With Rudolf Hess' gravesite becoming a shrine for Neo-Nazis, cemetery officials in the German town of Wunsiedel told the Associated Press they exhumed and burned the bones of Adolf Hitler's deputy and scattered his ashes on Wednesday.
The news has outraged white nationalists, many of whom consider Nazi leaders heroes and European history a tenet of the movement’s pride.
“Malicious cowardice,” says Brian Culpepper, a Tennessee chapter leader of the National Socialist Movement, the largest Neo-Nazi organization in the U.S. “The man is dead, let him rest in peace. That goes for all the people who died in that conflict, on both sides.” While he hasn’t visited the burial site, Culpepper tells The Daily Beast that “treating the dead with respect is one of the things that separates us from the animals.”
In the 1920s, Hess was instrumental in helping fellow prisoner Hitler create Mein Kampf, which detailed his anti-Semitism and his theories of an alleged Jewish conspiracy to control the world. Rising through the Nazi Party ranks, Hess at one point was the third most powerful leader in the Third Reich, behind Hermann Göring and Hitler himself. Captured by the British as a prisoner of war when he parachuted into Scotland to broker peace, he eventually died—allegedly by hanging himself—in then-West Berlin's Spandau Prison in the late '80s at age 93. His remains were buried in a family plot in Bavaria until their exhumation Wednesday. His gravestone, which read "Ich hab's gewagt," or "I have dared," was taken down, according to Germany's Spiegel Online.
White nationalist Derek Black, who is in Europe visiting Louisiana politician David Duke, responded to early reports of the ashes being scattered at sea by saying that “sounds a lot like bin Laden, doesn’t it? I think the Germans got inspired and thought—we’ve got our own terrorist, we can do this too!” Hess isn't the only Nazi to have his remains scattered far and wide. After his execution by hanging in Israel in 1962, Nazi official Adolf Eichmann's remains were also cremated and scattered at sea. He says a lot of “anti-white” policies and decisions “are often justified by the experience of World War II. It really scarred Europeans, and white Americans, too.”
Posters to Stormfront.com, a prolific chatroom and Web clearinghouse for white nationalists and “racial realists” as Stormfront’s founder Don Black (father of Derek) has described adherents to Newsweek and The Daily Beast, were alternately outraged or despondent.
“Typical," bemoans one Stormfront user.
“A shrine for ‘Neo-Nazis’? Bull. People sent flowers to his grave from all over the world,” writes another. One poster, using the acronym for “Zionist Occupation Government”—a popular rallying point in the white-supremacist community—wrote “I think it’s fairly clear the ZOG is behind this. I read the article on Yahoo [note: the piece quoted from originally appears on the Associated Press] and couldn’t figure out why people would exhume a long dead historic icon until I read these lines: “Charlotte Knobloch, a German Jewish community leader, said the move sends a ‘clear message.’ ‘I’m happy that the Nazi shadow over Wunsiedel has finally come to an end.'”
According to Der Spiegel Online, the site had become a source of embarrassment for locals, but Neo-Nazis were not coming in as great numbers as in years past. “Until such gatherings were banned in 2005, each year hundreds, and sometimes even thousands, of Neo-Nazis would gather in the northern Bavarian town of Wunsiedel to march in honor of Rudolf Hess on Aug. 17, the anniversary of his death. But tired of the embarrassment and trouble caused by the marches and pilgrimages to his gravesite there, the community removed the grave this week, daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported Thursday.”
Just as with bin Laden, conspiracy theories are already circulating. A Stormfront user by the forum name “BabylonTheGreat” quotes from a 1979 book, The Murder of Rudolf Hess, to argue that the true identity of Rudolf Hess in Spandau has been debated for years, and that the person who died behind those prison walls, and was presumably then buried in Wunsiedel, was actually a body double willingly impersonating Hess. Another user, “Wunddrin,” writes, “Do 93-year-old men all of a sudden become despondent, hop up on a bench or something and hang themselves? Then ‘the prison was demolished shortly afterward and the rubble secretly disposed of.’ Boy, the web of deceit has hopelessly entrapped the spinners by now. But he’s doubly martyred now. I hope that little town gets a lot more attention from the faithful.”
For his part, Black said he hopes the decision to exhume and bury Hess at sea will lead to reflection that might eventually benefit white nationalists. “Hopefully this hysterical reaction to a figure who actually tried to end the war will bring the Germans one step closer to normalization. European governments will have problems with supposed 'extremist Neo-Nazis' so long as they condemn every pro-White movement as racist.” Given the generally positive reaction to the decision in the community, Black may be waiting for that moment for some time.