Peter Padfield is the author of a recent book, Hess, Hitler & Churchill, which claims that Rudolf Hess’s May 1941 flight to Britain (generally thought the solo act of a lunatic) was authorized by Hitler, and that Hess had with him a proposal for an armistice with Britain and German withdrawal from Western Europe in exchange for a free hand to attack Russia.
Rudolf Hess (1894-1987) had been Hitler’s Deputy Fuehrer until the flight; after World War II he was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to life imprisonment.
According to Padfield’s book summarized by the Daily Telegraph, Hess brought with him a typewritten proposed treaty, on German Chancellery paper, proposing a state of wohlwollende Neutralitat (“well wishing neutrality”) between Britain and Germany, even disclosing the date for Hitler’s planned attack on the Soviet Union (22 June 1941).
Mr. Padfield* is an accomplished contrarian, but his book will have to explain Hess’s own claim (to be looking for anti-Churchill elements in Britain); and first-person testimony from those around Hitler, such as Albrecht Speer, who observed Hitler’s furious reactions when he was informed of the Hess flight.
This is not to say Hitler might not have welcomed an arrangement leaving him a free hand in the east. It is well known that he hoped for some kind of stand-off with Britain after the fall of France, and was never keen about invading England. But surely he was smart enough to know he’d never get that from Churchill, who he knew was firmly in power by May 1941. (See following post.)
* Titanic followers like me know Peter Padfield as author of a convincing book, The Titanic and the Californian, exonerating Captain Stanley Lord of the Leyland liner Californian, who supposedly remained immobile within visual range of the sinking Titanic in April 1912. Padfield used naval technology and a battery of measurements to argue that Californian was nowhere near that close. His book, which will be republished shortly, is the leading text of the “Lordites,” who claimed that Stanley Lord had been wrongly accused, notably by Walter Lord (no relation), author of the 1956 bestseller, A Night to Remember.