Hitler learns of Hess’s flight to England

A rare official image of Rudolf Hess, Hitlers Deputy in the Nazi party, taken in 1933. Every effort was made to remove any trace of him from the official records after his flight.

Whilst the Luftwaffe was making one last effort to bomb London into submission, a lone Me 110 was flying to Scotland, where the pilot parachuted out leaving his plane to fly on unmanned. On being apprehended the man identified himself as Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s Nazi party Deputy. He demanded to be put in touch with the Duke of Hamilton. It was a bizarre plan, personally conceived by Hess to arrange a peace treaty with Britain. He was under the impression that the relatively obscure Duke of Hamilton, whom he had once met during the Munich Olympics, was an important member of the British establishment.

This all made for a most unwelcome surprise to Hitler on the morning of 11th May, as his Army Adjutant, Major Gerhard Engel recorded:

11 May 1941

These are such turbulent hours that one does not know what is up; and I am myself not yet clear. Everything is unsettling. F. [the Fuhrer] in total confusion and the others who have arrived meanwhile, such as Goring and Ribbentrop, no less so.

We started out as the smallest circle at the Berghof, F. wanted fourteen days to switch off and rest to clear his mind for Barbarossa. Then the following happened. As the only military adjutant at [Obersalz]berg I presented the morning conference reports. There was not much going on.

F. came down at about 11 o’clock. I was speaking when Albert Bormann came in and reported that Pintsch, adjutant to Herr Hess, had arrived and wanted to speak to the Fuhrer about a most urgent matter. F., annoyed, threw B. out with the words: ‘Can’t you see that I am in the middle of a military conference and do not wish to be disturbed?’ After one minute B. was back, rather pale, and said, P. would not go, it was very urgent and there was danger.

P. came in with a letter in his hand which he passed to F. with the words: ‘I am duty-bound by Herr Hess to give you this letter, mein Fuhrer.’ F. accepted it with bad grace. I managed to read on the envelope only: ‘To be given to the Fuhrer only if . . .’ As he read it, I saw the Fuhrer’s knuckles go white. White as chalk he ordered me in excited tones: ‘Get me the Reichsmarschall at once.’ P. was dismissed but ordered to keep himself available at the command post. I managed to get hold of Goring when he arrived near Nuremberg. He was going to his retreat there. F. spoke to him only briefly and said: ‘Goring, come here at once. Something terrible has happened.’

See At the Heart of the Reich: The Secret Diary of Hitler’s Army Adjutant

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