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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 10: Peace Proposal: Anglo-German Accord, 9 June 1941

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← 78 | 79 → CHAPTER TEN

Peace Proposal: Anglo-German Accord, 9 June 1941

Having failed to extort information from Hess about Hitler’s future plans by importunity, Churchill now thought of a different stratagem. The Prime Minister agreed with Cadogan that ‘we ought to draw Hess by pretending to negotiate’, and Churchill ‘came out with my idea of J. Simon for the part’. This is what Cadogan noted in his diary on 19 May, but it is very doubtful if the name ‘J. Simon’ (Viscount John Simon) was actually proposed by Cadogan. From the correspondence we print below it seems that Anthony Eden, the Foreign Secretary, put Simon’s name forward for consideration. And it was Eden who did his best to convince the Viscount to agree to talk to Hess. Simon had been a Foreign Secretary (and an appeaser) in the 1930s. His name came up for consideration because, in March 1935, he had met Hess in Berlin.1 And it was hoped that ‘the forensic skills of the lawyer-statesman might be able to ascertain the true purpose behind Hess’s flight and in particular to clarify whether Hess had been sent by Hitler as part of a peace initiative’.2

Eden had a long conversation with Simon on 26 May, and, the next day, wrote to the Prime Minister saying ‘I think that he [Simon] will be willing to undertake the work of which we spoke. He has asked for 24 hours to consider the matter. We are agreed...

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