MENTAL COMPETENCE OF DEFENDANT HESS *
17 August 1946
SUBJECT: Competence of Defendant Rudolf Hess
TO : General Secretary, International Military Tribunal.
1. In compliance with the Tribunal's request, the following facts and studied opinions are submitted with respect to the competence of Rudolf Hess, based on my continual tests and observations from October 1945 to the present time, in the capacity of prison psychologist:
2. Amnesia at beginning of trial. There can be no doubt that Hess was in a state of virtually complete amnesia at the beginning of the trial. The opinions of the psychiatric commissions in this regard and with respect to his sanity have only been substantiated by prolonged subsequent observation.
3. Recovery. On the day of the special hearing in his case, 30 November 1945, Rudolf Hess did, in fact, recover his memory. The cause of his sudden recovery is an academic question, but the following event probably played a part: Just before the hearing I told Hess (as a challenge) that he might be considered incompetent at that time and excluded from the proceedings, but I would sometimes see him in his cell. Hess seemed startled and said he thought he was competent. Then he gave his declaration of malingering in court, apparently as a face-saving device. In later conversations he admitted to me that he had not been malingering, and that he knew he had lost his memory twice in England. During the months of December 1945, and January 1946, his memory was quite in order.
4. Relapse. At the end of January I began to notice the beginnings of memory failure. This increased progressively during February, until he returned to a state of virtually complete amnesia again about the beginning of March, and he has remained in that state ever since. (At the beginning of relapse, Hess expressed anxiety over it, saying that no one would believe him this time after he had said he had faked his amnesia the first time.) The amnesia is progressive, each day's events being quickly forgotten. At present his memory span is about one-half day, and his apprehension span has dropped from 7 to 4 digits repeated correctly immediately after hearing.
* This report was referred to Counsel for Defendant Hess by order of the Tribunal, 20 August 1946, in reference to the motion of 2 August 1946 on behalf of the defendant. This motion, which reviewed at length the previous examinations and psychiatric history of Defendant Hess, was a request "to subject the Defendant Hess once more . . . to an examination by psychiatric experts with regard to his ability to stand trial and his soundness of mind."
Last modified: October 10, 1998