The Case of Rudolf Hess

June 15 1941


The Case of Rudolf Hess

June 15 1941


The Case of Rudolf Hess

LONDON, May 19 (By Cable). By the time these words are published, the arrival of Rudolf Hess may be officially and finally explained, but I do not think so. Until the war is over, it is likely to remain the most mysterious, as well as the most sensational, event of the war. Just for a moment let us reconstruct the setting that extraordinary Saturday evening when a solitary Messerschmitt arrived over Scotland without sufficient petrol to return to any German base and the Deputy Fuehrer bailed out in a parachute. His was not the only airplane to arrive from Germany that night. A tremendous force of bombers had been sent against London, and there were many sections of the metropolis, certainly around where I was, that were often rocked by high-explosive bombs and illuminated by incendiaries.

On the Thursday when the House of Commons adjourned, I had shown a party of Indian Air Force pilots and Canadian officers from Iceland over the Houses of Parliament. For more than half an hour we had remained in the famous debating chamber, my guests fascinated by their first glimpse, and I held as always by the magic of its associations. On the Saturday afternoon I went to Queen’s Hall to hear the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Choral Society in “Dream of Gerontius,” which ended with Elgar’s splendid sustained “Amen.” That night, as Hess made for Scotland, both the House of Commons and Queen’s Hall were destroyed beyond recognition. The Nazi bombers, perfectly efficiently expressing Hitler’s philosophy, had destroyed the forum of the people, a a temple of music and the shrine of worship at Westminster Abbey things which do not belong to us but to Humanity.

It was a dramatic night for Hess to choose, but I do not imagine he had much option. There is every evidence he left Germany in a hurry. Another hour dr two and the

hour black story of his life might have come to an end in a concentration camp or with the crack of a pistol. Over here, the authorities have made a minute and expert study of everything Hess has said.

His asides have been noted as carefully as his assertions, while his manner has been studied with eyes used to probe like the lens of an X-ray camera.

The Foreign Office official, Ivone Kirkpatrick, who was given the task of interrogation, is a man I have known for some years. He is neat, quiet, alert, but with an incredulity that is unsurpassed.

My first meeting with him v'as at the British Embassy in Berlin about two months after the famous 1934 purge.

“These Nazis are the most villainous crowd,” he said to me on that occasion, but without the slightest heat or resentment. “They are just gangsters who have patterned themselves on the excellent model given the world by AÍ Capone.”

He never deviated from that opinion, and when I heard he had been sent to Scotland, I felt that whatever story Hess had prepared would be subjected to a scrutiny which would strip it to the bone.

The first and wisest assumption was that Hess had been sent by Hitler, but in such a manner that if the mission failed the Fuehrer could disown him. A few months ago, as I have already told you

in these letters, Hitler was putting

forward peace feelers to Churchill by underground routes in which he alternatively offered to sacrifice the French, Italians and Japanese if Britain would make peace and agree to the only two first-class nations in existence running the world. These messages were received by Churchill, who no doubt studied them closely, but needless to say there was no attempt to acknowledge them. At the same time, no one in the British Government doubted Hitler’s offers were sincere. Germany had everything to gain by a ten years’ truce to give her time to consolidate her conquests and allow the British Empire to fall back into the slothful ways of peace once more.

A Letter From Hess

TN TIME, the overtures ceased, but then an extraordinary A thing happened. A letter from Rudolf Hess reached this country addressed to the young Duke of Hamilton. I need not disclose any secrets at this point, but quite obviously a letter from Germany, no matter how sent, could not reach Britain without the knowledge of the Intelligence, which is not as inefficient as some of its critics would have us believe. Needless to say, the honor of having a letter addressed to you in wartime by the Deputy, Fuehrer of an enemy country is not one that would be sought eagerly. It was particularly unfair that it should fall upon the Duke of Hamilton, for there is a small section of Extreme Left Britain which has always held that the British aristocracy, in their fear of Communism, was lukewarm in its opposition to the Nazis. However, there was no publicity at the time, and presumably the letter was allowed to reach the Duke, who quite rightly and naturally at once handed it to the authorities.

The contents of that letter have not been made known but it is not difficult to surmise what they were. Kenneth Lindsay, former Undersecretary, gave me an account of

how he and Hamilton, who were attending the Olympic

Games in Berlin, happened to meet Hess. Hamilton, who was then the Marquess of Clydesdale, was a well-known

was a amateur boxer with a terrific punch, a member of Parliament who hardly ever spoke, and a brave auxiliary airman who spent his week ends training and flying. He had led an aerial expedition that conquered Mount Everest, ana was in every way a decent citizen with a stronger interest in the physical well-being of the nation than in the intellectual. One must always remember that with the exception of Ribbentrop, the Nazi leaders are men who have never travelled and who have no background of culture. Thus Hess, who is himself built on the lines of a heavyweight boxer, imagined that a marquis who would eventually be a duke must have enormous influence in Britain. He therefore invited Kenneth Lindsay and the Duke to visit him. For three hours he held forth on the splendor of Nazism, the greatness of discipline for the y'oung, and splendor of a state supported by young men who looked alike, felt alike, thought alike. The only result was that Hamilton and Lindsay regarded him as a fanatic with an adolescent brain and thought no more about it. Certainly the suggestion Hamilton should start a similar youth movement in Britain fell on barren ground. However, it will be seen why Hess decided to write to the Duke a few months ago. He knew Hitler was scheming for peace, and, no doubt anxious to help his leader and at the same time enhance his own prestige, he offered to try to capitalize his brief acquaintance with the young British aristocrat. That in my opinion explains the first part of the episode which began at the Olympic Games and ended with Hamilton handing over the letter to the authorities.


becomes more complicated and sinister.

To appreciate the truth one must realize the desperate nature of the men who lead the Nazi movement as well as the fate that awaits them if Germany should be beaten or the Nazis overthrown by internal revolution. There are tens of thousands of men in Europe, including Germany itself, who would tear them to pieces with their own hands, and only stop short of death so that they could torture them again on the morrow. The hatred which they' have engendered transcends the power of any words to describe. Thus the nervous strain on the Nazi hierarchy already is terrific because of the problems of policing the entire continent they must have almost reached the breaking point.

Goering Sees ‘"Red”

TN THESE circumstances it is almost A incredible that the principal gangsters have worked together so long without an open breach or mutiny. This does not mean, however, that there have not been furious disputes and deepening feuds. When Goering’s Luftwaffe was beaten by the Royal Air Force last September, Hitler was so angry that Goering withdrew to his country house on a plea of illness and surrounded himself with guards. Before that, he had quarrelled so

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violently with Ribbentrop that they refused to speak to each other unless the Fuehrer were present. Goering is a merciless scoundrel with a genuine love of killing men and animals, but as he once held the Kaiser’s commission, he has consistently posed as the only aristocrat among the upstart Nazis, and has by that means maintained a mutual sympathy with the army.

Goering has always feared an alliance with Russia, contending that the contact would simply Bolshevise the German soldiers and make Russia the only winner. Also he has stoutly maintained that the only sensible thing is for Germany to attack Russia and seize her granaries and oil fields. German generals were in complete agreement with Goering, but Ribbentrop, who has enormous influence with Hitler, strongly held that Germany should first make an alliance with Russia, defeat Britain and then turn on Russia. Needless to say, Hitler’s tortuous, crooked mind was peculiarly receptive to the Ribbentrop plan, and he has proceeded along those lines.

But what of the other Nazi leaders? Goebbels does not count. He is willing to advocate anything, lie about everything keep the truth from everyone. He has the nature and conscience of a megaphone. Himmler, on the other hand, is the most dreaded and in some ways the most powerful of them all, hardly excepting Hitler. He is the perfect Judas, a bom informer and sadist who takes his pleasure in human suffering. What is more, his ambition is as vast as it is unexpressed. Merely as a precaution he has kept dossiers on all his associates, including Hitler, copies of which he has given to trusted agents both in Germany and outside. They are terrible documents which he knows can blast the Nazi regime sky high. But he is not unreasonable about them. He has declared they will not be published unless he orders his agents to do so, or unless he should die prematurely. Content with this situation and potential power, he treated his associates almost with deference and took little part in formulating high policy. But suddenly, a short time ago, he emerged into the open. He made a compact with Ribbentrop to support the pro-Russian plan and oppose Goering and the generals. Once more the position of Goering became a dangerous one. The rift between the Nazis and the Army was widening rapidly, for in Germany there is no exception to the rule that all soldiers think politicians an infernal nuisance.

Germans Depressed

AT THIS point an entirely unexpected - factor emerged —the almost forgotten factor of German public opinion. The war against Jugoslavia and Greece, short and victorious as it was, caused immense depression in Germany. My authority for this is Dr. Rauschning, Hitler’s former confidante, who receives most comprehensive information from German sources. The German people could not understand why Britain was not attacked as Hitler promised, and why the war was going

Eastward. Another thing was that Hitler has concealed casualties by simply forbidding relatives to be informed. Thus thousands of families have heard nothing from their sons, husbands and brothers for more than a year, with the result that anxiety and dismay are spreading.

Rudolf Hess has a meagre brain. He is, in fact, the eternal stooge that every gangster king keeps beside him. But he was in close touch with the feelings of the party. What is more, he believed Hitler was sincere when he said that the duty of the Nazis was to destroy Russian communism. It is thought in London that Goering got hold of Hess and secured his support against Himmler and Ribbentrop, probably on the grounds that those two villains were poisoning the purity of the Fuehrer’s divine mind. Then as to what happened there must be an element of conjecture, but the best brains in London who have had access to available facts, believe Himmler intervened. A forged document or two, a birth certificate of Mother or Father Hess revealing an awful taint of Jewish blood, or evidence of conspiracy, as with the unfortunate Rhoem. Himmler was determined to break up the combination of Goering generals and the Deputy Fuehrer. Who warned Hess? Perhaps Hitler, but more likely Goering who supplied him with the most modern type of Messerschmitt. Goering is head of the German air force. But merely to run away would be damaging to a Nazis pride. The deputy Fuehrer had to think of his adolescent followers, the bemused youth of the Nazi Party. It would seem that he actually is the gangster that ran away, the stooge that turned informer, the rat that ratted. Into his terrified brain came no doubt the memory of the Duke of Hamilton, who had his own private airdrome in Scotland. Instead of merely running away, he would apparently go on a mission. With luck he might even rouse the British people against Churchill, overthrow the Government, make peace and present the Fuehrer with a Britain in chains. And then he would deal with Himmler as he had dealt with many another German who had dared to raise his finger against the Deputy Fuehrer.

It may be that there will be revelations which may alter certain details in the last part of this theory of a sensational flight. The basic facts are true, however, and must remain. Personal terror may keep the Nazis together for a long time, and even heal for a while the little feuds that are driving Hitler frantic. But as Churchill said, “The maggot is in the apple.” The Nazi facade is cracking. Hess is the first to clear out. The next one may not be lucky enough to get away in time.

Editor’s note: Mr. Baxter’s article was on the press when, on May 22, Air Secretary Sir Archibald Sinclair informed the House of Commons that Hess’s plane had been pursued by a R.A.F. fighter, that the Duke of Hamilton had never met Hess, did not recognize the prisoner, and that no letter from Hess had been received by the Duke. By cable we asked Mr. Baxter for his comment on the Sinclair statement, but there has not been time for his reply to reach us.