Unity Mitford

Timofei Mikhailov

Unity Valkyrie Mitford, the daughter of David Bertram Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale, was born on 8th August 1914. Unity was the sister of Diana Mitford, Nancy Mitford and Jessica Mitford. Her sister, Nancy, later recalled: "She was christened Unity, after an actress my mother admired called Unity Moore, and Valkyrie after the war maidens. This was Grandfather Redesdale's idea; he said these maidens were not German but Scandinavian. He was a great friend of Wagner's and must have known."

David Pryce-Jones, the author of Unity Mitford (1976) has argued: "Lord Redesdale was a brave man, distinguished as a soldier, a simple patriot, with puzzled contempt for those not like himself, such as Catholics, Jews or foreigners, especially Germans, a church-goer, in short every inch a gentleman. Lady Redesdale matched him, full of the domestic virtues and good works, with enough dottiness to stop her being insipid. Knowing nothing of the world at large in all its complexity, they had neither the inclination nor the intellectual means to find out about it. They preferred their home, and its pursuits."

The artist, Frances Bazley, knew the Redesdale family well during this period: "The Redesdales were terribly grand but were quite approachable... Dancing class was twice a week at Hatherop. All the little Mitford girls came on a Wednesday. They were all dressed up in white, with sshes and beautiful shoes. Nurses and under-nannies were there, it was a matter of prestige, we didn't have time to talk, we had to watch. I noticed Unity a lot, she was so beautiful, she was more silent than the others, quite an innocent face, with china-blue eyes."

Unity was mainly educated at home by her mother and a governesses. Jessica Mitford later recalled: "Her immense, baleful eyes, large, clumsy limbs, dead straight tow-coloured hair, sometimes in neat pig-tails but more often flowing loose, gave her the appearance of a shaggy Viking or Little John." Joan Ferrer commented: "Uncle David (Baron Redesdale) was frightfully pleased to have such brilliant and clever daughters, but he was mad about Unity. We used to stay with them in London... In 1928, Unity and I were schoolgirls, and went with Muv (Lady Redesdale) by train on an educational trip, for about a week, to Bruges."

Unity went briefly to Queen's Gate School in London. A fellow pupil was Nina Sturdee: "I was a year younger than her. She wasn't very bright. She was impervious to everyone else's feelings. I never saw her cry.... Her talent was for drawing. She drew naked figures in her rough note-book, an Adam and an Eve, and you can guess what they were doing. That was not at all the thing, she was told to stop, and that if she persisted she would have to get a new rough notebook at her own expense. Which made no impression. The wilful flaunting of the rules became too much for the school in the end" and Unity was expelled.

Unity's biographer, Richard Davenport-Hines, disagrees with Nina's views on Unity's intelligence: "This farouche child, however, matured into a bold, generous, quick-witted, and amusing young woman. She was incapable of deviousness or dissimulation: her preferred occupation, she averred, would be gangster or airman; her besetting sin was boastfulness. She was an avid but discriminating reader, who memorized reams of esoteric poetry and created intricate collages."

Unity Mitford
Unity Mitford, Lady Redesdale and Joan Farrer (July, 1932)

Julia Strachey introduced Dora Carrington to Diana Mitford. On 28th July 1931, she wrote to Lytton Strachey about visiting the Mitfords: "I went with Julia (Strachey) to lunch with Diana (Mitford) today. There we found 3 sisters and Mama Redesdale. The little sisters were ravishingly beautiful, and another of sixteen (Unity) very marvellous and grecian. I thought the mother was rather remarkable, very sensible and no upper-class graces... The little sister was a great botanist and completely won me by her high spirits and charm."

Elizabeth Powell became a friend of Unity's in 1932: "I came out in January 1932. I made friends with Unity at Queen Charlotte's Ball. We were both nearly six feet tall, bringing up the back of that procession with the cake, rebellious girls in white, it was ghastly. That was a great bond, we were both what was called at the time very bolshie. I saw her quite a lot... Unity used to stay in our house in Hyde Park Gate... she was always rushing off to the East End to play ping-pong with the boys. It wasn't allowed by her parents, they tried to stop her, that's why she came to us, she was quite different from everyone else, more in her extraordinary behaviour than her character."

The Daily Express reported on 10th March 1932 that "Unity Mitford... will find it difficult to retain her obvious clear-eyed freshness throughout the season, which year by year seems to become for debutantes more of an endurance test than a period of social delights." A few days later The Daily Mail commented: "Miss Unity Mitford who is one of this year's debutances has the unusual second name of Valkyrie. She possesses the most lovely natural colouring and is very attractive. Doubtless her elder sister Nancy will be able to advise her throughout the season if necessary."

In June 1933 Unity and her sister, 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."

When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor on 30th January 1933, Unity and her sister, Diana Mitford visited Nazi Germany with Nigel Birch and Victor Montagu. Unity decided to stay and learn the German language. On 31st August 1933, Unity attended the "Party Day of Victory". She was part of the English delegation that included William Joyce and Alexander Raven Thomson. Unity recalled: "The first moment I saw him (Hitler) I knew there was no one I would rather meet."

In 1934 Unity Mitford became friends with Ernst Hanfstaengel. According to Armida Macindoe: He (Hanfstaengl) was more of a means than an end, he introduced her to Nazis." Hanfstaengel admitted that Unity and Diana were outstanding Nordic beauties: "They were very attractive but they made-up to the eyebrows in a manner which conflicted directly with the newly proclaimed Nazi ideal of German womanhood." As a result he insisted they removed some of it: "My dears, it is no good, but to stand any hope of meeting him (Hitler) you will have to wipe some of that stuff off your faces."

Unity Mitford
Unity Mitford with Ernst Hanfstaengel at a Nazi Party Rally (1934)

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."

Unity Mitford
Adolf Hitler with Unity Mitford (1936)

According to David Pryce-Jones, the author of Unity Mitford (1976) Unity Mitford was not alone in finding Hitler physically attractive: "Women by the thousand abased themselves at Hitler's feet, they tried to kiss his boots, and some of them succeeded, even to the point of swallowing the gravel on which he had trod, according to Reck-Malleczewen, whose fastidious hatred of the vulgarian Hitler was genuinely conservative. As a figurehead, as a male in absolute power, Hitler's aphrodisiac effect was scarcely even sublimated in the more impressionable women who constituted his beloved mass audience. They moaned, they were hysterical, they fainted, for an introspective bachelor deficient in sexuality.... In one respect Hitler was a final item in an intimate treasure-hunt, the object which could never be brought home, and in another respect he was a historical Big Daddy, patting the heads of blonde children. Restraint was impossible, in the frustration of apparently approaching the unapproachable; this was, so to speak, a masturbation of the spirit. She had herself to display."

Albert Speer pointed out that Unity Mitford was disliked by most of Hitler's inner-circle: "For those close to Hitler it was a nuisance. Schaub was angry that she was coming again. It was amazing that someone not German was around Hitler and could listen to details of party politics and far-ranging policy. Hitler made no secret of his thoughts, and astonishingly a Britisher was sitting there and listening. I heard only afterwards that she was a follower of Mosley. Hitler thought nothing of Mosley. I had the impression that she was British, you know, in this circle. The others round Hitler were cautious and did not want to say anything, but she was straight and said things Hitler didn't like. She had cheek. Hitler's line was to get along with the British. She pressed the point. He was sympathetic. They would argue and he appreciated frankness in her - he said, That's the British way. Though I wouldn't say his interest in her was from the political point of view; simply part of his admiration for the British was confirmed by her. If somebody made a remark, and then Hitler replied, No, well, that person did not counter, but she did, back and forth. I was astonished that Hitler did not say that he had no wish to see her again. Of course it was dangerous to have somebody talking to Hitler like that about problems, he was easily influenced by small episodes, so if Mitford brought something to his attention, he could get furious about it and a huge effort would be required to settle things."

Unity Mitford
Unity Mitford (1937)

Henriette Hoffman, the daughter of Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler's official photographer, got to know Unity during this period. She claimed that Hitler "raved over Unity's personification of perfect German womanhood". She believes that Hitler had good reasons to encourage his relationship with Unity: "He was aware of the value, for propaganda purposes, of Unity and her blind devotion to him... with every fibre of her being she yearned to see Britain and Germany closely united. She often said to me, she dreamed of an impregnable and invincible alliance between the Ruler of the Seas and the Lord of the Earth; the land of her birth with the country of her hero could, she was convinced, achieve a world domination."

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."

Princess Carmencita also claims that Unity was also very jealous of Hitler's relationship with Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe, the mistress of Lord Rothermere and Fritz Wiedemann: "She complained that Stephanie Hohenlohe was Jewish, and how she had told Hitler, Here you are, anti-Jewish yet you have a Jew around you the whole time, this Princess Hohenlohe. Hitler said nothing. She simply hated the Hohenlohe for a rusée, going to tell Lord Rothermere what Hitler was up to. I asked her why she got so upset about it and the answer was short: jealousy again." However, Princess Stephanie denies that she have a sexual relationship with Hitler and in her unpublished memoirs she says that she assumed he was homosexual.

The historian, Alan Bullock suggests in his book, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (1962), that Hitler was incapable of normal sexual intercourse. He quotes Ernst Hanfstaengel, a close intimate of Hitler. In his book, Hitler: The Missing Years (1957) Hanfstaengel argues: "The abounding nervous energy which found no normal release sought compensation first in the subjection of his entourage, then in his country, then of Europe... In the sexual no man's land in which he lived, he only once nearly found the woman, and never even the man, who might have brought him relief." Albert Speer was convinced that Hitler did not have a sexual relationship with Unity: "She would have slept with him, of course, she was more than willing but he would not have gone to bed with her. I doubt if he ever did more than take her hand in his. And think too, that he was in a difficult position, even if he had ever found himself alone with her."

Unity Mitford
News Chronicle (1937)

Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler's official photographer, argued in his book, Hitler was My Friend (1955) that he was not even sure Hitler had a sexual relationship with Eva Braun: "Eva moved into his house, became the constant companion of his leisure hours and, to the best of my knowledge, that was all there was to it... Not at any time was there any perceptible change in his attitude towards her which might have pointed to the assumption of more intimate relations between them; and the secrecy which surrounded the whole affair is emphasized by the profound astonishment of all of us in his most intimate circle when, at the bitter end, the marriage was announced."

Nerin E. Gun, the author of Eva Braun: Hitler's Mistress (1969) has speculated that Hitler might have considered marrying Unity Mitford on political grounds: "Did he envisage marrying her (Unity) one day in order to consolidate this future union of empires? Or did he merely allow Unity to cherish this illusory hope? Adolf Hitler loved Eva Braun, or so he claimed. But this love or affection was subordinated to reasons of state, and it is quite possible that, like Napoleon, who loved Josephine but married Marie-Louise, the daughter of the Emperor of Austria, Hitler might have wedded Unity Mitford if he could thereby have ensured the goodwill of England. Hitler always tried to imitate Napoleon except in his defeats. Unity boasted of the success at Munich, of the pact limiting naval armament, of the Hitler-Chamberlain interview. She reassured everybody in Berlin by swearing that England, her native country would never declare war - and Hitler believed her."

Unity Mitford
Adolf Hitler and Unity Mitford

Unity Mitford was very close to Julius Streicher. According to her biographer, Richard Davenport-Hines :"The fixity of her admiration for Nazidom was unreasonable: her conduct and conversation became exaggerated. She saluted the postmistress of Swinbrook, Oxfordshire, with raised hand, ‘Heil Hitler!’, collected Nazi trophies, chanted blackshirt rhymes about Jews, and agreed with her friend Julius Streicher that Jews should be made to eat grass."

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".

David Pryce-Jones, the author of Unity Mitford (1976) has argued that it was Unity who persuaded her parents to be followers of Hitler: "Nothing is more curious in their lives than the way that this innocent-minded couple were converted by her from hating the Germans to admiring them, becoming enthusiastic Hiterites themselves, to the point of disaster, their marriage eventually breaking upon these rocks." Her parents both joined the British Union of Fascists and the Anglo-German Fellowship.

Unity Mitford
The Daily Mirror report on Unity Mitford (18th March, 1939).
A copy of this newspaper can be obtained from Historic Newspapers.

Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe believes that Unity Mitford was used by Hitler to communicate with the British establishment. In her unpublished memoirs she argued: "In 1938 during the September crisis Hitler sent for Unity Mitford. When she arrived he told her that in view of the gravity of the situation he wanted her to leave Germany. Though it would seem that such a gesture was prompted only by friendly concern towards one of his most ardent admirers, his intention was of a different nature. His real purpose in sending for Unity Mitford was to make her return to England and impress her people and all those she would naturally talk to with the gravity of the situation. This is an example of his cunning and supreme ability to make use of even the slightest incident. He is a master at the understanding of, and playing upon, the psychology of people, which I consider his greatest gift and asset."

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.


© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Dora Carrington, letter to Diana Mitford (28th July 1931)

I went with Julia (Strachey) to lunch with Diana (Mitford) today. There we found 3 sisters and Mama Redesdale. The little sisters were ravishingly beautiful, and another of sixteen (Unity) very marvellous and grecian. I thought the mother was rather remarkable, very sensible and no upper-class graces... The little sister was a great botanist and completely won me by her high spirits and charm.

(2) Jessica Mitford wrote about her sister Unity Mitford in her autobiography, Hons and Rebels (1960)

It was the year of Hitler's accession to power. Unity announced her intention was to go to Germany, learn German, and meet the Führer. My parents put up much less opposition than might have been expected. Perhaps the thought of another London season of sham tiaras and tame rats let loose in ballrooms was a bit more than my mother could contemplate with any pleasure. Unity was allowed to go.

Within six months, she came home for a brief visit, having accomplished both her objectives. She already spoke fairly fluent German, and had met not only Hitler, but Himmler, Goering, Goebbels, and others of the Nazi leaders. "How on earth did you actually manage to get to know them?" we asked in some amazement. 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.

She was completely and utterly sold on them. The Nazi salute - "Heil Hitler!" with hand upraised - became her standard greeting to everyone, family, friends, the astonished postmistress in Swinbrook village. Her collection of Nazi trophies and paraphernalia now overflowed our little sitting-room - bundles of Stretcher's anti-Semitic paper, Der Stürmer; an autographed copy of Mein Kampf; the works of Houston Stuart Chamberlain, a nineteenth-century forerunner of Fascist ideologists; albums of photographs of Nazi leaders.

(3) David Pryce-Jones, Unity Mitford (1976)

Unity, however, was selected as one of the BUF representatives on the delegation sent to Germany, to attend the Nuremberg Party Day, though it is possible that she was attached to the others as a favour, and paid her own fare, freelance style. The first Parteitag, or Party Day, had been held in 1923, for the purpose of assembling in one place disparate nationalist and anti-semitic groups, to parade, to absorb ideology, and create a focus for public attention. A second Party Day, in 1926, was held in Weimar as a provocation. No Party Days had been staged from 1930 until 1932 because the energies of the Nazis were concentrated on political assaults against the government. In 1933 the Party Day of Victory (so named by Hess) was a celebration, to be repeated every year in that prefabrication of tradition which was a Nazi specialty. What had amounted to glorified street-tactics in revolutionary days were to be transformed into colossal, calculatedly brutal, expressions of power. Germans and foreigners alike were to look at the might of the new state, either in ecstatic fulfillment of their new destiny, or in despair. As soon as he was in a position to do so, Hitler decided to remodel Nuremberg into the city for these monster annual rallies, planning stadiums, a Congress Hall, and an open-air assembly area in open ground around the Luitpoldhain and the Zeppelinwiese, the hitherto untouched outskirts of the city.

The 1933 rally began on 31st August. Four hundred thousand party members had been collected by special trains, the SA, the SS, the Hitler Youth being represented. One thousand chosen guests filled the main grandstand. Later these guests would be more discriminatingly picked, as potential supporters, heads of states to be wooed, tycoons, Germanizers of every stripe, even significant tourists or busy-bodies, but on this first Nazi festival they were plain fascists. The official Nazi brochure published within weeks to mark the occasion records, "Even the foreign guests are swept off their feet by the spirit and determination of the Hitler Youth." In this brochure is a photograph of the English delegation, with Unity the only woman, in a tweed suit with her black shirt, her hand up saluting, gloves on (see photograph no. 6). Two away from her is William Joyce (who in his Dammerung aber England, published in Berlin in 1940, his first year as Lord Haw-Haw, wrote, "In 1933 I joined Sir Oswald Mosley's new movement, the BUF I became one of the leading political speakers and writers of that movement ; for three years I was Mosley's propaganda chief. These were marvellous times and I shall never forget them. I used all my influence in the movement to give the party a strongly anti-semitic direction - and I may say that I succeeded in that direction."). Two farther away from Joyce is Alexander Raven Thomson, the Rosenberg of the BUF, author of a book on Spengler; "this exceptional thinker", as Mosley calls him in My Life, "one of the finest fighters for our cause we ever knew". The officer with the Highlander cap and medals is a Captain Vincent. The two men in peaked caps are French fascists. A series of photographs was taken that day, some of them without Unity, and one is printed in the German edition of James Drennan's book, Oswald Mosley, B.U.F. and British Fascism (1933). (James Drennan was the pseudonym of W. E. D. Allen, an Ulster Unionist MP who had joined the New Party and supported Mosley until 1936.) Because Hitler addressed the League of German Culture on 1 September, and some of the foreign guests and delegations were present, his first meeting with Unity is sometimes dated then, and this is true in the sense that she must have set eyes on him and heard the sound of his voice. "The first moment I saw him I knew there was no one I would rather meet," she was to say soon after to the Evening Standard. The five days of the rally over, the English delegation came home from Nuremberg, though again Unity may have separated from the others and gone to Munich to discuss plans with Baroness Laroche for a return to finishing school.

(4) Armida Macindoe, interviewed by David Pryce-Jones for his book, Unity Mitford (1976)

She was fully-fledged pro-Hitler, that's why she'd bothered to come out. The Roehm putsch had her up in arms, saying that Hitler might have been killed. One heard that Hitler had gone into Roehm's room and said, "Wretch, you are under lock and key" which became a catchword amongst us. Unity was terribly put out, and kept speculating about what might have happened. Fraulein Baum, Baumchen to everybody, was more pro-Hitler than anyone. She and Unity had an admiration society together. Jews were being baited. One was told by the Baroness that if one saw anything like a scrimmage, one was to hurry by and not stand and stare. 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.

During the autumn term Diana came out and took a flat off the Ludwigstrasse, she came again early in November. I also met Putzi Hanfstaengl with Unity, he was more of a means than an end, he introduced her to Nazis. I think I got on well with her. 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.

(5) Rosemary Macindoe, interviewed by David Pryce-Jones for his book, Unity Mitford (1976)

In October 1934 I went to Baroness Laroche's because Armida was there. So were Yvonne O'Neill and Rachel Irby. I loathed Fraulein Baum, she looked like a witch. I never went to school and couldn't concentrate. Unity had not yet met Hitler; every Friday he lunched at the Osteria Bavaria, and she used to go in blind adoration. He came in with a raincoat, an Alsatian, and a whip in his hand, and Unity said, Don't you think his eyes are marvellous? She had a phobia about Jews, she used to make us write on letters "Jews are not welcomed here", to be found posted up by some Nazi mayors of villages, shopkeepers etc. Unity could say quite funny things but if she'd had any sense of' humour she'd have laughed at herself I liked Diana best at that time. She and I went to a singing class in which there was a Peruvian and we laughed about him - Unity and Armida went to another class as they spoke better German. I was very young and swept off my feet by Diana's bated-breath admiration of the Leader. Unity may have been in love with Mosley too, she was always talking of the Leader. They were glad to have supporters. Diana and Unity had just been to the Nuremberg Rally. The Germans had torchlight processions all the time, Unity was at one of them in her black shirt when we'd just met. For 9 November Diana and Unity got a press card, saying they were working for the English press, so we had tickets in the crowd opposite the Denkmal.

Diana used to have dinner parties in her flat and I went there quite a lot. One of the SS men who used to come said he was a doctor in a children's hospital. I was frightfully innocent, and when he took us round it proved to be a hospital for venereal diseases. His name was Dr Bartel. There were three SS men in particular, Max was the first name of another of them, a curly-blond SS man whom we saw in the Brown House.

(6) Mary Gerard Leigh, interviewed by David Pryce-Jones for his book, Unity Mitford (1976)

Unity wasn't a friend of Hitler's when I was there. She was always nagging Baum about how to meet him, and Baum also used to go with her to the Osteria Bavaria. Unity was alarming to be with, it was a small house and she made herself felt in it. When Lady Redesdale came round with Diana, and with Jessica who was out there in September, they could hardly cram into the Baroness's little salon. I have a firm memory of the Oktoberfest, with the daughters all losing their mothers in the public gardens on purpose. Unity slept next door to me, and I could hear her talking in her sleep. She'd suddenly scream out, and I complained to the Baroness about it, as well as about the portraits of Hitler all over her room, which she'd salute. She used to bring SA or SS men back and ask them to spend the night, but probably there was no sex in it. The maid was shocked, and the Baroness would speak with horror of it. Unity wore these scarves round herself. I remember thinking she was a bit mad.

(7) David Pryce-Jones, Unity Mitford (1976)

Women by the thousand abased themselves at Hitler's feet, they tried to kiss his boots, and some of them succeeded, even to the point of swallowing the gravel on which he had trod, according to Reck-Malleczewen, whose fastidious hatred of the vulgarian Hitler was genuinely conservative. As a figurehead, as a male in absolute power, Hitler's aphrodisiac effect was scarcely even sublimated in the more impressionable women who constituted his beloved mass audience. They moaned, they were hysterical, they fainted, for an introspective bachelor deficient in sexuality.... In one respect Hitler was a final item in an intimate treasure-hunt, the object which could never be brought home, and in another respect he was a historical Big Daddy, patting the heads of blonde children. Restraint was impossible, in the frustration of apparently approaching the unapproachable; this was, so to speak, a masturbation of the spirit. She had herself to display.

(8) Otto Dietrich, The Hitler I Knew (1934)

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.

(9) Albert Speer, interviewed by David Pryce-Jones for his book, Unity Mitford (1976)

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.

For those close to Hitler it was a nuisance. Schaub was angry that she was coming again. It was amazing that someone not German was around Hitler and could listen to details of party politics and far-ranging policy. Hitler made no secret of his thoughts, and astonishingly a Britisher was sitting there and listening. I heard only afterwards that she was a follower of Mosley. Hitler thought nothing of Mosley. I had the impression that she was British, you know, in this circle. The others round Hitler were cautious and did not want to say anything, but she was straight and said things Hitler didn't like. She had cheek. Hitler's line was to get along with the British. She pressed the point. He was sympathetic. They would argue and he appreciated frankness in her - he said, That's the British way. Though I wouldn't say his interest in her was from the political point of view; simply part of his admiration for the British was confirmed by her. If somebody made a remark, and then Hitler replied, No, well, that person did not counter, but she did, back and forth. I was astonished that Hitler did not say that he had no wish to see her again. Of course it was dangerous to have somebody talking to Hitler like that about problems, he was easily influenced by small episodes, so if Mitford brought something to his attention, he could get furious about it and a huge effort would be required to settle things.

She saw in Germany only what she wanted to see, but she spoke to him about that, Bavaria and the Bavarians, opera and singers, the usual gossip. He wanted light relief. Her German was good enough to make herself understood. She was never bored and never boring. Her features were those of a woman with some intelligence, thinking in her own way, not the type of Eva Braun who had no serious interests.

I never heard she was a spy. Somebody so close to Hitler must have been checked. Hitler's outspokenness was calculated, talking secrets knowing that rumours would spread. For instance the treaty with the Russians, I was with him often just beforehand, and knew nothing until it was signed and sealed. The Osteria circle was Hoffmann (the photographer), Wagner (Gauleiter of Munich), Bormann, Schaub, Dietrich, Morell (the doctor), Dr Brandt (another physician), Bruckner. Streicher did not come there, even to us he was a shock, he exaggerated his bad side, he was fond of women and maybe there was an attraction there. Wagner was crude too, but had a higher intellectual level. Mitford never spoke about Jews that I can recall, it would have been quite normal if she had.

I was often at the Berghof - at Berchtesgaden - but she was not there much as a guest, if at all. I would have known if she had been regularly. I could go without a phone call from the adjutant. She had to be invited. In the Berghof there was the snag of Eva Braun, who would have been angry, in a bad mood. She was at Bayreuth though. I remember driving along the autobahn from Berlin to Munich. She was sitting there on a steep embankment, looking very romantic over the Franconian landscape. I stopped and chatted. She was very sentimental. This must have been 1937 or 1938, she came that year to Bayreuth, but not with Hitler. She had strolled out from the festival and could go no farther because of the autobahn, so had sat down. She must have recognized my car, a racing Mercedes with a long hood, for she waved at me, which is how I recognized her.

It was a shock to Hitler when she shot herself. He felt responsible for her committing suicide, I remember that was his reaction. About a year or so later she had been forgotten. People who were no longer in his view were quickly forgotten. That happened when I was sick, for instance. She got a bouquet with handwriting in hospital. I got one with a printed card.

I'm not surprised that her comments on Hitler were so limited, that she could say only how wonderful he was. I often saw people go in for an appointment in a sceptical frame of mind, only to emerge saying how wonderful he was. That was his fascination which nobody can explain. She would have slept with him, of course, she was more than willing but he would not have gone to bed with her. I doubt if he ever did more than take her hand in his. And think too, that he was in a difficult position, even if he had ever found himself alone with her.

(10) Nerin E. Gun, Eva Braun: Hitler's Mistress (1969)

Unity Mitford had been acquainted with Winston Churchill, Eden, Chamberlain, Lord Rothermere, and had been presented at court. She told him exactly what he wanted to hear: that the government did not represent the country, that there was a strong nationalist movement, that the young people admired the Fuhrer, that only the Jews wanted war, that they had bought the votes of the politicians, including Churchill, whom she called the grave digger of the Empire, that England and Germany, if they acted together, could rule the world. These were all things that his own ambassadors refused to tell him. Thus Hitler saw in Unity the irrefutable proof that he, with his instinct, was always right.

Did he envisage marrying her one day in order to consolidate this future union of empires? Or did he merely allow Unity to cherish this illusory hope? Adolf Hitler loved Eva Braun, or so he claimed. But this love or affection was subordinated to reasons of state, and it is quite possible that, like Napoleon, who loved Josephine but married Marie-Louise, the daughter of the Emperor of Austria, Hitler might have wedded Unity Mitford if he could thereby have ensured the goodwill of England. Hitler always tried to imitate Napoleon except in his defeats. Unity boasted of the success at Munich, of the pact limiting naval armament, of the Hitler-Chamberlain interview. She reassured everybody in Berlin by swearing that England, her native country would never declare war - and Hitler believed her.

(11) Princess Carmencita Wrede, interviewed by David Pryce-Jones for his book, Unity Mitford (1976)

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 19 37 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. She wasn't jealous of Sigi von Laffert, for instance, because she knew Sigi loved Hansi Wilczek. The Redesdales were at the Parteitag the following year, in 1938, they spoke no German, and Hitler was railing against England. I was sitting slap behind them and Unity. She was giving them a completely false translation of what he was screaming, and she gave me a nudge with the words, Did you see my father clapping? I enjoyed watching how she knew everyone on the platform. She waved at Streicher, and said, He's such a darling - which made a big impression on me.

What did she talk to Hitler about? His dog and her dog, music, she thought she was musical. Hitler liked to think of her as a distinguished lady. She was his means of acknowledging England, one-sided as that was. Her anti-semitism was extreme. She complained that Stephanie Hohenlohe was Jewish, and how she had told Hitler, Here you are, anti-Jewish yet you have a Jew around you the whole time, this Princess Hohenlohe. Hitler said nothing. She simply hated the Hohenlohe for a rusée, going to tell Lord Rothermere what Hitler was up to. I asked her why she got so upset about it and the answer was short: jealousy again.

(12) David Pryce-Jones, Unity Mitford (1976)

By the 29th, a Tuesday, the Wrede twins had gone, Unity was alone with her wireless. It became her focus. To listen in to the news became a matter of life and death. She went out for meals, she came back for the news. On the Friday, 1 September, the seven o'clock news announced that Danzig had been incorporated into the Reich. Unity went out shopping, and while she was in her car she listened to the Fuhrer's speech, and found it wonderful. It was as hot and beautiful a day in Munich as it was in London. Unity sunbathed out on her balcony; the putzfrau came to clean. The radio replayed Hitler's speech about Danzig. At a quarter to two, Unity lunched at the Osteria Bavaria, one more time, like a shade unable to tear loose from haunts of the past. In the afternoon she changed into a bathing suit, and continued to lie on the balcony in the sunshine. The mail brought letters from Diana and Janos, and she wrote replies to them both. Her course was set. Dressing, she walked to the Vierjahreszeiten cellar for another solitary meal. The German army was thrusting into Poland. The black-out was compulsory. As she walked home, the darkness over Munich was complete. Back in the Agnestrasse, she listened in to the English news.

The British ultimatum to Hitler, to withdraw the German army from Poland, was not delivered until nine o'clock on the morning of Sunday, 3 September, and it expired, unanswered, two hours later. The war had started.

(13) Rudi von St Paul, interviewed by David Pryce-Jones for his book, Unity Mitford (1976)

On the Saturday, Erna and I came back from the Salzburg festival. The soldiers were already mobilized, and were mobilizing further. I went to Seeseiten, I hadn't seen my father for some time, and wanted to be with him. 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. We had that plan to go riding in the Hortobagy in the autumn. There must have been friends to go to - the war might be over soon, I said. I had the feeling I couldn't reach her. I tried again but did not get through, the telephone must have been left off.

On the Monday I got a letter from her enclosing her keys - I can't remember how that letter found its way to me - and in it she had written that she had to kill herself and what I ought to do with her money and possessions. It was her will. Had that letter been left with Gauleiter Wagner? I collected it anyhow. I went to the flat, and it had already been sealed. They had put a seal of paper over the keyhole. And then I went to Wagner in the Kaulbachstrasse - whose house I had visited with my cousin that time a few months before. I went to ask what had happened. It was no news to me. He said that her parents had been told it had happened. They were expecting Diana in at any moment and the parents could enter Germany too, the frontiers had been specially notified that they had permission, he said. I learnt only after the war that this was not true. I do not know if he even believed it himself. He was helpful in any case.