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Camp Z: How British Intelligence Broke Hitler's Deputy Hardcover – 26 May 2011
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'The last word on one of the great mysteries of World War II' Daily Mail.
From the Inside Flap
On 10 May 1941, Rudolf Hess, then the Deputy Fuhrer, parachuted over Renfrewshire in Scotland on a mission to meet with the Duke of Hamilton, ostensibly to broker a peace deal with the British government. After being held in the Tower of London, he was transferred to Mytchett Place near Aldershot on 20 May, under the codename of 'Z'. The house was fitted with microphones and sound recording equipment, guarded by a battalion of soldiers and codenamed 'Camp Z'. Churchill's instructions were that Hess should be strictly isolated, with every effort taken to get any information out of him that might help change the course of the Second World War. During the ensuing months a psychological battle was waged between intelligence officers using the new Freudian techniques of 'dynamic psychologies', and he man who had been a heartbeat away from Hitler. Stephen McGinty uses documentation, contemporaneous reports, diaries, letters and memos to piece together a riveting account of the claustrophobia, paranoia and high-stakes gamesmanship being played out in an English country house. CAMP Z is a 'locked room mystery' where the 'locked room' is a man's mind that no one can conclude, with any degree of confidence, is sane.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
What started out as a potentially exciting story that could have changed the course of the war, potentially.. and in my opinion, quickly I realised instead, and formed the opinion, that instead I was reading the case study of a deranged man that was doing nothing but inflicting costs, time and contributing nothing to the British war effort. I feel it better to have shot this man after one year in detention at Camp Z, whereby he was transferred, than allow him to live elsewhere. It sates near the end that in total there was 102 men in total guarding Hess: the grounds, the building (inside and out). What a waste of British man power.
All I can tell you, and in summary, [spoiler warning] is that Hess flew to Britain and turned out to be more of a mental case than of any help. The mission he was on was to bring a plan of peace between Britain and Germany to prevent fighting, "as Hitler wanted," thus allowing the "British Empire" to remain untouched and civilians on both sides saved while Germany dominated Europe and Britain remained out of the way. Simply it is said that only Germany and Britain exist power war, in Hess's original mindset, and no other. A list of what countries exactly Hess and Hitler foresaw as being under German rule post war and what one's where not is not written. While a brief interesting insight into the fact that Germany, Hitler & Hess where so confident in their ability to dominate Europe that side of things is not explored. In truth the entire book, as I've said, is a case study for Hess's mental state from the moment he arrived to his trial. Really I don't feel I've read much else. Perhaps then is the problem that another Author, another book, could do the job that this one promised but has not delivered.. after finishing reading? The book goes into great detail and if a complete one volume is needed on Hess in your collection then this is sure to be it but I am not entirely a fan. I feel there's more to the story than written here.
The book does have a nice sketch on the inside of the Hardcover, not had my hands on a paperback version, and on the inside of the back covers of the house that was known as Camp Z.
The book largely avoids talking about the Holocaust because either the Author felt it did not fall within his power to write about such a topic or Hess was, depending on the files the Author viewed to write this, unaware of what was going on. In the closure of the book Hess says " I suppose every genius has a demon in him - you can't blame him - it is just in him," of which does indeed indicate that Hess was unaware of the Holocaust. I should add that statement is what Hess is supposed to have said, for I have not seen the files, about Hitler during the Nuremberg trail. I've read enough books to know that antisemitism was rife and you don't become deputy to the Fuhrer by being against the ideas, of that I am definite. Hess played on his act of bad memory during the trail and I'm sure took many secrets, his knowledge of the Holocaust, to the grave also. Many SS men amongst trail did not feel an ounce of remorse, as the horrid footage of Adolf Eichmann shows watching Holocaust footage proves, and so I'd not be surprised that Hess was of the same nature.
The greatest line of the entire book comes on, for me, Page 293 "Incredible stuff. I hope that prisoners in German concentration camps have "electrically heated cushions." A letter in response to one sent by Hess regarding complaints about his, Hess, treatment while at Camp Z.
One thing this book did teach me was about the Boer War and British concentration camps during that time, a topic I know currently nothing about and was unaware and therefore will read up on. A favourite of Hess to say to his interrogators at Camp Z was the aforementioned Boer War, an almost obsession.
Interesting also to learn that notes where taken by Hess in 1924 (Ref: Page 17 of this book) while imprisoned with Hitler that would later become Mein Kampf (My Struggle). This book suggests that Mein Kampf was infected by Hess's idea of Germany requiring a greater living space more so than Hitler wanted, at the time, one. Again I've not read the files the Author did so cannot conclude an opinion. This, to me, is the author's opinion on such events.
My second notes in prep for this review states "By the second chapter I realised this book was to be a mountain of well, I believe, researched material that one can only take in through small reading doses and thus learn the picture that the Author paints on his version of events of this period in time."
The German propaganda machine is briefly shown in an attempt by Hitler to claim Hess mentally mad and therefore had abandoned his country and was most probably dead, presumed crashed, into the sea. A latter report by Britain confirming Hess's safe arrival ensued a battle of propaganda and public speeches that are listen, I assume only some and not all, in the book.
Other than that I don't really have a great deal to add.
I wouldn't be overly keen on picking this out to read again truth be told.
The implication in the title that the British 'broke' Hess, is clearly not true. He was already a deluded individual who became more unstable after he arrived in Britain. No useful intelligence was gained from him during his incarceration, and in the end his flight and mission were pointless, both for him and for the British.
There will always be those who believe the conspiracy theories around the whole affair - I make no comment on them, as they are not dealt with by this book.
The author relies too heavily on the transcripts obtained by eavesdropping on Hess's conversations, in places quoting them verbatim for page after page, to no real effect.
Overall, an interesting tale, but not one which really moves the story forward in any meaningful way.
This is just one example of Hess's behaviour during his incarceration at Camp Z, following his flight to Scotland one month earlier, in order to meet with the Duke of Hamilton, where he would offer to make peace with the British government. Hess was first held in the Tower of London, but was later transferred to Mytchettt Place, a manor which became Hess's home for one year.
From this point on, there starts the fascinating history as written by the gifted Mr. McGinty, who offers deep, many and various insights into the mind of the Nazi criminal. The first man to interview Hess was Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, who was the Foreign Ofiice's expert on Germany and the full transcription of the interview is given here. Kirkpatrick was also joined by Lord Simon, who was regarded as an appeaser and was chosen to represent the government in talks with Hess.
Another brilliant intelliegence officer who tried unsuccessfully to unravel the mind of the prisoner was Frank Foley. This man has done everything he could in the past in order to save the lives of as many Jews in Berlin as possible, where he was posted in 1938.
The basis for this intriguing book were documents which were found in British public libraries, especially those taken from the Foreign Office. In addition. letters, diaries, memos, Hess's reports and other public statements plus documents describing Stalin's point of view on this affair were used as well. Another full transcript making its appearance in the book is that of Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister for Supply, based on his papers and letters, but the main source were the Camp's secret recordings, taken by hidden microphones installed by the British.
The picture we get of Hess is one of a mentally unstable person, morose, sick with various ailments, delusional and in a constant paranoid state, who constatly believed that the British intended to poison him. He was extremely furious and frustrated by the fact that eventually no one really took him seriously and was anxiously waiting for some visits from the Swiss charge d'Affairs in England, during which he asked mainly for books and information regarding his small family. He also complained about intestinal trouble, memory loss and broken nerves, and the many drugs he was given to alleviate his symptoms or problems which were, in his view, used to obstruct his rational thinking. His depression got deeper after hearing the fate of the Nazi armies in Russia after 1942-3 and after the fact that his letters to King George the Sixth were ignored.
In converations held with Foley, Hess said that "it was clear the Russians were stronger in men and material than the army had been led to believe-a fault he laid at the feet of the German secret service". In another episode Foley was actually sharing food with the criminal when Hess suddenly confessed that he, Hess, was probably suffering from psychosis.
To conclude, it would be just to mention Churchill's words about this whole bizzare affair. Thus Churchill:"Hess was a medical and not a criminal case".
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