The Illness of Rudolf Hess. A Phenomenological Analysis

In Libro Homenaje al professor Dionisio Nieto G., Dimension de la Psiquiatria Contemporanea, ed. by César Pérez de Francisco, México, 1972

Dedicated to Professor Dionisio Nieto 

1941: The Flight to Scotland

On may 10, 1941, when Britain and Germany had been at war for twenty months, Rudolf Hess, a close friend of Hitler and the Deputy Führer, landed in Scotland by parachuting from a Messerschmitt. On May 13 the German newspapers carried the story:

“Party Member Hess, because of an illness of many years' standing which was becoming worse, and who had been forbidden by the Führer to do any flying, went against this order and obtained an aeroplane on Saturday, May 10. At 6.0 he left Augsburg in the plane and has not been heard from since. A letter which he left behind shows from its confused writing the unfortunate traces of mental deran­gement and it is feared that Party Member Hess has sacrificed himself to a fixed idea...”

And again, a few days later the statement:

“As far as it is possible to tell from papers left behind by Party Member Hess, it seemed that he lived in a state of hallucination as a result of which he felt he could bring about an understanding between England and Germany. It is a fact that Hess, according to a report from London, jumped from his aeroplane near the town to which he was trying to go and was found there injured. The National Socialist Party regrets that this idealist fell a victim to his hallucinations…”

Hess had suffered only minor injuries, which were treated in a military hospital at the southern point of Loch Lomond where he remained for a few days. Very soon it was clear that there were evidences of mental disturbance, needing medical as well as security care; and after a few days he was trans­ferred (via the Tower of London) to a hospital at Mytchett near Aldershot, about 60 km. from London. In June 1942 he was transferred to a hospital in South Wales, where he remained until he was brought to Nuremberg in Octo­ber 1945, to stand trial with other Nazi leaders for war crimes.

    Hess was born on April 26, 1896, and so was just forty‑five when he made his flight to Scotland. When in Britain he was extremely suspicious with his medical attendants throughout his stay, so that the account they can give of his past history is patchy. It does not seem that he ever had an outright men­tal illness in earlier years, but from early on in his life he had been attracted to odd groups and odd ideas; he joined a nationalist and anti‑Semitic group in 1918. He served in the first World War, and in it and in subsequent gang warfare he suffered a gunshot wound of the lung, a leg injury and a minor head injury. He also suffered at various times from trouble with the gall‑blad­der, the bidnegs, colitis, prostatitis, and from recurrent heart pains and abdominal pains. He was a teetotaller and non‑smoker. Since 1938 he had turned more and more to unorthodox practitioners, e.g. of nature‑cure and chiropraxy. When he arrived in Scotland his pockets were stuffed with ho­meopathic and nature‑cure medicines, He dieted himself, and excluded eggs, jams and dried foods, and drank only very weak tea. From about the begin­ning of the war he started to take an interest in his horoscope and in the semioccult. He placed great emphasis on the influence of the stars and on the diagrams worked out for him by a fortune‑teller. Hess married in 1927, and had a son born ten years later. During his stay in Britain he showed little interest in his wife, and when her letters failed to come, he would not bother to write to her.