A Brief History
On May 10, 1941, Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess, third in command of Nazi Germany to Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring, some of history’s most evil people, parachuted into Scotland in an attempt to get Britain to make peace with Germany.
Nazi Number 3 was a far cry from the mythical Aryan “superman” that the Nazi propaganda machine depicted, but then again, so were the other top party members. (We wonder why the German people did not notice that their leadership was less than the so called “Nordic” ideal espoused by the Nazi party.)
Although Hess acquitted himself well in World War I, getting wounded a few times and earning an Iron Cross medal, his family lost their business in Egypt (where Hess was born) and he became a right wing radical and ardent anti-Semite. Captivated by Adolf Hitler, Hess quickly became one of Hitler’s most enthusiastic supporters and even helped Hitler write Mein Kampf in prison after the failed Beer Hall Putsch coup attempt in 1923.
When Hitler and the Nazi’s took power in Germany in 1933, Hess was there to become the third ranking Nazi in the government hierarchy. At the outset of World War II when things were going quite well for Germany, Hess found his influence and power base waning, largely to the benefit of the Number 4 Nazi, Martin Bormann, who was supposed to be Hess’s subordinate.
The vegetarian and hypochondriac Hess was obsessed with astrology, clairvoyance, and the occult. He was so obsessively concerned about his meals that Hitler no longer wanted Hess around at mealtime! (An odd turn of events, since Hitler was also a vegetarian obsessed with astrology, clairvoyance and the occult, as well as being somewhat of a hypochondriac!)
With France fallen and occupied by Germany, Britain being battered by the Luftwaffe from the sky, and the invasion of the Soviet Union imminent, Hess saw the opportunity (or so he thought) to become a national hero by going to Britain and brokering a peace with the British, leaving Germany free to deal with the Russians (Soviets) unhindered by a war in the west.
Having trained as a pilot, Hess used his position to get an Me-110 twin engine fighter plane equipped with long range fuel tanks assigned to him. With the intention of meeting with Douglas Douglas-Hamilton (the Duke of Hamilton) to talk peace, Hess was under the impression that this man that Hess had never met or spoken to was an opponent of the war with Germany and had enough influence to broker a peace treaty. Both of those assumptions were completely cracked, indeed.
Flying over Britain and avoiding interception by the RAF, Hess parachuted over Scotland and asked to be taken to the Duke of Hamilton. He was instead taken to the “duke of jail” and was incarcerated until after the war when he was tried with the other Nazi’s for war crimes, earning a life sentence.
Hitler was in a rage when he heard of the stunt Hess pulled and Germany labeled Hess mentally unbalanced, kind of odd when you remember his high position in their government! Stalin thought the Hess mission was proof of British duplicity in trying to make peace with Germany and leave the USSR on its own.
While in custody Hess suffered ever more imaginary health problems, including amnesia, although he lived to age 91 when he hanged himself in Spandau prison. Although the US and UK were willing to release Hess in his old age, the Soviets insisted he remain jailed, and so he did until his suicide. One more example of the not so super Nazi superman.
Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think would have been the consequences for the war had Hess actually succeeded? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Stafford, David. Flight From Reality: Rudolf Hess and his Mission to Scotland 1941. Random House UK, 2002.
The featured image in this article, Rudolf Hess 1933 and 1945, has been released into the public domain by its author, USHMM, worldwide and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. This image was provided to Wikimedia Commons by the German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv) as part of a cooperation project. The German Federal Archive guarantees an authentic representation only using the originals (negative and/or positive), resp. the digitalization of the originals as provided by the Digital Image Archive.
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