Skip to comments.How Soviet ‘Laurel and Hardy’ punished Rudolf Hess
Posted on 09/28/2007 9:42:27 PM PDT by bruinbirdman
The daily regime faced by Rudolf Hess, Hitlers deputy, during his two decades as the sole prisoner in Spandau Jail in Berlin was made as harsh as possible by two Soviet officials described as a sinister Laurel and Hardy team, newly declassified files have revealed.
The Soviet-nominated governor and chief warder at Spandau refused to relax the restrictions imposed on Hess, despite appeals from the United States, Britain and France, the other wartime allies responsible for guarding him. They decided he should drink the last drop of punishment for his crimes in the Second World War, one Foreign and Commonweath Office file reports.
Yesterday the most detailed files on the lifestyle of Hess during the 40 years he spent in Spandau prison, 21 of which were in solitary confinement, were released by the National Archives in Kew. Minutes of angry and frustrated meetings between the four governors representing each of the Allies highlight how the Soviet officials were determined to maintain their own Cold War inside Spandau, even though at the time, in the 1970s, there was supposed to be a new era of detente between the Soviet Union and the West.
Hess, known as Prisoner No 7, had been sentenced to life imprisonment at the Nuremberg trials in 1945 after being found guilty of conspiracy to wage aggressive war and crimes against peace. With six other prisoners, he was sent to Spandau Allied Military Prison on July 18, 1947. Hess had spent the last four years of the Second World War in a cell in the Tower of London after parachuting from a Messerschmitt near Edinburgh in 1941 on a secret mission to seek a peace deal with Britain.
The four allies took turns, a month at a time, to guard Hess. Whenever attempts were made to improve his conditions or allow him more personal items on compassionate grounds, the two Soviet officials refused.
In one Foreign Office file, Bob de Burlet, the British governor at Spandau, wrote in May 1974: The Soviet governor, Voitov, short, fat and roly-poly, and his chief henchman, Fedorov, thin and sallow, are a couple of sneaky and mean individuals who are perfectly cast in their villainous roles as a sort of sinister Laurel and Hardy team.
Against the wishes of the three other governors, they insisted on removing Hesss spectacles at 10pm every night so that he could not read, refused to let him have winter socks, obstructed attempts to have his run-down cell refurbished, and demanded that every notebook he had filled with his thoughts be destroyed.
In February 1974, as Hess approached his 80th birthday, the British governor wrote: We are having a very tough time indeed with them [the Russians] over every aspect of the running of the prison. For some time now they have been trying by every possible means to turn the clock back and to tighten up Hesss routine and to toughen his conditions of confinement.
The governor added: Of course it is Soviet required observance to hate Hess. However, the Spandau cold war is directed as much at the Allies as at Hess. I believe that in Spandau, which is controlled on the Russian side by the military rather than the diplomatic establishment, we see behind the mask of detente. In this environment the velvet glove is off and the mailed fist and the venom are all too plain to see.
Hess got into trouble when Voitov ordered him to stand up whenever he entered his cell. To remind him, Hess put a notice on his wall that read: Stand up when Soviet governor appears. Voitov thought this was an insubordinate breach of regulations.
Underlining his determination to make Hess suffer, on one occasion Voitov removed three of the 13 family photographs in his cell, insisting that the regulations allowed him to have only ten.
The Soviet officials also wanted to censor all Hesss letters to his wife, stoppinghim from writing about such things as painting and the space programme. The rules, they said, stated that he was allowed to write only about personal, health and legal matters.
De Burlet wrote in January 1974: The prisoners only form of intellectual exercise was by means of his letters to his wife. If he was to be restricted to writing about the holes in his socks or his sore fingers, this would deprive him of his only intellectual outlet . . . Its a form of mental torture.
Whatever horrors Germany had perpetrated in their concentration camps, I did not want it to be said that we were following their example.
Hess died in 1987 at the age of 93.
And this surprises...who? The Allies were entirely too lenient towards the Soviets after WWII. They let themselves get walked all over.
Age 93? Something about all that chronic petty aggravation must be good for a body.
No wonder married folks live longer...
I always suspected that Hess knew too much about the Commies. I never understood why he was punished so severely as I cannot recall him being involved in any of the death camps or really any other atrocities. He was a very high Nazi tho.
Twenty-one years of solitary confinement! He must have been completely mad by the time he died. I would be insane after a year of it.
Hess was the closest thing Hitler had to a best friend for many years. He was there at Hitler's right hand throughout the 20s and 30s. Oh, believe, he was involved in all of the repression, murder and horror right up until the moment he went to England.
Yeah, I can’t imagine why the Soviets would be mean to a Nazi.
After all, their WWII casualties were only 20 million.
A fact usually glossed over by leftist historians.
And the question as to why he flew to England remains open - was he tricked by the British Secret Service believing that a peace treaty with England was possible, was he going to meet with Lord Hamilton, ... etc?
[Some of the remains of the Hess plane (Ju-88) are on display at the Imperial War Museum in London.]
Footnote on the Imperial War Museum: You know it is situated on the grounds of old Bethlem (Bedlam) Hospital? :>)
I was assigned to the Berlin Brigade back in the day. The story I heard was that after the war, the Soviets offered to let Hess out of prison if he’d agree to be the first head of the East German government. When he refused, they vowed he’d never leave Spandau alive.
bump for later read
Hess's peace proposal involved Germany and Britain joining forces against the Soviet Union. The commies didn't like that idea very much.
Not surprising as Hitler sent him to negotiate an alliance with Churchill against Stalin.
Fortunately, Churchill knew better — wouldn’t even meet with him.
A more opportunistic politician might have entered into such a devil’s bargain in order to eliminate the threat of global communism. But the price would have been much too high.
Hess was the secretary who wrote down Mein Kampf for Hitler while he was in prison during the 20s.
Correct. Also, as Hitler's most trusted confidante, he was given the legal right to kill at his own discretion. The Gestapo also had this right, theoretically in order to execute criminals who would otherwise be let off by too-lenient courts but Hess was the only individual specifically named in law as having this right, as well.
I suspect you are right. Hess would have known a lot of details about how the Hitler/Stalin Pact was negotiated,
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