What if Churchill had accepted Hitler’s 1941 Peace Offer Carried by Rudolph Hess?

World War Two historians have shown that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler never wanted war with Britain or France and that he took pains to avert one. As noted in Patrick Buchanan’s excellent treatise, “Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War,” Hitler feared the outbreak of a Second World War and made clear he never wanted a war with Britain, France or even Poland. Rather, the historical record strongly suggests that he sought to make Britain and Poland allies in his planned invasion of the Soviet Union. This explains why, until the end of August 1939, he did not ask for one square inch of Polish territory but merely the return of the independent German city of Danzig and a road highway/rail corridor connecting Danzig and East Prussia with the rest of Germany. Hitler apparently believed that his uncharacteristically modest demands would be satisfied by diplomacy without the need for military conflict.

On September 2, 1939, the day after he invaded Poland but before Britain and France had declared war on Germany, Hitler offered to end the war and withdraw from the rest of Poland if he was allowed to keep Danzig and the Polish Corridor (an area defined by Hitler to include most but not all of the former German province of West Prussia and consisting of just over 4% of Polish territory) while allowing Poland to retain the rest of the former German territory of West Prussia along with all of Posen and East Upper Silesia which they had annexed from Germany in 1919 without plebiscites. When Hitler was informed that Britain had declared war on Germany the following day in response to Germany’s invasion of Poland, accounts indicate that he turned ‘ghastly white’ and fell into a depression.

Hitler’s failure to ask for the return of all or even most of Germany’s lost eastern territories annexed by Poland after World War One combined with his offer to end his invasion of Poland the very day after it began provide substantial evidence both that he was serious in his determination to avert a world war with Britain and France and that his foreign policy objectives were limited in nature. If the Allies had accepted this peace offer, war between Germany and the Allies would have been averted and perhaps the Soviets would have actually ended up being viewed as the main aggressors for invading and annexing the eastern half of Poland two weeks later and Britain and France might have considered declaring war on the Soviet Union instead.

Subsequently, Hitler made a series of peace offers to the Allies to end the European war beginning on October 6, 1939 when he once again offered to withdraw from Poland except for the Polish Corridor in exchange for peace with Britain and France and then subsequently to Britain alone in June 1940 and in May 1941 immediately prior to his invasion of the Soviet Union. Accordingly, not only was war between Germany and the western Allies not inevitable, but Hitler himself desperately wanted to avoid it so that he would have a free hand to carry out his planned international crusade against Soviet Communism.

On May 10, 1941, in order to underscore Hitler’s seriousness in negotiating a peace agreement, Hitler sent Deputy Fuhrer Rudolph Hess to fly to Britain in a Me-110 fighter aircraft in a daring, but extremely risky, mission to hand-carry his final peace proposal to British leaders. The British government at the time publicly revealed that Hess had brought with him a German offer of peace in exchange for a free hand in Europe but mysteriously has opted to keep the specific details of his peace offer top secret up to the present day, nearly eight decades later. The reason they decided to keep the details secret are now apparent given the generosity of the terms Hitler offered as most recently revealed by British military historian Peter Padfield in his excellent book, “Hess, Hitler and Churchill: The Real Turning Point of the Second World War – A Secret History,” and a few others which have been published in recent years which provide definite proof that Hitler was not trying to conquer the world but rather was limited in his ambitions to reuniting Germany and carving out a new empire for Germany at the expense of western Russia and Ukraine. Padfield’s book also provides a very credible case that Hess was physically incapable of committing suicide and was likely assassinated by British and/or U.S. intelligence agents at the age of 93 in 1987, forty-six years after his capture by the British, presumably to keep the specific details of Hitler’s peace treaty secret, at a time when sentiment in West Germany was growing for his release.

Padfield states that he believes then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill suppressed public disclosure of Hitler’s proposed peace offer because its reasonableness would have made his efforts to get the US into the war much more difficult and weakened his position at home since a number of Cabinet officials supported a negotiated peace with Germany at the time. He believes it has been kept secret since to protect the reputations of Churchill and other past British leaders long since deceased. Padfield has also stated that he believes that the British government has suppressed the terms of the Treaty because he believes Hess informed the British of Hitler’s plans to mass murder the Jews if Churchill did not agree to peace and permit their deportation to Madagascar or Palestine which Churchill refused. If it was known that Churchill was given the opportunity by Hitler to stop the Jewish Holocaust and refused to do so, it would certainly be damaging to his reputation.

The details of Hess’ peace offer, which was reportedly sanctioned and likely even ordered by Hitler himself, were first corroborated by the American Mercury newspaper in an article entitled “The Inside Story of the Rudolph Hess Peace Flight” in 1943. It is unknown how many members of the British Cabinet supported accepting Hitler’s peace offer the details of which were known to them, but Churchill was adamant about rejecting it ironically largely due to the fact that Hitler allowed 336,000 BEF soldiers and 210,000 French soldiers to escape at Dunkirk. Had it not been for the so-called “Miracle at Dunkirk”, I believe Churchill may well have been successfully pressured by his Cabinet to accept Hitler’s June 1940 peace offer which was similar in many respects but may not have included a German military withdrawal from Denmark, Norway, Belgium or the Netherlands. In fact, history notes that Churchill did in fact seriously consider accepting an armistice from Germany on May 26, 1940 when Hitler’s panzers seemed poised to capture not only the French 9th Army which was trapped in the Dunkirk pocket but virtually the entire British Expeditionary Force as well.

Hitler’s Peace Offer to Britain

What follows is the essence of Hitler’s peace proposal included some minor details I have extrapolated from what he had Hess deliver to the British in May 1941, which included an offer of German military withdrawals from all of Western Europe, southern Europe and the Mediterranean:

1. All hostilities between the German Reich and the British Commonwealth will cease immediately.

2. Germany agrees to withdraw all military forces from France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.

3. In addition, Germany agrees to withdraw all military forces from Yugoslavia, Greece, Libya, western Egypt and the Mediterranean region generally.

4. France will cede Alsace-Lorraine back to Germany, along with the French colony of Madagascar and will transfer the French aircraft carrier Bearn and the battleships Provence, Strasbourg, Richelieu and Jean Bart (still under construction) to German control.

5. All European Jews will be deported to Madagascar where they would be granted self-rule and control of domestic and economic affairs while Germany retains control of their foreign policy and security. Alternatively, the Jews will be shipped to Palestine to remain under British control.

6. Germany will retain control of Luxembourg.

7. Belgium will return the Eupen-Malmedy District to Germany.

8. Britain will take a position of benevolent neutrality in the event of any potential conflict between Germany and the U.S.S.R. including facilitating the sale of  foodstuffs and raw materials to Germany.

9. No war reparations will be levied against any belligerent country.

10. France will continue production of tanks, aircraft and artillery and will provide raw materials as necessary to support any impending German war effort against the U.S.S.R.

11. All prisoners of war will be returned to their home countries including two million French POW’s.

12. Germany will help mediate a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Britain and Italy including disputed Italian claims on Yugoslavia and Greece (perhaps a withdrawal of Italian troops from all non-annexed areas limiting them to an occupation of the Dalmatian coast much of which had been promised to Italy by the Allies in exchange for declaring war on Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I) as well as to the Anglo-Italian conflicts over their African colonies (potentially resulting in the transfer of British Somalialand, Malta, Corsica, Tunisia, and French Somalia to Italy.)

13. Britain and France agree to return all former Imperial German colonies, excepting those taken over by Japan, including Tanganyika, Rwanda, Burundi, German Southwest Africa (modern-day Namibia), Cameroon, Togo, Kaiser-Wilhelmsland (northeast New Guinea), Nauru, the Bismarck Archipelago, the North Solomon Islands and Samoa. British troops to be allowed a rail corridor across Tanganyika linking British colonies in northern and southern Africa.

14. German troops will be made available to defend the British Empire if needed.

(Author’s Note–It is even possible that Churchill might have negotiated a German withdrawal to its 1914 borders with Poland and possibly the restoration of Poland as an independent state (which he had offered in all previous peace offers without spelling out what the new Polish borders would be) though Hitler would never have agreed to withdraw German troops from Poland. Churchill could say that since it declared war on Germany in defense of Poland it was a matter of British honor that no peace agreement be signed without Hitler’s previously offered restoration of an independent Polish state and a German guarantee of Poland’s territorial integrity. Given Hitler’s overarching desire for peace with Britain combined with previous desire to have Poland as an ally, not an enemy, for his long-planned invasion of the USSR, he likely would have accepted such terms, perhaps thinking that he would be free to revise them following an anticipated victory over the Soviet Union. Poland would have to sign the Anti-Comintern Pact and sign a defense agreement with Germany allowing German troops to remain along its eastern borders along with transit railway rights in the event of a possible war with the USSR. Germany would stand to benefit from such an agreement as it likely would have succeeded in getting Poland to send at least a few divisions to help fight the Soviets. However, this is purely speculative and was not included in Hitler’s peace offer which Hess was ordered to present as a take it or leave it offer to the British government.)

In any case, acceptance of Hitler’s proposed peace treaty would have been a major coup and bloodless victory for Britain as with the exception of the German speaking territories of Alsace-Lorraine, Luxembourg and Eupen-Malmedy it would have returned Germany to its October 1939 borders. In addition, it would have been a very favorable peace for defeated France as well, certainly far more lenient than that imposed upon Germany in 1945, or even 1919 for that matter, by the victorious Allies. It is no wonder then that the details of Hitler’s most generous peace proposal remain blocked from the public under Britain’s Official Secrets Act, even seventy-eight years later, because it would have shown that Hitler, while certainly a brutal, mass murdering tyrant, was truly desirous of peace between the two nations and not bent on world conquest as liberal historians like Churchill have suggested.

How would British acceptance of this Treaty have altered the course of history?

Had Churchill accepted this treaty, he likely would have been re-elected Prime Minister in the 1941 elections that would have followed the signing of the peace treaty with Nazi Germany which would likely have been seen by the British people as something of a moral victory for the UK given the extremely favorable terms offered by Hitler but then would likely have been defeated in the 1946 elections. Hitler still would have lost his war with the Soviet Union. However, without the Allies opening up secondary fronts in France and Italy and without the massive Allied direct military aid which the U.S. and U.K. provided the Soviets in actual history including 22,000 tanks, 18,000 aircraft, over 15,000 artillery pieces and 430,000 trucks with which to Communize Eastern Europe and East Asia including mainland China and French Indochina, it might have taken an additional two years for the Soviets to defeat him. During this time, Britain could have abrogated the armistice/treaty with Nazi Germany and re-initiated hostilities with Germany at the time and place of its choosing under more advantageous conditions (i.e. when Britain had finished its rearmament program and when Germany was about to be overrun by the Red Army.) Of course, had this peace treaty been implemented, all of France would have been united under what was referred to as Vichy control under Marshal Petain who blamed the British for betraying France and sinking much of its naval fleet as much or more than he blamed Germany for defeating France.

Also, under this treaty, the lives of all five to six million European Jews, who perished in the Jewish Holocaust from December 1941-May 1945, would have been saved. This outcome would have left open the possibility of a Jewish state being founded with as many as three times the current population of Israel, though admittedly the impetus for founding the Jewish state would have been lessened without Nazi persecution and genocide. There would have been no need for U.S. intervention in the European War, no U.S.-Japanese war and no Unholy Alliance between the U.S., Britain and the Soviet Union. As a result there would have been no Allied war crimes committed by the U.S., Britain and France including no terror bombings, no illegal starvation blockade of Germany, no post war starvation of millions of its civilians and POWs as part of the implementation of the Morgenthau Plan/JCS 1067 and no Operation Keelhaul forcibly returning two million anti-Communist freedom fighters and their families to be executed by Stalin. Finally, there would have been no Allied surrender of half of Europe to Soviet Communism at Yalta although the Soviets would have conquered Eastern Europe and much or most of Central Europe anyway without Allied military intervention.

Germany not being defeated until 1946-1947 and not having to face the strategic bombing campaign from the Allies would have initially enjoyed air superiority over the Soviet Union and would have been able to develop its jet fighters and fighter bombers during the war to a much greater extent although with Hitler stymying their progress until his suicide, those relative advantages would not likely have developed to their full potential. However, without Anglo-French military intervention let alone U.S. military intervention, the Red Army might have succeeded in occupying and Communizing most of Germany and all of Eastern Europe and much of Central Europe including Austria and Italy as well but not France, Spain or the Low Countries.

Hitler would still likely have killed himself in Berlin around 1946-1947 to avoid capture by the Red Army. Prior to his suicide, he would likely have transferred power to Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz as Reichsprezident, just as he did in actual history, who might have held on for several more months, Doenitz might have then appealed to Britain and France to broker an armistice agreement with Moscow which would likely cede the Soviets control of all of Germany to the same Wismar-Elbe-Mulde-Olbernhau line where the Allies met the Soviets in actual history with an Anglo-French guarantee of Germany’s new borders perhaps in exchange for banning the Nazi Party, returning Alsace-Lorraine, French capital ships and the Jewish colony of Madagascar back to France and returning Germany’s colonies back to Britain and France. The French would have readily agreed but the British likely would have likely demanded a higher price for their intervention in the German-Soviet conflict.

The British likely would have countered by proposing that in addition, Germany would have to agree to reverse its Anchluss with Austria, return the Sudetenland to the Czech Republic and hold national elections by 1948. Doenitz likely would have accepted these conditions in order to prevent a Soviet takeover of the rest of Germany. Italy likely would have also requested Anglo-French intervention to prevent Italy from being overrun by the Red Army and would have had to agree to return all territory it seized from 1939 onward. Meanwhile, Britain and France could have signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union to avoid a potential outbreak of hostilities with the Soviets. Stalin likely would have agreed to peace in return for Anglo-French recognition of his continued control of the same areas of Eastern Europe he controlled in actual history aside from the western part of historical East Germany. Several years later, a West German republic might have joined in a mutual security treaty with Britain, France and Italy but not the United States to ensure the defense of Europe against the threat of Soviet aggression. However, whether the Anglo-French guarantee of West Germany, and subsequent collective security treaty, would have been sufficient to deter future Soviet aggression, without U.S. participation and prior to their development of nuclear weapons, is another issue entirely.

Had Anglo-French intervention been successful, then there would have likely been no Carthaginian peace for Germany after World War Two. Also, West Germany might have then been able to develop nuclear weapons along with the U.S., Britain, France to help counterbalance Soviet hegemony in Europe, and might have been free to continue developing jet aircraft and ballistic missile technology, sharing this technology with Britain and France, resulting in them developing weapon systems unseen in actual history. Without Anglo-French intervention, the chances of Stalin accepting the existence of a nominally independent German state as anything other than a neutral, non-aligned nation or subservient, non-Soviet occupied Finlandized republic, if not a Soviet satellite state, seem slim at best. In actual history, in March 1952, Stalin proposed to allow the reunification of Germany, free of occupying forces, provided that the U.S. and its NATO allies agreed for it to become a neutral, non-aligned nation, an offer the Western Allies refused.

It is a little known fact that following US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s July 1941 imposition of the crushing US-UK-Dutch oil embargo that, had it been continued for over a year, would have left Japan unable to sail its warships, Japan offered to withdraw from China (excluding Manchuria and Jehol province) and Indochina in exchange for a full end to the oil embargo and normalization of diplomatic relations as a last ditch effort to avoid war with the United States. Had the British accepted Hitler’s 1941 peace offer, President Roosevelt would not have been obsessed with finding a way to provoke the Japanese to engage in a ‘surprise attack’ on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 as ‘a back door to war’ to galvanize an anti-war public and anti-war Congress into declaring war on Nazi Germany. Accordingly, he would likely have accepted the Japanese peace offer to withdraw its forces from China and Indochina completely averting the outbreak of a US-Japanese Pacific War.

The withdrawal of all Japanese forces from most of mainland China would have provided a golden opportunity for the Nationalist Chinese, led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek, to defeat Communist Chinese dictator Mao Tse Tung’s Red Army once and for all at a time when they were still very weak. Nationalist China likely would have seized control of all of modern-day China including Sinkiang and Tibet with the exception of Manchuria and Jehol province (which were then part of Manchukuo, a Japanese puppet state), which would remain under Japanese control, while Mongolia would have likely remained under Soviet control. Furthermore, a Nationalist victory over the Communists followed by the return of Manchuria to Nationalist control, which without the implementation of Communist China’s infamous ‘one-child’ policy, would have likely increased the population of China from 1.38 billion today to nearly 2.25 billion (averting nearly 800 million forced abortions and infanticides committed by Communist China thus far). This, along with free-enterprise based economic reforms, would have likely enabled Nationalist China to eclipse the U.S. as the world’s largest economy far earlier than Communist China was able to do.

Without U.S. involvement in World War Two, the U.S. would not have gotten involved as an interventionist power and would not have lost over 400,000 men in World War Two and another nearly 100,000 in the Korean and Vietnamese wars. Also, the U.S. might not have developed the atomic bomb until several years later with Soviet development of the atomic bomb not occurring until several years after that. Given that possibility, it is of course possible that Stalin would have invaded and Communized France in accordance with his longtime strategic objectives in the late 1940’s without the existence of NATO and without the invention of atomic bomb until years later and that British military intervention to stop the Red Army from doing so might have been insufficient, perhaps resulting in a second Dunkirk-style evacuation of the BEF. FDR once commented that while he cared about supporting Great Britain, he didn’t care who dominated continental Europe, meaning that he would not likely have cared if France fell to the Red Army but how a subsequent U.S. President would have reacted to a Soviet invasion of France in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s timeframe is speculative at best. However, it is likely that the U.S. public would not have supported U.S. military intervention on their behalf just as they did not support US military intervention to save France from falling to Nazi Germany.

The change to U.S. history by Churchill’s acceptance of this treaty would most likely have been profound. FDR would likely have been defeated in the 1944 presidential election leaving Republican nominee Thomas Dewey, not Truman, to replace him. General Eisenhower would likely have never become well-known to the American people, let alone President. Senator Robert Taft or even General Douglas MacArthur might have been elected President instead in the 1944-1952 timeframe. Certainly, had a staunch anti-Communist like General MacArthur been President, they would likely have sought to take strong action to deter or defend against any potential Soviet aggression against France or other nations. The U.S. would have remained the pre-eminent economic superpower and likely would have become a nuclear superpower as well, but would not have likely been the interventionist power it is today which, arguably, would have been better as it would not have lost so much blood and treasure fighting first to effectively help spread Communism in central and eastern Europe and East Asia and then later fighting to defend against it. In fact, the United States might not have ended up getting involved in the conflict with the Soviet Union at all, outside of arms shipments to its Western European and Nationalist Communist Chinese allies. Most importantly the proud flag of the United States would never have been sullied with the horrific war crimes our liberal, pro-Soviet political and military leaders actually committed during and after World War Two against innocent Japanese and particularly German civilians.

This alternate history timeline would have likely ended up being much better for the Soviets in Europe, much less favorable for the Soviets in Asia, much better for the people of China which would have remained under Nationalist control, much better for Japan whose empire would likely have survived in some form, much better for the Jews and the Poles, which had a large Jewish population, given that the Jewish Holocaust would have been entirely averted. However, it is uncertain whether Israel would have come into existence by 1947 given the existence of a self-governing Jewish homeland state in Madagascar unless Churchill had accepted Hitler’s proposal to relocate the Jews to Palestine instead. It would have been much better for France had they been able to deter the Soviets from crossing the Rhine River, better for Britain which would have been strengthened by having the war shortened by four years and which would have likely enabled it to retain its Empire for a longer period of time and potentially much better for Italy unless or until they were overrun by the Red Army. It would have initially been much better for Germany until they inevitably began to be overrun by the Red Army and considerably better if the British and French had intervened to prevent the Sovietization of western Germany, but much worse for Germany if they did not and most of Germany ended up being Sovietized. Korea would likely have remained part of Japan probably for a couple decades later but thereafter would likely have become united and free.

While the outcome of World War II might have been more stark in terms of a potential Soviet conquest of all or most of Central Europe in addition to Eastern Europe had the British accepted Hitler’s compromise peace offer, the outlook for freedom in East Asia would have been far better. In actual history, the Allied victory over Japan’s led to the Communization of mainland China, which alone cost the lives of at least sixty million innocent people with millions more innocents mass murdered by Communist regimes in North Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. All of these Communist takeovers would have likely been averted.

Nationalist China and Imperial Japan might have served as powerful counterweights to Soviet aggression and along with Britain, France and West Germany might have replaced the U.S. as the primary antagonists of the Cold War, saving the U.S. a great deal of its precious blood and treasure which it ended up expending during the Cold War. Instead of having the U.S., Russia and Communist China as the three nuclear superpowers today, we would more likely have only had the U.S. & Russia since Communist China would not likely exist, again leading to a more peaceful and safer world. Japan, and subsequently Nationalist China, would also likely have joined the U.S., Britain, France, the Soviet Union (and possibly West Germany if it survived the war) as nuclear powers. Ultimately, the Soviet Union would likely still have ‘collapsed’ in 1991. This would have rendered Communism largely extinct, unlike today where Communism still controls nearly a quarter of the world’s people, though the threat of nuclear annihilation from Russian nuclear/super Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) weapons would have likely remained as it is today.

© David T. Pyne 2019

David T. Pyne, Esq. is a former U.S. Army combat arms and H.Q. staff officer with a M.A. in National Security Studies from Georgetown University. He currently serves as a Vice President of the Association of the United States Army’s Utah Chapter and as Utah Director of the EMP Caucus on National and Homeland Security. He can be reached at [email protected]

4 comments to What if Churchill had accepted Hitler’s 1941 Peace Offer Carried by Rudolph Hess?

  • Loran Tritter

    What an eye-opener. I did not know the so-called Miracle at Dunkirk was the result of Adolph Hitler’s benevolence. The murder of all those Jews was really Churchill’s fault. So much new info to comprehend.

    In light of the fact that all those Jews were murdered, Madagascar is still available. Maybe the EU can round up all it’s Muslims and ship them there.

  • Brian

    Hess was sent by Hitler? I’ve always heard Hess did this without Hitler’s knowledge and that Hitler flew into abject rage when he was informed of it.

  • gmkjr

    This is wrong-headed, counter-factual claptrap.

    Historically-minded readers will remember that Hitler had already made peace with British Prime Minister Chamberlain in Munich after Germany invaded the Sudetenland in 1938.
    Mr. Pyne is sadly mistaken if he thinks that Hitler would have been willing to accept Britain as a continental rival in Europe, or that his peace feelers were anything more than an effort to put Britain on ice for as long as it took for Germany to defeat the USSR. If Hitler wanted peace, he wouldn’t have declared war on the USA after Pearl Harbor or launched the Afrika Corps into Libya and Egypt.

    And Japan was never going to give up all of its imperial ambitions in Asia until it came up against a determined opponent with enough resources to stop it in its tracks. Mao’s determined opposition would have defeated the kleptocratic “nationalist” Chinese armies whether or not WWII expanded into a global war.

  • Gerald Hall

    The proposed gifting of all of the French Navy’s major combatants to Germany would have poisoned the whole deal, both for Great Britain and for France. It would have significantly reduced the Royal Navy’s advantage in modern capital ships, which would have been intolerable to that great naval power. I question whether or not the Soviet Union would have defeated Germany had an armistice been signed between Germany and Great Britain in 1941. Without the need to devote major resources to defend the West and protect against Allied heavy bombers, Hitler could have been able to shift virtually its entire army and air force to the East for the offensive against the Soviets. As important as the thousands of aircraft and tanks that were given to the Soviets as part of Lend-Lease, the really important element that could have spelled defeat for the Soviets was the loss of those 430,000 trucks that kept the Red Army supplied. There was a better than even chance that the Wehrmacht could have captured both Moscow and the Baku oil fields if the Red Army could not move the logistics necessary to rapidly redeploy forces to counter German Panzer attacks. There was also one other factor that the article fails to consider. If Japan was able to secure a peace with the US in the Pacific early on, then they would have turned their attention back towards Mongolia, forcing the Soviets to keep troops in place and preventing those forces from being moved west to provide the critical reserves needed to stop the Wehrmacht.

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