Spartacus Blog

Unity Mitford and Adolf Hitler

Wednesday, 30th October 2013

John Simkin

In June 1933 Unity Mitford and Diana Mitford, joined the British Union of Fascists, the extreme right-wing group founded by Oswald Mosley the previous year. Mosley described her as "young, ingenuous, full of enthusiasm, in a way stage-struck by the glamour and panoply of the national socialist movement and the mass admiration of Hitler" She was active in the women's section headed by Esther Makgill, the daughter of John Makgill: "I created the women's section of the BUF... Unity Mitford didn't mean anything to me in those days. She was swept in by her sister." Her friend, Mary Ormsby-Gore, said that she sold The Blackshirt on the streets of London: "She began to go to the East End, and I went to one meeting with her... One day she took me to Selfridges saying, let's make a record, and she spoke into it, The Yids, The Yids, We've gotta get rid of the Yids."

Unity told Armida Macindoe that she was determined to meet Hitler: "She used to go to the Osteria Bavaria restaurant and sit waiting for Hitler. She'd sit there all day long with her book and read. She'd say, I don't want to make a fool of myself being alone there, and so she'd ask me to go along to keep her company, to have lunch or a coffee. Often Hitler was there. People came and went. She would place herself so that he invariably had to walk by her, she was drawing attention to herself, not obnoxiously but enough to make one slightly embarrassed. But the whole point was to attract his attention. She'd talk more loudly or drop a book. And it paid off."

Jessica Mitford later explained: "Unity explained that it had been fairly simple; she had reserved a nightly table in the Osteria Bavaria restaurant, where they often went. Evening after evening she sat and stared at them, until finally a flunkey was sent over to find out who she was. On learning that she was an admirer of the Nazis, and a member of the British Union of Fascists Hitler invited her to join them at their table. Thereafter she became one of their circle, saw them constantly in Munich, accompanied them to meetings and rallies."

After engaging Adolf Hitler in a conversation on 9th February 1935 she commented that it was "the most wonderful and beautiful day of my life". Hitler told newspapers in Germany that Unity was "a perfect specimen of Aryan womanhood". Otto Dietrich, the author of The Hitler I Knew (1934) saw Hitler and Unity Mitford together many times. At the same table in the Osteria Bavaria Hitler made the acquaintance of the Englishwoman Unity Mitford... an enthusiastic follower of the British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley and a fervent admirer of Hitler. She had many private conversations about Anglo-German relations with Hitler, whose secret itineraries she usually guessed with great acuteness. Over the years Hitler frequently included her among the guests who accompanied him on his travels. She introduced Hitler to her father and her brother, when the two were passing through Munich."

Albert Speer also spent time with Unity Mitford and Hitler at the Osteria Bavaria. "I met her in the Osteria Bavaria. She was very romantic. The Osteria was a small inn, it is still there, and hasn't changed much. Small tables. There was a wooden partition, and behind it a table to seat eight. An adjutant would phone the owner to warn that Hitler might be coming and to have the table clear. There was also a courtyard, with one table under a pergola and this was Hitler's favourite seat when the weather was not cold. Unity was quite often there, I was invited only every second or third time. Like me, Mitford would be invited by the adjutant Schaub. She was highly in love with Hitler, we could see it easily, her face brightened up, her eyes gleaming, staring at Hitler. Hero-worship. Absolutely phenomenal. And possibly Hitler liked to be admired by a young woman, she was quite attractive - even if nothing happened he was excited by the possibility of a love affair with her. Towards an attractive woman he behaved as a seventeen-year-old would. She was influential with Hitler in that she was of the group in the Osteria."

Princess Carmencita Wrede was a member of the inner-circle and does not believe Unity had a physical relationship with Hitler and was very jealous of Eva Braun. As Princess Carmencita points out: "Hitler calculated exactly the correct distance between him and Unity. Class differences were basic. Unity, Diana, Sigi von Laffert, Hella Khevenhuller, were too fine, really too aristocratic for him. Eva Braun was at his social level. My sister and I knew Eva and her sister, Gretl, well. In 1937 I was with Nevile Henderson - this idiot Henderson, Unity called him - at the Parteitag. Hitler was there, and Eva stood by herself, wearing a little raincoat. Hitler looked round and his gaze fell on her without change of expression. No other woman would have put up with that. Unity could not bear it. She was always badgering me, How is this Eva Braun? What does she have that I don't? How does she do it? She said to me, He never asks me to the Obersalzberg because Eva is always there. She's not in the Reichskanzlei, I replied, so you aren't on the Obersalzberg, fair's fair. There was a proper rivalry between them. Unity was thoroughly jealous."

Joan Ferrer was shocked by Unity Mitford's anti-Semitism: "Like all Mitfords. she had a one-track mind, she became completely caught up in fascism - there was a vacuum and that was what rushed in to fill it. Once she was off with Oswald Mosley and Diana, and away to Germany, she could think of nothing else, and neither could Diana. Oh Rudbin (unity's nickname for Joan), they're Jews, she would say when I was in a fury at the way they were being treated. They're just Jews and must be got rid of. She talked a lot about the Fuhrer, and said that he was very celibate... I asked her what would happen if there was a war. She said she would kill herself." Another friend, Armida Macindoe, later recalled: "Unity was very anti-Jewish anyway, being a Mosleyite. About Jews being beaten up, she used to say, jolly good, serves them right, we should go and cheer." Princess Carmencita Wrede agreed that Unity's "anti-semitism was extreme".

Unity Mitford told her friend Rudi von St Paul that she would commit suicide if Britain declared war on Germany. "On the Sunday morning Bobo (Unity) telephoned me, just at eleven o'clock, and said there would now be a war. She said that she heard through the British Consul that war was certain. I was frightened because three or four months beforehand, when the possibility of war had been discussed, she had been trying to persuade Hitler that there could be no war - she had said then that unless she could stop the war, she would have to shoot herself. She had shown me the pistol, not as big as any army pistol, something rather small, we shot a lot with it. I had a much heavier one which I had bought on my permit to have sporting guns. We had shot at targets in the park at Seeseiten. I think she had bought her pistol in Belgium on one of her trips. She came back with it one day, anyhow, and that was her story about it. Now I spoke to her for a long time on the telephone. I was terrified for her. I asked her what she was going to do. I would be coming into Munich from Seeseiten on the Monday morning. I urged her not to do anything until then and we would think what should be done for the best. There was no need to shoot herself at all, I told her, I beseeched her to wait until we could meet."

Unity shot herself in the head with her pistol in Munich on 3rd September 1939. Henriette Hoffman has argued: "The declaration of war was the final, cataclysmic explosion which shattered for ever and beyond repair everything that she had hoped and lived for." She was unconscious for two months. German surgeons saved her life but were unable to extract the bullet from her brain. Albert Speer commented: "It was a shock to Hitler when she shot herself. He felt responsible for her committing suicide, I remember that was his reaction."

On Hitler's instructions she was moved to Switzerland, and then returned to England on 3rd January 1940. Her mental and physical powers were impaired, and she lived under the protection of her mother. James Lees-Milne visited her in 1944 and reported: "She has become rather plain and fat, and says that she weighs 13½ stone. Her mind is that of a sophisticated child, and she is still very amusing in that Mitford manner". Unity Mitford never fully recovered and she died on 28th May 1948, at the West Highland Cottage Hospital, Oban.

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