Rothermere urged Hitler to invade Romania

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The former owner of the Daily Mail wrote to Adolf Hitler congratulating Germany on its annexation of Czechoslovakia, and urging the Führer to march into Romania, British secret service files, released by the National Archives for the first time today, reveal.

The former owner of the Daily Mail wrote to Adolf Hitler congratulating Germany on its annexation of Czechoslovakia, and urging the Führer to march into Romania, British secret service files, released by the National Archives for the first time today, reveal.

Lord Rothermere even hired a glamorous German spy to introduce him to leading Nazi figures in the run-up to the Second World War. MI5 papers, reveal how Rothermere, owner of Associated Newspapers, paid Princess Stephanie Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingfurst to further his contacts with Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and Ribbentrop. The Austrian-born princess, described as London's leading Nazi hostess, was closely watched by the secret services after she arrived in Britain in the 1920s and began "worming her way into society circles".

The MI5 file describes her as an intriguer who "must be regarded as an extremely dangerous person" because of close connections with Nazi leaders.

But as war with Germany became inevitable Rothermere stopped paying her retainer. She in turn sued him for breach of contract, and threatened to publish his letters to Hitler and other Nazi leaders.

As the case got closer to court Rothermere tried to stop the action and sent his lawyer to the Home Office.

A confidential Home Office report of 26 September 1939 shows that a Mr Butler from the law firm Charles Russell said Rothermere had been a "warm supporter of the Prime Minister's policy of appeasement with Germany ... and the restoration of the Hapsburg monarchy in Austria ... He had at various times employed as confidential go-betweens various personages who had the entrée to high political circles in Germany, Austria and Hungary". Mr Butler added: "Some years ago Lord Rothermere, in order to further his international political aims, engaged the Princess Hohenlohe's services [for] £5,000 per annum and continued to pay this sum for a number of years ... the work was done by the Princess to Lord Rothermere's satisfaction."

Rothermere considered her court action to be "blackmail" and refused to pay any settlement. Princess Stephanie lost her court case and left Britain for America where she was arrested as an "enemy alien".

Children's author was double agent

The author of Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome, was a "capable, dangerous Soviet agent" counted by Lenin among his most important spies, MI5 claimed in documents released by the National Archives at Kew. KGB records also show that Lenin rated Ransome highly. A reporter in Moscow at the height of the Russian Revolution, Ransome came under intense scrutiny from MI5 and Special Branch, which included opening his mail and tracking him across Europe, from 1917 to 1920. But the writer was in fact working for MI6 all the time, other documents show. MI5 only cleared him of suspicion in 1937.

Russian spies told to join AA on arrival

Moscow's spymasters told pre-war Soviet agents about to visit Britain that they must have high-quality luggage when entering a hotel or risk being turned away, and they should join the Automobile Association because it offered motorists involved in minor offences the opportunity to avoid police attention. The captured 1937 guide warns spies not to go to south London "because foreigners there stand out".Most of the document, written in English by Soviet military intelligence, assesses areas in London for living and making contacts.

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