Early Signs of Illness

On May 13, 1941, in the military hospital, Hess looked well, and did not strike the doctor as being of unsound mind. He said he had come to the country on a special mission, the nature of which would be disclosed in due course. While in the Tower of London, on May 19 he wrote a letter to Ger­many in which he said that his death was being encompassed, and that it would be misrepresented as suicide. This however would bear fruit in bring­ing peace and also in bringing revenge on the British warmongers.

    On May 21, on arrival at his quarters at Mytchett, he became very agitated and asked why there was a wire fence round the house and wire grilles outside his windows. The next day he tild his doctor he was convinced he was sur­rounded by Secrtt Service agents who would accomplish his death either by driving him to commit suicide, by murder staged to look like suicide, or by administering poison in his food.

    During this time Hess was trying to make contact with the Duke of Ha­milton. His aim was to stop the war, which could only lead to useless slaugh­ter. The Duke of Hamilton would take him to King George, and everything would arrange itself. The flight had been precipitated by a dream dreamt by his old friend, Professor Karl Haushofer, who, he considered, had the gift of second sight. Haushofer had told him that he had seen Hess on three occasions in a dream piloting an aeroplane he knew not where; and Hess had taken these remarks, coming from a man he regarded as a prophet, as a message to be obeyed by making the flight.

    In the next few days he was at times depressed, at times domineering. At exercise he would hold himself erect and strut. On May 28 he was having ideas he was being poisoned. He said he believed that the Secret Service at the behest of a clique of warmongers had hidden him in his present surround­ings and was trying to drive him to insanity or suicide. During the past few days a devilish scheme had been started to prevent him from sleeping. Doors were opened and shut loudly, and people ran up and down the uncarpeted stairs; the guard kept clicking his heels; motorcycles were kept running in front of the house and aeroplanes were flown overhead to disturb him. It was all a plot.

    Hess was referred for the opinion of a consultant psychiatrist, Brigadier­ General J. R. Rees. Dr. Rees gives an account of the past history, and dis­cusses some of the symptomatology: the insomnia and depression, his un­realistic idea of stopping the war, his persecution by noises, his "pathological" suspiciousness, his "extraordinary lack of insight and failure to realise his position," his inability to appreciate "the impossible nature of his self‑imposed task." Dr. Rees concluded that though "this man is certainly not today insane in the sense that would make one consider certification, he is mentally sick." "In my opinion Hess is a man of unstable mentality and... a psychopathic personality of the schizophrenic type. ." The possibility that Hess was at that time suffering from a schizophrenic psychosis was not discussed, and does not seem to have been envisaged. After this a psychiatrist, Dr. H. V. Dicks, who was able to speak German fluently, was added to the group of officers who looked after Hess and constituted his entourage.

    When, about the ist June 1941 Dr. Dicks was ushered into the presence of the Deputy Führer "it is fair to say that the first glimpse of Hess produced an immediate reaction: 'typical schizophrenic'." He was sitting behind a table littered with papers, his skull‑like face wearing an unhappy grim expression, his eyes staring into infinity, gaunt, hollow checked, oozing hostility and sus­picion. At meal‑times he was liable to change his plate of food for that of one of the others. The secret enemy, he said, who was attempting to poison him might be for example some German‑Jewish immigrant acting for inter­national Jewry. This man might easily have obtained access to one of the kitchen staff, who would then introduce poison into his food. He also found proof of the working of the secret poison in the sense of increased well‑being after meals which was followed by sudden subjective exhaustion; the poison was, in fact, so subtle that at times it actually made him feel better. Hess was still expecting negotiators to appear, with whom he might discuss peace terms, and he spent long hours in preparing an elaborate written statement of his arguments, which were, it is said, models of clarity, of exposition and logic. When he heard that a negotiator was actually to come on June 10 he became more agitated. From time to time he would say that his head was so bad that he could not concentrate, that his mind went blank, etc. "The psychiatric observer could not help recognizing 'the neurotic alibi,' as described by Adler." Feelings of mental exhaustion caused him to fail to complete psychological tests. As June 10 neared his state became more alarming; he started to refuse food, had to have it tasted before him, and wrote a memorandum for trans­mission to the Protecting Power in which he drew up a list of the persons involved in the secret conspiracy to poison him. The interview was duly held, when Lord Simon, then ford Chancellor, accompanied by a Foreign Office official, came to see him.

    After this conference Hess was found in a state of virtual collapse. When offered tea, milk and cake, he refused them all. A glucose drink was then prepared and offered by the psychiatrist in person. Hess stood up, gazed for a long time into the psychiatrist's eyes and then said 'I will have it if you have some first.' In the days that followed, further light was thrown on Hess's delusional system. When compelled to concede that his medical atten­dant was a man of honour, he said that he regarded all the officers, as well as the psychiatrist, as men of the greatest honour and integrity, but that the pity was that they had all come under evil influence, either hypnotic or che­mical, and all had become the unconscious tools of the secret conspiracy. In a letter to Hitler he showed that he was preparing for death. There then came a mood of cold‑shouldering and morose stony aloofness towards the psychiatrist. On June 15 the psychiatrist was invited to go to his room, and there was confronted by Hess standing at the table, glowering, with fists clenched. He shouted 'I am being undone, and you know it,' but no expla­nation was to be obtained.