For the past two decades, every 17 August has seen the small Bavarian town of Wunsiedel become overwhelmed by neo-Nazi pilgrims. The far-right gathers to commemorate the death of Rudolf Hess, the Nazi deputy to Adolf Hitler
, who was buried in the town cemetery.
Now officials in Wunsiedel are hoping they have come up with a way of keeping the rightwing hordes away. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Hess's remains were exhumed and the gravestone – which read "Ich hab's gewagt" or "I have dared" – has been destroyed.
With the agreement of his family members, his remains were then to be cremated and his ashes scattered at sea. The opportunity to remove the grave came when Hess's granddaughter applied for a 20-year extension of the grave's lease, which was due to expire in October.
"We decided not to extend the lease because of all the unrest and disturbances," said Peter Seisser, the chairman of the parish council.
Although some relatives initially objected to the exhumation, negotiations between the church's pastor and Hess's granddaughter resulted in the agreement to remove the remains from the town.