Rudolf Hess was Hitler’s deputy and best friend for some twenty years. After hearing Hitler speak in a small Munich beer hall, he joined the Nazi Party on July 1, 1920, becoming the sixteenth member of the party. When Hitler was jailed in the 1920s in Landsberg prison, Hess was jailed with him and helped him write his infamous book Mein Kampf which is today a bestseller in Germany.
Rudolf Hess was a bit of a deception for the British Secret Services. He was examined by the highest level of the British government, a certain Ivone Kirkpatrick who had been First Secretary at the British Embassy in Berlin from 1933 to 1938. The man quickly provided reassurances to Churchill and the government that they had hooked the real Rudolf Hess and not some impersonator.
In 1941 Churchill was desperately trying to lure the Americans into a war that Britain was losing on every front. Now Hitler had sent a peace envoy to sabotage his efforts. The day after the news broke, Hitler flew into a rage over the disappearance of his deputy and was clearly fearful that Hess would reveal Nazi plans to invade Russia during the summer.
So Churchill locked Hess up in the London tower and let MI6 have a go at him. The results of the interrogation were never revealed and Churchill prepared special accommodation for the prisoner. Hess was put in Camp Z, a fortified manor house near Mytchett southwest of London where he would be protected by the Scots Guards in case a Nazi commando came looking for him, but also any word he uttered would be recorded by special microphones hidden throughout the building. Churchill’s instructions were very clear: he was to have food, books, writing materials and limited recreation, he was to be cut off from all communication (newspapers, radio) with the outside world, and was to receive no visitors without Foreign Office approval. Finally, he was to be treated as a very special prisoner of war and possibly a war criminal.
Churchill’s approach was clearly to delay and hide the man away. He certainly didn’t want Hess talking to journalists about peace proposals when he was trying to salvage his disastrous policy of war with Hitler.
*Originally posted in February 2017