Germany's national postal system inadvertently printed a set of stamps featuring a picture of Nazi leader Rudolf Hess.
Hess, Hitler's deputy, remains an idol for neo-Nazis
Neo-Nazis used a customized postage stamp service offered by German mail carrier Deutsche Post to issue 20 stamps featuring Hess.
Most personalized stamps avoid the political
Deutsche Post began offering the customized stamp service, Plusbrief Individuell, in February. It allows clients to upload a digital photograph of a loved one or a commercial product. A week later they receive printed, post-paid envelopes showing the same picture.
Neo-Nazis apparently exploited the opportunity by uploading a picture of Hess, who was Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's deputy. Hess committed suicide in Berlin while serving a life sentence for war crimes in Spandau prison. He is a hero to neo-Nazis, who often demonstrate on the anniversary of his death in August.
The Post staff did not notice they had been tricked into issuing the 55-cent stamps.
"It was a slip-up. We are very sorry about it," said Post spokesman Dirk Klasen at the company's offices in Bonn.
"It runs in most cases without difficulty," Klasen said. "Only with the Hess image did something go awry. I presume it came from the far-right scene. But those 20 envelopes won't shake up German democracy."
Earlier this year, the company intercepted a request to have stamps printed featuring Hitler as a small child, he said.
Procedure review is planned
The latest newsletter of the far-right National Democratic Party gloated about being able to slip the stamp past Deutsche Post's quality control personnel.
"The Hess stamp is out there," wrote Hannes Natter in the May edition of Deutsche Stimme, or German Voice.
Deutsche Post is now going to review its oversight procedures, Klasen said, though he added that "there can be no 100 percent certainty" that something else would not slip through.