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The Vintage Guide To London | December 18, 2017

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Famous Londoners: Diana and Unity Mitford – The Fascist Sisters

In February 1935 Unity finally achieved her goal – the manager walked over to her table at the Osteria Bavaria and said ‘the Fuhrer would like to speak to you.’ They only spoke for about half an hour, but already Unity’s reaction was one of hysteria. She wrote in a letter home that the day was ‘the most wonderful and beautiful of my life…I am so happy I wouldn’t mind dying… I am lucky even to have set eyes on him let alone to have sat and talked to him’. Before leaving he signed a postcard for her ‘To Fraulein Unity Mitford as a friendly memento of Germany and Adolf Hitler’.

In future, if Hitler saw Unity at the Carlton tearooms or the Osteria Bavaria he would invite her over. They met and talked on 140 occasions until the beginning of the war in 1939. It is easy to be suspicious of Hitler’s motives in befriending a young English woman who was not only closely connected to Oswald Mosley but related to Winston Churchill.

Unity introduced Diana to Hitler in March 1935. Mosley must have considered the introduction invaluable. Diana may have been the mistress of the fascist leader of England, but Hitler was in Unity’s opinion ‘the greatest man of all time.’

On seeing Hitler’s large black Mercedes in the street Unity wrote to Diana ‘I stood for about ½ a minute saluting…but he didn’t see me. When I got to the hairdresser I felt quite faint…my knees were giving, you know how one does when one sees him unexpectedly.’

That April, after only meeting Unity three times, Hitler invited her to a lunch party in honour of Mosley who was visiting him, hoping to gain financial assistance for the BUF. This was the first time the two men had met and as Mosley did not speak German Unity acted as translator.

Unity’s total belief in Nazism and anti-Semitism turned into mania. She wrote a letter of support to the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer. ‘The English have no notion of the Jewish danger. English Jews are always described as ‘decent’…Our worst Jews work only behind the scenes. They never come into the open and therefore we cannot show them to the British public in their true dreadfulness. We hope, however, that you will see that we will soon win against the world enemy, in spite of all his cunning….England for the English! Out with the Jews! Heil Hitler! – Unity Mitford. PS. Please publish my name in full…I want everyone to know that I am a Jew hater.’

The British press covered the story with headlines such as ‘Peers Daughter is a Jew Hater. ’ Her parents were alarmed when they started receiving hundreds of letters declaring their disgust for Unity’s views. Unity, on her return to England behaved no less bizarrely and would shoot targets in the garden. When asked what she was doing she replied ‘practising to kill Jews.’

It is hard to imagine what possessed these two English women to embrace the beliefs of the Nazi party or Fascism. Perhaps it is testament to how powerful the movement had become by the Thirties  or how rebellious and naive the Mitford girls really were.

Read the final part of the series on Diana Mitford next week.

Part 1: Famous Londoners: Diana Mitford – Rebel with a cause
Part 2: Famous Londoners: Diana Mitford – The Bright Young Thing

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