Unity Valkyrie Mitford (8 August 1914 – 28 May 1940 ) was an aristocratic English devotee of Hitler.
In the UK and in Germany, she was a prominent and public supporter of Nazism and fascism and from 1936, a part of Hitler's inner circle of friends and confidants for five years. Following the declaration of World War II, Mitford attempted suicide, although doubts about the attempt were raised in the media following the declassification of MI5 government documentation.
She was a member of the Mitford family, tracing its origins in Northumberland back to the 11th century Norman settlement of England. Her sister Diana was married to Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists.
Mitford was a debutante in 1932. That same year her elder sister Diana left her husband for an affair with Oswald Mosley who had just founded the British Union of Fascists. Their father was furious at the disgrace and forbade the family from seeing either Diana or "The Man Mosley", as he termed him. Unity disobeyed and that summer met with Mosley at a party thrown by Diana where she was promised a party badge. Mosley's son, Nicholas, stated that: "Unity became a very extrovert member of the party, which was her way [...] She joined my father's party and she used to turn up, she used to go around in a black shirt uniform, and she used to turn up at communists meetings and she used to do the fascist salute and heckle the speaker. That was the sort of person she was". He adds that although his father admired Unity's commitment, Mosley felt "She wasn't doing him any good, because she was making an exhibition of herself."
Unity and Diana Mitford travelled to Germany as part of the British delegation from the British Union of Fascists, to the 1933 Nuremberg Rally, seeing Hitler for the first time. Unity later said, "The first time I saw him I knew there was no one I would rather meet." Biographer Anne de Courcy confirms: "The Nuremberg rally had a profound effect on both Diana and Unity ... Unity was already, as it were, convinced about Hitler, but this turned conviction into worship. From then on she wanted to be near Hitler as much as possible".
Mitford returned to Germany in the summer of 1934, enrolling in a language school in Munich close to the Nazi Party headquarters. Dalley notes "She was obsessed with meeting Hitler, so she really set out to stalk him." Pryce Jones elaborates:
She set her mind on getting Hitler, and she discovered that Hitler's movements could be ascertained. It's one of the extraordinary things about Hitler's daily life that he was so available to the public. You knew which café he’d be in, you knew which restaurant he'd be in, which hotel, and he would just go and meet people over sticky buns and cakes, and it was possible to meet him like that. And he was in the habit of eating in the Osteria Bavaria in Munich and she started sitting in the Osteria Bavaria every day. So he would have to come into the front part of the restaurant where there was this English girl.
After ten months Hitler finally invited her to his table where they talked for over half-an-hour with Hitler picking up her bill. In a letter to her father Mitford wrote: "It was the most wonderful and beautiful [day] of my life. I am so happy that I wouldn’t mind a bit, dying. I'd suppose I am the luckiest girl in the world. For me he is the greatest man of all time". Hitler had also become smitten with the young blonde British student. He was struck by her curious connections to the Germanic culture including her middle name, Valkyrie. Mitford's grandfather, Algernon Freeman-Mitford, had been a friend of Richard Wagner, one of Hitler's idols, and had translated the works of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, another inspiration for Hitler. Dalley says "Hitler was extremely superstitious, and he believed that Unity was sort of sent to him, it was destined." Mitford subsequently received invitations to party rallies and state occasions, and was described by Hitler as "a perfect specimen of Aryan womanhood."
Hitler and Mitford became close, with Hitler reportedly playing Mitford off against his new girlfriend apparently to make her jealous. The girlfriend, Eva Braun wrote of Mitford in her diary: "She is known as the Valkyrie and looks the part, including her legs. I the mistress of the greatest man in Germany and the whole world, I sit here waiting while the sun mocks me through the window panes." Braun regained Hitler's attention after an attempted suicide and Mitford learned from this that desperate measures were often needed to capture the Führer's attention.
Mitford attended the Nazi Youth festival in Hesselberg with Hitler's friend Julius Streicher, where she gave a virulently anti-Semitic speech. She subsequently repeated these sentiments in an open letter to Streicher's paper, Der Stürmer, which read: "The English have no notion of the Jewish danger. Our worst Jews work only behind the scenes. We think with joy of the day when we will be able to say England for the English! Out with the Jews! Heil Hitler! P.S. please publish my name in full, I want everyone to know I am a Jew hater. The letter caused public outrage in Britain but Hitler rewarded her with an engraved golden swastika badge, a private box at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and a ride in a party Mercedes to the Bayreuth Festival.
From this point on Mitford was inducted into Hitler's inner circle and remained with him for five years. When Hitler announced the Anschluss in 1938, she appeared with him on the balcony in Vienna. She was later arrested in Prague for distributing Nazi propaganda. Pryce Jones reports that "She saw him, it seemed, more than a hundred times, no other English person could have anything like that access to Hitler", and the suspicions of the British SIS were aroused. MI5 head Guy Liddell wrote in his diary: "Unity Mitford had been in close and intimate contact with the Führer and his supporters for several years, and was an ardent and open supporter of the Nazi regime. She had remained behind after the outbreak of war and her action had come perilously close to high treason." A 1936 report went further, proclaiming her "more Nazi than the Nazis" and stated that she gave the Hitler salute to the British Consul General in Munich, who immediately requested that her passport be impounded. After five years, in 1938, Hitler gave her a choice of four apartments in Munich, one flat lived in by a Jewish couple. Mitford is reported to have then visited the apartment to discuss her decoration and design plans, while the soon-to-be-dispossessed couple still sat in the kitchen crying. Immediately prior to this, she had lived in the house of Erna Hanfstaengl, sister of early Hitler admirer and confidante Ernst Hanfstaengl, but was ordered to leave when Hitler became angry with the Hanfstaengls.
Many prominent Nazis were also suspicious of the English girl and her relationship to their Führer. In his memoirs, Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer said of Hitler's select group: "One tacit agreement prevailed: No one must mention politics. The sole exception was Lady (sic) Mitford, who even in the later years of international tension persistently spoke up for her country and often actually pleaded with Hitler to make a deal with Britain. In spite of Hitler's discouraging reserve, she did not abandon her efforts through all those years". Mitford summered at the Berghof where she continued to discuss a possible German-British alliance with Hitler, going so far as to supply lists of potential supporters and enemies.Hitler was too hot to handle.