Unity Valkyrie Mitford (8 August 1914 – 28 May 1948) was an English socialite born to an aristocratic family who developed a relationship with Adolf Hitler. Before becoming part of Hitler's inner circle she was a prominent advocate of Nazism, fascism, and anti-Semitism in pre-war England.
Unity, the fourth daughter of Lord Redesdale and known as 'Baba', became famous as a society girl who was a fervent admirer and friend of Hitler. She, along with her sister Diana, spent much of their time in Munich and supported the Nazi cause. Diana married the prominent British fascist Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists. According to one report found in her file, the marriage was performed in Hitler's house. Other accounts put the marriage at the home of Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels' drawing room, with Adolf Hitler in attendance.
After stalking Hitler for ten months, including going every day to Hitler's favorite restaurant, Osteria Bavaria, he invited her to his table. Mitford wrote an anti-Semitic editorial that appeared in an Austrian newspaper. This caused a great controversy in England and lead to her being inducted into Hitler's inner circle. Mitford 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.
A May 1939 MI5 report describes Unity Mitford, "she seems fundamentally a hysterical and unbalanced person who would probably be of no use to the Germans in case of war. Recommend restriction of her movements."
After Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Hitler separated Mitford from his inner circle. In response to Hitler's rejection, Mitford attempted suicide in her Munich apartment by shooting herself in the head. The attempt failed, but left her with substantial brain damage. Arrangements were made by German officials to return her to England, via Switzerland.
She was not interned when she returned to England. Material in these files suggests that the decision not to place her in an internment camp was made against MI5's wishes as the police were satisfied that she was not engaged in activities against the national interest, and was also "simple minded" after her suicide attempt and therefore incapable of doing so.
Back in Britain she was cared for by her mother Lady Redesdale until compilations from her suicide attempt caused her death in 1948.
Unity Mitford MI5 File
The 82 pages in this file include SIS reports and intercepted correspondence. Highlights from the file include:
A Special Branch report from August 1935 reporting on Unity's hatred for Jews as revealed in the Jewish Chronicle.
SIS reports from 1936 stating that she is a great friend of Mosley and sees a lot of Hitler when he is in Munich, is 'more Nazi than the Nazis', that she gave the 'Hitler salute' to the British Consul General in Munich and now he requests that her passport be impounded.
A Special Branch report made after a search of her belongings in February 1937, reveal that her baggage contained Nazi literature and several portraits of Hitler. In April, Special Branch conducted another search, now referred to as 'the usual search', that noted she was now wearing a swastika lapel badge.
An account of her being chased by angry demonstrators in Hyde Park at a Socialist Party demonstration.
A transcript of a taped telephone conversation records Lord Redesdale complaining to his wife about the cost of hiring an ambulance train to pick Unity up after her failed suicide attempt.
A 7 page report by the security control officer at Folkestone, refuting claims made by the Daily Mail about the search and interrogation of Unity upon her arrival back in the UK on January 3, 1940.
A summary of correspondence discussing if Mitford should be placed in internment.
In a summary of the Mitford case, Guy Liddell, head of MI5 B Division, suggests that if she were left at liberty, the Home Office might be criticized to the effect that she owed her immunity to her being the daughter of a peer.
A report by the Chief Constable of Oxfordshire on 8 June 1941 gives reasons why Mitford should not be interned.
Diana Mitford MI5 Files
268 pages of MI5 files covering Unity Mitford's sister Diana.
Lady Diana Mosley, formerly Lady Diana Mitford (1910-2003) was one of the daughters of Lord Redesdale, and was regard by the British press as being, "the most beautiful and dazzling of the Mitford girls." She married the heir to the Guinness company, Brian Guinness (later Lord Moyne), at the age of 18, but subsequently left him and then married Britain's most famous fascist, Oswald Mosley, the founder of the British Union of Fascists. She was introduced to Hitler by her sister, Unity, and maintained a life-long admiration for him and his political beliefs.
A report in her MI5 file describes her, "Diana Mosley, wife of Sir Oswald Mosley, is reported on the 'best authority', that of her family and intimate circle, to be a public danger at the present time. Is said to be far cleverer and more dangerous than her husband and will stick at nothing to achieve her ambitions. She is wildly ambitious."
Her MI5 File commences with the Security Service taking an interest in Diana Guinness (as she then was known) when her association with Oswald Mosley first came to its attention in 1934. The file includes reports of her frequent movements to and from Germany by air, a report of her secret marriage to Mosley in the presence of Hitler and Ribbentrop in 1936, and various pieces of intercepted mail and phone conversations. Her baggage was inspected at Heston Airport in August 1938 on her return from a visit to Germany, and the suspicious contents (including a new autographed photo of Hitler) were reported to the Service. Diana Mosley was not interned at the outbreak of war, and remained at liberty for some time. There is a Home Office letter of May 1940 explaining the Home Secretary's decision not to intern her at that time, and correspondence from her former father-in-law, Lord Moyne, which seems to have resulted in her detention the following month. A copy of the form requesting her detention is in the file. She was interned in Holloway prison, and there are reports of her visitors there, and also a transcript of her appeal hearing against her detention.
The file's second section contains reports of Diana Mosley's visitors at Holloway from 1941 until her release from detention in 1943. The Home Office warrant on her was eventually suspended in December 1946. The files contain reported comments and correspondence from members of Diana Mosley's family. After this, the Security Service decided that there was no further justification for maintaining a separate file on Diana Mosley, and later documents related to her were placed in her husband's file.
Jessica Mitford FBI Files
In addition to the MI5 files described above, this collection contains 1,042 pages of FBI files covering Jessica Mitford.
Jessica Lucy Freeman-Mitford (1917 – 1996) was an English author, investigative journalist, civil rights activist and political campaigner, who was one of the Mitford sisters. She became an American citizen in 1944. Though her sisters Unity and Diana were well-known British supporters of Hitler and her father was described as being "one of nature's fascists", Jessica (also known as Decca) renounced her privileged background at an early age and became an adherent of communism. She was known as the "red sheep" of the family. After her father's death, it was revealed that she was cut out of his will.
Mitford spent much of the early 1950s working as executive secretary of a local Civil Rights Congress chapter. Through this and her husband's legal practice, she was involved in a number of civil rights campaigns, notably the failed attempt to stop the execution of Willie McGee, an African-American convicted of raping a white woman. Mitford and her husband became active members of the Communist Party. In 1953, at the height of McCarthyism and the 'Red Scare', they were summoned to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Both refused to testify about their participation in radical groups. They later resigned from the Communist Party in 1958.
In 1960, Mitford published her first book Hons and Rebels, in America it was released as Daughters and Rebels, a memoir covering her youth in the Redesdale household.
In May 1961, she traveled to Montgomery, Alabama, while working on an article about Southern attitudes for Esquire. While there, she and a friend went to meet the arrival of the Freedom Riders and became caught up in a riot when a mob led by the Ku Klux Klan attacked the civil rights activists. After the riot, Mitford proceeded to a rally led by Martin Luther King, Jr. The church at which this was held was also attacked by the Klan, and Mitford and the group spent the night barricaded inside until the violence was ended by the National Guard.