Authors: Peter Lovesey
âThis is Wilhelmstrasse,' Red informed them, âapproaching Spandau Jail. You could get lucky and see me in a moment. I was there for the birthday.'
âGate-crashing?' suggested Jane, as the blue front doors of the prison appeared, followed by close-ups of guards with dogs and a warning sign.
âI was interviewing his son, wasn't I?' said Red. âThat's him, going in to see the old man.'
âYou mean him?' asked Dick, as a talking head appeared in shot.
âNo, he's a former commandant.'
With nice timing, a caption confirmed Red's information.
A map of Europe came up, showing the flight path Hess had taken in 1941, followed by black and white footage of his wrecked plane and then a sequence at a Nazi rally. Some grainy film, obviously sneaked from a high vantage-point with a telephoto lens, came next: the solitary figure of Hess at exercise in the prison garden, wearing a grey, pillbox-type hat and a dark overcoat with the collar turned up, hands behind his back, moving at a measured pace until he found some small obstruction in his path and moved it with his foot. He had receding hair, but his face looked better-nourished than it had in the Nuremberg picture.
Cedric turned up the soundâ¦ .
developed an interest in space travel, but he stayed where he was. And his son blames the Western powers for that as much as anyone else.
Wolf RÃ¼diger Hess, a man in his forties, was shown being interviewed outside the prison gates:
The Western powers are responsible because you can see American guards guarding my father today or during April, and British guards guarding him during May and French guards in June. So I think it's not true that the Russians are the only ones who get the blame
âA swipe at the Allies,' said Dick. âNot like the Beeb to â¦' He gave way to the voice coming from the TV.
The British say that accusation is nonsense. They and the other Western powers have repeatedly asked the Russians to
release Hess. The Russians refuse. To them he's a Nazi war criminal. He will stay here and die here.
âWhich leaves us in no doubt who the real hard-liners are,' commented Dick.
Cedric stopped the video-tape. âRed, you were there. Your story had a different slant, if I recall it right.'
There was a chuckle from the window-seat. âI have to earn my living, don't I?'
âDon't duck this. It's important,' Cedric cautioned him. âYou quoted the son as saying that the Russians had shown greater flexibility during the time that Chancellor Schmidt was the German leader. They even gave signs of being willing to release Hess.'
âThat's what Wolf RÃ¼diger Hess suggested,' Red confirmed. âAs a matter of fact,
picked up that quote as well, but I wouldn't get too excited about it. The guy has a vested interest in drawing attention to his father's cause. It's a crusade with him. He gave the media any number of angles. Maximum publicity. In his shoes, I'd do the same. Wouldn't you?'
âI'm sorry if I'm being naive,' Jane pitched in, speaking her thoughts aloud, âbut if the Russians were willing to release Rudolf Hess, why didn't it happen? Who objected?'
The question went unanswered. Cedric was in charge and he had clearly planned things in his own way. He removed the cassette from the video-recorder and slipped another into position. âThis TV documentary was transmitted quite a few years ago,' he said. âIt creaks a bit, and you'll have to make allowances for that, but it's still a useful account of what happened, and there are some crucial interviews with people no longer around to tell their stories.'
The opening sequence showed why Cedric had felt it necessary to apologise in advance for the programme. There was a filmed reconstruction of Hess's flight to Scotland in 1941. The close-ups of the actor in the cockpit immediately challenged credibility and the long shots of the Messerschmitt were unmistakably taken through studio smoke, using a model. The parachute-jump was a newsreel insert. There were smiles all round.
Then there was a cut to something more worthwhile: a filmed interview with David McLean, the ploughman who had found Hess and taken him into his house until the Home Guard had arrived and driven him away. McLean came over as the eminently practical Scot, at a loss to understand why anyone was troubling him about so remote an event.
âHess couldn't have picked a nicer man to drop in on,' commented Dick. âDead now, I guess?'
âMost of these people are, unfortunately,' answered Cedric.
Major Donald of the Royal Observer Corps followed, describing his interview the same night with the prisoner in the Home Guard hut at Busby. At that stage, he explained, nobody knew the identity of the captured pilot. The major had found him in a beautiful rig of light blue and looking slightly fed-up, sitting surrounded by police and Home Guards. At the sight of another service uniform, the man had got to his feet and bowed, but his leg was injured and he had soon been forced to resume his seat. He was refusing to speak any English, so Major Donald, who was a speaker of German, had asked him the questions the others had been trying to put.
The man had given his name as Hauptmann Alfred Horn and said that he had a secret message to deliver urgently to the Duke of Hamilton. When translated into English, this had created loud amusement among his captors. The prisoner, angered, had shown Major Donald his map, with Dungavel House marked with a red circle.
His face seemed familiar
, the major went on,
so I asked him where he had come from, and he said near Munich. I remarked on the excellence of the Lowenbrau in the Munich Beer Cellar, and he looked as disapproving as a maiden aunt. He was a teetotaller, you see. Now I had heard of two Germans who were teetotallers. One was Hitler and the other was Hess. I asked him to sign his name against the Me 110 in my pack of aircraft identification cards, and he signed Alfred Horn. I said I was surprised that he had an Anglo-Saxon name instead of a good German one. He insisted that âAlfred' was German, and I said,
âIch Denke nicht' â
the nearest I could get to âOh, yeah?' I told him, âI will see that the Duke is informed of your request, and I will also tell the Duke that your true name is Rudolf Hess.' He jumped about fifteen inches.
In the event, the programme's narrator explained over a still picture of the Duke of Hamilton, the Major's theory wasn't conveyed to the Duke, who drove to Maryhill Barracks next morning, apparently unaware that the prisoner would identify himself as the Deputy FÃ¼hrer.
Dick cut in with a query: âIsn't there an interview with the Duke?'
âUnfortunately, no,' responded Cedric, pressing the pause button on the remote control.
âHe's dead now?'
âWas he a friend of Hess?'
âNo. They'd never met before Hess arrived.'
Dick frowned. âThat's certain?'
âAbsolutely. The Duke brought a successful libel action against some people who made precisely that allegation in a pamphlet. Leading members of the British Communist Party. They were obliged to publish a statement in
unreservedly accepting the Duke's assurance that he had no sympathy with the Nazis or the German Government and that he had never met Hess, nor even received a letter from him.'
âThere must have been some reason why Hess asked to see him,' ventured Jane.
âWe're coming to that,' said Cedric in a tone that said they would have come to it sooner without the interruption. He started the video again.
The programme turned to Hess's life prior to the flight to Britain. His birth in Egypt in 1894, the son of a prosperous German wholesale merchant. Boarding-school in Germany and then business school in Switzerland, until the First World War. Distinguished service on the Western Front and in the Rumanian campaign. Towards the end of the war, the Imperial Flying Corps. A studio picture showed him in pilot's uniform, a young man of striking good looks, with the square facial structure and piercing eyes familiar in later shots, yet without the crazed stare of the Nuremberg picture.
Germany's defeat and the humiliating terms of Versailles were documented with newsreel footage of the generals and politicians moving jerkily in and out of meetings. Hess, along with many of his generation, had enlisted in the
, a right-wing volunteer movement, and he was wounded fighting on the streets of Munich. In 1920, he joined a new extreme right-wing party who wore swastika armbands and were led by Adolf Hitler.
Predictably, Hitler was presented as one of the two major influences on Hess's political life. The other was a professor at Munich University, where Hess had enrolled in the same year. Karl Haushofer, a portly, moustached figure, had founded the new subject of Geopolitics.
More stills from the archives showed Hitler leading the Nazis in Munich in the twenties, attempting the unsuccessful Beer-Cellar
of 1923 and serving his prison sentence in the relative comfort of Landsberg Castle, where there were tablecloths and freshly-cut flowers. Hess had managed to escape after the
and hide in the Haushofer home for several weeks, but shrewdly decided to give himself up and join his leader in Landsberg. There, he had strengthened the friendship by acting as secretary and typist, actually typing much of
as Hitler dictated it.
At this point in the programme, an Oxford history don was brought on to show how Professor Haushofer's geopolitics, notably his theory of
, had influenced Hitler and
Jane's attention shifted from the screen to her fellow-investigators. Dick sat forward in total concentration, mentally plugged in like a computer terminal. He wouldn't miss a fact. Unlike Red, who had just anticipated her glance by sliding his eyes in her direction, running them slowly over her legs and upwards, and grinning lewdly until she stared him out.
She returned to the programme, by now tracing Hess's blind loyalty to the man he called
Hess, too, acquired new titles, first as Hitler's adjutant, then, in 1933, his deputy, the
The Nazi rise to power was illustrated by familiar footage of the Nuremberg rallies, with Hess always on the rostrum first, to raise the mass to a crescendo of chanting, his arm rigidly extended in the Nazi salute, and exultation gleaming in his eyes as he announced the FÃ¼hrer.
Away from the public stage, Hess was shown taking increasing responsibilities in government: for schools, universities and religious societies. He was seen with Hitler and Frick signing the Nuremberg laws, which set in motion the persecution of the Jewish race and led to the 1938 pogrom and, ultimately, the death camps. He was shown at the head of the
organizations that strengthened ties with the twenty million Germans living abroad and, under cover of
, the Nazi Fifth Columns.
Then the war, and, surprisingly, no major role for Hess. In 1938, Hitler had nominated a second Deputy, Hermann GÃ¶ring. Hess, it was Delphically announced, was still the FÃ¼hrer's Deputy in his absence, but GÃ¶ring was the Deputy in Berlin. As Head of the
, GÃ¶ring was involved in the conduct of the war, while Hess was on the sidelines, watching others â the Generals, von Ribbentrop, even Martin Bormann â exert more influence on events.
Hess, the commentary went on to suggest, began to look for a way of re-establishing himself.
Suddenly the screen went blank.
âThey get into speculation after this,' Cedric explained, putting the remote control unit aside. âHess is shown making the flight to England in a crazy one-man bid to do a peace deal.'
âCrazy in the sense of insane?' said Jane.
âDisturbed, anyway. A very dubious proposition,' added Cedric.
âThat's the version I always took as gospel,' admitted Dick.
âYou're in the majority, then.'
Red was giving Cedric an interested look. âYou don't go along with the theory that he was out of his mind? Have you seen the film they took at the Nuremberg Trials?'
âIt's used in the programme.'
âIf ever a guy looked bananas, it was Hess.'
âOnly that was 1946, five years after the time we're talking about,' Cedric pointed out. âLet's not leap ahead. Do you know what happened after he was arrested in Scotland?'
âHe spent the rest of the war in Britain as a prisoner, didn't he?' said Jane.
âRight. In 1945, he was flown to Nuremberg to join the other Nazis on trial.'
âWhen did he start the sentence in Spandau?'
â18 July 1947, together with six others.'
ââ¦ who all got out years ago,' Dick added.
âTrue. He's been alone in Spandau since 1966. The others either served their time, like Albert Speer, or were released on medical grounds. Of the three sentenced to life imprisonment, Admiral Raeder was released in 1955 and Walther Funk in 1957. Hess is still waiting.'
Jane was trying to keep her emotions out of this, but she couldn't suppress an outraged sigh. âIf there were medical grounds for the others, surely when a man gets to the age of ninety â¦'
ââ¦ his health ain't so bad,' murmured Red.
âCan't you contribute anything but cheap asides?' Jane rapped back without even looking his way. âHe ought to be released on humanitarian grounds. That old man has been a prisoner since before you and I were born. He was locked up in England when the worst of the Nazi atrocities took place. And let's not forget the reason why he flew here.'
âWhich was?' Cedric asked her, like a schoolmaster drawing out facts.
Jane gave an exasperated sigh. âTo stop the bloody war. He was on a mission of peace, wasn't he?'
âThat's not disputed by anyone now,' Cedric agreed. âIn Britain in 1941, it was kept secret for fear of undermining morale, which, of course, is a mortal sin in time of war. The Government couldn't deny that Hess had landed and was in their custody, because the story had broken in a Scottish daily, but they said nothing about the peace mission.'