The Propagander ™ FAQ

Did Adolf Hitler Approve Hess's Mission?

Rudolf Hess was one of Hitler's longest serving cronies. He first heard Hitler speak in May of 1920, joined the Party in July, and in February of 1921 organized a 100-man strong SA troop from his fellow students at Munich University. Among his professors at University was the pioneer in geopolitics, Professor Karl Haushofer. Later, Hess introduced Haushofer to Hitler, and together they formulated the theory of "Lebensraum."

On November 9, 1923, Hess took part in the Hitler Putsch, more commonly called the Beer Hall Putsch or Munich Putsch. He subsequently did time in jail with Hitler, and collaborated with him on writing
Mein Kampf. Before the end of Hitler's first year in power, Hess was appointed Deputy Fuehrer and a Reich Minister without Portfolio. He accumulated a number of further appointments as a member of the Secret Cabinet Council, and the Council of Ministers for Defense of the Reich.

But despite Hess's numerous offices and his position as third man in the Reich (after
Hermann Goering), he had been pushed further and further into the background. This was not due to any specific incident, but because Hitler found him wearying. As he explained to Albert Speer in 1940: "When I talk with Goering, it's like a bath of steel for me; I feel fresh afterwards. The Reich Marshal has a stimulating way of presenting things. With Hess, every conversation becomes an unbearably tormenting strain. He always comes to me with unpleasant matters and won't leave off." The speculation has always been that it is for this reason that Hess made his flight to Scotland; to regain favor with his Fuehrer.

The impetus behind the move was an elaborate sting operation by British Intelligence. The entire story behind it will not be made available until 2015, when the secret files on the operation will finally be released to the public. Below is an extensive chronological review of all of the related documentation available to this compiler. It is quite extensive, but it is all pertinent and extremely interesting, and is followed by a regrettably unsatisfying conclusion.

August 1, 1936: Hitler opens the XIth 
Olympiad. Rudolf Hess will later claim that he met the Duke of Hamilton at these games, but the Duke will profess to having little memory of the meeting.

Note: From September 19, 1940, it seems that the communications below with the "Duke of Hamilton" went from being actual exchanges with the Duke to being counterfeit communications from British intelligence operatives.

June 26, 1938: From Professor Albrecht Haushofer's report to Reich Foreign Minister
Joachim von Ribbentrop, concerning his meetings with British politicians:

Britain has still not abandoned her search for chances of a settlement with Germany (perhaps on the basis of German leadership, but not conquest, in South-east Europe, frontier revisions through plebiscites, West African colonies, four-power pact, and armaments restriction). A certain measure of pro-German sentiment has not yet disappeared among the British people; the Chamberlain-Halifax government sees its own future strongly tied to the achievement of a true settlement with Rome and Berlin (with a displacement of Soviet influence in Europe). ....

But the belief in the possibility of an understanding between Britain and Germany is dwindling fast. A new imperialism is suspected behind the pan-German program of National Socialism (with which one has become more or less reconciled). Here the Czech question assumes the significance of a decisive test case. A German attempt to solve the Bohemian-Moravian question by a military attack would under present circumstances present for Britain (and in British opinion also for France) a casus belli. In such a war the British Government would have the whole nation behind it. It would be conducted as a crusade for the liberation of Europe from German militarism. London is convinced that such a war would be won with the help of the USA (whose full participation, within days, not weeks, is anticipated) at the cost, of course, of an incalculable expansion of Bolshevism outside the Anglo-Saxon world. (SSN)

July 16, 1938: Haushofer writes to the Duke of Hamilton:

Something on the tactical side: Your "inside" people know how to put a certain amount of pressure on the big man in Rome: they ought to start that pressure fairly soon. Something of the more general type: It is not enough for England to advertise herself as the big boss in the fire brigade, or to organize a fire insurance company with other nations (some of them--viz. Poland--not quite above playing with fire themselves): What Europe needs is a real British peace plan on the basis of full equality and with considerable (but strictly mutual) safeguards on the military side. I realize to the full that a strong system of safeguards will be necessary if your people are to be persuaded to meet even the slightest German wishes regarding European or colonial territory. But as long as your Government has not lost sight of the second part of their original program--full security and peaceful change through negotiation--they might be able to test the second part early enough to secure a positive effect...

September 3, 1940: Professor Karl Haushofer writes a letter to his son, Albrecht, lamenting the anticipated invasion of the British Isles by Germany. The Professor urges his son, who is a friend and advisor to Rudolf Hess, to make an entrance on "the larger stage" to "stop something which would have such infinitely momentous consequences." (Waller)

September 8, 1940: Professor Albrecht Haushofer writes the Duke of Hamilton: "You ... may find some significance in the fact that I am able to ask you whether you could find time to have a talk to me somewhere on the outskirts of Europe, perhaps in Portugal." Haushofer makes reference to individuals in the British government who desire a "German-English agreement." He mentions two by name; Samuel Hoare and Rab Butler. (SSN)

September 8, 1940: Professor Albrecht Haushofer visits Hess. Showing the Deputy Fuehrer his father's letter of the 3rd, he proposes that the two of them approach British politicians and nationals who feel, as they do, that the conflict between their respective nations should be brought to a negotiated end for the benefit of both. (Waller)

September 15, 1940: From a report by Professor Albrecht Haushofer to Ribbentrop detailing a meeting between himself and Deputy Fuehrer Rudolf Hess:

On 8 September, I was summoned to Bad Godesberg to report to the Deputy of the Fuehrer on the subject discussed in this memorandum. The conversation which the two of us had alone lasted two hours. I had the opportunity to speak in all frankness.

I was immediately asked about the possibilities of making known to persons of importance in England Hitler's serious desire for peace. It was quite clear that the continuance of the war was suicidal for the white race. Even with complete peace in Europe Germany was not in a position to take over the inheritance of the Empire. The Fuehrer had not wanted to see the Empire destroyed and did not want it even today. Was there not somebody in England who was ready for peace?

First I asked for permission to discuss fundamental things. It was necessary to realize that not only Jews and Freemasons, but practically all Englishmen who mattered, regarded a treaty signed by the Fuehrer as a worthless scrap of paper. To the question as to why this was so, I referred to the ten-year term of our Polish Treaty, to the Non-Aggression Pact with Denmark signed only a year ago, to the "final" frontier demarcation of Munich. What guarantee did England have that a new treaty would not be broken again at once if it suited us? It must be realized that, even in the Anglo-Saxon world, the Fuehrer was regarded as Satan's representative on earth and had to be fought.

If the worst came to the worst, the English would rather transfer their whole Empire bit by bit to the Americans than sign a peace that left to National Socialist Germany the mastery of Europe. The present war, I was convinced, shows that Europe has become too small for its previous anarchic form of existence; it is only through close German-English co-operation that it can achieve a true federative order (based by no means merely on the police rule of a single power), while maintaining a part of its world position and having security against Soviet Russian Eurasia. France was smashed, probably for a long time to come, and we had opportunity currently to observe what Italy is capable of accomplishing. As long, however, as German-English rivalry existed, and in so far as both sides thought in terms of security, the lesson of this war was this: every German had to tell himself: we have no security as long as provision is not made that the Atlantic gateways of Europe from Gibraltar to Narvik are free of any possible blockade. That is: there must be no English fleet. Every Englishman, must, however, under the same conditions, argue: we have no security as long as anywhere within a radius of 2,000 kilometers from London there is a plane that we do not control. That is: there must be no German Air Force. There is only one way out of this dilemma: friendship intensified to fusion, with a joint fleet, a joint air force, and joint defense of possessions in the world--just what the English are now about to conclude with the United States.

Here I was interrupted and asked why, indeed, the English were prepared to seek such a relationship with America and not with us. My reply was: because Roosevelt is a man who represents a Weltanschauung and a way of life that the Englishman thinks he understands, to which he can become accustomed, even where it does not seem to be to his liking. Perhaps he fools himself--but, at any rate, that is what he believes. A man like Churchill--himself half-American--is convinced of this. Hitler, however, seems to the Englishman the incarnation of what he hates that he has fought against for centuries--this feeling grips the workers no less than the plutocrats.

In fact, I am of the opinion that those Englishmen who have property to lose, that is, precisely the portions of the so-called plutocracy that count, are those who would be readiest to talk peace. But even they regard a peace only as an armistice.

I was compelled to express these things so strongly because I ought not--precisely because of my long experience in attempting to effect a settlement with England in the past and my numerous English friendships--make it appear that I seriously believed in the possibility of a settlement between Adolf Hitler and England in the present stage of development.

I was thereupon asked whether I was not of the opinion that feelers had perhaps not been successful because the right language had not been used. I replied that, to be sure--if certain persons, whom we both knew well, were meant by this statement--then certainly the wrong language had been used. But at the present stage this had little significance.

I was then asked directly why all Englishmen were so opposed to Herr von Ribbentrop. I suggested that in the eyes of the English, Herr von Ribbentrop, like some other personages, played the same role as did Duff Cooper, Eden, and Churchill in the eyes of the Germans. In the case of Herr von Ribbentrop, there was also the conviction, precisely in the view of Englishmen who were formerly friendly to Germany that--from completely biased motives--he had informed the Fuehrer wrongly about England and that he personally bore an unusually large share of the responsibility for the outbreak of the war.

But I again stressed the fact that the rejection of peace feelers by England was today due not so much to persons as to the fundamental outlook above. Nevertheless, I was asked to name those whom I thought might be reached as possible contacts . . . . As the final possibility I then mentioned that of a personal meeting on neutral soil with the closest of my English friends: the young Duke of Hamilton. (SSN)

September 19, 1940: Haushofer writes to Rudolf Hess, telling him of a letter he has sent to the Duke of Hamilton, suggesting a meeting in Lisbon. Haushofer's letter to Hamilton will be intercepted by MI5 and Hamilton will be persuaded to work as a double agent. Hamilton will be induced to write back to Haushofer, agreeing to meet him in Lisbon.

Colonel 'Tar' Robertson, head of MI5's double agent section, will later write:

Hamilton at the beginning of the war and still is a member of the community which sincerely believes that Great Britain will be willing to make peace with Germany provided the present regime in Germany were superseded by some reasonable form of government . . . . He is a slow-witted man, but at the same time he gets there in the end; and I feel that if he is properly schooled before leaving for Lisbon he could do a very useful job of work. (SSN)

October 9, 1940: Ernst Wilhelm Bohle, the State Secretary of the Reich Foreign Office and a friend and confident of Hess, meets with the Deputy Fuehrer--at his request--in his Berlin apartment. Hess asks Bohle to join with him in a confidential secret project. The aim, to broker an understanding with Britain.

From the account of Dr Robert Kemper, assistant to Justice Jackson and subsequently Deputy Chief Prosecutor at 
Nuremberg under Telford Taylor, of his conversations with witness Bohle during the first Trial:

I chose you," Hess said, "because you speak English, know the British and consider our war with Britain as much a mistake as I do." .... When I immediately agreed, he told me that above all others, my chief, Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop, must not hear even a breath of this intention as he would sabotage it at once. Hess then explained that he wanted to write to the Duke of Hamilton, whom he had met on the occasion of the Olympic Games, and who had great influence in Britain, to suggest a private meeting in Switzerland. He handed me the draft of the first part of a letter and asked me to translate it, right away, in an office next door.

Note: Hess will confer with professor of geopolitics Karl Haushofer for the next few months, and call Bohle every few weeks with further drafts of the letter. See: January 4, 1941. (Sereny)

January 4, 1941: Ernst Bohle has his last contact with Hess, to transfer yet another draft of Hess's letter to the Duke of Hamilton.

From Dr Robert Kemper's account of his post-war conversations with Bohle:

Later I [Bohle] heard that Hess had made a first attempt in mid-January to fly to England which, as well as the next one in February or March, he had to abandon for technical reasons. I had no idea that his intention was to fly directly to England. In fact, having served as his interpreter at a dinner with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor some time before, I had asked him to take me along to Switzerland where I thought he was going to meet Hamilton. "If your plan comes to pass," I said to him, "please suggest to the Fuehrer that I accompany you." In his reply, he didn't mention Hitler, nor did he say that Hitler knew nothing about the plan, and I have always been of the opinion that Hitler was informed. (Sereny)

From Adolf Hitler by John Toland:

Hess was sure that Hitler would welcome a novel peace venture but would never allow him to risk his life in the attempt. Hadn't he already refused to let Hess fly at the front? Therefore, secrecy was essential. It was the decision of a naive, not too bright acolyte who, according to Adjutant Wiedemann, was the Fuehrer's "most devoted and dedicated subordinate." A painfully shy man whose greatest ambition was to further his master's career, Hess hid behind tightly stern lips, heavy jowls, fanatic eyes and a fearsome pair of eyebrows. But this was no Teutonic Oliver Cromwell. Once he smiled, the severity vanished. It was this Parsifal who conjured up the dream of flight to the enemy, this man of culture without judgment, this completely devoted servant who convinced himself that he was carrying out the true will of his master . . . .

His secretary, Hildegard Fath, noticed that Hess often did not listen to what she was saying. His wife was equally aware of his preoccupation. What surprised her even more was the unusual amount of time he spent with their four-year-old son, who bore Hitler's secret name, Wolf. Surprising too, in view of Hess's reluctance to pose for pictures, was his own recent suggestion that photographs of father and son be taken.

Hess rose early on the morning of May 10, a Saturday, and, upon learning that the weather forecast was good, made arrangements for the flight. Never had he been more gallant to his wife. After tea he kissed her hand and then stood gravely at the door of the nursery "with an air of one deep in thought and almost hesitating." She asked him when he was returning and, told it would be Monday at the latest, she bluntly said, "I cannot believe it. You will not come back as soon as that!" She guessed he was bound for a meeting with someone like Petain but he feared that he had guessed the truth. He turned "hot and cold in turns" and, before she could say anything more, he dashed into the nursery to take a last look at their slumbering son.

May 10, 1941: Hess flies to Glasgow, Scotland in a Messerschmitt ME-110. At 6,000 feet, Hess bails out and parachutes safely to the ground. He encounters a Scottish farmer and addresses him in English: "I have an important message for the Duke of Hamilton."

Luftwaffe General Adolf Galland:

If Hess went with Hitler's knowledge, and I have no reason to think he did, then certainly Hitler didn't let Goering in on it, because Goering told me in no uncertain terms to take up a squadron of fighters to pursue him and to shoot him down. Hitler was an actor--a very good one--but Goering not at all; if he told me to shoot Hess down, it was because he thought Hess was up there against the Fuehrer's orders or wishes, and that was that. (Sereny)

May 11, 1941: Early this Sunday morning, Hess's adjutants, Karl-Heinz Pintsch and Alfred Leitgen, present Hitler with Hess's letter. The apparently surprised Fuehrer flies into a great rage and places them under arrest.

From Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth by Gitta Sereny:

Once again, as so often at decisive moments, Speer happened to be at the Berghof, apparently waiting to show Hitler new designs. Hess's "pale and agitated aides," he writes with one of his not infrequent embellishments in Inside the Third Reich, putting himself more "in the know" than he actually was, "asked if I would let them see Hitler first: they had a personal letter from Hess to transmit to him." In the more factual draft (and in Below's memoirs) it is not Speer who allows them--or is asked for--precedence. The other guests, including Speer, are quickly herded up to the second floor, where they would wait for hours, in ignorance of the dramatic events downstairs. Hitler, having hurried down and perused the letter handed to him by General Karl Bodenschatz (Goering's liaison officer with Hitler), bellowed for Bormann, and ordered adjutant Pintsch into his presence. Hess's unhappy aides, having admitted that they knew the contents of the letter, were arrested and taken off to a concentration camp . . . .

The concern over Italy's and Japan's goodwill led Hitler to issue an announcement that night that Hess's flight to Britain was the result of a mental breakdown, the symptoms of which had been noticed for some time. "My God," wrote Goebbels in his diary that night, "and that was the second man in the Reich. What will the world think of us?" Actually Hitler had to fear something considerably worse than the suspicion of his Axis partners and the mockery of "the world." This was the appalling prospect of Hess--voluntarily or by being drugged or otherwise coerced--giving away to the British the plans for Barbarossa, then scheduled for June 22, with which he was fully familiar. "I don't know how far advanced the British were with truth drugs then," Speer told me, "but voluntarily, Hess would never have betrayed Hitler, of that I am quite certain." In fact, in his letter to Hitler Hess had specifically promised silence, and he kept his promise.

May 11, 1941: Hess has an interview with the Duke of Hamilton:

On Sunday, May 11, I came to Maryhill Barracks with an Intelligence Officer, and there we first inspected the personal effects of the prisoner. Among these were a Leica camera, photographs of himself and a young child, some drugs, and visiting cards of Dr. Karl Haushofer and his son, Dr. Albert Haushofer. I entered the prisoner's cell accompanied by the Intelligence Officer and the officer in charge. The prisoner immediately asked if he could speak to me alone. I therefore asked the officers to retire. The German began by telling me that he had made my acquaintance during the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936 and that I had once dined in his house. "I don't know if you remember me," he said, "but I am Rudolf Hess." He said further that he had come on a mission for mankind: the Fuehrer did not wish to destroy England and wanted to end the war.

His friend, Albert Haushofer, had told him that I was an Englishman who would appreciate his point of view. He went on to say that he had tried three times to fly to England, the first time in the previous December, but he turned back each time on account of bad weather. The Fuehrer, Hess also maintained, was convinced that Germany would win the war, possibly soon, but certainly in one, two, or three years. Hess himself wished to stop the futile carnage . . . . He asked me if I could get together leading members of my party to talk over things with a view to making peace proposals. I replied that there was now only one party in this country. He then said he could tell me what Hitler's peace terms would be. First, he would insist on an arrangement whereby our two countries would never go to war again. I questioned him as to how that arrangement could be brought about; and he replied that one of the conditions, of course, is that Britain would give up her traditional policy of always opposing the strongest power in Europe.

May 12, 1941: J. R. Rees reports to Churchill:

Hess said he was horrified at the heavy raids on London in 1940, and loathed the thought of killing young children and their mothers. This feeling was intensified when he contemplated his own wife and child, and led to the idea of flying to Britain and arranging peace with the large anti-war faction he thought exited in this country . . . . He was insistent that he would have no dealings with the "clique"--the government now in power--who would do everything possible to thwart him, but he was very vague as to what statesmen should replace them, and seemed to be extremely ill-informed as to the names and relative importance of our politicians.

May 12, 1941: Professor Albrecht Haushofer is arrested by the Gestapo and taken to Berchtesgaden. He is ordered to write a full report on everything he knows about Hess's flight. Hitler then orders that Haushofer be sent to the Prince Albrecht Strasse Gestapo Prison in Berlin. He will be intensely interrogated by the head of the Gestapo, Heinrich Mueller.

May 12, 1941: Albrecht Haushofer's report to Adolf Hitler:

The circle of English individuals whom I have known very well for years, and whose utilization on behalf of a German-English understanding in the years from 1934 to 1938 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 favor 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 ... 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 favor of the second possibility; I wrote a letter to the Duke of Hamilton at the end of September 1940 and its dispatch 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. (SSN)

May 13, 1941: Hess's injured leg is treated at Buchanan Castle Military Hospital near Drymen.

May 13, 1941: Ernst Bohle attends a meeting with Hitler at Obersalzberg.

From Dr Robert Kemper's account of his post-war conversations with Bohle:

I [Bohle] heard that Hess--who since the beginning of war seldom wanted to bother Hitler and thus saw him only rarely--had had a four-hour-long private meeting with him at the Chancellery shortly before he left. And on May 13 when Hitler received the "top men"--including me--on the Obersalzberg, he confirmed this meeting and said that Hess had asked him whether he still stood by his program of collaboration with Britain as stated in Mein Kampf. Hitler said he did. (Sereny)

May 13, 1941: An official release of the German Information Office:

It is officially announced by the National Socialist Party that Party Member Rudolf Hess, who, as he was suffering from an illness of some years standing, had been strictly forbidden to embark on any further flying activity, was able, contrary to this command, again to come into possession of an aircraft. On Saturday, May 10, at about 6:00 PM, Rudolf Hess again set off on a flight from Augsburg, Bavaria, from which he has not yet returned. A letter left behind shows by its confusion traces of a mental disorder, and it is feared that he was a victim of hallucinations. The Fuehrer at once ordered the arrest of the adjutants of Party Member Hess, who alone had knowledge of these flights and did not, contrary to the Fuehrer's orders, of which they were fully aware, either prevent or report the flights. Under these circumstances it must be assumed that Party Member Hess either jumped from his aircraft or met with an accident.

From Khrushchev Remembers by Nikita Khrushchev, translated by Strobe Talbot:

Stalin's face and behavior showed signs of his anxiety, but he rarely shared his anxiety with the rest of us or even asked our opinion about what should be done. I remember that when Hess flew to England and the Germans put out the canard that he had fled, I said to Stalin, "The Germans are hiding something. I don't think Hess's flight to England is really an escape from Germany at all. I think he must actually be on a secret mission from Hitler to negotiate with the English about cutting short the war in the West to free Hitler's hands for the push east." Stalin heard me out, and then said, "Yes, that's it. You understand correctly." He didn't develop his thoughts on the subject further. He just agreed. We had long since become accustomed to the practice that if you weren't told something, you didn't ask.

May 13, 1941: A Nazi Party correspondent fills in some detail in a later edition:

From an examination of the papers left behind by Rudolf Hess, it seems that he harbored the delusion that, by a personal approach to English acquaintances, he could still bring about an understanding between Germany and England. In point of fact, a report from London states that he has bailed out of his plane over Scotland near the place he was seeking, and has been found there, apparently injured. Rudolf Hess, who for years had been known to suffer from severe pain, has lately had increasingly frequent recourse to all kinds of cures, to hypnotists, astrologers, and so forth. How far these persons are to blame for creating mental confusion in Hess is being investigated. But is it also conceivable that Hess has been deliberately lured into a trap by the English. The whole nature of his action confirms the fact mentioned in the first announcement, namely, that he suffered from delusions. He knew better than anyone else the numerous peace proposals put forward honestly by the Fuehrer. But apparently he has deluded himself into that, by personal sacrifice, he could prevent those developments which would end only with the complete destruction of the British Empire. Hess, whose duties, as we all know, lay exclusively within the Party, had no clear idea about this venture, still less of its consequences.

May 13, 1941: Hess has an interview with Ambassador Mr. Kirkpatrick:

At this point Hess tried to make my flesh creep by emphasizing that the avaricious Americans had fell designs upon the Empire. Canada would certainly be incorporated into the United States. Reverting to Hitler's attitude, he said that only as recently as May 3rd, after his Reichstag speech, Hitler had declared to him that he had no oppressive demands to make of England. The solution which Herr Hess proposed was that England should give Germany a free hand in Europe, and Germany would give England a completely free hand in the Empire, with the sole reservation that we should return Germany's ex-colonies, which she required as a source of raw materials. I asked, in order to draw him on the subject of Hitler's attitude to Russia, whether he included Russia in Europe or in Asia. He replied, "In Asia."

I then retorted that under the terms of his proposal, since Germany would only have a free hand in Europe, she would not be at liberty to attack Russia. Herr Hess reacted quickly by remarking that Germany had certain demands to make of Russia which would have to be satisfied either by negotiation or as the result of a war. He added, however, that there was no foundation for the rumors now being spread that Hitler was contemplating an early attack on Russia. I then asked about Italian aims and he said that he did not know. I replied that it was a matter of some importance. He brushed this aside and said that he was sure that Italy's claims would not be excessive. I suggested that Italy scarcely deserved anything, but he begged to differ. Italy had rendered considerable services to Germany; and, besides, England had compensated defeated nations like Romania after the last war.

Finally, as we were leaving the room, Herr Hess delivered a parting shot. He had forgotten, he declared, to emphasize that the proposal could only be considered on the understanding that it was negotiated by Germany with an English Government other than the present British Government. Mr. Churchill, who had planned the war since 1936, and his colleagues, who had lent themselves to his war policy, were not persons with whom the Fuehrer could negotiate.

May 13, 1941: From an account of conversations between Ribbentrop, Mussolini and Ciano:

To begin with, the Reich Foreign Minister conveyed the Fuehrer's greetings to the Duce. He would shortly propose to the Duce a date for the planned meeting, which he would like to take place as soon as possible. As the place for the meeting he would probably prefer the Brenner. At the present moment he was, as the Duce could well understand, still busy with the Hess Affair and with a few military matters . . . .

The Reich Foreign Minister then said that the Fuehrer had sent him to the Duce in order to inform him about the Hess affair and the conversations with Admiral Darlan. With regard to Hess's affair he remarked that the Fuehrer and his staff had been completely taken aback by Hess's action and that it had been the deed of a lunatic. Hess had been suffering for a long time from bilious attacks and had fallen into the hands of magnetists and nature-cure doctors who caused his state of health to become worse. All these matters were being investigated at the moment, as well as the responsibility of the aides-de-camp who had known about Hess's forbidden flights. Hess had for weeks carried out secret practice flights in an ME-110. Naturally he had acted only from idealistic motives. Disloyalty towards the Fuehrer was utterly out of the question. His conduct had to be explained by a kind of abstractness and a state of mind caused by his illness . . . .

Being sympathetically inclined towards England, he had conceived the crazy idea of using Great Britain's fascist circles to persuade the British to give in. He had explained all this in a long and confused letter to the Fuehrer. When this letter reached the Fuehrer, Hess was already in England. It was hoped in Germany that he would perhaps meet with an accident on the way, but he was now really in England and had tried to contact the former Marquis of Clydesdale, the present Duke of Hamilton. Hess quite wrongly considered him as a great friend of Germany and had flown to the neighborhood of his castle in Scotland.

May 13, 1941: From the Diary of Count Ciano, Foreign Minister of Axis Italy:

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.

From a post-war interview with Willy Messerschmitt:

In the late autumn of 1940, he [Hess] told me in Augsburg that he wanted to try out new fighter planes. At first I refused, but Hess insisted and declared that his position entitled him to this, and in the end I gave permission for "the Fuehrer's Deputy" to fly the ME-110 plane. Hess, an outstanding pilot, carried out some twenty flights from the Augsburg airfield. After each flight he reported to me and my engineers what faults he had discovered in the machine, in hope that this would lead the engineers to design a special machine for the secretly planned flight to Britain. After one such flight Hess said to me, "This fighter plane is excellent, but it is only suitable for short flights. I bet that it will lose all its maneuverability if you put additional fuel tanks on the wings." Shortly after this, Hess tried the same tactics with regard to a radio set which he wanted to have greater range. In order to show that the installation of a heavier radio set did not affect the flying qualities of the machine, I had one put in. Pretending that his interest was a purely technical one, Hess gradually got us to build for him an ideal machine for the flight he had planned.

May 14 1941: Goering confronts Messerschmitt in Munich. From a later account written by Messerschmitt:

Goering pointed his marshal's baton at my stomach. He shouted: "So as far as you are concerned, anyone can apparently fly off in a Messerschmitt!" I asked him what he meant, to which Goering replied: "You know this fellow Hess very well." I answered, "But Hess is not just anybody." Goering, who was gradually cooling down, said: "You should have made inquires before you put a machine at the disposal of such a man."

I answered: "If you came to my factory and asked for a plane, should I first ask the Fuehrer for permission to give it to you?" That angered Goering again, and he countered sharply: "That is entirely different. I am the Air Minister." I replied, "And Hess is the Fuehrer's Deputy." "But have you ever noticed, Messerschmitt, that the man was mad!" I replied dryly, "How could I assume that a madman could occupy such a high position in the Third Reich? I think they should make him resign, Herr Field Marshal." "You are incorrigible, Messerschmitt. Go back and get on making aircraft," Goering laughed.

May 14, 1941: From notes of an interview of Hess by Ambassador Mr. Kirkpatrick:

He then passed to political questions. He said that, on reflection, he had omitted to explain that there were two further conditions attached to his peace proposals. First, Germany could not leave Iraq in the lurch. The Iraqis had fought for Germany and Germany would, therefore, have to require us to evacuate Iraq. I observed that this was going considerably beyond the original proposal that German interests should be confined to Europe, but he retorted that, taken as a whole, his proposals were more than fair.

The second condition was that the peace agreement should contain a provision for the reciprocal indemnification of British and German nationals, whose property had been expropriated as the result of war. Herr Hess concluded by saying that he wished to impress on us that Germany must win the war by blockade. We had no conception of the number of submarines now building in Germany. Hitler always did things on a grand scale and devastating submarine war, supported by new types of aircraft, would very shortly succeed in establishing a completely effective blockade of England. It was fruitless for anyone here to imagine that England could capitulate and that the war could be waged from the Empire. It was Hitler's intention, in such an eventuality, to continue the blockade of England, even though the island had capitulated, so that we would have to face the deliberate starvation of the population of these islands.

May 14, 1941: Ernst Bohle is questioned by Heinrich "Gestapo" Mueller and Reinhard Heydrich concerning his part in Hess's flight. Bohle will later learn that Bormann had asked Hitler to sign an order for his arrest, but Hitler had refused to do so.

From Dr Robert Kemper's account of his post-war conversations with Bohle:

This [Hitler's unwillingness to arrest me] was incomprehensible if Hitler really was totally uninvolved. Even though I didn't know about the flight itself, I did far more to toward bringing it about than Hess's secretaries, chauffeurs, servants and others who were locked up. I was questioned for a long time on May 14 by Heydrich and Gestapo Mueller, but was told to go home. The only explanation I could think of was that Hess had told Hitler of the help I had given him, but had asked that I be let off if the thing went wrong and Hitler was forced to disallow him. (Sereny)

May 15, 1941: From notes of an interview of Hess by Ambassador Mr. Kirkpatrick:

I then threw a fly over him about Ireland. He said that in all his talks with Hitler, the subject of Ireland had never been mentioned except incidentally. Ireland had done nothing for Germany in this war and it was therefore to be supposed that Hitler would not concern himself in Anglo-Irish relations. We had some little conversation about the difficulty of reconciling the wishes of the South and North and from this we pass to American interest in Ireland, and so to America. On the subject of America, Hess took the following line.

1. The Germans reckoned with American intervention and were not afraid of it. They knew all about American aircraft production and the quality of the aircraft. Germany could out-build England and America combined.

2. Germany had no designs on America. The so-called German peril was a ludicrous figment of imagination. Hitler's interests were European.

3. If we made peace now, America would be furious. America really wanted to inhabit the British Empire. Hess concluded by saying that Hitler really wanted a permanent understanding with us on a basis which preserved the Empire intact. His own flight was intended to give us a chance of opening conversations without loss of prestige. If we reject this chance, it would be clear proof that we desired no understanding with Germany and Hitler would be entitled--in fact it would be his duty--to destroy us utterly and to keep us after the war in a state of permanent subjection.

From Goebbels: The Man next to Hitler by Rudolf Semmler:

Goebbels spoke of Hess's mental illness and then described the comedy of Hess and his wife, who had been trying for years to produce an heir. No one knew for sure whether the child was really his. Hess was alleged to have been with his wife to astrologers, cartomancers, and other workers of magic and to have drunk all kinds of mixtures and potions before they were successful in begetting a child. Frau Goebbels remembered that Frau Hess had told her for five or six years in succession that she was at last going to have a child--generally because some prophet had predicted it. When the child arrived, Hess danced for joy. All the Gauleiters were instructed to send the Deputy Fuehrer a sack of earth from each Gau. This earth was scattered under a specially made cradle, so that the child symbolically started his life on German soil. Goebbels added that he himself had seriously considered--as Gauleiter of Berlin--whether he would not do best to send a Berlin paving stone.

May 15, 1941: Goebbels issues "an order against occultism, clairvoyance, etc." From Goebbels' Diary: "This obscure rubbish will now be eliminated once and for all. The miracle men, Hess's darlings, will now be put under lock and key."

May 16, 1941: Prime Minister Churchill's Personal Minute, Serial No. M550/1:

I approved the War Office proposal to bring Hess to the Tower by tonight pending his place of confinement being prepared at Aldershot. His treatment will become less indulgent as time goes on. There need be no hurry about interviewing him, and I wish to be informed before any visitors are allowed. He is to be kept in the strictest seclusion, and those in charge of him should refrain from conversation. The public will not stand any pampering except for intelligence purposes with this notorious war criminal.

From The Unseen War in Europe: Espionage and Conspiracy in the Second World War by John H. Waller:

Rudolf Hess's strange flight to Scotland, on May 10, 1941, reinforced Stalin's conviction that the British and Germans were about to gang up on him. According to the Russian historian A. M. Nekrich, writing just before Hitler's invasion of Russia, Stalin was certain that Britain not only was aware of the impending invasion, but "was inciting Germany to attack the USSR; that secret negotiations were taking place in London with Rudolf Hess." Given this distorted assumption, it is little wonder that the Soviet dictator considered Churchill's warnings "a British provocation." Soviet spy Kim Philby in one of his reports to Moscow claimed that Hess "had brought peace offers." Philby also quoted Hess as saying, "Germany has certain demands of Russia, which would have to be satisfied either by direct negotiations or as a result of war."

The NKVD scrambled to confirm Philby's reports and produced information that drew the disturbing conclusion that Hess's flight had not been the act of a deranged man, as some in Britain were claiming but was symptomatic of "a Nazi conspiracy to reach a peace agreement with Britain before attacking the Soviet Union." . . . . Philby's reporting to his Soviet masters disclosed that before Hess's flight a letter from him to the Duke of Hamilton was "intercepted by the British counter-intelligence service." Assuming Stalin heard this from such high-level NKVD penetrations of the British, we should not find it surprising that he leaped to the conclusion that the Hess flight was part of a British-German conspiracy rather than simply a British Secret Service provocation sting.

May 17, 1941: Churchill to FDR:

Hess was extremely voluble . . . . The British Empire ... would be left intact . . . . The old invitation to desert all our friends in order to save temporarily the greater part of our skin . . . . Germany had certain demands to make of Russia which would have to be satisfied, but [he] denied rumors that attack on Russia was being prepared. (Sereny)

May 17-20, 1941: Hess becomes the last prisoner to date, to be held in the Queen's House at the Tower of London.

May 20, 1941: Hess is moved from the Tower of London to Camp Z in Mytchett Place, Aldershot. He will spend the next 13 months at Camp Z.

May 30, 1941: Psychiatrist Dr. Henry Victor Dicks is assigned as Rudolf Hess's physician.

June 10, 1941: From the record of a two and a half hour meeting between Hess and Lord Simon:

I [Hess] know that probably nobody has correctly understood my coming; but in view of the extraordinary step that I have taken, that can by no means be expected. Therefore I would like to begin by explaining how I came to do this . . . . The idea came to me in June of last year, during the time of the French campaign, while visiting the Fuehrer . . . . I must admit that I came to the Fuehrer convinced, as we all were, that sooner or later in the end we would surely conquer England, and I expressed the opinion to the Fuehrer that we must naturally demand from England the restitution of property--such as the equivalent of our merchant fleet, et cetera--which had been taken from us by the Versailles Treaty . . . .

The Fuehrer then immediately contradicted me. He was of the opinion that the war could possibly be an occasion for coming to an agreement with England for which he had striven ever since he had been politically active. To this I can testify, that ever since I have known the Fuehrer, since 1921, the Fuehrer has always said that an agreement between Germany and England had to be achieved. He said he would bring this about as soon as he was in power. He told me at that time in France that one should not impose any severe conditions, even if victorious, on a country with which one desired to come to an agreement. Then I conceived the idea that if this were known in England, it might be possible that England also might be ready for an agreement . . . .

Then, at the conclusion of the French campaign came the Fuehrer's offer to England. The offer, as is known, was refused. This made me all the more firm in my belief that under these circumstances I had to execute my plan. During the subsequent period came the air war between Germany and England, which, on the whole, meant heavier losses and damages for England than for Germany. Consequently, I had the impression that England could not give in at all without suffering considerable loss of prestige. That is why I said to myself, "Now I must realize my plan all the more, for if I were over in England, England could be enabled to take up negotiations with Germany without loss of prestige." . . . . I was of the opinion that, apart from the question of the terms for an agreement, there would be still in England a certain general distrust to overcome. I must confess that I faced a very grave decision, the gravest in my life, of course, and I believe I was aided by continuously keeping before my inner vision the picture of an endless row of children's coffins with the mothers weeping behind them on the German side as well as on the English side and vice versa, the coffins of mothers with the children behind them . . . .

I want to mention certain points which, I believe, have a certain importance from the psychological point of view. I must go back a bit. After Germany's defeat in the World War, the Versailles Treaty was imposed on her, and no serious historian is today still of the opinion that Germany was responsible for the World War. Lloyd George has said that the nations stumbled into the war. I recently read an English historian, Farrar, who wrote about Edward VII and his policy at that time. This historian, Farrar, lays the main guilt for the war on the policies of Edward VII. After her collapse Germany had this treaty imposed upon her, which was not only a frightful calamity for Germany but also for the whole world. All attempts of politicians, of statesmen in Germany, before the Fuehrer came to power--that is to say, when Germany was a pure democracy--to obtain any sort of relief failed . . . .

In order to prevent future wars between the Axis and England, the limits of the spheres of interest should be defined. The sphere of interest of the Axis is Europe, and England's sphere of interest is the Empire . . . .

2. Return of German Colonies.

3. Indemnification of German citizens who before or during the war had their residence within the British Empire, and who suffered damage to life and property through measures of a Government of the Empire or as a result of pillage, riot, et cetera; indemnification of British subjects by Germany on the same basis.

4. Armistice and peace to be concluded with Italy at the same time. The Fuehrer in our conversation repeatedly presented these points to me in general as the basis for an understanding with England.

June 10, 1941: Rudolf Hess writes a letter home to his wife in Germany:

My coming to England in this way is, as I realize, so unusual that nobody will easily understand it. I was confronted by a very hard decision. I do not think I could have arrived at my final choice unless I had continually kept before my eyes the vision of an endless line of children's coffins with weeping mothers behind them, both English and German, and another line of coffins of mothers with mourning children. (Tusa)

June 15, 1941: Hess attempts suicide at Camp Z, by throwing himself over a balcony.

June 22, 1941 Unternehmen Barbarossa: Operation Barbarossa begins as 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invade the USSR along an 1,800 mile front.

July 1941: Professor Albrecht Haushofer is released from imprisonment. Upon his release, he will become active in the Resistance. Note: He will be arrested following the July 20, 1944 Bomb Plot against Hitler, and will be incarcerated at the Berlin-Moabit prison. See: April 23, 1945.

October 3, 1941: From a report found in the KGB Archives, filed in the NKVD's 1st Directorate (The root source--identified only in the KGB document--was a British officer close to Churchill, a Major Desmond Morton. An identical copy of this report was also discovered in US Army Archives.):

Hess landed and was captured as the papers described. He was taken to a hospital and there told the doctor that "I am Rudolf Hess." The doctor laughed and said, "Yes, we have a fellow in the hospital here who thinks he's Solomon." But Hess persisted that he was Hess and demanded to see the Duke of Hamilton. The Duke appeared, talked with Hess, and reported to authorities: "Yes, I think it's Hess, but don't take my word for it. I sat next to him on a platform during the Olympic Games and maybe shook his hand--I can't really remember if I did or not--and I didn't know him at all--never even carried out a conversation with him. I've seen his picture often enough and this man certainly looks like Hess." (Afterward, Hess told a British official, Kirkpatrick that, he flew to the Duke of Hamilton because the Duke, he remembered, was a tall, Nordic type, obviously the sort of man to whom one could talk.) Note: The Duke of Hamilton is not a tall man and it is quite possible that Hess confused him with some other Englishman. (Costello II)

January 27, 1942: Winston Churchill tells the House of Commons that Hess's flight 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."

November 6, 1944: Churchill visits Moscow. At a supper in the Kremlin, Stalin raises his glass and proposes a toast to the British Intelligence Services, which he says had "inveigled Hess into coming to England." Churchill immediately protests that he and the intelligence services knew nothing about the proposed visit. Stalin smiles and says maybe the intelligence services had failed to tell him about the operation. (Conot)

April 7, 1945: Churchill writes to G. E. Millard of the British Foreign Office, telling him that "The Russians are very suspicious of the Hess episode" and that Stalin "steadfastly maintains that Hess had been invited over by our Secret Service." (Waller)

April 23 1945: As Russian troops enter Berlin, Professor Albrecht Haushofer is murdered by an SS commando. He composed the following sonnet, found in his pocket at the time of his execution:

Guilt: I am guilty, But not in the way you think. I should have earlier recognized my duty; I should have more sharply called evil evil; I reined in my judgment too long. I did warn, but not enough, and clear; And today I know what I was guilty of. (SSN)

Even more documentation can be found here:
Rudolf Hess

So, did Hitler have foreknowledge and/or approve Hess' flight, or was he taken by surprise by it?

There is simply not enough evidence either way to make a solid conclusion, and I am tempted to just chicken out on this one. While I have no doubt that Hitler's hearts desire was to come to an understanding with GB, there is just no concrete evidence to support the view that he knew about the mission beforehand.

Conclusion: If a Krupp anti-aircraft gun were pointed at my head and I were forced to decide one way or the other, I would opine that Hitler had no foreknowledge of Hess's intentions. But I would be in no way surprised if evidence was ever uncovered proving Hitler knew about it beforehand.
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