Did Hitler Authorize the Flight of Rudolf Hess?

Did Hitler Authorize the Flight of Rudolf Hess?

Ditch­ley Park, Oxford­shire, 11 May 1941… “Dur­ing the evening, news kept com­ing in of the heavy air raid on Lon­don of the night before,” Churchill wrote. “There was noth­ing I could do about it, so I watched the Marx Broth­ers in a com­ic film which my hosts had arranged.”  He was then informed that Rudolf Hess had para­chut­ed into Scot­land. “Tell that to the Marx Broth­ers!” he growled. When assured it was true he said: “Hess or no Hess, I’m going to watch the Marx Broth­ers.”Churchill by Him­self, 542.

HessQ: Did Hitler send Hess?

Peter Pad­field, in Hess, Hitler & Churchill: The Real Turn­ing Point of the Sec­ond World War, claimed that Rudolf Hess’s May 1941 flight to Britain (gen­er­al­ly thought the solo act of a delu­sion­al psy­co­phant) was autho­rized by Hitler. Alleged­ly Hess had with him a pro­pos­al for an armistice with Britain. Ger­many would with­draw from West­ern Europe in exchange for a free hand to attack Rus­sia. Is there any­thing to this? —R.M.N., South Dakota

A: Unproven

Rudolf Hess (1894-1987) had been Hitler’s Deputy Fuehrer until the flight. After the Sec­ond World War 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. Writ­ten on Ger­man Chan­cellery paper, it pro­posed a state of wohlwol­lende Neu­tral­i­tat (“well wish­ing neu­tral­i­ty”) between Britain and Ger­many. Sup­pos­ed­ly, it even dis­closed the date for Hitler’s planned attack on the Sovi­et Union (22 June 1941).

The wreck­age of Rudolf Hess’s Messer­schmitt Bf 110D after crash land­ing at Bon­ny­ton Moor, Scot­land, on 10 May 1941. (Impe­r­i­al War Muse­um, pub­lic domain)

Mr. Pad­field is an accom­plished con­trar­i­an, but this is a curi­ous the­sis. Hess him­self claimed to be look­ing for anti-Churchill ele­ments in Britain. He sought out the Duke of Hamil­ton, who was any­thing but, and noti­fied Churchill.

First-per­son tes­ti­mo­ny from those around Hitler, such as Albrecht Speer, was to the con­trary. Speer wrote that Hitler was furi­ous when informed of the Hess flight. Hitler stripped Hess all his offices. He ordered Hess  shot on sight if he ever returned to Ger­many. Read­ers of the book please comment.

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 was firm­ly in pow­er by May 1941. (See “Churchill on Peace with Hitler, my next post, on March 25th.)

Peter Padfield

Titan­ic fol­low­ers know Peter Pad­field as author of a con­vinc­ing book, The Titan­ic and the Cal­i­forn­ian. Defy­ing most accounts, Pad­field exon­er­ates Cap­tain Stan­ley Lord of the Ley­land lin­er Cal­i­forn­ian, who sup­pos­ed­ly remained immo­bile in an ice floe 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 is the lead­ing text of the “Lordites.” They claim Cap­tain Lord was wronged, notably by Wal­ter Lord (no rela­tion), author of the 1956 best­seller, A Night to Remember.

Trivia: Lennoxlove

In the 1990s I host­ed a Churchill Tour vis­it to Lennoxlove, seat of the Dukes of Hamil­ton and Bran­don.  Vis­i­tors will find a small muse­um con­tain­ing Hess flight mem­o­ra­bil­ia. Aston­ish­ing­ly, the house itself con­tainas the death mask of Mary Queen of Scots!  Click here and go to minute 24.


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