Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Nuremberg Trial Defendants: Rudolf Hess

- Positions Held by Rudolf Hess
- Promotion of the Nazi Conspirators' Accession to Power
- Establishment of Totalitarian Control over Germany
- Preparation for War
- Participation in the Conspiracy to Commit War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity
- Conclusion


(1)Between 1919 and 1941, Hess held the following positions:
(a) Member of the Nazi Party, 1920-1941 (3191-PS).
(b) Deputy to the Fuehrer, 21 April 1933 to 10 May 1941 (3196-PS).
(c) Reich Minister without Portfolio, 1 December 1933-10 May 1941 (3178-PS).
(d) Member of the Reichstag, 5 March 1933-10 May 1941 (3192-PS).
(e) Member of the Council of Ministers for the Defense of the Reich, 30 August 1930-10 May 1941 (2018-PS).
(f) Member of the Secret Cabinet Council, 4 February 1938 -10 May 1941 (1377-PS).
(g) Successor Designate to the Fuehrer, after Goering, 1 September 1939-10 May 1941 (3190-PS).
(h) General in the SS (3198-PS).
(i) Private Secretary and A. d. C. to Hitler, 1925-1932 (3192-PS).
(j) Head of the Central Political Committee of the N.S.D.A.P., appointed 15 December 1932 (3132-PS).
(k) Reichsleiter of the N.S.D.A.P. (Member of the Party Directorate)(3198-PS).
(l) Member of the Reichs Defense Council (2261-PS).


The Nazi Party was the conspiracy's main instrument of control. As its directing head, Hess used this instrument vigorously to advance the purposes of the conspiracy. He thus played a decisive part in the preparation and execution of its criminal designs.

Hess began his conspiratorial activities immediately upon the termination of World War I by joining militaristic and nationalistic organizations. He became a member of the Thule Society and of the Free Corps Epp. In June 1920 he joined the Nazi Party, receiving membership card No. 16 (191-PS; 347-PS).

By 1923 Hess was an SA leader and head of the Nazi University Organization in Munich. He took part in the Nazi Putsch of 8 November 1923-9 November 1923. As a result he was tried and convicted on a charge of high treason (3132- PS). He spent 7 1/2 months of his 18 months' sentence with Hitler at the Landsberg Fortress (3191-PS). There Hitler dictated Mein Kampf to him (3132- PS).

After their release, Hess remained extremely close to Hitler. In 1925, he became officially his private secretary and A. d. C (3192-PS).

During the Party crisis which resulted from the sudden resignation of Gregor Strasser, head of the Party's Political Organization, in December 1932, Hitler called on Hess to take charge of the newly formed Central Political Committee of the Party, in order to restore its strength and unity (3132-PS).

Shortly thereafter, Hess took part in the decisive negotiations which brought the Nazi conspirators into power on 30 January 1933


Upon the conspirators' accession to power, Hess was appointed Deputy to the Fuehrer of the NSDAP (3196-PS). His broad powers and responsibilities in that position were officially described as

"All the threads of the Party work are gathered together by the Deputy of the Fuehrer. He gives the final word on all intra-Party plans and all questions vital for the existence of the German people. The Deputy of the Fuehrer gives the directives required for all the Party work, in order to maintain the unity, determination and striking power of the N.S.D.A.P. as the bearer of the National-Socialist philosophy." (3163-PS; Chart Number 15).

Through Hess, the Conspirators established the control of the Party over the State. As a first step he obtained a seat in the Cabinet, which had in effect become the sole legislative organ of the Reich (2001-PS; 2426-PS; 1395-PS). As a Cabinet Minister, Hess signed the laws which further strengthened the political power of the Nazi Party. Among these enactments were the law of 1 August 1934 consolidating the positions of Chief of State and Leader of the Party (2003- PS); and the law of 20 December 1934 against treacherous attacks on Party and State

Through a long series of decrees Hess obtained control over every aspect of public and private life in Germany, in order to subvert it to the aims of the conspiracy, as represented by the Party.

(1) Hess gained control over all legislation.

A Hitler Decree of 27 July 1934 provided for Hess's participation in the drafting of all legislation (D-138). In a circular to Cabinet members on 9 October 1939, Hess stated that he would in the future veto every bill which reached him to late to allow him enough time for its thorough study from the Party point of view (D-139). A letter from Chief of the Reich Chancellery Lammers, on 12 April 1938, announced a supplementary decree extending Hess's participation, especially with regard to the drafting of laws affecting individual States (D-140; see 1942-PS).

(2) Hess gained control over all government appointments, including those of the judiciary and university teachers.

A decree of 24 September 1935 provided for the consultation of Hess in the appointment of Reich and State civil servants (3180-PS). A decree of 10 July 1937 provided for the participation of the Fuehrer's Deputy in the appointment of Reich and State civil servants (3184-PS). A decree of 14 October 1936, signed by Hess, regulated the status of Reich and State civil servants (3183-PS). A further decree of 3 April 1936 provided for Hess's participation in the appointment of Labor Service officials (3182-PS).

(3) Hess gained control over Local Government Administration.

This control was effected through the German Municipality Act of 30 January 1935 provided for the participation of Party delegates

(4) Hess gained control over the administration of annexed territories.

Thus, the Ordinance of 10 June 1939 provided for Hess's participation in the administration of Austria (Reichsgesetzblatt 1939, Part I, p. 995) while another Ordinance of the same date provided for Hess's participation in the administration of the Sudetenland (Reichsgesetzblatt 1939, Part I, p. 997).

(5) Hess, in his capacity as Deputy Leader of the Party, gained control over the German Youth.

An order of 10 July 1934 set up a University Commission of the NSDAP under Hess; an Order of 18 July 1934 placed the NS German Student League directly under Hess; and an Order of 14 November 1934 delegated to the Student League exclusive jurisdiction over the political and ideological education of German students (3132-PS). A Hess Decree of 6 June 1936 established the NS Aid Fund for the Struggle in the Universities (3203-PS; see also 3132-PS and 1392-PS).

The success of this entire program of legislation was described by Hitler as follows:

"In this Reich everybody who has a responsible position is a National Socialist *** Every institution of this Reich is under the orders of the supreme political leadership *** The Party leads the Reich (2715-PS; see 1774-PS and 3163-PS).

In order to enable the conspirators to buttress their power through the armed terror of the SA and SS, Hess, while not actually in control of these Party formations, nevertheless gave them active support. Thus; he was instrumental in establishing the Hitler Grant (a large fund contributed annually by heavy German industry under the chairmanship of Krupp) and in directing part thereof to the support of the SA and SS (D-151) .

When several SA men were convicted for mistreatment of inmates of the Hohnstein concentration camp, two members of the jury which had voted the conviction were expelled from the party (784-PS) .

Finally, when Himmler, Reich Leader of the SS, organized the SD, Hess issued an order establishing the SD as the sole political information service of the Nazi Party, its functions to be exercised through the SS (3385-PS).

Hess also sought to destroy the influence of the independent churches among the German people, in order to wipe out every opposition to the aims of the conspirators. Thus, Hess's Chief of Staff, Bormann, issued numerous orders and communications from Hess's office against the independent churches. Among these were the Secret Order of 27 July 1938 making clergymen ineligible for party offices (113-PS); the Party Directive of 14 July 1939 making the clergy and theology students ineligible for Party membership (840-PS); the letter of 22 February 1940 discussing ways and means of eliminating religious instruction from the schools (098-PS); the report of 25 April on the progressive substitution of National Socialist mottoes in place of morning prayers in the schools (070-PS); the letter to Rosenberg of 17 January 1940 concerning the undesirability of religious literature for members of the Wehrmacht (101-PS); the instructions of 8 March 1940 against the further issuance of newsprint to confessional newspapers (089-PS); and the letter to the Minister of the Interior, in May 1938, agreeing to the invalidation of the Concordat between Austria and the Holy See (675-PS; 838-PS and 107-PS).


Hess was one of the members of the conspiracy who professed as early as 1933 the aim of complete world domination (2385- PS).

In pursuance of that aim Hess threw the power of the Party which he directed, behind the war preparations of the conspiracy. Hess himself described the Party, in this connection, as the mechanism with which to "organize and direct offensively and defensively the spiritual and political strength of the people" (2426-PS).

Hess's tasks in the preparations for aggressive wars fell mainly into the fields of military preparedness, political planning, and fifth-column activities.

(1) Rearmament. Even before 1933 Hess took a personal interest in the secret military training program of the uniformed Party organizations (1143-PS).

After the conspirators had come to power, Hess was one of those who echoed the cry of "guns for butter" in his speeches (2426-PS).

Hess signed the law which reintroduced universal military conscription in Germany on 16 March 1935 (1654-PS). Hess admitted that signing this law was no mere formality for him, but rather the realization of one of his most important aims, when he declared in a speech to Army officers in 1937:

"When I spoke about conscription after 16 March 1935, in what used to be the most radical industrial plant of Munich *** to thousands and thousands of the same workers who but a few years before had been singing the Internationale, I was interrupted again and again by such applause and cheers as I would never have believed possible. That was the most beautiful and at the same time the most moving demonstration of my life (3124- PS).

When the Nazi conspirators were ready to launch their aggressive wars in the fall of 1938, Hess and the Party agencies under his control cooperated with the Army High Command in the mobilization of the German Army (388-PS, Item 32).

(2) Political Planning for War. When the Reich Defense Council was reorganized in September 1938, Hess became one of its members with the express assignment of assuring "the political direction of the nation" (2261-PS).

Hess was also made a member of the Ministers' Council for the Defense of the Reich upon its creation in 1939. Here he continued to exercise an important war-planning function with the specific task of "guaranteeing the unity between Party and State" within that body (2018-PS; 2608-PS).

Hess's functions in the field of political planning for war were not limited to the domestic sphere. He was also a member of the Secret Cabinet Council formed to advise Hitler on foreign policy planning (1377-PS; 3189-PS).

(3) Fifth Column Activities. Hess' most important contribution to the conspirators' preparations for aggressive war lay in his organization of the German fifth- columns abroad through the Foreign Organization (Auslands Organisation (AO)) of the Nazi Party and its various affiliated semi-official organizations. Through these channels Hess succeeded in building up conspiratorial shock- troops in foreign countries, composed of citizens of these countries who were of German "racial stock." These foreign citizens were incited by Hess to acts of treason against their country in furtherance of the plans of the conspiracy. It was the subversive activities of these fifth-column groups which prepared the way for the conspirators' destruction of independence d many countries. Principal among these were Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland.

As his chief instrument in this conspiratorial campaign Hess created the Foreign Organization of the Nazi Party on 3 October 1933. This office was placed directly under Hess, who from then on was known to take the greatest personal interest in its rapid development and expansion (3258-PS; 3401-PS; 3254-PS).

The Foreign Organization extended its activities not only to German citizens living abroad but to all persons allegedly of German ancestry regardless of their foreign citizenship. In the early years after the conspirators' rise to power and up to 1937 his aim was openly admitted by the responsible heads of the Foreign Organization (3258-PS).

Hess announced that it was the task of the Foreign Organization to organize all persons of the German race who lived abroad and to turn them into active Nazi supporters, thus making them subservient to the purposes of the conspiracy. In his speech at the 1937 Congress of the Foreign Organization, Hess declared:

"You stand before me as a slice of the great German racial community, the racial community which extends beyond the borders of our Reich, for National Socialism has not only at home created a national community transcending all classes and groups in a way previously unknown, but it has also included German racial comrades [Volks- Genossen] in foreign countries. It has made them conscious and proud members of this racial community! ***

"Under the leadership of the Foreign Organization, Germandom abroad is also becoming more and more filled with the National Socialist spirit. The Foreign Organization of the NSDAP has brought together the Germans out there, who even long after the seizure of power were disunited and split by class differences, and joined them with Adolf Hitler's Reich. The National Socialist care for Germandom abroad is maintaining an enormous number of Germans for the nation, who otherwise would be absorbed as cultural fertilizer for other nations" (3258-PS).

The same principle was expressed bluntly by Gauleiter Ernst Bohle, head of the Foreign Organization of the NSDAP directly under Hess from 1933 to 1945, who stated in his address at the Nurnberg Party Congress of 1936:

"The Fuehrer had to come in order to hammer into all of us the fact that the German cannot choose and may not, choose whether or not he will be German but that he was sent into this world by God as a German, that God thereby had laid upon him as a German duties of which he cannot divest himself without committing treason to Providence. Therefore we believe and we know that the German everywhere is a German whether he lives in the Reich or in Japan, in France or in China or anywhere else in the world. Not countries or continents, not climate or environments but blood and race determine the world of ideas of the German." (3258-PS).

Hess was also in control of all other semi-official organizations associated with the Foreign Organization in fifth-column work among foreign citizens of German ancestry, for the purpose of gaining foreign support for the conspiracy. Thus, by a Secret Circular of 3 February 1939, Hess ordered the consolidation of the undercover activities of all organizations active in the foreign field, subject to the central direction of SS Gruppenfuehrer Werner Lorenz, head of the Volks-deutsche Mittelstelle (Central Agency for Racial Germans) (837-PS).

The two most important of these semi-official agencies were the VDA (League for Germandom Abroad) and the DAI (German Foreign Institute). The VDA was a vast world-wide organization giving financial support to various activities of German groups abroad without regard to their nationality. Its large funds were collected in Germany with the aid of the Nazi Government (258-PS). The aim of the activities of the VDA was to establish a great German world empire of 100,000,000 inhabitants, containing all persons of German "racial stock" everywhere, including millions of American citizens (3258-PS). The DAI was a world-wide information intelligence and propaganda service (3258-PS).

Hess repeatedly stressed the importance of using Germans abroad for spreading Nazi propaganda (124-PS).

The DAI also based its activities on the proposition that all persons of German ancestry belonged to the Nazi German Reich, though they held citizenship in foreign countries. This was stated by Nazi Minister-President Mergenthaler of Wuerttemberg in his address at the 1933 annual meeting of the DAI:

"The liberalist ideology which has been overcome dealt with the formal concept of the citizen. We have gotten rid of that. Today the blood-united German racial comrade stands in the center. That is the new foundation upon which we must build ***. Hence I want to impress on the DAI: Join us therefore in taking care that the spirit of National Socialism also becomes alive among the German racial comrades in foreign countries so that streams of energy may emanate from it." (3258- PS).

At the annual meeting held by the DAI in 1937, Frick restated in his address the fundamental aim of this organization: to unite every person of German "racial stock" under the control of the Nazi conspirators.

"*** the new Germany has recognized that its attention and devotion to the welfare of the millions of Germans who have not the fortune to owe political allegiance to Germany, but who are condemned to live abroad, are not merely a matter of natural sympathy and solidarity but are in a higher degree dictated by the strong political and economic interests of the Reich." (3258-PS).

It is noteworthy that the DAI was closely affiliated with the German-American Bund, a subversive Nazi organization in the United States. The DAI's official periodical, "Germandom Abroad" (Deutschtum im Ausland), was edited during the war Walter Kappe, former press chief of the Bund (3258-PS). Walter Kappe and Fritz Gissibl, another former leader in the Bund, established on the premises of the DAI in Stuttgart an organization called "Comradeship USA." The purpose of this "Comradeship USA." was to maintain during the war an organization for all Nazi Party members who had been active in the Bund in the United States (3258-PS). Even before the outbreak of the war, in the spring of 1939, Walter Kappe had undertaken to collect a complete archive of Nazi activities in the U. S. on behalf of the DAI and the Nazi Party (3258- PS).

The success of this world-wide fifth column directed by Hess now a matter of historical record. Hess himself guided the subversive foreign groups which he had created until the day when the conspirators were ready to annex the countries which they had undermined.

Thus, the annexation of Austria was principally due to the efforts of the Nazi Party's work within that country under the orders of Hess. As early as 1934 Hess had appointed Reinthaler leader of the Nazi peasants in Austria, and thus placed him in a position to take over the leadership of the Nazi Fifth Column in Austria (812-PS). Hess took a major part in the negotiations carried on by Seyss-Inquart and other members of the conspiracy in preparation of the Anschluss (3254-PS; 3425-PS). When on 12 March 1938 Germany invaded Austria, Hess, accompanied by Himmler, was the first member of the conspiracy to arrive in Vienna at noon on the same day (L-292). The next day Hess signed the decree by which the conspirators destroyed the independence of Austria (2307-PS; 3075-PS).

Once the conspirators had achieved their aim, Hess did not hesitate to admit publicly that he had approved of the steps which led to the final subjection of Austria. On 24 July 1938 he addressed a meeting held on the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss by members of the 89th SS Regiment. He devoted the larger part of his speech to a justification of that assassination (L- 273).

When the conspirators turned their attention to their next victim, Czechoslovakia, Hess was again in the forefront directing the German fifth-column in the Sudetenland. In his speech at the annual meeting of the Foreign Organization of the NSDAP on 28 August 1938, Hess declared that Nazi Germany was giving full backing to the demands of the Sudeten German agitators. What such support meant in fact became very clear when Hess pointed to the success of the Nazi policy in Austria (3258-PS). All through the summer of 1938 Hess was engaged in consultations with Karl H. Frank and Konrad Henlein, leaders of the Nazi Sudeten German Party (3061-PS).

A few months later Hess could mark up another success for his fifth-column. When the Munich Agreement forced Czechoslovakia to surrender the Sudeten territory to Germany, Hess went to Reichenberg, the capital of that district, as Hitler's representative in order to accept the official incorporation of the Sudeten German Party into the Nazi Party on 5 November 1938. In his address on that occasion he emphasized repeatedly that the Nazi conspirators had been ready to go to war for the possession of the Sudetenland (3204-PS).

Hess also put his signature to the Act of 14 April 1939 setting up the government of the Sudetenland as an integral part of the Reich (3076-PS).

Later during the same year, after the conspirators had loosed their first aggressive war, Hess signed the laws incorporating first Danzig and then a large portion of Poland into the Reich (3077-PS; see also Decree 8 October 1939 (RGBl 1939, Part I, p. 2042); Decree of 12 October 1939, Part I, p.-2077).

When in July 1941 the Nazi conspirators occupied Greece, the members of the local Nazi Party were ready to take over as an auxiliary Army service (3258-PS).

Thus, wherever the conspirators sent their invading armies Hess' fifth-column had prepared the soil.


Hess, as Deputy Leader of the Nazi Party, had the task of realizing its "ideological" program (3200-PS).

One of the demands of this conspiratorial program was the destruction of so-called inferior racial stock. Persons who suffered -from hereditary insanity or other hereditary diseases were considered useless to the Nazi community. They were therefore to be killed or at least to be prevented from procreating their kind.

In order to carry out this plan Hess established a special Racial -Policy Division on his Staff under Dr. alter Gross, by his order of 17 November 1933. This Division was to "participate with the competent government agencies in all race and population measures" (3322-PS; 3163-PS). In addition, other agencies of the Nazi Party, under Hess, actively cooperated in the administration of this criminal program (D-181; 842-PS; 1969-PS).

In 1937 Hess publicly claimed credit for having used his Party organization in order to gain the nation's approval for compulsory sterilization (3124-PS; 3067-PS).

More important still in the Nazi program were the persecution and extermination of religious and racial minorities. Hess vigorously propagated the doctrine of the superiority of the German race with which the conspirators sought to justify these persecutions

The Nurnberg Laws, which constituted the legal basis of this campaign, were the work of the Party. This was solemnly announced by Hitler in the peroration of the address in which he announced these laws to the Reichstag in Nurnberg 15 September 1935:

"I now propose to the Reichstag the acceptance of those laws which Party member Goering will read to you.

"The first and second laws fulfill the program of the National Socialist Party in one important respect, and thereby pay a debt of gratitude to the Movement under whose symbol Germany has regained her freedom.

"The second law constitutes an attempt to solve by legislation a problem, the final solution of which, if it should again fail, will then have to be referred by law to the National Socialist Party. All three laws are backed by the National Socialist Party and with it and behind it by the German Nation.

"I ask you to accept these laws." (3419-PS).

Hess, along with Frick, was placed in charge of the administration of the Nurnberg Laws and of the issuance of ordnances and regulations thereunder (1416-PS; 3179-PS; 1417- PS; 2124-PS) .

With the launching of their aggressive wars, the Nazi conspirators embarked on the execution of their plan to exterminate the non-German populations which fell into their hands. This plan, especially insofar as it concerned the Jews, had been bluntly revealed by Hitler well in advance in his address to the Reichstag on 30 January 1939:

"If inter-national finance-Jewry inside and outside Europe should succeed in throwing the nations into another World War, the result will not be the Bolshevization of the earth and thus the victory of Jewry, but the destruction of the Jewish race n Europe!" (3418-PS).

In support of this campaign, which was continued by his coconspirators after his flight to Scotland, Hess issued an order through his Party Chancery on behalf of the SS, which had been put in charge of the extermination program. In this order, Hess demanded the support of all Party members for the recruiting drive of the SS Army Corps (Waffen SS). Hess added that these SS formations were scheduled for service in the Eastern occupied areas, where their "special training in race matters" could be used to best advantage (3245-PS).

By a series of further legislative and administrative measures, Hess participated in the establishment of a special regime in Poland which deprived the inhabitants of that country of their legal protection, and thus initiated their wholesale extermination (R-139; R-96; R-141).

In pursuance of the same policy Hess signed the decree which forced certain groups of Polish citizens to surrender their original national allegiance and to accept German citizenship (Decree of 24 October 1939, RGBl 1939, Part I, p. 2077).

Hess also signed the decree establishing the German Racial Register, under which Allied nationals of German stock were registered and then compelled to accept German nationality and to remove to German territory (2917-PS).

Hess also used Party channels in order to incite the German people to violations of the rules of war. Thus, he ordered that the population be instructed to seize Allied parachutists or to "liquidate them"

Hess also issued instructions to enforce Hitler's orders prohibiting the reconstruction of the city of Warsaw or of any of Poland's destroyed industries (EC-411).

On 10 May 1941, Hess flew to Scotland for the purpose of seeking an end to the war with England, and support for Germany's demands against Russia. Upon his arrival, he was incarcerated and thus forcibly eliminated from further participation in the crimes of the conspiracy (D-614).


Of all the members of the Nazi conspiracy, Hess was closest to Hitler from the first. As Hitler's secretary and A. d. C., as his Deputy, and finally as his Second Successor Designate, Hess as at all times his direct representative in all Party matters. Thus, the conspiracy's most powerful instrument of political action rested in his hands.

Hess used this power to penetrate and dominate the German government administration with National Socialist functionaries; to control legislation and education; and to persecute all independent groups, especially the churches and the Jews.

Being responsible for the political direction and control of the German people, through the Party, Hess played a decisive role in preparing the nation for war. He furthered the secret rearmament of the Party's military formations; he signed the Conscription Law of 1935; he sat on the Reichs Defense Council, the inner Cabinet in which the heads of the conspiracy blue-printed the administrative, economic, and political preparation of their aggressive wars.

Hess, above all, was responsible for the creation and direction of the Nazi fifth-column, in which foreign citizens of German extraction joined under the Nazi banner to weaken and undermine those countries which the Nazi conspirators had determined to subjugate.

All through the years from 1920 to 1941 Hess remained the most faithful and relentless executor of Hitler's aims and designs. This complete devotion to the success of the conspiracy was climaxed by his flight to Scotland in an attempt to end the war with England and to receive English support for Germany's demands against Russia, which he had helped to prepare.

The share of Hess' participation in the Nazi conspiracy is as great as that of the Party which he directed. The Party's crimes are his.

Sources: Nizkor. Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression, Volume II, Chapter XVI, pp. 690-709.
*Conot, Robert. Justice At Nuremberg. NY: Carroll & Graf, 1984.