess crashed his Messerschmitt 12 miles away from his destination. The Brits detained him for five years before sending him to trial, eventually impounding him at Spandau prison where he remained for the next 40 years until he was found hanged in his cell.

Hess’s grave lease was set to expire in October. His granddaughter applied for a 20-year extension, but the town of Wunsiedel viewed this as the perfect opportunity to revoke his lease.

Related articles: Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess, Holocaust, Nazi, World War II, Germany, Wunsiedel, Cemetary
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