the truth About rudolf hess
THIS NEW STUDY EXPLORES THE RISE AND INFAMOUS FALL OF ONE OF HITLER’S CLOSEST ALLIES
Author: James Douglas-hamilton Publisher: Frontline Books Price: £19.99
Early on the morning of 11 May 1941, Adolf Hitler was having one of his habitual tantrums. Rudolf
Hess’s adjutant Karl-heinz Pintsch had arrived at the Berchtesgaden, the führer’s Eagle’s Nest in the Bavarian Alps, bringing with him an astonishing letter from his boss. The man who in 1939 Hitler had designated his second-in-line as successor, after Hermann Göring, had flown solo and unauthorised to Britain to try and negotiate a peace settlement between both belligerents. His objective was to seek out the duke of Hamilton, the first man to fly over Mount Everest and the author’s father. Hess maintained the belief that Hamilton was in opposition to the British government. It was in fact Hamilton who informed Winston Churchill of Hess’s arrival on British soil.
No one in the Nazi hierarchy was closer to Hitler than Hess. He shared Hitler’s imprisonment after the 1923 Munich Beer Hall Putsch, it was to him that Hitler had dictated ‘Mein Kampf’, and in 1933 Hess had been appointed deputy führer and minister without portfolio. In his letter, Hess blithely informed Hitler that he considered himself eminently qualified to undertake this mission. After all, he had been brought up in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, which was an English environment. After reading the letter explaining Hess’s bizarre journey, Hitler had a meltdown. Albert Speer, the Nazi architect, said he heard “an inarticulate, almost animal shout”.
The tension in James Douglas-hamilton’s book builds to high drama as he explains how Hitler summoned the Nazi hierarchy and asked the Luftwaffe General Ernst Udet if Hess stood a chance of reaching his destination in an Me 110, an aircraft of limited range. The answer was negative: the plane would surely come down in the sea. By this time, Hess had parachuted from his plane, which was nearly out of fuel, to come down in South Lanarkshire with an injured foot. Hitler immediately had everyone on Hess’s staff thrown into prison, while the SS rounded up the personnel at Augsburg Airport, Hess’s departure point for his quixotic flight. The tale then drifts into a gothic fantasy realm, when it is revealed that Hess had been associating with astrologers, nature therapists and anthroposophists, most of whom also landed in jail.
A lesser-known character who nevertheless looms large in the book is Albrecht Haushofer, a sometime Foreign Office official of part-jewish ancestry and an opponent of Hitler’s plan for war. While examining captured war documents, the author soon realised that Haushofer had unwittingly played a central role in Hess’s flight. The tragic irony is that Haushofer’s involvement was accidental and that his deep conviction was the creation of a European federation through close German-british cooperation. This even included a joint military structure. He was also keenly aware that nothing along these lines could be achieved while Hitler remained in power.
Haushofer’s association with German resistance groups was to cost him dearly. He was arrested after the failed 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler, incarcerated in Moabit prison, and on 22 April 1945, a week before Hitler committed suicide, Haushofer was executed by the SS. James Douglas-hamilton’s book does justice to this hero of the German resistance and sheds new light on one of the most uncanny exploits of World War II.
Rudolph Hess was Hitler’s closest ally before his bizarre flight to Britain in 1941