The Age from Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia on September 10, 1988 · Page 160
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The Age from Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia · Page 160

Melbourne, Victoria, Victoria, Australia
Issue Date:
Saturday, September 10, 1988
Page 160
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The Age 10 September 1988 Saturday Extra 7 Behind the mask of prisoner NOo 7 After 47 years in captivity for his war crimes, Rudolf Hess committed suicide last year. That was the official story. But was the dead man murdered and was he really Hess? PAUL MANSFIELD reports. IN SEPTEMBER 1973, Hugh Thomas, a consultant surgeon in the Royal Army Medical Corps, attended a medical examination of Rudolf Hess, the last inmate of Spandau Prison in Berlin. One of Thomas's duties was to look after the health of "Allied prisoner No. 7", sentenced to life imprisonment at Nuremberg 26 years earlier and he had already made a strange discovery. Hess, he learned, had been wounded in action in the First World War by a rifle bullet which passed through his left lung and out his back. But none of the existing medical reports on Prisoner No. 7 had made any mention of the scars this kind of wound (authenticated by military records and by Hsss's own letters) would certainly have left. Thomas, an international expert in gunshot wounds, was curious to see for himself. When Thomas confronted the prisoner "What happened to your war wounds? Not even skin deep?" the effect was instantaneous. He turned chalk-white and began to shake so violently that Thomas was afraid he might have a heart attack. And all he would reply was "zu spat, zu spat" ("too late, too late"). X-rays confirmed the absence of any internal damage, leading Thomas to a momentous conclusion: "That Spandau's prisoner No. 7, who bore no wound scars at all, was not Rudolf Hess. I should emphasise that this is not a matter of personal opinion, but of straightforward medical fact." For Thomas, now consultant surgeon at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, it was the beginning of an extraordinary 15 years of detective work. His first book, 'The Murder of Rudolf Hess', caused a sensation when it was published in 1979. After the apparent suicide of Prisoner No. 7 in Spandau last year, Thomas uncovered new and startling evidence now incorporated into a revised edition of the book. A cheerful, combative Welshman of 52, Thomas is the first to admit that the true story of Rudolf Hess is far more complex than anyone had previously imagined. "Unfortunately, this whole damn business is utterly bizarre, from the time it started to the time it's eventually going to finish." RUDOLF HESS was supposedly captured by the British in May 1941 when he arrived in Scotland on a solo flight from Germany on a peace mission undertaken without Hitler's consent. According to Hugh Thomas who proved in his first book that a flight of this length was impossible, and also that two different planes began and ended the journey the man who arrived in Scot-Ian was an imposter, Hess's doppelgdng-er, sent in on a plane from Denmark. This plan had been devised by Himm-ler, Hitler's second-in-command, who had been watching Hess's peace manoeuvres and who sent in a double with the aim of negotiating peace on his own terms. The real Hess, en route to Stockholm, was shot down over the English channel by his own fighters. Once in England, "Hess" posed a problem for the British. Although they soon discovered that he was an impostor, the whereabouts of the real Hess and the nature of the plot left them baffled. A substantial number of the British aristocracy had been involved in secret peace negotiations with Germany. ("Pretty soon," says Thomas, "we should be able to prove that Britain was going to pull out of the war, damn Churchill, through the auspices of several prominent aristocrats".) With all the uncertainty it was decided to let "Hess" remain, closely guarded and shielded from anyone who might expose him as a fraud. He was deemed "eccentric", mentally unstable. And, says Thomas, he was threatened with death if he exposed the charade. In this way he 1 passed five years of captivity, uncertain as to his fate, constantly tormented by the prospect of sudden death. "Many warders have said that he often blew his cool, and said that he wasn't Hess," says Thomas. "But then what better way to prove that you're mad than to declare that you're not Hess? It was a Catch-22 situation for him, and the mental anguish must have been unspeakable." Why then did the man (of whose real identity Thomas is now almost certain) accept the job? "Accepting the job is easy," says Thomas wryly, "if it's the SS who want your services. Also the SS vigorously pursued the idea of the responsibility of kinship. What father would deliberately put his family at risk by declaring his innocence in that situation?" At the Nuremberg trials after the war, "Hess" was mocked by several of his supposed former colleagues, including Goering, who had been a party to the original plot. (He also failed to recognise former friends and members of his staff.) But a confession would have meant execution as a spy. "He was faced with the choice of death, or uncertainty," Thomas says. "And he chose uncertainty. By that time he'd been in captivity four or five years. He didn't know what game the British were playing: was he going to be released? Were they going to admit it? Was it all some desperate British cha- rade? The man was a prisoner of conscience in more ways than one." As it is, "Hess" received a life sentence and was incarcerated in Spandau, where he deliberately avoided other Nazi war criminals, and refused to allow Hess's wife and son to visit the prison until 1969 27 years after the real Hess had last seen them, and when revelation of his real identity would be almost impossible. Finally, in August 1987, he died after 47 years in captivity and the circumstances of his death provided Hugh Thomas with his most explosive material yet. Hess, said the official story, committed suicide by hanging himself by a length of flex in a garden shed. But Thomas says he was murdered. "During the last week of July 1987," he writes, "messages reaching the Foreign Office in London warned that one of the Soviet warders on duty had reported 'loose talk' by Prisoner No. 7. Although he had begun to speak frankly before, he had never done so to a Russian; and now, it seems, somebody decided that the risk of him surviving for another month of Soviet custody was too great. Within three weeks of his outburst, his life had been brought to a sudden and brutal end." Thomas insists that, frail and decrepit as he was, Prisoner No. 7 could not possibly have committed suicide in the way suggested by the prison authorities. "No coroner in any civilised country would pass that death as suicide for a moment. There'd be an instant inquiry. It's an even more extraordinary situation when a man dies in a military prison and there's no inquiry. That's staggering." Instead, the British arranged a postmortem by a single army pathologist none other than Professor J. M. Cameron, best known in Australia as the man whose evidence helped convict Lindy Chamberlain of murdering her daughter. Professor Cameron's post-mortem duly turned in some interesting findings. First, a "suicide note" was discovered in one of the dead man's pockets several days after he died. Thomas further alleges that Cameron failed to notice two superficial scars on the prisoner's chest recorded as far back as 1947. Instead, he found one single scar a claim later seized upon by the Foreign Office as evidence of a gunshot wound. "What seems to escape the Foreign Office," says Thomas "is that if a rifle bullet had gone into Hess's chest at that point it would have hit his heart and killed him. Secondly, there was no exit wound on the body, nor any operation scar, yet the bullet never showed up on x-rays. Metal does not dissolve." By this stage, Rudolf Hess's son, Wolf Rudiger, had commissioned his own post-mortem and its verdict was unequivocal: the two superficial scars were clearly visible, otherwise the chest was unmarked. The dead man had Far left: Hess at a meeting of the Hitler Youth in Berlin, 1940. Left: Hugh Thomas. Above: Hess in the grounds of Spandau Prison. clearly never been shot in the lung. More importantly, the second doctor recorded marks on the prisoner's neck that made it physically impossible that he had hanged himself: the inescapable conclusion was that he had been strangled. Despite this and despite accepting all Thomas's previous assertions about the prisoner Wolf Rudiger himself was unable to bring himself to accept that Prisoner No. 7 had not been his father. "It's very sad," says Thomas. "I like the man personally: we're very good friends. But the fact is he can't quite make that extra jump on scientific terms. He's had the whole of his life to think that it was his father, and it's a hell of a jump to make".) IN TRYING to tell the truth about Prisoner No. 7, Thomas found himself faced with a far-reaching cover-up. "Someone's gone to an immense amount of trouble over this. Records have gone missing from provincial newspapers, from the Berlin Document Centre, from the Imperial War Museum . . . There's even now a department, I'm told, in the Foreign Office, looking after my affairs He ascribes his determination to get to the bottom of the Hess case to a certain "bloody-mindedness". "When you find something out which is obvious, which obviously covers an untruth of some considerable extent, and are then leant on in every conceivable fashion . . . what it does to my own particular character is make me dig my heels in and be quite determined to set at the full truth. "And the more they try and hush me up, the more determined I become to say exactly what I find." Thomas thinks that British reluctance to come clean concerns reputations still at stake "although most of the people who made the original decisions in 1941 are now dead". "But there's a knock-on effect Most of the people who are now in power want their own reputations kept in the future in turn. Ever since the secret service started in Britain we've had this problem, where secrecy would prevail, reputations would be kept at all costs." And never more so than in Mrs Thatcher's secrecy-obsessed administration. Thomas has been threatened with prosecution under the Official Secrets Act several times. "They're becoming more savage. The Foreign Office talks that I have are now almost pure hysteria. And they're becoming very bitter in what they say, as they're gradually dragged out I've had a fairly rough time behind the scenes." But he has gained some unlikely friends as a result "What's happened as a result of this investigation is most bizarre. This has opened up a new experience, in that most of the intelligence hierarchy in Britain, and in other countries as well, have found their way to my door to give me their gripes. It's opened up a whole intelligence world I never knew existed." By Thomas's account those with most to loose from the Hess revelations are not professional intelligence officers, but that clique in the British establishment that sought peace for reasons of its own. "If those people did what they did in terms of patriotism," says Thomas, "then I would back their right to do it But it wasn't that It was for financial reasons. All these people were involved deeply in running the establishment They had total control of the nation's wealth. And they were making peace with the aim of trying to secure their fortunes and their Empire. So I'm quite glad that they're now becoming exposed. I don't give a tuppeny damn about the people in Britain I upset" And he has, naturally, upset a good many. "It's gaining ground," says Thomas. "The post-mortems have proved that I was correct More historians are now starting to back me, although some of them only in private, not in public. All we want now is a few people with testicular material between their legs prepared to stand by what they say, and we'll be home and dry." In which case, the lonely ordeal of Allied Prisoner No. 7 may yet be properly acknowledged. 'Hess: A Tale of Two Murders', by Hugh Thomas, is published by Hodder & Stoughton. 1 iBfr &IIflIfr(SfrIIgM' fiIRa C3 C3 C3 33 Saving New model Miele single oven, with electronic push button microwave. Normally 52,970 Now SI, 999 Save S 971 until sold out ULTIMATE Talk to Andrew or Leigh at 92Txrak Road, South Yarra. Ih me 266 S542 or 266 4544 The University of Melbourne Faculty of Engineering Master's Programme Environmental Engineering Master of Engineering Science and Master of Applied Science 1989 Applications are invited for the multidisciplinary Master's Degree course in Environmental Engineering. This course work programme, with a minor research project as an essential part of it, is offered part-time over 3 years and is open to applicants with an undergraduate degree in engineering or science. It offers an opportunity to gain graduate experience in this important field. Entry to the course is biennial; the core course will be offered in 1989 and alternate years, and applications will not be called for again until late 1990. Courses are available in air pollution control, solid liquid waste treatment, water resources engineering, traffic engineering, industrial hygiene and noise and vibration. Full access to the Faculty's computing and other facilities is available. Applications close on 31 October, 1988. Further information and application forms can be obtained from the Course Co-ordinator, Dr. S. J. Mainwaring, Faculty of Engineering, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, 3052. Tel: (03) 344-6879 or 344-6876. arm4J037 ART AND DESIGN SHORT COURSES All Courses commence October. Call now for details. Calligraphy Drawing and Painting Garment Construction Graphic Design Leadlighting Life Drawing Pastel Drawing Photography-An Intro. Extending Your BW Photography Pottery - Intro & Advanced Screen Printing Smocking For further information please contact The Short Course Department on 556 9600 or 556 9760. MOORABBIN COLLEGE OFT.A.F.E. 488 South Rd, Moorabbin 3189. Ph: 556 9600 TOP Ell ADD ACCOUNTANCY TO YOUR QUALIFICATIONS Ma THE Aceountaney-a skill that's vital to the success of every business. . . -Critical to management for makim; I riii term decisions. ..-Essential to analysing the commercial success of an enterprise... Now it s possible to acquire these vital skills by Distance Learning -an opportunity available to GRADUATES' who want to achieve the ultimate in business performance. The Graduate Conversion Course in Account inn. designed b accounting professionals and off-campus study specialists at the Tasmanian State Institute of TechnoloiTA. allow s Australian graduates to gain Tertiary qualifications without formal classes in a short time. Whether you operate your own business, or want to rise higher in a managerial structure, understanding the basic principles of accounting can give you a significant edge. Find out more about this opportunity-use the form below to ensure a prompt response. Alternatively, call Mr. Kim Lehman. Continuing Education Unit. Tasmanian State Institute of Technology on (003) 26 0522, and secure your place in the course. AGE TRAVEL ADVENTURE COMPETITIOH Tell us about your most exciting travel adventure and win an adventure holiday with World Expeditions. The winning entry will be published in Saturday Extra, with the winner having the choice of taking either a return trip for two for 19 days on a World Expeditions "Nepal Panorama" holiday or a week's Sailing Safari in the Whitsunday Islands for two aboard the ftrc square rigger, the Coral Trekker (air fares, ex Melbourne, courtesy ofAnsett Airlines of v C Australia, are included). y lfc Entries must be typed, should be no longer I I '1 then 1000 words and should not have been J published. They must be in by 30 September (A iy ana ine language usea musi oe sunaDie for a family newspaper. Entries will not be -fcJ returned. Please send me information on the Tasmanian State Institute's Accountancy I by Distance Learning Course. ' Name Address . I The judges are the Editor of The Age and the Travel and Leisure Editor. No entry form is needed. The judges will be looking for the best story. It may be funny or exciting, or both, but it must be a personal experience. Send entries to "The Age" Travel Adventure Competition, Cf- The Travel and Leisure Editor, The Age, 250 Spencer Street, Melbourne 3000. The winning entry will be published in Saturday Extra, for which purpose David Syme and Co. Limited will have first Australian publishing rights. No rights are claimed for other entries. I Conditions of Entry: The judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. The competition is open to all residents of Victoria, except employees and their families of David Syme and Co. Limited, its subsidiaries and associated companies, participating sponsors, their advertising agencies and professional travel writers. Prizes are non-transferable or renegotiable for cash and must be taken within 12 months of the winner s announcement. EvMing Qualification! si From i University College Institute) Currently: Employed In own business Unemployed TASMANIAN STATE I A 444-INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY ! rIIMJ I T thtt rOST 485 CCA I EO. Box 1214 Uurston 7250J Enjoy the adventure of being alhe'. EWORLD Si EXPEDITIONS (formerly Australian Himalayan Expeditions) PHONE (03)419 2333 The University of Melbourne Faculty of Arts Master of Arts in Women's Studies Applications are invited for this new interdisciplinary programme in Women's Studies, available full-time (one year) or part-time (two years). The course includes a central core seminar on feminist theory, a minor thesis and a number of options offering feminist perspectives on the welfare state, law and public policy, literary and cultural theory, Australian women writers, education, the urban experience, the social control of adolescents and problems in the analysis of gender. Eligibility: A good honours degree in Arts or its equivalent. Closing date: 31st of October, 1988. For more information contact the Department of History, Melbourne University, Parkville, 3052. Telephone (03) 344 5963. The University of Melbourne Faculty of Engineering Research & Coursework Postgraduate Programme 1989 Applications are invited for 1989 entry to Master's programmes within the Faculty of Engineering leading to the award of the following degrees: Master of Engineering Science Master of Surveying Science Master cf Applied Science Candidature is available on a full-time (12-18 months) or part-time basis, and a comprehensive range of advanced programmes, covering both coursework and research training, is available. Postgraduate activity in the Faculty of Engineering is strongly supported by excellent supervisory and research facilities, as well as access to the Faculty's extensive computer centre. Many departments have close research links with other faculties at The University of Melbourne, with other universities in Australia and overseas and with local industry. Applications close on 31 October, 1988. An information booklet on the Faculty's graduate research and coursework programmes, and application materials are available from Anne Marsden. Faculty of Engineering, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, 3052. Tel: 344-6715. Adopt a heafthy, desexed cat or a kitten today! 200 Elder Street, Greensborough 10 am-4 pm every day. Phone 434 7155 GALLERY Directors' Choice An exhibition of works by Gallery Artists selected and sponsored by the Directors of City Gallery, William Mora Gallery, Charles Nodrum Gallery, 13 Verity Street. The Exhibition is open to the public from Wednesday 7th September to Friday 30th September. Hours: 11.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. Monday - Friday (Public Holidays excepted). RMIT Gallery, 342-348 Swanston Street, Melbourne arm42560 IE Grand PRIVATE HOTEL Your Ideal Holiday destination Come aad ids Ike Vac Gmd aad etpericace the sxjk asd cfajn of a Gtaad Hotel firon last ceatory, wA all the BHdera comforts. Scdutcd n the hem of QuecttctirT, oae of Vkctora's saost petvesqw seaside nfaajes, Ike Vie Crass) srii take jos back is laoe with its charts aad style. Sped yoartcfl sooa. For sflforssatioa P: (OSZ) 5234U6 46 Hesse St., Quccnscliff, -You'll Ae xazrmfy mdamef The University of Melbourne Faculty of Arts Master of Arts in English by Postgraduate Seminars The English Department will again offer its MA by Postgraduate Seminars in 1989. The programme will consist of the following two seminars: 1. AUSTRALIAN LITERATURE, Or Kerryn Goldsworthy and Prof sor Chris Wallace-Crabbe 2. LITERARY THEORY, MODERNISM AND POSTMODERNISM, Dr Simon During and Ms Bronwen Levy Intending students should consult with the Research Secretary, 344 5497 for further information. Applications close with the Assistant Registrar (Arts) on 31 January 1989. Your tyres keep you in TOUCH WORK!NG TOGETHER THE W AGE .lE&aliiMmi BEGINNERS WELCOME Experience whitewater with World Expeditions and challenge the rapids, or try sea kayaking around the East Coast of Tasmania 7 days for only $665. Raft the Mitta Mitta, 2 days of thrills and spills for $185. Jaws of the Murray will challenge you, 2 or 3 day trips $195 or $285. The Mitchell Weekender is a great cob-web clearer at $195. Snowy River wild scenery and fun rafting, 5 days for $475. For these and a thousand other adventures phone us soon. , . m . EyWftsein atis.' iau uvion-r n; ior lb page colour PHS uiuviiius; ui nan o ftonf . . . " Ph ffixi dlM r V evDcnrriMiB hiarswohiansaiii.' QI1LD

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