Rudolf Hess' flight (1941)

The Pittsburgh Press (May 12, 1941)

HITLER’S AIDE MISSING, LEFT ILLUSION NOTE

London reports announcement that party chief killed himself

BULLETINS

Berlin, May 12 –
The official news agency said tonight that Rudolf Hess, announced as missing by Nazi Party headquarters, had left a letter that aroused fear that he was “a victim of mental illusions.”

London, May 12 –
Radio Berlin was heard tonight broadcasting a report that Adolf Hitler’s personal deputy, Rudolf Hess, committed suicide at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Rudolf_Hess (colorized)

Berlin, May 12 (UP) –
Nazi Party headquarters announced tonight that Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler’s personal deputy, is missing after an airplane flight.

The official announcement said that Herr Hess left Augsburg, in south Germany, on an airplane flight about 6 p.m. yesterday. He has not returned, Nazi Party headquarters said.

Herr Hess is Hitler’s personal deputy as leader of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party.

No. 3 in Nazi succession

When Germany went to war on Sept. 1, 1939, Hitler named Hess No. 3 in the line of succession to the Führership, second only on Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring.

Herr Hess long was one of Hitler’s closest and most trusted associates. He was a minister without portfolio in the inner cabinet council. His association dated from the Munich Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, in which he participated with Hitler.

Herr Hess was 47 years old. He served in the German Air Corps during World War I, was wounded on the Western Front and wound up at the close of the war a lieutenant.

Quickly became Nazi

He joined in secret patriotic activity in Munich after the war and quickly became associated with the fledgling Nazi movement.

Herr Hess became Hitler’s private secretary in 1925 after having served seven and a half months in prison at Landsberg for their participation in the Munich Putsch.

He was noted for his studies of political economy and history and was a strong anti-Semite.

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The Pittsburgh Press (May 13, 1941)

HESS CHEERFUL, BUSY WRITING

English say fugitive didn’t bring peace plan

By Edward W. Beattie Jr., United Press staff writer

Screenshot (366)
The path of Hess’ flight.

London, May 13 –
Rudolf Hess dropped by parachute on a Scottish farm with the words “I have come to save humanity,” British quarters reported today in advancing the sensational theory that the No. 3 Nazi split with Adolf Hitler because he believed the Führer is leading Germany toward full partnership with Communist Russia.

British quarters reported that Hess’ intense hatred of the Communist regime and his belief that Hitler had embarked the Third Reich along a path of increasing collaboration with Russia might well prove to have motivated the Nazi leader’s strange flight to Britain.

Hess, responsible British sources said, appears “to have got religion.”

He is in bed in a hospital, well and cheerful, except for a slight pain in his injured ankle, in which a small bone is broken, and is writing a great deal, reliable British sources reported.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who appears to have taken personal charge of the affair, went to Buckingham Palace for an audience with King George VI which was believed to concern Hess.

On the basis of information available to British sources, it was said that Hess appeared to be affected with an almost religious fervor. These quarters said that, in his first interviews with British officials after he landed 10 miles from Glasgow Saturday night, he talked in general terms which indicated that the question of German collaboration with Russia might be the chief motive behind his weird behavior.

There have been indications in dispatches from Europe for some days that Germany and Russia may be moving at this time into a phase of closer cooperation. Rumors have circulated that Hitler and Joseph Stalin might confer shortly.

It was said that Hess showed clearly he had been under intense nervous strain for many months, a nervous strain that might derive from his belief thar Hitler’s policy was violating the fundamental Nazi tenet of opposition to Communism.

Reports spread through London that Hess was ready to disclose to the government the secrets of Germany’s war plans and internal situation. These reports were unconfirmed; officials were close-lipped.

It was disclosed authoritatively that Hess had been removed from a Glasgow hospital, where he was treated for a broken ankle, to a secret place. It was understood that he would be given the formal status of prisoner of war.

Hess did not bring peace proposals with him on behalf of dissident Nazis but fled Germany for his own safety, it was said authoritatively.

It was known only to high officials whether Hess was revealing the secrets of Germany’s war plans and internal condition.

He believes he was misguided and talks like a man with a guilty conscience. If the flight shows anything, it shows that the core of Germany is rotten.

Flight of escape

It was emphasized that Hess’ whereabouts would be kept secret and nobody outside government officials would be permitted to see him or communicate with him.

An authoritative informant said:

Hess has definitely not brought peace proposals. His flight was an escape.

Hess came in defiance of authority. I suppose he came to Great Britain because he knew that if he had got to a neutral country he would have been in imminent peril of being killed.

Presumably, Hess did it as the result of disagreements with other prominent Nazis, possibly it was a natural revulsion at further unbearable association with others of the Nazi gang.

It was said that Ivone Kirkpatrick, foreign office expert sent to Glasgow to question Hess, had made only a preliminary report. Informants disclosed that physicians had examined Hess thoroughly and were ready to certify him wholly sane.

Information of value

Hess was believed to be in some quiet spot, probably in the country, where the tranquility of his surroundings in an English spring might put him in a mood to talk fully. There had been no intimation as to just how communicative he was, because no detailed report had been received.

There were strong intimations that Hess had talked a good deal, even if in generalities, and his information would be of the greatest value to the government.

It was emphasized there would be no attempt to force Hess to talk and that he would be treated as an honorable prisoner of war.

Reliable informants in official quarters said Hess seemed like a man imbued with the zeal of a convert against the present trend of Nazi policy and that he was eager to unpack his knowledge. They dismissed suggestions his flight might have been a Nazi trick so that he could give false information.

Called natural choice

There were indications that, while official statements might be issued soon on Hess, they would leave out any information which he might disclose of the many Nazi secrets he had been entrusted with.

Informants said it was natural that Hess chose Scotland for a landing place.

There, they said, he would avoid any involvement in night airplane operations. He might have known that London was being raided heavily Saturday night when he landed, they added. Also, informants said, there was every indication that Hess came alone in the three-man Messerschmitt fighter plane. He had done little piloting in recent years, they said, and so might have crossed Scotland in trying to find a level landing place.

Rift believed cause

The amazing parachute landing in Scotland of Hess, the incorruptible, Hitler’s shadow for more than 18 years, was generally held to mean that there was a rift, grave and possibly wide, in the Nazi leadership.

It was believed that Prime Minister Winston Churchill might soon clear up the mystery to some extent in a statement.

Fully alert to the almost inestimable value of the flight of the second heir to Hitler’s dictatorship, the Ministry of Information began broadcasting the details early this morning, through the officially controlled BBC, in German and Italian. The broadcasts continued periodically throughout the day.

Britons, hardly able even yet to grasp in all its implications of the amazing fact that Hitler’s Deputy Führer, whom Hitler trusted above all other high Nazi leaders, waited excitedly for the first hint whether Hess had talked, and what he had said.

Politically important

That it was a political development of the greatest importance, and the greatest blow Nazism had suffered since the outbreak of the war, there seemed no doubt.

The Nazis’ broad hints that Hess was mentally deranged were accepted as confirmation.

The fact was, according to all evidence, that Hess escaped from Germany as had so many refugees. He had flown direct from the Messerschmitt plane factory at Augsburg, near Munich in southern Germany, to Glasgow in a Messerschmitt 110 fighting plane. He took no ammunition with him and he parachuted when his gasoline ran out.

There had been reports he might have brought here a peace proposal representing not only himself but other Nazi leaders who had split from Hitler and whose delegate he had been in his flight to Scotland.

Lands near Duke’s estate

It was reported that Hess had sought to land near Strathaven, on the estate of the athlete-aviator the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon, and that soon after he landed, he asked to be taken to the Duke.

This was an angle of the story still to be cleared. The Duke has been an active flying officer during the war. Called the “Boxing Peter,” he was long prominent in British athletics. He lead the party which flew over Mount Everest. There was no indication here that the Duke had been interested especially in international politics or had known Hess.

The government had withheld all information of Hess’ landing for two days. It was not until the German radio had disclosed last night that Hess was missing that the government made it known that Hess had parachuted to safety in Scotland and was a prisoner of war in a Glasgow hospital.

Hess is questioned

It was assumed that Mr. Churchill was personally handling the situation and that it was in his instructions that the Foreign Office had sent Ivone Kirkpatrick, director of the foreign division of the Ministry of Information, to Glasgow to take charge of the questioning of Hess.

Mr. Kirkpatrick, a key man in the foreign service, was first secretary of the British Embassy at Berlin from 1933, when the Nazis took office, until 1938. He knows Hess well, as he knows Hitler and other Nazi leaders, and he was special interpreter for the late Neville Chamberlain at the Godesberg and Munich conferences with Hitler which preceded – and, some say, led up to – the war.

Hess was not only the No. 3 man, second heir to the dictatorship, but he was the man among the high Nazi leaders most trusted by Hitler.

Jail with Hitler

He had served a term in the Landsberg Fortress with Hitler, after the Munich Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, and it was there that he helped Hitler write the Nazi bible, Mein Kampf, and became his private secretary. Some say Hess did most of the writing. He was made Deputy Führer after the 1934 purge. To Hess alone, among high Nazis, Hitler used the intimate German “du” (thou) instead of “you” in addressing him.

The fact was that Britain had in its grasp the one man in the Nazi hierarchy closest to Hitler, the man who knows every secret Hitler has, and the question was whether he would talk.

Ward Price, correspondent for The Daily Mail, who in the days of appeasement was one of the big appeasers and who in that capacity often interviewed Hess, Hitler and other Nazi chieftains, suggested a desperate quarrel might have broken the ranks of the Nazi hierarchy and that Hess fled in fear of meeting the fate of Ernst Röhm, the purged Sturmabteilung leader, whose position had been equal to that of Hess.

Mr. Price suggested alternatively that Hess:

…just got sick of the suffering which the criminal ambitions of his associates had brought upon the world.

Nothing less than despair can prevail among the military, naval and air chiefs of the Reich when they think how much Hess knows and how much he may tell. As for Hitler, this incredible abandonment of his cause by a man whose fidelity to him was a national byword will convulse his hysterical nature. Whom can we trust if Hess has proven untrue?

The Daily Telegraph, regarded as close to the Foreign Office, said of the German statements that Hess had lost his mind:

It was assumed from the terms of this remarkable statement that Hess was known by the Nazis to have fled beyond their control, and that they wished to discredit in advance any statement he might make damaging to themselves by representing that he was demented. This presupposes that there must have been a split in the party ranks and that all is not well in Nazi Germany.

Other commentators suggested that the German attempts to insinuate that Hess was insane reflected Hitler’s fear that his deputy had most important information to convey to Britain.

The well-informed Press Association said:

Hess significantly chose a plane which had not enough petrol to take him back. It requires all one’s faculties to fly a fast fighter plane and “hallucinations” are not associated with piloting such a machine to a given point.

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BRITISH PLANES SHOT AT HESS

05, Hess crash (Norman)
The wreckage of Hess’ plane.

Glasgow, Scotland, May 13 (UP) –
Bullet holes in the fabric of the wrecked German fighter plane which carried Rudolf Hess to Great Britain were regarded today as evidence that he was attacked by British Spitfires.

Many bullet holes were found in the plane wreckage, indicating that British planes attacked Hess and almost robbed Britain of the most sensational prisoner of the war as he was about to parachute to earth. British newspapers published a photograph showing 16 or 18 bullet holes in the tail of a wrecked plane identified as flown by Hess.

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Explanations of Hess trip –
MENTAL ILLNESS — BERLIN;
FLIGHT OF FEAR — LONDON

Opposing capitals express different views of reason for No. 3 Nazi’s journey to Britain

The opposing explanations of London and Berlin concerning the fantastic flight of Rudolf Hess from Germany to Scotland are presented below.

German version –

By David M. Nichol

No more fantastic chapter has been written in the war’s history than the lone flight of Rudolf Hess, No. 3 man in the Nazi hierarchy, from Augsburg in southern Germany to a parachute landing in Scotland.

It was a tragic case of mental illness, informed party circles said today. Hess had been suffering, they said, for years, first from a lung wound he received in the World War and later from nervousness, sleeplessness and stomach trouble. Unable to find relief through regular doctors, he had turned, they said, to palmists and astrologers and finally, at 6 p.m. last Saturday, to flight.

Hess left a letter which intimated, according to the official statement, that “he had become the victim of hallucinations.” It was not disclosed to whom the letter was addressed. Its contents were not published. Party circles said it showed he was not suffering from fear or from a persecution complex.

Further indication of his derangement, they said, was to be found in the very circumstances of his venture. Had he wished, they pointed out, he could have more easily reached Sweden or Switzerland, and southern England, they said, was more accessible than the region of Glasgow.

His instability, they went on, was recognized by the Führer when he made Field Marshal Hermann Göring his successor at the time the war began and relegated Hess to the No. 3 position, although they said that he was at the time the “logical” follower of Hitler should anything have happened to him.

Relieved of duties

In the succeeding months, Hess had been relieved of several of his responsibilities, they added.

These circles declared:

In any event, it will have absolutely no effect on the domestic or foreign policy of the Reich.

There could be no confirmation here of his landing in Scotland. All that was known was that he had been ordered by Hitler to give up flying, and that, against these orders, he obtained a plane in Augsburg. It was first announced last night it must be assumed he had crashed or had had an accident. The adjutants who might have prevented the flight have been arrested, the announcement said.

Hess’ duties as Reich Minister and the Führer’s deputy in party affairs were large. He held a veto power over measures of all the ministries.

British version –

By William H. Stoneman

London, May 13 –
Rudolf Hess, fair-haired boy of the Nazi Party who parachuted out of the sky near Glasgow Saturday night after his Jules Verne escape from the Fatherland, was transferred from the hospital to a secret detention home today.

He is being held incommunicado and his only visitors are British officials. The principal one of Ivone A. Kirkpatrick, director of the foreign division of the Ministry of Information and former counsellor of the British Embassy in Berlin, who positively identified Hess for the first time last night.

It is evidently the intention of the British authorities to let Hess take his own time in giving a full explanation of his fantastic getaway.

There are the wildest stories in London regarding Hess’ reasons for leaving Germany, of his planned destination and of possible missions which he might have been charged with accomplishing here.

Officially it is stated emphatically and unequivocally today that preliminary examination had shown Hess had no mission here private or otherwise and he did not bring any peace overtures. These sources stated:

It was definitely an escape.

It was declared that a physical examination of Hitler’s one-time best friend had shown that he is in excellent condition except for the injuries to his leg which he sustained when he bailed out from his Messerschmitt 110. It was stated:

He is both sane and healthy.

German insinuations that Hess is suffering from the effects of a chronic and ravaging disease and that he is demented are thus regarded as nothing but a feeble attempt to undo what may well prove a political disaster for the Nazi Party. It is pointed out here that Hess was officially regarded as perfectly sane as late as April 20 when he made a stirring ovation at Hitler’s birthday celebrations.

Pending revelation of Hess’ full story, it is officially thought probable his flight followed:

…a difference of opinion with party colleagues and natural bitter revulsion against continued association with the Nazi gang.

To suggestions that Hess’ strange voyage may be part of an elaborate and imaginative trick, it is pointed out that “it would be a very strange trick indeed” and that it couldn’t possibly serve any useful purpose. The shock to the Nazi Party is so great that such a stunt couldn’t possibly have had even the secret sanction of Hitler and the Nazi authorities.

The fact that Hess’ trip “smells like old codfish” may be due entirely to justifiable secrecy on the part of the authorities. It is generally admitted that, if Hess is to be useful, he should first be examined carefully in order to determine just exactly where he stands in regard to Hitler and just what he is prepared to do to assist this country. At the same time, it cannot be questioned that the whole business is very mysterious and that a great deal of explaining remains to be done.

Hess’ loyalty to Hitler was altogether too genuine and his personal character sufficiently ingenuous to make a sudden switch around seem almost beyond the bounds of possibility.

Five motive theories

There were five early theories regarding Hess’ motives:

  1. His trip might be a part of some strange trick the purpose of which could only be subject of wild guesswork.

  2. He might be here as a delegate of some group of German industrialists or conservatives who are anxious to initiate peace talks independent of Hitler.

  3. It might be the result of honest differences with Hitler over the advisability of continuing the war.

  4. It might have followed a showdown with other Nazi Party leaders which endangered his life.

  5. It might simply be the wild act of a demented man.

Irrespective of the reasons which led Hess to flee Germany, his act is regarded as one of the most sensationally favorable developments which have come England’s way since the beginning of the war. With careful handling, it can be made into the most terrific propaganda ammunition for use within Germany itself. At the same time, it reveals the fondest hope of the worst wishful thinkers really has had some substance, that the Nazi Party is really subject to serious internal friction.

Hess will be handled as a “prisoner of war” and will not be subject to approach by outsiders. Later, if he turns out to be a real rebel against the Nazis, and it is proved he is not playing a game, full use will be made of him.

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HESS’ WIFE AND SON REMAIN IN GERMANY

Berlin, May 13 (UP) –
Mrs. Ilse Pröhl Hess, wife of Rudolf Hess, was reported today to be living on their small estate near Obersalzberg – site of Adolf Hitler’s mountain retreat – with her two-year-old son and her mother-in-law.

Mrs. Hess, daughter of a Hanover physician, is 41 years old. She has seldom appeared in public and probably the only time she was seen by many Germans was when she was in a newsreel of the 1935 Zugspitze air competition, in which Hess participated.

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The Pittsburgh Press (May 14, 1941)

WHOLE HESS AFFAIR SMELLS; FLIGHT IS STILL A MYSTERY
By William H. Stoneman

London, May 14 –
Until he is proven otherwise, Rudolf Hess is going to be regarded by the British government as a “bloody bandit” and handled accordingly.

If he proves friendly and it is confirmed that he is neither up to any smart Nazi trick nor bent on a peace mission, then he may be allowed certain facilities. If he wants to be unfriendly, then it is suggested he may be thrown into jail on charges of entering this country illegally.

A great deal of blather has been written about Hess and his activities since he landed in Scotland by parachute Saturday night and it has been extremely difficult to write anything else. Those correspondents who do know more or less what his attitude has been and the circumstances under which he arrived and the circumstances under which he was identified and by whom, have not been allowed to tell the story for the usual “security reasons.”

It may be permissible at the same time to say that the whole Hess saga still smells to high heaven and that his purposes in coming here are still a mystery. It may also be stated that the British authorities are being extremely careful in dealing with him and that he will not be given the benefit of any doubt.

The suggestion that Hess fled Germany as a result of his antipathy toward Russia and Hitler’s rapprochement with Joseph Stalin has not been confirmed and should be taken with a heavy dose of salt.

There is some reason to believe that Hess has been obsessed by the fact that Germany failed to win the war in the blitz fashion and by his fear of a long war. He has frequently made references in his speeches to the heavy sacrifices that Germany was making and there is even some reason to believe that he was interested in patching up a peace with Great Britain at the first opportunity.

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HESS REVEALS GERMAN RIFT
British fear Hitler 'trick’

Hitler aide expected to fly back to Germany in 2 days, Berlin says

Peace his aim, Nazis insist

By Jack Fleischer, United Press staff writer

Berlin, May 14 –
Rudolf Hess flew to Great Britain in the belief that he could pave the way for peace through influential British friends, including the Duke of Hamilton, and he expected them to enable him to fly back to Germany within two days, Nazis asserted today after studying papers left by the No. 3 Nazi.

Hess apparently hoped to persuade the Duke of Hamilton, on whose estate he landed by parachute, to lead a peace party in England, according to the claims in official sources, but he had “no knowledge” of the war plans of the Nazi High Command.

Authorized sources put much emphasis on the past patriotism of Hess and the “tragedy” of his flight under the illusion that he could promote peace before the British Empire was “destroyed.”

Ignored by newspapers

Although the Hess case dominated the news in many other parts of the world, the German newspapers and radio were silent on it today.

All information given out here was for the foreign correspondents and it emphasized that Hess was under a “tragic illusion” and that he was concerned primarily with bringing together “the two great Germanic peoples” – Germany and England. His motive was said to be:

  1. Love for Germany.
  2. Distress at seeing England “destroyed” and seeing the horrors of war continue there.

Hoped to convince British

Papers left by Hess revealed that he expected the British to furnish him with the gasoline necessary for his return to Germany after he had convinced them of “the folly of their rulers,” a statement to foreign correspondents said.

He was said to have written that he did not desire to speak with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill “under any circumstances.”

Hess had:

…no knowledge of war plans of the German military leadership as these as is well known are accessible only to a very few persons.

The No. 3 Nazi, however, was acquainted with information in the possession of the Reich that war could be ended “only by the defeat and destruction of England.”

Had 'messianic idea’

It was explained:

Hess was fixed by the messianic idea that, by an audacious personal undertaking, he could achieve cooperation between the two Great Germanic nations – Germany and England.

The Nazis said that Hess believed that the Duke of Hamilton, whom he had known at the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936, could be persuaded to aid the cause of peace.

The Duke is now in the Royal Air Force.

Informants emphasized that, despite the “tragedy and unpleasantness” of the “Hess affair,” it would not affect Germany’s resolution and determination to “prosecute the war to victory.” Likewise, they said, it would not affect German unity.

Breaking their silence on the documents which Hess had left to explain his flight, spokesmen said there was a great quantity, “addressed to the most varied persons.”

The informants defended Hess as still a good Nazi and a patriotic German. Apparently, it was said, he was under the illusion that he could tell Britain to end the war and make peace:

…because the war could have only one outcome – the destruction of one of the two countries, namely England.

Informants said the “Hess affair” would probably furnish Britain with propaganda for a limited time only.

A spokesman said:

Within a few weeks, England and her satellites will have something more important than the Hess case with which to busy themselves.

Nazis said Hess had many friends in England before the war, and that he was host often to Britons at Nazi Party congresses at Nuremberg. This, they said, probably contributed to an illusion that he could personally make peace.

Didn’t take documents

It was said that Hess was believed not to have taken any peace plan document to Britain. It was said incidentally, however, that while he was at Augsburg, where he took off in a military airplane for Scotland, he translated Adolf Hitler’s last speech into English.

The German theory, informants said, was that Hess went to Britain solely “under the peace plan illusion” rather than to escape. They pointed out that he had left his wife and son behind.

He could have taken them too if he had not had the illusion he could achieve success in England and return to Germany.

The Hess case is most tragic particularly since Hess was under the illusion that he could deal with those men and then return to Germany. The whole affair is most unpleasant.

Hitler also wants peace

It was not surprising, informants added, that Hess could have “fallen into the peace illusion,” since he is not the only man who wants to see peace and cooperation between Germany and England.

An informant added:

This is desired by Hitler as he has often enough stated and by Germans and by every reasonable person in Europe.

Asked about the Nazi Party statement yesterday that Hess might have fallen into a “British trap,” informants said this was uncertain. It was possible, they explained, that the British had attempted through various channels to get messages to Hess along the lines:

Come to us and tell us of Hitler’s plans; then we can make peace.

Informants said foreign correspondents had received “the full truth with nothing omitted and nothing added” regarding Hess.

“The Hess case,” they said, presented the German government with a difficult problem in formulating communiqués informing the German people of the case. But this, they said, would not affect the war in the least from the German standpoint.

He’s 'good German’

Hess did not intend to say, and would not say, anything against Germany, a spokesman said, because:

He is an idealist in the fullest sense and was and is a good German as well as a National Socialist.

The English won’t have any sport with Hess.

In this connection, the informant expressed the “hope” that the British:

…still retain enough civilization, humanity and decency not to attempt to affect Hess by medical means and cause him to say things he normally would not say.

Cite parachute drop

As evidence that Hess acted “solely under the illusion that he was able to make peace” and not as an enemy of Germany, informants cited the fact that he parachuted to earth, thus ensuring the destruction of his plane and preventing the British from learning secrets of German aviation.

A spokesman said:

So long as he was able to fly that far, he could have landed also.

The British version was that Hess flew until dark, that his plane had been hit by machine gun bullets and that he was out of fuel after seeking a landing field vainly. A United Press writer who interviewed the McLean family, whose members first talked to Hess, was told that Hess expressed the hope that he could keep his parachute because it had saved his life.

Hitler is considering making a speech to explain Hess’ flight, diplomatic quarters reported.

Puzzles average German

“The case of Hess” puzzled the average German completely. The Völkischer Beobachter, the official Nazi organ, had for its main headline today – "New German U-Boat Success; Churchill’s ‘Secret Weapon’ Without Effect; Increased Protection for Valuable Convoys Does Not Help."

Of Hess, he hears and reads only that “Party Member Hess,” the position to which Nazi No. 3 was suddenly demoted in official statements:

…has suffered illusions and mental derangement as the result of chronic and stomach trouble, World War wounds, and wounds received in brawls on the early Nazi Party days.

Germans are asking why, if this was true, Hess was trusted with so much responsibility for years.

Newspapers published the Nazi Party statement on “Party Comrade Hess’” unfortunate mental lapse under the uniform headline, “Explanation of Hess Case.” But to Germans, it was not an explanation; it left them more confused than ever.

Nazis invite questions

Nazi spokesmen invited questions on the Hess case in their professed desire to see it cleared up. They did not object to the question, whether it was not strange that, in a totalitarian state, a “crazy man” had held high position.

To this question, an authorized informant replied that Hess could not be considered “100% insane.” Hess had been an able man, he explained, except when “severe pain from wounds in the World War” induced “insane illusions.”

Recently, the spokesman said, when Hess was to make a radio speech at Munich, his pain was so severe that he could not go to the broadcasting studio but had to speak into a recorder at his home and this recorded version of his speech was broadcast. In recent months, the spokesman said, the pains seemed to have abated.

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Flight called false scent

By Edward W. Beattie Jr., United Press staff writer

London, May 14 –
Great Britain was warned today to beware of the possibility that Adolf Hitler was using his personal deputy, Rudolf Hess, in a sinister trick designed to win the war by Trojan Horse methods.

Although Hess was said to be talking freely, revealing a Nazi Party rift, and although Prime Minister Winston Churchill was expected to interview him soon, the British press emphasized belief that the long-standing loyalty of the No. 3 Nazi to his Führer might indicate that Hitler had sent him on a fantastic flight to Britain to create a “false scent.”

Churchill statement due

It was understood that Churchill would possibly make a statement on the Hess case in Commons tomorrow.

Observers said it would not be surprising of the Prime Minister should warn the country against sentimentalizing about the Hess case and remind the people that the adventurous flight and Hess’ action in showing a photograph of his 3-year-old son to a Scottish farmer did not “wash out the blood in which the Nazi leaders are steeped.”

This British attitude, some British sources believed, was likely to be intensified by a sudden shift in the Nazi statements about Hess which put emphasis on his past “patriotism” and on Hitler’s past declarations in favor of a “reasonable” peace.

Widespread denunciations

The British suspicions of Hess as the spearhead of a new Axis offensive for peace on Hitler’s terms may have originated in high places in view of the widespread denunciations of the No. 3 Nazi in British newspapers.

The Manchester Guardian led the attack on Hess with a statement that Hess’ record of loyalty to the Führer and the recent Nazi honors accorded him would indicate a plot to weaken “unconquerable” Britain at a critical moment – perhaps a plot that had gone wrong because Hess fractured an ankle bone in his parachute landing in Scotland.

Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, addressing the English-Speaking Union, said that Hess’ flight was explained in part by dissension and tension among the Nazi leadership.

Tension and dissension

Mr. Eden said:

You are certain to see in times of stress and strain evidence among that small group of men [the Nazi leadership] not only tension but dissension.

In this, you may well find in part at least an explanation for the parachute descent that so electrified the world this last weekend.

Other newspapers joined in the comments with bitter denunciations in which Hess was called everything from a “skunk” to the world’s No. 3 enemy.

Hess was still in a hospital at an unrevealed place in Britain and was recovering rapidly. It was stated that abrasions on his arm were healing and that he showed “excellent spirits.”

The BBC, in a broadcast to Germany, said that nothing precise would be known about Hess until Premier Churchill divulges as much as he thinks fit to divulge from what Hess has been saying and writing in the military hospital in which he now lies.

Hess was understood to have talked about a break in the Nazi leadership.

The BBC, however, attributed Hess’ trip to a desperate effort to bring about peace after he had failed to convince Hitler and other Nazis that their policy was leading Germany to ruin.

BBC denied that it had broadcast a statement that Hess’ words “would make the German High Command ‘sweat’.”

A broadcast said:

Evidently, he must have thought a clear view of policy would serve best the interests of the German people.

Saw disaster for Nazis

He must have tried to persuade the Führer and his other advisers to accept that policy. Only when he saw there was no possibility of the present German leadership avoiding disasters for Germany as he foresaw them did he take this desperate step.

The BBC statement continued:

The official Nazi correspondent has given the clearest indication of what Hess had in mind. Hess, it stated, suffered under the delusion that he could somehow stop the war between Britain and Germany.

No private contacts can bring peace between England and the Third Reich. But something lies behind the delusion. Hess, for whatever reasons, had become convinced, according to the statement of the German government, that in the interests of the German people, the war with England must be brought to an end.

This year was his objective, and he was sop persuaded that this must be achieved that he deliberately planned to escape to England in an attempt to bring it about.

A few months ago, Hess was convinced that he could bring peace this year to the German people, but a very different peace. What made him change his mind in these five months? Because Hess foresaw doom for Germany, in an hour of apparent victory, if she continued on her present course.

Talking for hours

Hess has been talking for hours at a time to Ivone Kirkpatrick, former first secretary of the British Embassy at Berlin who was translator to the late Neville Chamberlain at the Munich Conference.

The Daily Telegraph, regarded as close to the Foreign Office, said editorially:

One thing is certain. The flight of Hess has exposed a schism in Germany which will make rifts wider. Totalitarian unity has cracked at the top.

The Times said:

It would be wholly misguided to suppose that the flight offers the prospect of an early break in the cohesion of the German military machine and still far less any slackening in the German military efficiency. But when the history of the war is written, this event will be marked as the first symptom that cohesion has been sapped and confidence morally shaken.

Other newspapers took the view that Hess’ escape from Germany must be regarded as evidence of intense conflict among Nazi leaders over war policy.

The cause of the rift was a matter for wide speculation. Some commentators believed that Hess had fled – to announce, according to reports, when he landed:

I have come to save humanity.

… – because of the possibility of another deal with Communist Russia, which he detests. The Times diplomatic correspondent suggested:

He became disgusted by the trickery and shamelessness of Hitler’s entourage and horrified by the bloodshed around him.

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The Pittsburgh Press (May 16, 1941)

RUDOLF HESS’ QUESTIONERS DUE TO REPORT

Churchill to be told all that probers have learned so far

By Edward W. Beattie Jr., United Press staff writer

London, May 16 –
Prime Minister Winston Churchill was expected today to receive the fullest report yet made on why Nazi leader Rudolf Hess flew to this country in an apparent one-man attempt to stop the war.

The Duke of Hamilton, at whose Scottish estate Hess tried to land, and Ivone Kirkpatrick, Foreign Office expert who was a first secretary in the embassy at Berlin for five years, were expected to inform Mr. Churchill of the long talks they had had with Hess at his hospital somewhere in the north.

Arrived last night

The Duke and Mr. Kirkpatrick had been expected to see Premier Churchill last night, but apparently because of the lateness of the hour after they had reported to Alfred Duff Cooper, Minister of Information, the conference was postponed.

Hess, who fractured an ankle bone in his parachute landing in Scotland, is recovering so rapidly that it was believed he would soon be transferred from a Scottish military hospital to another center.

After a long talk with Hess yesterday, Hamilton and Kirkpatrick flew to London last night in a two-seater fighter plane with Hamilton, a wing commander in the air force, at the controls. Kirkpatrick carried a bulky, locked dispatch case which he and the Duke took to the Ministry of Information.

This was the Duke’s second visit to London, it was learned. On the first, he had talked to Premier Churchill.

Work on his vanity

British intelligence agents were reported to be working on Hess’ vanity in hope that he would disclose some secrets of the Nazi political and military situations.

Each day, he is shown copious manuscripts containing the German main broadcasts concerning what the Nazis call “The Case of Hess.” He listens eagerly to all British broadcasts about himself and is understood to enjoy them thoroughly.

Apparently, the British hoped that his vanity, fed by publicity, and the widely divergent German statements about hm would loosen his tongue. It was pointed out, for instance, that he alone was able to see which of the conflicting German versions were deliberate distortions. Further, his reported boasts of German invincibility were calculated to lead him to divulge facts concerning Germany in hope of impressing his skeptical British auditors.

Deglamorize Hess

The newspapers suddenly calmed their zone on Hess today by government inspiration. Especially they sought to “deglamorize” Hess and they almost ceased speculating on the reasons for his flight here.

The Times and Daily Telegraph, the leading Conservative newspapers did point out, however, the wealth of information which he was in position to give if he would.

The Daily Telegraph kept the public aware that Hess was still a Nazi leader. It said:

Hess, more than any other man, is responsible for the abomination of concentration camps and the Gestapo.

The Daily Express said:

He is a Nazi big shot, one of the most powerful of the gang.

The Daily Mirror demanded that he be put in a concentration camp instead of being pampered. Its cartoon, entitled “Can’t We Be Friends?” showed Hess kneeling over the body of a child killed in an air raid. Its editorial on Hess was entitled “The Caged Beast.” It said:

Our unfailingly reckless defenders of public cruelty, crime and sadism are already peeping out and beginning, as we anticipated, to put up a cowardly case for this vile skunk.

zec3
Can’t we be friends?

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The documentary series requires us to move quickly to keep covering the War in real time, but on this forum, I think we need to talk about this for months. There’s so much going on here: the state of the British government, anticipation of Operation Barbarossa, morale in the British military, the internal politics of the Nazis, etc.

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Very true, we could talk about this for months. Also that is what I really like about the format of Timeghost. It kind of reminds you that the Allies and Axis (and individual countries) where playing on dozens of Chessboards simultaneously. I mean as a historian/student one has like 8 to 16 weeks to deliver a term paper on a tiny aspect or years if one decides to write a book. The people involved had to deal with this mass of information and make decisions at very short notice or the situation would change ( Example: I am thinking specifically of the choice to let Market Garden go or not ).

I really like the “real-time” atmosphere and yes we could spend months discussing a certain event in a certain point in time.

Chewie/Marc

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The Pittsburgh Press (May 20, 1941)

HESSED!

British lambast invading Nazi by film and speech

London, May 20 –
After receiving a fairly kindly reception when he first landed, Rudolf Hess is now taking a terrific lambasting from all hands.

A leading British newsreel service displays a series of shots depicting the results of German atrocities in various parts of the world, accompanying each with the remark:

The Nazis did this and Rudolf Hess is a Nazi.

In conclusion, it shows a number of Germans, who have been shot down over England, passing through a London station, and the commentator makes a suggestion with which most British citizens would agree:

Let’s get all the news we can from Rudolf Hess and then lock him up with the rest of the rats.

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The Pittsburgh Press (May 21, 1941)

CHURCHILL NOT YET READY TO REVEAL ALL ABOUT HESS

Prime Minister dodges barrage of questions during Commons session

London, May 21 –
Prime Minister Winston Churchill had to parry a whole flock of questions from “Hess guessers” in the House of Commons yesterday, although he stated flatly he was not yet in a position to make a statement concerning the former Nazi Deputy Führer and was not at all sure when he would be.

Vyvyan Adams started the barrage by asking if it had been established whether Hess’ flight to Britain was planned with the connivance and support of the German government.

James Maxton then wanted to know why two ministers (Arthur Greenwood and Herbert Morrison) had been allowed to make statements regarding Hess before a government statement was issued.

Mr. Churchill said he was not yet in a position to answer.

Churchill replied:

I think the statements commanded general approval. It is one thing that statements of that kind should be made and another that I should, as it were, sum up on behalf of the government the results of all the inquiries we are making and all the information that comes through our hands.

Mr. Churchill told another questioner, who was concerned over the kind of treatment Hess is receiving, that so far he had been advised, Hess is being treated as a prisoner of war.

J. Griffiths wanted to know about Hess’ letter to the Duke of Hamilton. Mr. Churchill side-stepped this one by saying the Duke was in the Royal Air Force and the question would have to be answered by Sir Archibald Sinclair, Air Minister.

Mr. Adams popped up again and asked if Mr. Churchill had noticed that The Times had described Hess as an idealist.

Mr. Churchill replied:

I don’t think I can indulge in a retrospective censorship of the press. There is great public interest in this matter. We were not able to give any guidance. The Germans gave different guidance every day. The press naturally endeavors to satisfy the public desire for information by recording all kinds of details which come into its hands. It seems to me the whole episode has been entertaining as well as important.

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