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ON THIS DAY

17 August 1987: Hitler’s deputy found dead. Rudolf Hess, who was Adolf Hilter’s right-hand man at the start of World War II, has been found dead. The body of Hess, 93, was found in the grounds of Spandau Prison in west Berlin, where he had been held since his conviction in 1946 at the Nuremberg war crimes trial. There are unconfirmed reports that he may have committed suicide. For more than 20 years Hess was the only inmate at the prison after the release of Albert Speer and Baldur von Schirach in October 1966. The Soviet Union – which had joint control of the prison with the US, Britain and France – would not agree to Hess being set free. They argued that as one of the most senior figures in the Nazi regime he should have been executed. Rudolf Hess was among the first to join the Nazi party in 1920. He took part in the abortive coup attempt in 1923 when Hitler tried to overthrow the Bavarian government and subsequently spent time in jail with the Nazi party leader. After they were released in 1925, Hess became Hitler’s personal assistant and private secretary. By the time war broke out between Germany and Britain in 1939 Hess was a minister in the Nazi regime whose signature appeared on all new legislation. In 1941 Rudolf Hess secretly flew to Scotland to try and negotiate a peace treaty but was arrested. When news of his flight reached Germany he was disowned by Hitler. Questions regarding Hess’ sanity were raised both during his internment in Britain and his trial at Nuremberg. It is expected his body will be taken to his hometown of Wunsiedel in Bavaria for burial once a post mortem has been carried out. (Source: BBC)

13 August 1961: Berliners wake to divided city. Troops in East Germany have sealed the border between East and West Berlin, shutting off the escape route for thousands of refugees from the East. Barbed wire fences up to six feet (1.83 metres) high were put up during the night, and Berliners woke this morning to find themselves living in a divided city. Train services between the two sectors of the city have been cut, and all road traffic across the border has been stopped. Thousands of angry demonstrators quickly gathered on the West Berlin side of the divide. At one crossing point, protesters tried to trample down the barbed wire, only to be driven back by guards with bayonets. The West German Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, appealed for calm, saying in a broadcast to the nation this evening: “Now, as always, we are closely bound to the Germans of the Russian zone and East Berlin. “They are and remain our German brothers and sisters. The Federal Government remains firmly committed to the goal of German unity.” There has been outrage from the international community at the abrupt decision to cut off one side of the city from the other. A Foreign Office spokesman in London said the restrictions were contrary to the four-power status of Berlin, and therefore illegal. The American Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, called it a “flagrant violation” of East-West agreements, and said there would be a vigorous protest to Russia. The tide of people fleeing East Germany has grown to a flood in recent days, as the Soviet Union has taken an increasingly hard line over breaking away from the three Allied powers and forming a separate peace treaty with East Germany over Berlin. Nearly 12,500 people left East Germany this week – over 2,000 more than the previous week. The East German government has been taking desperate measures to stem the flow. Yesterday, border guards were intercepting trains near Berlin and interrogating passengers. Those who arrived in Berlin said only one in 10 was allowed through. There had been rumours of a decisive crackdown on refugees since the East German parliament met yesterday and approved new, unspecified measures against them. The rumours provoked an even more frantic exodus. Just before the borders were closed, the numbers more than doubled. (Source: BBC)

14 August 1969. British troops s

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