WEST BERLIN -- Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy who parachuted into Scotland on a self-described solo 'peace mission' during World War II, died Monday after 46 years in prison, an Allied powers spokesman said.
Hess, the last surviving top Nazi leader, was 93. He was serving a life term in four-power Spandau War Crimes Prison in the British secetor of Berlin.
Hess's remains will be turned over to his family in West Germany for burial, Anderson Purdon, a British spokesman, said.
There was no immediate announcement of the cause of death, but the aged, ailing Hess in recent years had been a frequent patient in the nearby British Military Hospital.
Hess, who publicly maintained his loyalty to Hitler throughout his imprisonment, was the last of seven top Nazi leaders sent to the Spandau prison in the British sector of Berlin, which is run jointly by Britain, France, the United States and the Soviets. The prison now will be torn down, Purdon said.
The six other Nazi leaders sent to Spandau from Nuremberg were either granted amnesty or served their terms. The $800,000 a year it cost to keep Hess in prison was paid by the West Berlin city government.
Hess's son, Wolf-Ruediger Hess, a 49-year-old Munich engineer, arrived at Spandau Prison Monday night.
About 70 people gathered outside the 116-year-old, red brick prison in the suburban Spandau district. A few placed flowers along the prison wall.
Hess was alone in the prison since Oct. 1, 1966, when Hilter Youth Leader Baldur von Schirach and war production chief Albert Speer completed their 20-year terms.
His captivity began on May 10, 1941, when he parachuted into Scotland on what some historians believe was a wild attempt to make peace with Britain.
American, Soviet, British and French judges sentenced Hess to life imprisonment on Oct. 1, 1946, at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg after the Nazi defeat.
To the end he thought of himself as the deputy fuehrer of the National Socialist German Workers Party -- the official name of the Nazi party that came to power in Germany in 1933 and in six years began the most destructive war the world had ever known.
The West Berlin city government in a statement expressed regret that Hess had not been able to spend his last days with his family as he wished.
For years, West Germany tried to gain freedom for Hess on humanitairian grounds because of his age and health. The Western Allies were willing to grant Hess an amnesty, but they were vetoed by the Soviet Union.
Speculation that Mikhail Gorbachev might change the Soviet stand were denounced in April as a provocation by Isvestia, the Soviet government's newspaper. It said releasing Hess would be tantamount to rehabilitating Nazism.
'I will die in Spandau,' Hess told Schirach when he was released after a 20-year term. 'The Russians want it that way. They still don't believe I was trying to bring about peace when I flew to Britain.'
Hess was hospitalized with pneumonia for 16 days in March. He was returned to Spandau March 17. His son, who visited his father in the hospital, said the elder Hess did not recognize him.
In New York, Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, commenting on Hess's death, said, 'Justice sometimes grinds exceedingly slow but it does catch up in the end. Rudolf Hess's death closes another chapter in the infamy that was the Holocaust.
'Hess was a living symbol of that infamy as well as the last survivor of those convicted at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal.'
Walter Momper, the chairman of the West Berlin Social Democratic Party, said, 'There is no reason to mourn such a man, who received a just sentence.' The West German federal government made no immediate comment on the death.
Robert Kempner, a member of the U.S. prosecution staff at the Nuremberg trials, said, 'With Rudolf Hess there died a loyal follower of Hitler.'
Hess, was born in Alexandria, Egypt, April 26, 1894, the son of a German merchant. He attended a German school in Egypt and then boarding school Germany.
Hess' 1941 flight to Britain shocked the world. With the Germans in control of most of Europe west of the Soviet Union, he parachuted at night into enemy territory on what he described as a peace mission. The Nazi attack on Russia took place six weeks later and some theories say he was trying to divert attention from the Russian front.
Hitler, had one of his worst attacks of rage and ordered the word spread that Hess had had a breakdown.
But some believe Hess went with Hitler's knowledge and that Hitler's denunciation of him as a madman was a cover. Some historians say he was seeking to negotiate and end to the war and it is unclear if he knew of Hitler's plan to move on Russia.
At Nuremberg, Hess was convicted of planning and starting a war of aggression. He was acquitted of charges he committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Hess attempted suicide at least twice, in 1959 and 1977. Although he was frequently ill towards the end of his life, officials said he continued reading and watched American television.
Hess told his family in letters that he was blind in one eye, had partial sight in the other, had circulatory trouble, trouble breathing, swollen legs, a rupture, and stomach and abdominal cramps.