Foreign Affairs: 100 Years
A New Americanism
Why a Nation Needs a National Story
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 name of the "List Regiment." It seems that this commander's nerves were not quite equal to the torturing responsibility of the war, for he died in a state of mental aberration. In November 1914 his foolhardy leadership imposed dreadful sacrifices on his troops. The flower of Bavaria's intellectual youth was mowed down, and the name of the List Regiment gained an agonizing immortality. Those who remained alive were lucky and felt themselves entitled to speak of destiny's special protection. Hess was one of them. On a certain occasion he had to report to the regimental commander who had succeeded List, by name Lieutenant-Colonel von Tubeuf. At Tubeuf's side stood his dispatch-runner, a corporal. Hess and the corporal looked into each other's eyes, two survivors of the holocaust. How could they have had any inkling of the improbable future? Later they recalled the scene. Both were convinced that destiny had singled them out for some special purpose, since it had led them unharmed through the mass slaughter that overwhelmed most of the List Regiment. The name of the corporal was Adolf Hitler.
Rudolf Hess is a typical German postwar intellectual -- the type of gifted man who in the confused Germany of that time was unable to find an appropriate way of life. He is, in addition, a so-called Auslandsdeutscher -- of German extraction but born abroad. The patriotism of such men is often particularly sensitive. They have wielded a strong influence in the Nazi movement. At their head stands Hitler himself. In a sense Hermann Göring is one also; Alfred Rosenberg, the "philosopher" of National Socialism, is another. Hess was born April 26, 1896, in Alexandria, Egypt, where his father, Friedrich Hess, was in business. The family stemmed partly from southern Germany, partly from Switzerland. Until his fourteenth year Rudolf Hess grew up in Alexandria. Then he was sent to a German school in Godesberg on the Rhine -- the same Godesberg where Hitler in September 1938 received the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. Hess originally wanted to study mathematics, but at his father's desire he went into business. He served his commercial apprenticeship first in Hamburg, then in French Switzerland. At the outbreak of the war in 1914 he enlisted as a German volunteer. He was wounded twice, one shot passing through his lungs. His ambition was to become an aviator, and he achieved his goal after difficulties. In the fall of 1918 he passed his pilot's test, but never saw action, for "peace broke out." He was just 22.
He went to Munich, the greatest city of southern Germany. Munich has always been a kind of counterweight to Berlin. At that time, early in 1919, an extreme leftist radical revolutionary government was in power there. Hess joined a secret society that sought to assassinate the Prime Minister and overthrow the government. To give itself a harmless air, the society arranged lectures about the life, customs, poetry and religion of the ancient Teutons. And because these ancient Teutons allegedly came from northern Europe, the legendary region of Thule, the secret group called itself the Thule Society. Arms were cached in its offices and it planned to strike at a given moment. It was an analogous kind of group to what is now called the "Fifth Column." One day soldiers of the government raided the offices and arrested and shot a number of members. Hess by chance was absent -- destiny evidently still had its eye on him. Later there was open fighting. This time Hess was in the thick of it, receiving a leg wound -- his third wound since 1914. The revolutionary government fell.
Then came the encounter with Hitler. He heard the unknown man speak. It was in the back room of a tiny beer tavern, which went by the name of Sternecker and was later revered by the Nazis as one of the not inconsiderable number of birthplaces of their movement. Hitler stood in the tobacco haze, in gray soldier's uniform, crying out that the day would come "when the banner of our movement shall wave over the Reichstag in Berlin, over the Berlin Palace, indeed, over every German home." It was a narrow little room with a few dozen people. As Hess himself later related, he asked himself whether the man he saw before him was a fool or the one man who could save Germany. He jumped to the latter conclusion. Hitler fascinated him at this first meeting.
Hess became Hitler's mirror and sloganeer. His relationship to him can be characterized only as admiration and love, though the customary suspicion that has attached itself to it is certainly unfounded. Hess was not entirely without means. He joined the circle of male and female admirers who regarded themselves as honor-bound to provide for Hitler's livelihood.
He knows how to write, though he has written very little. In those years he wrote a little piece that is at once a portrait and a program for his beloved Adolf Hitler. A wealthy Auslandsdeutscher from South America had offered a prize to the University of Munich, to be given to the student who prepared the best essay on the topic: "What Must Be the Qualities of the Man Who Is to Lead Germany up to the Heights Again?" Possibly the whole contest was engineered for the purpose of ballyhooing Hitler, who as yet had attracted little notice. At any rate, the student Rudolf Hess delivered the desired essay and won the prize.
And now we approach one of the deepest sources of National Socialism. Where did Hess get his inspiration? At the time a large part of the German intelligentsia was under the influence of a book that belongs among the best sellers of recent decades -- the so-called "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." These were alleged to be the secret plans of the Jews to seize world dominion. The book is a forgery, as has been proved a hundred times, among other occasions in a trial before a Swiss Court which lasted many weeks and ended in a verdict that clearly established and precisely described the forgery. Today we know that the first source of this forgery was France, and that the final editing was done in Tsarist Russia at the beginning of the century. But today these matters no longer are interesting. What is interesting is that essentially it furnishes a masterly blueprint of modern tyranny. Its basic thoughts, derived from Machiavelli but modernized by a nineteenth-century French thinker, read as follows:
We shall hold converse with the people in the streets and squares . . . . Our right lies in our might. In a State where power is poorly handled, we shall create a new law, by hurling ourselves upon the government with the right of the stronger. . . . An absolute ruler will take over the government. Without absolute power no civilization can endure; civilization rests not on the masses but on the leader, whoever he may be. The masses consist of barbarians . . . . Effective executions will maintain our rule of terror, enforcing blind and absolute obedience. It is enough to know that we are inexorable. This will abolish all disobedience . . . . The uppermost principle of all successful statecraft is strict secrecy of all that is done . . . . Our leaders must be men who attack their goal with unexampled audacity and spiritual force -- in this way alone shall we break all resistance in our path . . . . Imperceptibly the last traces of constitutional law will vanish, until at last the time comes when we can openly seize all government power in the name of our own arbitrary rule . . . . Throughout Europe, and through our connections reaching from there into other continents too, we shall arouse ferment, strife and hostility.
This sort of thing goes on for some eighty pages. In a sense this book was a Satanic Bible for the Nazis. They were convinced that it gave the true and actual plan for Jewish world rule. And one must learn from one's enemies. Hess described the coming German dictator -- Adolf Hitler -- as follows:
For the sake of saving the nation, the dictator does not shrink from utilizing enemy weapons -- demagogy, slogans, demonstrations, etc. Where all authority has waned, popularity alone creates authority. That has been shown in the case of Mussolini. The deeper the dictator is originally rooted in the broad masses, the better he knows how to deal with their psychology, the less distrust he encounters among the workers, the more followers does he win among these, the most active ranks of the people. He himself has nothing in common with the crowd -- he is a legendary figure, like every great man. . . . When the need arises he does not shrink from shedding blood. Great questions are always decided by blood and iron . . . .
It matters not whether the parliament talks or falls silent -- the man acts. And now it is shown that despite his many speeches he knew how to keep his counsel. His own followers are perhaps most bitterly disappointed. . . . To reach his goal, he walks over the bodies of even his closest friends . . . . For the sake of the great ultimate goal he must even be able to endure appearing temporarily to the majority as a traitor to the nation . . . . The legislator, proceeding with awe-inspiring harshness, shrinks from nothing . . . . The traducers of the people are sent into exile. A terrible day of judgment dawns for the traitors to the nation before, during and after the war. . . . He knows the nations and the individuals who wield influence. As the occasion may require, he is capable of bringing down hob-nailed boots, or of spinning threads into the far Pacific with cautious, sensitive hand. . . . In any event, the treaties of enslavement fall. Some day it will arise, this Greater Germany that shall embrace all who are of German blood.
These were the words of Hess, written in 1921.
The final sentence enunciates a program that is clear and complete. All men of German stock are to be brought into a Greater German Reich. That is the classic doctrine of the Nazis. They obviously have abandoned it since 1938, subjugating one alien nation after another and proclaiming their intention of exterminating them or at least arranging for them to die out. Did Hess object to this violation of the original doctrine?
In a philosophic sense, Hess is the born leader of Fifth Columns. Natural inclination draws him into this field. That was why he was a member of the Thule Society. Later he was for many years head of the so-called "Intelligence Division" of the young Nazi Party, a euphemism for "Espionage Division." No wonder Hess and Hitler drew close to each other so quickly. Hitler, the politician, likewise issued from the espionage service. In 1919-20 he was a member of the intelligence section of the Reichswehr in Munich with the job of watching the political parties. It was by this route that he first entered active party politics.
The fact that Hess was taciturn and for two decades subordinated himself completely to Hitler does not imply that he was either a dreamer or a shrinking violet. On the contrary, he was always the man for the most foolhardy missions. When Hitler's beer-cellar Putsch in 1923 had failed, he sought in desperation to save himself by a bold coup; and the man who was charged with the chief responsibility was Hess. Hitler contemplated retiring with his private army from the city of Munich to the foothills of the Alps. There in the sparsely settled countryside he intended to carry on the fight against the government troops with the help of the radicalized peasantry. Two high government officials who had fallen into his hands were to be taken to a safe place as hostages. It was Hess who carried off the two officials by car into the mountains. On the way he had them get out several times, pretending that he was about to have them shot. This all was merely to terrorize them. In the end Hess himself became frightened. Things had gone badly in Munich. The retreat to the Alps had not come off; there had been shooting; Hitler's private army was in headlong flight; he himself had possibly been killed. Such was the form in which the dreadful news reached Hess. He left the officials to their fate and crossed the near by Austrian border. Months went by. Hitler was not dead but in detention, hinting mysteriously and dramatically at suicide. His friends busied themselves in the government offices. Hints were dropped to those who had fled that the forthcoming trial would be mild and that it was better to surrender to the courts and suffer a light sentence than to have to avoid Germany for an indefinite period of time. One of the fugitives, Göring, nevertheless did not dare return and remained abroad for some years. Hess came back and together with Hitler was incarcerated in the comfortable house of detention at Landsberg on the Lech. There, after breakfast and a morning walk in the garden, he sat down at the typewriter while Hitler dictated "Mein Kampf" to him.
Not that Hitler merely pondered and spoke, while Hess only listened and wrote. Looking up from his typewriter, Hess would pass along certain ideas in reply to his Führer's questions. "How would you express that, Hess?" "Make a suggestion, Hess." And Hitler, his membrane-like intellect responding to every powerful wave, became, by way of the instrument Hess, the mouthpiece for the world-political dreams of a Munich professor. This professor was the former General Karl Haushofer, before the first World War German military attaché in Tokyo, but at this time teaching a new science called geopolitics at the University of Munich. In his mind geopolitics meant the doctrine of geography as the technical method for achieving future German world dominion. Hess was a student of Haushofer's, who visited him in prison. Hitler and Haushofer came to know each other. There was an extraordinary amount to be learned from Haushofer. Here are just a few of his most important views: Modern inventions have completely transformed sea war. Even the German U-boat warfare of 1914 came close to decisive success. The airplane has completed the transition of the classic giant fleets, battleships and cruisers, to scrap iron. Sea power is no longer the decisive element in a struggle between Great Powers, but instead control of the vast land spaces. Whoever controls the continents will defeat -- and pretty quickly, too -- those who control merely the high seas. The existing "Great Powers" Haushofer regards as rather transitory structures, and in particular he anticipates the disintegration of the British Empire. The formation of a European-Asiatic continental empire (Eurasia) under German leadership is the task of the present generation.
These are some of the views of the man who taught Hess, and, through Hess, Hitler. When both were released, late in 1924, Hess entered the service of his teacher Haushofer as an assistant. In 1925 Haushofer founded an institute called the German Academy. Officially it was (and is) an institute for "Research in Germanism," cultivating intellectual relations between the fatherland and German groups abroad -- from the Caspian Sea to the Mississippi, and beyond. Scientific commissions traveled throughout the world, studying the languages, customs and lives of these groups. Speakers were sent out to deliver lectures in Ohio or southern Brazil on the Pan-German Idea. All these German splinter groups were formed into a kind of Teutonic International. It became Hess's life work to mobilize it in the struggle to possess the world. But before he reached that point he had to serve seven years as the least known of all Nazis.
When Hitler reëstablished his party in 1925 Hess left Haushofer and became Hitler's private secretary. In this capacity he directed what Hitler called his "Private Chancellery." What this meant was that Hitler, a man who shuns regular work, sat in his mountain chalet near Berchtesgaden, brooding over the second volume of "Mein Kampf," or even doing nothing for days at a time; while meanwhile Hess in Munich, behind the padded doors of Hitler's study, played the Führer, attending to Hitler's correspondence in Hitler's own name and if necessary even imitating his signature. By Hitler's side, and as Hitler's deputy, he came to be something like the maternal head of a family consisting of Hitler's most intimate followers, some of them from the early days of the Party, and mostly men who are little known. In addition to Hess, they included Baldur von Schirach, later to become youth leader; the adjutants Brückner and Schaub; the late chauffeur Schreck, who dressed up as Hitler's double with mustache and lock of hair; the photographer Hoffmann; and Bouhler, the Party's business manager. It is -- or perhaps one had better say today it was -- a circle of men in which each, cabinet minister or chauffeur, felt genuinely equal to the other. The circle was small and powerful, and Hess was its head.
As late as two months before Hitler became Chancellor, the general public regarded Hess as the young man who on Hitler's travels telegraphed ahead to reserve hotel rooms -- his job seemed as insignificant as that. Suddenly, after an inner party crisis that almost put an end to Hitler's entire career, Hitler appointed his private secretary his deputy in the Party leadership. That was in December 1932. At the time the Nazi movement seemed to be disintegrating. Many followers deserted, bankruptcy threatened, Hitler's most important lieutenant, Gregor Strasser, left him, and others were sorely tempted to follow suit. But Hitler managed to get the better of the crisis, appointing his private secretary head of the Political Central Commission of the Party. Later he was given the official title "Deputy of the Führer." That does not mean, as is often assumed, deputy head of state. The word Führer in Hitler's official title means that he is the leader of the Nazi movement, which is officially thought of as the carrier of political power in Germany. Hess was second to\ Hitler as Nazi Führer rather than as Chancellor of the Reich.
The old Party leaders, some of them already known the world over, had difficulty in becoming accustomed to the sudden omnipotence of the young man. Men like Frick, Strasser, von Epp and Feder did not worship Hitler as unconditionally as a somewhat later generation that consisted solely of his creatures -- Himmler, Ribbentrop, Goebbels. One day when Frick, a cabinet member and one of the Party's oldest and most unbending members, rejected a criticism offered by the young private secretary, Hess drew out of his pocket a document in Hitler's own hand vesting him with blanket authority and stating that his orders were to be obeyed as though they issued from the Führer himself.
When Hess in this way had overnight become his Führer's deputy, he asked himself what the reasons were. He decided that he was one of those characters whose rise is due to native ability. He definitely rejected the designation of careerist. He wrote down the result of this self-analysis and had it printed in December 1932 in the Party paper, the Völkische Beobachter. It read: "The careerist is opposed by the character who rises by ability. The latter does his duty irrespective of career or careerist. He may even cultivate social life, if he likes to do so, dance, love, spend his evenings at smokers, marry -- indeed, everything, but never for the sake of his career, at best for the sake of the cause he serves." Evidently Hess did not bar the possibility of one's throwing oneself away for a practical reason. But when Nazis speak publicly in terms of character and talent they almost invariably imply a slap at one of their dear comrades; and thus Hess's words also contain a barb directed at Göring.
Yet Hess truly placed the success of the cause he valued so highly above everything else, including the success of his own person. That person, however, was not really Rudolf Hess so much as Adolf Hitler, to whose personality his own fitted like an iron lung. He could say calmly in public when speaking of Germany's collapse in 1918: "For Adolf Hitler the revolution of 1918 was in a way necessary and providential, for despite its criminal leadership, it cleared out many remnants of an obsolete age -- remnants that would later have made trouble for the Nazi revolution. At the same time the revolution of 1918 carried in its wake such evidences of decay that, in a psychological sense, the way was paved for the harsh curative measures of the later Nazi regime." At least he admitted that its measures were harsh. Once, writing of Hitler's unsuccessful coup of 1923, he confessed that it was better that Hitler had not come into power then, "for at the time the people were not ripe for National Socialism, nor was the Nazi leadership ripe for leading the people."
Hess at all times was well aware what an undisciplined gang he was leading and even apologized for it -- a great movement never attained its goal without criminals and crimes. His public admission of this was made with a certain measure of circumlocution. "In the fight against Marxism," he said in 1934, "the leaders cannot be picked for their social acceptability and respectability in the bourgeois sense. It is a well-known fact that often in the field men particularly distinguish themselves who are anything but fit for normal peacetime civil life. Companies at the front were glad, in moments of crisis, to have such figures at their service. I know that here and there in the ranks of the Nazi leadership are some who, it is said, had better be put out of office. But I know also that these leaders have been tested in the bitter years of struggle -- more than that, that they are in large part responsible for our success."
The Nazi success bears evidence indeed of the truth of what Hess more than hints at about these "figures." And he certainly ought to know, for in the early years of his political career he was, as already noted, at the head of the Party section where questionable characters clustered most closely. Questionable characters? To put it bluntly they were murderers. Murders were plotted, arms for the murders provided, killers spirited abroad after the deed in order to save them from the police. Hess never had to answer for such activities in the courts, but many of his friends did -- Klintzsch, Heines, Neunzert, Bally, Schweikhart. The Nazi Party owes much of its growth to the political assassination of its rivals and enemies. Hess was merely honest when he later professed loyalty to the murderers, even if he used the euphemism "figures."
Though one of the less repulsive figures in the gang, Hess was (and surely still is) one of the most determined intellectual henchmen of the system. They themselves call it revolution. "Adolf Hitler," Hess said in 1934 to the impatient storm troopers, "is the great strategist of the revolution. He knows the limits that can be attained at any given moment with the available means. He acts after cold calculation -- often apparently serving only momentary considerations, but always looking far ahead to the distant aims of the revolution. The revolution is his very own child."
The revolution is, of course, world revolution. Once Hess had merely run the intelligence section, the secret conspiratorial center of the Party. But in 1933 one of the most important levers of the engine of Nazi world revolution came into his hands -- control of the so-called Auslandsdeutsche, those fragments of the German people who are scattered all over the world like magnetic mines. Hess had spent years in the German Academy of Professor Haushofer studying how to explode such mines. Now the long period of study was turned into practice. Even the United States was given samples of the tested methods of the grand old days of the intelligence section, including murder and kidnapping.
One of the most important creations of Hess was the reorganized Auslands Organisation, the foreign office of the Nazi Party. Theoretically, only German citizens living abroad are under its jurisdiction, but these run to many millions, and in Nazi hands they form a terrible weapon even though many of them have no wish to serve as such. One of the basic tenets of Nazism is that a resolute minority can always win over a lazy and cowardly majority; and that this minority of the most resolute and courageous spirits is to be discovered by setting it tasks as difficult and hopeless as possible. A "crazy" mission such as the overthrow of the government in some American nation and the seizure of power there can attract only the most daring and unscrupulous characters. It stands a chance of success in the degree that it is promoted by a leadership prepared for anything. This was the principle on which Hess organized the Nazi cells abroad.
The other part of the Nazi mine-field scattered over the world consists of the Auslandsdeutsche proper -- citizens of foreign countries -- of German descent. American readers need not be told how difficult a problem they present to the countries of their adoption. As a whole, they are certainly not Nazis. But Hess has mobilized them, at the least in spirit. He was their spokesman in Germany, and the spokesman of Nazi Germany to them. He organized a world-wide campaign of radio propaganda to capture them; he greatly expanded the old "Institute for Germans Abroad." Presumably he was one of the Nazis to suffer most profoundly when Hitler chased the Baltic Germans back into the Reich and surrendered the Baltic countries to the Bolsheviks.
As is well known, some of the best fighters in the Fifth Column are always eminent citizens of the countries to be attacked. Hess recognized this and acted accordingly. He made systematic attempts to win the so-called "élite" of foreign nations to the service of Nazi policy.
The whole concept of the élite has been reinterpreted by the Nazis for their own purposes. There are different élites -- the most intelligent, the richest, the best educated, those descended from the best families, the physically fittest. Everyone who fits into one of this series of different groups may, if he wishes, regard himself as a member of the élite. In every nation the representatives of the Nordic race belong to the élite. They are supposed to be found everywhere, even among the Chinese and Japanese. The Chinese Manchu emperors and the Japanese knightly class of the samurai belong to the same race, descended from the Arctic regions, which has furnished all nations with their intellectual and political leaders, and from which stem Aeschylus, Dante, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, George Washington, Adolf Hitler and Rudolf Hess. Well, it was this international Nordic élite that Nazism sought especially to mobilize. Repeatedly Hess has tried to establish contact with foreigners that he considered to belong to this type, and to win them over to Nazi purposes. For a while he thought he would find his most useful collaborators in the war veterans organizations in the different countries, and tried to incite them against their governments. "The front-line veterans," he said in 1934, addressing himself to France, "are the ones to bridge the gulf between nations when the politicians fail to find the way." Ten years earlier he had written a poem describing his war experiences. In it he called out to the French: "You over there must die that we may live -- we and our wretched people." But now, in 1934, he had a vision of a kind of international élite cutting across national lines and forming a common front against democracy and representative government. "We front-line fighters," he continued, in the speech mentioned above, "felt ourselves to be men of higher value than those who, far from the front, had nothing to do with the fate of the front. A Frenchman who was well acquainted with the people and politics of his country remarked to me: 'Have pity on us -- we are still under parliamentary rule.'"
A similar thought may have lain at the bottom of Hess's flight to England. Personalities of the British élite were to be mobilized in order to force peace over the heads of their own government. The first peer of Scotland, a daring sportsman and pilot and, it appears, a man who originally harbored friendly sentiments for National Socialism -- it was this representative of the British élite that Hess picked out as the recipient of his Messianic visitation. Needless to say the peace that Hess thought he was bringing could only have been a Nazi peace, even though it was to be a peace of complete Anglo-German understanding, and even though it was to be the result of a rebellion against Hitler. For it would have been a peace between Nazi Germany and a Britain that in its own way had become National Socialist.
One thing is sure. Hess has undergone no "change of heart" or "conversion." He is not a "repentant sinner." Hitler may possibly have disappointed him, but even this disappointment is likely to be circumscribed. His flight to England was in accord with ideas expressed time and again by Hitler himself in former days. The reconciliation of superior élites in all lands in the struggle against Judaism and plutocracy is one of the most important thoughts in "Mein Kampf." As so often happens, the disciple remained more loyal than the master. For let there be no doubt: in this relationship Hitler is the master and Hess the servant. The conjecture often heard that Hess is actually Hitler's brains is sheer nonsense. As far as his own innate resources are concerned, Hess is no personality at all. He reflects the light of the cause he serves. Nature endowed him with a precise and dependable intelligence, and with great willingness and energy. For twenty years she granted him obedience and loyalty, now so picturesquely shattered. She granted him the strength to keep faith with one man for twenty years. She granted him that man. For twenty long years Hess always said, "Ja, mein Führer" -- one almost hears it as "Yes, Father." On occasion, his obedience, which was not lacking in diplomatic agility, was capable of steering the master it served into a certain direction. But in the main it consisted of divining Hitler's desires -- expressing them, supporting them, promoting them. Did he perhaps imagine that on this occasion too he was reading and fulfilling Hitler's innermost wish -- a wish so secret that Hitler would not admit it even to himself? Was he confident of extricating Hitler from an impossible situation? The gesture seems extravagant, yet it would entirely fit in with all that we know of the twenty-year-old relationship between the two. Hitler himself, in the dark reaches of his mind, is a weather-glass for mass moods, a sensitive indicator of confused political power relationships. Hess knew how to read the barometer. And, in turn, he was the barometer that indicated Hitler's moods and states of mind. He was the counselor who explained to his friend the things Hitler himself merely sensed. Without Hitler all of Hess's own qualities must become sterile and futile. He was Hitler's servant. One can think of nothing else for which he might be useful.
The relationship was more than one of close confidence. The two men had grown together into a dual personality. Their mutual frankness ignored customary restraints. Hitler rehearsed his speeches with Hess; he even rehearsed entire conversations before they were held. Hess -- the mind that was, so to speak, grafted upon Hitler -- became productive only through the medium of Hitler. He was not the Führer's Führer, but a catalyst. Hitler's store of knowledge has always been limited, but he has used up much knowledge. He never got a firm hold on a vast background of facts, but he let them pass through his mind, whence the parts that were useful to him issued in the form of demagogy, orders, plans. He dislikes burrowing in books but he is fond of lapping facts up from people whom he tortures with endless questions. In his naïve thirst for knowledge, heedless of its limits, he silences his friends in the end and dismisses them with the triumphant smirk of the ignoramus: "There, you see, you'll have to give more study to that question." Hess was a good partner for such conversations.
In some way Hitler has gone further than Hess had expected. With all his hero worship, Hess does not seem to have wished to see his friend end in the rôle of a demoniac Lucifer. He thought of Hitler in terms of greatness, as is proved by the essay mentioned earlier, written at a time when Hitler was yet to become Germany's Führer. But the description of Hitler from the pen of Hess ends on a curious note: "The work must not be tailored to the towering proportions of its builder, else the whole will totter when he passes away, as did the States of Frederick the Great and Bismarck. New and independent personalities, who might in the future lead the steed of the remounted Germania, do not thrive under a dictator. That is why he achieves the last great deed: instead of savoring his power to the dregs, he lays it down, standing aside as counselor and mentor." Was it a wish, a counsel?
In truth, Hess can be said to have remained more loyal to Hitler than Hitler himself. For these thoughts of Hess about voluntary abdication at the height of power were once shared by Hitler. It was to Hess that he indulged his fancies of how glorious it would be some day to retire to private life; and Hess in all likelihood merely wrote down what he heard from Hitler's own mouth. At some point he must have become aware that their ideas of the future had begun to diverge. Perhaps it was years ago. In the spring of 1934 Hess built himself a house near Munich. Hitler came on a visit of inspection. Hess gave voice to his dreams -- this had always been his desire, to die an independent man in his own home with a view of the glorious Bavarian Alps. Whereupon Hitler replied in stern tones, a soldier significantly appealing to Hess's warrior spirit: "But Hess, we shall die in quite a different place!" Hess was startled out of his reverie. With restless, unhappy eyes he said: "Ja, mein Führer."