Rudolf Hess: DNA test disproves Spandau prison conspiracy theory

Rudolf Hess making a speech in 1937Image copyright
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An enduring conspiracy theory that the Nazi war criminal, Rudolf Hess, had been replaced by a double in jail has finally been put to rest.

A DNA test carried out by Austrian scientists has shown that the man imprisoned in Berlin’s Spandau Prison had indeed been Hitler’s deputy.

Hess was captured after flying to Scotland in 1941 and sentenced to life in prison at the Nuremberg trials.

He was found hanged in the Berlin jail in 1987 at the age of 93.

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Hess was Spandau Prison’s last inmate

Researchers at the University of Salzburg in Austria tracked down a distant male relative of Hess’s and obtained a DNA sample, the FSI Genetics journal says.

That was compared with tests of a blood sample taken from the man known as Spandau prisoner No 7, the prison’s last inmate, in 1982.

The results showed a match of almost 100%.

One of the main proponents of the impostor theory was Hess’s prison doctor, W Hugh Thomas.

His theory was based, among other elements, on the fact that the man in Spandau bore physical differences with Hess and that he had refused to see his family for many years – not helped by the fact that he also seemed to suffer from apparent amnesia.

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Media captionFormer governor of Spandau prison, Tony Le Tissier, says Nazi Rudolf Hess deserved to die in prison

Hess was one of Hitler’s closest aides. But in 1941 he made a solo flight to Scotland, where his plane crash-landed, in an apparently unauthorised peace mission which was denounced by the F├╝hrer.

He was imprisoned by the British for the duration of the war.

At the Nuremberg trials in 1946, Hess was cleared of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but convicted of crimes against peace and jailed for life.

He spent the next 40 years in Spandau Prison in Berlin, before being found hanged in an apparent suicide.


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Rudolf Hess

1894: Born in Alexandria, Egypt

1914-18: Serves during WWI, ending war as lieutenant

1920: Joins Hitler’s fledgling Nazi Party

1923: Imprisoned with Hitler and becomes his secretary

1933: Becomes deputy of the Nazi Party after Hitler’s rise to power

1941: Seeks peace with Britain by flying solo to Scotland; detained in Britain

1946: Convicted of crimes against peace at Nuremberg trials and given life sentence

1947: Transferred to Spandau Prison in Berlin

1987: Found hanged


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