In September 1973, Dr. Hugh Thomas – a surgeon at the British Military Hospital in Berlin – was called to perform a routine physical on the only inmate at Spandau Prison: Rudolph Hess, the former Deputy Führer of Germany. Though Hess had been seriously wounded in World War I, Thomas noticed that no scars or other marks from those wounds were visible on the prisoner’s torso. He would later recall Hess’ reaction when asked about the absence of injuries. (Thomas, who came to believe the prisoner at Spandau was not really Rudolph Hess, referred to him as “Number 7″ – his inmate identifier.)
The question had a startling effect. The patient’s manner changed instantly. From being in a sunny, cheerful mood, he turned chalk-white and began to shake. For an instant he stared at me in what appeared bewilderment or even utter disbelief. Then he looked down and avoided my eyes. After what felt like ages he muttered, “too late, too late.”
He was shaking so violently that I was afraid he might have a heart attack, so I murmured something inconsequential and stepped quietly backward. Number 7 stood up and shuffled across the room towards the changing cubicle … for the next ten minutes, Number 7 remained shut into the cubicle, ignoring the ever-efficient McClean’s offers of further help and refusing to come out. When he did re-emerge, fully dressed again in his old grey suit, he was still severely distressed. He obviously wanted nothing to do with me.
Thomas, Hugh. The Murder of Rudolph Hess. New York: Harper & Row, 1979. 24-25. Print.
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