In one week in July 1947, Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister, walked out of discussions with his British and French counterparts about the American offer of Marshall Aid; Europe was divided, east and west; and the seven surviving major Nazi war criminals who had been tried and condemned by the victorious allies at Nuremberg were moved, the subject of a special four-power agreement, into Spandau Prison in what was to become West Berlin. Guarded turn and turn about by platoons of American, British, French and Russian soldiers and warders, they began to serve out their sentences, a sign that there was still sufficient agreement about the past for neither side to wish to see the division as irrevocable. Always guarded by 58 people, Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy, now 92, still lives, the lone prisoner of Spandau. Without Russian agreement the others are not prepared to release him from his life sentence. Whenever this last vestige of four-power control of that great city from which the war was launched has been challenged, no one has had the confidence that the rules could be changed without the final destruction of Europe. Rudolf Hess still remains as a symbol that complete disagreement with the Soviet Union has never been reached and may not be possible. The only occasion on which the Soviet Union seems seriously to have considered releasing him was in 1974 when the Bishop of Berlin suggested that he be replaced by an anti-Fascist museum designed and operated by the same four powers who run the gaol.
LRB 7 August 1986 | PDF Download