Unseen Hess files on WWII flight up for auction
Published: 09 Sep 2013 15:37 GMT+02:00
Updated: 09 Sep 2013 15:37 GMT+02:00
The personal files of Rudolf Hess – Hitler’s right-hand man who flew to Britain in 1941 to attempt to end the war with a peace treaty – are going up for auction in the US. They could shed light on one of World War II's more mysterious events.
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Valued at $750,000, the documents are described by American auctioneers Alexander Historical Auctions as “perhaps the most important wartime archive to ever be offered for private sale.”
They include Hess’s personal notes, copies of letters, and transcripts of interviews surrounding his long-debated flight in May 1941 to Scotland to apparently negotiate a separate peace with Britain.
The file includes what is believed to be the handwritten proposal of peace terms Hess handed to former British foreign secretary Lord Simon on the day of their meeting.
Germany was on the verge of invading Russia when Hess decided that Britain could be persuaded to make peace with Germany. But the negotiations failed and Hess was imprisoned for the rest of the war in Britain. He was also cut off by the Nazis at home.
Theories have surrounded the incident since the war. Popular ones include that Hess was sent with Hitler’s knowledge, while others believe it was a set-up by British intelligence to capture Hitler’s deputy.
Meanwhile, Britain has sealed its file about what happened during the first month of Hess’s crash landing in Scotland until 2017.
Alexander Historical Auctions told The Local it obtained the documents through one of their consignor’s in Europe. They said that around 20 years ago the consignor received an anonymous telephone call from a man familiar with his work. He was told to go to a location the following day, where Hess’s files would be left for him with the hope that it would be of use in his projects.
Andreas Kornfeld from Alexander Historical Auctions said: “The documents disappeared for years. We assume he [Hess] took them to Nuremberg for the trials. They are hand-written and he did sign it. There have always been assumptions about what happened and this is his file which he prepared.”
Some speculate that the former head of the British Secret Service MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield, sought to prevent the truth about Hess’ British captivity coming out leading to the files being sealed.
'Documents are genuine'
The auction house said Germany’s Bundesarchiv had performed a “forensic analysis” of one of the documents in the file. They said: “The results showed that the document is an original document and definitely not spurious.”
Much of the file also remains unknown to the public, the auction house said, adding that a study of the notes would help answer “many of the most perplexing questions that evolved from World War II.”
In the file Hess is convinced that: “The offer by the Führer is genuine…the British cannot continue the war without coming to terms with Germany…By my coming to England, the British Government can now declare that they are able to have talks…convinced that the offer by the Fuhrer is genuine…the British Government has no reason for further bloodshed…the British will agree to the suggestions made.”
But Hess did not receive the welcome he expected and spent the rest of the war in prison, including a spell in the Tower of London.
He was convicted of war crimes in the Nuremberg trials in 1946 and spent the rest of his life in Spandau Prison in Berlin, dying in 1987 aged 93.
And in a further twist, the British press reported on Saturday that Scotland Yard was given the names of British agents who allegedly murdered Hess, but were advised by prosecutors to not pursue its investigations.
The newly released police report, uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act, outlines an inquiry into claims made by a British surgeon who had treated Hess that he was murdered by British agents.
After Hess’ failed peace treaty attempt he was cut off by the Nazis. Hitler ordered Hess to be shot should he return to Germany and he was depicted as delusional in state media.
But speculation has remained as to what extent, if any, Hess was acting on Hitler’s orders or if his flight was a propaganda coup engineered by the British.
Slightly more ridiculous theories include that it was in fact a body double and not Hess who parachuted into Britain in 1941.
The auction house added: “This archive for the first time brings to light Hess' own thoughts on his failed "peace mission", written in his own hand at the time the events occurred. Virtually none of the content of this file has been written by others: it is a first-person history of the great historic importance.”
'England’s position is hopeless'
The documents set out the peace terms and Hess’s attempt to convince the British that : “In order to prevent future wars between England and Germany spheres of interest shall be defined. Germany’s sphere of interest is Europe - England’s sphere of interest is her Empire.”
He warns the British: “Our aircraft factories are still standing…factories have been added…England’s position is hopeless.”
Hess adds: “The numbers of our U-Boats…are very considerable…three-quarters of Europe is engaged in building U-Boats…U-Boat warfare as envisaged by the Führer has not yet commenced…The convoy system has failed…American ship production cannot be sufficient to cover these losses.”
He adds: “When I was considering the question of this flight I always made enquiries of the Führer as to the conditions of peace.”
But Lord Simon believed Hess was acting outside of Hitler’s orders and the documents detail a transcript of their interview.
When asked if he came to Britain with Hitler’s knowledge Hess replies: “Without his knowledge Absolutely. [Laughs]…Yes, surely… they are the ideas of the Führer…”