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
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
News
news
Sport
Lewis Hamilton with the Santander trophy after winning last year’s British Grand Prix
F1It's the race organisers who are to blame, apparently
News
peopleFormer Disney CEO isn't going to win any fans with this quote
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

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

    Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

    Day In a Page

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test