Berlin: Remains of Adolf Hitler's deputy and Nazi criminal Rudolf Hess have been cremated and his ashes have been scattered over a lake to prevent his grave from becoming a neo-Nazi shrine.

The body of Hitler's deputy in the Nazi Party was exhumed on Wednesday after his relatives gave their approval.

“It all started early at 4 a.m. At a depth of about 1.5 metres the undertaker discovered the remains of Rudolf Hess. There was nothing left of the coffin, only the bones lay in the ground. The remains were placed in a new coffin,” Andreas Fadel, the head of the cemetery where Hess had been buried in Wunsiedel, northeast Bavaria, told.

Hess was sentenced to life in prison by the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1946.

On Aug 17, 1987, the body of the 93-year-old Hess was found in a garden house at the Spandau Prison in western Berlin with an electrical cord wrapped around his neck. There was speculation at the time that Hess was murdered, but his death was disguised as a suicide.

Since his death, neo-Nazis from around Europe have gathered every year in Wunsiedel for memorials, marches and demonstrations around his death anniversary.