Rudolf Hess – Image: howstuffworks.com
Nazi Deputy Rudolf Hess crashes in Scotland: On May 10, 1941, German official Rudolf Hess made an unauthorized visit to Britain. He was arrested after he broke his ankle in a parachute jump from his Messerschmitt, which crashed just south of Glasgow, Scotland. Hess, whose German title of deputy Führer put him in charge of the Nazi Party apparatus, was on a solo mission. He said he wanted to negotiate a peace in which Britain would be safe from attack if it gave Nazi Germany a free hand in Europe. Dismissed as insane by the British and Adolf Hitler, Hess remained in Allied imprisonment until his death in 1987. Source: howstuffworks/american-history/
Britain and America wanted to release Hess, but the Russians didn’t want to. Perhaps, Hess was a lucky pawn in their hands.
ONE was a notorious Nazi war criminal, the other a young Tyneside soldier.
They came from different countries and from different backgrounds, but they forged a friendship of sorts and ended up playing chess together.
This is the remarkable real life story of Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess and Maurice Williams of the Durham Light Infantry.
Charged with guarding Hess in Berlin’s Spandau Prison, Maurice the pair ended up playing a game of chess.
“It was 1951 and our Battalion was taking up guard duty at Spandau Prison,” said Maurice, who lives at Ovington in the Tyne Valley.
“There were a number of Nazi war criminals there and I was curious about the place.
“I decided to take a tour of the prison and it certainly was a grim place. On my travels I came upon this guy in the prison garden, reading a paper.
“It turned out to be Rudolf Hess. We weren’t supposed to talk to either him or the other Nazi prisoners and, if caught, I would have been on a charge, but I was curious about him.
“He had a chess board and I asked him about it. He asked if I played chess and, luckily, I did.”
Hess challenged Maurice to a game and Maurice said: “In the end, he beat me easily. I said to him that I only thought two moves ahead and that he must be thinking about 10 moves ahead. He laughed and said: ‘Maybe a few more than that’. We played a second time and this time I gave him a much better game but, again, lost out.”
Maurice said Hess was unlike the picture he painted in the Nuremberg Trials of a man on the edge of sanity, adding: “He was a perfect gentleman and asked such things as ‘are you married?’ He spoke perfect English, better than myself!
“I told him I was single and he asked about my family, it was just like talking to the man next door. I really wanted to ask him how he felt about the Jews but the opportunity didn’t arise.
“He said he liked the British and American guards, but wasn’t too keen on the Russians.
“I’m not surprised about that as I found them a funny lot, especially when they were on the vodka, which was made out of diesel oil. If they gave it to us we had to drink it with black pepper.”
Nobody was more shocked than Maurice at what had gone on in Nazi Germany, but he didn’t class Hess as one of the hard-liners who were hanged after the war crimes trial.
“I don’t know why they didn’t let Hess go in the 1950s. Spandau was a harsh place and Hess had a room the size of a normal living room with table chair and bed and also a wireless.
“I believe that later he was given much more room.”
Apparently Britain and the USA wanted to release Hess, but the Russians wouldn’t allow it. Many think it was because it gave them a foothold in West Berlin.
Hess is said to have committed suicide in 1987.
It was not the first time Maurice had been to Germany.
He had joined the Durham Light Infantry at the end of the Second World War and witnessed the devastation as he travelled through France and Belgium toward Germany.
“In Germany we had to hammer on the doors of the civilians and tell them to get their valuables packed up within an hour and stored into the lofts or such place.
“We then took their homes over as billets as there was no army camp. They were put into a displaced persons camp.
“All the time we were there I never knew of any soldier touching the belongings of the German civilians.
“They were lovely middle class houses with lovely gardens. You know what Geordies were like for gardening, so enjoyed keeping them in shape. They could come back to their homes undamaged with nothing missing. In 1946 we were sent out to Egypt. It was later in 1951 when we were posted to Berlin and Spandau.”