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German Politician Calls for the Release of Hess, Other Ex-nazis

The release of Rudolf Hess, and four other Nazi war criminals serving life sentences abroad, has been urged by Alois Mertes, spokesman for the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Bundestag faction. In a statement released here, Mertes said that the continued incarceration of these aged and ill men no longer makes moral or legal sense.

In addition to Hess, Hitler’s one-time deputy, the prisoners are Franz Fischer and Ferdinand Aus Der Fuenten, both imprisoned in Holland for the last 36 years; Walter Reeder, jailed in Italy; and Erich Koch, jailed in Poland for the last 31 years. Hess, now 87, has been in the Allied prison of Spandau in West Berlin since Oct. 1, 1966 and is the only inmate there.

The former Deputy Fuehrer was sentenced to life imprisonment by the International Court in Nuremberg. The Bonn government has pressured the U.S., Britain and France over the years for his release but the Soviets have categorically refused to endorse such a move. Mertes, in his statement, reiterated Bonn’s long-standing request.

There is, in fact, a strong group lobbying in West Germany for the release of Hess. It has mounted public campaigns and undertaken legal moves, including challenging the validity of the sentences imposed by the Nuremberg court shortly after World War II. So far it has been unsuccessful.

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