Newly released secret files: Russia blocked UK plans to free Rudolf Hess
Britain tried in vain to allow Hitler`s deputy to be freed after 30 years in jail for war crimes, according to newly released secret files.
However, the Russians never forgave Rudolf Hess for what they believed was his double treachery in seeking peace with Britain just before the Nazis launched their attack on the Soviet Union.
The documents, released to National Archives in Kew, south-west London, relate to the period between 1973 and 1974, when Hitler`s former deputy had been the sole prisoner in the Allied Military Prison in Berlin - Spandau - for about eight years.
The prison was jointly governed by Britain, France, America and Russia. By 1974 the western allies were prepared to allow Hess to live in limited freedom but they were powerless unless the Soviets agreed.
Correspondence between the countries reveals the depths of scrutiny of Hess`s movements and the tensions over his release.
It took 32 military guards, 20 warders and four prison governors - one from each Allied country - to maintain round-the-clock surveillance.
In 1974, as Hess approached his 80th birthday alone in Spandau, British appeals for clemency were backed by President Nixon in America and the French and West German governments.
There was wide support for a humanitarian release. One of the supporters was Airey Neave, the Tory MP who had been an official at the Nuremburg war crimes trials and a prisoner of war in Colditz.
According to the documents, he told William Rogers, the Labour foreign secretary: "Hess is confined in very cramped quarters and the Russians interpret the regulations very harshly. I hope you share my view that this is inhuman, and that the Soviet policy of vengeance towards a man of 79 should not prevail."
But the Russian gaolers kept up a relentless campaign of humiliation.
Their attitude was summed up by the Soviet party newspaper Pravda, which decreed: "The conscience of the people dictates that the Hitlerite lieutenant Hess must drink his retribution to the bottom of the cup."
Hess flew to Britain on May 10, 1941 seeking to end the war with the western allies. His terms were rejected but the Russian leader, Josef Stalin, believed he had tipped off Winston Churchill about Hitler`s invasion of Russian territory on June 22, repudiating their non-aggression treaty.
Hess died in Spandau in August 1987, aged 93. A verdict of suicide was recorded, because of an electric cord around his neck, although his family claimed he had been murdered by his captors.