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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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Whether the Prime Minister had read Hess’s document or not became immaterial after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 8 December 1941. The Americans were now at war, going all out to destroy Hitlerism in cooperation with Britain and the Soviet Union. They pledged not to make a separate peace or armistice with the enemy. All proposals for peace made by Hess were now accordingly ignored and disregarded. Hess’s life was in the hands of British security services. His distress continued. He still had to walk on crutches. Mentally he was feeling much less exhausted than he had prior to October, when letters began to be delivered to him, first from his aunt, then from his son. But his own letters of complaint to the authorities were left unanswered. So Hess insisted on seeing a representative of the Protecting Power, the Swiss Consul. After some hesitation the request was granted. Walter Thurnheer, the Swiss Minister at the Court of St James, visited Hess on the morning of 12 December (1941). Thurnheer found Hess in bed, ‘pale, even haggard’. Hess made his complaints, and the minister noted that ‘they are systematically doing everything they can to ruin his nerves completely’. Now only the King of England could save him. Hess told Thurnheer that he would like to write a letter to the King, and asked if the minister would be willing to hand it over personally. Thurnheer agreed to do what he could. Thereupon Hess wrote the following...

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