WITH Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler's better half disappeared from Germany. The two had become intellectually conjoined to a degree that is possible only in abnormal personalities. Indeed, they had in a way grown into one personality consisting of two men. If Göring had fled, one might say: "The Third Reich has blown up!" Hess's flight meant that Hitler himself had gone to pieces.
Rudolf Hess was the intellectual creator of Adolf Hitler to the extent that a piano creates music. At a very early and crucial point he prevented Hitler's political career from coming to a premature end. In 1921 the leaders of the Nazi Party sought to expel Hitler from the movement. They had posters put up all over Munich accusing him of striving "to use the National Socialist German Workers Party solely as a springboard for unsavory purposes, win control of it and at the proper moment shunt it to another track. . . ." Hitler resigned from the Party and turned in his membership card, which was solemnly cut in pieces. It was Hess who brought the Party back to its senses. "Are you really blind to the fact," he wrote, "that this man alone possesses the leadership personality capable of carrying out the struggle for Germany?" Hitler was brought back into the Party. Hess and a few others succeeded in having him elected the absolute leader; his enemies were expelled. Hess was perhaps the first of all the disciples to say that Hitler was der Führer. He believed it honestly, and acted accordingly for twenty years.
Hess came to know Hitler in the summer of 1920; but this was not their first encounter. Hess had fought as a volunteer in the first World War. The Bavarian infantry regiment to which he belonged from 1914 to 1916 was a unit of a rather special kind, being largely composed of volunteers, mostly students and other intellectuals. From its first commander, a certain Colonel von List, it has entered into German war history under the
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