Staring into the room where Adolf Hitler’s deputy killed himself is the “closest I have ever felt to real evil”, a Church of Scotland minister has revealed.
The Rev Peter Sutton was a young officer in The Black Watch, responsible for guarding Berlin’s Spandau Prison where Rudolf Hess was imprisoned.
He was on duty the day after the Nazi, sentenced to life imprisonment in 1946, committed suicide.
Mr Sutton, originally of Fife and now the new minister at St Cuthbert’s Parish Church in Edinburgh, said it would be forever etched into his memory.
“Most of the senior Nazis after the Nuremberg trials, who were not executed, were sent to Spandau and Hess was the last one there.”
The day following Hess’s suicide, Mr Sutton and another officer walked through the huge gardens.
They approached a glass-fronted cabin – Hess’s summerhouse.
Inside was a rocking chair, books and an oxygen cylinder. And Mr Sutton “could see the noose that he used to hang himself”.
“My fellow officer and I just stopped talking and for some reason we just had to get out of there as fast as we could.”
Mr Sutton, a 19-year-old Second Lieutenant at the time, never met Hess personally but described him as a man with the “weight of history and his conscience on his shoulders”.
“Standing in the place where the last Nazi had killed himself the day before was very eerie and chilling, it was the closest I have ever felt to real evil.
“It was almost tangible, it surrounded you. It was a tranquil and peaceful garden but its connecting to such horrors and evil is what grabbed me most.”
Mr Sutton was aware of Hess because he always wanted to be a soldier and grew up on a diet of Second World War films and comics.
“In many ways with Hess dying, that was the last full-stop in the last sentence of the last paragraph of the last chapter of the Second World War because he was the last member of Hitler’s hierarchy to die.”
Spandau was demolished shortly afterwards amid fears it would become a shrine.
Mr Sutton, a married father of five, was an elder in the Black Watch Kirk Session connected to the Presbytery of Perth, and ordained in 1993.
The path to becoming a full-time minister began while he was serving as a platoon commander in Northern Ireland.
One of his men had a family bereavement and the Padre confessed he was unable to provide support because he had lost his faith.
Mr Sutton, a graduate of the University of St Andrews and the University of Edinburgh, said: “Looking back that was a key moment because I realised that chaplains had a more exacting job to do than platoon commanders in many ways.”
The minister, whose mother was a GP in Kirkcaldy, is a former headmaster of Ardvreck School in Crieff where he set up an exchange link with the British School in Berlin.