The Holocaust Historiography Project


Failure at Nuremberg: An Analysis of the Trial, Evidence, and Verdict

  • Institute for Historical Review (pb reprint) 42pp, $2.50, ISBN 0-939484-04-8.

Rudolf Hess: Prisoner of Peace

  • by Ilse Hess and Rudolf Hess, translated from the German by Meyrick Booth, Ph.D. and edited by George Pile with a Foreword by Air-Commodore G. S. Oddie, D.F.C., A.F.C. (Royal Air Force). Institute for Historical Review (pb reprint) 151pp, $5.00, ISBN 0-939484-02-1.

Reviewed by Wayland D. Smith, Ph.D

The republication in inexpensive editions of these two books is a fine contribution to the dawning understanding of the monstrous perversion of law and justice that the victors of World War II inflicted upon their defeated enemies. More specifically, one should say: upon the Germans and, to a very much smaller degree, upon the Japanese. As for the Italians, despite the seizure of Ethiopia and Albania and the attack upon an already collapsing France (recalling Rossevelt’s “the hand that held the daggah has struck it into the back of its neighbah") there were for them no analogous “trials.” Eugene Davidson (The Trial of the Germans) explains this anomaly with what must be the understatement of all time. “The kind of war the Italians fought,” he writes, “left the Allied nations with a sense of security in regard to future Italian military power.”

Failure at Nuremberg and Rudolf Hess: Prisoner of Peace were both originally published in England shortly after the war. The former appeared in 1947 and was published by the British People’s Party; the latter was published in hardback in London in 1954 by the Briton’s Publishing Company. Both books had become rare collector’s items until their republication currently by the IHR. The title of the smaller book, Failure, as well as the most graphic and evocative cover-illustration by Mark S. Winn, defines the contents well enough. The message of Prisoner is perhaps not so immediately obvious. It is the translation of a book which the gallant and loyal Frau Ilse Hess compiled from the letters written to her by her husband, Rudolf Hess, during the years of his imprisonment in England following his epochal peacemaking mission, from the prison at Nuremberg and from Spandau prison up to 1951 -a period comprising the first ten years of his, now, 42 years of incarceration. There are 23 photographs (eleven pages) in the Hess book, many of which are exclusive to this edition. Some are formal photographs of historical moments but others reveal, as do many of Hess' letters, a warm-hearted, loving family man and a devoted husband and father. These latter qualities have never been denied in him even by his most virulent enemies. Nor have I been able to detect in the correspondence any signs or symptoms of the alleged mental instability we have heard so much about. There are also letters from Frau Hess to her husband which are, as might be any letters from a wife with the ability to express her feelings, compounded of news of personal matters, expressions of love and anxious concern, and during the proceedings at Nuremberg and the immediately subsequent period, with practical matters of Hess' defense and his attorney’s wish to appeal against the sentence. As to that, Hess strenuously objected to any appeal and to his wife he wrote:

I have just sent the following letter to Dr. Seidl (Hess' attorney): “The commandant has informed me that you have sent in a petition for mercy on my behalf to the International Control Committee. Hereby I put it on record that this took place without my knowledge and against my desire. I regard the handing in of such a petition as an act devoid of dignity.” (Nuremberg: 13 October 1946).

To this Frau Hess replied:

Your clear and unmistakable reply to Dr. Seidl has really troubled us! It is true that we, too, were more than horrified about the version published in the Press of his petition for mercy on your behalf, which did not appear to fit in with the pattern of your conduct. In fact these petitions in general-as was obvious from the beginning-were quite pointless since they had no chance of success and they have been unfavorably regarded.

Frau Hess goes on to explain that in fact what Dr. Seidl had submitted was not a petition for mercy but a statement of evidence to the effect that the penalty (of life imprisonment) on the two out of four charges upon which Hess had been condemned was excessive beyond all reason and itself “constituted a flagrant and grievous breach of the law.” With this reply, Hess indicated he was satisfied and that Seidl had acted properly. The interchange is somewhat difficult to understand today when it has become so obvious to all but the willfully blind that no “law” or legal precedent was anywhere within a thousand miles of the kangaroo courts of victors' vengeance at Nuremberg and elsewhere. Even that enigma, Winston Churchill, his sense of honor and integrity long since buried under the corpulent accretion of boundless egotism and ruthless ambition, seems to have felt a twinge of shame at the fate of Rudolf Hess. Perhaps war-mongering Winnie who worked so hard to get the war he knew would be his only possible road back to power and who, while proclaiming his commitment to the preservation of the British empire, did more than any other human being recklessly to destroy it, perhaps, I say, he will get a day’s remission each century from Hell for this: “Reflecting upon the whole of this story, I am glad not to be responsible for the way in which Hess has been and is being treated … He came to us of his own free will, and so, without authority, had something of the quality of an envoy.”

It is my guess that Churchill really meant what he wrote. It is a lot less certain that the pious protests-or proposals-made in recent years by the British, French and American authorities that this man-now 89 years old-should be released from Spandau where he is the lone prisoner remaining and which have been vetoed by the Soviets-are sincere. Honor and humanity would seem to outweigh any breach of diplomatic agreements made in an era of fanatical vengefulness, yet when I personally suggested to one of foreign departments of the three Western powers that Hess should be simply released willy-nilly the next time the guards at Spandau were theirs, I was told that this was impossible because it would constitute a violation of international agreements. Crocodile tears cost nothing. Apparently honor and mercy are too expensive, however. Sheer barbarism aside, it is a lot easier to understand why the Soviet Union is determined that Hess die, silent and confined.

Rudolf Hess was born in Alexandria, Egypt on 26 April 1894 where his father was in business. Alexandria was already a great seat of British naval power and Hess, as a child, developed a life-long affection and admiration for the British, whom he regarded as a kindred Germanic people. That particular sentiment is one which has been shared by many Germans, and at one time, before they became the victims of an irresponsible Press, not a few British. The only three German emperors during the life of the Second Reich felt that kinship and affection as well as, sometimes, frustration and incomprehension that it was so largely unrequited after 1870. This was true of Hitler and to some extent of Bismarck. For a study of the one-sided love affair and the disaster which British unresponsiveness finally made inevitable, I refer the reader to Dr. Peter Peel’s excellent book, British Public Opinion and the Wars of German Unification, which is available from the IHR. The point is that Hess viewed with horror the prospect, and the eventual realization, of a fratricidal bloodbath between the two great Germanic nations. Hitler shared these views although the impression persists that with Hitler Realpolitik considerations predominated over Gefühlspolitik — or sentimental — considerations whereas with Hess the balance was probably in the other direction.

Hess attended a German school in Alexandria from the ages of six to twelve. Thereafter, he was sent to a Lutheran school in Bad Godesberg. In World War I, he served in the same regiment as Hitler-the 16th Bavarian- although the two never met until after the war. Later in the war, Hess transferred to the Imperial Air Force as an officer pilot. After demobilization, he attended the University of Munich where he became a close friend of the Famous Dr. Karl Haushofer whose lectures on geopolitics he attended. He remained friends with the Haushofer family for many years, even after “Nuremberg.” Hess, like Haushofer, was convinced that a healthy Germany needed “Lebensraum” which could only be gained to the East. That “wicked” word may be more tolerable to Americans if I point out that it is only “Manifest Destiny,” German-style. In any case, France has subscribed to the same sentiment, continuously ingesting German lands to her east since 1552. It is the prime imperative of all healthy organisms to expand their breeding grounds and this is always necessarily at the expense of some other organisms. Otiose and satiated powers attempt to sit pat on agreed limits-and soon find only that that is the beginning of degeneration and contraction.

Hess was a participant in the attempted Putsch in November, 1923. He had joined the Nationalist Socialist German Workers Party in June, 1920 as its 16th member (Hitler was its seventh). Hess escaped arrest when Hitler was seized but voluntarily returned to serve eighteen months in Landsberg prison where he became Hitler’s unofficial private secretary and assisted in the first commitment to paper of Mein Kampf. In 1933 Hitler, now Fürhrer and Reichskanzler, made Hess Stellvertreter, or Deputy Führer, and Minister Without Portfolio. It is probably fair enough to say that Hess worshipped the Führer-as did untold myriads of lesser men-and Hitler certainly regarded Hess with great trust and affection, customarily addressing him, as with only a very few others, as “Du.” No one who has seen Leni Riefenstabl’s great film Triumpf des Willens will ever forget the segment in which Hess introduces Hitler to the exuberant audience with these words: “Der Partei ist Hitler. Hitler, aber, ist Deutschland wie Deutschland Hitler ist! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!”

At Nuremberg, Hess was convicted of conspiracy to wage war and of crimes against peace. Even in the madness of those days there was no way in which he could have been found guilty of the other charges-war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Nevertheless, the Russian member of the judicial tribunal, General Nikitchenko, dissented and instead demanded the death penalty for Hess.

On 5 May 1941, Stalin made two speeches at a Kremlin banquet given for a large graduating class of staff officers. Apparently the party soon evolved into a rather wild, drunken orgy and some very indiscreet remarks were bandied about including those by Stalin himself. Most of the important members of the Politburo were present as well as several high-ranking service officers. What was said was passed on to Germany by agents and was known in the Wilhelmstrasse within hours. The details were further confirmed at a later date during the interrogation of two Russian generals and a major who were questioned separately when captured by the Germans and whose reports were almost identical as to the facts. Stalin had boasted that the non-aggression pact he had made with Ribbentrop in August 1939 was “just camouflage.” Now that Russia had acquired all the territory possible by diplomatic means (by which he would have meant the eastern half of Poland, Finno-Karelia, Bessarabia, Ruthenia and Northern Bukovina, as well as the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), it was time to ready the Russian people for aggressive war. Only by war could more territory be gained. Russian armament production was so satisfactory that a war against Germany could begin any time within the next two months.

Hess flew to Britain on 10 May-five days after the Kremlin bash. Until historians have open access to British papers concerning the epic flight to Scotland and what actually passed between Hess and his interlocutors in Britain, we cannot prove that Hess came to Britain to expose these Russian plans or to attempt to effect an active alliance of the sort Hitler had always wanted between Germany and the British Empire. Some of the peace proposals are now public knowledge but much is still “classified.” In such circumstances, intelligent speculation is not only admissable but desirable. At all events, as we know all too well today and to the loss of the whole White world, Hess' mission failed and his proposals were never seriously entertained. Years of propaganda had successfully incensed the British public against National Socialist Germany and it was far too late to reverse the course-or so it seemed. Besides, such a reversal would have ended the vainglorious career of Winston Churchill, whose insatiable ambition it was to be a great war-leader and whose mistaken conviction it was that he was a gifted strategian. And so the last chance was muffed. The sun has set forever on the British empire. Half of Europe is under the heel of the USSR. The United States and every country of northern and western Europe is being swamped with the brown, black and yellow masses of the Third World. What is left of the once proud Aryans is a race of guilt-ridden, apologetic, spineless helots of Israel lacking the will not only to expand and increase its breeding grounds, but even to defend its own national borders against aggressive alien invaders. Rudolf Hess: Prisoner of Peace is thus important as a record of its eponymous hero’s thoughts and feelings and as an affirmation against his slanderers that his ideas were sane-saner than almost anyone else’s in the context of the European civil war.

As a footnote, it is interesting to note that Air Commodore Oddie who wrote the foreword was one of those hundreds of gallant servicemen who had fought with great distinction in World War I and received many decorations but who, only because they opposed the war with Germany, not because of any crime they had committed, were imprisoned without charge or trial under the infamous “Regulation 18b” throughout most of the Second World War. Admiral Sir Barry Domvile was another such, and Sir Oswald Mosley and his wife. Another was the ex-Coldstream Guards officer and member of parliament, Captain A.H.M. Ramsay. There were nearly two thousand less well known. The powers that made and wanted World War II-not only men like Churchill and Roosevelt but those far more ancient, sinister and powerful forces behind them-were determined to allow not the least expression of opposition to their malevolent plans.

Something remains to be said about Failure at Nuremberg. It is a very small, very lucid and readable book-a mere 42 pages. It is therefore the ideal introduction to a new understanding of the true nature of recent history for the hitherto innocent and uninitiated. As such, I recommend that those who can afford to do so buy a number of copies for distribution to those whose tenebrous condition should be illuminated. Publishing Failure in Britain in 1947 was undoubtedly an act of courage and a gesture of honora beau geste, in fact. Beyond that, I cannot praise too highly the succinct form in which it explains and condemns the whole chicanery and hypocritical cant of “Nuremberg.” Finally, one should always remember that there were a few gallant souls who, often at the cost of their careers, openly condemned the Nuremberg “trials” (sometimes referred to as “Trial by Jewry"). Outstanding among those sturdy figures who defied the sadistic zeitgeist were men such as Senator Robert Taft in the United States and in England the Dean of St. Pauls, the Very Reverend William Inge. And I cannot do better than conclude this review by quoting some words of noted authoress Taylor Caldwell which appear on the back cover of Failure:

I have been boiling mad for years over the “war crimes trials,” which I think were despicable and contemptible and smack more of ancient Rome’s barbarism than of a so-called civilized country. Our country’s hands are not free of blood and crime, in spite of our vaunted “democracy” and “noble aspirations,” etc., etc., ad nauseum.

… It is outrageous that a man serving his country in all honesty and patriotism should be considered a “criminal” by a country which has its own share of criminals, and not honest and patriotic ones, either…