Hess, Rudolf

(1894-1987)
   NSDAP official; served as Hitler's* secretary and deputy. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt. His father thwarted his university studies so that he would assume the family business in Alexandria. To escape, he enlisted at the outbreak of World War I; during the Armistice* he enrolled in the Thule Society* and Freikorps.* In June 1919 he joined the German Work-ers' Party (predecessor to the NSDAP). In despair at Germany's defeat, Hess is said to have experienced a near-religious experience when he first heard Hitler. His wife's memoirs recorded that he "was like a new man, lively, radiant, no longer gloomy, not despondent." He thereafter deemed Hitler God's savior to rescue Germany from the evils of Jewry and communism.
   As a student in 1920 at Munich, Hess studied geopolitics under Karl Haus-hofer*; his initiative in introducing Haushofer to Hitler is sometimes judged his sole contribution to Nazism. Joining the SA,* he was a battalion commander during the 1923 Beerhall Putsch* and was thereafter Hitler's personal secretary during their imprisonment. While Haushofer preserved contact with the pris-oners, Hitler dictated portions of his political testament, Mein Kampf,* to Hess; Haushofer's geopolitical concept of Lebensraum (living space) thereby found its way into Nazi ideology.
   After being released with Hitler in December 1924, Hess lived entirely for his Fuährer. Lacking demagogic talent or notable intelligence, he was the model disciple. In 1930 he asserted that "the time of monarchies and democracies in Europe is over; the time of Caesarism has come." His mental imbalance is revealed by his inordinate fear of Heinrich Bruäning,* who he believed would bring the KPD to power before forming a Catholic* dictatorship. Upon Gregor Strasser's* resignation in December 1932, Hess was appointed head of the NSDAP's Central Political Commission. In April 1933 he became Deputy Fuh-rer—in essence, successor-designate (Hitler named Hermann Goäring* his suc-cessor in 1934)—and in June he was named Reichsminister without Portfolio. Although he possessed sizable political power, his chief role was to introduce Hitler at meetings. Silent and neglected, he turned increasingly to mysticism. With the possible exception of the Haushofers (his closest friends), he startled everyone when he flew to Scotland in May 1941 with a peace proposal. Diag-nosed schizophrenic by a British psychiatrist, he was promptly arrested; Hitler pronounced him mad. After the war he was tried at Nuremberg, found guilty of crimes against the peace and war crimes, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
   REFERENCES:Davidson, Trial ofthe Germans; Fest, Face ofthe Third Reich.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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