Dorothy Thompson – Hindsight on the Hess affair (6-25-41)

Reading Eagle (June 25, 1941)


Hindsight on the Hess affair

I believe that the turning point of the war occurred this weekend and when Hitler made the most colossal political blunder of his life. Furthermore, I suspect that he knows it since Churchill’s speech Sunday afternoon, and the reactions in Washington.

Again, he has totally misread British psychology. And it is possible that he has been encouraged to misread it, and that he who set so many traps for others, has fallen into one himself.

The immediate effect is to dissipate a terrific nightmare. That nightmare was the union of the Nazi and communist revolutions, which, in every country was producing the most dangerous situation. The communist revolution has not been a real menace anywhere in all the years that had passed since its inception. But a communist-Nazi combination – the Russian revolution’s appeal to masses and the German revolution’s appeal to classes – Russian revolutionary technique plus German military efficiency – this was something. That it was senseless made it nonetheless dangerous; nothing is more dangerous than armed nihilism, than the Gestapo plus the OGPU, communist cells plus Nazi secret agents, the Red Army plus the Brown one.

Such a combination looked suspiciously like the “wave of the future” to a great many people. Now, the combination is split irrevocably.

It is my belief that Hitler was making a tremendous gamble on Britain getting out of the war, as a result of this development.

Were the same political brains ruling England that ruled it up until two years ago, exactly that would have happened. The two revolutions and the two bogeys of Europe and the West, would have been encouraged to eat each other up, and Hitler would have emerged in the role of the white knight saving the world from Bolshevism, which is the act he wants to put on. After he had played all the other dramas in Der Ring, he would like to close with Parsifal.

But there are brains in England and there are brains in Washington, and the move is too transparent.

At this date, we can have, perhaps, a little hindsight on the Hess affair. There are always connections between things in the world as it is today; there are few isolated phenomena; and the dramatic descent of Hess on the estate of the Duke of Hamilton certainly has something to do with what had happened over this weekend.

Bear in mind that Hitler wants England to negotiate a peace. He finds himself in control of the continent, and this is the point where he wishes to stop the war – total victory without further sacrifice. He cannot win the war without invading the British Isles, and that venture is hazardous in the extreme. It is an all-or-nothing venture.

Hitler also has his eyes on the United States. Perhaps we do not think we are very powerful, but Hitler entertains no such illusions. The American conduct has baffled him. First of all, he was certain that America was a nation of money grubbers who would do nothing except for gold – he has such patterns in his paranoiac mind – and the Lend-Lease bill, the spectacle of a great “have” nation – ruled by “money lords” giving away things for no quid pro quo shook all his preconceived notions. Politically, the Lend-Lease bill was the most brilliant move the President has made in the war of nerves.

The early German comments on the Hess flight said that Hess had had several letters from the Duke of Hamilton. The British denied this. But Rudolf Hess is an experienced politician and it seems highly unlikely to me that he would have gone to Scotland unless he had been offered some sort of bait.

The proposition that he had to make was, I think, the old one of asking for peace while dangling the bogey of Russia. Hess was known to be bitterly anti-Russian. I think he told the British that (1) if Britain would call off the war, Germany would attack Russia; and that (2) otherwise Germany would make a hard and fast alliance with Russia and go out with her against the British Empire in the Middle East, Iran, and India.

The mediator between Churchill and Hess was Sir Frederick Kirkpatrick, former counsellor of the British Embassy in Berlin, a man who was acquainted with Hess, and who speaks German.

A small item in the press announced that Churchill, while these negotiations were going on, called a conference of the dominion governments and the governments-in-exile which issued a more or less meaningless report to the effect that no peace would be made with Germany until the European continent was liberated.

But immediately, another small item announced that Sir Frederick Kirkpatrick had flown to Ireland. Now, why Ireland? And why Sir Frederick? Could it be, perhaps, because there is a German Embassy in Ireland? Who did Sir Frederick see in Ireland? And if he got in touch with the Germans, what did he tell them?

Did he tell them, perhaps, to disregard the Churchill resolution? Did he encouraged them, perhaps, to believe that the Churchill government might fall, and another come in anxious to collaborate with the Nazis against Russia?

Between the attack on Russia and Churchill’s speech, there must have been terrific tension in Berlin. What joy there would have been had Churchill announced that he was:

…not going to pull Russia’s chestnuts out of the fire.

Churchill, however, is a statesman, who knows exactly who the enemy is. He made the stronget attack on Hitler in his entire career.

There is nothing Hitler can get from Russia by war that he could not have gotten much better by peace.

The fate of Russia now lies in the hands of the democracies – not the fate of the democracies in the hands of Russia. That also happens to be a matter of immense political importance. Why in the world, under those circumstances, should we fear Russia?

For the first time there is a chance of an evolution in Russia toward a socialist democracy!

The wave of the future has passed into the hands of Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt, who alone among the statesmen of the world have been absolutely consistent. For the first time, Roosevelt’s prophecy, made in his inauguration address, has a chance to come true: The future belongs to us.