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A Daring Venture

Rudolf Hess and the Ill-Fated Peace Mission of 1941

Peter Raina

At the height of the Second World War, Hitler’s Deputy, Rudolf Hess, made a dramatic solo flight to the British Isles. His arrival there was sensational news – and it baffled everyone. Why had he come?
Hess claimed he had flown to Britain entirely of his own initiative and was on a personal mission of peace. But so unlikely was the success of such an appeal in Churchill’s entrenched Britain that historians continue to wonder at his motives.
In this book, Peter Raina publishes, for the first time, complete texts of Hess’s ‘peace proposals’ and a treatise he wrote in captivity outlining how he saw Nazi Germany’s role in Europe. These texts throw considerable light on Hess’s mission and also on how the Nazi leadership saw their programme of expansion and their relations with Britain.
Disconcertingly single-minded and an unashamed disciple of Hitler, Hess was at heart an idealist. His friend and confidant Albrecht Haushofer was an idealist of a different kind, and joined the German Resistance Movement. The frame story of this book relates how the two men moved to their tragic ends.
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Chapter 5: Ivone Kirkpatrick Meets Rudolf Hess: First Interview –Terms of Proposals for Peace

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← 30 | 31 → CHAPTER FIVE

Ivone Kirkpatrick Meets Rudolf Hess:First Interview –Terms of Proposals for Peace

The morning of 12 May saw much excited activity at 10 Downing Street. Churchill demanded that Anthony Eden,1 the Foreign Secretary, should come immediately. Cadogan recorded in his diary on 12 May: ‘In all the years I have kept this beastly diary I have never been so hard pressed. Mainly due to Hess, who has taken up all my time’.2

Since Hamilton had never met Hess before, it was thought essential that the prisoner should be identified beyond all doubt. Eden recommended that Ivone Kirkpatrick3 should be brought in. Kirkpatrick had been First Secretary at the British Embassy in Berlin in 1935 and had met Hess on several occasions during his time at the Embassy. An ideal solution. It was also agreed that Hamilton should accompany Kirkpatrick to Scotland. Kirkpatrick was summoned to Downing Street at 1.15 p.m., and Cadogan gave him his instructions. The Duke arrived at 4 o’clock. Cadogan ‘packed them off in [a] plane at 5.30 from Hendon’.4

At the time when the two government emissaries flew off to ‘vet’ the imprisoned airman (as Cadogan put it), the Germans’ announcement about Hess was still not known to them. The text of this announcement was shown to Churchill, by Cadogan, at 10.45 p.m. Prior to seeing it, Churchill ← 31 | 32 → had already prepared a text for the statement he would himself make. This...

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