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TEN DAYS TO DESTINY by John Costello


The Secret Story of the Hess Peace Initiative and British Efforts to Strike a Deal with Hitler

by John Costello

Pub Date: July 15th, 1991
ISBN: 0-688-08662-4
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

A highly speculative historical argument from Costello (Virtue Under Fire, 1986, etc.): that the flight of Hitler's aide Rudolf Hess to Britain in May 1941 was not the isolated act of a madman, but the result of a year of secret maneuvering between the Nazi regime and appeasement-minded members of Churchill's cabinet. In the wake of the fall of France in May 1940, Costello argues, Britain's situation appeared so bleak that certain members of the coalition War Cabinet—conspicuously, Halifax, the foreign secretary—favored (and initiated) efforts to reach an accommodation with Hitler that would not threaten British independence. Churchill was engaged in a battle with these politicians as bitter in its way as the war with Germany, Costello maintains. He says (and many historians agree) that Hitler actually favored such a negotiated peace in order to give himself a free hand in the East. Costello argues (again, unexceptionably) that many members of the British political establishment and aristocracy sympathized with Hitler's fascist and anti-Semitic philosophy. However, Costello fails to make the connection convincingly between these well-documented facts and his central thesis—that Hess made his 1941 flight bearing an authoritative offer of peace from Hitler, and that the Hess flight was actually a last-minute attempt to reach a negotiated peace with Britain on the eve of Hitler's crusade against Bolshevism. Costello's evidence for this is slender and amounts to a highly conjectural circumstantial case. Provocative but unconvincing.