Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rudolf Hess, Hitler's Pawn

The top ten in the Nazi hierarchy from Hitler and down included: 
  • Martin Bormann, Private Secretary
  • Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer-SS
  • Hermann Göring, commander of the Luftwaffe, Head of the Reichswerke complex
  • Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Reich Security Main Office
  • Ernst Kaltenbrünner, Rechtsberater of the SS division VIII
  • Paul Josef Goebbels, Propaganda minister
  • Albert Speer, Armaments Minister
  • Joachim Ribbentrop, Foreign Affairs Minister
  • Wilhem Frick, Reich Minister of the Interior
  • Rudolf Hess, Hitler's Private Secretary until May, 1941

Rudolf Walter Richard Hess (26 April 1894 – 17 August 1987), was Adolf Hitler's deputy in the Nazi Party during the 1930s and early 1940s. In the early years he was named "Deputy to the Führer" and  third in authority, behind Hermann Göring. On the eve of war with the Soviet Union, he flew solo to Scotland in an attempt to negotiate peace with the United Kingdom.  Arrested in the UK, he became a prisoner of war. Hess was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to life imprisonment, which he served at Spandau Prison, Berlin, where he died in 1987. After World War II Winston Churchill wrote of Hess, "He was a medical and not a criminal case, and should be so regarded."[1]

For further details of Hess' biography check out the Spartacus Educational article on Hess
Rudolf Hess, the son of a wealthy German merchant, was born in Alexandria, Egypt on 26th April, 1894. At the age of twelve Hess was sent back to Germany to be educated at Godesberg. He later joined his father's business in Hamburg. 
Hess joined the German Army in August, 1914, and served in the 1st Bavarian Infantry Regiment during the First World War. He was twice wounded and reached the rank of lieutenant. In 1918 became an officer pilot in the German Army Air Service. 
After the war Hess settled in Munich where he entered the university to study history and economics. During this period he was greatly influenced by the teachings of Karl Haushofer, who argued that the state is a biological organism which grows or contracts, and that in the struggle for space the strong countries take land from the weak. This inspired Hess to write a prize-winning essay: How Must the Man be Constructed who will lead Germany back to her Old Heights? It included the following passage: "When necessity commands, he does not shrink from bloodshed... In order to reach his goal, he is prepared to trample on his closest friends."
Did Hess fly to Scotland on May 10, 1941 to negotiate peace with Great Britain? The Spartacus site writes that both Hitler and Churchill ordered the cessation of air attacks upon Hess's arrival. His coming was part of the peace negotiations between Hitler and Churchill.
Is it possible that Hitler and Churchill had called off these air attacks as part of their peace negotiations? Is this the reason why Hess decided to come to Britain on 10th May, 1941? The date of this arrival is of prime importance. Hitler was no doubt concerned about the length of time these negotiations were taking. We now know that he was desperate to order the invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) in early Spring. According to Richard Sorge of the Red Orchestra spy network, Hitler planned to launch this attack in May 1941. (Leopold Trepper, The Great Game, 1977, page 126) 
However, for some reason the invasion was delayed. Hitler eventually ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union on 22nd June, 1941. It would therefore seem that peace negotiations between Germany and Britain had come to an end. However, is this true? One would have expected Churchill to order to resume mass bombing of Germany. This was definitely the advice he was getting from Sir Charles Portal, Chief of the Air Staff. Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris also took a similar view. In June 1943, Harris was briefing American journalists about his disagreement with Churchill’s policy. 
Douglas Reed, a British journalist with a good relationship with Portal and Churchill, wrote in 1943: “The long delay in bombing Germany is already chief among the causes of the undue prolongation of the war.” (Douglas Reed, Lest We Regret, 1943, page 331). One senior army figure told a journalist after the war that Hess’s arrival brought about a “virtual armistice” between Germany and Britain.
Was Hess indeed sent by Hitler? Did Churchill really know of his coming? Was this part of the peace negotiations between the two nations? We cannot know with certainty the truth of these allegations. The History Place merely suggests that Hess came on his own and was later renounced by Hitler.
Hess wanted to convince the British Government that Hitler only wanted Lebensraum for the German people and had no wish to destroy a fellow 'Nordic' nation. He also knew of Hitler's plans to attack the Soviet Union and wanted to prevent Germany from getting involved in a two-front war, fighting the Soviets to the east of Germany, and Britain and its allies in the west. 
During interrogation in a British Army barracks, he proposed that if the British would allow Nazi Germany to dominate Europe, then the British Empire would not be further molested by Hitler. He insisted that German victory was inevitable and even threatened that the British people would be starved to death by a Nazi blockade around the British Isles unless they accepted his generous peace offer. But Hess also displayed signs of mental instability to his British captors and they concluded he was half mad and represented only himself. Churchill, realizing this, and somewhat infuriated by his statements, ordered Hess to be imprisoned for the duration and treated like any high ranking POW. 
Hess was declared insane by a bewildered Hitler, and effectively disowned by the Nazis. His flight ultimately caused Hitler and the Nazis huge embarrassment as they struggled to explain his actions.  
During his years of British imprisonment, Hess displayed increasingly unstable behavior and developed a paranoid obsession that his food was being poisoned. In 1945, Hess was returned to Germany to stand trial before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. 
As noted above, Hess died in Spandau Prison in Berlin, East Germany in 1987.

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