Sample DP IAs on Rudolf Hess

International Baccalaureate History IA
Did Hitler order Rudolph Hess’ flight to Scotland?


Word Count: 2200


Identification and Evaluation of Sources 

This investigation will ask “Did Hitler order Rudolph Hess’ flight to Scotland?” 

Source A: “Inside the Third Reich” by Albert Speer (1969).

 The Book’s origin is clearly valuable due to Speer’s presence in Hitler ́s closest circle as the title itself states. Its origin is further valued due to its release in 1969 along with Speer from Spandau after 20 years, which he closely shared with Hess1 as one of only 7 prisoners. The book is extremely significant for this investigation as it contains one of only two primary accounts of Hitler’s reaction to the flight2; Speer’s position makes this account much more reliable as he could tell if Hitler was merely acting, something he was well known to do3. The purpose of the book itself is valuable as it focuses on delving deep into Hitler’s psychology and relation to close “friends”4 such as Hess and Speer, helping to assess if there even is a basis for questioning Hitler’s motivations. However, as Gitta Sereny, who came to know Speer intimately, points out, Speer frequently embellished his writing with the purpose of overstating his importance for narrative reasons; as such one should be careful on taking his word for particularly important events such as Hess’ flight5. Even his claim of friendship with Hitler, made under oath, can be called into question; in the same trial Speer denied knowledge of the holocaust, a claim which in later years was disproven through evidence of his presence at Himmler ́s “Final Solution” speech6, casting doubt on the reliability of all his claims. Nonetheless, the presence of his account of Hitler’s reaction, used in virtually all literature on the flight7, and his assessment of Hitler’s and Hess’ psychology8 makes this source crucial for this investigation.

Source B: Major Karlheinz Pintsch’s testimony (1948) 

As Speer recognises, Pintsch was the person tasked with delivering the news of Hess’ flight to Hitler and thus was the only eye witness of his first reaction, making his account highly valuable9. However, his testimony is locked in the State Archive of the Russian Federation, and the version most widely available to the public is a poorly translated version, limiting the depth of its content and thus its value10. Furthermore, the document recording his accounts was written while he was a prisoner of war in Russia in 1948, with its re-discoverer Matthias Uhl noting that its content smacks of Cold War propaganda terminology11, suggesting its purpose to be the spread of disinformation over British relations with Nazi Germany, further limiting its value. The documents not only provide a first hand report of Hitler’s reaction to the flight, they also go into detail on Hess’ involvement in ongoing negotiations between Germany and England12 thus providing extensive background information around the event, supporting their value. However this content once again aligns itself too well with anti British Soviet claims of the time, devaluing its assertions and overall undermining the value of the documents13. However, despite the evident Soviet influence, Pintsch’s documents are referenced in all analyses of the event; their origin being from an eye witness and their contrast to Speer’s descriptions make these documents crucial and spark debate over the topic.



One of the most renowned unsolved mysteries of WW2 originated on the 10th of May 1941, when deputy Führer Rudolf Hess flew to Scotland to attempt peace talks with the UK. Hitler’s composed and unfazed reaction described in Pintsch’s testimony14, and the “inarticulate, almost animal out-cry”15 heard by Speer and recounted in his memoirs suggest contrasting answers to the research question which still puzzles historians 80 years after the event. This essay will argue that the disparity in concreteness of the evidence backing the two arguments points in favor of Hitler’s ignorance. 

The mysterious circumstances around Hess’ flight are a major point of contention, as they may well hint at the existence of arrangements between England and Germany that would only be possible through Hitler’s involvement. Due to the war’s dangers Hitler prohibited all top Nazi brass from flying16; in spite of this Hess was able to carry out meticulous preparations for his mission dating as far back as summer 194017. These included requesting detailed weather bulletins of the British Channel from the Luftwaffe and his office in Berlin18, convincing Messerschmitt to provide him with a heavily modified plane for long travels19,20,, as well as the various practice rounds and attempts he undertook before May 10th4,21. Considering Hitler’s orders, involving numerous third parties in his undertaking without arousing suspicions seems quite improbable, giving basis to the theory that Hitler ordered the flight. However it is important to mention that Generalluftzeugmeister Ernst Udet once refused to hand him a plane without a permit signed by Hitler22, undermining this conclusion. The flight itself is suspiciously remarkable. Hess accomplished the feat on the same day as the harshest bombing raid on London of WW223 while being noticed by both British and German radars24. The Duke of Hamilton who was the wing commander at the time was hesitant, choosing not to intercept before later sending two aircrafts who both failed to track Hess down25. This is crucial as avoiding both the RAF and Luftwaffe on his way to Dungavel House would have been nigh impossible, even for a seasoned pilot like him26; that is unless he was insured by previous arrangements with England, further pointing at Hitler’s involvement. 

The two aforementioned accounts of Hitler’s reaction to Hess’ flight point to contrasting views on the strategic implications surrounding the event, one considering its values while the other pointing out its pitfalls. Pintsch’s diaries were a crucial re-discovery made in 2011 in the State Archive of the Russian Federation, as he was the man tasked with relaying the news of Hess’ flight to Hitler27. Pintsch describes part of Hess’ message which implies that the accident was rather a “project” that both men collaborated on, reading “if this project...ends in failure...It will always be possible for you to deny all responsibility. Simply say I was out of my mind”28. The flawless description of the events that followed Hess’ capture only serves to validate this “project” theory. Moreover, Pintsch, who was also a senior adjutant to Rudolf Hess, writes that Hess’ task was to achieve “if not a German military alliance with England against Russia, at least the neutralisation of England”29. The plausibility of this plan is supported by former Soviet premier Khrushchev himself who recounts that Stalin believed Hess’ flight to be an attempt to make an alliance against the Soviet Union, rather than a peace offering30. Stalin's concerns were not unfounded as Hess’ flight occurred just ten days after the date for Operation Barbarossa was set. Furthermore, Hitler advocated for an alliance with England against the Soviets multiple times in “Mein Kampf”31. Given all this, if Pintsch is telling the truth, Stalin’s concerns and Hitler’s own beliefs would certainly confirm that Hitler ordered Hess’ flight. However, while it is true that there is some strategic merit to negotiating peace with the UK, Hitler himself describes one major issue in Albert Speer’s memoirs. Speer recalls Hitler shrieking in anger and concern, roaring: “Who will believe me when I say that Hess did not fly there in my name, that the whole thing is not some sort of intrigue behind the backs of my allies?”32 This depiction of the circumstances is vital as it is in evident contrast with both Pintsch’s testimony and Stalin’s worries, showing that Hitler was more concerned with keeping Japan and Italy’s support than looking for an unlikely ally in Britain. Hitler’s heavy concern for his alliances is confirmed in Giangaleazzo Ciano’s diaries. According to the Prince a “downcast and nervous” Ribbentropp suddenly arrived in Rome on May 13th to meet Mussolini, desperately pleading for the latter’s understanding33. As for Pintsch’s documents, their reliability is made questionable by their anti-British tone, typical of Soviet propaganda at the time, as they were written and released while Pintsch was imprisoned in the Soviet Union, making it probable that they were altered to fit the Soviet Cold War narrative.

As for Hess, his demeanor, mental health condition and loss of prestige in the eyes of Hitler seem to endorse the thesis carried out by historians Nesbit and Van Acker34, as well as Churchill's opinion on the matter35, that the flight was an independent decision. Hess was a fanatical follower of Hitler’s, described by some as “the high priest of the Führer cult”36, however his relevance in the eyes of Hitler started to dwindle as he moved away from the leadership of the party to focus on the military37. Hitler criticized Hess for his poor artistic taste and vegetarian lifestyle, which would normally spell doom for his subordinates’ careers38. Hess was no exception; as he immersed himself more and more into his unusual lifestyle, his chief of staff Martin Bormann grew closer and closer to Hitler39,40. This strongly indicates that the flight was an effort to win back Hitler’s graces and have him return to the party roots which advocated for peace with England and war against Communism. His aforementioned unusual lifestyle also points towards the same conclusion as it revealed clear mental instability. Overwhelmed by his responsibility as Deputy Führer, Hess started suffering from sleeping problems and stomach cramps. After various attempts to solve these issues using traditional medicine he turned towards astrology, magneto therapy and other unconventional methods41,42. He started being plagued by horrific nightmares depicting rows of children’s coffins43, later revealing to Speer that avoiding such a sight was his main motivating factor for the flight44. In 1936 his last conventional doctor Ludwig Schmitt diagnosed him with “latent schizophrenia”22 which later manifested itself and was confirmed by diagnoses during his stay in England. His troubled psyche worsened by unconventional drugs and potions certainly played a factor in his decision to fly to Scotland as he himself admits, ruling out the possibility of Hitler’s involvement. It is however important to mention that Hess’ questionable loss of memory45,46 before and during the Nüremberg trials could raise doubts on the true state of Hess’ mental health making Hitler’s involvement more plausible. 

In conclusion, while evidence such as the convenient circumstances around Hess’ flight points at the possibility of Hitler’s involvement in the feat, the evidence in favor of Hess’ independent decision, from his mental health to the danger of the plan, appears to be conclusive and completely rules out other theories, thus it must be concluded that Hitler did not order Hess’ flight.


This investigation into the flight of Rudolf Hess tested me as a learner as I had to employ various methods used by historians. I ended up facing many challenges which historians encounter in their investigations. Problems such as the Coronavirus pandemic, distinguishing between reliable and unreliable sources and the moral concerns which inherently came with the topic are some of those challenges. 

An issue which historians and myself have faced researching in the last year and a half is the Coronavirus pandemic as access to archives and primary sources was restricted. This limits personal analysis in reports such as this essay, possibly inducing more bias as instead of interpreting unbiased, neutral, primary information we are forced to construct an opinion on historical events based on the judgment of other historians. For instance, I was not able to consult Pintsch’s testimony myself but rather had to piece together the information from partial reports such as The myth of German Villainy. This is crucial as, not only could the rest of the documents have held valuable information not reported in the aforementioned sources, but a direct interaction with the entire document rather than out of context quotes would have helped me further assess its reliability, resulting in a more certain conclusion. 

Pintsch’s testimonies also brought up a different issue, the struggles historians face when looking for reputable sources. As a major mystery of WW2, there are just too many sources regarding Hess’ flight. Documents like Pintsch ́s, seamingly reliable and useful, could turn out to have important flaws, in this case Soviet influence. However, such flaws seem to attract the abundant sensationalist journals such as Der Spiegel here in Germany47, which end up drowning out essential sources such as Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth which I only came across towards the end of the IA journey; forcing this report to rely on, at times, less reputable sources. 

Lastly, one further issue that arose from my investigation was whether it is moral to use sources like David Irving and Albert Speer who, while providing insight to the investigation, are surrounded by heavy controversy, the former over his holocaust denying agenda48 and the latter due to actively supporting the holocaust49. Ethically questionable, and sometimes downright outrageous, sources were plentiful for my topic seeing as Rudolf Hess has still inspired Neaonazi marches here in Germany as recently as 201950. This is striking as I had to explore my own ethics along with the topic, testing the boundaries of controversy for sources in order to find the truth behind historical events; judging whether a perspective should even be analyzed and if doing so gives an inherently immoral source too much involvement in our understanding of history. 

Overall this internal assessment allowed me to better grasp the work of a historian and has made me more aware of the process behind “making history”.


Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi, et al. “Rereading Albert Speer's ‘Inside the Third Reich.’” The New Yorker, 1 Aug. 2017, ich. Accessed 23 April 2021.
Bird, Eugene K., and Sam Sloan. The Loneliest Man in the World: the inside Story of the 30-Year Imprisonment of Rudolf Hess. Ishi Press, 2010, pp. 12, 26, 187, 232, 253. Accessed 8 February 2021.
Bradberry, Benton L. The Myth of German Villainy. Authorhouse, 2012, 0German%20Villainy%20%20Benton%20L.%20Bradberry-293_djvu.txt. Accessed 18 January 2021.
Ciano, Galeazzo. Diario 1937-1943. e-book, LiberLiber, 2015. Accessed 27 March 2021.
Connolly, Kate. “Letter Proves Speer Knew of Holocaust Plan.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 13 Mar. 2007, Accessed 4 June 2021.
Craig, Gordon A. Political Science Quarterly, vol. 87, no. 2, [Academy of Political Science, Wiley], 1972, pp. 290–92, Accessed 26 February 2021.
Driskill, Thomas M. Jr “Rudolf Hess, a Strategic Move or Ethical Dilemma?” US Army War College, 9 Mar. 1990. Accessed 17 January 2021.
Fleischhauer, Jan. “Historian Interview: New Book Explores Personal Charm of Hitler.” DER SPIEGEL, DER SPIEGEL, 11 Oct. 2013, onal-charm-of-hitler-a-927155.html. Accessed 23 April 2021.
  Fox, Jo. “Propaganda and the Flight of Rudolf Hess, 1941–45.” The Journal of Modern History, vol. 83, no. 1, 2011, pp. 78–110. JSTOR, Accessed 28 January 2021.
Friedmann, Jan, and Klaus Wiegrefe. “Historian Uncovers New Account: Document Suggests Hitler Knew of Hess' British Flight Plans.” DER SPIEGEL, SPIEGEL Gruppe, 30 May 2011, ument-suggests-hitler-knew-of-hess-british-flight-plans-a-765607.html. Accessed 28 December 2020.
Handwerk, Brian. “Will We Ever Know Why Nazi Leader Rudolf Hess Flew to Scotland in the Middle of World War II?”, Smithsonian Institution, 10 May 2016, olf-hess-flew-scotland-middle-world-war-ii-180959040/. Accessed 28 January 2021.
Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. Translated by James Vincent Murphy, Elite Minds, Incorporated, 2010. Accessed 6 March 2021.
Huntington, Tom. “One-Way Flight to Scotland.” British Heritage, Irish Studio, 13 July 2016, Accessed 26 February 2021.
Irving, David. Hess: the Missing Years 1941-1945. Focal Point Publications, 2010. Accessed 28 February 2021.
Irving, David. Hitler's War and the War Path. Focal Point, 2002. Accessed 6 March 2021.
 Khrushchev, Nikita ,and Edward Crankshaw. Khrushchev Remembers. Translated and edited by Strobe Talbott, Little, Brown and Co., 1970. Accessed 8 February 2021.
King, Gilbert. “The Candor and Lies of Nazi Officer Albert Speer.”, Smithsonian Institution, 8 Jan. 2013, -324737/. Accessed 5 March 2021.
Leasor, James. Rudolf Hess: the Uninvited Envoy. House of Stratus, 2004. Accessed 4 June 2021.
MacDonogh, Giles. After the Reich: the Brutal History of the Allied Occupation. Basic Books, 2009. Accessed 12 March 2021.
Miller, Jonas, and Henrik Merker. “Neonazis Verhöhnen NSU-Opfer Bei Fackelmärschen - Störungsmelder.”, Zeit Online, 17 Nov. 2019, ngsmelder-9602681. Accessed 11 May 2021.
Nesbit, Roy Conyers, and Georges van Acker. The Flight of Rudolf Hess: Myths and Reality. The History Press, 2011. Accessed 11 May 2021.
Padfield, Peter. “Rudolf Hess: Flight of Fancy.” HistoryNet, HistoryNet, 16 Feb. 2016, Accessed 4 January 2021.
Petacco, Arrigo. La Seconda Guerra Mondiale, vol. 2, A. Curcio, 1979, pp. 494–496. Accessed 28 December 2020.
Schmidt, Rainer F. “The Marketing of Rudolf Hess: A Key to the ‘Preventive War Debate’?” War in History, vol. 5, no. 1, Sage Publications, Ltd., 1998, pp. 62–83, Accessed 28 January 2021.
Schultheis, Emily. “Der Spiegel Made up Stories. How Can It Regain Readers' Trust?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 10 Jan. 2019, scandal-global/579889/. Accessed 1 October 2021.
 Sereny, Gitta. Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth. Knopf, 1996. Accessed 26 November 2021.
Speer, Albert, and Eugene Davidson. Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs. Translated by Richard Winston and Clara Winston, The Macmillan Company, 1970. de_the_Third_Reich_Albert_Speer.pdf. Accessed 18 January 2021.




IBDP Internal Assessment

Was Rudolf Walter Hess Murdered on the 17th of August 1987?

A.)       Plan of the Investigation (215)

Was Rudolf Walter Hess Murdered on the 17th of August 1987? The scope of this investigation is to discover if Hess was assassinated in Spandau Prison or if he committed suicide. It is his son Wolf Rüdiger Hess who arises the question of his father being murdered and thus striking my attention to this topic as many historians see this as an extremely controversial thought. Through historians such as Desmond Zwar another perspective is gained thus criticizing Wolf Hess’s disputed idea. In order to carry out this investigation primary and secondary sources will be consulted, and a bibliography will be complied and attached.

To answer my research question successfully section C contains sources read and evaluated by Rudolf Hess’s son, Wolf Rüdiger Hess and his current book “Mord an Rudolf Hess?” whilst analysing Desmond Zwar’s thoughts from his book “Talking to Rudolf Hess”. Wolf Hess acts in this case as a primary source giving me a personal related answer as he uses Rudolf’s personal letters throughout his imprisonment in Spandau. Hence, Zwar presents his research through valid government documents such as handwritten medical reports by Abdallah Melaouhi and an interview with Colonel Eugene Bird. German newspaper and magazine articles enhance further contended ideas, suggesting that this is a widespread topic and should be further researched.

B.)         Summary of Evidence (550)  

Walter Rudolf Hess (*April 26, 1894) was an extremely prominent and important figure in Nazi Germany as he acted as Adolf Hitler’s deputy in the Nazi Party. As the war with the Soviet Union started he flew to Scotland in the simple attempt to arbitrate peace with Great Britain. After being arrested he was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to life imprisonment at Spandau Prison.[1] Rudolf Hess died on the 17th of August 1987 at the age of 93 in a summerhouse. It is stated that he took an extension cord from one of the lamps, wrapped it around the window latch and then hanged himself. ([2])([3]) This suggests that the death of Rudolf Hess occurred by strangulation.[4] One moth later on the 17th of September the Four Powers declared in a statement that Hess died through a suicide.[5]

 There are many different statements and opinions on if Hess was murdered or if he died by suicide. Quite a few judgements engender from historians about his death in correlation to his mysterious flight in 1941. For instance Desmond Zwar states that Hess was walking with a cane because he had suffered a slight stroke and was incapable of a suicide.[6] This is supported by Dr. Seidl, his lawyer, had stated that Hess was too old and frail to have managed to kill himself by asphyxiation.[7] Zwar’s statement was that he was blind in the left eye and could see very little out of the right eye.[8] Next, Wolf Rüdiger Hess repeatedly claimed that the British Special Air Service had murdered his father.[9] In his book “The life and the death of my father, Rudolf Hess” Hess argues his father was murdered, as Britain didn’t want their most favored personage, Winston Churchill to be portrayed in a different light.[10] Furthermore, Rüdiger Hess mentions Abdallah Melaouhi, who served as Hess’s medical orderly from 1982 to 1987 who published a book on a similar theme, validated this similar statement.[11]

On the other hand, W. Hugh Thomas’s book “The Murder of Rudolf Hess” his outlook on the situation was that Hess was murdered in 1941 and a hoaxer flew to Scotland.[12] The deceiver was the tried at Nuremberg and was imprisoned in Spandau. As Thomas was a British Military surgeon who had been stationed at Spandau, he bases this thesis on surmise that there was no scar from the bullet wound, which Hess had in his chest in the 1917 autopsy record.[13] However, the German magazine “Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte” disagrees that it was a “hoaxer” while stating that he was assassinated by the British.[14] This view by the German newspaper “Die Welt” states the opposite whilst arguing that he committed suicide as he had tried this before whilst imprisonment in Great Britain, hence had failed to serve Adolf Hitler in an appropriate manner as to negotiating peace with Britain in 1941.[15] When in contact with the conventional historian David Irving his opinion consists of the simple resolution that one should investigate that the “Negro US solider named Jordan who was on guard duty at Spandau” could have assassinated him.[16]

Nevertheless, it is suggested that there are different backed up factual verdicts from numerous historians and columnists showing a great breadth in interest through vast types of websites, newspapers, magazines, broadcasts/films and books.

C.)       Evaluation of Sources (600)

Written in 2010 and published by the History Press, Desmond Zwar’s account of Rudolf Hess’s profile in Talking To Rudolf Hess serves as an analytical assessment of his life style but also of his death, which Zwar states as “He was Murdered!”[17] In his 18th Chapter. With reference to hindsight, the Australian journalists aim is to analyze in depth the murder of Rudolf Hess, such as his role as Hitler’s secretary and his political situation during World War 2 toward the Nazi regime. He approaches the issue of either murder or suicide in an objective manner as he tries to make the reader understand why and how he could’ve been murdered whilst stating his clear standpoint of him being assassinated in Chapter 18 thus utilizing appropriate facts. For instance, the preface writes, “That was the official suicide story. But…”[18] which shows he is willing to state on fact whilst arguing against it with his personal opinion and utilization of accurate facts.

Since it is written approximately twenty-three years after the death and its occurring events took place, the writer has the benefit of hindsight, allowing him to analyze with more clarity and objectivity as more historical resources are available. He also has the advantage of having more information available, not only primary sources, but other secondary sources, such as other historian’s views on the event other valuable documents such as a hand written document by Hess’s male nurse Abdallah Melaouhi.[19] However, at times, it is noticeable that the current limitation is that the author has the preference for being convinced that it is murder even though, he only mentions this in chapter 18, the last chapter of the book.

However the author is objective thus uses official records, letters and quotes other historians to give a clear description of the “Murder”. In doing this Zwar is able to establish reasons put forward for the murder of Hess.

“Rudolf Heß: Ich Bereue Nichts” on the other hand, was published in 1994 in Stuttgart; the author Wolf Rüdiger Hess is as Rudolf’s son a primary source due to the fact that he has memories and written letters included in his book.[20] Next, he is a family member and is able to access information about his father’s death which other historian would not necessarily have making it more valuable than Zwar’s book. However, the book is limited since Hess junior publishes a book, as a result of his father’s death seven years later, which makes it more susceptible to the opinions and emotions and needs to find someone responsible for the death of his father. Next, it reflects the context, which was lived at that time; therefore it is more subjective than the other source. However, since it is a primary document, it also has great value for historians as it reveals the thoughts, worries, emotions and opinions the author has experienced whilst growing up and experienced while during and after his father’s death. Both books focus mainly on that Rudolf Hess was murdered whilst Zwar uses Hess junior as a resource and Hess Junior uses the autopsy report from Dr. Alfred Seidl, Professor Cameron and Professor Spann.[21]

These sources are valuable as historical evidence for different purposes. “Rudolf Heß: Ich Bereue Nichts” is extremely valuable as it dips into Hess’s personal life and it is written in a very personal manner so the audience is drawn into a more focused aspect on Hess’s murder, while “Talking To Rudolf Hess” focuses more on the mysterious flight to Scotland and is more objective to the death of Hess rather then finding the scape goat.

D.)        Analysis of Sources (470)

The death of Rudolf Hess still baffles historians in our present time, while the allies argue he committed suicide, his son states murder and a German newspaper declares a suicide due to emotional reasons. However, importance in history is gained when evaluating the facts with the benefit of hindsight. Instead of confusion, one should analyse in depth the facts and opinion situated in the historical context of that time thus focusing on Wolf Rüdiger Hess.

The consequences when analysing Rudolf Hess’s death is that as Historians we have come no step closer to one of the most important men in Nazi Germany; Adolf Hitler’s secretary and contiguous companion. When analyzing my wide variety of sources the author Desmond Zwar states that Rudolf Hess was murdered. Zwar uses specific evidence such as using the letters from Hess’s nurse Abdallah Melaouthi, interviews from Wolf Rüdiger Hess and Eugene K. Bird. Bird states that Jordan murdered Hess[22] while Hess Jnr claims, “He was murdered by the SAS”[23]. Moreover, Wolf Rudiger Hess vocalizes in Zwars book that instead of his father seizing an extension cord from one of the lamps and wrapping it around the window latch to hang himself he is “Working even more intensely to prove that my father was strangled in that garden hut, and to prove that the British were behind it”[24].

As both Wolf Rüdiger Hess and Desmond Zwar mention David Irving it was vital for me to contact him and ask him for further information. He responded to my email thus stating that Rudolf Hess was murdered and one should look “Into the Negro US solider named Jordan who was on guard duty at Spandau close to Hess that fateful afternoon.”[25] However, this was again a totally new argument for me to investigate, which caused difficulties, as there were many different perspectives with very little concrete factual evidence.

However, the 1996 German Newspaper “Die Welt” states that on the 17th of August 1987 Rudolf Hess committed suicide.[26] This is supported by the four powers, which were responsible for Spandau Prison the USA, Great Britain, USSR, and France declared that Rudolf Hess hanged himself.[27] The author quite clearly agrees and to solace this argument he uses the official document that the Four Powers issued on he 17th of September 1987. This statement is then concluded by “There is no doubt of the accuracy of the statement by the' Four Powers. Hess had tried to commit suicide twice during the war while in Britain and in Spandau in 1987 he succeeded in taking his own life.”[28]

Through widespread of different sources one could analyse successfully that all the sources available utilize their arguments with valid documents, reports or interviews making them all extremely reliable and trustworthy thus having to take into account the benefit of hindsight.

E.)         Conclusion (165)

After having analysed the various interpretation historians have about if Rudolf Hess was murdered or not, I arrived to my own conclusion. I based my work on some books and newspapers/magazines written during or shortly after the events and on others written recently, made this possible for me to argue that Hess was murdered on the 17th of August 1987 in Spandau prison.

Wolf Rüdiger Hess seems like a very reliable resource to use due to the fact that he access to historical plus to his own memories and discussions with his father. It is fact that the British government are releasing the Rudolf Hess file in 2017 as a result of them having secrets or situations that occurred during World War 2 that no one should know of.[29] Rudolf had the knowledge and the mental situation of being to spill the beans, which put Britain in a vulnerable situation thus causing them to send the SAS to kill him at the age of 92.[30]

F.)         Bibliography


1.)           Bird, Colonel Eugene. Interview by Desmond Zwar. Skewed & Reviewed. Print July 27th 2010

2.)           Douglas-Hamilton, James. 1993 Mainstream Publishing Company. The Truth About Rudollf Hess.

3.)           Hess, Wolf Rudiger. The Life and Death of My Father, Rudolf Hess. By Druffel Verlag 1990,

4.)           Hess, Wolf Rudiger.“Mord an Rudolf Hess?” By Druffel Verlag Leonie am Starnberger See. 1990,

5.)           Wolf Rüdiger Heß. “Rudolf Heß: Ich Bereue Nichts”. By Leopold Stocker Verlag. Stuttgart 1994

6.)           Picknett, Lynn and Prince Clive and Prior Stephen. 2001. Double Standards The Rudolf Hess Cover-Up. By Little, Brown and Company. Great Britain

7.)           Thomas, Hugh. Published 1979 Coronet. The Murder Of Rudolf Hess.

8.)           Zwar, Desmond. July 27th 2010. The History Press. Talking to Rudolf Hess. London

Personal Correspondence:

1.)           Irving, David John Cawdell (personal communication, 20th of August 2014)


1.)           Rudolf Heß Der Letzte von Spandau. Directed by Lutz Becker and Guido Knopp. Produced by Werner Rieb. VZ-Handelsgesellschaft, 3 February 2005. Film


1.) Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess A Courageous Hero For Peace, August 17th 2012. By Mark R. Elsis.

[online] [cited 7.09.2014]

2.) Report into Rudolf Hess death fails to answer unexplained questions about Nazi prisoner's ‘suicide’. 17th March 2012. By John-Paul Ford Rojas and Murray Wardrop

[online] [cited 8.02.2015]

3.) Rudolf Hess: The Führer’s Deputy, August 13th 2011. By Dr. Ingrid R. Zundel.

[online] [cited 25.08.2014]

4.) Rudolf Hess German Nazi Leader August 4th 2014. Written by: The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica

[online] [cited 24.12.2014]

[1] [online] [cited 7.09.2014]
[2] The Telegraph [online] [cited 8.02.2015]
[3] Appendix 2
[4] [online] [cited 25.08.2014]
[5] Rudolf Heß Der Letzte von Spandau. Film. Min 55
[6] Zwar, Desmond. (Page 100)
[7] Hess, Wolf Rüdiger. .“Mord an Rudolf Hess?” (Page 191)
[8] Zwar, Desmond. (Page 115)
[9] Hess, Wolf Rüdiger. “Ich Bereue Nichts”. (Page 144)
[10] Hess, Wolf Rüdiger. .“The life and the death of my father, Rudolf Hess”. (Page 146)
[11] Rudolf Heß Der Letzte von Spandau. Film. Min 42
[12] Thomas, Hugh. (Page 155)
[13] Rudolf Heß Der Letzte von Spandau. Film. Min 76
[14] Appendix 3
[15] Appendix 2
[16] Irving, David John Cawdell (personal communication)
[17] Zwar, Desmond. (Page 174)
[18] Zwar, Desmond. (Page 175)
[19] Zwar, Desmond. (Page 178)
[20] Hess, Wolf Rüdiger. “Ich Bereue Nichts”. (Page 163)
[21] Hess, Wolf Rüdiger. “Ich Bereue Nichts”. (Page 169)

[22] Zwar, Desmond. (Page 183)
[23] Hess, Wolf Rüdiger. “Ich Bereue Nichts”. (Page 168)
[24] Zwar, Desmond. (Page 181)
[25] Irving, David John Cawdell (personal communication)
[26] Appendix 2
[27] Appendix 2
[28] Appendix 2
[29] Wolf Rüdiger. “Ich Bereue Nichts”. (Page 153)
[30] Wolf Rüdiger. “Ich Bereue Nichts”. (Page 154)
Rudolf Hess's Grave in Wunsiedel. Both the gravesite at Kath. Kirche u. Friedhof and town have been the focus of attention for fascists and anti-fascists alike. Neo-Nazi groups had organised memorial marches each 17 August, the anniversary of his death in 1987. The number of participants rose from 120 in 1988 to more than 1,100 in 1990 before being banned by the state.
Rudolf Hess exhumed to deter neo-Nazis
The remains of Rudolph Hess, Hitler's former deputy, have now been exhumed. Officials removed the tomb and headstone in order to prevent hoards of neo-Nazi pilgrims descending on the small community. Every year on August 17 hundreds of Nazi sympathisers commemorate the death of Hess. After being exhumed Hess's bones were taken to a crematorium, and his ashes scattered at sea. The action was taken after consultation with his remaining family. Karl-Willi Beck, 56, who has been mayor of Wunsiedel since 2002, said the cemetery administrators removed Hess’s remains and his gravestone early Wednesday. “It was the right thing to do,” Mr. Beck said.

Did Hitler know about Rudolf Hess’ flight to Scotland before it occurred?



May 2018

Personal Code: fyl062

2177 words

Identification and evaluation of sources


The focus of this investigation will be to discover “Was Hitler aware of Rudolf Hess’ flight to Scotland before it occurred?” in order to this, numerous sources will be analysed to gain a perspective on how likely it was to be successful, Hitler’s reaction to the flight, and Hess’ actions once he landed in Scotland, among others. I will look at both primary and secondary sources, in order to gain both firsthand information on the flight and the events which followed, and expert’s perspectives on the flight. From this I should be able to build a balanced, evidenced conclusion on whether Hitler knew of Hess’ flight to Scotland beforehand.


“Hess, Hitler, and Churchill” By Peter Padfield

This book was published in 2013, giving it extensive hindsight and access to primary sources (from the archives) in relation to Hess’ flight to Scotland. However, due to the fact that many documents still remained classified by the United Kingdom, it is possible that some information may have been withheld to fit the British narrative. Despite this, the authours background also adds a lot of this source. Peter Padfield specializes in second world war history, and had written two other books on Hess before this one, showing that he has extensive knowledge in this area, as a result of a lot of research. The value of the content of this book does not focus specifically on Hess’ flight to Scotland, rather the impacts it had on the outcome of the war, however it does contain some key knowledge to my investigation. For example, details on Hess’ flight (where he was flying to, weather conditions on that day), and also reports on Hess’ behaviour after landing in Britain, specifically, the idea that he was in possession of pre-prepared peace treaties.


“The Flight of Rudolf Hess: Myths and Reality” By Roy Conyers Nesbit, and Georges Van Acker

This book is extremely focused on the topic of the flight of Rudolf Hess, specifically on aviation information, which provides for a lot of valuable information relating to my topic. Roy Conyers Nesbit served as a navigator during world war 2, giving him first hand experiences in flying military aircraft, which means that he is able to provide extensive personal knowledge of how Hess’ flight would have taken place, and the dangers of it[1]. Key pieces of information in this book include that the often talked about ban Hitler placed on Hess to fly was lifted after only one year, meaning it was most likely not done due to mental instability, as well as information on Hess’ plan to meet with the Duke of Hamilton. Overall the value of this source comes from the extensive knowledge of the authours, and its specific focus on the flight of Rudolf Hess, however it does not contain much information on the events before and after the flight, so therefore suffers in value somewhat.



Rudolf Hess’ flight to Scotland in 1941 has long been shrouded in mystery, it was often debated whether Hess had acted under Hitler’s orders and the flight was a planned attempt at securing a deal with Britain, or that, Hess had undergone some kind of psychotic episode, and had acted against Hitler’s orders. This essay will argue that while some evidence offered as argument for Hitler’s ignorance of the flight may not be true (or as conclusive as may seem), it is ultimately very unlikely that Hitler was aware of the flight.


The key evidence used by many historians to point to the implausibility of Hitler’s knowledge, is mainly, Hitler’s supposed reaction on hearing of the flight, and psychological evaluations pointing to him being in a very unstable mental state. Upon hearing the news of Hess’ attempted peace mission, Hitler was apparently “appalled as though a bomb had struck the Berghof”[2]. His unawareness is further evidenced by his realization that it would appear implausible that it had occurred without his knowledge, saying “Who will believe me, when I say […] that the whole thing is not some sort of intrigue behind the backs of my allies?”[3]. Additionally, Gestapo interrogations have been found, in which many members of Hess’ staff were questioned on any possible knowledge of the events, leading further to the assumption that Hitler was not made aware of the plans[4]. Another piece of evidence often used alongside this is that Hitler had forbidden Hess from flying during the duration of the war. This perhaps evidences some mental instability, or some suspicion from Hitler that he may attempt such a flight. This is supported by German newspapers who, in early May 1941, a few days after the failed flight, printed stories about how Rudolf Hess had been “forbidden by the Führer to do any flying” and that “he lived in a state of hallucination” where he believed that he could bring about peace between Britain and Germany[5]. If this is true it provides significant evidence of the nature of Hess’s mental state, that he believed he alone had the power to create peace between Germany and Britain suggests some definite instability. However, these newspaper articles were state sanctioned, so it is very probable that they may be bias, and written to support NAZI Germany’s stance on the issue at that time. The secondary reasoning for why Hess made the flight without Hitler’s knowledge, it that many reports at the time suggested he was mentally unwell. While under allied imprisonment two psychiatrists were sent to analyse him, Dr. J. R. Rees and Dr. Dicks. Dr. Rees came to the conclusion that Hess had a “psychopathic personality of the schizophrenic type” and Dr. Dicks, a fluent German speaker, gave an immediate reaction that Hess was a “typical schizophrenic”[6]. However, the psychological reports were only undertaken to test whether Hess would be fit to undergo interrogation, not to see his overall mental state, meaning that the conclusions drawn may not be a good representation of his overall health, and only specific to this purpose[7]. Overall, Hitler’s reaction and the psychological reports seem to provide key evidence that Hess could have plausibly made the flight without Hitler’s knowledge, despite some unreliability.


However, what this fails to mention are numerous sources which provide a very different perspective of some events when analysed. Firstly, Hitler’s reaction upon hearing the news of Hess’ flight, that of complete surprise and anger, is contradicted by recently discovered notebooks written by Hess’ long-time adjutant, Karlheinz Pintsch. Pintsch was the one to hand Hitler the letter telling him of Hess’ flight, and described his reaction as very calm, Hitler commented upon the risk and danger of Hess’ flight, and said that he hoped “agreement with the Englishmen would be successful”[8]. Furthermore, Major Pintsch also describes a portion of Hess’ letter which read, “if this project…ends in failure…It will always be possible for you to deny all responsibility. Simply say I was out of my mind” [9], a quote which seemingly fits exactly with the chain of events that occurred after Hess’ project was a failure. Furthermore, the flying ban placed on Hess was shortened to only one year, implying that this ban was not made due to some kind of mental instability, but rather as a method to keep Hess safe from the ever present dangers of flying[10].However, the Pintsch notebooks are not available to the public, and are currently stored in the Moscow archives[11]. Additionally, Pintsch underwent several years of torture and interrogation in Moscow, after which the notebook was found, perhaps bringing the reliability of the document into question[12]. However, at this point Hess had already been living in solitary confinement for about a month, where he was to “see no newspapers, hear no wireless and receive no visitors”[13]. The documented psychological effects of solitary confinement are massive, ranging from anxiety to paranoia and psychosis, symptoms often associated with people with schizophrenia[14]. This also closely resembles the reports that Hess believed he was being deliberately poisoned by the guards holding him in prison, often cited as evidence that he was mad[15]. Finally, the flight was not such a ridiculous idea, as is often cited of evidence that Hitler would not have been aware of it, for a number of reasons. Hess had an interest in Britain bordering on Anglophilia, and had some ties with the Duke of Hamilton, who had met when he was a child[16]. This connection with the Duke of Hamilton was perhaps the reason he completed the flight in the first place, it appears that Hess was intending to land on the landing strip next to his home in Scotland, Dungavel house[17]. Due to his strong ties with the Duke, and the fact that Hess seemingly believed he wanted peace with Germany, this could in fact have been a success. However, on the night of the flight Hess could not find his destination, instead he was forced to land in Floors Farm, quite a distance from his destination, meaning that he was intercepted by a local ploughman, and taken to the authorities before he was able to make contact with the Duke[18]. Hess’ strong relationship with the Duke of Hamilton, and England as a whole meant that he was the perfect candidate to attempt to make peace between the two nations. Peace with England would also have been a very positive idea to Hitler, Peter Padfield argues[19]. Hitler was keen not to repeat the Kaiser’s ‘mistake’ in world war one, antagonizing the British by challenging their naval supremacy, and believed they would be keen to make peace with Germany, in order to focus on Bolshevik Russia[20]. Additionally, Hess was apparently in possession of very in depth, and seemingly legitimate documents laying out a possible peace treaty[21]. However, this information is given by a completely anonymous informant, and there is no way to know how reliable this information is. Overall, there is significant evidence provided which may bring into doubt the legitimacy of arguments made against Hitler having any knowledge of the flight. However, it is not reliable enough to draw any solid conclusions


To conclude, while there is significant evidence available which may question Hitler’s ignorance of Hess’ attempted peace mission with Britain, it is not reliable enough to completely rule out the evidence for his lack of knowledge. Most notably, the Pintsch notebooks, which, while they do provide a completely opposing statement on Hitler’s reaction, were written after extensive torture and interrogation at the hands of the soviets. Additionally, the evidence that Hitler may have been in favour of peace with Britain, is not entirely conclusive and the supposed treaty Hess had in his possession was only seen by an anonymous informant. Therefore, unless more conclusive evidence comes to light, it must be concluded that Hitler was not aware of Hess’ flight to Britain ahead of time



The process of this investigation has allowed me to utilize numerous research techniques, and therefore allowed me to understand many of the difficulties that face historians trying to investigate a topic. Most notable of these difficulties was the identification of useful primary sources, it was hard to find out how accurate I could consider a source to be, and how objective the information within it was. It was also very difficult to find these sources on their own, because many of them are still contained in archives which I was unable to access, I was therefore forced to utilize these sources via their analysis by other historians. The biases held within these primary sources was made obvious to me through the example of Karlheinz Pintsch’ notebooks, which, while extensively valuable due to their primary reference to a key event in the story of Hess’ flight to Scotland, they were also written by a close friend of Hess, who was unlikely to paint him as a madman, in the grips of some psychological meltdown.


The large amount of research conducted on this area of history was both a help and a hindrance. It meant that there was a lot of information available to me, but it was also difficult to find pieces of information that were explicitly relevant to this topic, as it was quite a small event within the huge event of the second world war. This meant that I had to read a lot of different sources, and do a lot of research to find information that I could use to build an analysis.


Finally, in using this information to build an argument I found it also quite difficult as I could see many different ways in which these sources could be interpreted, for example, Pintsch’ notebook makes reference to Hitler saying that he thought Hess’ mission to Britain was very dangerous could be both interpreted as him not having had any involvement in its planning, or as him simply wishing him luck for a very obviously dangerous mission. This problem of interpretation is one which historians face very regularly, and I had to explicitly consider it during my investigation.



Bradberry, Benton L. The Myth of German Villainy. Bloomington: AuthourHouse, 2012. Print.

Hall, Allan, “Hitler 'gave go-ahead to Rudolf Hess mission to secure peace with Winston Churchill',” last modified May 29, 2011,

Irving, David, Hitler's war and the war path: 1933-1945, Lincoln: Focal Point, 1991.

Kilzer, Louis C. Churchill's Deception: The Dark Secret That Destroyed Nazi Germany. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994. Print.

Manvell, Roger, and Heinrich Fraenkel. Hess: A Biography. London: Granada, 1971. Print.

Nesbit, Roy Conyers, and Georges Van Acker. The Flight of Rudolf Hess: Myths and Reality. Stroud: History, 2011. Print.

Padfield, Peter. Hess, Hitler & Churchill. London: Icon, 2013. Print.

Picknett, Lynn, Clive Prince, and Stephen Prior. Double Standards: The Rudolf Hess Cover-Up. New York: Time Warner Paperbacks, 2002. Print.

Read, Anthony, The Devil's disciples: Hitler's inner circle, New York: Norton, 2005.

Rees, John R., and Henry Victor Dicks. The Case of Rudolf Hess: A Problem in Diagnosis and Forensic Psychiatry. New York: Norton, 1948. Print.

Roberts, Andrew. Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941–1945. New York: HarperCollins, 2009. Print.

“Roy Conyers Nesbit” Pen and Sword, accessed on December 19, 2017,

Shalev, Sharon. A Sourcebook on Solitary Confinement. London: Sharon Shalev, 2008. Print.

Slater, Eliot "The Illness of Rudolf Hess. A Phenomenological Analysis (1972)." ETOS Eliot Slater Archive. ETOS Eliot Slater Archive, n.d. Web. 12 June 2017. <>.

[1] “Roy Conyers Nesbit” Pen and Sword, accessed on December 19, 2017,

[2] Read.A (p.684)

[3] Read.A (p.685)

[4] Irving.D (p.XXXII)

[5] Eliot Slater "The Illness of Rudolf Hess,” ETOS Eliot Slater Archive, accessed June 12, 2017,

[6] Eliot Slater "The Illness of Rudolf Hess,” ETOS Eliot Slater Archive, accessed June 12, 2017,

[7] Padfield.P (p.454)

[8] Bradberry.B (p.249)

[9] Bradberry.B (p.249)

[10] Nesbit.R and Van Acker.G (p.28)

[11] Bradberry.B (p.249)

[12] Allan Hall, “Hitler 'gave go-ahead to Rudolf Hess mission to secure peace with Winston Churchill',” last modified May 29, 2011,

[13] Padfield.P (p.454)

[14] Shalev.S (p.15-16)

[15] Manvell.R and Fraenkel.H (p.116-117)

[16] Pickett.L, Prince.C and Prior.S (p.24)

[17] Padfield.P (p.24)

[18] Nesbit.R and Van Acker.G (p.58-61)

[19] Padfield.P (p.124)

[20] Padfield.P (p.124)

[21] Padfield.P (p.461-462)