Hitler Deputy’s Bones Exhumed to Stop Neo-Nazi Pilgrimages

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Reuters

The grave of Adolf Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess is seen in Wunsiedel, August 16, 2000

Yesterday morning, the bones of Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler’s deputy, were exhumed from his grave in southern Germany. The bones were then cremated and scattered at sea, cemetery administrator Andreas Fabel told the Associated Press. This comes in response to the use of Hess’ grave as a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis.

Rudolf Hess was once third in command of the Nazi regime, behind Hermann Goring and Hitler himself. A close confidant of Hitler’s starting in the 1920’s, Hess transcribed and edited a large portion of Hitler’s dictation for Mein Kampf. In 1941, Hess flew alone and landed with a parachute in Scotland, allegedly to discuss peace terms in an unauthorized mission that Hitler denounced. Instead, he was imprisoned by the British for the rest of the war. He was later tried at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, where he was convicted of crimes against peace, though cleared of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to life in prison at Spandau prison in Berlin. From 1966 onwards he was the only prisoner at the jail and in 1987, at age 93, he killed himself.

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Hess was buried, in accordance with his will, in the town of Wunsiedel, where his parents had also been laid to rest, reports the BBC. His epitaph reads “I dared.” But local residents and the Lutheran church that supervises the cemetery have long been perturbed by the groups of neo-Nazis that visit the grave and each year on the anniversary of Hess’ death, attempting to stage honorary marches to the cemetery.

In 2005, a court ban on these celebrations did little to actually stop them and, according to the BBC, the church chose to end the family’s lease on the grave as of this upcoming October. They also reported that Hess’ granddaughter filed a lawsuit in objection but was eventually convinced to drop the suit. Nevertheless, cemetery administrator Fabel told the AP that Hess’ relatives and church authorities were in agreement about exhuming the remains: “Both sides were in favor of it,” he said.

“The grave is now empty,” Fabel told the AP. “The bones are gone.”

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Zara Kessler is a TIME contributor. Find her on Twitter at @zarafk. You can also continue the discussion on TIME‘s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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