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Playing Rudolf Hess

Latchmere House, London, 1941

"In the interrogation room, MI6 Major Frank Foley and Captain Short sat at a table with the chief interrogator, Lt-Colonel Robin ‘Tin Eye’ Stephens in his Gurkha uniform and monocle. Hess in his Luftwaffe uniform was brought in, limping on his right leg.

“Can I have a chair, sir? My ankle is hurting,” Hess complained.

“Hauptmann Horn, you are in a British Secret Service prison at the present time," said Stephens, glaring at the prisoner. "You are a prisoner of war. You will remain standing. It is our job to determine who you are, be it Hauptmann Horn, Rudolf Hess, or just some bad actor. Verstehen Sie?”

An officer came in and handed a message to Stephens.

“Wo sind Ihre Papiere? Where are your papers?”

“I lost them, sir.”

“Keinen Ausweis, Herr Horn? No identity card, no Nazi party membership card, no passport. Well, if you pretend to be the Deputy Reichsminister, you must remember your party card number?”

“I forget.”

“I thought Hess was an early member of the party?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Could it be number 24 or maybe number 16?”

Hess looked truly stumped by the question and scratched his head."

From the bestselling author of An Absolute Secret, Shipwrecked Lives, Remembrance Man and White Slaves comes this brilliantly imagined novel about one of the greatest mysteries of the Second World War. After parachuting into Scotland in 1941, the German Reichsminister Rudolf Hess was revealed to be an imposter. A team of MI5 intelligence officers led by Paul Cummings and his German wife Claudia were sent to Camp Z to investigate the Hess double. The team soon started to uncover the imposter’s secrets including the shadowy Herr Oberst and his training by the SS. But the British government decided to bury the truth with the Official Secrets Act and it was only in 1973 that a British doctor confirmed the fraud during a medical examination in Berlin. Kinsey’s fast-paced historical novel is meticulously crafted and richly evocative. It is based on the true story of Hess’ incarceration in Britain, his faked amnesia and his bombshell revelation at Nuremberg. It is a story about wartime Britain with its POW camps, spy interrogations, secret codes, NKVD assassins and Russian political intervention. It explores the Anglo-German relationship with refreshing candour and takes the reader on an unforgettable voyage from London during the Blitz to the Welsh town of Abergavenny, from the Nuremberg war crimes trials to Berlin during the Cold War, and to a small town in the Oberallgäu in Southern Germany.

Reader reviews:

​​​​​​​"Makes history come alive like a thriller, Perhaps I'm a history fan - and definitely a lover of intelligent thrillers - so "Playing Rudolf Hess" captures both my likes. What's best is that it is a very enjoyable read, one that gets you inside the story/history without bogging down as many such books do. Instead, you are caught up in the drama that was real-life life or death for Britain, with author Nicholas Kinsey intelligently filling in those gaps where only some speculation can find room (since the historical records have kept so much of it in the dark)." Amazon

"Was he an imposter? Interesting, fast-moving and leaves one wondering." Amazon

Author Notes:

There remains enormous controversy over the reported suicide death of Hess at Spandau Prison and the results of a DNA scientific report on the doppelgänger conspiracy published in New Scientist in January 2019. In the case of the suicide death in 1987 the evidence appeared to show that Hess was strangled, not hanged, which could mean he was murdered. The mystery remained when a Spandau prison nurse, Abdallah Melaouhi, who cared for Hess said he suspected Hess had been murdered.

The DNA evidence was suspect from the start when the 1982 blood sample from Hess was shown to be too degraded for a DNA match, but the most persistent evidence that Hess was a fraud came from Hans Eirew, a retired Manchester orthodontist, who in 1950 was the British Army dental officer at the Berlin Military hospital where Spandau prisoners were treated. He had to extract a left upper molar from prisoner No. 7 as Hess was called at the time. Later he obtained access to the Nazi party medical records for the real Rudolf Hess who had lost his upper left molar teeth early and had an artificial metal bridge in the place of the teeth. In an interview with retired MI6 officer Charles Fraser-Smith, Hess was known as the "phoney Hess" in wartime MI6 circles. So the doppelgänger theory about Hess is still very much alive and kicking.