BERLIN – The bones of Adolf Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess, have been removed from their grave in a small Bavarian town that had become a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis.
Before dawn Wednesday, workers exhumed Hess's bones from the grave in the Wunsiedel cemetery, then cremated the remains and scattered them secretly in a lake, whose name and location are not being divulged, cemetery administrator Andreas Fabel told The Associated Press.
"The grave is now empty," he said on Thursday. "The bones are gone."
The attempt was denounced by Hitler, and Hess later told British authorities that the Nazi leader knew nothing of it.
In recent years, Hess has come to be seen as a martyr by the far-right and thousands of neo-Nazis have used the anniversary of his death as an occasion to hold large rallies, with Wunsiedel -- near the Czech border -- often a focal point.
Most such rallies have been banned since stricter laws were implemented in 2005, but the grave continued to attract far-right extremists to the town.
With the lease on the burial plot coming up for renewal in October, Hess' relatives and Lutheran church authorities in the town decided it was best to remove the remains, Fabel said.
"Both sides were in favor of it," he said.
Hess was an early confidant of Hitler's, and, while Hitler was imprisoned in the 1920s, the Nazi leader dictated much of his infamous manifesto "Mein Kampf," or "My Struggle," to him.
Hess eventually rose to the position of deputy Nazi party leader, but by 1941 his influence with Hitler was waning. His flight to Scotland is widely seen by historians as an attempt to restore his importance.
Instead, Hitler said he was delusional and the British treated him as a prisoner of war.
At the Nuremberg trials after the war, Hess was found innocent of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against peace and conspiracy to commit crimes against peace.
Hess was the last inmate at Spandau Prison in then-West Berlin when he died on Aug. 17, 1987 at age 93. Allied authorities said he hanged himself with an electrical cord. The prison was demolished shortly afterward and the rubble secretly disposed of.
Hess was buried in his family plot in Wunsiedel, at his request.