Note 046
by Joachim C. Fest

46 I. Hess, Prisoner of Peace. Of course neither Hess nor his wife was able to demonstrate convincingly why his loss of memory had been feigned. One reason advanced by Hess, that he had wanted to obtain his release to Germany by this means (Rees, Case of Rudolf Hess), sounds just as unlikely, even when one allows for the naivety which one is prepared to concede him, as his other claim, that he had tried to find peace from the annoyances of the doctors. Talking to G. M. Gilbert at Nuremberg, Hess retracted or at least did not maintain the version that it had all been only 'theatre'. On the contrary he stated:

'The first period of memory loss (in England) was really genuine. I suppose it must have been the continual isolation, and disillusionment also played a role. But in the second period (in Nuremberg) I exaggerated somewhat. It wasn't entirely loss of memory' (Nuremberg Diary).

He said essentially the same thing to J. R. Rees. He recovered his memory instantaneously when he was warned in the so-called second period that he would otherwise be pronounced 'incompetent', sent back to his cell, and allowed to take no further part in the trial; see Gilbert, Psychology of Dictatorship. When in the middle of January 1946 Gilbert arranged a test with Hess which again showed a degree of amnesia, Hess was very much shocked. He said that nothing was further from his mind than to feign loss of memory again since no one would believe him any more after he had admitted to having fooled the world around him. He said fearfully that he hoped this condition would improve. Nevertheless, so Gilbert explains, his condition deteriorated from week to week and the latest incidents became increasingly obliterated (Psychology of Dictatorship). Thus the circumstances are by no means as simple as Ilse Hess's exultant references, intended to satisfy Nazi friends and to construct a Rudolf Hess legend, would suggest.

At this point it is appropriate to point out that the volumes of letters published by Ilse Hess, particularly those parts written by her, are discouragingly offensive examples of the self-righteousness, narrow-mindedness, and inferior humanity of certain circles of former leading National Socialists whose self-pity in the face of personal inconvenience (e.g. court proceedings) is in stark contrast to their complete moral apathy toward the millions of their guiltless victims.

From Chapter 15, Rudolf Hess , Part 3 of The Face Of The Third Reich by J.C. Fest -- See further Notes

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