The flight by Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess to Scotland in May 1941 was one of the most bizarre and mysterious chapters in the history of the Second World War. Ever since he floated to the ground in his parachute a dozen miles south of Glasgow, his mysterious arrival in Britain on the eve of Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union has created a multitude of colourful conspiracy theories. Was his flight part and parcel of some Byzantine operation being run by British intelligence? Was it perhaps not Hess at all who flew to Scotland, but a double? Did he fly to Britain with the knowledge and approval of Hitler to negotiate with a powerful ‘peace party’? Was he accompanied for part of his flight by Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reich Security Main Office and key player in the ‘Final Solution’? Was the British Royal Family involved in the plot? Or even- to deal with the most outlandish and bizarre of the claims about Hess, was he murdered because he held the file on German space plans in the Antarctic?
In this book historian David Stafford has assembled an international team of historians to examine the mission, to separate fact from fiction, and to shed new light on the significance of Hess’s mission in the history of the Second World War. In eight separate essays they explore various facets of Hess and his mission: his role inside the Nazi Party; his relations with the Haushofer family in Germany, which goes a long way to explain the origins of his flight; his abilities as an aviator; how Roosevelt and the Americans reacted to the mission; how Stalin and the Soviets exploited the affair for propaganda; how the British Foreign Office so mishandled the affair that they ended up by fuelling the very conspiracy theories they were so anxious later to dispel; and details on the voluminous files about Hess that exist in the British archives. The result is a volume that convincingly lays to rest most of the conspiracy theories and reveals a truth that is, as so often, stranger than the fiction often masquerading as fact that surrounds the affair.
David Stafford is an historian and former diplomat who has written extensively on espionage, intelligence, Churchill, and the Second World War. The former Project Director at the Centre for The Study of the Two World Wars at the University of Edinburgh, he is now an Honorary Fellow of the University and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, where he and his wife now live. He has frequently acted as a TV and radio consultant, has written radio documentaries for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the BBC, and his latest book, Ten Days to D-Day, formed ...
More about David Stafford