“I learned to admire the excellence of British propaganda,” Adolf Hitler said by the end of 1934. “I am convinced that propaganda is an essential means to achieve one’s aims.” While this superficially explains Hitler’s misleading statements of “peace” in the years immediately preceding World War II as he rearmed, it ignores how he wielded the most powerful weapon he had at his disposal in fighting the propaganda war: the close interrelationship between Europe’s aristocracy, the political elite, and the beau monde. Aristocrats, despite many in Continental Europe having suffered a loss of political and cultural standing after World War I, still rightly viewed themselves as a close-knit international elite.
Their families and friendships transcended international boundaries. They were at home speaking German, English, French, Italian, Greek, and Spanish. Used for centuries as statesmen and diplomats by all the great powers, aristocrats were always an important secret back channel. For Hitler, they became his “gentlemen spies” or “ladies of mystery” who were his eyes, ears, and mouthpieces in the drawing rooms, cocktail parties, and weekend retreats of Europe and America carrying out some of his most secret plans. They were the trusted voices disseminating his political and cultural propaganda for the “New Germany.” Distrustful of career diplomats and his own Foreign Ministry, Hitler would use his aristocrats as his primary intermediaries to open influential doors to the highest levels in Great Britain, the United States, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Hungary, Turkey, and Sweden.
This book will be concerned with the vast international social and political network among Europe’s aristocrats and powerful social elite and how Hitler’s stunning propaganda campaigns used them to give his New Germany a head-start toward world domination.