The Propagander ™ FAQ

Was Rudolf Hess 'Crazy'?

No. Rudolf Hess's mental state was always just what Hess intended it to be. His abilities as an actor were first rate. He admitted--both in private and in open court--that his 'insanity' and memory loss was pure subterfuge. The only thing 'crazy' about Hess was his beliefs, and believing in complete nonsense is not a definition of insanity. If it were, there would be many more Cult members and fanatics in Loony Bins throughout the known world; not to mention more than a few married couples.

crazy - [krey-zee] - adjective

1. mentally deranged; demented; insane.

For the purposes of the Nuremberg Tribunal, the definition of sanity--as in most courts--was limited to the ability to distinguish right from wrong. He was judged to be sane by all the many experts that examined him. Is this a low bar? Or is such a bar even distinguishable?

Consider: While Hess was judged sane, he was very delusional. All Nazis who believed in their dysfunctional ideology were, as I'm sure most reasonable people--at least those that are familiar with its particulars--would agree. Suffering from delusion is, however, considered perfectly sane and, indeed, a normal and widespread human condition.

delusional - [di-loo-zhuhn] - noun

1. an act or instance of deluding.

2. the state of being deluded.

3. a false belief or opinion

Who Decides What is False?

Consider that a LARGE portion of the worlds population (leaving aside religion), at any chosen time in history, is considered delusional, especially by people suffering from their own false delusions. For example, millions of Soviet citizens were deluded in their false belief that Communism would save the world while at the same time (and partially in reaction to an inordinate fear of Communism) millions of Germans were fallaciously convinced that Nazism and their Fuehrer would provide said salvation. Objective observers at the time maintained that both sides were deluded in their belief, and history would eventually confirm that judgement.

In a purely subjective world, right and wrong can be decided either way, depending on the jurisdiction of the judicial authority. Righteous heads rolled in Moscow and Berlin alike for many decades.

Consider the two sides objectively: All those hard-core Communists and fundamentalist Nazis did all those despicable things, believing most fervently in the rectitude of their actions. They all believed themselves heroes. For the sake of argument--leaving aside any judgement as to the relative merits of each side--what do we make of the concept of insanity as it applies to the ability for any defendant charged with religious or political crimes to distinguish right from wrong?

Could it be that adherents of delusional ideologies have, due to their beliefs, actually and functionally lost the ability to distinguish right from wrong? Then it would follow that all the Nazis who took part in the Holocaust were actually insane because what they thought was right was really wrong. Does it further follow that, having been judged to be insane, they are not responsible for their actions?

This is not a conclusion many of us can accept, I assume. Does this mean that there is a limit to objectivity? Does the implication then finally follow that, in a subjective world, it is imperative to choose sides, even at the risk of perpetrating relative injustice. Is it merely a simple matter of achievable balance?

Finally, consider that in the post-war world reality of the Nuremberg Tribunal, the Nazis were judged by the four principle Allies; France, the US, Britain, and the delusional workers paradise of the USSR. The Soviets wanted Hess to hang. They were out-voted.

Here is some documentation detailing Hess' subterfuges concerning his mental state:

November 19, 1945: The Commission delegated to examine Hess's capacity to stand trial submits its report:

We find, as a result of our examinations and investigations, that Rudolf Hess is suffering from hysteria characterized in part by loss of memory. The nature of this loss of memory is such that it will not interfere with his comprehension of the proceedings, but it will interfere with his response to questions relating to his past and will interfere with his undertaking his defense. In addition there is a conscious exaggeration of his loss of memory and a tendency to exploit it to protect himself against examination.

(2) We consider that the existing hysterical behavior which the defendant reveals, was initiated as a defense against the circumstances in which he found himself while in England; that it has now become in part habitual and that it will continue as long as he remains under the threat of imminent punishment, even though it may interfere with his undertaking a more normal form of defense.

(3) It is the unanimous conclusion of the undersigned that Rudolf Hess is not insane at the present time in the strict sense of the word...

November 22, 1945 Nuremberg Tribunal: On the trial's third day, Ralph G. Albrecht, Associate Trial Counsel for the United States, is delivering a briefing to the Tribunal on the structure of the German government:

Albrecht: The Fuehrer at the top of our chart is the supreme and the only leader in the Nazi hierarchy. His successor-designate was first the Defendant Hess, and subsequently the Defendant Goering...

From an eyewitness account by Telford Taylor:

On the third day of the trial I witnessed, by chance, an episode which, apparently, no one else noticed and which gave me an impression of Hess's condition. I was sitting in the courtroom at the American Prosecution table while Ralph Albrecht was delivering his lecture on German governmental structure. It was my first opportunity to scrutinize the defendants and their counsel at leisure and close range. I was not paying close attention to Albrecht's presentation, but I heard him say that Hitler's "successor-designate was first the Defendant Hess and subsequently the Defendant Goering." This I well knew to be in error. The names were right but the order was wrong; Goering was number two and Hess number three.

Since I was sitting barely twenty feet from those two gentlemen, I looked to see whether either of them had noticed the slip and, if so, how he reacted. Goering was already waving his arms to attract attention, pointing to himself, and saying repeatedly: "Ich war der Zweite!" ("I was the second!") As these protests were pouring out of Goering, Hess turned and looked at him and burst into laughter. It appeared to me that Hess also knew that Albrecht had misspoken (Albrecht corrected the order of succession at the end of his presentation), and was vastly amused by Goering's characteristically vain reaction. I inferred from this occurrence that Hess's amnesia was not as complete as he had given out. (Taylor)

November 30, 1945 Nuremberg Tribunal: On the 9th day of the historic trial, defendant Rudolf Hess makes a statement before the court:

At the beginning of the proceedings this afternoon I gave my defense counsel a note saying that I thought the proceedings could be shortened if I would be allowed to speak. I wish to say the following: In order to forestall the possibility of my being pronounced incapable of pleading, in spite of my willingness to take part in the proceedings and to hear the verdict alongside my comrades, I would like to make the following declaration before the Tribunal, although, originally, I intended to make it during a later stage of the trial: Henceforth my memory will again respond to the outside world.

The reasons for simulating loss of memory were of a tactical nature. Only my ability to concentrate is, in fact, somewhat reduced. But my capacity to follow the trial, to defend myself, to put questions to witnesses, or to answer questions myself is not affected thereby. I emphasize that I bear full responsibility for everything that I did, signed, or co-signed. My fundamental attitude that the Tribunal is not competent, is not affected by the statement I have just made. I also simulated loss of memory in consultations with my officially appointed defense counsel. He has, therefore, represented it in good faith.

From The Case of Rudolf Hess by J. R. Rees:

The reactions of Hess's fellow defendants to the above statement are noted: Goering was amazed and upset, and while he enjoyed the frustration of the Court, demonstrated considerable resentment that he had been so completely fooled. Von Schirach felt that such behavior was not the action of a normal man, and while he enjoyed Hess's jest upon the world, felt that it was not a gesture expected of a good German whose position was as important as that of Hess.

Ribbentrop, upon learning the news, was dumbfounded, and was hardly able to speak when told Hess's statement, and merely kept repeating: "Hess, you mean Hess? The Hess we have here? He said that?" Ribbentrop became quite agitated and seemed to feel such action was not possible. He stated: "But Hess did not know me. I looked at him. I talked to him. Obviously he did not know me. It is just not possible. Nobody could fool me like that." Streicher's comment, as usual, was direct and blunt: "If you ask me, I think Hess's behavior was a shame. It reflects on the dignity of the German people.

December 1, 1945 From the letters of Thomas Dodd:

Yesterday, we put our first witness on the stand--General Lahousen. He was examined by John Amens who did only a fair job at it. Late yesterday the tribunal held a hearing on the mental condition of Hess. After two hours of argument, Hess suddenly and dramatically announced that his loss of memory is and was a fraud, etc. I believe he is of unsound mind--and I have great doubt that he should be on trial.

December 1, 1945 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 10, the Tribunal rules on Hess:

The Tribunal has given careful consideration to the motion of counsel for the defense of the Defendant Hess, and it had the advantage of hearing full argument upon it both from the Defense and the Prosecution. The Tribunal has also considered the very full medical reports, which have been made on the condition of the Defendant Hess, and has come to the conclusion that no grounds whatever exist for a further examination to be ordered. After hearing the statement of the Defendant Hess in Court yesterday, and in view of all the evidence, the Tribunal is of the opinion that the Defendant Hess is capable of standing his trial at the present time, and the motion of the Counsel for the Defense is, therefore, denied, and the Trial will proceed.

From The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials by Telford Taylor:

The Tribunal's decision resolved the issue of whether or not Hess would be tried. But it did not put an end to the questions of whether or not he was sane, or had amnesia, or should not have been tried. Dr Douglas Kelly, the prison psychiatrist, thought that Hess's performance was "a typical dramatic, hysterical gesture, which confirmed my opinions and those of the consulting psychiatrists"--to wit, that despite denials Hess had in fact been suffering from amnesia rooted in hysteria. Dr Gilbert attributed Hess's insistence on being tried to a hysterical fear of being separated from his fellow defendants.

Hess himself sought praise for his action, and his memory and general mental condition temporarily improved. Questions such as whether Hess was insane under British law and whether his amnesia was feigned or genuine, were beyond my ken...but as a lawyer I felt that the relevant questions were whether it would appear fair to put him on trial and whether his behavior in the dock would comport with the dignity of the proceeding. I certainly did not regard Hess's own statement as providing an answer to these questions. Indeed, if the book had already been written, I would have thought of Joseph Heller's "Catch-22," one theme of which was that "if he says he's sane, he must be crazy."

As the trial went on, his behavior gradually convinced me that the answer to both questions should have been negative. For political reasons, these considerations were academic. The judges and senior prosecutors all knew that the Russians were out to 'get' Hess. Once the doctors had found him sane, it was clear that dismissing him from the trial would have prompted Stalin to revive his accusations that Britain (and now her allies) were coddling and shielding Hess."

November 20, 1946 From Spandau, The Secret Diaries by Albert Speer:

As we were showering today, Hess disclosed that his loss of memory was faked. While I stood under the shower and he sat on the stool, he said out the clear sky: "The psychiatrists all tried to rattle me. I came close to giving up when my secretary was brought in. I had to pretend not to recognize her, and she burst into tears. It was a great effort for me to remain expressionless. No doubt she now thinks I am heartless." These remarks will certainly stir a lot of talk, because we were being guarded by an American soldier who understands German. (Speer II)

Conclusion: Rudolf Hess was not 'crazy,' but he certainly was odd.
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