Revealed: The spymaster and Nazi peacemaker Rudolf Hess

Recently auctioned file belonging to Hitler’s deputy offer insight into more of his bizarre wartime plans

When the bidding ended for lot 171 in a US auction room last week, the $130,000 (£82,000) offer was insufficient to secure its prize – a small, ripped, buff folder marked “Most Secret” with the word “Hess” faintly scrawled in pencil across the cover.

The failure to meet the $700,000 (£441,000) reserve price was shrugged off by the auctioneers in Chesapeake City, Maryland. After all, this was “perhaps the most important wartime archive ever to be offered for private sale”. The file contained 14 documents written by Adolf Hitler’s deputy führer, Rudolf Hess. Together, it is claimed, they offer a rare insight into the mindset and goals of the man behind one of the strangest and most perplexing episodes of the Second World War.

On 10 May 1941, while London endured one of the most devastating nights of the Blitz, Hess parachuted on to a Scottish field on a self-declared mission to negotiate peace with Britain. He failed, was captured, and later died, aged 93, as “Prisoner Seven” in Berlin’s Spandau prison.

How the file ended up on sale in the US is as mysterious as the saga of Prisoner Seven’s arrival in Britain. Hess experts told The Independent on Sunday that they believe the file was taken from the archives of MI6 by its former head, Sir Maurice Oldfield, prior to his death in 1981, to prevent its destruction by the UK authorities. Alexander Historical Auctions said that it acquired the papers from an unnamed European individual, and that it had received no approach from the British authorities to claim them.

Hugh Thomas, a former military surgeon who once treated Hess and is the author of two books exploring the theories that “Prisoner Seven” was an imposter planted by the Nazis, said that he had personally handled the file and was aware of its provenance. He said: “Sir Maurice removed the file without the intention of permanently depriving the government of it, because he was concerned it could be destroyed ... and the truth about Hess’s captivity concealed.”

Sir Maurice Oldfield Sir Maurice Oldfield

Scott Newton, professor of modern British history at Cardiff University, said recently: “Like many historians, Sir Maurice believed the Hess affair still holds great secrets. Unusually, he had the chance to take action to stop the archives being ‘weeded’ before they were opened to historians.”

Among the documents is a letter sent by Hess to King George VI in 1942 asking for the appointment of a commission to investigate his treatment in captivity. In a separate document, drawn up by Hess after his meeting in May 1941 with the Duke of Hamilton, the Scottish aristocrat who he hoped would act as an intermediary with Winston Churchill, the deputy führer laid out what he saw as the desperation of Britain’s position in the war. “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.”

The auction house owner Bill Panagopulos said that while the file did  not make its reserve, he still expected to complete a sale. “We have much interest from potential buyers,” he said.

The Foreign Office said it was aware of the sale and it had no reason to believe the file had come from its own archive. A spokesman added: “We do not comment on matters concerning the Secret Intelligence Service.”  The government’s own papers on Hess will remain closed until at least 2017.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
    Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

    The end of an era across the continent

    It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
    Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

    'Focus on killing American people'

    Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
    Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

    Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

    The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
    Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

    Same-sex marriage

    As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
    The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

    The Mafia is going freelance

    Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable