Rudolf Hess, the son of a wealthy German merchant, was born in Alexandria, Egypt on 26th April, 1894. At the age of twelve Hess was sent back to Germany to be educated at Godesberg. He later joined his father's business in Hamburg.
Hess joined the German Army in August, 1914, and served in the 1st Bavarian Infantry Regiment during the First World War. He was twice wounded and reached the rank of lieutenant. In 1918 became an officer pilot in the German Army Air Service.
After the war Hess settled in Munich where he entered the university to study history and economics. During this period he was greatly influenced by the teachings of Karl Haushofer, who argued that the state is a biological organism which grows or contracts, and that in the struggle for space the strong countries take land from the weak. This inspired Hess to write a prize-winning essay: How Must the Man be Constructed who will lead Germany back to her Old Heights? It included the following passage: "When necessity commands, he does not shrink from bloodshed... In order to reach his goal, he is prepared to trample on his closest friends."
Hess joined the Freikorps led by Franz Epp and helped to put down the Spartakist Rising during the German Revolution in 1919. The following year he heard Adolf Hitler speak at a political meeting. Hess remarked: "Was this man a fool or was he the man who would save all Germany."
In November, 1923, Hess took part in the failed Beer Hall Putsch. Hess escaped and sought the help of Karl Haushofer. For a while he lived in Haushofer's home, Hartschimmelhof, in the Bavarian Alps. Later he was helped to escape to Austria. Hess was eventually arrested and sentenced to 18 months in prison. While in Landsberg he helped Hitler write My Struggle (Mein Kampf). According to James Douglas-Hamilton (Motive for a Mission) Haushofer provided "Hitler with a formula and certain well-turned phrases which could be adapted, and which at a later stage suited the Nazis perfectly".
Heinrich Bruening and other senior politicians were worried that Adolf Hitler would use his stormtroopers to take power by force. Led by Ernst Roehm, it now contained over 400,000 men. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles the official German Army was restricted to 100,000 men and was therefore outnumbered by the SA. In the past, those who feared communism were willing to put up with the SA as they provided a useful barrier against the possibility of revolution. However, with the growth in SA violence and fearing a Nazi coup, Bruening banned the organization.
In May 1932, Paul von Hindenburg sacked Bruening and replaced him with Franz von Papen. The new chancellor was also a member of the Catholic Centre Party and, being more sympathetic to the Nazis, he removed the ban on the SA. The next few weeks saw open warfare on the streets between the Nazis and the Communists during which 86 people were killed.
In an attempt to gain support for his new government, in July Franz von Papen called another election. Adolf Hitler now had the support of the upper and middle classes and the NSDAP did well winning 230 seats, making it the largest party in the Reichstag. However the German Social Democrat Party (133) and the German Communist Party (89) still had the support of the urban working class and Hitler was deprived of an overall majority in parliament.
Hitler demanded that he should be made Chancellor but Paul von Hindenburg refused and instead gave the position to Major-General Kurt von Schleicher. Hitler was furious and began to abandon his strategy of disguising his extremist views. In one speech he called for the end of democracy a system which he described as being the "rule of stupidity, of mediocrity, of half-heartedness, of cowardice, of weakness, and of inadequacy."
Hess gradually worked his way up the Nazi hierarchy and in December 1932 Adolf Hitler appointed him head of the Central Political Committee and deputy leader of the party and minister without portfolio. Joseph Goebbels described Hess as "the most decent, quiet, friendley, clever, reserved... he is a kind fellow." Joachim C. Fest (The Face of the Third Reich) argued that many Germans thought he was an "honest man" and "the conscience of the Party".
The behaviour of the NSDAP became more violent. On one occasion 167 Nazis beat up 57 members of the German Communist Party in the Reichstag. They were then physically thrown out of the building. The stormtroopers also carried out terrible acts of violence against socialists and communists. In one incident in Silesia, a young member of the KPD had his eyes poked out with a billiard cue and was then stabbed to death in front of his mother. Four members of the SA were convicted of the rime. Many people were shocked when Hitler sent a letter of support for the four men and promised to do what he could to get them released.
Incidents such as these worried many Germans, and in the elections that took place in November 1932 the support for the Nazi Party fell. The German Communist Party made substantial gains in the election winning 100 seats. Hitler used this to create a sense of panic by claiming that German was on the verge of a Bolshevik Revolution and only the NSDAP could prevent this happening.
A group of prominent industrialists who feared such a revolution sent a petition to Paul von Hindenburg asking for Hitler to become Chancellor. Hindenberg reluctantly agreed to their request and at the age of forty-three, Hitler became the new Chancellor of Germany.
Although Adolf Hitler had the support of certain sections of the German population he never gained an elected majority. The best the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) could do in a election was 37.3 per cent of the vote they gained in July 1932. When Hitler became chancellor in January 1933, the Nazis only had a third of the seats in the Reichstag.
In the build up to the Second World War Hitler began to have growing doubts about the abilities of Hess and other leaders such as Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann became more important in the party. However, it is possible that Hess was playing a new secret role in Hitler's government.
Rochus Misch, Hitler's bodyguard, claims that in May 1941 he was at Berchtesgaden with Hitler and Hess. According to Misch: “He (Hitler) was talking to Hess, when somebody brought in a dispatch. The Führer read it and exclaimed: 'I cannot go there and go down on my knees!’ Hess replied: 'I can, my Führer.’ At the time a German diplomat was meeting the Swedish emissary, Count Bernadotte, in Portugal. The British were very active in Lisbon, so I think there might have been some peace offer from London.” It is impossible to know if Misch is right about this as the official British documents relating to it are still classified.
On 22nd May 1940 some 250 German tanks were advancing along the French coast towards Dunkirk, threatening to seal off the British escape route. Then, just six miles from the town, at around 11.30 a.m., they abruptly stopped. Adolf Hitler had personally ordered all German forces to hold their positions for three days. This order was uncoded and was picked up by the British. They therefore knew they were going to get away. German generals begged to be able to move forward in order to destroy the British army but Hitler insisted that they held back so that the British troops could leave mainland Europe.
Some historians have argued that this is an example of another tactical error made by Adolf Hitler. However, the evidence suggests that this was part of a deal being agreed between Germany and Britain. After the war, General Gunther Blumentritt, the Army Chief of Staff, told military historian Basil Liddell Hart that Hitler had decided that Germany would make peace with Britain. Another German general told Liddell Hart that Hitler aimed to make peace with Britain “on a basis that was compatible with her honour to accept”. (The Other Side of the Hill, pages 139-41)
According to Ilse Hess, her husband was told by Hitler that the massacring of the British army at Dunkirk would humiliate the British government and would make peace negotiations harder because of the bitterness and resentment it would cause. Joseph Goebbels recorded in his diary in June 1940 that Hitler told him that peace talks with Britain were taking place in Sweden. The intermediary was Marcus Wallenberg, a Swedish banker.
We know from other sources that Winston Churchill was under considerable pressure to finish off the peace talks that had been started by Neville Chamberlain. This is why George VI wanted Lord Halifax as prime minister instead of Churchill. There is an intriguing entry into the diary of John Colville, Churchill’s private secretary, on 10th May. In discussing Churchill’s talks with the king about becoming prime minister Colville writes: “Nothing can stop him (Churchill) having his way – because of his powers of blackmail”.
George VI was bitterly opposed to Winston Churchill becoming prime minister. He tried desperately to persuade Chamberlain to stay on in the job. When he refused he wanted to use his royal prerogative to appoint Lord Halifax as prime minister. Halifax refused as he feared this act would have brought the government down and would put the survival of the monarchy at risk. (John Costello, Ten Days that Saved the West, pages 46-47).
On 8th June 1940, one Labour MP suggested in the House of Commons that Churchill should instigate an inquiry into the “appeasement” party with a view to prosecuting its members. Churchill replied this would be foolish as “there are too many in it”. Hugh Dalton, Minister of Economic Warfare, recorded in his diary that the “appeasement party” was so powerful within the Conservative Party that Churchill faced the possibility of being removed as prime minister.
On 10th September 1940, Karl Haushofer sent a letter to his son Albrecht. The letter discussed secret peace talks going on with Britain. Karl talked about “middlemen” such as Ian Hamilton (head of the British Legion), the Duke of Hamilton and Violet Roberts, the widow of Walter Roberts. The Roberts were very close to Stewart Menzies (Walter and Stewart had gone to school together). Violet Roberts was living in Lisbon in 1940. Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland were the four main places where these secret negotiations were taking place. Karl and Albrecht Haushofer were close friends of both Rudolf Hess and the Duke of Hamilton.
Heinrich Stahmer, who worked with Haushofer, claimed that meetings between Samuel Hoare, Lord Halifax and Rudolf Hess took place in Spain and Portugal between February and April 1941. The Vichy press reported that Hess was in Spain on the weekend of 20/22 of April 1941. The correspondence between British Embassies and the Foreign Office are routinely released to the Public Record Office. However, all documents relating to the weekend of 20/22 April, 1941 at the Madrid Embassy are being held back and will not be released until 2017.
Karl Haushofer was arrested and interrogated by the Allies in October 1945. The British government has never released the documents that include details of these interviews. However, these interviews are in the OSS archive. Karl told his interviewers that Germany was involved in peace negotiations with Britain in 1940-41. In 1941 Albrecht was sent to Switzerland to meet Samuel Hoare, the British ambassador to Spain. This peace proposal included a willingness to “relinquish Norway, Denmark and France”. Karl goes onto say: “A larger meeting was to be held in Madrid. When my son returned, he was immediately called to Augsburg by Hess. A few days later Hess flew to England.”
On 10th May, 1941, Hess flew a Me 110 to Scotland. When he parachuted to the ground he was captured by David McLean, of the Home Guard. He asked to be taken to Duke of Hamilton, the “middleman” mentioned in the earlier letter. In fact, Hamilton lived close to where Hess landed (Dungavel House). If Hamilton was the “middleman” who was he acting for. Was it George VI or Winston Churchill? Shortly afterwards Sergeant Daniel McBride and Emyr Morris, reached the scene and took control of the prisoner. Hess’s first words to them were: “Are you friends of the Duke of Hamilton? I have an important message for him.”
After the war Daniel McBride attempted to tell his story of what had happened when he captured Hess. This story originally appeared in the Hongkong Telegraph (6th March, 1947). “The purpose of the former Deputy Fuhrer’s visit to Britain is still a mystery to the general public, but I can say, and with confidence too, that high-ranking Government officials were aware of his coming.” The reason that McBride gives for this opinion is that: “No air-raid warning was given that night, although the plane must have been distinguished during his flight over the city of Glasgow. Nor was the plane plotted at the anti-aircraft control room for the west of Scotland.” McBride concludes from this evidence that someone with great power ordered that Hess should be allowed to land in Scotland. This story was picked up by the German press but went unreported in the rest of the world.
According to Lieutenant-Colonel Malcolm Scott, Hess had told one of his guards that “members of the government” had known about his proposed trip to Scotland. Hess also asked to see George VI as he had been assured before he left Nazi Germany that he had the “King’s protection”. The authors of Double Standards, believe the Duke of Kent, the Duke of Hamilton, Samuel Hoare and Lord Halifax, were all working for the king in their efforts to negotiate with Adolf Hitler.
Karlheinz Pintsch, Hess adjutant, was given the task of informing Hitler about the flight to Scotland. James Leasor found him alive in 1955 and used him as a major source for his book, The Uninvited Envoy. Pintsch told Leasor of Hitler’s response to this news. He did not seem surprised, nor did he rant and rave about what Hess had done. Instead, he replied calmly, “At this particular moment in the war that could be a most hazardous escapade.”
Hitler then went onto read the letter that Hess had sent him. He read the following significant passage out aloud. “And if this project… ends in failure… it will always be possible for you to deny all responsibility. Simply say I was out of my mind.” Of course, that is what both Hitler and Churchill did later on. However, at the time, Hitler at least, still believed that a negotiated agreement was possible.
Raymond Gram Swing of the Chicago Daily News was invited to Chequers two months after Hess arrived in Scotland. In his autobiography, Good Evening (1964) he explained: "After the meal, the Prime Minister invited me to take a walk with him in the garden. This turned out to be the occasion for an unexpected and, I must say, somewhat disconcerting exposition to me of the terms on which Britain at that time could make a separate peace with Nazi Germany. The gist of the terms was that Britain could retain its empire, which Germany would guarantee, with the exception of the former German colonies, which were to be returned. The timing of this conversation seemed to me significant. Rudolf Hess, the number-three Nazi, had landed by parachute in Scotland less than two months before, where he had attempted to make contact with the Duke of Hamilton, whom the Nazis believed to be an enemy of Mr. Churchill and his policies... Mr. Churchill said nothing to me about Herr Hess. But he expounded to me the advantage of the German terms; and he seemed to be trying to arouse in me a feeling that unless the United States became more actively involved in the war, Britain might find it to her interest to accept them. I may be ascribing to him intentions he did not have. Later I was to learn that Hitler himself had proposed broadly similar terms to Britain before the war actually began. But I was under the impression that the allurements of peace had been recently underlined by Rudolf Hess... But it troubled me to have him give me his exposition, which must have lasted a full twenty minutes. For my part, I believed that the United States's interests made our entry in the war imperative. But I did not believe it would spur the country to come in to be told that if it did not, Winston Churchill would make a separate peace with Hitler and put his empire under a Hitler guarantee of safety."
Eventually Adolf Hitler became convinced that Winston Churchill would refuse to do a deal. Karlheinz Pintsch was now a dangerous witness and he was arrested and was kept in solitary confinement until being sent to the Eastern Front. Hitler also issued a statement pointing out that "Hess did not fly in my name." Albert Speer, who was with Hitler when he heard the news, later reported that "what bothered him was the Churchill might use the incident to pretend to Germany's allies that Hitler was extending a peace feeler."
It was not until 27th January 1942 that Winston Churchill made a statement in the House of Commons about the arrival of Hess. Churchill claimed it was part of a plot to oust him from power and “for a government to be set up with which Hitler could negotiate a magnanimous peace”. If that was the case, were the Duke of Kent and the Duke of Hamilton part of this plot?
In September, 1943, Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary, admitted in the House of Commons that Hess had indeed arrived in Scotland to negotiate a peace settlement. However, Eden claimed that the British government had been unaware of these negotiations. In fact, he added, Hess had refused to negotiate with Churchill. Eden failed to say who Hess was negotiating with. Nor did he explain why Hess (Hitler) was willing to negotiate with someone other than the British government. The authors of Double Standards argue that Hess was negotiating with Duke of Hamilton and the royal family, via the Duke of Kent. It is true Hamilton had a meeting with Churchill and Stewart Menzies two days after Hess arrived in Scotland. We also know that MI6 was monitoring these negotiations. If Hamilton was truly a traitor, surely Churchill would have punished him. Instead, along with the Duke of Kent, who were both in the RAF, were promoted by Churchill. In July 1941 Hamilton became a Group Captain and Kent became an Air Commodore.
This did not stop journalists speculating that the Duke of Hamilton was a traitor. In February 1942, Hamilton sued the London District Committee of the Communist Party for an article that appeared in their journal, World News and Views. The article claimed that Hamilton had been involved in negotiating with Nazi Germany and knew that Hess was flying to Scotland. Had this information come from Kim Philby? The case was settled when the Communist Party issued a public apology. Clearly, they could not say where this information came from.
Later that year Hamilton sued Pierre van Paassen, who in his book, That Day Alone, described Hamilton as a “British Fascist” who had plotted with Hess. The case was settled out of court in Hamilton’s favour. Sir Archibald Sinclair also issued a statement in the House of Commons that the Duke of Hamilton had never met Rudolf Hess.
However, recently released documents show that this was not all it seemed. The Communist Party threatened to call Hess as a witness. This created panic in the cabinet. A letter from the Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, to Sir Archibald Sinclair, dated 18th June 1941, shows that the government was extremely worried about Hess appearing as a witness in this libel case. Morrison asks Sinclair to use his influence on Hamilton to drop the libel case. It is interesting that this letter was sent to Sinclair as he is the man who made the public statement about Hamilton and Hess, carried out the investigation into the Duke of Kent’s death and whose estate Hess was supposed to be living when the crash took place. Hamilton clearly took Morrison’s advice and this explains why the Communist Party did not have to pay any money to Hamilton over the libel.
The Pierre van Paassen’s case is also not as clear-cut as it appears. Hamilton sued him for $100,000. In fact, all Hamilton got was $1,300. The publisher had to promise that future editions of the book would have to remove the offending passage. However, he did not have to recall and pulp existing copies of the book.
However, it is the third case that tells us most about what was going on. On 13th May 1941 the Daily Express published an article detailing the close relationship between the Duke of Hamilton and Rudolf Hess. The Duke’s solicitor had a meeting with Godfrey Norris, the editor of the newspaper. The solicitor later reported that Norris appeared willing to print a retraction. While the discussion was taking place Lord Beaverbrook, the proprietor of the newspaper, arrived. He overruled his editor and stated that the newspaper would stick to its accusation. Beaverbrook added that he could prove that Sir Archibald Sinclair lied when he claimed in the House of Commons that Hamilton had never met Rudolf Hess. Understandably, the Duke of Hamilton withdrew his threat to sue the Daily Express. (Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie, Beaverbrook, A Life, pages 409-10)
What is clear about these events is that Churchill and Sinclair made every attempt to protect the reputation of the Duke of Hamilton following the arrival of Hess. However, Beaverbrook, who like Hamilton was a prominent appeaser before the war, let him know that he was not in control of the situation.
After the war the Duke of Hamilton told his son that he was forced to take the blame for Hess arriving in Scotland in order to protect people who were more powerful than him. The son assumed he was talking about the royal family. It is possible he was also talking about Winston Churchill.
There are other signs that Hess had arrived to carry out serious peace negotiations with the British government.. On the very night that Rudolf Hess arrived in Scotland, London experienced its heaviest German bomb attack: 1,436 people were killed and some 12,000 made homeless. Many historic landmarks including the Houses of Parliament were hit. The Commons debating chamber – the main symbol of British democracy – was destroyed. American war correspondents based in London such as Walter Lippmann and Vincent Sheean, suggested that Britain was on the verge of surrender.
Yet, the 10th May marked the end of the Blitz. It was the last time the Nazis would attempt a major raid on the capital. Foreign journalist based in London at the time wrote articles that highlighted this strange fact. James Murphy even suggested that there might be a connection between the arrival of Hess and the last major bombing raid on London. (James Murphy, Who Sent Rudolf Hess, 1941 page 7)
This becomes even more interesting when one realizes at the same time as Hitler ordered the cessation of the Blitz, Winston Churchill was instructing Sir Charles Portal, Chief of the Air Staff, to reduce bombing attacks on Nazi Germany. Portal was surprised and wrote a memorandum to Churchill asking why the strategy had changed: “Since the Fall of France the bombing offensive had been a fundamental principle of our strategy.” Churchill replied that he had changed his mind and now believed “it is very disputable whether bombing by itself will be a decisive factor in the present war”. (John Terraine, The Right Line: The RAF in the European War 1939-45, 1985 page 295)
Is it possible that Hitler and Churchill had called off these air attacks as part of their peace negotiations? Is this the reason why Hess decided to come to Britain on 10th May, 1941? The date of this arrival is of prime importance. Hitler was no doubt concerned about the length of time these negotiations were taking. We now know that he was desperate to order the invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) in early Spring. According to Richard Sorge of the Red Orchestra spy network, Hitler planned to launch this attack in May 1941. (Leopold Trepper, The Great Game, 1977, page 126)
However, for some reason the invasion was delayed. Hitler eventually ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union on 22nd June, 1941. It would therefore seem that peace negotiations between Germany and Britain had come to an end. However, is this true? One would have expected Churchill to order to resume mass bombing of Germany. This was definitely the advice he was getting from Sir Charles Portal, Chief of the Air Staff. Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris also took a similar view. In June 1943, Harris was briefing American journalists about his disagreement with Churchill’s policy.
Douglas Reed, a British journalist with a good relationship with Portal and Churchill, wrote in 1943: “The long delay in bombing Germany is already chief among the causes of the undue prolongation of the war.” (Douglas Reed, Lest We Regret, 1943, page 331). One senior army figure told a journalist after the war that Hess’s arrival brought about a “virtual armistice” between Germany and Britain.
Early in 1944, John Franklin Carter, who was in charge of an intelligence unit based in the White House, suggested to President Franklin D. Roosevelt a scheme developed by Ernst Hanfstaengl. He suggested that Hanfstaengl should be allowed to fly to England and meet with Hess. Roosevelt contacted Winston Churchill about this and then vetoed the scheme. According to Joseph E. Persico, the author of Roosevelt's Secret War (2001): "The British, he explained, were not going to let anyone question the possibly insane Nazi, who had recently hurled himself head-first down a flight of stairs."
On 6th November, 1944, Churchill made a visit to Moscow. At a supper in the Kremlin, Joseph Stalin raised his glass and proposed a toast to the British Intelligence Services, which he said had “inveigled Hess into coming to England.” Winston Churchill immediately protested that he and the intelligence services knew nothing about the proposed visit. Stalin smiled and said maybe the intelligence services had failed to tell him about the operation.
Hess was kept in the Tower of London until being sent to face charges at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial. On 13th November, 1945, American psychiatrist Dr Donald Ewen Cameron was sent by Allen Dulles of the OSS to assess Hess’s fitness to stand trial.
Cameron was carrying out experiments into sensory deprivation and memory as early as 1938. In 1943 he went to Canada and established the psychiatry department at Montreal's McGill University and became director of the newly-created Allan Memorial Institute that was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. At the same time he also did work for the OSS. It is almost certain that the US intelligence services were providing at least some of the money for his research during the war.
We know by 1947 he was using the “depatterning” technique to wipe out patients memories of the past. Donald Ewen Cameron believed that after inducing complete amnesia in a patient, he could then selectively recover their memory in such a way as to change their behaviour unrecognisably." In other words, Cameron was giving them a new past. Is it possible that Cameron and the OSS was doing this during the Second World War. Is it possible that the real reason for Cameron’s visit was that he wanted to assess the treatment he had been giving Hess since 1943? That Hess was one of Cameron’s guinea pigs.
When he came face to face with Hermann Göring at Nuremberg, Hess remarked: “Who are you”? Göring reminded him of events that they witnessed in the past but Hess continued to insist that he did not know this man. Karl Haushofer was then called in but even though they had been friends for twenty years, Hess once again failed to remember him. Hess replied “I just don’t know you, but it will all come back to me and then I will recognise an old friend again. I am terribly sorry.” (Peter Padfield, Hess: The Führer’s Disciple, page 305).
Hess did not recognise other Nazi leaders. Joachim von Ribbentrop responded by suggesting that Hess was not really Hess. When told of something that Hess had said he replied: “Hess, you mean Hess? The Hess we have here?” (J. R. Rees, The Case of Rudolf Hess, page 169).
However, Major Douglas M. Kelley, the American psychiatrist who was responsible for Hess during the trials, stated that he did have periods when he did remember his past. This included a detailed account of his flight to Scotland. Hess told Kelley that he had arrived without the knowledge of Hitler. Hess claimed that “only he could get the English King or his representatives to meet with Hitler and make peace so that millions of people and thousands of villages would be spared.” (J. R. Rees, The Case of Rudolf Hess, page 168).
The list of 23 defendants at Nuremberg included Rudolf Hess, Hermann Göring, Wilhelm Frick, Hans Frank, Rudolf Hess, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Alfred Rosenberg, Albert Speer, Julius Streicher, Alfred Jodl, Fritz Saukel, Robert Ley, Erich Raeder, Wilhelm Keitel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Hjalmar Schacht, Karl Doenitz, Franz von Papen, Constantin von Neurath and Joachim von Ribbentrop.
Robert Ley and Hermann Goering both committed suicide during the trial. Wilhelm Frick, Hans Frank, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Walther Funk, Fritz Saukel, Alfred Rosenberg, Julius Streicher, Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Keitel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, and Joachim von Ribbentrop were found guilty and executed on 16th October, 1946. Rudolf Hess, Erich Raeder, were sentenced to life imprisonment and Albert Speer to 25 years. Karl Doenitz, Walther Funk, Franz von Papen, Alfried Krupp, Friedrich Flick and Constantin von Neurath were also found guilty and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment at Spandau Prison.
In January, 1951, John McCloy, the US High Commissioner for Germany, announced that Alfried Krupp and eight members of his board of directors who had been convicted with him, were to be released. His property, valued at around 45 million, and his numerous companies were also restored to him.
Others that McCloy decided to free included Friedrich Flick, one of the main financial supporters of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). During the Second World War Flick became extremely wealthy by using 48,000 slave labourers from SS concentration camps in his various industrial enterprises. It is estimated that 80 per cent of these workers died as a result of the way they were treated during the war. His property was restored to him and like Krupp became one of the richest men in Germany.
Others serving life-imprisonment at Spandau Prison were also released: Erich Raeder (1955), Karl Doenitz (1956), Friedrich Flick (1957) and Albert Speer (1966). However, the Soviet Union and Britain refused to release Rudolf Hess.
However, Mikhail Gorbachev told German journalists in February 1987, that he was going to give permission for the release of Hess (Peter Padfield, Hess: The Führer’s Disciple, page 328). The West German newspaper Bild reported that Hess was going to be released on his 93rd birthday on 26th April 1987. (Bild, 21st April, 1987) Hess knew differently, he told Abadallah Melaouhi, his nurse, that the “English will kill me” before I am released. (BBC Newsnight, 28th February 1989).
According to Sir Christopher Mallaby, Deputy Secretary of the Cabinet Office, the British did indeed block his release. Gorbachev told Margaret Thatcher that he would expose the British hypocrisy by withdrawing the Soviet guards from Spandau Prison.
Rudolf Hess was still in Spandau Prison when he was found dead on 17th August, 1987. Officially he committed suicide but grave doubts have been raised about the possibility of a 93 man in his state of health being able to hang himself with an electrical extension cord without help from someone else.
There is bloodshed, Herr Chamberlain! There are dead! Innocent people have died. The responsibility for this, however, live with England, which talks of peace and fans the flames of war. England that has pointblank refused all the Fuhrer's proposals for peace throughout the years. She only refused these proposals, but before and after the Munich agreement threatened Germany by arming Czechoslovakia. As the Fuhrer extinguished this blaze, England incited Poland to refuse the Fuhrer's peace proposals and to make her appearance as the new threat to Germany from the east.
The luncheon at Chequers as guest of the Prime Minister on Sunday noon was the accolade of the trip. I sat at the right hand of Mr. Churchill, in a room filled with about two dozen diners, among them Harry Hopkins and Averell Harriman, who were in England on a lend-lease mission....
After the meal, the Prime Minister invited me to take a walk with him in the garden. This turned out to be the occasion for an unexpected and, I must say, somewhat disconcerting exposition to me of the terms on which Britain at that time could make a separate peace with Nazi Germany. The gist of the terms was that Britain could retain its empire, which Germany would guarantee, with the exception of the former German colonies, which were to be returned. The timing of this conversation seemed to me significant. Rudolf Hess, the number-three Nazi, had landed by parachute in Scotland less than two months before, where he had attempted to make contact with the Duke of Hamilton, whom the Nazis believed to be an enemy of Mr. Churchill and his policies. Hess was, of course, safely stowed away in a British prison. But if he had had anything fresh and authoritative to say on Hitler's behalf about a separate peace, his imprisonment would not have silenced him.
Mr. Churchill said nothing to me about Herr Hess. But he expounded to me the advantage of the German terms; and he seemed to be trying to arouse in me a feeling that unless the United States became more actively involved in the war, Britain might find it to her interest to accept them. I may be ascribing to him intentions he did not have. Later I was to learn that Hitler himself had proposed broadly similar terms to Britain before the war actually began. But I was under the impression that the allurements of peace had been recently underlined by Rudolf Hess, and that Mr. Churchill was impatient with the United States, lend-lease and Iceland not-withstanding. I did not have the impression that he meant me to convey what he was saying to Washington. Both Harry Hopkins and Averell Harriman were at Chequers at that moment. They would be message-bearers, not I. But it troubled me to have him give me his exposition, which must have lasted a full twenty minutes. For my part, I believed that the United States's interests made our entry in the war imperative. But I did not believe it would spur the country to come in to be told that if it did not, Winston Churchill would make a separate peace with Hitler and put his empire under a Hitler guarantee of safety.
Early in 1944, Carter brought to FDR another scheme concocted by Hanfstaengl. Rudolf Hess, once number three in the Nazi Party hierarchy, had, in 1941, made his quixotic solo flight to Britain to try to persuade Churchill to make a separate peace with Germany. Hess had never gotten near the Prime Minister, and for his pains had been locked up as a war prisoner. Carter urged the President to ask the British to allow Hanfstaengl to fly to England and meet with Hess, whom Putzi knew from the old days, in order to extract more recent intelligence from inside Hitler's realm. FDR vetoed the scheme. The British, he explained, were not going to let anyone question the possibly insane Nazi, who had recently hurled himself head-first down a flight of stairs.
Hess was an active supporter of the preparations for war. His signature established military service. He expressed a desire for peace and advocated international economic cooperation. But none knew better than Hess how determined Hitler was to realize his ambitions, how fanatical and violent a man he was.
With him in his flight to England, Hess carried certain peace proposals which he alleged Hitler was prepared to accept. It is significant to note that this flight took place only ten days after the date on which Hitler fixed, 22 June 1941, as the time for attacking the Soviet Union.
That Hess acts in an abnormal manner, suffers from the loss of memory, and has mentally deteriorated during the Trial, may be true. But there is nothing to show that he does not realize the nature of the charges against him, or is incapable of defending himself. There is no suggestion that Hess was not completely sane when the acts charged against him were committed. Defendant Rudolf Hess, the court sentences you to imprisonment for life.
Dulles first swore Dr Cameron to secrecy, and then told him an astounding story. He had reason to believe that the man Dr Cameron was to examine was not Rudolf Hess but an impostor; that the real Deputy Fuhrer had been secretly executed on Churchill's orders. Dulles had explained that Dr Cameron could prove the point by a simple physical examination of the man's torso. If he was the genuine Hess, there should be scar tissue over his left lung, a legacy from the day the young Hess had been wounded in the First World War. Dr Cameron had agreed to try to examine the prisoner.
He is nearly 70 now - a dark, brooding, badger-faced man living in near-total oblivion in the enormous stone pile that is Spandau prison. But in May 1941, when Rudolf Hess suddenly landed in a cow pasture in Scotland and asked to see the Duke of Hamilton, the Deputy Führer of the Third Reich was full of high hope.
At a time when German armies, already masters of Europe and most of North Africa, stood poised for a thrust into Russia, Hess brought an offer of peace. Hitler, he said, would guarantee the integrity of the British Empire if England would recognize Germany's dominance in Europe. Drawing for the first time on all the old and new information about Hess's strange, ill-fated mission, Journalist-Historian James Leaser (The Red Fort, The Plague and the Fire) has produced an absorbing footnote to history.
Painstakingly the author follows Hess through every stage of his secret preparation. As an ex-World War I pilot and the No. 3 man in Nazi Germany, Hess easily managed to finagle the use for "practice flights" of an experimental Messerschmidt 110 with extra gas tanks. Aides surreptitiously collected weather charts. Though Leaser's attempt to weld such details into a tale of step-by-step suspense is not entirely successful, his account has some touching vignettes of Hess—playing with his four-year-old son for the last time; standing uncertainly in the door of his wife's room on the day of the flight, unable to confide his secret, but wearing, as a covert gesture of affectionate farewell, a blue shirt that she had given him and that he hated. Ironically, one of the most dramatic chapters concerns not Hess but his faithful aide Major Karlheinz Pintsch. Assigned by Hess to break the news to Hitler, Pintsch journeyed apprehensively to Berchtesgaden, his romantic belief in the heroic flight dwindling as he neared the Führer's presence. Hitler invited him to lunch, had him arrested after the dessert.
His plan was reasonable enough. Hitler did want peace with England. Earlier efforts to draw Churchill into negotiations had failed. The Führer probably knew what Hess was up to, Leasor theorizes, and tacitly permitted it, carefully avoiding precise knowledge of the details to keep himself from implication if the mission failed. When it did fail, he followed the advice Hess left him in a parting letter and declared that Hess was the victim of "hallucinations." Moreover, in the spring of 1941, Leasor asserts, England was nearer to capitulation "than anyone now likes to admit." Winston Churchill was so afraid of the effect the peace offer might have on British morale that his representatives came to interview Hess disguised as psychiatrists, so that no word of continued government interest could possibly leak out.
What bothered him was the Churchill might use the incident to pretend to Germany's allies that Hitler was extending a peace feeler. "Who will believe me when I say that Hess did not try there in my name, that the whole thing is not some sort of intrigue behind the backs of my allies?"
At the time it appeared to me that Bormann's ambition had driven Hess to this desperate act. Hess, also highly ambitious, could plainly see himself being excluded from access to and influence over Hitler.
The circle of English individuals whom I have known very well for years, and whose utilisation on behalf of a GermanEnglish understanding in the years from 1934 to i938 was the core of my activity in England, comprises the following groups and persons:
1. A leading group of younger Conservatives (many of them Scotsmen). Among them are: the Duke of Hamilton - up to the date of his father's death, Lord Clydesdale - Conservative Member of Parliament; the Parliamentary Private Secretary of Neville Chamberlain, Lord Dunglass; the present Under Secretary of State in the Air Ministry, Balfour; the present Under Secretary of State in the Ministry of Education, Lindsay (National Labour); the present Under Secretary of State in the Ministry for Scotland, Wedderburn.
Close ties link this circle with the Court. The younger brother of the Duke of Hamilton is closely related to the present Queen through his wife; the mother-in-law of the Duke of Hamilton, the Duchess of Northumberland, is the Mistress of the Robes; her brother-in-law, Lord Eustace Percy, was several times a member of the Cabinet and is still today an influential member of the Conservative Party (especially close to former Prime Minister Baldwin). There are close connections between this circle and important groups of the older Conservatives, as for example the Stanley family (Lord Derby, Oliver Stanley) and Astor (the last is owner of The Times). The young Astor, likewise a Member of Parliament, was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the former Foreign and Interior Minister, Sir Samuel Hoare, at present English Ambassador in Madrid.
I have known almost all of the persons mentioned for years and from close personal contact. The present Under Secretary of State of the Foreign Office, Butler, also belongs here; in spite of many of his public utterances he is not a follower of Churchill or Eden. Numerous connections lead from most of those named to Lord Halifax, to whom I likewise had personal access.
2. The so-called `Round Table' circle of younger imperialists (particularly colonial and Empire politicians), whose most important personage was Lord Lothian.
3. A group of the 'Ministerialdirektoren' in the Foreign Office. The most important of these were Strang, the chief of the Central European Department, and O'Malley, the chief of the South Eastern Department and afterwards Minister in Budapest.
There was hardly one of those named who was not at least occasionally in favour of a German-English understanding.
Although most of them in 1939 finally considered that war was inevitable, it was nevertheless reasonable to think of these persons if one thought the moment had come for investigating the possibility of an inclination to make peace. Therefore when the Deputy of the Fuehrer, Reich Minister Hess, asked me in the autumn of iqq.o about possibilities of gaining access to possibly reasonable Englishmen, I suggested two concrete possibilities for establishing contacts. It seemed to me that the following could be considered for this:
A. Personal contact with Lothian, Hoare, or O'Malley, all three of whom were accessible in neutral countries.
B. Contact by letter with one of my friends in England. For this purpose the Duke of Hamilton was considered in the first place, since my connection with him was so firm and personal that I could suppose he would understand a letter addressed to him even if it were formulated in very veiled language.
Reich Minister Hess decided in favour of the second possibility; I wrote a letter to the Duke of Hamilton at the end of September 1940 and its despatch to Lisbon was arranged by the Deputy Fuehrer. I did not learn whether the letter reached the addressee. The possibilities of its being lost en route from Lisbon to England are not small, after all.
Hess recalls his stay in England fairly completely, and remembers clearly his first suicidal attempt. He was very depressed at the time, and planned to kill himself because he felt that he had failed in his mission and also because he felt at times that he was going insane. He recalled his head-first dive into the stairway from the second storey and states that he jumped with such force that he turned over once in the air and struck the railing at the foot of the stairs, landing on his leg, which was broken. His attitude during this interview was co-operative, but he maintained an aloofness which has been characteristic of him since his arrival in prison. He refused to take any type of medicine, and when it was pointed out that his weight was definitely under normal, he stated that there was no need to gain weight at the trial since at its conclusion he would be free to live at home with his family. There in pleasant surroundings he would undoubtedly regain his weight. Of course, if they executed him, it made little difference whether he was fat or thin. Consequently he would not take vitamins or any other medication.
In this interview he was more friendly than at any time before or since. He was deeply appreciative of any comment upon his skill as an actor and in general was extremely happy that he had been so successful.
The reaction of his fellow prisoners was not so enthusiastic. Goering was amazed and upset, and while he enjoyed the frustration of the Court, demonstrated considerable resentment that he had been so completely fooled. Von Schirach felt that such behaviour was not the action of a normal man, and while he enjoyed Hess's jest upon the world, felt that it was not a gesture expected of a good German whose position was as important as that of Hess. Ribbentrop, upon learning the news, was dumbfounded, and was hardly able to speak when told Hess's statement, and merely kept repeating: 'Hess, you mean Hess? The Hess we have here? He said that?' Ribbentrop became quite agitated and seemed to feel such action was not possible. He stated: `But Hess did not know me. I looked at him. I talked to him. Obviously he did not know me. It is just not possible. Nobody could fool me like that.'
Streicher's comment, as usual, was direct and blunt: "If you ask me, I think Hess's behaviour was a shame. It reflects on the dignity of the German people."
Von Ribbentrop arrives in Rome unexpectedly. He is discouraged and nervous. He wants to confer with the Duce and me for various reasons, but there is only one real reason: he wants to inform us about the Hess affair....
The official version is that Hess, sick in body and mind, was a victim of his pacifist hallucinations, and went to England in the hope of facilitating the beginning of peace negotiations. Hence, he is not a traitor; hence he will not talk; hence, whatever else is said or printed in his name, is false. Ribbentrop's conversation is a beautiful feat of patching things up. The Germans want to cover themselves before Hess speaks and reveals things that might make a great impression in Italy.
Mussolini comforted von Ribbentrop, but afterwards told me that he considers the Hess affair a tremendous blow to the Nazi regime. He added that he was glad of it, because this will have the effect of bringing down German stock, even with the Italians.
I have been sitting here for literally several hours, wondering what I can write to you about. But I get no further; and that I regret to say is for a very special reason. Since sooner or later, you will notice it or find out about it, I may as well tell you: I have completely lost my memory. The reason for it I do not know. The doctor gave me a lengthy explanation, but I have meanwhile forgotten what it was.
He (Hess) knew and was capable of understanding Hitler's inner mind, his hatred of Soviet Russia, his lust to destroy Bolshevism, his admiration for Britain and earnest wish to be friends with the British Empire, his contempt for most other countries. No one knew Hitler better or saw him more often in his unguarded moments. With the coming of actual war there was a change. Hitler's meal-time company grew perforce. Generals, admirals, diplomats, high functionaries, were admitted from time to time to this select circle of arbitrary power. The Deputy Fuehrer found himself in eclipse. What were party demonstrations now? This was a time for deeds, not for antics....
Here, he felt, are all these generals and others who must be admitted to the Fuehrer's intimacy, and crowd his table. They have their parts to play. But I, Rudolf, by a deed of superb devotion will surpass them all and bring to my Fuehrer a greater treasure and easement than all of them put together. I will go and make peace with Britain. My life is nothing. How glad I am to have a life to cast away for such a hope!
Hess's idea of the European scene was that England had been wrested from her true interests and policy of friendship with Germany, and above all from alliance against Bolshevism, by the warmongers, of whom Churchill was the superficial manifestation. If only he, Rudolf, could get at the heart of Britain and make its King believe how Hitler felt towards it, the malign forces that now ruled in this ill-starred island and had brought so many needless miseries upon it would be swept away....
But to whom should he turn? There was the Duke of Hamilton, who was known to the son of his political adviser, Haushofer. He knew also that the Duke of Hamilton was Lord Steward. A personage like that would probably be dining every night with the King and have his private ear. Here was a channel of direct access.
On May 10 came the amazing news of Rudolph Hess's sudden landing by parachute on the Duke of Hamilton's estate in Scotland. This happened on a Saturday evening, and Churchill was in Dytchley. He was, in fact, watching a Marx Brothers movie - at least, that was the story as Hopkins was told it. The Duke of Hamilton telephoned from Scotland. Churchill wouldn't leave the movie ; he told a secretary to inform His Grace that the Prime Minister was otherwise engaged. But the Duke insisted that this was an urgent matter of Cabinet importance. So Churchill sent Bracken to take the message while he concentrated on Groucho, Harpo and Chico. Bracken returned to announce that Rudolph Hess had arrived in Britain.
Churchill snorted. "Will you kindly instruct the Duke of Hamilton," he growled, "to tell that to the Marx Brothers ?"
Subsequently Ivone Kirkpatrick was dispatched to the Hamilton place to identify Hess. Kirkpatrick had been in the British Embassy in Berlin for years before the war and therefore knew Hess well and disliked him cordially. When he verified the identification, curt announcement was made and then the British Government covered the whole affair with a ii thick pall of secrecy. Practically everybody in the world who could read a newspaper or listen to a radio was in a fever of anxiety to know what was really behind this strange story. There was no limit to the rumors and speculations. Like everyone else, I was consumed with curiosity, but I knew I was not supposed to ask questions around the White House that were not directly connected with the performance of my own duties.
One evening about ten days after Hess landed I was at dinner with the President, Hopkins and Sumner Welles. Suddenly, in the midst of a conversation about something else, Roosevelt turned to Welles and said, "Sumner, you must have met Hess when you were in Europe last year." Welles said that he had. I was excited for I thought that now I was going to hear the inexplicable explained.
"What's he like ?" Roosevelt asked.
Welles gave a thoughtful description of his impressions of Hess - fanatical, mystical devotion to his Fuehrer, apparently brutish stupidity, etc. Roosevelt was silent for a moment, then: "I wonder what is really behind this story?" Welles said he did not know.
So all I learned was that the President was asking precisely the same question that was being asked at thousands if not millions of other American supper tables.
I looked towards the dock. In two rows often they sat: Goring, reduced to wearing a plain, ill-fitting grey uniform - no medals now - alert and attentive, vigorously nodding his head in agreement or shaking it in denial; Hess, with his pale pinched face; von Ribbentrop, always busy writing notes; Keitel and Jodi, the soldiers, staring silently and sullenly ahead; Schacht, the businessman, whose relationship with the Nazis had been more turbulent, and who had distaste etched into his face at having to sit in public with such unpleasant people; von Papen and von Neurath, politicians both but still the diplomats, polished and immaculate. These all stood out. But how unimpressive were Seyss-Inquart, who had betrayed Austria and ruled occupied Holland; Rosenberg and Fritsche, the propagandists; and von Schirach, formerly a fanatical and dangerous young zealot, but now a visibly broken man. For a time, the whole free world had quaked before these men. Ultimately, however, they had brought not glory, but ruin and misery, to their own land and its people. We had lived in their shadow for a decade, but now history was free to deliver a final verdict upon them.
When the court adjourned for a quarter of an hour, I saw the Nazi leaders arguing heatedly among themselves about the evidence they had heard: evidence which had been gathered from every corner of Europe, from the Chancelleries and concentration camps, from the occupied countries and from Germany itself, of how the Nazis plunged the world into war, led Germany to its undoing and brought themselves, at last, into the dock in that Court House in Nuremberg.
During this meeting Stalin again emphasized the need for the greatest possible number of jeeps and also for American three-ton trucks. He said that the war depended on the gasoline engine - that the country with the biggest output in engines would be the ultimate victor. He also talked again about postwar aims and politics in general. Beaverbrook notes that at one point in the meeting Stalin "sent for tea and food. This was the first time food had been produced at our conferences. It was obviously the result of his pleased excitement."
In Harriman's notes is the following: "Stalin asked about Hess and seemed much interested in Beaverbrook's amusing description of his talk with Hess and his size-up of the situation. Stalin indicated that he thought Hess had gone not at the request of Hitler but with the knowledge of Hitler, to which
Beaverbrook agreed. The net of Beaverbrook's statement was that Hess had come thinking that with a small group of British aristocrats a counter-Churchill government could be set up to make peace with Germany which would be welcomed by the majority of the British. Germany with British aid would then attack Russia. Stalin relished the amusing and detailed comments by Beaverbrook who was in his best form as a raconteur."
In his notes on this part of the conversation, Beaverbrook wrote that Stalin said the German Ambassador (who was still in Moscow at the time of the Hess flight) had told him that Hess was crazy-but Beaverbrook expressed the view that Hess was not.
Harriman expressed to Stalin the hope that he would feel free to cable President Roosevelt directly on any matters that he considered of importance. Harriman assured him that Roosevelt would welcome such messages - as he did similar messages from Churchill. Stalin said he was glad to hear this as he had previously felt he should not presume to address the President directly. Beaverbrook suggested to Stalin that it would be highly desirable for him to meet with Churchill face to face. According to Harriman's notes, Stalin expressed to Beaverbrook his belief that the present military alliance and agreement of no separate peace should be extended to a treaty, an alliance not only for war but for postwar as well. Beaverbrook answered that he personally favored it and believed that it was an opportune time to take it up.
In 1974 Richard Nixon, the US president, was ready to support the release on humanitarian grounds of prisoner number 7, but his efforts were thwarted by unwavering Soviet opposition. So Rudolf Hess, Hitler's former deputy, dubbed "the loneliest man in the world" as sole occupant of Spandau prison, remained locked up, according to secret documents released today by the National Archives at Kew.
The files cover a period when there was an international campaign to free Hess as his 80th birthday approached. It included an application to the European commission of human rights by his wife, Ilse, and public demands by his son, Wolf.
The papers show deep disagreement between the four powers running the Berlin prison - usually the British, French and Americans against the Soviets. The issues included how to handle his death, and whether to give him a new notebook and either destroy the old one, leave it with him, or lock it up.
President Nixon's view was reported to the UK, French and US authorities and summarised in a memo sent from a British legal adviser to the other two.
It says: "The letter says that President Nixon shares the view that there are humanitarian reasons for releasing Hess, notes the repeated refusals of the Soviet Union since 1964 to agree to his release, and ends with an assurance that the US government is ready to join in a further approach to the Soviet Union 'at any time there is an indication that such an approach holds a reasonable chance of success'." The Allies concluded there was no chance of succeeding.
The files hold scores of memos, letters and telegrams on the impossibility of persuading the Soviets to release Hess: a letter to the MP Airey Neave, a former PoW and official at Nuremberg, who campaigned for Hess's release, calls the Soviets intransigent and says Hess's jail life was not that bleak.
A telegram signed "Callaghan" is pragmatic: "We should leave the Russians in no doubt about continuing Allied concern. We wish also to be in a position ... to demonstrate we have made a recent effort to secure [the] release."
In fact Hess would die in the prison 13 years later, his life, imprisonment and death wreathed in conspiracy theories.
In May 1941, just before the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Hess had flown alone to Scotland on a "peace mission" to meet the Duke of Hamilton in Lanarkshire. He landed near the Renfrewshire village of Eaglesham. It was an act apparently not authorised by Hitler, and then and later, people suggested he had been lured there by the British secret service. Churchill was rumoured to be there on the night of May 10, and the Duke of Kent was perhaps involved.
Hess was arrested and became a PoW. After the Nuremberg trials of 1945-46, he was convicted as a war criminal and sentenced to life at Spandau prison.
The authorities which shared administration of the jail were usually at odds with each other. In November 1973, a letter from the British legal adviser, DM Edwards, reports the Soviet governor complaining about his French counterpart. "I expressed amazement ... said Mr de Burlet was only trying to keep the prison running smoothly, practically and humanely until such time as the Soviets reached the sensible conclusion that the prisoner be released and the whole charade closed down."
A British memo says: "Hess has shown no remorse and has not renounced his Nazi faith. To release Hess in these circumstances could stimulate a Nazi revival." But the Nazi could be made more comfortable, with a radio and TV, "an armchair and a rug". It was suggested that he get extended visits and almost uncensored letters.
Poignantly, given that he was to be found dead in a garden shelter, the memo proposed that "Hess be allowed to spend as much time as he likes in the garden, subject only to [coming] inside before dark". One memo talks of taking "the prisoner's spectacles away at lights out ... and return them at 0630 hours".