Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Vol. 1
Previous Document Volume 1 Contents Next Document


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 f 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.

5. Competence and sanity. I have teed the application of Dr. Seidl both in German and in English, and wish to make the following comment:

a. Lay discussion of psychiatric concepts does not help throw any light on this case, because psychiatrists themselves are not in agreement on the definition of terms like "psychopathic constitution", "hysterical reaction", etc., and these terms have entirely different meanings in English and German usage.

b. The psychiatric commissions have agreed, and my further observations have confirmed, that Hess is not insane (in the legal sense of being incapable of distinguishing right from wrong or realizing the consequences of his acts).

c. Hess did recover his memory for a sufficient period of time (2-3 months) to give his counsel ample cooperation in the preparation of his defense. If he failed to do so, it was the result of a negativistic personality peculiarity, which I have also observed, and not incompetence.

d. There has been no indication in his case history or present behavior that he was insane at the time of the activities for which he has been indicted. His behavior throughout the trial has also shown sufficient insight and reason to dispel any doubts about his sanity. (He may have gone through a psychotic episode in England, but that in no way destroys the validity of the previous two statements. He has exhibited signs of a "persecution complex" here too, but these have not been of psychotic proportions.)

e. In my opinion, another examination by a psychiatric commission at this time would not throw any further light on the case, because the clinical picture is the same and the conclusions would necessarily be the same as those of the original psychiatric commissions, to wit: Hess is not insane but suffering from hysterical amnesia. I have discussed this case with the present prison psychiatrist, .Lt. Col. Dunn, who has recently examined Hess, and he is also of the opinion that Hess's present mental state is apparently the same as that indicated in the original psychiatric reports, which he has read.

/ s / G. M. GILBERT, Ph.D.
Prison Psychologist


(*) 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." Return to the Text

Previous Document Volume 1 Contents Next Document

127 Wall Street, New Haven, CT 06511.