Magazine article The Spectator

Brainwash and Whitewash

Magazine article The Spectator

Brainwash and Whitewash

Article excerpt

Brainwash and whitewash Duff Hart-Davis DOUBLE STANDARDS by Lynn Picknett, Clive Prince and Stephen Prior Little, Brown, L20, pp. 578, ISBN 0316857688

Sixty years on, the mystery of what happened to Rudolf Hess is still far from solved. At 5.45 pm on 10 May 1941 Hitler's Deputy took off from Augsburg, near Munich, in a Messerschmitt 110 fighterbomber, apparently to seek peace with England. Late that night he, or someone very like him, crash-landed near Eaglesham, south of Glasgow, and was arrested by the Home Guard. The prisoner, whom the British have ever since passed off as Hess, was kept in custody during the war, then tried at Nuremberg, sentenced to life imprisonment and incarcerated at Spandau, in Berlin, where he died on 17 August 1987. But was this wretched man really Hess, or a doppelganger?

Serious doubts about the man's identity were first raised by Hugh Thomas, the Welsh surgeon who examined him in Spandau. In his book The Murder of Rudolf Hess, published in 1979, Thomas blew traditional accounts apart by revealing that, whereas Hitler's henchman had been shot through the left lung by a rifle bullet during the first world war, the man in the gaol had never been wounded, and so could not be Hess.

The government of the day, backed by traditional historians, lost no time in trying to rubbish this awkward discovery; but in 1987 Thomas was vindicated. By then Hess's chest wound had been authenticated by the discovery of contemporary records; but when the old man of Spandau died, two elaborate post-mortem examinations confirmed that he had never been shot through the lung. In trying to silence the controversy that erupted, senior British politicians made more than 140 misleading statements, many of them expressly mendacious.

Double Standards is the latest attempt to unravel the mass of contradictions which the saga has produced. Briefly, the authors accept that Thomas was, and is, right: that the man we sent to Nuremberg and Spandau was a double, and that in the end he was murdered at our instigation because we feared that the Russians were about to release him unilaterally, and that, once free, he would start to talk.

Widespread research has led them to present the earlier part of the story as follows. Hess flew to Scotland, as history relates. His aim was to land secretly on the private airfield at Dungavel, home of the Duke of Hamilton, one of the leading lights in the British faction wanting to make peace with Germany, but he lost his bearings and had to parachute, whereupon news of his arrival leaked out. …

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