Hess's grave had become the site of regular rallies by neo-Nazis [GALLO/GETTY]

The grave holding the remains of Rudolf Hess, one of Adolf Hitler's closest aides, has been destroyed to stop it being used as a pilgrimage site by neo-Nazis.

Hess's remains were exhumed at the graveyard in the town of Wunsiedel, southern Germany, early on Wednesday.

The remains are to be burnt and the ashes scattered at sea.

In the 24 years since his death, the grave had become the site of regular demonstrations by far-right extremists.

The lease on the grave runs out this year and the church, where the cemetery is located, has refused to extend it.

After initial objections from Hess's family, they finally agreed to let his remains be removed.

Members of Germany's Jewish welcomed the move to destroy the grave.

"I am delighted that finally the brown ghost in Wunsiedel has come to an end," said Charlotte Knobloch, who previously headed up the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Brown is traditionally the Nazi's political colour in Germany.

Hess was arrested when he flew to Scotland in 1941 to try to arrange a peace deal with Britain.

After the end of World War II he was tried for war crimes at Nuremberg and sentenced to life in prison.
He was held in Spandau prison, in north-west Berlin, until he committed suicide in 1987 at age 93.

Hess had asked that he be buried with his parents in the Wunsiedel cemetery.

Wednesday also saw ceremonies being held across the German nation to mark the anniversary of the failed 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler.

The speaker of Germany's parliament placed a wreath at the defense ministry, where plot leader Colonel Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg and three others were executed shortly after their July 20 plan to kill the Nazi leader with a briefcase bomb failed.

Source: Agencies