LONDON (AFP) – Scouting founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell was invited to meet Adolf Hitler after friendly talks with the Hitler Youth about forming closer ties, secret British files released Monday showed.
Britain’s Baden-Powell, who started the Scouts in 1907, held talks with German ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop and Hitler Youth chief of staff Hartmann Lauterbacher on November 19, 1937.
Lauterbacher, then 28, was in Britain to foster closer relations with the Boy Scout movement and Ribbentrop invited Baden-Powell to tea with the Hitler Youth leader, newly declassified MI5 Security Service files revealed.
A letter from Baden-Powell to Ribbentrop the day after the meeting showed how he felt about the talks.
“I am grateful for the kind conversation you accorded me which opened my eyes to the feeling of your country towards Britain, which I may say reciprocates exactly the feeling which I have for Germany,” Baden-Powell wrote.
“I sincerely hope that we shall be able, in the near future, to give expression to it through the youth on both sides, and I will at once consult my headquarters officers and see what suggestions they can put forward.”
In a report on the meeting, Baden-Powell described Ribbentrop as “earnest” and “charming”.
He wrote: “I had a long talk with the ambassador, who was very insistent that the true peace between the two nations will depend on the youth being brought up on friendly terms together in forgetfulness of past differences.
“He sees in the Scout movement a very powerful agency for helping to bring this about if we can get into closer touch with the Jugend (Youth) movement in Germany.
“To help this he suggested that if possible we should send one or two men to meet their leaders in Germany and talk matters over and, especially, he would like me to go and see Hitler after I am back from Africa.”
He went on: “I told him that I was fully in favour of anything that would bring about a better understanding between our nations, and hoped to have further talks with him when I return from Africa.”
There is no evidence that Baden-Powell ever met Hitler.
Once the war had been under way for several years, the security services had no doubt about the nature of the Nazi youth wing.
An October 1944 intelligence assessment warned that the organisation should not be taken lightly and could not be compared to the Scouts.
It said: “It is a compulsory Nazi formation, which has consciously sought to breed hate, treachery and cruelty into the mind and soul of every German child.
“It is, in the true sense of the word, ‘education for death’.”