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Why Would Hitler Approve Hess's Mission?

Adolf Hitler was not merely wrong about a lot of things, he was delusional about many of them. As is common with those who suffer from this disorder, Hitler's delusions could not be altered by reality, and he was immune to the dictate of facts. OK, perhaps this is a bit strong. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that he had certain notions that he clung to with an enormous reserve of wishful thinking, and stubbornly refused to acknowledge anything that cast doubt on these prized notions. Perhaps this is more faith and zeal than a delusional disorder. But either way one words it, Hitler was nothing if not single-minded when it came to his pet theories, and was always willing to bet all his chips on his hunches.

In the field of foreign policy, none of his delusional theories was more strongly held than the idea that Britain was a 'natural ally' of Germany. Hitler believed that all he had to do was convince the recalcitrant English that it was in their own best interests to join Germany, and together they could bring about a Golden Age of prosperity for mankind. If only the British could be convinced of the wisdom of Hitler's geopolitical vision--a world dominated by the British Empire in tandem with a Europe dominated by Hitler's Reich--this Golden Age could be realized.

In Hitler's so-called 
Zweites Buch, an unpublished volume detailing his foreign policy vision, Hitler detailed this geopolitical vision, and attempted to debunk many of the traditional objections to the idea of a German-British alliance. The foremost among these was the balance-of-power conceptualization that it was in the Empire's interest that no Continental power should be allowed to gain hegemony in Europe. This had been at the forefront of British foreign policy for a very long time, and had been the driving force behind her involvement in the Napoleonic Wars and WW1. Here is how Hitler (Zweites Buch, Chapter 13) viewed the matter:

There is a very erroneous and widespread notion, especially in Germany, according to which England would immediately fight against any European hegemony. As a matter of fact this is not correct. England actually concerned herself very little with European conditions as long as no threatening world competitor arose from them, so that she always viewed the threat as lying in a development which must one day cut across her dominion over the seas and colonies.

Hitler espouses the view that British foreign policy is driven exclusively by perceived self-interest. He goes on to improbably claim that the "struggles against Spain, Holland and later France had their ground not in the threatening military might of these States as such, but only in the way this power was founded". That "Prussia could develop out of little Brandenburg and in turn a new German Reich out of the later Prussia [could emerge]" without British interference is due to the fact that "the Hohenzollerns, up to the time of Bismarck, limited themselves almost exclusively to a strengthening of land power." Hitler posits that it was "Germany's misfortune that we ... built up our land power insufficiently and instead went over to a naval policy whose end result had been inadequate anyway".

Hitler:

The course of the anti-German attitude of the English can be exactly followed. It parallels our development on the seas, rises with our colonial activity to an overt antipathy, and finally ends up with our naval policy in a frank hatred . . . . If pre-War Germany had decided upon a continuance of the former Prussian continental policy instead of her peaceful world and economic policy with its fateful repercussions, then first of all she could have raised her land power to that superior height formerly enjoyed by the Prussian State, and secondly she need not have feared an unconditional enmity with England . . . . If Germany had not taken this development, at the turn of the century we still could have reached an understanding with England, which at that time was ready for one. To be sure, such an understanding would have lasted only if had been accompanied by a fundamental shift in our foreign policy goal. Even at the turn of the century Germany could have decided upon a resumption of the former Prussian continental policy, and, together with England, prescribed the further development of world history.

Hitler then goes on to explain that Germany should "together with England" reach "a fundamentally new political orientation which no longer contradicts England's sea and trade interests," thus eliminating the "logical ground for England's enmity." Hitler opines that if the Germans do not in any way compete with the UK's mastery of the seas, "the sober perception of British interests will" determine "English foreign policy," and that "whoever can be useful to her from time to time will be invited on England's side regardless of whether he had been an enemy in the past or perhaps can again become one in the future."

Hitler wrote the above in 1926, during a time when the chances of his Party ever gaining power seemed unlikely at best. When the improbable became reality and Hitler became Chancellor in early 1933, he soon set out to reach this proposed understanding with the British. Whether or not Hitler's idea, that such an understanding could indeed have been formed with Britain, the way he went about pursuing said understanding was hardly optimal. Even ignoring the fact that a Britain familiar with the dishonest and brutal conduct of German foreign policy under Hitler would be ill-disposed to accept his promises as regards an alliance to begin with, his choice of principal front-man and advisor in his negotiations with the UK was perhaps the most unfortunate choice possible.

Joachim von Ribbentrop was a wine and spirits importer whose only qualification, as regards international diplomacy or foreign affairs, was that he had a good knowledge of English and French. The provincial Hitler was unduly impressed by his outward appearance as a man of the world, and his assertions that he had many well-placed foreign contacts. Ribbentrop was entrusted by Hitler with negotiating a disarmament treaty with GB, and on June 18, 1935 the Anglo-German Naval Agreement, a bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and the German Reich regulating the size of the Kriegsmarine in relation to the Royal Navy, was signed. This early success prompted Hitler to appoint Ribbentrop ambassador to London, an appointment that would prove to be absolutely disastrous.

From The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer:

Incompetent and lazy, vain as a peacock, arrogant and without humor, Ribbentrop was the worst possible choice for such a post (ambassador to London), as Goering realized. "When I criticized Ribbentrop's qualifications to handle British problems," he later declared, "the Fuehrer pointed out to me that Ribbentrop knew 'Lord So and So' and 'Minister So and So.' To which I replied: Yes, but the difficulty is that they know Ribbentrop."

General Erhard Milch would later testify:

I had gained the impression in England that von Ribbentrop was not persona grata. I was of the opinion that another man should be sent to England to bring about mutual understanding as to policy, in accordance with the wish so often expressed by Hitler.

Ribbentrop would soon demonstrate that his critics were prescient when on February 5, 1937, he presented his credentials to George VI and snapped off a Hitler salute. He went on to upset the British government by posting Schutz Staffeinel (SS) guards outside the German Embassy and by flying swastika flags on official embassy cars. Even the obtuse Ribbentrop soon became aware of British displeasure with every aspect of his masters foreign policy, as well as the lack of diplomatic skills and understanding of his Ambassador.

Of course, considering the aggressive and brutal nature of Hitler's foreign policy moves during the late thirties, it is doubtful that any German Ambassador could have maintained good relations with the British. Ribbentrop was appointed Reich Foreign Minister on February 4, 1938, and the Anschluss and increasing hostility with Czechoslovakia soon dominated events. The Munich Conference in September was followed by the conquest of Bohemia and Moravia a mere 6 months later, in defiance of the Munich Pact. Hitler then began threatening Poland in the same manner that he had threatened Czechoslovakia, and with the same end result in mind.

At this point, even the Appeasing Chamberlain could no longer deny Germany's aggressive intentions, and was forced to guarantee Poland's independence. Ribbentrop, as foreign minister, returned the British disdain he had received as Ambassador with a petulant and dismissive attitude. He disastrously assured Hitler that the UK would not dare declare war on Germany over Poland. Hitler accepted these assurances, and was greatly disappointed when Ribbentrops prediction proved to be completely wrong, but by then the chances of achieving Hitler's dream of a German-British alliance were forever dashed. At least, anyone not suffering under a delusion, or an obsessive desire, would assume so.

When Britain and France's declaration of war was not followed by any substantial military action, Hitler took heart, telling himself that the declaration was just for show. When he later conquered France, he made clear through the relatively benign terms of the Armistice that he was prepared to deal with the West with moderation, and sent further signals to the British that it was not too late to cut a deal. These feelers were immediately rejected.

However, beyond all reason, Hitler continued to believe that he would eventually be able to persuade the British to, if not form an alliance with him, at least to acquiesce in his conquests. He could never quite convince himself that the British would not eventually 'see reason,' especially if they could be convinced that his next target would be the USSR. Of course, the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact had made this eventuality not at all obvious. And with a state of war existing between Germany and the UK, how was he going to send this message to the British, and make one last effort to secure the desired understanding?

At this point in the war, any serious attempt to talk the British into a tacit alliance was fraught with danger. If the Soviets received reliable advance notice of Barbarossa, they would have been able to anticipate the attack and make defensive preparations. As things stood, they had lulled themselves into a false sense of security, assuming that Hitler could not possibly be considering an attack on them in 1941. Any official attempt to secure British help or acquiescence in Barbarossa could not have been kept secret from the Soviets, and Hitler would have lost this vital element of surprise. So any official notice to the British that Barbarossa was about to occur was ruled out.

So, why would Hitler even consider sending a clandestine envoy to Britain at this point?

1. Hitler believed that if the British could only be convinced that his aims were in the East, and that he was still willing to 'guarantee' the British Empire, they would reconsider his "magnanimous" offer. Hitler considered that it would be unreasonable for them to hold out after their defeat on the Continent, and in the face of the daily Blitz their population was enduring. To Hitler's mind, select British knowledge of Barbarossa and the assumed demise of the hated Communists, a regime that both the UK and the Germans considered enemies of mankind, would be icing on the cake, and British self-interest would compel them to finally see the wisdom of accepting Hitler's offer.

2. There were signs that there was a sizable group in Britain that were not presently in power would welcome yet another concrete overture by Hitler. If he could just make contact with this group, the situation could still be saved. There is much speculation, but little documentation, that a clandestine British intelligence operation had been active and successful in promoting this scenario. Hitler's continuing delusional state as regards Great Britain made him susceptible to this idea, and his obsessive desire to realize his dream alliance would have made him want to exhaustively explore the possibility.

While there is little absolute proof that a British Intelligence sting operation was responsible for the propagation of this seemingly unlikely opportunity, there is enough to consider it likely. When the remaining Hess documents are finally made public in 2015, I predict that documentation proving that the entire
Rudolf Hess Affair was the result of a successful clandestine British sting will be released. Of course, this material is not likely to reveal to what degree Hess shared this British-derived bait with Hitler, leaving the level of Hitler's knowledge concerning the sting unknown.

3. Even with all that had transpired, Hitler still desired that the German-British Alliance become a reality. He remained obsessed with the idea. Just as a rejected lover will continue to send flowers and gifts to the object of his obsessions long past the point of reason, Hitler never completely gave up hope that the British would requite his affections. It is obvious that those in Hitler's inner circle were well aware of this intense desire of their Fuehrer's, and at least a few of them would have been willing to make one further attempt, either with or without Hitler's express approval.

Conclusion: It seems obvious that Hitler would have at least considered making one last effort to bring the British over to his way of thinking. The only question is: Did he? (
Did Adolf Hitler Approve Hess's Mission?)
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