Neo-Nazis lose a pilgrimage site, the grave of Rudolf Hess
The grave of Rudolf Hess in the small Bavarian town of Wunsiedel has been removed. The remains of Hitler's former deputy have been exhumed for cremation and his ashes will be scattered at sea. Austria Presse Agentur (APA) reports that the internet edition of Der Spiegel magazine has an item on the removal in today's edition.
Local authorities expect the removal to deprive right-wing extremists of a pilgrimage site. Marches of up to 1 000 people have been held there annually on 17 August, the anniversary of Hess's death.
The grave was opened between 4 and 6 AM on yesterday morning, APA reports. The remains of Hitler's right-hand man were exhumed with the agreement of Hess's descendants.
Hess is considered a martyr in extreme-right circles. He was one of the 24 main defendants tried by the international military tribunal at Nuremberg and was sentenced to life in prison. He served his sentence in the Allied prison of Spandau in West Berlin. On 17 August 1987, at the age of 93, he committed suicide there. In his will he expressed the wish to be buried in Wunsiedel, where his parents had owned a summer home. He was subsequently interred there.
Representatives of the evangelical parish in Wunsiedel initially granted Hess's wish, but church actors later began pushing for the grave to be removed due to the innumerable radical right-wing demonstrations it attracted. When the lease for its use expired recently, the church community refused to extend it. Prior to the lease expiring, Hess's granddaughter filed a lawsuit against the church's decision, but in the end the family was convinced to agree to the grave's removal.
In 1999 German authorities cremated the remains of Martin Bormann, a confidant of Hitler, and secretly scattered his remains at sea. That procedure was also undertaken in an effort to prevent neo-Nazis from erecting a monument in Bormann's honor.