Harold Harmsworth, the second son of Alfred Harmsworth (1837–1889), and his wife, Geraldine Mary Maffett (1838–1925), was born on 26th April 1868, at Hampstead, London. His elder brother was Alfred Harmsworth. His father was an Englishman who had qualified as a barrister at the Middle Temple, and his mother was the daughter of a land agent from County Down, Ireland. (1)
Over the next twenty years his mother gave birth to thirteen children. Cecil (September 1869), Robert (November 1870), Hildebrand (March 1872), Violet (April 1873), Charles (December 1874), St John (May 1876), Maud (December 1877), Christabel (April 1880), Vyvyan (April 1881), Muriel (May 1882) and Harry (October 1885). (2)
Harold's father's career as a barrister did not prosper in England. The main reason for this was that he was an alcoholic. His own father, Charles Harmsworth, had also been an alcoholic, dying at fifty-three of cirrhosis of the liver. "Alfred's drinking would become the central problem of his wife's life, and later the lives of his children." (3)
Harold Harmsworth, later recalled that the boys suffered a traumatic experience when they were young. A neighbour, who was a City stockbroker, was made bankrupt and this resulted in him killing all the members of his family before committing suicide. It is claimed that Alfred "brushed" the tragedy aside, but Harold was "shaken to the core" and during the last decade of his life he passed the story on to his grandchildren. (4)
Harold Harmsworth was educated at Marylebone Grammar School, which he left "at an early age" to become a clerk in the mercantile marine office of the Board of Trade. (5) His parents were happy about "having got the position - as he could expect, at the end of forty-five years' service, to receive a pension of £160 per year." (6)
His brother, Alfred Harmsworth, became a freelance journalist. The great publishing success at the time was Tit-Bits, a magazine that was selling 900,000 copies a month. Published by George Newnes, the magazine catered for those people who had been taught to read as a result of the 1870 Education Act and contained "scraps of interesting and entertaining information". Harmsworth described this new audience as being "thousands of boys and girls… who are aching to read. They do not care for the ordinary newspaper. They have no interest in society, but will read anything which is simple and is sufficiently interesting". (7)
Harmsworth, now aged twenty, became a regular contributor to the magazine. He told his friend, Max Pemberton: "George Newnes has got hold of a bigger thing than he imagines. He is only at the very beginning of a development which is going to change the whole face of journalism. I shall try to get in with him. We could start one of those papers for a couple of thousands pounds, and we ought to be able to find the money. At any rate, I am going to make the attempt." (8)
Harold agreed to help his brother to raise the money to publish a new magazine. Eventually, they raised about £1,000, and were able to publish Answers to Correspondents. It has been claimed that "Harold had to convert Alfred's energy and genius into a paying proposition, and everything depended upon his succeeding at this task. This meant he had to exercise the most painstaking and minute control over outgoings, both financial and creative - the two almost inevitably going hand in hand." (9)
The first edition of the magazine, costing one penny, was published on 2nd June, 1888. He told his readers that every question sent in would be answered by post, and the answers of those of general interest would be published in the magazine. Initially, Alfred had to pretend that he had received questions. Even when genuine queries came in, they were rarely suitable.
The formula used by the magazine was an attempt to provide an excuse for printing miscellaneous articles. For example, he invented a question on the diet of Queen Victoria. The magazine claimed: "The Queen's favourite foods are boiled mutton, of which she partakes at least twice a week, venison, salmon, boiled fowl, and silverside of beef." Other articles based on made-up questions included "An Electrical Flying Machine", "Horseflesh as Food" and "Why are no bus conductors bald?"
In an early edition of the magazine Alfred Harmsworth condemned the way in which "shop boys and factory hands, pit boys, and telegraph boys, devour them eagerly and fill their foolish brains with rubbish about highwaymen, pirates, and other objectionable people". However, as these subjects were popular, Harmsworth soon changed his mind about the matter and published articles on gory issues such as "what it felt like to be hanged, or speculated as to how long a severed head might be conscious after beheading". (10)
Harmsworth decided that he would move into other areas of publishing. On 17th May 1890, he targeted the humour market with a halfpenny journal called Comic Cuts. The slogan he used was "Amusing Without Being Vulgar" and took a higher moral tone that the usual inexpensive comics "which aimed at the lowest tastes and were often, in Alfred's view at least, vulgar and obscene". It was an immediate success and the first edition sold 118,864 copies. Within a few weeks it was selling 300,000 copies and was making more profits than Answers to Correspondents. (11)
Over the next few months he began publishing several magazines aimed at young boys. This included Boys' Home Journal, Pluck, Marvel, and Boy's Friend. The Harmsworth brothers were great supporters of the British Empire, and published Union Jack, a magazine that was full of stories of how British soldiers were heroically defeating its enemies abroad. (12) The Liberal Party supporting The Daily News, who had doubts about getting involved in foreign wars, attacked them for "abetting national degeneration". (13)
In November 1891 the brothers began publishing Forget-Me-Not, subtitled "A Pictorial Journal for Ladies". This penny weekly was aimed at the growing female market. It became the most successful of Harmsworth's publication. (14) Other titles followed such as, Home Sweet Home, Home Chat and Sunday Companion. By 1892 the firm's combined weekly sales figure was 1,009,067, the largest of any magazine company in the world. The following year circulation numbers neared 1,500,000. (15)
During the 1892 General Election, Harmsworth arranged for an interview with William Ewart Gladstone appeared in Answers to Correspondents. Gladstone remarked that he considered the "gigantic circulation of Answers an undeniable proof of the growth of a sound public taste for healthy and instructive reading. The journal must have vast influence." Harmsworth paid Gladstone £400 for the interview. (16)
In 1893 Harold Harmsworth married Mary Lilian Share, the daughter of George Wade Share, a bankrupt City hardware merchant. According to David George Boyce: "The marriage was not fulfilling. Harmsworth lavished gifts on his wife, but she had an affair with his younger brother, St John, and there were even rumours that one of his sons, Esmond, was St John's. Harmsworth, for his part, also found other personal attractions: he had many women friends, and a number of mistresses." (17)
In August 1894 the Harmsworth brothers purchased the Evening News for £25,000. Established in 1881 to promote the interests of the Conservative Party, it developed one of the largest circulations in the market. However, the owner, Coleridge Kennard, found it difficult to make a profit from the newspaper and although by 1894 it had a circulation of over 100,000, it had suffered heavy losses. Harold Harmsworth warned him about this takeover as the Liberal Party was very popular with the general public.
Harmsworth made it clear that his newspaper would "preach the gospel of loyalty to the Empire and faith in the combined efforts of the peoples united under the British flag". The declaration of principles continued that, in politics, the paper would be "strongly and unfalteringly" on the side of the Conservatives in regards to the Empire but on social issues vowed to "occupy an advanced democratic platform" and would be "progressive in municipal reform". (18)
Harmsworth dramatically changed the newspaper. Although he retained the traditional seven column layout, advertisements were reduced to a single column on the left. Six columns of news were presented in a crisper style. Harmsworth also began to use illustrations to break-up the text. This was an innovation that had first been used in America.
Though he had previously condemned sensational press coverage of crime stories, the newspaper exploited several of the more lurid domestic murder trials of the time. It also used eye-catching headlines such as "Was it Suicide or Apoplexy?", "Another Battersea Scandal", "Bones in Bishopgate", "Hypnotism and Lunacy" and "Killed by a Grindstone". Harmsworth also began to use illustrations to break-up the text. This was an innovation that had first been used in America. Francis Williams, the author of Dangerous Estate: The Anatomy of Newspapers (1957) argues that the newspaper "combined a doctrinaire support for Conservatism with the strong conviction that all the halfpenny paper public really cared for was crime." (19)
Over the first few months Harmsworth had difficulty increasing the circulation of The Evening News. However, advertisers loved the newspaper and the profits soared. By the end of the first year the newspaper made a profit of £14,000. The following year he stated that sales had reached 394,447. Harmsworth claimed this as a world record for a newspaper and added that sales would be over 500,000 if they owned more printing presses.
Harmsworth developed a reputation for "Jew-baiting". On one occasion he published a joke about a Jewish businessman who arranged to have a fire on his premises so that he could claim insurance money. Unfortunately for Harmsworth, a Jewish tradesman in Shoreditch, bearing the same name as given in the joke, had recently claimed insurance for a fire in his London premises. He promptly issued a writ for libel against the newspaper. Harmsworth was forced to apologize and paid the man £600. (20)
Harold and Alfred Harmsworth decided to start a newspaper based on the style of newspapers published in the USA. By the time the first issue of the Daily Mail appeared for the first time on 4th May, 1896, over 65 dummy runs had taken place, at a cost of £40,000. When published for the first time, the eight page newspaper cost only halfpenny. Slogans used to sell the newspaper included "A Penny Newspaper for One Halfpenny", "The Busy Man's Daily Newspaper" and "All the News in the Smallest Space". (21)
The Harmsworth's brothers made use of the latest technology. This included mechanical typesetting on a linotype machine. He also purchased three rotary printing machines. In the first edition Alfred explained how he could use these machines to produce the cheapest newspaper on the market: "Our type is set by machinery, and we can produce many thousands of papers per hour cut, folded and if necessary with the pages pasted together. It is the use of these new inventions on a scale unprecedented in any English newspaper office that enables the Daily Mail to effect a saving of from 30 to 50 per cent and be sold for half the price of its contemporaries. That is the whole explanation of what would otherwise appear a mystery." (22) It was later claimed that these machines could produce 200,000 copies of the newspaper per hour. (23)
The two brothers disagreed about the quality of the paper to be used. Harold wanted to use cheap tinted paper whereas Alfred wanted high quality white. Alfred wanted less advertising space than other dailies. Harold disagreed as it would reduce revenues. S. J. Taylor has argued: "It was a gentle rift between the pair at first, but in fact it represented a good deal more - a genuine difference in point of view, even in the temperament... Harold, whose distribution and business genius had informed the success of the magazine empire and of the Evening News, now found himself shunted aside by Alfred, who had, in his obsession with his new newspaper, came to fear Harold's thrift, suspicious that he would cheapen the Daily Mail with false savings." (24)
The Daily Mail was the first newspaper in Britain that catered for a new reading public that needed something simpler, shorter and more readable than those that had previously been available. One new innovation was the banner headline that went right across the page. Considerable space was given to sport and human interest stories. It was also the first newspaper to include a woman's section that dealt with issues such as fashions and cookery. Most importantly, all its news stories and articles were short. The first day it sold 397,215 copies, more than had ever been sold by any newspaper in one day before. (25)
One of his journalists, Tom Clarke, claimed that his newspaper was for people who were not as intelligent as they thought they were: "Was one of the secrets of the Daily Mail success its play on the snobbishness of all of us? - all of us except the very rich and the very poor, to whom snobbishness is not important; for the rich have nothing to gain by it, and the poor have nothing to lose." (26)
One of the popular innovations of the Daily Mail was a woman's section that dealt with issues such as fashions and cookery. The Harmsworth brothers decided to establish the Daily Mirror, a newspaper "for gentlewomen". Kennedy Jones was put in charge of the project and spent £100,000 in publicity, including a gift scheme of gilt and enamel mirrors. Mary Howarth, was appointed editor, and most of its staff were women. The first issue was published on 1st November, 1903. Harmsworth wrote in his diary that "after the usual pangs of childbirth produced the first copy at 9.50 p.m. It looks a promising child, but time will show whether we are on a winner or not." (27)
The new paper provided twenty tabloid-sized pages at a cost of a penny. Harmsworth declared in the first issue that "the Daily Mirror was new, because it represents in journalism a development that is entirely new and modern in the world; it is unlike any other newspaper because it attempts what no other newspaper has ever attempted. It is no mere bulletin of fashion, but a reflection of women's interests, women's thoughts, women's work. The sane and healthy occupation of domestic life." (28)
On its first day, the circulation of the Daily Mirror was 265,217. This was mainly as a result of a massive publicity campaign. Silly mistakes were made. For example, one regular column, "Our French Letter" had to be changed to Yesterday in Paris". Sales dropped dramatically after the initial launch and within a month circulation was below 25,000 and losses were £3,000 a week. "The paper became the greatest publishing blunder of Alfred's career and lost £100,000 before its fortunes were righted. The original idea - that a large female readership could be lured to a penny paper away from sixpenny productions like the Queen and Ladies' Field - proved absolutely wrong." (29)
Harmsworth was strongly opposed to women's suffrage and women who wanted careers and so he was very keen to produce a newspaper that did not to appeal to the "naughty New Woman who smoked cigarettes and had unthinkable notions about the vote". Harmsworth hoped his new newspaper "would attract bright, home-loving ladies, who in turn would attract advertisers of clothes, jewellery, and furniture." (30)
Matthew Engel, the author of Tickle the Public: One Hundred Years of the Popular Press (1996) has argued that the "Daily Mirror did not have the same only-just-out-of-reach aspirational appeal that made the Daily Mail such a success in the suburbs." (31) Maurice Edelman was convinced the disaster was not so much a miscalculation of the market as a result of Harmsworth's Oedipal obsession: subconsciously, he was starting a paper that would please his mother." (32)
Harmsworth had a patronising and sententious attitude towards women: "Nine women out of ten would rather read about an evening dress costing a great deal of money - the sort of dress they will never in their lives have a chance of wearing, than about a simple frock such as they could afford. A recipe for a dish requiring a pint of cream, a dozen eggs, and the breasts of three chickens pleases them better than being told how to make Irish stew." (33)
Alfred Harmsworth decided to change his original plan. The editor, Mary Howarth, returned to the Daily Mail and was replaced by Hamilton Fyfe, who had orders to sack the women on the staff. "They tried to soften Fyfe's heart by leaving presents on his desk; he said it was like drowning kittens." These changes did not work. Circulation was 45,000 when Fyfe took over; by the end of the year it had lost a third of this and was only selling 30,000 copies. (34)
It was now decided to change it to a picture newspaper for men as well as women. It has been wrongly claimed that it was the first newspaper that was full of illustration. In fact, the Daily Graphic, a newspaper that made extensive use of wood engravings, had only moderate success since it was established in 1869. However, Harmsworth, intended to use new developments where half-tone blocks could be used to print photographs on newsprint paper. By using high-speed rotary presses he managed to print 24,000 copies per hour. (35)
As Alfred Harmsworth later recalled: "Some people say that a woman never really knows what she wants. It is certain she knew what she didn't want. She didn't want the Daily Mirror. I then changed the price to a halfpenny, and filled it full of photographs and pictures to see how that would do." Within a month sales had increased to 143,000 and by the end of the year it had reached 290,000. (36)
Hamilton Fyfe also experimented with using different types of photographs on the front-page. On 2nd April, 1904, the Daily Mirror published a whole page of pictures of Edward VII and his children, Henry, Albert and Mary. This was a great success and Harmsworth now realised the British public had an intense interest in photographs of the Royal Family. (37)
In April 1905, Alfred and Harold Harmsworth, established Associated Newspapers Limited with a capital of £1,600,000, the shares of which swiftly sold out. Alfred income for the year was £115,000. Apart from his newspaper business he had other stock worth £300,000. Despite his growing wealth he was still dissatisfied and craved titles and acceptance from the ruling class. He also wanted greater influence and in May, he purchased The Sunday Observer. It had a small circulation of around 3,000 but was read by the upper-classes. It cost only £4,000, but it had been losing between £12,000 and £15,000 a year. (38)
On 23rd June, it was announced that Alfred Harmsworth had received a baronetcy. The Daily Telegraph reported that it was unusual for a man "to win so much success in so limited a time". (39) Those newspapers that supported the Liberal Party were less complimentary. The Daily Chronicle stated that "Mr. Harmsworth's is the name of the most general interest in a list that is more remarkable for quantity than quality".(40) The most bitter comment came from The Daily News, "having been conspicuously passed over for several years, Sir Alfred Harmsworth has arrived at his baronetcy... for all he did during the Boer War." (41)
Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe complained to the editor of the Daily Mirror about the staff of the newspaper. "Someone told me the other day that your people were all Socialists." In 1914 he decided to sell his share in the newspaper to Harold Harmsworth, for £100,000. During the First World War the newspaper became the most popular newspaper on the Western Front. The soldiers particularly liked the fact that the newspaper included so many pictures of life back home. The newspaper also published a large number of pictures of the war. (42)
Harold Harmsworth was granted the title Lord Rothermere in 1914. He loyally supported the government during the war and in November, 1917, he was appointed as Secretary of State for Air. Two of his sons, Vere Harmsworth and Vyvyan Harmsworth, both joined the British Army. Vere saw action at Gallipoli before being sent to the Western Front. Vyvyan was already in France and wrote to his father about life in the trenches. "Hell is the only word descriptive of the weather out here and the state of the ground. It rains every day! The trenches are mud and water up to one's neck, rendering some impassable - but where it is up to the waist we have to make our way along cheerfully. I can tell you - it is no fun getting up to the waist and right through, as I did last night. Lots of men have been sent off with slight frost-bite - the foot swells up and gets too big for the boot." (43)
Vere took part in the Battle of the Somme. He wrote to his uncle, Lord Northcliffe, just before he advanced into No Man's Land: "We came up into the trenches this morning and we go over the top the morning after tomorrow. It will be about dawn, as the whole day will be required for the very big operations in hand. It is a terrifically big show. We shall move up to our battle positions tomorrow evening. We shall be very cramped and uncomfortable until the show starts. Who knows what it will be like." (44)
Vere Harmsworth was shot in the throat and killed on 13th November, 1916, while attacking German trenches at Ancre. Vyvyan Harmsworth, was badly wounded and returned to London. He died on 12th February, 1918. The following month Lord Rothermere tended his resignation as Secretary of State for Air. David Lloyd George replied: "Your sacrifices to the national cause have been so heavy, and to strain imposed on you so cruel that it would be impossible to deny you the right to some repose. Sympathy in these matters is generally best given by silence, but I am sure you know without my telling you have much I sympathise with you in your losses and in the way in which you have continued your public duties in spite of everything." (45)
Lord Northcliffe's health deteriorated rapidly in 1921. Hannen Swaffer reported that: "His vitality had gone, his face was puffy. His chin was sunk, and his mouth had lost its firmness. He lost his temper during a speech, because someone dropped a plate or something. He was a different man. The fires that burned within him had burned too fiercely all those years. People who heard him knew it was the end." George Riddell, speculated that Northcliffe was "seriously ill". (46) He died in August, 1922. In order to avoid death duties, in his will he left three months' salary to each of his six thousand employees, a sum of £533,000. (47)
After the death of Lord Northcliffe, Rothermere took full control of the Daily Mail as well as the Daily Mirror. He also ran the Evening News, the Sunday Pictorial and the Sunday Dispatch. Rothermere set up the Daily Mail Trust as a public company to run the newspapers. His main rival was Maxwell Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, who owned the other large selling newspaper, the Daily Express. "To ensure that the two proprietors thought twice about cutting one another's throats, Beaverbrook took a large stake in the Daily Mail Trust, and the Trust acquired a considerable holding in the Express." (48)
Despite his support for the Conservative Party, the Labour Party continued increase his popularity. In the 1923 General Election, the Labour Party won 191 seats. Although the Conservatives had 258, Ramsay MacDonald agreed to head a minority government, and therefore became the first member of the party to become Prime Minister. As MacDonald had to rely on the support of the Liberal Party, he was unable to get any socialist legislation passed by the House of Commons. The only significant measure was the Wheatley Housing Act which began a building programme of 500,000 homes for rent to working-class families. (49)
Members of establishment were appalled by the idea of a Prime Minister who was a socialist. As Gill Bennett pointed out: "It was not just the intelligence community, but more precisely the community of an elite - senior officials in government departments, men in "the City", men in politics, men who controlled the Press - which was narrow, interconnected (sometimes intermarried) and mutually supportive. Many of these men... had been to the same schools and universities, and belonged to the same clubs. Feeling themselves part of a special and closed community, they exchanged confidences secure in the knowledge, as they thought, that they were protected by that community from indiscretion." (50)
The most hostile response to the new Labour government was Lord Rothermere. Thomas Marlowe, the editor of The Daily Mail claimed: "The British Labour Party, as it impudently calls itself, is not British at all. It has no right whatever to its name. By its humble acceptance of the domination of the Sozialistische Arbeiter Internationale's authority at Hamburg in May it has become a mere wing of the Bolshevist and Communist organisation on the Continent. It cannot act or think for itself." (51)
Two days after forming the first Labour government Ramsay MacDonald received a note from General Borlass Childs of Special Branch that said "in accordance with custom" a copy was enclosed of his weekly report on revolutionary movements in Britain. MacDonald wrote back that the weekly report would be more useful if it also contained details of the "political activities... of the Fascist movement in this country". Childs wrote back that he had never thought it right to investigate movements which wished to achieve their aims peacefully. In reality, MI5 was already working very closely with the British Fascisti, that had been established in 1923. (52)
Maxwell Knight was the organization's Director of Intelligence. In this role he had responsibility for compiling intelligence dossiers on its enemies; for planning counter-espionage and for establishing and supervising fascist cells operating in the trade union movement. This information was then passed onto Vernon Kell, Director of the Home Section of the Secret Service Bureau (MI5). Later Maxwell Knight was placed in charge of B5b, a unit that conducted the monitoring of political subversion. (53)
In September 1924 MI5 intercepted a letter signed by Grigory Zinoviev, chairman of the Comintern in the Soviet Union, and Arthur McManus, the British representative on the committee. In the letter British communists were urged to promote revolution through acts of sedition. Hugh Sinclair, head of MI6, provided "five very good reasons" why he believed the letter was genuine. However, one of these reasons, that the letter came "direct from an agent in Moscow for a long time in our service, and of proved reliability" was incorrect. (54)
Vernon Kell, the head of MI5 and Sir Basil Thomson the head of Special Branch, were also convinced that the letter was genuine. Desmond Morton, who worked for MI6, told Sir Eyre Crowe, at the Foreign Office, that an agent, Jim Finney, who worked for George Makgill, the head of the Industrial Intelligence Bureau (IIB), had penetrated Comintern and the Communist Party of Great Britain. Morton told Crowe that Finney "had reported that a recent meeting of the Party Central Committee had considered a letter from Moscow whose instructions corresponded to those in the Zinoviev letter". However, Christopher Andrew, who examined all the files concerning the matter, claims that Finney's report of the meeting does not include this information. (55)
Kell showed the letter to Ramsay MacDonald, the Labour Prime Minister. It was agreed that the letter should be kept secret until after the election. (56) Thomas Marlowe had a good relationship with Reginald Hall, the Conservative Party MP, for Liverpool West Derby. During the First World War he was director of Naval Intelligence Division of the Royal Navy (NID) and he leaked the letter to Marlowe, in an effort to bring an end to the Labour government. (57)
The Daily Mail published the letter on 25th October 1924, just four days before the 1924 General Election. Under the headline "Civil War Plot by Socialists Masters" it argued: "Moscow issues orders to the British Communists... the British Communists in turn give orders to the Socialist Government, which it tamely and humbly obeys... Now we can see why Mr MacDonald has done obeisance throughout the campaign to the Red Flag with its associations of murder and crime. He is a stalking horse for the Reds as Kerensky was... Everything is to be made ready for a great outbreak of the abominable class war which is civil war of the most savage kind." (58)
Ramsay MacDonald suggested he was a victim of a political conspiracy: "I am also informed that the Conservative Headquarters had been spreading abroad for some days that... a mine was going to be sprung under our feet, and that the name of Zinoviev was to be associated with mine. Another Guy Fawkes - a new Gunpowder Plot... The letter might have originated anywhere. The staff of the Foreign Office up to the end of the week thought it was authentic... I have not seen the evidence yet. All I say is this, that it is a most suspicious circumstance that a certain newspaper and the headquarters of the Conservative Association seem to have had copies of it at the same time as the Foreign Office, and if that is true how can I avoid the suspicion - I will not say the conclusion - that the whole thing is a political plot?" (59)
The rest of the Tory owned newspapers ran the story of what became known as the Zinoviev Letter over the next few days and it was no surprise when the election was a disaster for the Labour Party. The Conservatives won 412 seats and formed the next government. Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of the Daily Express and Evening Standard, told Lord Rothermere, the owner of The Daily Mail, that the "Red Letter" campaign had won the election for the Conservatives. Rothermere replied that it was probably worth a hundred seats. (60)
David Low was a Labour Party supporter who was appalled by the tactics used by the Tory press in the 1924 General Election: "Elections have never been completely free from chicanery, of course, but this one was exceptional. There were issues - unemployment, for instance, and trade. There were legitimate secondary issues - whether or not Russia should be afforded an export loan to stimulate trade. In the event these issues were distorted, pulped, and attached as appendix to a mysterious document subsequently held by many creditable persons to be a forgery, and the election was fought on "red" panic (The Zinoviev Letter)". (61)
After the election it was claimed that two of MI5's agents, Sidney Reilly and Arthur Maundy Gregory, had forged the letter. It later became clear that Major George Joseph Ball, a MI5 officer, played an important role in leaking it to the press. In 1927 Ball went to work for the Conservative Central Office where he pioneered the idea of spin-doctoring. Christopher Andrew, MI5's official historian, points out: "Ball's subsequent lack of scruples in using intelligence for party political advantage while at Central Office in the late 1920s strongly suggests... that he was willing to do so during the election campaign of October 1924." (62)
David Low was convinced that the letter was a forgery and he started a campaign against Britain's two major press lords, Lord Rothermere and Lord Beaverbrook. "The figures, fat Rother and little Beaver, were such naturals to draw and the newspaper public gave them such popularity that in no time I found myself running a series dealing with their dark doings. Various incidents and accidents turned up by grinning fate in succeeding months tended to support and confirm the lightsome fancy... The Plot Press became one of my major properties and a regular feature of the Star." (63)
Rothermere's newspapers continued to increase their circulation. By 1926 the daily sales of the Daily Mail had reached 2,000,000. Lord Rothermere personal wealth was now £25 million and he was estimated to be the third richest man in Britain. Rothermere also worked very closely with Beaverbrook worked very closely together. Rothermere via the Daily Mail Trust had invested heavily in the newspapers he owned, including the Daily Express. In 1927 Rothermere offered Beaverbrook £2.5 million for his majority interest in the newspaper. Beaverbrook rejected the offer and replied that "it suits me to have you for a colleague". (64)
Lord Rothermere personal wealth was now £25 million and he was estimated to be the third richest man in Britain. Rothermere spent three months of the year gambling in Monte Carlo. It was here he met Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe in 1927. According to a FBI file, Stephanie had targeted Rothermere. It said that "she was reputedly immoral, and capable of resorting to any means, even bribery, to get her ends." They both enjoyed gambling and she described Rothermere as "a fabulous plunger at the casino tables". (65)
Princess Stephanie persuaded Rothermere that the defeated nations had been badly treated by the Treaty of Versailles. Rothermere was impressed by her arguments and her understanding of the problem. Rothermere agreed to write an editorial on the subject. On 21st June, 1927, The Daily Mail argued: "Eastern Europe is strewn with Alsace-Lorraines. By severing from France the twin provinces of that name the Treaty of Frankfurt in 1871 made another European war inevitable. The same blunder has been committed on a larger scale in the peace treaties which divided up the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. They have been created dissatisfied minorities in half a dozen parts of Central Europe, any one of which may be the starting point of another conflagration." (66)
Lord Rothermere also called for the restoration of the Hungarian monarchy. Rothermere was an ardent monarchist and argued that a monarchic constitution was the best bulwark against Bolshevism in Europe and hoped to restore both the Hapsburg and Hohenzollern thrones. According to Martha Schad, the author of Hitler's Spy Princess (2002): "A group of active monarchists even offered the crown of Hungary to Lord Rothermere himself, an idea that for a moment he took seriously." (67)
Rothermere continued the campaign in his newspaper. He wrote to Princess Stephanie in April 1928: "I had no conception that a recital of Hungary's sufferings and wrongs would arouse such world-wide sympathy. Now from all parts of the world I am in receipt of such a flood of telegrams, letters and postcards that the work entailed in connection with the propaganda is rapidly absorbing all my energies." (68)
Jim Wilson has pointed out: "Rothermere, although estranged from his wife and still devastated by the loss of his two eldest sons in the war, was not averse to the attentions of attractive young women. Indeed, throughout his life he had many lady friends, some of whom were his mistresses. Despite his brusqueness he could be a vivacious companion and a good mixer, overcoming his inherent shyness... The press baron was a complex character who liked to have familiar faces around him. One of his biographers described him as having a generous nature, although he never believed his own value extended beyond what he could give to another person." (69)
In January 1929, 1,433,000 people in Britain were out of work. Stanley Baldwin was urged to take measures that would protect the depressed iron and steel industry. Baldwin ruled this out owing to the pledge against protection which had been made at the 1924 election. Agriculture was in an even worse condition, and here again the government could offer little assistance without reopening the dangerous tariff issue. Baldwin was considered to be a popular prime minister and he fully expected to win the general election that was to take place on 30th May. (70)
In the 1929 General Election the Conservatives won 8,656,000 votes (38%), the Labour Party 8,309,000 (37%) and the Liberals 5,309,000 (23%). However, the bias of the system worked in Labour's favour, and in the House of Commons the party won 287 seats, the Conservatives 261 and the Liberals 59. Ramsay MacDonald now became the new prime minister of a minority government. Rothermere was furious with the result and blamed Baldwin for his weak and uninspiring leadership. (71)
Lord Rothermere believed that Stanley Baldwin did badly in the election because he was too left-wing and probably a "crypto-socialist". Rothermere was especially concerned about the government's attitude towards the British Empire. Rothermere agreed with Brendan Bracken when he wrote: "This wretched Government, with the aid of the Liberals and some eminent Tories, is about to commit us to one of the most fatal decisions in all our history, and there is practically no opposition to their policy". Bracken believed that with the support of the Rothermere and the Beaverbrook newspaper empires it would be possible "to preserve the essentials of British rule in India". (72)
Lord Beaverbrook agreed and as he explained to Robert Borden, the former Canadian prime minister : "The Government is trying to unite Mohammedan and Hindu. It will never succeed. There will be no amalgamation between these two. There is only one way to govern India. And that is the way laid down by the ancient Romans - was it the Gracchi, or was it Romulus, or was it one of the Emperors? - that is Divide and Rule". (73)
Rothermere agreed to join forces with Beaverbrook, in order to remove Baldwin from the leadership of the Tory Party. According to one source: "Rothermere's feelings amounted to hatred. He had backed Baldwin strongly in 1924, and his subsequent disenchantment was thought to be connected with Baldwin's unaccountable failure to reward him with an earldom and his son Esmond, an MP, with a post in the government. By 1929 Rothermere, a man of pessimistic temperament, had come to believe that with the socialists in power the world was nearing its end; and Baldwin was doing nothing to save it. He was especially disturbed by the independence movement in India, to which he thought both the government and Baldwin were almost criminally indulgent." (74)
Rothermere and Beaverbrook believed the best way to undermine Baldwin was to campaign on the policy of giving countries within the British Empire preferential trade terms. Beaverbrook began the campaign on 5th December, 1929, when he announced the establishment of the Empire Free Trade movement. On the 10th December, the Daily Express front page had the banner headlines: "JOIN THE EMPIRE CRUSADE TODAY" and called on its readers to register as supporters. It also proclaimed that "the great body of feeling in the country which is behind the new movement must be crystallised in effective form". The appeal for "recruits" was repeated in Beaverbrook's other newspapers such as the Evening Standard and the Sunday Express. All his newspapers told those who had already registered their support to "enroll your friends... we are an army with a great task before us." (75)
In January, 1930, Rothermere's newspapers came out in support of Empire Free Trade. George Ward Price, a faithful Rothermere mouthpiece, wrote in the Sunday Dispatch, that "no man living in this country today with more likelihood of succeeding to the Premiership of Great Britain than Lord Beaverbrook". (76) The Daily Mail also called on Baldwin to resign and be replaced the press baron. Beaverbrook responded by describing Rothermere as "the greatest trustee of public opinion we have seen in the history of journalism." (77)
Beaverbrook wrote to Sir Rennell Rodd explaining why he had joined forces with Rothermere to remove Baldwin: "I hope you will not be prejudiced about Rothermere. He is a very fine man. I wish I had his good points. It (working with Rothermere) would make the Crusade more popular among the aristocracy - the real enemies in the Conservative Party... It is time these people were being swept out of their preferred positions in public life and their sons and grandsons being sent to work like those of other people." (78)
Rothermere now joined the campaign of Empire Free Trade: "British manufacturers and British work people are turning out the best goods to be bought in the world. They are far ahead of their competitors in two of the most important factors - quality and durability. The achievement of our industrialists and workers in the more impressive because they are handicapped in so many ways. Whereas in foreign countries politicians are considerate of industry and do all that is in their power to aid it, here the politicians will not even condescend to tell those few trades which have some slight vestige of tariff protection whether that protection is going to be continued or abolished." (79)
Beaverbrook had a meeting with Baldwin about the Conservative Party adopting his policy of Empire Free Trade. Baldwin rejected the idea as it would mean taxes on non-Empire imports. Robert Bruce Lockhart, who worked for Lord Beaverbrook, wrote in his diary: "In evening saw Lord Beaverbrook who will announced his New Party on Monday, provided Rothermere comes out in favour of food taxes. It is a big venture." Beaverbrook's plan was to run candidates at by-elections and general elections. This "would wreck the prospects of many Tory candidates, thus destroying Baldwin's hopes of a majority in the next Parliament". (80)
On 18th February, 1930, Beaverbrook announced the formation of the United Empire Party. The following day Lord Rothermere gave his full support to the party. A small group of businessmen, including Beaverbrook and Rothermere, donated a total of £40,000 to help fund the party. The Daily Express also asked its readers to send in money and in return promised to publish their names in the newspaper. Beaverbrook presented Conservative MPs with an implied ultimatum: "No MP espousing the cause of Empire Free Trade will be opposed by a United Empire candidate. Instead, he shall have, if he desires it, our full support. If the Conservatives split, they will do so because at last the true spirit of Conservatism has a chance to find expression." (81)
In the Daily Mail Rothermere ran stories about the new party on the front page for ten days in succession. According to the authors of Beaverbrook: A Life (1992): "With their combined total of eight national papers, and Rothermere's chain of provincial papers, the press barons were laying down a joint barrage scarcely paralleled in newspaper history." Rothermere told Beaverbrook that "this movement is like a prairie fire". Leo Amery described Beaverbrook "bubbling over with excitement and triumph". (82)
Beaverbrook later admitted that as a press baron he had the right to bully the politician into pursuing courses he would not otherwise adopt. (83) Baldwin was badly shaken by these events and in March 1930 he agreed to a referendum on food taxes, and a detailed discussion of the issue at an imperial conference after the next election. This was not good enough for Rothermere and Beaverbrook and they decided to back candidates in by-elections who challenged the official Conservative line. (84)
Ernest Spero, the Labour MP, for West Fulham, was declared bankrupt and was forced to resign. Cyril Cobb, the Conservative Party candidate in the by-election, declared that he supported Empire Free Trade and this gave him the support of the newspapers owned by Rothermere and Beaverbrook. On 6th May, 1930, Cobb beat the Labour candidate, John Banfield, with a 3.5% swing. The Daily Express presented it as a win for Beaverbrook, with the headline: "CRUSADER CAPTURES SOCIALIST SEAT". (85)
Rothermere and Beaverbrook wanted Neville Chamberlain to replace Baldwin. They entered into negotiations with Chamberlain who expressed concerns about the long-term consequences of this attack on the Conservative Party. He was especially worried about the cartoons by David Low, that were appearing in the Evening Standard. Chamberlain argued that before a deal could be arranged: "Beaverbrook must call off his attacks on Baldwin and the Party, cease to include offensive cartoons and paragraphs in the Evening Standard, and stop inviting Conservatives to direct subscriptions to him in order that they might be used to run candidates against official Conservatives." (86) Beaverbrook told one of Chamberlain's friends that "nothing will shift us from the advocacy of duties on foodstuffs". (87)
In October 1930, Vice-Admiral Ernest Taylor was selected to stand for the United Empire Party in the Paddington South by-election. Herbert Lidiard, the Conservative Party candidate, declared that he was a Baldwin loyalist. Beaverbrook told the nation that the contest was now between a "Conservative Imperialist" (Taylor) and a "Conservative Wobbler" (Lidiard). (88)
Baldwin was warned that the Conservative Party was in danger of losing the seat and if that happened he might be removed as leader. He decided to hold a meeting of Conservative peers, MPs and candidates before the election took place. Beaverbrook made a speech attacking the resolution expressing confidence in Baldwin was carried by 462 votes to 116. Baldwin claimed that Beaverbrook came out very badly out of the meeting: "The Beaver would not have spoken but Francis Curzon challenged him to speak. He was booed and made a poor speech.. and said that he didn't care two-pence who was leader as long as his policy was adopted!" (89)
With the support of the Rothermere and Beaverbrook press, Taylor defeated the official Conservative Party candidate by 1,415 votes. Beaverbrook wrote: "What a life! Excitement (being howled down at the party meeting), depression (being heavily defeated by Baldwin), exaltation (being successful at South Paddington." (90) Beaverbrook wrote to his good friend, Richard Smeaton White, the publisher of The Montreal Gazette: "I believe the Empire Crusade controls London. And we can, I am sure, dominate the Southern counties of Surrey, Sussex, and Kent, and we will dominate Baldwin too, for he must come to full acceptance of the policy." (91)
Rothermere and Beaverbrook became convinced that the way to remove Baldwin was to fight the official Conservative candidate in by-elections. Beaverbrook wrote to Rothermere: "I am going out entirely for by-elections this year, and shall exclude all other forms of propaganda. I shall make the by-elections the occasions for my propaganda." (92) Rothermere replied: "If you are going to build up a real organisation with full intentions of fighting all by-elections, go ahead and you will find me with you." (93)
In February, 1931, a by-election occurred at East Islington after the death of Ethel Bentham. The Labour candidate was Leah Manning. The Conservatives selected Thelma Cazalet-Keir and Air Commodore Alfred Critchley represented the United Empire Party. Beaverbrook spoke at eleven meetings in support of Critchley. One Tory said that "Lord Beaverbrook comes to East Islington and it compared to an elephant trumpeting in the jungle or a man-eating tiger. I am inclined to compare him to a mad dog running along the streets and yapping and barking." Despite this effort, Critchley only split the Conservative vote and the seat was won by Manning. (94)
The next by-election took place in Westminster St George. Lord Beaverbrook selected Ernest Petter, a Conservative industrialist "who will stand in opposition to Mr Baldwin's leadership and policy." The official Conservative candidate was Duff Cooper. However, on the 1st March, 1931, the party's chief political agent reported that there was "a very definite feeling" that Baldwin was "not strong enough to carry the party to victory". On hearing the news Baldwin considered resigning, but was persuaded to wait until the by-election result was over. (95)
The Daily Mail made a crude and abusive attack on Cooper calling him a "softy" and "Mickey Mouse" and accusing him falsely of having made a speech in Germany attacking the British Empire. Geoffrey Dawson of The Times remained loyal to Baldwin and invited Cooper to let him know if "I can do anything... to correct misstatements which the 'stunt' papers decline to admit." The Daily Telegraph also gave their support to Cooper and he was told by its owner that "you will find all our people, editorial, circulation, and everybody doing their damndest for you." (96)
The Daily Mail now made a personal attack on Baldwin and implied that he was unfit for government because he had squandered the family fortune: "Baldwin's father... left him an immense fortune which so far as may be learned from his own speeches, has almost disappeared... It is difficult to see how the leader of a party who has lost his own fortune can hope to restore that of anyone else, or of his country." (97)
Stanley Baldwin considered taking legal action but instead made a speech at the Queen's Hall on the power of the press barons: He accused Rothermere and Beaverbrook of wanting "power without responsibility - the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages" and using their newspapers not as "newspapers in the ordinary acceptance of the term", but as "engines of propaganda for the constantly changing policies, desires, personal wishes, personal likes and dislikes", enjoying "secret knowledge without the general view" and distorting the fortunes of national leaders "without being willing to bear their burdens". (98)
The attacks on Baldwin by Rothermere and Beaverbrook backfired. Duff Cooper won the seat easily. Beaverbrook struggled to come to terms with the result. He wrote: "I am horribly disappointed by the failure. It is much worse than I expected. I cannot believe that Press dictatorship was the reason for it." He told a friend that: "We lost St George's because of the strong cross-currents. It was a baffling contest and we were driven off course. We cannot take the result as a rejection of Empire Free Trade." (99)
Beaverbrook and Rothermere decided to bring the United Empire Party to an end. Rothermere, unlike Beaverbrook, did believe that Baldwin's attack on the press barons did have an impact on the result. He told one of his editors: "The amount of nonsense talked about the power of the newspaper proprietor is positively nauseating... Of course, I have long ceased to have any illusions on the point myself... How could I have any illusions on this score, after the way Baldwin managed to survive years of the most bitter newspaper attacks on his... muddle-headed policies." (100)
Despite this failure to remove Baldwin, Rothermere and Beaverbrook decided to continue to work together in order to both influence the world of politics and to increase the profits of their newspaper empires. It was important to force out other newspapers from the market place. Rothermere urged Beaverbrook to "join with us in conducting intensive competition. The newspaper market is far too crowded. There are not enough readers, or advertisers, to go round." (101)
The Daily Mail spoke in glowing terms of Benito Mussolini throughout the 1920s and celebrated ten years of his dictatorship as "the greatest evolution of the last decade of world history... that regeneration of the national genius of Italy". (102) Lord Rothermere believed that "Fascism, in Italy as elsewhere, was portrayed as the bastion of hope against the Bolshevik menace." (103)
Lord Rothermere wrote that Lenin, the leader of the Russian Revolution was a criminal who "took hold of a backward country and smashed it to pieces" whereas he argued that Mussolini's Fascists were "manifestly inspired by more exalted motives... This young, vigorous, ardent Italian did more than save Italy. In my judgment he saved the entire Western world." (104)
Later he commented on his campaign in favour of fascism: "I am proud of the fact that The Daily Mail was the first newspaper in England, and the first in the world outside Italy, to give the public a right estimate of the soundness and durability of his work. In articles published at various times I have expressed my own profound admiration for what Mussolini had accomplished... There can be no doubt as to the verdict of future generations on his achievement. He is the greatest figure of our age. Mussolini will probably dominate the history of the twentieth century as Napoleon dominated that of the early nineteenth." (105)
Rothermere disposed of his shares in the Daily Mirror in 1931. He now concentrated on the Evening News and The Daily Mail. In the 1930s Rothermere moved further to the right. In December 1932 a number of European newspapers had carried allegations of espionage against Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe. The French newspaper, La Liberté, claimed that she had been arrested as a spy while visiting Biarritz. It asked the question: "Is a sensational affair about to unfold?" Other newspapers took up the story and described her as a "political adventuress" and "the vamp of European politics". These stories were probably the result of leaks from the French intelligence services. (106)
In an article published in The Daily Telegraph in 2005, following the release of previously classified files, it was claimed that: "In 1933, the year that Hitler gained power, MI6 circulated a report stating that the French secret service had discovered documents in the princess's flat in Paris ordering her to persuade Rothermere to campaign for the return to Germany of territory ceded to Poland at the end of First World War. She was to receive £300,000 – equal to £13 million today if she succeeded." (107)
Princess Stephanie now moved to London where she took an apartment on the sixth floor of the Dorchester Hotel. An American banker, Donald Malcolm, spent a great deal of time with Stephanie and advised her to negotiate a contract with Rothermere: "Clinching the contract was not difficult to achieve. She reminded Rothermere of the success of her intervention over Hungary, and persuaded the press baron to appoint her as his emissary in Europe. She argued - and this was undoubtedly true - that she had the contacts to gain admittance to many of Europe's most powerful people, and that she could open doors to almost every exclusive social circle on the Continent." It was later revealed that Rothermere paid the Princess Stephanie £5,000 a year (equal to £200,000 in 2013) to act as his emissary in Europe. (108)
In the General Election that took place in September 1930, the Nazi Party increased its number of representatives in parliament from 14 to 107. Adolf Hitler was now the leader of the second largest party in Germany. James Pool, the author of Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler's Rise to Power (1979) points out: "Shortly after the Nazis' sweeping victory in the election of September 14, 1930, Rothermere went to Munich to have a long talk with Hitler, and ten days after the election wrote an article discussing the significance of the National Socialists' triumph. The article drew attention throughout England and the Continent because it urged acceptance of the Nazis as a bulwark against Communism... Rothermere continued to say that if it were not for the Nazis, the Communists might have gained the majority in the Reichstag." (109)
According to Louis P. Lochner, Tycoons and Tyrant: German Industry from Hitler to Adenauer (1954) Lord Rothermere provided funds to Hitler via Ernst Hanfstaengel. When Hitler became Chancellor on 30th January 1933, Rothermere produced a series of articles acclaiming the new regime. The most famous of these was on the 10th July when he told readers that he "confidently expected" great things of the Nazi regime. He also criticised other newspapers for "its obsession with Nazi violence and racialism", and assured his readers that any such deeds would be "submerged by the immense benefits that the new regime is already bestowing on Germany." He pointed out that those criticising Hitler were on the left of the political spectrum: "I urge all British young men and women to study closely the progress of the Nazi regime in Germany. They must not be misled by the misrepresentations of its opponents. The most spiteful distracters of the Nazis are to be found in precisely the same sections of the British public and press as are most vehement in their praises of the Soviet regime in Russia." (110)
George Ward Price, the Daily Mail's foreign correspondent developed a very close relationship with Adolf Hitler. According to the German historian, Hans-Adolf Jacobsen: "The famous special correspondent of the London Daily Mail, Ward Price, was welcomed to interviews in the Reich Chancellery in a more privileged way than all other foreign journalists, particularly when foreign countries had once more been brusqued by a decision of German foreign policy. His paper supported Hitler more strongly and more constantly than any other newspaper outside Germany." (111)
Franklin Reid Gannon, the author of The British Press and Germany (1971), has claimed that Hitler regarded George Ward Price as "the only foreign journalist who reported him without prejudice". (112) In his autobiography, Extra-Special Correspondent (1957), Ward Price defended himself against the charge he was a fascist by claiming: "I reported Hitler's statements accurately, leaving British newspaper readers to form their own opinions of their worth." (113)
Adrian Addison, the author of Mail Men: The Unauthorized Story of the Daily Mail (2017) claims that Rothermere "began to fully embrace the Nazi cause". Rothermere now wrote a series of articles in support of Hitler. These articles were sometimes reprinted in the Nazi Party's own newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter. (114) Rothay Reynolds, the Daily Mail journalist, was granted personal access to Hitler who told him that "Lord Rothermere possesses the true gift of intuitive statesmanship". (115)
In November, 1933, Lord Rothermere gave Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe the task of establishing personal contact with Adolf Hitler. Princess Stephanie later recalled: "Rothermere came from a family that had experienced the novel possibility of influencing international politics through newspapers and was determined to sound out Hitler." Stephanie went to Berlin and began a sexual relationship with Captain Fritz Wiedemann, Hitler's personal adjutant. Wiedemann reported back to Hitler that Stephanie was the mistress of Lord Rothermere. Hitler decided that she could be of future use to the government. (116)
The following month Wiedemann arranged for Princess Stephanie to have her first meeting with Hitler. According to Jim Wilson, the author of Nazi Princess: Hitler, Lord Rothermere and Princess Stephanie Von Hohenlohe (2011): "The Führer appears to have been highly impressed by her sophistication, her intelligence and her charms. At that first meeting she wore one of her most elegant outfits, calculating it would impress him. It seems to have done so, because Hitler greeted her with uncharacteristic warmth, kissing her on the hand. It was far from usual for Hitler to be so attentive to women, particularly women introduced to him for the first time. The princess was invited to take tea with him, and once seated beside him, according to her unpublished memoirs. Hitler scarcely took his piercing eyes off her." (117)
Princess Stephanie handed Hitler a personal letter from Rothermere, and passed on a verbal message. According to Stephanie on the day the outcome of the Reichstag election in 1930 had been announced, Rothermere told some of his staff: "Remember this day. Hitler is going to rule Germany. The man will make history and I predict that he will change the face of Europe." Hitler responded by kissing her and presenting her with a personally addressed reply, asking her to convey it direct to Lord Rothermere. (118)
In the letter Adolf Hitler thanked Lord Rothermere for supporting his policies. Lord Rothermere sent Princess Stephanie back with a gift for Hitler. It was a portrait photograph of Rothermere, mounted in a solid gold frame, made by Cartier of Paris and worth more than £50,000 at today's prices. On the reverse of the frame was a reprint of the page from The Daily Mail of 24th September 1930, which reproduced Rothermere's initial editorial, hailing the success of Hitler in the General Election. Hitler was delighted as Rothermere was clearly delivering the propaganda he sought and Fritz Wiedemann was authorised to give Princess Stephanie up to 20,000 Reichsmarks as a maintenance allowance. (119)
In 1933 British intelligence circulated a note from their French counterparts, who had found documents in her flat in Paris in which the Nazis ordered her to persuade Rothermere to campaign for territory lost to Poland after the First World War, for which they'd pay her £300,000 (something like £19 million today). As Adrian Addison, the author of Mail Men: The Unauthorized Story of the Daily Mail (2017) has pointed out that Lord Rothermere was also paying her "an annual retainer of £5,000 (around 314,000 today) to liaise with the Nazis." (120)
In one article written in March, 1934 he called for Hitler to be given back land in Africa that had been taken as a result of the Versailles Treaty. (121) Hitler acknowledged this help by writing to Rothermere: "I should like to express the appreciation of countless Germans, who regard me as their spokesman, for the wise and beneficial public support which you have given to a policy that we all hope will contribute to the enduring pacification of Europe. Just as we are fanatically determined to defend ourselves against attack, so do we reject the idea of taking the initiative in bringing about a war. I am convinced that no one who fought in the front trenches during the world war, no matter in what European country, desires another conflict." (122)
Lord Rothermere also had several meetings with Adolf Hitler and argued that the Nazi leader desired peace. Rothermere made his first visit to Hitler in December 1934. He took along with him his favourite journalist on The Daily Mail, the veteran reporter, George Ward Price. At the first meeting Hitler told Rothermere that "Lloyd George and your brother won the war for Britain. This was a reference to the Prime Minister David Lloyd George and Lord Northcliffe, who it was claimed made sure that the British Army received enough munitions on the front-line during the later stages of the First World War. That evening Hitler held his first major dinner party he had given for foreign visitors at his official residence in Berlin since he had taken office. The high-level guests included Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goering and Joachim von Ribbentrop. (123)
On 20th December, 1934, Lord Rothermere returned the hospitality, hosting a dinner at Berlin's famous Hotel Adlon. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was placed in charge of the arrangements. Twenty-five guests attended including Adolf Hitler, Germany's Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath, Joseph Goebbels, Magda Goebbels, Hermann Goering, accompanied by the actress Emmy Sonnemann. Also invited was British banker Ernest Tennant, one of the principal founders of the Anglo-German Fellowship. (124)
As Richard Griffiths, the author of Fellow Travellers of the Right (1979) has pointed out: "Rothermere visited Hitler on a number of occasions, and corresponded with him. As we have seen, Hitler's first major dinner party for foreigners, on 19th December 1934, had as its guests of honour Rothermere, his son Esmond Harmsworth, and Ward Price, together with Ernest Tennant. Rothermere's subsequent article in the Daily Mail was violently enthusiastic about what Hitler had done for Germany. Hitler wrote a number of important letters to Rothermere in 1933 and 1934, but the most interesting of them, because of its subsequent fate, was the one written on 3 May 1935 in which he advocated Anglo-German understanding as a firm combination for peace. Rothermere circulated this to many politicians, convinced that his personal contact with Hitler had produced a real breakthrough." (125)
In December, 1931, Lord Rothermere,had a meeting with Oswald Mosley. According to his son, Nicholas Mosley, Rothermere told him that he was prepared to put the Harmsworth press at his disposal if he succeeded in organising a disciplined Fascist movement from the remnants of the New Party. (126) The details of this meeting was recorded in his diary by Mosley's close friend, Harold Nicolson. (127)
It was very important to Rothermere that this new party would target working-class voters in order that it would help the fortunes of the Conservative Party. Cynthia Mosley disagreed with her husband's move to the right. According to Robert Skidelsky: "Cimmie (Cynthia) was frankly terrified of where his restlessness would lead him. She hated fascism and Harmsworth (Lord Rothermere, the press baron). She threatened to put a notice in The Times dissociating herself from Mosley's fascist tendencies. They bickered constantly in public, Cimmie emotional and confused, Mosley ponderously logical and heavily sarcastic." (128)
The British Union of Fascists (BUF) was formally launched on 1st October, 1932. It originally had only 32 members and included several former members of the New Party: Robert Forgan, William E. Allen, John Beckett and William Joyce. Mosley told them: "We ask those who join us... to be prepared to sacrifice all, but to do so for no small or unworthy ends. We ask them to dedicate their lives to building in the country a movement of the modern age... In return we can only offer them the deep belief that they are fighting that a great land may live." (129)
Attempts were made to keep the names of individual members a secret but supporters of the organization included Lord Rothermere, Major General John Fuller, Jorian Jenks, Commander Charles E. Hudson, Wing-Commander Louis Greig, A. K. Chesterton, David Bertram Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford (Lord Redesdale), Unity Mitford, Diana Mitford, Patrick Boyle (8th Earl of Glasgow), Malcolm Campbell and Tommy Moran. Mosley refused to publish the names or numbers of members but the press estimated a maximum number of 35,000. (130)
Lord Rothermere also kept his promise to Oswald Mosley and gave his full support to the National Union of Fascists. He wrote an article, Hurrah for the Blackshirts, on 22nd January, 1934, in which he praised Mosley for his "sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine". Rothermere added: "Timid alarmists all this week have been whimpering that the rapid growth in numbers of the British Blackshirts is preparing the way for a system of rulership by means of steel whips and concentration camps. Very few of these panic-mongers have any personal knowledge of the countries that are already under Blackshirt government. The notion that a permanent reign of terror exists there has been evolved entirely from their own morbid imaginations, fed by sensational propaganda from opponents of the party now in power. As a purely British organization, the Blackshirts will respect those principles of tolerance which are traditional in British politics. They have no prejudice either of class or race. Their recruits are drawn from all social grades and every political party. Young men may join the British Union of Fascists by writing to the Headquarters, King's Road, Chelsea, London, S.W." (131)
David Low, a cartoonist employed by the Evening Standard, made several attacks on Rothermere's links to the fascist movement. In January 1934, he drew a cartoon showing Rothermere as a nanny giving a Nazi salute and saying "we need men of action such as they have in Italy and Germany who are leading their countries triumphantly out of the slump... blah... blah... blah... blah." The child in the pram is saying "But what have they got in their other hands, nanny?" Hitler and Mussolini are hiding the true records of their periods in government. Hitler's card includes, "Hitler's Germany: Estimated Unemployed: 6,000,000. Fall in trade under Hitler (9 months) £35,000,000. Burden of taxes up several times over. Wages down 20%." (132)
Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of the Evening Standard, was a close friend and business partner of Lord Rothermere, and refused to allow the original cartoon to be published. At the time, Rothermere controlled forty-nine per cent of the shares. Low was told by one of Beaverbrook's men: "Dog doesn't eat dog. It isn't done." Low commented that it was said as "though he were giving me a moral adage instead of a thieves' wisecrack." He was forced to make the nanny unrecgnisable as Rothermere and had to change the name on her dress from the Daily Mail to the Daily Shirt. (133)
The Daily Mail continued to give its support to the fascists. Lord Rothermere allowed fellow member of the January Club, Sir Thomas Moore, the Conservative Party MP for Ayr Burghs, to publish pro-fascist articles in his newspaper. Moore described the BUF as being "largely derived from the Conservative Party". He added "surely there cannot be any fundamental difference of outlook between the Blackshirts and their parents, the Conservatives?" (134)
In April 1934, The Daily Mail published an article by Randolph Churchill that praised a speech that Mosley made in Leeds: "Sir Oswald's peroration was one of the most magnificent feats of oratory I have ever heard. The audience which had listened with close attention to his reasoned arguments were swept away in spontaneous reiterated bursts of applause." (135)
The problem for Rothermere was that BUF's main support came from Conservative supporting rural areas. At first Oswald Mosley devoted a high proportion of his time to speeches in market towns in agricultural counties where he "tapped into the traditional conservatism of a farming community" which had been suffering from intractable economic problems since the end of the First World War. His early campaigns pulled in several disgruntled farmers and ex-Conservatives including Viscountess Dorothy Downe, Richard Reynell Bellamy, Ronald N. Creasy and Robert Saunders. (136)
Lord Rothermere not only gave money to the the BUF but "also conceived a plan to make a fortune, for the movement and for himself, by using the party's several hundred branches as outlets to sell cigarettes that he would manufacture". Rothermere bought machinery and persuaded a manager from Imperial Tobacco to join the project and told Mosley that "one of two things is going to happen: either we're going to do a lot of business, or the tobacco companies are going to pay us a large amount of money not to do business." (137)
In July, 1934 Lord Rothermere suddenly withdrew his support for Oswald Mosley. The historian, James Pool, argues: "The rumor on Fleet Street was that the Daily Mail's Jewish advertisers had threatened to place their ads in a different paper if Rothermere continued the profascist campaign." Pool points out that sometime after this, Rothermere met with Hitler at the Berghof and told how the "Jews cut off his complete revenue from advertising" and compelled him to "toe the line." Hitler later recalled Rothermere telling him that it was "quite impossible at short notice to take any effective countermeasures." (138)
This was confirmed in 2007 by Paul Briscoe, in his biography, My Friend the Enemy: An English Boy in Nazi Germany. He tells the story of his mother Norah Briscoe, who worked for the PR department of Unilever. One of the tasks she was given was to collect all references to Sir Oswald Mosley, the leader of the National Union of Fascists, that had appeared in all the newspapers owned by Lord Rothermere. She later learned that the cuttings had been requested by some Jewish directors of Unilever.
As a result of this investigation "Jewish directors of Unilever... decided to present Harmsworth's owner, Lord Rothermere, with an ultimatum: if he did not stop backing Mosley, they and their friends would stop placing advertisements in his papers. Rothermere gave in." However, as Paul pointed out, her investigation involved her "reading almost everything favourable that had been written recently about Mosley and his Blackshirts. What she read, she liked." Norah handed in her notice at Uniliver and decided to become a pro-fascist freelance journalist. (139)
At first Mosley threatened to expose the pressure that the Jewish business community had placed on Rothermere. However, after lengthy negotiations, the Daily Mail published an exchange of friendly letters that Rothermere and Mosley had concocted between themselves to smooth the parting of the ways. "Having urged young men to join the British Union of Fascists (and printed its address) Rothermere now spelt out his aversion to fascism, dictatorship, and anti-Semitism." (140)
This message his readership as for a long time the newspaper had been anti-Semitic in tone and after the break with Mosley the newspaper continued to support Hitler despite his terrible treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany. In an article published in June 1935, he pointed out: "After unusual opportunities of observing Herr Hitler at close range, both in private conversation and by a correspondence extending over many months, I would sum up his personality in two words. He is a practical mystic. In him is found the rare combination of dreamer and doer. Like Oliver Cromwell, Joan of Arc, and the Prophet Mahommed, he draws his inspiration from a hidden light not shared by his fellow men. Hitler is in the direct tradition of those great leaders of mankind who appear rarely more often than once in two or three centuries. He is the incarnation of the spirit of the German race." (141)
In the summer of 1936 European newspapers began running articles suggesting Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a spy. She turned to Rothermere for advice on how she could clear her name over the damaging newspaper reports. Rothermere advised her to do nothing about it. He told her that he had been in the newspaper business long enough, he said, to realise that a denial usually resulted in merely refreshing the story, and was likely to stir up new rumours. Later, Stephanie urged him to sue when his name was being used in these stories. He replied that "the libels were of such a preposterous character that my lawyers advised me that you and myself should treat them with the contempt they deserved." (142)
Lord Rothermere met Adolf Hitler again in September 1936. On his return he sent Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe to Berlin with a personal gift of a valuable Gobelin tapestry (worth £85,000 today). In a letter accompanying his gift, Rothermere wrote that he had selected the tapestry guided by the thought of Hitler the "artist", rather than Hitler the "great leader". Rothermere added that he was pleased to hear from Stephanie that "he was in high spirits and excellent health". He signed off the letter "in sincere admiration and respect". (143)
Lord Rothermere, Princess Stephanie and George Ward Price were invited to spend time with Hitler at his holiday retreat, The Eagle's Nest, in the mountains above Berchtesgaden. Also invited was Joseph Goebbels. He wrote in his diary: "Rothermere pays me great compliments... Enquires in detail about German press policy. Strongly anti-Jewish. The princess is very pushy. After lunch we retire for a chat. Question of Spain comes up. Führer won't tolerate a hot-bed of communism in Europe any longer. Is ready to prevent any more pro-Republican volunteers from going there. His proposal on controls seem to astonish Rothermere. German prestige is thus restored. Franco will win anyway... Rothermere believes British government also pro-Franco." (144)
Lawrence James, the author of Aristocrats: Power, Grace And Decadence (2009) has pointed out that Lord Rothermere was part of a group that saw an immensely powerful union between Communism and the Jewish people as a world conspiracy that could be thwarted only by Fascism. “Visceral anti-Semitism permeated the upper classes between the wars. Jews were vilified as flashy and pushy arrivistes with a knack of enriching themselves when the aristocracy was grumbling about an often exaggerated downturn in their fortunes.... What emerges is a picture of a knot of peers adrift in an uncongenial world, united by paranoia, pessimism and panic... but what made the anti-Semitic ramblings of figures like Westminister so odious was that they continued long after Hitler's persecution of Germany's Jews had become public knowledge.” (145)
Adolf Hitler told George Ward Price: "He (Lord Rothermere) is the only Englishman who sees clearly the magnitude of this Bolshevist danger. His paper is doing an immense amount of good." One newspaper, The Sunday Times, attempted to explain Rothermere's support for Hitler: "He saw him as a sincere man who had defeated Communism in his own country." Hitler was kept informed about what British newspapers were saying about him. He was usually very pleased by what appeared in The Daily Mail. On 20th May 1937 he wrote to Lord Rothermere: "Your leading articles published within the last few weeks, which I read with great interest, contain everything that corresponds to my own thoughts as well." (146)
Hitler remained fascinated with Princess Stephanie and gave her the magnificent palace, Schloss Leopoldskron, that had been confiscated from Max Reinhardt, who had fled from Austria in 1937 after criticising the Nazi government. Hitler wanted her to use it as a home and a "political salon". One of the first people she tried to entertain in the palace was Lord Runciman, the man who had been appointed by the British government as its official mediator in the dispute between the Czech and German governments over the Sudetenland. (147)
Time Magazine reported in January, 1938: "Titian haired, 40 year old Stephanie Juliana Princess Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfurst, confidante of the Führer and friend of half of Europe's great is scheduled to sail from England to the US this week. Since the fall of Austria, Princess Stephanie, once the toast of Vienna, has lent her charms to advancing the Nazi cause in circles where it would do the most good. As a reward the Nazi government permitted her to take a lease on the sumptuous Schloss Leopoldskron near Salzburg, taken over from Jewish Max Reinhardt after Anschluss. During the Czecho-Slovak crisis she did yeoman service for the Nazi campaign. When Mr. Chamberlain sent Lord Runciman to gather impressions of conditions in Czechoslovakia Princess Stephanie hurried to the Sudetenland castle of Prince Max Hohenlohe where the British mediator was entertained." (148)
Princess Stephanie however was having doubts about Hitler. In a letter written to Lord Rothermere in February, 1938, she argued for him to change his policy towards Nazi Germany: "It is important to know what is currently going on in Germany. The Germans are going through a serious crisis. Changes are taking place, which are of the greatest importance for the future of Europe. All the conservatives are being thrown out and only extremists are keeping their jobs or being recruited. You must be very careful in future. I do not see how it will be possible for you, under these new conditions, to continue to support Hitler in future and at the same time serve the interests of your own country." (149)
Leicester Harmsworth, the forth son of Alfred Harmsworth, was opposed to Rothermere's pro-fascist views. He feared that "Hitler worship" in the newspaper was going to alienate not only Jews and Jewish advertising, but readers who had been brought up to suspect Germany. He told the editor of the Daily Mail that "unnecessary friendliness with Germany and Hitler, and Hitlerism worship, would be contrary to the instincts of British nationality, and would inevitably react unfavourably, and perhaps disastrously, upon the circulation of the Daily Mail." (150)
Lord Rothermere refused to take this advice and continued to give his support to Hitler, especially in the field of foreign policy. He urged the British government to form an alliance with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union. "Natural sympathies, due to ties of race and instinct, are fast developing between the British and German nations... the close association in international affairs of two such mighty States as Great Britain and Germany would create a force that no aggressor would dare to challenge." (151)
Rothermere urged a policy of appeasement towards Nazi Germany. In an article that appeared in the newspaper, alongside a picture of himself standing proudly at Hitler's side, he argued: "What is the ideal solution of this difficulty? What is the best practical solution? Let us rid ourselves of the delusion that Hitler is some sort of ogre in human shape. I have been his guest at Berchtesgaden, and had long conversations with him there. He has assured me of his desire to meet the British Government halfway." (152).
Hitler wanted to march into Czechoslovakia but his generals warned him that with its strong army and good mountain defences Czechoslovakia would be a difficult country to overcome. They also added that if Britain, France or the Soviet Union joined in on the side of Czechoslovakia , Germany would probably be badly defeated. One group of senior generals even made plans to overthrow Hitler if he ignored their advice and declared war on Czechoslovakia. Hugh Christie, a MI6 agent, told the British government that Hitler would be ousted by the military if Britain joined forces with Czechoslovakia against Germany. Christie warned that the "crucial question is How soon will the next step against Czechoslovakia be tried?... The probability is that the delay will not exceed two or three months at most, unless France and England provide the deterrent, for which cooler heads in Germany are praying." (153)
Rothermere was extremely hostile to Czechoslovakia, a country that he described as a fake state "contrived in the interest of the Czechs, a crafty race." (154) Rothermere insisted that Czechoslovakia should "be elbowed out of existence overnight." (155) Unless this happened: "Most blunders in life have to be paid for. The blunder of creating that synthetic and spurious state called Czechoslovakia may well cost Europe another war." (156)
During this period Hitler increased his anger towards the Jews and urged them to leave Germany. One of the major reasons why so many refused was that they were unable to take their money with them. Hitler arranged for 52,000 to emigrate to Palestine. To encourage them to go the German government allowed "Jews who left for Palestine to transfer a significant portion of their assets there... while those who left for other countries had to leave much of what they owned behind". Richard Evans has argued: "The reasons for the Nazis' favoured treatment of emigrants to Palestine were complex. On the one hand, they regarded the Zionist movement as a significant part of the world Jewish conspiracy they had dedicated their lives to destroying. On the other, helping Jewish emigration to Palestine might mitigate international criticism of anti-semitic measures at home." (157)
As Rita Thalmann and Emmanuel Feinermann, the authors of Crystal Night (1974) have pointed out: "After five years of National Socialism, the German government angrily acknowledged that threats and intimidation had not rid the Reich of its Jews. About a quarter of the total had fled but the other three-quarters still preferred to stay in Germany. The government concluded that it would have to change tactics in order to obtain better results." (158)
Hitler now "unleashed an orgy of violence in which Jewish synagogues and businesses were destroyed and around 30,000 Jews were disappeared into concentration camps". (159) Despite this Rothermere continued to give his support to the fascist dictator. "Herr Hitler is proud to call himself a man of the people, but, notwithstanding, the impression that has remained with me after every meeting with him is that of a great gentleman. He places a guest at his ease immediately. When you have been with him for five minutes you feel that you have known him for a long time. His courtesy is beyond words, and men and women alike are captivated by his ready and disarming smile. He is a man of rare culture. His knowledge of music, painting, and architecture is profound." (160)
Lord In September 1938, Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, met Adolf Hitler at his home in Berchtesgaden. Hitler threatened to invade Czechoslovakia unless Britain supported Germany's plans to takeover the Sudetenland. After discussing the issue with the Edouard Daladier (France) and Eduard Benes (Czechoslovakia), Chamberlain informed Hitler that his proposals were unacceptable. (161)
Nevile Henderson pleaded with Chamberlain to go on negotiating with Hitler. He believed, like Lord Halifax, the Foreign Secretary, that the German claim to the Sudetenland in 1938 was a moral one, and he always reverted in his dispatches to his conviction that the Treaty of Versailles had been unfair to Germany. "At the same time, he was unsympathetic to feelers from the German opposition to Hitler seeking to enlist British support. Henderson thought, not unreasonably, that it was not the job of the British government to subvert the German government, and this view was shared by Chamberlain and Halifax". (162)
Benito Mussolini suggested to Hitler that one way of solving this issue was to hold a four-power conference of Germany, Britain, France and Italy. This would exclude both Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, and therefore increasing the possibility of reaching an agreement and undermine the solidarity that was developing against Germany. The meeting took place in Munich on 29th September, 1938. Desperate to avoid war, and anxious to avoid an alliance with Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union, Chamberlain and Daladier agreed that Germany could have the Sudetenland. In return, Hitler promised not to make any further territorial demands in Europe. (163)
On hearing the news Lord Rothermere sent a telegram to Hitler: "My dear Fuhrer everyone in England is profoundly moved by the bloodless solution to the Czechoslovakian problem. People not so much concerned with territorial readjustment as with dread of another war with its accompanying bloodbath. Frederick the Great was a great popular figure. I salute your excellency's star which rises higher and higher." (164)
However, this view was not shared by those who opposed appeasement. One newspaper, The News Chronicle, argued: "There is nothing in modern politics to match the crude confusion of the Rothermere mentality. It blesses and encourages every swashbuckler who threatens the peace of Europe - not to mention direct British interests - and then clamours for more and more armaments with which to defend Britain presumably against his Lordship's pet foreign bully." (165)
After the signing of the Munich Agreement, Captain Fritz Wiedemann sent a letter to Lord Rothermere stating: "You know that the Führer greatly appreciates the work the princess did to straighten relations between our countries... it was her groundwork which made the Munich agreement possible." Princess Stephanie wrote to Hitler at the same time congratulating him on his achievement: "There are moments in life that are so great - I mean, where one feels so deeply that it is almost impossible to find the right words to express one's feelings - Herr Reich Chancellor, please believe me that I have shared with you the experience and emotion of every phase of the events of the last weeks. What none of your subjects in their wildest dreams dared hope for - you have made come true. That must be the finest thing a head of state can give to himself and to his people. I congratulate you with all my heart." (166)
Scott Newton, the author of Profits of Peace: The Political Economy of Anglo-German Appeasement (1997) has argued that Lord Rothermere was a member of a group that included Lord Halifax, Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster, Ronald Nall-Cain, 2nd Baron Brocket, Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry, Walter Montagu Douglas Scott, 8th Duke of Buccleuch, Charles McLaren, 3rd Baron Aberconway and Henry Betterton, 1st Baron Rushcliffe. "All its members shared a profound fear that the domestic and international order which had sustained liberal-imperialist Britain was about to be irrevocably changed... With some justification it was believed that total war meant the socialization of Britain and a ruinous conflict in the heart of Europe from which only the Soviet Union could benefit." (167)
At the end of 1938 Adolf Hitler began to turn against Princess Stephanie. Officially it was because he had discovered that she was Jewish. However, he had in fact known about this for at least three years. Hitler told Fritz Wiedemann that he should break off all contact with her. Leni Riefenstahl suggested that Wiedemann's "relationship with Hitler became more distant because of his half-Jewish girlfriend." Joseph Goebbels commented in his diary: "Princess Hohenlohe now turns out to be a Viennese half-Jewess. She has her fingers in everything. Wiedemann works with her a great deal. He may well have her to thank for his present predicament, because without her around he probably would not have made such a feeble showing in the Czech crisis." (168)
In May 1939, Lord Rothermere wrote a passionate article in support of Hitler: "He is supremely intelligent. There are only two others I have known whom I could apply this remark - Lord Northcliffe and Mr. Lloyd George. If you ask Herr Hitler a question he makes an instant reply full of information and eminent good sense. There is no man living whose promise given in regard to something of real moment I would sooner take. He believes that Germany has a divine mission and that the German people are destined to save Europe from the designs of revolutionary Communism. He has a great sense of the sanctity of the family, to which Communism is antagonistic, and in Germany has stopped the publication of all indecent books, the production of suggestive plays and films, and has thoroughly cleaned up the moral life of the nation. Herr Hitler has a great liking of the English people. He regards the English and the Germans as being of one race." (169)
Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe decided to move to London and resumed contact with Lord Rothermere. He gave her a cheque for £5,000 and told her that the contract had come to an end. Rothermere continued to write to Hitler and other leading Nazis. In June, 1939, he told Hitler: "My dear Führer. I have watched with understanding and interest the progress of your great and superhuman work in regenerating your country." (170) The following month Rothermere wrote to Joachim von Ribbentrop: "Our two great Nordic countries should pursue resolutely a policy of appeasement for, whatever anyone may say, our two great countries should be the leaders of the world." (171)
Meanwhile, Princess Stephanie announced she was to sue the press baron for what she alleged was breach of contract. She hired one of the most fashionable law firms in London, Theodore Goddard & Partners; the solicitors who, in 1936, had handled the divorce case of her friend, Wallis Simpson. MI5 began to take a close interest in the case. One report said: "Princess Hohenlohe has given us a great deal of work owing to the fact that she is frequently the subject of denunciation to the effect that she is, or has been, a trusted political agent and personal friend of Herr Hitler; that she is a German political spy of a very high order; and that she was given the Scloss Leopoldskron by Herr Hitler for signal services rendered for him." (172)
In March 1939 the MI6 passport control officer at Victoria Station arrested Princess Stephanie's Hungarian lawyer, Erno Wittman. The arresting officer reported what he discovered that Wittman was carrying: "This was astonishing; it appeared to be copies of documents and letters which passed between Lord Rothermere, Lady Snowden, Princess Stephanie, Herr Hitler and others. In the main, the letters referred to the possible restoration of the throne in Hungary and shed a good deal of light on the character and activities of the princess." It was decided to pass on this information to MI5. Amongst the documents were several letters from Lord Rothermere to Adolf Hitler. This included a "a very indiscreet letter to the Führer congratulating him on his walk into Prague". The letter urged Hitler to follow up his coup with the invasion of Romania. (173)
It seems that Adolf Hitler had given Princess Stephanie photocopies of the letters Lord Rothermere had been sending him. As Jim Wilson, the author of Nazi Princess: Hitler, Lord Rothermere and Princess Stephanie Von Hohenlohe (2011) has pointed out: "These letters were secretly circulated within the intelligence services and senior civil servants in key government ministries... Nothing could be more revealing of the press baron's continued support of the Nazi Führer as the inevitable conflict drew closer, but it appears MI5 shied away from actually taking action against the press baron. Certainly there is nothing in the derestricted files to indicate whether Rothermere was warned to cease his correspondence with Berlin, though some information in the files still remains undisclosed.... The MI5 makes it clear that the secret service had warned the government that copies of this correspondence would be produced in open court, which would embarrass not only Rothermere but also a number of other notable members of the British aristocracy, and that these disclosures would shock the British public." (174)
On 4th September, 1939, the morning after the outbreak of the Second World War, Rothermere's Daily Mail had a powerful patriotic leader: "No statesman, no man with any decency could think of sitting at the same table with Hitler or his henchman the trickster von Ribbentrop, or any other of the gang. We fight against the blackest tyranny that has ever held men in bondage. We fight to defend and to restore freedom and justice on earth." (175)
Behind the scenes, Rothermere was expressing different views. On 24th September 1939 Lord Rothermere had his close colleague and "ghost", Collin Brooks, draft a letter to Neville Chamberlain urging the futility of trying to save Poland and warning that "whether victorious or not, Britain will emerge from such a conflict with her social and economic fabric destroyed", which could mean "a revolution of the Left in these islands, which might be more deadly than the war itself". (176) According to Rothermere's biographer, David George Boyce: "But the letter was never sent (despite Rothermere's fear that Britain was ‘finished’), because of the ‘national mood and temper’, a nice example of the would-be opinion leader and press baron being led by the public itself." (177)
Three weeks after the outbreak of the Second World War Rothermere's lawyers attempted to have the legal action stopped. A member of his law firm went to the Home Office and denounced Princess Stephanie as a German agent and suggested that she should be deported. If the case reached open court it would receive huge publicity and would undermine public morale. This was supported by information from MI5 who had evidence from her Austrian maid, Anna Stoffl, that she was a Nazi spy. (178)
However, the Home Office came to the conclusion that it would be improper to intervene. The case reached the High Court on 8th November, 1939. Princess Stephanie's case was that in 1932, when Rothermere had promised to engage her as his European political representative on an annual salary of £5,000, she had understood the engagement was ongoing. She made it clear to the judge that if she lost the case she would not hesitate to publish her memoirs in America. This story would reveal Lord Rothermere's relationship with Hitler and his "numerous, often indiscreet, liaisons with women". (179)
Sir William Jowitt asked Princess Stephanie if she had used the services of Fritz Wiedemann to put pressure on Lord Rothermere. She replied: "I have not." Then a letter from Wiedemann to Lord Rothermere was read out in court. It included the following passage: "You know that the Führer greatly appreciates the work the princess did to straighten relations between our countries... it was her groundwork which made the Munich agreement possible." (180) However, the judge would not allow Princess Stephanie to read out the letters exchanged by Lord Rothermere and Hitler. (181)
Lord Rothermere, who had engaged a legal team of seventeen to mount his defence, told the judge, it was preposterous that he had agreed to support Princess Stephanie "for the rest of her life". He admitted that between 1932 and 1938 he had paid her considerably more than £51,000 (almost £2 million in today's money). He added that she was always "pestering and badgering me" for money. That is why he sent her away to Berlin to be with Hitler.
Jowitt told the court that Princess Stephanie had his client's letters photocopied behind his back by the Special Photographic Bureau of the Department of the German Chancellor. He also defended Rothermere's right to enter into negotiations with Hitler in an effort to prevent a war between the two countries. "Who can say whether if Lord Rothermere had succeeded in the endeavours which he made, we might not be in the position in which we are today?" (182)
After six days of legal argument Justice Tucker ruled against Princess Stephanie. Soon after the trial finished, Lord Rothermere used Lady Ethel Snowden as an intermediary and sent Stephanie a message to say he would meet all her legal costs if she undertook to get out of the country. This she agreed to do but he thought she was going back to Europe instead of going to the United States to publish her account of her relationship with Rothermere. However, he was able to use his considerable power to make sure her memoirs were never published. A MI5 officer recorded that Lord Rothermere had probably "offered her a considerable sum to leave the country". (183)
The court case revealed that Lord Rothermere had been involved in secret negotiations with Adolf Hitler. One newspaper, The Yorkshire Post, raised serious questions about this issue: "The danger of these negotiations was two-fold. There was first the danger that Lord Rothermere might unwittingly give the Nazis a misleading impression of the state of opinion in this country; and there was also the danger that Lord Rothermere might - again unwittingly - allow himself to be used as a vehicle for the extremely subtle manoeuvres of Nazi propaganda.... discussions with heads of foreign governments are best left of persons whose status is on both sides clearly understood. A newspaper owner has great responsibilities towards the public of his own country; he should be particularly chary of placing himself in situations liable to misinterpretation, or abuse abroad." (184)
On 14th November, 1939, Margot Asquith (Lady Oxford) wrote to Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe: "Dearest Stephanie, We are all with you. I have always told you Rothermere is no good. I respect you for having challenged him. Never mind the outcome. He is finished here. I know what I am saying. The most important things in life are: (i) To love and to be loved. (ii). To be trusted. Rothermere has neither." (185)
In the House of Commons the Liberal Party MP, Geoffrey Le Mesurier Mander, asked the Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison, why Princess Stephanie, a "notorious member of the Hitler spy organisation" was being allowed to leave the country. Morrison replied that he needed notice of the question but in any case she had been granted only a "no return" permit and there were no circumstances in which she would be allowed to return to Britain. (186)
Lord Rothermere was now aware that MI5 had copies of his letters to Adolf Hitler. Fearing that he might be arrested for treason and decided to go and live in Bermuda. On his arrival he was admitted to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. Suffering from serious heart trouble he died on 26th November 1940. (187)
I am proud of the fact that The Daily Mail was the first newspaper in England, and the first in the world outside Italy, to give the public a right estimate of the soundness and durability of his work. In articles published at various times I have expressed my own profound admiration for what Mussolini had accomplished... There can be no doubt as to the verdict of future generations on his achievement. He is the greatest figure of our age. Mussolini will probably dominate the history of the twentieth century as Napoleon dominated that of the early nineteenth.
It (my article praising Adolf Hitler) was bound to do so, for it told the truth about the latest phase of the greatest development going on in Europe - the rise to power of the young generation which has grown up since the war. A new idea invariably produces this effect upon the pompous pundits who pontificate in our weekly reviews and those oldfashioned morning newspapers whose sales and influence alike sink steadily month by month towards the vanishing-point. The wiseacres who conduct these out-of-date organs of our Press can see no further than the edge of their own desks. Their minds are set immovably in the mould of pre-war ideas. Because they are stiff jointed they think the whole world has lost its power of movement. They are incapable of realising that new and powerful forces are at work in Europe,and that the future of this country depends upon our proper understanding of them.
I urge all British young men and women to study closely the progress of the Nazi regime in Germany. They must not be misled by the misrepresentations of its opponents. The most spiteful distracters of the Nazis are to be found in precisely the same sections of the British public and press as are most vehement in their praises of the Soviet regime in Russia.
They have started a clamorous campaign of denunciation against what they call "Nazi atrocities" which, as anyone who visits Germany quickly discovers for himself, consists merely of a few isolated acts of violence such as are inevitable among a nation half as big again as ours, but which have been generalized, multiplied and exaggerated to give the impression that Nazi rule is a bloodthirsty tyranny.
The German nation, moreover, was rapidly falling under the control of its alien elements. In the last days of the pre-Hitler regime there were twenty times as many Jewish Government officials in Germany as had existed before the war. Israelites of international attachments were insinuating themselves into key positions in the German administrative machine. Three German Ministers only had direct relations with the Press, but in each case the official responsible for conveying news and interpreting policy to the public was a Jew.
As old soldiers of the World War - I was myself in the front line for four and a half years, facing British and French soldiers - we have all of us a very personal experience of the terrors of a European War. Refusing any sympathy with cowards and deserters, we freely accept the idea of duty before God and our own nation to prevent will all possible means the recurrence of such a disaster...
This cannot definitely be achieved for Europe unless the treatment of the critical problem, whose existence cannot be denied, is transferred from the climate of hatred in which victors and vanquished confront each other, to a basis where nations and states can negotiate with each other on an equal footing...
I should like to express the appreciation of countless Germans, who regard me as their spokesman, for the wise and beneficial support which you have given to a policy that we all hope will contribute to the final liberation of Europe. Just as we are fanatically determined to defend ourselves against attack, so do we reject the idea of taking the initiative in bringing about a war... I am convinced that no one who fought in the front line trenches during the world war, no matter in what European country, desires another conflict.
At this next vital election Britain's survival as a Great Power will depend on the existence of a well-organised Party of the Right, ready to take over responsibility for national affairs with the same directness of purpose and energy of method as Mussolini and Hitler have displayed.... That is why I say Hurrah for the Blackshirts! ... Hundreds of thousands of young British men and women would like to see their own country develop that spirit of patriotic pride and service which has transformed Germany and Italy. They cannot do better than seek out the nearest branch of the Blackshirts and make themselves acquainted with their aims and plans.
Timid alarmists all this week have been whimpering that the rapid growth in numbers of the British Blackshirts is preparing the way for a system of rulership by means of steel whips and concentration camps.
Very few of these panic-mongers have any personal knowledge of the countries that are already under Blackshirt government. The notion that a permanent reign of terror exists there has been evolved entirely from their own morbid imaginations, fed by sensational propaganda from opponents of the party now in power.
As a purely British organization, the Blackshirts will respect those principles of tolerance which are traditional in British politics. They have no prejudice either of class or race. Their recruits are drawn from all social grades and every political party.
Young men may join the British Union of Fascists by writing to the Headquarters, King's Road, Chelsea, London, S.W.
Though this proposal may not be popular, I am convinced that it is wise. We cannot expect a nation of "he-men" like the Germans to sit forever with folded arms under the provocations and stupidities of the Treaty of Versailles. To deny this mighty nation, conspicuous for its organizing ability and scientific achievements, a share in the work of developing backward regions of the world is preposterous.
If the Blackshirts movement had any need of justification, the Red Hooligans who savagely and systematically tried to wreck Sir Oswald Mosley's huge and magnificently successful meeting at Olympia last night would have supplied it.
They got what they deserved. Olympia has been the scene of many assemblies and many great fights, but never had it offered the spectacle of so many fights mixed up with a meeting.
The wealthy newspaper magnate, Viscount Rothermere, gave the Nazis pages of praise and accolades in his paper the Daily Mail. There is also some indication that Rothermere gave actual financial support to Hitler through Putzi Hanfstaengl, the Nazis' foreign press chief but the publicity he gave Hitler was worth more than money.
Shortly after the Nazis' sweeping victory in the election of September 14, 1930, Rothermere went to Munich to have a long talk with Hitler, and ten days after the election wrote an article discussing the significance of the National Socialists' triumph. The article drew attention throughout England and the Continent because it urged acceptance of the Nazis as a bulwark against Communism...
Rothermere continued to say that if it were not for the Nazis, the Communists might have gained the majority in the Reichstag. The tremendous success of the Nazi "German Party of Youth and Nationalism" should receive the closest possible attention from the statesmen of Britain, Rothermere advised.
Lord Rothermere was a man of large stature, with a high forehead and such an extreme conservative political attitude that some people said he was "very near to being unbalanced on the issue of Communism". Although he was not the only one with an obsession about the dangers of Communism, he was one of the few who devoted so much money to the anti-Communist cause. In England he was a well-known backer of the British Union of Fascists (BUF), whose members wore black shirts. On January 8, 1934, when Rothermere decided to help the BUF, the headlines of the Daily Mail shouted "Hurrah for the Blackshirts." The front-page article following claimed that Italy and Germany were; "beyond all doubt the best governed nations in Europe today." The leader of the BUF; Sir Oswald Mosley, could do the same for Britain, replacing the "inertia and indecision" of the present government. Generous space, plus pictures, were given to cover the fascist activities. Leading articles and editorials were devoted to commending the efforts of the BUF.
Suddenly in July of that year Rothermere withdrew his support. The rumor on Fleet Street was that the Daily Mail's Jewish advertisers had threatened to place their adds in a different paper if Rothermere continued the profascist campaign. Sometime after this, Rothermere met with Hitler at the Berghof and told how the "Jews cut off his complete revenue from advertising" and compelled him to "toe the line." Hitler later recalled Rothermere telling him that it was "quite impossible at short notice to take any effective countermeasures."
As for the Nazis, it has already been shown that Rothermere started to give them favorable press coverage in 1930. The Daily Mail criticized "the old women of both sexes" who filled British newspapers with rabid reports of Nazi "excesses." Instead, the newspaper claimed, Hitler had saved Germany from "Israelites of international attachments" and the "minor misdeeds of individual Nazis will be submerged by the immense benefits that the new regime is already bestowing upon Germany."
Rothermere encouraged his journalists to write articles favoring the Nazis. For example, on September 21, 1936, Ward Price, the most outstanding correspondent for the Daily Mail, wrote that Bolshevism was a greater threat to the British Empire than the Nazis, and said that if Hitler did not exist, "all Western Europe might soon be clamouring for such a champion. 1160 In 1938, one British newspaper told its readers that it was the Daily Mail which had spent the last five years assuring the people that 'Dolfie' Hitler is a wonderfully good fellow and is very fond of Britain."
A reviewer for the Sunday Times once tried to explain Rothermere's political viewpoint: "He saw Hitler as a sincere man who had defeated Communism in his own country and whose programme was now to reverse the Diktat of Versailles. He did not see him as a conqueror whose ambitions for world power inevitably mean, if not conflict with, then hostility to, the British Empire. IIn fact, Rothermere hoped that England and Germany would be allies. Hitler said that the "Beaverbrook-Rothermere circle" came and told him: "In the last war we were on the wrong side." In one of his conversations with Hitler, Rothermere explained that he and Beaverbrook were "in complete agreement that never again should there be war between Britain and Germany.
Before Rothermere's visit to Germany, he and Hitler exchanged a series of letters. Rothermere wrote saying that he would gladly use his press "to further a rapprochement between Britain and Germany." His offer was of course eagerly accepted. Later Hitler expressed his gratitude for the Daily Mail's "great assistance" to the Nazis at the time of their reoccupation of the Rhineland, as well as its favorable attitude to Germany over the question of her naval program. Perhaps Hitler should have said that he was grateful for the Daily Mail's pro-Nazi stance in general over the past decade.
Each morning almost two million people, mostly of the upper and middle class, were exposed to Rothermere's pro-Nazi ideas in the Daily Mail. The value of this publicity campaign for Hitler is inestimable. The favoritism shown toward Hitler in one of Britain's most popular daily papers assured the German ruling elite that there would be no complaints in Britain if Hitler were selected as the German Chancellor.
Rothermere visited Hitler on a number of occasions, and corresponded with him. As we have seen, Hitler's first major dinner party for foreigners, on 19th December 1934, had as its guests of honour Rothermere, his son Esmond Harmsworth, and Ward Price, together with Ernest Tennant. Rothermere's subsequent article in the Daily Mail was violently enthusiastic about what Hitler had done for Germany.
Hitler wrote a number of important letters to Rothermere in 1933 and 1934, but the most interesting of them, because of its subsequent fate, was the one written on 3 May 1935 in which he advocated Anglo-German understanding as a firm combination for peace. Rothermere circulated this to many politicians, convinced that his personal contact with Hitler had produced a real breakthrough.
After unusual opportunities of observing Herr Hitler at close range, both in private conversation and by a correspondence extending over many months, I would sum up his personality in two words. He is a practical mystic. In him is found the rare combination of dreamer and doer. Like Oliver Cromwell, Joan of Arc, and the Prophet Mahommed, he draws his inspiration from a hidden light not shared by his fellow men. Hitler is in the direct tradition of those great leaders of mankind who appear rarely more often than once in two or three centuries. He is the incarnation of the spirit of the German race.
Herr Hitler is proud to call himself a man of the people, but, notwithstanding, the impression that has remained with me after every meeting with him is that of a great gentleman. He places a guest at his ease immediately. When you have been with him for five minutes you feel that you have known him for a long time. His courtesy is beyond words, and men and women alike are captivated by his ready and disarming smile. He is a man of rare culture. His knowledge of music, painting, and architecture is profound.
He (Hitler) is supremely intelligent. There are only two others I have known whom I could apply this remark - Lord Northcliffe and Mr. Lloyd George. If you ask Herr Hitler a question he makes an instant reply full of information and eminent good sense. There is no man living whose promise given in regard to something of real moment I would sooner take. He believes that Germany has a divine mission and that the German people are destined to save Europe from the designs of revolutionary Communism. He has a great sense of the sanctity of the family, to which Communism is antagonistic, and in Germany has stopped the publication of all indecent books, the production of suggestive plays and films, and has thoroughly cleaned up the moral life of the nation. Herr Hitler has a great liking of the English people. He regards the English and the Germans as being of one race. This liking he cherishes notwithstanding, as he says, that he has been sorely tried by malicious personal comments and cartoons in the English Press. I was talking with Herr Hitler some eighteen months ago when he said, "Certain English circles in Europe speak of me as an adventurer." My reply is: "Adventurers made the British Empire."
Halifax and Butler's profound misgivings about continuing the war if there was any chance of escape with dignity placed them at the centre of a peace movement which was connected to all the core institutions of the Conservative Party. The presence within it of Queen Mary, the Dukes of Westminster and Buccleuch, Lords Aberconway, Bearsted, Brockett, Buckmaster, Harmsworth, Londonderry, Mansfield and Rushcliffe, as well as of at least thirty MPs, demonstrated the enduring nature of the lobby's links to the court, the City, large-scale industry and to the landowning aristocracy...
All its members shared a profound fear that the domestic and international order which had sustained liberal-imperialist Britain was about to be irrevocably changed... With some justification it was believed that total war meant the socialization of Britain and a ruinous conflict in the heart of Europe from which only the Soviet Union could benefit.
The danger of these negotiations was two-fold. There was first the danger that Lord Rothermere might unwittingly give the Nazis a misleading impression of the state of opinion in this country; and there was also the danger that Lord Rothermere might - again unwittingly - allow himself to be used as a vehicle for the extremely subtle manoeuvres of Nazi propaganda.... discussions with heads of foreign governments are best left of persons whose status is on both sides clearly understood. A newspaper owner has great responsibilities towards the public of his own country; he should be particularly chary of placing himself in situations liable to misinterpretation, or abuse abroad.
The proprietor of the Daily Mail congratulated Adolf Hitler on his annexation of Czechoslovakia and urged him to capitalise on the "triumph'' with a march into Romania, newly released documents have revealed.
The first Lord Rothermere – the great-grandfather of the current owner of the newspaper – made the remarks in a letter intercepted by the security service during surveillance of a suspected German agent. But MI5 shied away from taking action against the press baron, whose sympathy for Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts was already well-known.
Rothermere's apparent support for the Nazi cause as late as 1939 came to light during an investigation into the activities of Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe. The daughter of a Viennese dentist of Jewish origins, she had married into the aristocracy of the Austro-Hungarian empire and, although divorced, continued to move in exclusive circles in London society.
Her close friends included Lady Asquith, the wife of the former Liberal prime minister, Lady Snowden, the wife of a Labour chancellor of the exchequer, and the extreme Right-wing Lord and Lady Londonderry.
Her connections earned her the admiration of Hitler, Himmler and Von Ribbentrop, the German ambassador in London.
In 1933, the year that Hitler gained power, MI6 circulated a report stating that the French secret service had discovered documents in the princess's flat in Paris ordering her to persuade Rothermere to campaign for the return to Germany of territory ceded to Poland at the end of First World War. She was to receive £300,000 – equal to £13 million today – if she succeeded. Rothermere, meanwhile, was paying the princess £5,000 a year – £200,000 today – to act as his emissary in Europe.
By 1938 MI6 was becoming very concerned about the princesses's activities. A report said: "She is frequently summoned by the Fuhrer who appreciates her intelligence and good advice. She is perhaps the only woman who can exercise any influence on him."
But then she and Rothermere fell out. He cut off her retainer and in December 1938 she sued him for breach of contract. In March 1939 the MI6 passport control officer at Victoria Station intercepted her Hungarian lawyer, Erno Wittman.
He was carrying correspondence relating to the case, including a letter from Rothermere to the German government that Berlin had given to the lawyer to help the princess's case. The officer wrote: "This was astonishing; it appeared to be copies of documents and letters which passed between Lord Rothermere, Lady Snowden, Princess Stephanie, Herr Hitler and others. In the main, the letters referred to the possible restoration of the throne in Hungary and shed a good deal of light on the character and activities of the princess.
"It was decided to give MI5 the opportunity of seeing this considerable correspondence."
Details of the correspondence from Rothermere were circulated in the intelligence services. It included a "a very indiscreet letter to the Fuhrer congratulating him on his walk into Prague" – Hitler having sent troops into the Czech capital in early 1939 in breach of the Munich agreement of the previous year. The note urged Hitler to follow up his coup with the invasion of Romania.
Three weeks after Britain's declaration of war on Germany, the press baron's lawyers attempted to have the legal action stopped. They informed the Home Office that the princess's action was not in the national interest. The Home Office declined to help and the case went to court in November 1939, but it was thrown out without the highly-compromising contents of the letters being revealed. The princess left for America, where she was later arrested for violation of visa conditions.
Rothermere pays me great compliments... Enquires in detail about German press policy. Strongly anti-Jewish. The princess is very pushy. After lunch we retire for a chat. Question of Spain comes up. Führer won't tolerate a hot-bed of communism in Europe any longer. Is ready to prevent any more pro-Republican volunteers from going there. His proposal on controls seem to astonish Rothermere. German prestige is thus restored. Franco will win anyway... Rothermere believes British government also pro-Franco."
My dear Fuhrer everyone in England is profoundly moved by the bloodless solution to the Czechoslovakian problem. People not so much concerned with territorial readjustment as with dread of another war with its accompanying bloodbath. Frederick the Great was a great popular figure. I salute your excellency's star which rises higher and higher.
The proprietor of the Daily Mail sent a series of supportive and congratulatory telegrams to Nazi Germany's leaders, including Hitler, just months before the second world war, papers released today reveal.
Intercepted messages from Lord Rothermere to Berlin are among the first papers to be released from Foreign Office intelligence files.
The files also show how, as early as 1906, MI6 drew up detailed plans to plant agents in Europe "in the event of war with Germany". At the end of 1938 they were telling London that Hitler believed Britain was "enemy No 1".
Yet in the summer of 1939, Rothermere was still appealing to Hitler not to provoke a war, saying that Britain and Nazi Germany must remain at peace. "Our two great Nordic countries should pursue resolutely a policy of appeasement for, whatever anyone may say, our two great countries should be the leaders of the world," he told Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler's foreign minister, on July 7 1939.
Ten days earlier, Rothermere had written to Hitler: "My Dear Führer, I have watched with understanding and interest the progress of your great and superhuman work in regenerating your country."
He assured Hitler that the British government had "no policy which involves the encirclement of Germany, and that no British government could exist which embraced such a policy".
He added: "The British people, now like Germany strongly rearmed, regard the German people with admiration as valorous adversaries in the past, but I am sure that there is no problem between our two countries which cannot be settled by consultation and negotiation."
If Hitler worked to restore the "old friendship", he would be regarded by the British as a popular hero, in the same way they regarded Frederick the Great of Prussia, said Rothermere. "I have always felt that you are essentially one who hates war and desires peace."
Rothermere appealed to the Nazi leadership to convene a conference to sort out what he called the "misunderstanding" - concerns about Germany's intentions, particularly with regard to Poland and, as he called it, "the Danzig problem".
On July 6 1939, he appealed to Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy, to help settle "all outstanding problems" by organising an international conference. "Could I ask you to use your influence in this direction. There is really no cleavage between the interests of Germany and Britain. This great world of ours is big enough for both countries."
Rothermere made clear he sympathised with Germany's grievances over the peace settlement after the first world war.
He referred Ribbentrop to the "grave iniquities" of the Versailles treaty.
"I am optimistic enough", he wrote, "to believe that even before the end of this year, glaring grievances can be redressed." Two months later, Germany invaded Poland.
At the time that Rothermere was sending his telegrams to Berlin, MI6 tried to warn Germany off Poland, the papers disclose.
It forged a British cabinet decision saying it regarded "any attempt by the German government to force the issue at Danzig, which might be resisted by the Polish government, as a casus belli".
The papers released today disclose that in December 1938, MI6 informers in Germany were warning that Hitler's advisers were telling him to attack Poland in the summer of 1939.