Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess, is not well known outside of Germany. This begs the following questions: Was there a deputy for Hitler? And what was his role? What was his fate?
Interestingly, Hitler's deputy was born in Egypt and studied there for most of his school years, and later visited the country. He was fluent in the rural Arabic dialect that was prominent in Gharbiya Governorate.
In the late nineteenth century, Hess’s father came to Egypt in search of a better opportunity for investing and raising money. Walter Hess lived with his wife in Alexandria, and in 1894 his son Rudolf was born in the Ibrahimia neighbourhood.
Rudolf joined the German School in Alexandria and became a child of the city. Alexandria was similar to contemporary New York in its social and cultural diversity and its cosmopolitan presence.
However, Walter was unable to achieve his capitalist goals in Alexandria, so he moved to Gharbiya governorate to work and live. There was a German community in Zefta at that time.
Walter lived in the city of Zefta, where he established a modern house and bought two acres of land on which he built a large workshop to manufacture and repair agricultural and textile machinery. He also owned two flour mills and a mansion in Kafr El-Junaidi town, which was known as the Hess Mansion at the time. Now, it is called the Heet Mansion.
Researchers say the Zefta city council still possesses documents related to the Hess property. These include a hand-drawn map of the land on which the workshop was built as well as the city’s rejection of Hess’s request to build a wall around the workshop.
I have heard from the grandchildren of people who interacted with the Hess family in Gharbiya, who say that Rudolf Hess was fond of the city of Tanta and enjoyed many friendships there. Although the family resided in Zefta, Rudolf visited Tanta regularly, and he even asked his father to consider the possibility of moving there, while keeping the property in Zefta.
Rudolf was 16 years old when he left Egypt in 1910, but he returned to spend the summer there in 1912. When the British authorities in Egypt confiscated his father’s property in 1914, following the outbreak of World War I, Rudolf returned to Zefta in 1925, where he succeeded in cancelling the confiscation and recovering the property.
In 1934, Hess senior decided it was time to leave, especially after his son became the person closest to the new German leader, Adolf Hitler, who had risen to power a year earlier. Hess senior sold his property in Zefta to Hajj Ibrahim El-Fakhrani, who was the foreman and first assistant to Walter Hess.
Hess senior returned to Germany, but did not stay there long, as he soon returned to live in Alexandria with his wife. The Hess family remained in Alexandria until the outbreak of World War II in 1939, when the British clampdown on Germans around the world escalated.
Rudolf Hess was Hitler's deputy at that time. Hess sent to Ahmed Maher Pasha, Egypt's prime minister, asking for his help. Historians say that he sent a message to Maher Pasha through his friend Kamal El-Din Jalal, in which he said: "You know that I was born in Egypt, and that I love Egypt and the Egyptians, and I hope that the Egyptian government will facilitate the travel of my father and mother, as well as some Germans who were detained by the war." Maher Pasha accepted the request of Hitler's deputy, and sent his family on a ship that departed Alexandria a few days later.
Hess was close at the time to Hassan Nashat Pasha, the Egyptian ambassador in Berlin. There is a picture of them talking on one occasion in Berlin in 1938, and the friendship between them seems strong.
Hess's father had witnessed during his years of living in Zefta the rise of the Egyptian national movement against British colonialism. Zefta was a symbol of heroism and resistance during the revolution of 1919.
Egypt was officially occupied by Britain in 1914. When Egypt saw that the international powers were not responsive to its demands for independence after the end of World War I in 1918, the 1919 revolution broke out and was led by Saad Zaghloul.
When Zaghloul was exiled to the Seychelles, demonstrations erupted. The elite in the city of Zefta, led by Youssef El-Gendy, announced their independence. It was an exciting experience that went down in history as the establishment of “the Republic of Zefta."
The British occupation decided to overthrow the Republic of Zefta, sending massive forces to storm the city. But it was faced with valiant resistance and solid steadfastness. The British forces returned to the city of MitGhamr to prepare for a new assault, but they were again faced with gallant defiance from the people of MitGhamr.
The British were infuriated by their entrapment between MitGhamr and Zefta. One of the most famous colonial British dicta was: “What’s worse than Zefta is MitGhamr.” This saying signifies the greatness of the two cities and the heroism of their peoples.
The family of Ibrahim El-Fakharani, who bought the Hess property, was among the families who participated in the declaration of the Zefta Republic. Perhaps the British authorities’ confiscation of the Hess property, his experience during the 1919 revolution, and the declaration of the Republic of Zefta were among the reasons for Rudolf's resentment of Britain. He described Britain after its confiscation of the family’s money as a “pirate state”. In the estimation of some, Hitler's position on Britain was influenced by Hess's opinion, since Hess was with Hitler in prison and received the dictation for Hitler’s book Mein Kampf.
While Hess’s father was witnessing the events of the Zefta Republic in Egypt, Rudolf was studying at the University of Munich. He was influenced by his professor of geopolitics, who believed that Germany should expand to the east and control Eastern Europe.
Moreover, historians claim that Hess’s professor at the University of Munich was the one who convinced him of the necessity of German expansion, and that Hess, in turn, convinced Hitler of the same idea. After one year of studying at the University of Munich in 1919, Hess met Hitler in 1920. He then joined the Nazi Party and became dedicated to serving Hitler.
In addition to his support and praise for Hitler, Hess also took part in the failed coup led by Hitler in 1923. The blunder known as the Beer Hall Putsch ended with Hitler's escape and later arrest. He was sentenced for five years in prison. Less than a year after his imprisonment, Hitler was issued an official pardon and was released in 1924.
The Weimar Republic in Germany, which began in 1919 in the aftermath of World War I, was facing many difficulties in politics, the economy and status. Nonetheless, it was a democratic republic with a distinguished constitution and a rational, civilised vision.
The difficulties defeated the republic, however, and Nazism eliminated democracy. In 1933, Hitler became the new emperor of the country, and restored to Germany the name “Reich,” a German word for "empire".
Hess, who was a secretary, then an assistant, and eventually a deputy for Hitler, did not discuss or argue with the leader. This relationship prompted some members of the Nazi party to call him the "brown mouse" who listens to orders, obeys without hesitation, and then executes orders mercilessly and cold-bloodedly.
Hess dominated all the bad headlines. He was a murderer and a war criminal who directed many mass killings, especially the killing of huge numbers of Jews. During his trial in Nuremberg, he confessed to the horrific crimes of extermination in the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp.
In May 1941, Hess committed one of the strangest acts of World War II. The war between Germany and Britain was very violent, and the German bombing of Britain was uninterrupted. In this heated atmosphere, Hess did a strange move. It was also his last move prior to his imprisonment.
Rudolf Hess boarded a German military plane and flew during the night to Great Britain. After five-and-a-half hours, Hitler's deputy arrived at his destination in Scotland.
Hess parachuted out of the plane, letting it crash into a field. A farmer picked up the German visitor who fell from the sky. When the police received him, he asked to meet Lord Hamilton, who was one of the most prominent figures in Great Britain. He also occupied a high military position at the time.
Hess revealed his identity to Lord Hamilton and reminded him of their meeting at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, which were attended by Hitler. It is known that Hess wanted a German-British peace, on the condition that Churchill leave power and another British prime minister take over to sign peace with Hitler.
Churchill ordered Hess's imprisonment. Hitler’s deputy remained in prison until the end of World War II. Germany was defeated. Hess was tried and sentenced to life in prison.
Hitler denied that he had sent Hess to Great Britain. To this day, London has not released any documents in this regard. In May 2021, Sergei Naryshkin, the director of Russian intelligence, criticised London for not revealing any documents that might implicate Great Britain in prompting Nazi Germany to attack the Soviet Union.
It is said that British intelligence had planted a fortune-teller in Hess’s path. One day the fortune-teller read Hess’s fortune and told him that he would have an important historical role if he sought peace. It is told that the fortune-teller’s “planned prophecy” was allegedly what prompted Hess to go to Great Britain.
Britain has the secrets of the whole story, but what is known to the world is that what happened was a mysterious adventure undertaken by a mysterious politician in a nervous and complex moment.
Hess spent his life between one prison in Britain and another in Berlin. He passed away in 1987 at 93 years old.
Maximum security provided from four countries – the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and France – rotated every three months for the Hess cell. The press named him “the most expensive prisoner in the world.”
When Hess committed suicide in 1987 in prison in Berlin, his family said that he did not kill himself. Also, neo-Nazis claimed that the British guards killed him. As for Hess's doctor, he said that the body he saw was not Hess's.
In 2019, after more than 30 years, a scientific team from the Austrian University of Salzburg announced that the body belonged to Hess. The finding was based on the cross-examination of a sample of Hess’s blood—the sample was present at a military medical centre in the United States—and the DNA of one of Hess’s grandchildren.
Hess became a symbol for neo-Nazis. He did not declare his "repentance" from Nazism. He even said: "I do not regret anything,” and continued to repeat Nazi views.
Neo-Nazis started visiting Hess's tomb. In 2005, the number of neo-Nazis exceeded 5,000 people, which caused distress in the city that housed his remains in Bavaria. This was also a source of concern for the German people.
In June 2011, the German authorities removed Hess’s tomb completely. His body was cremated, and his ashes were thrown into the sea.
In 2013, Hess's daughter Brigitta spoke with the American newspaper The Washington Post, denying that her father committed any crimes and claiming that he had confessed under pressure. Brigitta, who lives in Washington, requested to stay anonymous for fear of any potential assaults.
Brigitta’s story is not substantiated. It does not carry any scientific or historical value. Her information does not go beyond the fact that she is Hess’s daughter. The information is family information only. Her words are like any words from a daughter about her father, confounded with a lot of passion and little knowledge.
Neither Hitler nor his deputy grew up in Germany. Hitler grew up in Austria, and Hess grew up in Egypt. But together, and with others, they participated in the biggest catastrophe that befell humanity. More than 70 million people were killed in World War II, after which life collapsed in most countries of the world.
The "Brown Mouse" passed away without lament. The wealth that came from Egypt and the power that came from Germany ended up in the hands of a person who refused to give his country security. So, his country refused to give him a grave. As he was ordered to burn the innocent, his body was cremated and thrown into the sea.
The neo-Nazis are committing a grave mistake by believing that history can repeat itself. Hate should not be revived. Death should not be summoned. The likes of Rudolf Hess should not find a second chance in our world. The world has enough poverty and disease.
The era of the “brown mice” is over. It shouldnot come back.
* This article is an excerpt from an upcoming book to be published in 2023 by Dar Al Shorouk, Egypt.