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Disposal of the Deputy Führer

Rudolf Hess to be cremated and buried at sea.

8:04 AM, Jul 23, 2011 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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Earlier this week, as reported first in Süddeutsche Zeitung, the remains of Rudolf Hess were disinterred from a Protestant cemetery in Wunsiedel, Bavaria. (Der Spiegel has also reported on this in English.) Ever since the suicide of Hitler's deputy in 1987 at age 93 (he was the sole inmate at Spandau), his gravesite had become a problem, attracting neo-Nazis who turned the quiet town into a pilgrimage site. But the town had finally had enough. In agreement with Hess's family, the headstone was removed and the body scheduled for cremation and burial at sea—a similar fate that Adolf Eichmann met after his execution in Israel in 1962.

How a people dispose of their tyrants is an interesting thing and something I've covered before. Saddam Hussein is buried next to his sons in Awja. Osama bin Laden lies somewhere at the bottom of the North Arabian Sea. With regard to the highest ranking members of the Third Reich, the solution that seemed to work best was cremation: The Nuremberg criminals were all cremated and, according to Anthony Read in The Devil's Disciples, "a container holding all the ashes was driven away into the Bavarian countryside, in the rain. It stopped in a quiet lane about an hour later, and the ashes were poured into a muddy ditch." Hess, however, had received a life sentence—he had spent most of the war imprisoned in the U.K., having secretly flown there in 1941 in the belief he could negotiate a peace between Germany and Great Britain. (It should go without saying that Hitler was not pleased when he found out the next morning.)

As such, Hess lived until 1987, by which time some had presumed his burial in a quiet Bavarian town would not be problematic. But of course it was. And with this decision, at least by my count, there are no other major gravesites left for neo-Nazis to gather around.

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