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Body of Hitler aide Hess taken from grave

The remains of Adolf Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess, have been dug up in order to stop neo-Nazis treating his grave as a pilgrimage site.

The exhumation from a graveyard in the small Bavarian town of Wunsiedel took place in a secret operation in the early hours of Wednesday. The remains will now be cremated and the ashes scattered at sea on a date set by his family.

"The grave is now empty," cemetery spokesman Andreas Fabel said yesterday.

Hess was captured in 1941 when he parachuted into a field near Glasgow, Scotland, on a mission to negotiate peace between Britain and Germany.

The attempt was denounced by Hitler, and Hess later told British authorities that the Nazi leader knew nothing of it.

He served out the rest of the war as a prisoner in Britain, before being sentenced to life imprisonment at the Nuremberg war trials.

He committed suicide in 1987 at the age of 93. At the time he was the only inmate of Berlin's Spandau prison. Allied authorities said he hanged himself with an electrical cord. The prison was demolished shortly afterwards.

His grave soon became a site of pilgrimage for far-right extremists.

In 2004 an estimated 4,500 neo-Nazis from around the world descended on the town.

Bearing pictures of Hess and banners describing him as a martyr, they marched to the cemetery, and many acknowledged his grave with fascist salutes.

Embarrassed by the town's unsavoury reminder of Germany's past, this year the Lutheran church, which supervises the cemetery, terminated the Hess family's lease on the grave plot.

Holocaust survivors welcomed the move. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent